By Andrew Kennedy
Surface fishing for carp
is one of the most rewarding and exciting means of fishing for any
species in the UK. The sight of a dark shadow emerging from the depths
below, followed by a set of rubbery lips surrounding your bait really
sets the pulse racing!
Surface fishing can be done at distance using a surface controller
float, but I prefer to fish within a few rod-lengths of the bank and
either freeline baits, or use the minimum casting weight I can get
away with. One problem with free-lining is that it is usually fished
with the mainline straight through to the hook, which is okay in clear
swims, but in snaggier areas a lower-breaking strain hooklength is
advisable as a safety measure. Using a hooklength has another benefit
in allowing the use of a less visible line leading to the hook. For
surface hooklengths I prefer either a fluorocarbon or one of the many
low-diameter, high-tech lines currently available, because I feel
these reduce the chance of spooking fish.
To prevent the swivel sinking and to give me additional casting weight,
I use brightly coloured floating putty, sold as a strike indicator
for fly fishing. This putty is extremely versatile and can be moulded
to any shape. It's extremely buoyant, and if required, split shot
can be moulded inside the putty, when you need to cast an extra few
feet. The fluorescent colour of the putty allows you to maintain visual
contact with the rig even in low light, yet it doesn't spook carp.
I very often have fish go for the putty before they go anywhere near
the bait! The putty lands on the surface with a delicate "plop",
compared to some controllers which land with an enormous splash. For
an extremely versatile surface rig, I like to use a run-ring and snap-link
pushed onto a swivel-guard bead. This allows me to either mould a
lump of putty around the snap-link for close range work, or remove
the putty and clip on a controller if the fish move further out. It
takes seconds to change, and allows me to keep in contact with groups
of feeding fish, no matter where they decide to feed.
Is this the most versatile
surface-fishing rig? I certainly think so!
When arriving at a swim, I find that by firing a few baits out to
start with, you can judge how the carp are feeding and adjust your
approach to suit the situation. For instance, if fish are only taking
the odd one of your initial free offerings, they are probably being
taken by passing fish which aren't particularly bothered about feeding
- they simply can't resist an easy meal. At times like this it can
often be best to cast out straight away and keep loosefeed to a minimum.
This way you have more chance of these opportunistic fish taking your
bait instead of being spoiled for choice by hundreds of freebies.
But if several fish start taking baits it's advisable to keep bait
going in, little and often, to build up confidence in the fish before
you introduce a hookbait.
Remember, feeding on the surface is a risky business for any fish,
so initially most carp will feed cautiously, but will gradually lose
this caution with each free offering they take. Early mornings and
evenings are usually the best times for surface fishing, but it can
be done at night if you listen for feeding fish and either feel the
line for bites or set up your rod on a bite alarm. As with most methods
of fishing, the middle of the day is usually the least productive
I recently decided to fish
a local park lake - Sutton Lawn Dam, which I had not fished for about
7 years. It is now a superbly run fishery which has received a lot
of new stock since the fishing was taken over by Ashfield AA.
There are now carp to over 20lb, including several double-figure grass
carp approaching 20lb. There are tench to over 7lb, as well as crucian
carp, bream, the odd pike and plenty of roach, rudd & perch. For
more information on fishing Sutton Lawn Dam, please visit http://www.ashfieldanglersassc.piczo.com
I was in luck on the evening I decided to visit, because as the sun
started to set, the carp started to feed on the surface. They didn't
just feed - they took every free offering I threw at them and it wasn't
long before my imitation dog biscuit was taken by a hard-fighting
common carp of exactly 13 pounds.
A beautifully conditioned
Sutton Lawn common carp of 13lb, caught on the surface
Over the next hour I added two mirror carp of 12lb 4oz and 10lb. As
the light faded I threw out a couple of full slices of bread in the
margins. I then fished a piece of breadcrust close to a slice and
listened for the "slurps".
One such slurp resulted
in the line being pulled from my fingers as the water exploded in
front of me, thanks to an extremely powerful fish. I had already decided
this cast would be my last, so as the fish tore line from my reel,
I just had to turn on my headlamp, to catch a glimpse of just what
I was connected to. As the fish rolled on the surface, I caught a
flash of a dorsal fin in the torchlight. Instantly I knew what I was
battling - a personal best grass carp!
This torpedo-like 12lb 4oz
grass carp set me a new personal best!
As usual when I realise I've hooked something special, my legs went
to jelly and I nervously tried to net the fish 5 times, before the
grass carp finally succumbed and rolled over the net. At 12lb 4oz,
this was a great fish - and what a fight! The perfect climax to a
hectic couple of hours’ surface fishing, and proof if needed,
that the rewards are out there for the surface angler.
That's if the sight of big carp feeding on the surface isn't reward
Good fishing to you all