They’re closer than you think – Mark Pollard
There’s nothing more thrilling than catching a big carp in the margins – and Dynamite Baits’ Mark Pollard shows how easy it is to achieve
ASK any carp angler about the best way to catch carp and they will generally say look for a ‘feature’ to target. Regardless of whether the lake you are fishing is a quarter of an acre or a quarter mile wide, the margins are still the pool’s biggest feature. Plus, if you want a chance to catch some of the biggest fish swimming in your local commercial, the margins are THE place to lay your trap! They offer natural food, and shelter in the form of overhanging trees, snags, undercut banks and reeds. “The fish feel safe in these places. If they feel safe, they feel confident and if they’re confident they are dead easy to catch,” explained Dynamite and Matrix-backed Mark Pollard. “But, contrary to popular belief, I don’t think you need to fish heavily – neither with food nor big tackle.” To see how Mark approaches the margins, Mark Parker met up with the 54-year-old Bedfordshire rod at the five-lake Rookery Waters complex at Pidley in Cambridgeshire for a day of close-in catching. Here’s how he got on…
Why target the margins
Many modern anglers seem obsessed by distance. Every pole angler needs a 16-metre pole and all the carp crew think that a cast of less than 100 yards is a poor showing! This is all very well and can bring you fish, but generally only if the situation enables it. Adopting an attitude of always looking to fish at your maximum distance will see you missing out on some red-hot action, all of which is closer than you think. Fishing right under the rod tip, hard against the bank to the left or right of your position can reveal some great rod-bending action. In addition, the very best aspect of fishing in the margins is that fish caught here are quite often bigger than those caught at range. But why are the margins so good? Well, one of the golden rules in angling is always fish to a feature, and there is no bigger feature on any lake than the margins. “All fish, particularly carp and tench, love to migrate to the edges of banks, patrolling along their sides,” said Polly. “These areas can be the margins or an island on a commercial fishery, where carp will literally swim round and round, very close to the bank, in the warm, shallow water. The fish have come to associate these areas as prime feeding grounds, as they are awash with natural food such as worms and insects or discarded bait that anglers have thrown in at the end of their session.” Mark fished the margins from the off for today’s feature, but generally he won’t look on that line for at least two hours. “In a match, I will feed the margins at the start, then every half hour thereafter. Even if I see swirls and signs of fish, I still leave it, letting them build their confidence, drawing even more fish into the area,” explained Polly.
Depth is important
Just because you are intending to fish the margins doesn’t mean that the swim you have chosen is the best available. Polly will always look for a depth of between 18 inches and three feet maximum, with two feet being the magic number. If the margins are too deep, the fish can come up in the water, giving you line bites and foul-hooking issues. Too shallow, and they won’t feed there at all. It is also important to find a flat spot, even if it is only a few inches square, as again this allows for a better presentation of your rig and the loosefeed. The third point is that even though reeds and sedges look like a ‘tasty’ piece of cover to target, doing so is asking for trouble, according to Polly. “I always aim to fish between one and two metres away from the sedges. If you fish too close, they will dive straight into the vegetation as soon as you hook into one. The outcome is a lost fish every time. There is no point making things hard for yourself,” he said.
Tackle up for close in
You can use running line with a small crystal waggler, for example, but Polly prefers the accuracy of pole fishing. However, even though the margins tend to throw up a larger stamp of carp, Polly recommends using slightly lighter tackle than generally considered sensible for this kind of work.
Elastic-wise, he much prefers to use a hollow No.10 paired with a puller kit. This type of gear is more than strong enough to better even the heaviest of fish. “The biggest problem when fishing in shallow water is that every hooked fish will have a tendency to bolt,” asserted Polly. “If you use a really heavy, powerful elastic, you risk hook-pulls as well as broken tackle. It is better to fish a little lighter to land every fish.” He doesn’t use overly strong line, either. His mainline is 0.20mm (7lb 8oz) Power Micron to a hooklink of either 0.18mm (6lb 3oz) or 0.16mm (5lb 2oz), to a size 14 Matrix Carp Bagger. Where he does choose to go a little heavier is in his choice of float. A 0.3g MP6 is his favourite, around one and a half times heavier than you would use in a 2ft swim. The reason for the heavier float pattern is that it helps prevent the fins of any larger fish blowing the rig around, which will lead to foul-hooking problems. A small bulk of No.10 shot, just above the 6in hooklink, also helps to keep the hookbait down. “When plumbing up at dead depth, mark the depth on the pole. Push the float up the line half an inch as the heavy plummet will stretch the line, giving you a false reading.”
Polly’s marginal feed
Loosefeed comes in the form of Dynamite Baits’ Marine Halibut and Frenzied Hemp Big Feed Groundbait and dead red maggots. These two ingredients are fed using a 250ml pole cup at a ratio of 2:1, groundbait to maggots. “I love this groundbait because it contains particles, flavours and attractors,” said Polly.
“It’s a mix I have a great deal of confidence in. I feed the groundbait loose, so that it forms a carpet of feed on the bottom. The maggots are used as a holding bait. Plus,, being dead they look like e old, discarded bait and they don’t crawl away like live ones!” To kick off, Polly feeds swims at both sides the same, unlike some who prefer positive and negative lines. Then, every cast, he tops up the swim with a pole pot filled with a pinch of dead reds and groundbait. He then feeds this before gently lowering the rig in. On the hook, he will normally use four dead reds – hooked alternatively head and tail. As a change bait, he highly rates a whole worm or one of Dynamite’s Krill Meaty Fish Bites or Mini Meaty Pellets. “The latter complements the groundbait well, plus, they really stand out on the bottom.” With both sides fed, sport was slow at the start, as expected, building as the session progressed. After five hours, Polly’s margin swims – incredibly, less than three inches from the bank – had produced a rake of fish, including the odd lump or two, confirming that big fish aren’t always caught at 16 metres or beyond 100 yards! They can be right under your feet. As Mark says: “Margin carp fishing is effortless, easy and fun. It’s just about getting them to feed and then catching them, which sounds obvious, but it really is a simple tactic that anyone can master using the right technique and equipment.” And, if Polly’s final catch is anything to go by, who could argue?
Big fish are easy to catch just inches from the bank
Feed loose groundbait to create a carpet of feed very close in
Polly guides in yet another reluctant fish from its margin lair
Dead red maggots look like old or discarded bait and remain visible to attract feeding fish
Groundbait in a shallow swim does’t have far to travel, so cup it in loose to form a carpet
A pole pot of groundbait and a few dead reds is used to top up
Meaty Pellets complement his groundbait and stand out on the bottom