A deep, heav­ily scaled mir­ror

Of­ten at the start of a carp cam­paign, an­glers have a wish list of what they’d like to hap­pen. How­ever, in a wel­come re­turn to the pages of Carp­world, long-time big-carp an­gler Mark Holmes is­sues a few words of cau­tion

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - -Mark Holmes

Of­ten at the start of a carp cam­paign, an­glers have a wish list of what they’d like to hap­pen. How­ever, in a wel­come re­turn to the pages of Carp­world, long-time big-carp an­gler Mark Holmes is­sues a few words of cau­tion

Well, it’s been a long time be­tween drinks, as they say. It’s quite a while since I last wrote for Carp­world and my, how it’s changed. In my opin­ion, magazine ed­i­tors are a lit­tle like fire­work rock­ets and, as Ru­pert be­gins his ten­ure, I am sure the magazine will be back on track as the one to buy. When I was asked to write this piece, it co­in­cided with the time many carp an­glers of all lev­els of abil­i­ties were about to start their cam­paigns. Re­cently I have men­tioned how I be­lieve cam­paign carp­ing, as it’s known, has be­come a dy­ing art. Due to the growth of carp­ing venues and the huge in­vest­ment made in stock­ing, it seems the choice of the num­ber of places where you can go carp fish­ing is grow­ing at an in­creas­ing rate. Yes, some are very ex­pen­sive, but it is only a mir­ror im­age of the so­ci­ety we live in. Some peo­ple can shop at Har­rods, but most go to Lidl. How­ever, both are places where peo­ple buy food! This ar­ti­cle, though, is not about the rights and wrongs of the price you pay for your fish­ing; suf­fice to say, that it is what it is. No, what I want to high­light here and talk about is how the ac­tions of to­day’s carp an­gler can af­fect the fish­ing on your lake dur­ing the course of a sea­son.

When you look at it in more de­tail, you can cat­e­gorise how cer­tain tac­tics and ac­tions ac­tu­ally af­fect the be­hav­iour of the carp. This is the cru­cial point to this ar­ti­cle. Without a clear un­der­stand­ing, the carp can be con­di­tioned in such a way that makes them harder to catch, the com­plete op­po­site of what you are try­ing to cre­ate and not what you should be try­ing to achieve.

When I think about tac­tics be­ing pre-planned and aimed at af­fect­ing the re­sults, the first thing that springs to mind is ob­vi­ously pre-bait­ing.

Now, there will be many in­stances where this ap­proach is sim­ply not rel­e­vant. Busy day-ticket wa­ters, con­stantly pres­sured by hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent an­glers each day, are not the kind of place where in­di­vid­ual ac­tions can im­print the fish. Col­lec­tively, they def­i­nitely can, and I will come on to that later in this ar­ti­cle. How­ever, the essence of try­ing to es­tab­lish your own bait as a reg­u­lar food source no­body else uses is of­ten a pipe dream on a syn­di­cate wa­ter, never mind day-ticket venues. I can clearly re­mem­ber writ­ing down the dif­fer­ent types of red fish­meal baits that are avail­able to carp an­glers. I think I came up with some­thing like nine sim­i­lar type baits that all have the same fish at­trac­tors in them. Put sim­ply, it is these in­gre­di­ents the carp are ini­tially at­tracted too, and these are the usual type of boilie at­trac­tors. Robin Red, liver pow­der, blood pow­der/ plasma and seafood ex­tracts such as krill and shrimp, are all in­gre­di­ents used in hun­dreds of boilie recipes.

I can clearly re­mem­ber fish­ing a lake in 2013 where I was bait­ing heav­ily with a red fish­meal bait and my re­sults were very good. How­ever, the usual swim-hop­ping took place, with some an­glers queu­ing up to fol­low me af­ter I had left. Of course, they caught and caught well on top of my baits with their own red fish­meal. How­ever, the fol­low­ing year an al­ter­ation was made to my bait. The in­gre­di­ents I men­tioned above were re­placed with the likes of fenu­greek, gar­lic pow­der and green lipped mus­sel and, as such, the at­trac­tors now sig­nalling the carp to eat had changed. The fol­low­ing sea­son my re­sults were even bet­ter, yet ‘Mr Swim Hop­per’ caught next to noth­ing. I think a clear ex­am­ple of how be­ing con­cise about what I wanted from my bait re­sulted in my catch rate go­ing up. Now, this brief lit­tle story is fo­cused on bait and, quite bizarrely, this sec­tor of carp fish­ing – pre-bait­ing. I know a lot think I’m an­cient, but when I first started carp fish­ing, the con­cept of pre-bait­ing was very dif­fer­ent to to­day’s ver­sion. When I started in 1975, in or­der to try and get a se­lec­tive edge on your ri­vals or, in­deed, in many cases, to com­pete with what the carp were cur­rently eat­ing nat­u­rally, you had to in­tro­duce your bait of choice on a wa­ter. Be­ing a dis­ci­ple of Dick Walker and avid reader of Still-wa­ter An­gling in the pre­boilie days, I would still pre-bait to get the carp to feed. Of course, that was the the­ory and, like many the­o­ries, look­ing back now, it was rid­dled with in­ac­cu­ra­cies. How­ever, hope was al­ways the main stim­u­lant of most carp an­glers of the time, and I can clearly re­mem­ber a mate and I pre-bait­ing with lun­cheon meat at Chel­low Dene be­fore the sea­son be­gan in June 1978. Look­ing back, the great­est ad­van­tage then was not the con­di­tion­ing of carp just to eat lun­cheon meat, but to get them in the area we were fish­ing and pick­ing up baits. Of course, more cun­ning, more ex­pe­ri­enced carp an­glers soon out­foxed two young 16-year olds and it was no sur­prise when we turned up on open­ing morn­ing to find some­one else in our pre-baited

...some be­lieved you could put too much bait into a wa­ter. Now, that is for an­other ar­ti­cle, but I am firmly in the camp that an­glers can­not put too much bait in

swims. It makes me smile when older an­glers try to im­ply that skull­dug­gery of a carp­ing kind did not ex­ist in those early days. Let me tell you, the drive cer­tain carp an­glers have to­day was just as strong in the 1970s. What was even more star­tling was a lot of these guys were my so-called mates. You can see how those early days helped to shape my carp­ing out­look, which is why I fish by my­self, for my­self and with my­self. Look­ing back, I smile at our naivety now, but the ef­fort we put in, not to men­tion the money we spent, for a re­turn of next to noth­ing cer­tainly helped to im­print me, if not the carp.

Re­cently, I have heard many openly state that if you are pre-bait­ing to­day, it is some form of cheat­ing. With the num­ber of carp an­glers swelling by the day, I do un­der­stand the point of view that it can ruin other an­glers’ sport, as un­doubt­edly it can. How­ever, it very much de­pends on the type of wa­ter that you are fish­ing. One of my good friends went to the con­sid­er­able trou­ble and ef­fort of in­tro­duc­ing more than 200 ki­los, over a monthly pe­riod, of his cho­sen boilie be­fore cast­ing a rod – quite in­cred­i­ble given he lives 200 miles away from the lake and the round trip was 400 miles. Yes, 400 miles! When he did start fish­ing his re­sults were spec­tac­u­lar, but some started com­plain­ing, so he had to keep quiet about his tac­tics be­cause if ev­ery­body tried to repli­cate his prac­tices, it would ruin the fish­ing for ev­ery­body. This was be­cause some be­lieved you could put too much bait into a wa­ter. Now, that is for an­other ar­ti­cle, but I am firmly in the camp that an­glers can­not put too much bait in. I sim­ply be­lieve it is a ready-made ex­cuse for an­glers to use for their own fail­ings in not catch­ing a fish. How many times have we heard they are not hav­ing it to­day? The sim­ple re­al­ity is, some­where on your lake, the carp will feed. It may be for a short pe­riod, it may be on some­thing that isn’t any­thing like our baits, but un­doubt­edly they will be hav­ing it. The moan­ing was so con­stant that pre-bait­ing was banned on the wa­ter, which for long-dis­tance an­glers such as my­self gave us an edge. Or should I say, an edge for lo­cal an­glers was stopped. Let me ex­plain fur­ther...

I can re­mem­ber when a well-known an­gler wanted to catch a very pres­ti­gious carp from a lake not very heav­ily fished. I had been very lucky and had caught this carp twice, so he asked for my ad­vice. I knew he lived fairly lo­cally and I told him most of the other syn­di­cate mem­bers trav­elled long dis­tances to fish the lake. He clearly asked me what my point was and I told him to use his lo­cal­ity as an ad­van­tage. Put in sim­ple terms, he could pre-bait, un­be­known to other mem­bers. I told him to do this and do it con­sis­tently be­fore

fish­ing. Suf­fice to say, I think he caught said carp on his third or fourth ses­sion, and I think it was his first carp out of the venue. In­cred­i­ble, but true. Now, these ex­am­ples show clearly you can im­print the carp’s be­hav­iour in your favour – not only in what they eat, but where and when they eat it. In fact, this type of carp im­print­ing is what I want to high­light the most. I see so many an­glers fail to heed what once was an ad­van­tage, but it is now a dis­ad­van­tage. When you point out the lit­eral mean­ing of that state­ment, the carp an­gler’s brain quickly be­gins to un­der­stand how tight lines put carp off, how fish­ing in one spot con­sis­tently puts carp off, how fish­ing with the same baits puts carp off, how fish­ing with one type of rig con­sis­tently puts carp off. So, we can clearly see all carp an­glers have the abil­ity to un­der­stand that fish learn and also how our ap­proach im­prints the carp. In lay­man’s terms, what I mean by that is our ac­tions af­fect the carp’s be­hav­iour. So much so, that due to the num­bers of carpers out there, a real skill these days is un­der­stand­ing this and re­al­is­ing the im­pli­ca­tions of it. As I al­ways say to an­glers, once you know what the prob­lem is, then you can come up with a so­lu­tion. How­ever, the hard part is com­ing up with the real prob­lem, not find­ing the an­swer to it!

Let us look at a re­cent prac­ti­cal ex­am­ple of what I mean. Last year I fished my syn­di­cate on the Lincs/cambs bor­der in search of an elu­sive com­mon liv­ing in there that I still have to catch. I some­times smile to my­self as it is usu­ally quite a friendly fish, but dur­ing the past two and a half sea­sons I have tried to catch it, I don’t think I’ve come any­where near, but I di­gress... Last year I was de­vel­op­ing a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to what I had used pre­vi­ously on there. The tac­tics had reaped re­wards and I had been lucky and caught a lot of fish, and some crack­ers too. So, I was happy in my progress in de­vel­op­ing the ap­proach needed to use two new in­gre­di­ents I’d been given by Steve Car­rie, the owner of Bri­tish Aqua Feeds and part owner of DNA Baits. I know I drive him barmy con­stantly ask­ing for some­thing new and, without ques­tion, I owe a lot to him for the prod­ucts he comes up with. How­ever, the real prac­ti­cal skill is in how you adapt any­thing new and make it into a prac­ti­cal fish­ing ad­van­tage over oth­ers. Of even more im­por­tance, is how you present it to the carp and that is a real skill these days. This is not a self-ap­pre­ci­a­tion ar­ti­cle, so I will let oth­ers judge if they think my tac­tics are suc­cess­ful; I al­ready know what I think!

How­ever, one con­stant in im­print­ing carp is time spent on the bank. Now, there are some that would say that is ev­ery­thing in carp fish­ing, and in­deed up un­til a few years ago I would have said the same, but not these days. Too much time on your hands can al­most be as bad as not enough time. No­tice I said ‘al­most’. How­ever, time spent on the bank al­lows you to keep in tune with your wa­ter and that’s a mas­sive boost. It al­lows you to un­der­stand the moods of the carp and help to un­der­stand their world as op­posed to just other carp an­glers. How­ever, one thing that time does al­low, is that you can eval­u­ate how a col­lec­tive ef­fort or tac­tic can af­fect your own fish­ing and this is what I ex­pe­ri­enced last year. One of the con­sis­tent an­glers on the wa­ter has used par­ti­cles for quite some time. Some would say he has per­fected his ap­proach but, be­ing a re­al­ist, I know he is also de­vel­op­ing. Like all good an­glers, know­ing when to change some­thing is al­most as im­por­tant as adopt­ing it in the first place. So, his re­sults were con­sis­tently good and, as such, or as al­ways, the copy­cats came out in force. Now Mr Par­ti­cle Man, as I will chris­ten him, was smart and kept a cou­ple of tricks up his sleeve to keep the carp com­ing. Now, we are friends and even though we fish the same lake, for the same fish, we re­spect each other’s styles. He has of­ten said to me: “I know you’re try­ing to get some­thing go­ing on your terms Holmesy.” And he is bang on. The same goes for me, I would not fish on his spots, us­ing his baits to catch my next carp, even if it was the big com­mon I’m af­ter. The good news for me, though, is part of what Mr Par­ti­cle Man was do­ing was repli­cat­ing my liq­uid work on fer­men­ta­tion, so un­be­known, he was help­ing me too. How­ever, his tac­tics were vis­i­bly and au­di­bly easy for other an­glers to copy. Af­ter his ini­tial suc­cess, the amount of par­ti­cle that was be­ing in­tro­duced into the lake in­creased ten­fold. As I ex­pected, the in­crease of carp on the bank also fol­lowed. Of course, ex­pe­ri­ence taught me that these par­ti­cle tac­tics would have their mo­ment, but once sum­mer gave way to au­tumn, the boilie ap­proach would yield the big­ger carp – un­less you were Mr Par­ti­cle Man, who was al­ways a cou­ple of steps in front of the copiers. How­ever, what con­cerned me the most, was the ef­fect too much par­ti­cle would have on im­print­ing the way a carp feeds. Sure enough, I quickly re­alised my wor­ries would come to fruition and the par­ti­cle­feed­ing carp had be­come spot-feed­ers. Now, this type of im­print­ing af­fects ev­ery­one fish­ing the lake, and if you don’t recog­nise the tell-tale signs, it can cost you fish. Now, those who will have at­tended my shows over the win­ter will know the point I’m about to make now. When a carp is a spot feeder, the time you have to hook the carp is from the fish be­ing on its head, to it right­ing it­self. Shall we say an av­er­age dis­tance of about six to eight inches. The best way to repli­cate this is to tilt your hand and then right it to the shape of a fish. Quickly you will re­alise that isn’t much move­ment to not only prick and keep the hook­bait in the carp’s mouth, but to set the hook too. It ba­si­cally calls for su­per-short hook­links and heavy leads to stand any chance of hook­ing carp. Now, what oc­curs when this is hap­pen­ing is

the times you get rod knocks, mi­nor bob­bin lifts, un­de­tected line move­ment in­creases. Even worse when a carp is hooked, it quickly falls off or the hook pulls as it is not suf­fi­ciently far back in the mouth. So, within four to six weeks of con­stant par­ti­cle feed­ing, this was the sce­nario that con­fronted me and the other an­glers fish­ing. This is where you can im­print the carp to take your baits, the par­ti­cles, but the out­come was an in­crease in missed takes.

Once I re­alised this is what was hap­pen­ing, I needed to try and re­verse the process. I was very for­tu­nate as the par­ti­cle ap­proach was no long­ing bring­ing the mass re­sults it had and, as a re­sult, the quan­tity of par­ti­cles be­ing in­tro­duced de­creased dra­mat­i­cally. Of course, the big dis­ad­van­tage with par­ti­cle fish­ing is it en­cour­ages this spot feed­ing and un­less you used big in­di­vid­ual par­ti­cles such as whole Brazil nuts, get­ting carp to move from bait to bait be­comes dif­fi­cult. How­ever, it lends it­self per­fectly to boilie fish­ing, and by in­creas­ing the size of the boilie too, get­ting feed­ing carp on the move can hap­pen quickly. So, with this in mind, I started spac­ing out my free of­fer­ings. This worked an ab­so­lute treat and soon the one-ton­ers came back to sig­nal they were mov­ing around look­ing for bait, not just stand­ing on their heads on one spot suck­ing it in.

Soon the im­print­ing that had caused lots of bite in­di­ca­tion prob­lems had been re­versed. Of course, the real se­cret to im­print­ing is to keep do­ing it and be­ing one step ahead of the carp, but as the ti­tle of this piece says, be care­ful what you wish for.

TOP THE fin­ished Ar­ti­cle CAN be cast without wor­ry­ing about weed, chod, etc. BOT­TOM Wean­ing carp from par­ti­cles to boilies, a neat lit­tle edge


Yes, this is Holmesy, in 1982 with the Ripon Ponds record of 17¾lb caught by pre-bait­ing. Most carp an­glers were still us­ing lun­cheon meat at the time

ABOVE An­other up­per thirty caught on the MH5 bait when pre-bait­ing pro­duced re­sults just for him

One of Mark’s favourite cap­tures on the newly changed bait was this his­tory carp from Cam­bridgeshire, a su­perb up­per-30 male ABOVE

MAIN As sum­mer starts to turn to au­tumn, the need to switch to heavy bait­ing with boilies to change the carp’s in­grained feed­ing habits be­comes vi­tal ABOVE The dis­tance from this carp stand­ing up­right to lev­el­ling it­self is the dis­tance you have to hook THEM IF YOU’RE SPOT-FISH­ING ABOVE You have to think care­fully about how you present your par­ti­cle hook­baits. Hard on the bot­tom or popped up, but which works best? 40

Holmesy with a 43lb gi­ant from last sum­mer, caught on the short par­ti­cle rig. No twitches just a one-noter! RIGHT

LEFT The par­ti­cle rig I de­vel­oped nearly 20 years ago. The heavy lead and su­per-short hook­link helped stop twitchy bites

The best bite in­di­ca­tion when spot-fish­ing has to be the hum­ble float. Don’t make the mis­take of think­ing it is a small fish tac­tic, as this 52lb gi­ant shows. One of the big­gest fish caught in UK wa­ters on a float

Mark strug­gles to lift his UK PB of 61lb 8oz, proof that his pre-bait­ing ap­proach does pay div­i­dends

LEFT Un­der­stand­ing about how to bait in­di­vid­u­ally will help you to get carp mov­ing off the spots, that will in-turn give proper runs and not the twitches that are syn­ony­mous with par­ti­cle fish­ing RIGHT This mon­ster of 48lb from last year was an­other one-noter on the short hook­link/heavy lead ap­proach

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