I had a pretty good day at Hoveland yesterday, catching five carp, all commons, including two doubles; but I also had the disappointment of losing a larger fish - perhaps a 20lb plus common, when
I allowed it to run along the bank in the certainty that no snags at all were there.
Everything was beautifully under control, until the fish reached a sunken bush. The fish bolted
from the snag and the line parted - no doubt "feathered" on the branches. I was solemn with myself for a while and gave myself a talking to; but a second double (shown here) lifted my spirits. All this, I realise, is mainly of interest to myself, as the angler
involved: but the day, I think, was of wider interest, because it set me thinking on how carp feed, and how carp fear. The two doubles I caught both took floating crust which was fished as hard against the bank as possible, - with the case of the largest fish
I caught, the bait was resting against overhanging fronds of grass. It was impossible, I found, to get a take with the bait in open water. It was also impossible to get a confident take with me closer than five yards from the carp. It was like "long-trotting"
with floating crust or floating flake, often using the wind and the ripples to take a bait down to the fish, under the bank and considerably further along from my position. Even doing this, once or twice I noticed how the arrival of a bait among feeding
fish moved the carp a little further away, where avid feeding could take place without an angler's bait among the free offerings.
It was as if the carp were drawing imaginary "safety zones"
in their minds, and in those zones, which were moveable, the fish felt safe to feed and were reluctant to move and feed elsewhere. Yesterday, the space between the floating bait and the area where they would would feed most avidly was often no more that 2ft
or so. Ah yes, you will say, the carp could see your line; - very likely, - and probably why it was the baits fished hard against the bank which were taken. However, I think that carp as creatures seem to 'self-define' safety zones which may or may not relate
to preferred feeding spots. It is as if they constantly need to define where they feel safe, and perhaps Mother Nature has hard-wired them this way. It is also likely, I think, that hormones, such as panic hormones, are released by carp to help define areas
of potential threats for themselves and other carp.
Carp certainly like to feel safe, and when they feel most safe, then they behave more like shoal fish. One good example for this
would be one autumn day at Clay Farm Pond., where I caught 21 carp, all on floating crust and all caught at some distance. The carp were gathered around a small clump of floating leaves, off an island. It really was a small clump of leaves. On other occasions
I've found reasonable numbers of carp around small twigs or branches. Ah yes, you might say - perhaps they were eating bugs off those small twigs and branches; but I think more is going on.
floating leaves, twigs and branches seem to attract the carp not for any food they might contain, but rather as a gathering point for the fish where, for some reason, they feel safer.
times, there seems to be no great reason why carp should be at one spot and not another. Many times, when using floating crust, I have found what I call "the mark" - and this is a place where the carp gather, for some mysterious reason, and there's no clear
reason as to why that should be so. It can happen in open water and often does, if angling pressure isn't so great.
Whatever the case, I often tell myself, when I've made a poor cast,
to "cast for the mark". I know what I mean, at least; and I suppose this is where surface fishing for carp is a little like dry-fly fishing?
Having seen how paranoid carp are getting about
surface baits on my waters, I wonder whether line controllers are getting to be something of a liability? I only freeline surface baits these day, you see? - I try not to use line controllers. I imagine that, at fairly hard-fished waters like Hoveland, a line
controller would immediately alert the wiser fish.
Returning to that autumn day at Clay Farm Pond: I was most amused, following a session where my arms were actually aching at the close, to
be approached by the local expert. He revealed how he had blanked and then informed me, seeing how I had fished, that the day had been far to cold for carp to take floating crust off the top....
He certainly hadn't found his mark that day, I think....