Korda’s Danny Fairbrass offers 10 tips on getting the best from venues that are tiny by carp fishing standards:
1 Small waters require a certain stealth. However quietly you fish you cannot avoid being very close to where your hookbaits are, and so the risk of scaring the fish is always there.
I have found that small waters that are heavily fished are less ‘spooky’ than ones that see little angling pressure. The fish get conditioned to people stomping around and are less affected by it – by contrast you almost need slippers to walk around little lakes that rarely see anglers.
It always surprises me how close the fish will patrol on this type of lake. It is almost as if everything has been scaled down: the smaller the water, the closer to the reed beds you need to cast, or the further under island margins you need to be.
The more you fish such waters the better your close-range casting will get. I tend to overcast on the first session and end up putting the rig in the trees, but after a while I ‘get my eye in’ and start dropping it right next to the features.
Without doubt, the easiest way to scare a patrolling fish is with a visible line stretching out across the swim. This is why I use fluorocarbon mainlines whenever I can. Our new fluorocarbon called Kontour is out this spring, and like all other ‘carbons’ it sinks like a brick and is almost invisible underwater. I recommend 12lb-15lb. All ‘carbons’ are more wiry than normal mono,making them harder to cast, but they are more abrasion-resistant.
3 Flying Backleads
An alternative to slack lining is a flying backlead. The smaller this is, the further it flies back up the line on the cast. The Safe Zone version can be taken off the line without having to cut it, and the smallest size is 4g, perfect for small waters. The flying backlead must sit on top of some rig tubing or a leader for it to fly back on the cast. The further apart the lead and flying backlead are before casting, the further the backlead will come on the cast. If the two are touching, the flying backlead will not fly at all!
4 Slack Lines
Even if you are not using fluorocarbon, still try to slacken off as much as possible after casting and sinking the line. Leave it slack for a few minutes without a bobbin on and you will see it sinking lower and lower in the water. Pay more line off the reel and only when it stops sinking and is hanging totally slack (right) should you put on the lightest bobbin possible, again leaving it hanging slack.
5 Small hookbaits
I keep hookbaits small unless there are lots of bream, tench or roach present – little dumbbells or chopped-down boilies tipped with corn seem to work best. And when I am feeding I try to keep my baits small, either 14mm or even 10mm boilies if I can get them
I feed quite lightly, putting in just enough to ambush one fish as it swims by. The only time I will spod is during the summer, and then I use the smallest Mini Skyliner because it makes the least splash.
Backleads are slid on the line after casting, but make sure the mainline is slack before this is done and use the smallest one you can to reduce the risk of moving the lead as it slides down. If there are weed beds or bars in the lake don’t bother with backleads – they only really work on flat bottoms like the ones found on silty waters.
As with all carp fishing, location (fishing the right swim and the right spot in that swim) is the most important aspect of small-water success. With many nooks and crannies to target it can be easy to miss a large group of fish, especially in winter.
The very best indicator at this time of year is where the fish have been getting caught from. If one end of the lake has not done a bite for a while they are probably not down there – carp tend to drift away from angling pressure, so fishing round the back of an island that has been fished from the front can often score.
Similarly, bays just off from where bites have been coming are a good bet.
8 Baiting Spots
It never hurts to pre-bait a few spots nearby and go back and check them to see if the carp are ‘having it’. Broken boilies and pellets are my top choices for these areas. Obviously, make sure you are not infringing on other anglers’ spots and keep checking them regularly, as the carp will often show few or perhaps no obvious signs until you are right on top of the spot. Even then a super-wary fish can feed without moving any water – the odd bubble, quivering reed or lily or cloudy water will be all that gives it away!
9 Small Running Leads
My number one choice of lead system is a small running inline type fished on a standard Safe Zone leader. I remove the hard insert and slide the lead on the leader after I have cut the ring swivel off the end. I then slide on two small 4mm rubber beads and a Kwick Link – this allows me to quickly change the hooklink and looks super neat before casting. I often slide another 4mm bead on to one of the tungsten collars up the leader to work as a back stop to further startle the fish.
Either way, this rig acts totally differently to a standard lead clip and really fools them. If the bottom is hard I keep hooklinks short, say 3ins-6ins, and I prefer bottom baits to pop-ups.
10 PVA Sticks
Small bags or PVA sticks work everywhere, and on small waters they can be enough to stop a patrolling carp in its tracks without the need for free offerings. The added advantage of the stick is that you can add wet ingredients like tuna, which the carp love. By pulling the hook inside the stick you stop any risk of it getting snagged in the bottom as it comes to rest. Often a fresh bag or stick can get bites after long periods of no action.