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France is the place to catch the big carp of your dreams but they can be difficult to catch. It’s not just a case of turning up and lobbing some rigs out in the lake!

Think about it:

If you are planning a trip to a French lake to catch big carp, chances are you’ll be visiting a carp fishing venue that will receive 150-200 anglers over at least 7 months of the year. If you are on a busy syndicate lake, there will be multiple anglers fishing anything up to 24/7. That’s why they can be hard to catch and that’s the kind of angling pressure you need to prepare for. Very few carp lakes receive no angling pressure and if you’re lucky enough to find one then enjoy it while it lasts!

Catching carp from hard waters

 What is angling pressure?

Any activity in and around the water applies angling pressure on the carp, and that includes:

  • Walking the bank
  • Setting up your bankside home
  • Feature finding
  • Baiting up
  • Casting or boating rigs out
  • Lines in the water
  • Bait in the water
  • Hooking, playing, landing and returning fish

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How to manage the pressure?

In my experience as both angler and fishery manager, carp react differently to various levels of carp angling pressure. So, what can we do about it?

Let’s start with the obvious stuff: 

Go back to the list above and think about how you behave around the water and how much you disturb the carp’s environment when you do any of these activities.Some people are naturally quiet, careful and organised, and pay attention to various setup details. Others aren’t and don’t know that they aren’t. For those, I think there is little hope of consistent success at a high pressure venue.

Now, I’m going to focus on 3 key tactics that I believe will make a difference
when the carp are hard to catch: baiting, line lay and when to fish.

Baiting strategy

Bait is part of the makeup of the level of angling pressure.

This is the area where, time and time again, I see the same mistakes being made!

► In a low pressure angling environment, bait and large quantities of it make the job of catching carp much easier, but there is a tipping point at which the quantity of bait introduced begins to increase angling pressure and negatively affects the results.

► Pre-baiting heavily while not fishing and then not baiting while fishing can be an extremely successful tactic and is one I use routinely myself.

► Topping up your baits after each fish definitely works but continuing to apply bait when your not catching, hoping to draw them in is the surest way I know of blanking! As they old saying goes: “It’s easy to put more in but you can’t take it out!”

How you apply your bait also matters!

The higher the level of angling pressure, the quieter you should be. For me trickling bait in the edge is top of the list, followed by the use of a bait boat, throwing stick and rowing boat. Spodding is definitely my least favourite way of applying bait. Yes, it works at the right venue, but it’s also potentially the quickest way of emptying your chosen swim of carp. I believe the reason why a number of anglers make mistakes in this area is that it’s one of the most difficult angling scenarios to deal with. It’s never possible to tell how much bait was applied the week before, or where it was applied. One thing I can guarantee is that success can hinge on getting this right or wrong.

My standard approach is this:

► Start with small traps, then move them about until they produce.

► Always top up the swim with bait after a fish and gently ramp up the quantity as the runs continue. This minimises the amount of bait in the swim and minimises the angling pressure that the bait can create.

 

Casting or boating?

Whatever method you choose, think about getting a balance between disturbing the lake and getting your rigs in place. There is also nothing you can’t do in a rowing boat vs a bait boat. If your bait boat doesn’t have an echo sounder, then a prodding stick willl help you place your rig on those small gravel spots.

Understanding the lake bottom and line lay

If you can fish a spot without the fish noticing your line, your results will be better. Getting a good understanding of the area that you are fishing and the zone through which your mainline runs can make the difference between good or poor presentation.

Here’s an example.

At Beausoleil, the gravel margins are very productive zones but very often, you have to present a rig on a steadily inclining gravel slope. I am extremely careful about how the line will approach the spot and do my very best to avoid the line running over steps or holes.

Pinning down the line

For a number of years now I’ve been adding multiple blogs of putty every 12” or so along the mainline for the last few feet of the rig. Leaders of any form are banned as is leadcore. I’m happy to use up to 1m of rig tubing and my current tubing of choice is Rigmarole Freefall Rig Tube. It’s heavy, yet supple, very tough and abrasion resistant, easy to thread and works well with a diamond eye threading kit. For me, slack lining is an essential part of my angling, especially when I fish at Beausoleil. No, it is not appropriate at all venues but, in the right situation, it can make all the difference in the world.

checking-line-lay-for-carp-fishing

I much prefer slack lining to the use of back leads but as always back leads do have a role to play in certain circumstances. For example, when fishing my local river (The Mayenne), 4oz back leads are essential if you want to avoid having your line wiped out by the boat traffic! When fishing at range on large, open, flat, windswept venues, slack lines are a complete waste of time. As with everything in carp angling, there is a time and a place for everything, the trick is knowing when and what.

 

Resting the swim

Again, from my experience this is an underused technique.

At Beausoleil, our most successful clients actually fish for far fewer hours than the maximum 150 or so hours that are available in a week. Knowing when to fish, and more importantly when not to, is a skill that requires many hundreds of angling hours to begin to understand. All venues are different, every week is different, but the angler who works out the quickest when and when not to fish will generally outperform the others.

resting-the-swim

For me, carp angling means night fishing. I’d much rather rest the swim for the entire day, and leave the carp to quietly go about their business than waste time and energy chasing them during daylight hours. Now don’t get me wrong, our carp can definitely be caught during the daytime and some anglers have done very well by having both night and day swims.

If this sounds like the sort of angling that you enjoy then my advice is to crack on, enjoy! You’ll certainly catch carp doing so. We also have a number of regularly successful returning visitors that do not night fish. They are however most particular about the weeks they book and sometimes do so two years in advance! They’re also very good anglers and their entire approach is extremely solid.

Summary

In summary, I believe that carp behaviour changes according to what we do and that the higher the levels of angling pressure the carp feel, the harder they will be to catch. No matter what the angling situation, there are things that we can do to positively or negatively affect the level of carp angling pressure that the carp perceive. The better the job we do the better our results will be.

I hope that these tips give you plenty of food for thought and that your results improve if you choose to follow any suggestions I’ve made.

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4 thoughts on “How to catch pressured carp on hard waters

  1. Hallo, im fishing a 40 acre lake in holland. Fish to 55lbs. Im an ok fisherman for years and am trying unsuccesfully to break into the big league. Your tips are invaluble and im looking forward to the spring. How do you tell a gravel / sand bottom from a light weed over gravel/sand? I have no boat or expensive echo sounders. At range of 20-100 yards

    1. Hi Gary, thanks for commenting. Sounds like you’ve found an interesting venue to fish! To improve the feedback you get through your rod, I’d use braided mainline. For the range that you’re fishing I’d use something like 60lb Spider Wire Stealth 8 core. When you cast you need to stop the lead in flight just above the surface, then feel the lead down. You can usually feel the rig clipping weed on the drop. If you don’t feel it hit bottom then you’re in very thick weed! Another way to tell is to cast to the spot with a rig on, drag it back half a meter then flick the lead off the bottom and reel fast! This enables you to sample a very precise spot. If you find a little weed on the hook then you know what you’re fishing over. Don’t be afraid of the weed… the carp love it! Use PVA nuggets to prevent the hook being masked in light weed or put the whole rig (lead and all) in a small solid PVA bag. Lobing solid bags into weed is very effective and my go to method. Don’t be afraid of seeing some weed on the hook on the retrieve because the solid bag guarantees presentation. Hope this helps, Matt.

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