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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


21/02/2015 - Winter Carp Fishing-Keeping It Simple

Floating bread crust set up as described


For several weeks I've had problems with walking, but thankfully one of the landowners on the River Ribble has given me permission to access my water by driving round the edge of a riverside field which allows me to fish a couple of swims but it’s not been possible to fish several of my favourite swims. Then a couple of weeks ago my friend David asked if Kate and myself if we could house sit while they went off on a Caribbean cruise, knowing I had access to a couple of still waters close by I jumped at the chance as did Kate. The day before they went off cruising David called to collect us from home knowing my problem with driving at the present time. All we had to do was look after 2 Labradors we also had a freezer full of food if it was needed also Sky TV so I could also watch the cricket, except England forgot to play when faced by New Zealand.

The next day after breakfast I walked the short distance to the first lake, which impressed me, sheltering from the rain under a large oak tree I stood looking at the swaying trees on the far bank of the lake then downhill to the dark windswept water with the occasional cresting white waves. I question my sanity about going fishing as I thought of the warmth of the wood burning stove at home, in the past I wouldn’t have given the weather conditions a second though, it must be about getting old, I quickly told myself “Don’t be a soft wimp” If I didn’t go fishing I wasn't going to catch any carp today, despite the weather I reckon I’d got a good chance. Walking around the water's edge I found two areas that looked interesting, the first was a small sheltered bay with a screen of sedges offering cover, from past experience I guessed the water depth to be around five feet, I baited with a mixture of broken and full size Cheese Mania squabs some ten feet out from the bankside.

Further along the bank was an area of overhanging Rhododendron bushes where I threw in some pieces of cheese flavoured floating crust and flake, no doubt some anglers would probably question why I should consider floating baits in winter under the horrid weather conditions. The reason for this was because many dog walkers and others visitors to the area fed the ducks, geese and swans with a large amount of bread. These carp were used to seeing lots of bread in all weather conditions and taking bits of bread without any fear, also I hoped the Cheese Mania flavoured bits of crust and flake would make my free offerings even more attractive. It's surprising how our knowledge about the feeding habits of fish have changed over the years, in the 1950's we didn't bother to fish for carp after the first frosts, today carp anglers fish in the worst of the weather and catch big fish. I had a good example of carp feeding in icy cold water a few years ago when I was fishing a still water in Berkshire for perch where most of the lake was ice covered, as I sat catching some nice perch I noticed a swirl on the water surface further along the bank, creeping towards the area I spotted about ten carp cruising the surface, back in my swim I collected some bread then moved back to where I'd seen the carp they were still around, within minutes of throwing in half a dozen bits of bread it was all taken. There was no doubt in my mind about not catching, I was more than confident.

I Chose Two Outfits

Seeking the shelter from the windswept rain I put together 2 Lone Angler barbel rods 1.75 one rod was matched with a Shimano reel with 15lb braid line, to which I attached a size 10 hook, The second rod was matched with a centre pin reel 12lb Gamma line I then attached a goose quill with double rubbers then another size 10 hook of a new design, I would only fish with one rod, The float outfit was for fishing a bottom bait in the bay should I fail to catch fish on the top.

Field Testing The New Designed GRIPTZHooks

The hooks I would be using are GRIPTZ a new design that were sent to me recently for evaluation, these are to the best of my knowledge as stated a new design, please note I say designed and not pattern of which there dozens. I cannot find any information of this new hook in any of my thousands of books going back to the 1700's During many years of angling I've used three types of hooks, barbed, barbless and circle, in various shapes, thickness of wire gauges from very thick to thin wire some with barbs so rank they often looked as if they should be on a harpoon. The circle hooks haven't caught on, not just in the UK but worldwide wide however hard some anglers have tried to promote them. I've found Circle hooks good for some forms of sea fishing, though I didn't find them very successful for fly fishing for pike,. that's not to say they were not good as some anglers in the USA used them with success. I had problems getting the fish to stay on or pulling the hook out of the mouth even when I had waited some time before tightening the line. No doubt I was doing something wrong.

I've used barbless hooks for over 40 years, I use this type of hook for its ease of unhooking fish, many of my fish being unhooked in the water without being touched by hand, especially trout which are very fragile creatures, so many die through bad handling as the angler squeezes the fish around the stomach as he or she retrieves the hook. A problem when using barbless hooks is keeping some forms of live bait gentles, worms and minnows etc. on the hook. With worms and small fish baits, it’s not a problem, I attach a small piece of rubber band on the bend of the hook after hooking on the bait, this isn't possible with small hooks when using gentles or caddis. This new and unique designed and patented GRIPTZ hook gets its name from the small indents or grooves on the inside of the hook just down from the needle sharp point, giving a firm hook hold, this unique designed hook stops the hook slipping as the flesh of the quarries mouth grips to the grooves or indents when under pressure. I spent some time with worms on these hooks to see if they would wriggle off, so far not a problem though I need to spend more time with these hooks and lively lobworms.

Carp on Floating Baits

After about fifteen minutes of sitting at the waterside the sea gulls appeared seeking out bits of bread, eventually going for my hook bait, I stood there waving my arms like a demented demon but sadly the gulls were the winner, I then thought of an idea I first used in the 1950's, The use of a running weight, taking off the hook I put on a small Stone weight using a link swivel followed by a bead then I attached the hook, the weight would sit close to the crust when I cast out, as the weight settled on the bottom I pulled line off the reel allowing the crust to float up to the surface, every time a gull went for the bait I pulled on the line causing the crus t to sink, then when the bird flew away I let the bait come to the surface. About half an hour later I noticed a calm area of water the size of a dinner plate appear on the surface of the wind swept water. "That's a carp it’s either taken a bit of bread or wallowed on the surface"

Watching the area for some while I spotted a bulge in the water followed by the head and shoulders of a fish as it went for the bit of bread, quickly winding in my tackle I baited with a fresh chunk of Cheese Mania flavoured crust, as the weight settled on the bottom I gave some slack line, the bait appeared a few feet from where the carp had been seen. Within a few minutes a fish moved towards the bread then slurped it down, I watched the line tighten then set the hook, the rod hooped over the smooth clutch immediately gave line as a good fish moved strongly across the lake trying to reach the sanctuary of some old tree branches in the margins. No way was I going to let that happen, I applied as much pressure as my Lone Angler rod would allow. It worked so good I virtually stopped the fish dead in its tracks, leaning the rod over to my right I pulled the fish back into open water, it was then a slugging match for several minutes before I got the fish close to the net then it was mine, a fine mirror carp of 12lb 8 ounces A first cast fish on a new hook design, not once did I feel that fish was going to get off. I caught seven carp best at 13 lbs. 5 ounces five on floating bread, two fish on float fished cheese mania paste in the small bay that I had pre-baited. I was a happy angler when I arrived back home for a mug of tea, some dinner and the warmth of the log fire.

More Fun with Carp

A couple of days later the weather overnight had turned very cold and dry with a light wind there was cat ice in the shallows, puddles were frozen, Kate wanted to go shopping, I wanted to buy some Sketcher boots I'd been advised to wear for my planter fasciitis problem. While shopping I couldn't find my mobile, thinking I’d lost it I made my was to a Car Phone warehouse shop as I needed to get the phone locked then buy a new one. Having sorted out the phone we went off for lunch. It was about 1500 hrs we then caught the bus home using our bus passes rather than getting a taxi, back home the first thing I noticed on the window ledge was my phone, still that's life when you get old and forget things.

Two Mirror’s and a Common Carp

After a brew I decided to try and catch a carp, before going out in the morning I had baited a spot close to some overhanging Rhododendron Bushes with some pieces of sausage sizzle paste, it would be a short two hour session at the most. For an hour I didn't see any signs of fish thinking perhaps the frost had put the fish off feeding, as I did so I though back over many other similar days when I’d caught. Scanning the water surface I noticed patches of bubbles appear in the baited area, quietly moving close to the area, I baited the size 10 hook with a thumb nail size piece of sausage sizzle paste, then made a gentle cast watching the quill float settle in the middle of the bubbles, suddenly it disappeared as the rod tip wrenched round to the left, there was no need to strike. I just picked up the rod then tried to get control over the spinning reel, the fish being well and truly hooked, after a spirited fight I eventually netted a good mirror carp. The scales gave a reading of 14 lb 10 ounces, a quick picture then it was released to hopefully grown into a twenty pounder.

Fifteen minutes later I had a 14 lb 7 ounce mirror I’d used the same size 10 hook of the previous day as I wanted to test the hook thoroughly, after tea I had a half hour session in the dark watching the quill float kindly given to me by Mark Surul of Leicester to which I now added beta light tip, slowly the float lifted out of the water then fell over flat before sliding away then disappearing under the water, striking I hooked a good fish which really did pull the string and bend the stick, for several minutes I didn't know if I would be the winner of this contest but slowly the balanced tackle proved too much for the fish, soon I had a lovely looking common carp in the waiting net. On the scales it went exactly 16lbs that really did give me a few heart stopping moments, not having a camera only Kate's tablet I was disappointed not to get a picture.

The next day my my brother, his wife along with my sister paid a quick visit as they were going off to visit some other relatives, after a very long lunch and lots of family talk we said our good byes. I then said to Kate I’m going to have a short session float fishing the top end of the lake in the shallows, the wind has been blowing in that direction all day, a foot or so in front of the broad-leaved pond weed Potamgeton there were several interesting patches of bubbles, I set the float to lay-on among the bubbles fishing close to the Potamgeton I caught three carp two estimated at ten pound the best at about 12lbs.The sausage sizzle had proved successful once more, not for barbel but this time for catching carp. .

It would have been nice to have tested these hooks against the dorado in the Arabian Gulf which would have been a good workout for both anglers fish and a test of the hook, though I doubt with my health problems I will ever be able to visit the UAE again. Next week another David is taking me down to the Kennet, hopefully I can walk far enough to a few decent swims where chub roach and perch will be my quarry.


First carp on the newly designed Griptz hooks

Another carp

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Martin James Fishing
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