After a hot summer there's plenty of life left in rivers, and stalking carp in moving water is one of the best ways to spend the last weeks of summer.
Dan Sales is a versatile river angler who has caught specimen fish of all sizes - including carp from spots plenty of anglers might neglect. Here he gives you his top tips for enjoying some explosive sport on small rivers.
Take bare essentials, too much kit will weigh you down. Utilise the many backpacks and bags that are on the market. The 16-litre Fox bucket carryall is perfect for roaming around. The bucket section can carry all of your bait while the pockets house your rig bits and essentials. It comes with a padded flap which sits on top creating a cushioned seat for your bum after a long walk finding fish.
Keep your eyes peeled
Always keep your eyes on the water. Look for bubbles, disturbance or, even better, cruising fish. River carp don’t see as much pressure as your average lake fish so they will usually be more willing to give away where they are. Polarised sunglasses are a must.
Think outside the box
Where do people feed the ducks? If you know a spot where they are fed on a regular basis then chances are the carp won’t be too far away. They feed on the small pieces of bread which the frantic ducks miss and will happily munch away with all the commotion going on above them. Call it free pre-baiting!
Carp love a feature or cover. Moored boats, trees, bushes and undercut banks are all great places to find them, but don’t forget the obvious near-margin drop offs which are a magnet for patrolling, hungry fish. Lilybeds are my favourite feature, not many carp can resist a small piece of floating crust lowered on to their noses.
Be prepared for a big fish in a tight situation. Sometimes I will be fishing under my rod tip in a tiny gap between two trees so my tackle needs to be suited to the job. I use the Fox Stalker 9ft carp rods in 2.75lb test curve. The shorter but heavier action rod is perfect for sticky, hit-and-hold situations. It also pays to go heavy with your mainline. I prefer Gardner’s GR80 in 12lb or 15lb. You need to crank down hard when a wild river fish heads for the roots!
Rigs can be kept very simple, in fact the more basic the better. Most of the time you can watch the fish take the bait and strike on sight, so I’ll opt for a bait directly on a big hook.
Bait and wait
Once you have found a fish or two don’t lose out by casting at the fish and potentially spooking them. Introduce a small amount of free feed in an area close by or in front of where they are heading. See how they react, wait for positive feeding, then introduce a baited hook.
If you find a nice spot but no carp then try baiting the area, leaving it for an hour while you go in search of other spots and return later on. You will be surprised how quickly river fish will turn on to bait, they are usually hungry as hell.
My favourite bait of all time is the humble white loaf. If I can get away with using bread then I love nothing more than pinching a big fluffy piece around a size 4 wide-gape hook and lowering it in!