Need a pair of sunglasses to attach your Day-glo pop-ups? The brighter the better? Chilly’s not sure bait colour makes the slightest difference...
Need a pair of sunglasses to attach your Dayglo pop-ups? The brighter the better? Chilly’s not sure bait colour makes the slightest difference...
It often surprises many carp anglers when I tell them I have tried just about everything with regards to most areas of carp fishing. Save, of course, for a few fashionable trends that have never caught anyone an extra carp or two, no matter how much they are thrust upon us. I am not as pig-headed and stubborn as it would sometimes seem, it’s just that if things are no good then they are destined for file 13. Trying a bit of everything helped me to fine things down to the basic level I have achieved today, and it is because of my experiences, in anything actually, that allows me to make calculated and educated decisions about what I want to do. If you don’t know it doesn’t work, or just as importantly if it does, then you can discard it from or introduce it to your own fishing accordingly. Folding reel handles, which is well trendy so I’ve been told, would be a great example, along with blowing some odd looking purple smoke from the bivvy door. For the love of life, isn’t carp fishing supposed to be the drug we all get a hit from? There are also tactical issues to think about too, the things that can have a direct influence on your results. One thing that I did for years, until for some reason it became ‘the thing’ to do, was to have my tips pointing upwards. Not beachcaster-style, but just enough to make a bite look even more exciting. It was never meant to do anything else, and it certainly never ‘gradually increased the pressure on the line to ensure a secure hook hold’, as someone rather strangely suggested! It wasn’t a fashion statement on my part either, and I would never suggest anything I did or do could be employed as a trendsetting phenomenon. It has always been about a means to an end, the way to get the results I wanted – and the best way to achieve this is to go through the tactics that are available, discarding the things which fail to work and keeping the ones that do... remarkably simple when all is said and done!
The reason I have covered such eventualities is all about being obsessed with what others are doing, and one topic that continually rears its rather confusing head, is the colour of our hookbaits. We discussed bait last time out, at
which point I did mention that we credit carp with unfathomable amounts of intelligence. Maybe it’s me who’s getting confused, but I just don’t understand that if carp are so gifted, why do they pick up a hookbait which is so massively different to the free offerings we bait up with? If a carp has the ability to, as some would suggest, observe and study our rigs and presentation in minute detail, on the lookout for a hook or other alarming items of tackle, why does it pick up a hookbait that is so bright he needs to borrow your Polarised glasses to look at it? How obvious do we want our presentation to be? And if they are so intelligent, don’t you think they could suss this out in the blink of an eye... if they could blink their eyes, of course. Bright hookbaits work but I have always felt, rightly or wrongly, that a little subtlety goes a long, long way. As always, a good example of this will explain what I mean, and it was from a time when the colour of hookbaits became a real matter of interest...
The Banned – consisting of Dave Lane, Keith Jenkins, Richard Howell and myself – decided to fish at Manor Farm on the Linear Fisheries Complex in Oxfordshire back in the winters of 1997/98. There weren’t too many fish in there in those days, but as hard as it was in winter, a possible two 40-pounders drove us on. It was around this time that a certain angler started using yellow hookbaits, and although he only ever caught two carp from that water, his influence soon made sure everyone was using the same. Now, if everyone is using the same thing, whatever that might be, then it stands to reason the only thing a carp will be caught on (or with) is that item of tackle or, in this instance, hookbait! The Banned were all using Mainlines Activ-8 at the time, which along with being a bait of biblical magnitude, was as dull as it’s possible to be, colourwise. To me personally, the dull brown colour screamed subtlety and fitted into my way of thinking perfectly. It wasn’t that I didn’t like brighter hookbaits, it’s simply because The Grange and the Activ-8 shaped the way in which I thought and approached my fishing. We baited as often as we could with 15mm and 18mm free offerings and, of course, the hookbait was exactly the same. I never used a pop-up, and I’m not so sure anyone else did either, all we did was choose between the two sizes as we saw fit. Along with a couple of bailiffs there, who very sensibly got on the bandwagon with us, we quite simply outfished everyone else on the lake. I thought it
wouldn’t take too long for that trendy madness to go away, but only a slack handful of people seemed to take note. As long as the rest of the anglers thought they were being ‘in-the-know’ and fashionably acceptable, that’s all that mattered to them. And there was me thinking I would look just fine holding another carp up for the camera!
I believe another great example will only underline the point I am trying to make still further, and this revolves around surface fishing and Zigs. I came across ‘Zigs’ way before they were named, and very successfully, too! It is an incredibly simple set up, one that can dominate all levels of the water column. It’s probably because of its uncomplicated construction that many anglers try to find something to overcomplicate the basic idea. Nothing in a carp’s natural diet represents anything more than a dull brown or black blob, floating in the water, either on the surface or hanging off a piece of weed. Water shrimps and snails survive, to some extent, because they are camouflaged. I have not seen one strutting his stuff up and down the margin in a day-glow hoody! To that end, therefore, a carp is never stimulated naturally by the colour of its food. And don’t think for a second that bloodworms are red and therefore visible either. They live deep in the silt, and the carp has to bury his head in it to filter out the worms he wants to eat. Ironically, they have probably never seen one at all. Getting
As long as the rest of the anglers thought they were being ‘in-the-know’ and fashionably acceptable, that’s all that mattered to them
into the primary way a carp locates its food is another story, one that probably stretches my brain capacity just a little too far. No, all I can rely on is experience, something that many of those who believe they know what the hell they are on about, are lacking. It’s unsure if carp can see colour anyway, although many claim they can see in certain light conditions. Even the scientific world is confused by the issue, with some saying carp can see colours in various wavelengths, whilst others believe nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, scientists don’t even have an idea of what the carp’s eye sees, or how sight is translated in their brain. And as that grey matter is half the size of a pea, I don’t reckon it can translate too much. Danger, safety and food are the only things these simple creatures can cope with, and with a brain that size it cannot think with any more depth. To my mind, the only way carp can clearly see Zig and surface baits is from underneath, after all, the eyes are primarily for safety and are positioned to look upwards anyway. They will be clearly silhouetted against the light of the sky, and to that end appear black. Even at night they will easily be spotted because the sky is still much lighter. Their colour becomes of little consequence because the carp simply cannot see different colours, if at all, in this situation.
The first time I was aware of what a carp may think of a hookbait fished up in the water column, was at Conningbrook many, many years ago. Although I used this tactic regularly, I had never been able to study one at close quarters. I watched The Long Common, a rarely caught carp, travelling around some weed in the shallow area of the lake. It was taking snails, not ravenously, but with enough gusto for me to attempt to catch it... and I very nearly got there. The first thing I tried was a white pop-up on a four-foot hooklink – surely this would get his attention? It just swam right on by, so I changed to a yellow one which received exactly the same result. It wasn’t until I presented a black piece of foam that the situation went into a totally different dimension! Over a dozen times he came to investigate the hookbait, but unfortunately never took it. Which was probably my fault, as the black foam had come from the inside of my training shoe. Not the tastiest morsel it had ever come across, for sure! Probably from that experience alone, my preferred Zig and surface hookbait colour is black. In all honesty, I have used and caught on other colours, but when the chips are down I always switch back to black. Does this really matter when we are fishing on the bottom though? Again, it is something which can easily be explained with an example.
For some unknown reason he stated that orange was the worst colour to have as a hookbait – the carp never responded to it and was never worth casting out. Really?
I gained a ticket for Ashmead back in November of 2009, and it was my intention to fish it all the way through until the carp spawned the following spring or summer. My first session saw me employing rigs and tactics that I use for 90% of my fishing – a 15mm bottom bait topped by a Mainline Topper, or in this case, a piece of orange corn. I landed a stunning 21lb mirror on my first trip, and I recounted the story on my second visit to someone who was in the carp angling scene at the time. It was then that I decided I wouldn’t change the colour for all the tea in China. For some unknown reason he stated that orange was the worst colour to have as a hookbait – the carp never responded to it and was never worth casting out. Really? To this end every single hookbait I cast or lowered into that fabled pool was tipped with a piece of orange plastic! Remember, it was winter and a very cold one too. In fact the lake froze several times in early January, but I caught at least one carp every time I visited. Two days after a freeze towards the end of that month, I returned once again and positioned an orange tipped hookbait with 50 free offerings at the side of a weedbed, in around five feet of water. I had seen the carp, I had ultimately joined to catch, using the area before and even said to Lynn on the phone that night, if I caught one I knew which
Back to Manor Farm in 2012 and a yellow piece of corn played its part in the downfall of this 44lb 6oz mirror
one it would be. I wish I had rung the ‘orange hater’ as well, because in the early hours of the morning I played and landed the biggest fish in the lake – Single Scale at 53¾lb. I kept on catching too, until unfortunately I landed the same fish again some five weeks later. And yep, you’ve guessed it, a small piece of orange foam hung from its mouth on a long hair as I laid her on the mat!
So, where does this leave me with regards to the colour of my hookbait? Well, I seem to have arrived in a place that covers all the pockets, or should that be all the swims? The original idea of adding a piece of corn to my hookbaits had absolutely nothing to do with what colour it was. It was all about negating the weight of the hook, hopefully getting the hookbait to behave exactly how the free offerings were. I wasn’t trying to create a balanced hookbait either, as long as the plastic corn lifted the hook off the bottom on its own, I was happy. In the end it all came down to hedging my bets. Whenever I could use corn in addition to my free offerings, I would place a yellow bit of plastic on the tip of my boilie hookbait. Eventually, even when I didn’t introduce corn, I didn’t really care and stuck with the plastic, because it never seemed to matter. However, it always occurred to me, no matter what some uninformed anglers said, we were not sure if carp could see colour or not. Even so, I use it, just in case they do. To that end, plastic became a constant companion for my boilies, be they bottom baits or pop-ups – to this very day. In fact, I doubt I have caught a carp using a naked hookbait in many years. Of late, I have been using Mainline Toppers instead of the corn, and in many respects it has taken things to a new level. They come in bright colours of course, but just as importantly they release the same attractors as the boilie it accompanies on my hair. Who said I could never change things? All in all it works, and at the end of the day, that’s all I really need to know.
So much has been talked about the colour of bait, and the carp’s reaction to it. I believe it would be safe to say that the carp we fish for have seen just about everything, colourwise, and I bet my bottom dollar not one of them has failed to catch a carp. It can be a confusing issue for sure, made even worse by some awful rubbish that is written at times. I remember one notorious carp angler getting a deal with a plastic bait maker; his first article after he signed the dotted line, was all about plastic. It went to extraordinary lengths, telling the reader that getting a bite at certain times of the day depended on the shade of yellow he was using. It defied belief, and there has never been any proof of this being the case, and never will there be. Ultimately, this kind of wanton gibberish will have a detrimental effect on not only a carp angler’s levels of confidence and confusion, but a massive impact on their wallet too! It’s a bit like every aspect of carp fishing that I refer to – do your own thing, stick to something that works then try and improve it from there. Achieve your own carp fishing memories, you don’t have to buy them! Take care of you and yours. Chilly.
ABOVE Dull coloured free offerings – just the WAY I LIKE THEM TO BE
LEFT The Manor in 1997 and Activ-8 ruled the roost, as this 39¼lb MIRROR WOULD SUGGEST
FAR LEFTI’ve used bright hookbaits, but feel MORE CONFIDENT WHEN I am hedging my bets
The Long One from Horton in 1996 on a four-foot pop-up, off the lead, as the presentation was known back thenABOVE
TOP Single Scale for the second time on an orange piece of plastic corn and boilie hookbait
MIDDLE I’ve experimented with many colours over the years
LEFTNINETY PERCENT OF MY FISHING is carried out this way
As this winter monster would suggest, my tactics work all year round TOP
As long as it makes you smile, who cares? ABOVE