CAN CARP FEEL THE DRAG?

GETTING THOSE CLASSIC RUNS...

I find it surprising that, while most anglers accept that perch, eels and even pike are sensitive to resistance, many fishermen don’t seem to imagine that carp, too, can be neurotic about any drag on the line.

I think this is because most carp fishermen these days are using semi-fixed leads and hair-rigs, often fished at considerable distances, and unless they are studying underwater videos of the action, they seldom observe what is actually happening below the surface.

Pete Thomas, in one of the CCC letters, mentions that he saw a carp take a piece of surface crust and then “back-peddle" with it, to see if it was attached to anything as unpleasant as fishing line.

I’ve actually seen this too, on an unsuccessful session at a little known but ancient water – one that was actually mentioned, I believe, in the CCC letters.

It was 5am in the morning when a common carp took my surface crust, held it between its lips and back-peddled. I saw the line trailing after it, - snaking away – but at no time could I strike, because the bread was not fully inside the carp’s mouth. A drifting twig hit the line and, instantly, the carp released the bait.

Last week, I had another odd experience when I saw mere twitches on the sight-bob, over a long period of time, only to find, eventually, that my bait (macaroni cheese) had been taken off the hook! Now, sight-bobs are usually very sensitive indicators, and that is why trout anglers often use them – to show up the most delicate takes. But this carp’s take, in a pool that is virtually unfished, had been almost undetected, when only 4 inches of line was lying on the bottom.

From this I conclude, as hundreds of carp anglers have concluded before me, that carp in a natural state are cautious, cunning and neurotic about resistance.

What sort of a take is it that can leave a sight-bob virtually unstirred while removing three macaroni tubes from the hook? The carp’s movements must have been miniscule and very well considered.  It wasn’t as if the carp was aware of me. I was well hidden by bankside vegetation at the time.

I suspect that this carp  could even feel the drag of the sight- bob  and the fish measured its “pulls” against the hook by the sensation of that drag – usually a pressure that carp are completely oblivious to.

All this has made me think about old-fashioned carp runs: and I’m now wondering whether Walker was right after all. He and BB believed that the run is a natural part - at least at times - of a carp taking food. BB had even observed this behaviour in his garden pond, while feeding captive carp.

Usually, in my experience, a carp that runs like this has the bait well inside its mouth – but it has not hooked itself.

How do I know? Well, a couple of weeks ago (in May 2013) I had caught a few carp from one swim where I had freelined a bait while watching a slack line for indications.

The takes were fast and dramatic, but I kept the bail-arm of the Mitchell closed because I was crouching by the rod, ready to strike. The line would twitch then shoot across the surface, and I would strike just before the line could go “bow-string tight”.   

Had I not moved swims later on, to try elsewhere, I might have assumed that such quick runs were down to the carp taking a soft bait into its mouth (bread flake), clamping down on it and being pricked by the concealed hook.

However, the second swim I tried produced a very different result.  I was weary by then, and I started to lose concentration – only to see the line twitch once more and shoot across the surface. On this occasion I was far too slow – the line went very tight and the rod-tip nodded.

The fish didn’t hook itself. It just rejected the bait the moment it felt resistance – in this case, from the nodding rod top, (while the angler was nodding off!)

I think those famous underwater videos have shown us how easily a carp can suck in and blow out baits, - even to the point of the fish lifting 2oz and 3oz fixed leads from the bottom, swinging them about and dropping them.

There is often little evidence that the hair-rig has caused the carp to be hooked in these instances - I suspect the fish's mouth, in most of these instances, has merely clamped down briefly on the boilie.

A TFF friend, Dave Burr, tells me that, in any case, university experiments on dead carp have shown how very hard it is for even a sharp hook to penetrate a carp's rubbery mouth for a secure hold. I believe it requires about 3lbs of pressure! Yes, I suspect it's true that heavy semi-fixed leads can lead to a carp pricking itself lightly with the hook, and perhaps this causes panic which leads in turn to a run. However, it is also true that carp run with a bait without being in a state of panic. It is, to reiterate, simply something that they do, while feeding. 

As for the hook going in deep, I suspect this happens when the rod really starts to bend.

I predict that, on many waters, there will be a slow return to resistance free rigs and also twitcher hitting, as our carp increasingly wise up to to all the ironmongery going in. But, as I’ve said, most of my own observations concern carp that have not been under any great angling pressure.To a greater or lesser extent, I am talking about carp in a "natural" state.

So, to return to “classic runs” – what exactly is happening?  As I’ve already stated, I cannot accept that the carp is hooked. It could be that the run is a product of larger baits – in the past, baits such as potatoes, and in the wild, mussels and larger snails, perhaps. The old idea that carp, like chickens, run away from their fellows to consume food in peace, - this may be the correct interpretation. If so, the classic run is a product of competition among the carp, and I’ve seen some evidence of this.

When I’ve had fast runs on freelined baits, there have always been a number of carp in my swim – carp that have remained there afterwards.

This shows that the run is not viewed by other carp as a sign of panic, but as a natural part of feeding behaviour.

I’ve seen underwater videos of carp taking free offerings and, often but not always, they do indeed run.

The way they run is fascinating. The carp seem to pick up bait then they swing either to the right or the left, rising as they do so, - and then they go a-powering off.

As I’ve already said, I don’t believe that carp tend to run with smaller baits – and this perhaps explains the micro-twitches of my sight-bob, when I was using macaroni cheese.

But I do believe that using larger baits – baits acceptable to the carp, of course, will lead to classic runs and some very exciting angling moments.

Above - an old lake "between Newent and Dymock", as Bob Richards put it, in the CCC letters, where the gnome encountered a very cunning carp!

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David Haddon | Reply 23.02.2015 14.58

Gary , carp in a local gravel pit used to do the same with large lob worms but not so much with other baits , observed when stalking in the clear water .

Gary 23.02.2015 15.23

My experience of large hunks of flake, in clear water, is that the carp tend to "trundle away" rather than "run"; but they certainly do trundle...!

Gary 23.02.2015 15.21

It's such as fascinating subject, Dave, isn't it? As I say, I've had the rod top really "bang" on a soft bait - but no hooked fish!

Gary | Reply 14.06.2013 09.38

I do think they are sometimes "pricked", JAA, especially with bare hooks, but in my view they also run at times, when not.. What about old time spud runs?

jaa | Reply 14.06.2013 00.59

Always thought that "runs" for most carpers are panicked fish pricked by the hook...I've had carp take 20 minutes to take bait in when completely unspooked...

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