Brand new venues. Previously uncaught carp. Minimal angling pressure. It’s ‘Winner, winner, chicken dinner’, right?
Back when my own lake was in its infancy – undeveloped and largely unstocked – folk began pre-booking their long-stay sessions; some almost a year in advance of our formal opening.
Granted, they knew my plan was to stock the pond only with big carp. But nonetheless…
The expectation of course was that these naïve ‘lumps’ would, in the early stages, be a breeze to catch.
How wrong they were. In fact, many a good angler has since spent days at a time on the bank, with only sunset rod snaps to occupy their Instagram feeds.
The reason: the fish are mistresses of their own environment. Having been left undisturbed – save for their regular free feed – for the best part of a year, they quickly recognised the presence of anglers’ lines.
And responded accordingly.
Pushovers they were not. And thus it remains.
A couple of lakes in the Angling Lines portfolio are also welcoming anglers for the first time this year.
Will visitors to these – granted, far more extensively stocked – venues prove more successful?
The feedback so far shows that they are giving angler’s an easier time of it.
The first of these new lakes, Eau De Vie presents prima facie a similar challenge to our own: spring fed and just two acres, the lake was re-stocked in the winter of 2018 with carp to over 47lb, providing a rare opportunity to tackle an unpressured lake in which most of the fish have yet to see a hook.
Meaning they should behave like carp are supposed to – and not the way they’ve been conditioned to behave, through angler pressure.
A little larger than Eau De Vie, at six acres, Beau Lac is another interesting proposition for would be pioneers: recently stocked with carp ranging from 20 to almost 50lbs, it’s available with lakeside accommodation for groups of up to four anglers.
So, all the comforts of home, too.
But be warned: whilst these fish may yet to have their photos taken, they are still carp – which means that, regardless of their ‘naivete’, a little thought can be required to coax them from the depths for a cheeky selfie.
And of course, with fewer anglers previously targeting these venues, there is less information available on the going spots, bait and tactics – which would ordinarily be the first step for anglers planning any overseas trip.
Do a little preliminary research; if nothing else, to gain a clearer picture of the topography of the lake; and thus to develop at least the foundations of a plan of attack – using the lake description, pics, and maps provided on the Angling Lines website.
Depth in particular should be central to your thinking.
If you are fishing in spring for example you might choose to concentrate your initial efforts on the shallows – areas that warm up more quickly, attracting the lake’s scaly residents with the promise both of early season ‘rays’ and inchoate natural food.
Given this, the benefits of securing one of these recently launched lakes on an ‘exclusive’ basis are clear: imagine being restricted to a single swim at the one end whilst the carp cavort at the other.
If you are to be restricted to a single pre-booked swim, Google Maps will help you make an informed choice; if nothing else, clarifying which way the prevailing winds will blow (the northeast corner bearing the brunt of any warm south-westerlies, and thus representing a great starting point on any lake).
A chat with the owners and the Angling Lines team will help to fill a few further gaps. But after that… you’re on your own.
In some respects this can be a good thing. It means you have no preconceived ideas; and you’re not dependent on others’ impressions, ideas and experiences.
Refreshingly free from the influence of the scuttlebutt and nonsense to be found all too often on the forums and social media, you must once again learn to trust your eyes, ears and instinct.
With no track record – and no areas out of which ‘the granny’ has been spombed – success will depend on your own hard work, observation and watercraft.
So, like any session, you’ll want to start with a few laps of the venue, equipped with a pair of polaroids and a bait bucket, looking for signs of carpy activity.
Rolling and head and shouldering may well alert you to the presence of these, till now, unpressured carp. But look for more subtle evidence of their presence too; and more specifically, signs of feeding.
Bubbling, boils and cloudy water, for example, are sure signs of fish foraging for food.
Other indications to watch out for include water birds spooking (especially in shallower water), and reeds and lilies twitching, as carp swim in and out.
Islands are invariably carp magnets, offering bankside cover and a natural larder, in the form of berries, grubs and so on.
And of course all carp love to linger in snags, where they feel safest – out of reach of predators.
The margin is the most prominent feature in any water, providing a roadway for the carp and a rich source of food.
Common practice on most lakes is to cast to the far margin and walk round to bait up. Which is, I guess, perfectly valid.
My preference however is to target the nearside margin, which offers the same advantages without the hassle and disturbance associated with accurate casting. Rather, perfect bait placement is a breeze, as you’re able to literally lower your baits into the prime spots.
The secret – especially in lakes such as these, which have seen no angling pressure – is stealth: picking up your feet as you patrol the bank; wearing drab clothing and staying off the skyline; and leaving your mobile in your pocket.
Seek out the highest elevation – a strategically positioned climbing tree, for example– then use your polaroids to cut through the surface glare; to locate for example holes in weed beds, channels, and, if you’re lucky, fish feeding – all of which may be completely invisible from ground level.
Gravel bars too are great areas to target carp; the bars themselves creating patrol routes; the siltier areas at the base providing a home for carpy goodies such as bloodworm and the like. So if you have ostensibly featureless open water in front of you, they can be just the feature you are looking for.
Indeed, the open water can itself be a feature on larger ponds, with the carp feeling safer towards the middle (possibly out of casting range) as the banks become busier.
Fact is, all carp waters, regardless of size, have their own quirks, foibles and idiosyncrasies. Some have certain – often quite limited – bite times; others fish better through the night, and so on. So getting in tune with the water quickly is paramount.
With this in mind, over the first couple of days of your trip, consider setting your alarm for the early hours – and indeed at intervals throughout the night – so that you’re up and alert when the fish do decide to reveal their presence, and their preferred feeding areas.
Effort=reward, and all that.
If all else fails – and maybe even if it doesn’t – having a week or more at your disposal, you might also consider creating your own feature; with bait.
Using a mixture of (regs and space permitting) particles (hemp, maize, groats, chick peas, and a few tigers) and a handful of boilies, regularly feed a couple areas for the first few days; but resist the temptation to fish them.
Instead, give the carp the opportunity to gain confidence, with no lines in the water.
Of course boilies will and should form part of your baiting strategy. But natural baits have a real part to play on relatively new venues too, with worm, caster, mussels and corn figuring highly in my own armoury.
Fact is, it can take a while for the carp to properly get onto the boilies – especially in cases where the water is very rich with natural food.
So popped up corn, worm and maggot (assuming no nuisance species are present) would be my go-to hook baits from the off.
And rigs would be the least of my concerns.
The one thing the fish in these waters most assuredly won’t be is riggy; so don’t tie yourself in knots (pun intended) trying to trick them with the latest wonder rig.
Rather, sharp, strong hooks no-knotted to your favourite coated braid should be more than up to the task.
Remember, these are not pressured fish. So using a simple rig that you are confident in is all that’s needed.
That said, bearing in mind that the fish are not used to seeing lines in the water, it is advisable to keep everything pinned down, using flying back leads, sinking mainlines and heavy leaders.
This, on any new venue, is the biggest edge of all: ensuring the carp don’t realise they’re being fished for. And giving you the best possible chance of an immaculate, uncaught French whacker for your Facebook feed.