Know your stuff | Should you strike at small taps?

Question 1. I’ve heard it said that atmospheric weather pressure affects the way carp react, both in their feeding and positioning in the water. If this is true should I be changing my tactics to improve my catches? 

I would say yes, but it depends on the lakes that you fish. Some venues respond really well to high pressure, others don’t. On Stoneacres, the best conditions were bright sunlight, high pressure and light winds. That would be the time to make sure that you were fishing on the deck, and with plenty of bait too.

On the flip side, if I were fishing on Christchurch, which is just 100 yards away, I would expect the fish to be up in the water. Generally, a low-pressure front is the best conditions for carp, especially after weeks of high pressure. You will find varied results depending on the lake, but every water has a pattern, so research your lake. Some conditions are terrible, no matter what time of year it is. 

Question 2. How long is it safe to retain a carp in a margin sling for? 

This is a contentious subject and you will get many different answers. There is much to take into consideration when retaining carp. Personally, I would only do it when the water is cool and, overall, I don’t like putting fish in slings for any length of time if I can help it. If you do want to retain the fish, then half an hour is enough time to sort your stuff out and give the fish some time to calm down and recover. 

If the water is warm, make sure that the fish is always in deep water and away from any large weedbeds. I will only retain a carp for a short period and once the fish is ready to swim away, make sure it does so safely. If the fish is exhausted and when returned, lies in a weedbed, I think it is in danger of suffocating. We had this happen a few years back on Christchurch. The fish were exhausted and with the water being so warm, it took them a while to recover after capture. It meant sitting in the water with the fish and waiting for them to regain as much strength as they could. Above all, use common sense and don’t retain a fish unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. 

Question 3. I fish a lake that holds a lot of single-figure carp but also the occasional bigger fish over 20lb. Unfortunately, boilies are banned, so how else can I try to single out these bigger fish?

Carp will eat anything really, but other than boilies, one bait they really do like is pellets. Many fish are reared on pellets, so it is almost like a natural food. I would go with a straight pellet approach and maybe even add some sweetcorn in the mix for hookbait options. 

If allowed, I would fish a dumbell hookbait over the top of the mix. This will mimic a larger pellet. The beauty of using pellets is that they are great carriers for liquids. I soak mine in Krill Liquid, to give them the same taste and smell as Krill boilies. 

Clusters are also a great bait to use for big fish, being naturally full of oil and nutrition. That is often why big fish like boilies, because they know they can gain a lot from eating them. By using a mix that does that, additions like clusters are a superb alternative. 

Question 4. Should I strike at small taps when I’m fishing the Method feeder?

These little taps are most likely being caused by small fish and should be ignored. Even in winter, a carp bite will pull your tip right round, but to remove any doubt, tighten the quivertip right up so there will be little movement shown when a small fish takes the bait. A carp, on the other hand, will often drag the tip round and almost pull the rod off the rest! 

You may also get drop-back bites, caused by the fish moving the feeder back towards you or down the slope. It’s also worth casting more often as the idea of a Method feeder is to get fish to investigate the ball of feed soon after it lands. If nothing has happened after five minutes, cast in again.

Question 5. What are jelly pellets, and how do I prepare them? 

Jelly pellets are firmer than normal expander pellets and will stay on the hook better, while still retaining that superb softness that carp, skimmers and F1s love.

They can be shipped out on the pole without any danger of them falling off the hook, and you can also get away with missing a few bites without the bait coming off. Presented correctly, they can even be fished on the feeder or waggler.

Preparing your own jelly pellets is easy to do and allows you to add colours and flavours to make your finished bait stand out. Doing this before you pump them is also a handy trick if the fish in your venue respond particularly well to red or yellow baits, for example, or if they show a liking for a particular flavour.

How to make jelly pellets

Step 1)  Melt the jelly in hot water. Cubed jelly is fine, and you can pick the flavour and colour to suit

Step 1) Melt the jelly in hot water. Cubed jelly is fine, and you can pick the flavour and colour to suit

Step 2)  Put some expander pellets into a bait pump and pour in the melted jelly to cover them

Step 2) Put some expander pellets into a bait pump and pour in the melted jelly to cover them

Step 3)  Pump the pellets as you normally would, and allow the bait to stand for 30 seconds

Step 3) Pump the pellets as you normally would, and allow the bait to stand for 30 seconds

Step 4)  Drain the pellets off and within a couple of minutes they’ll develop a rubbery coating

Step 4) Drain the pellets off and within a couple of minutes they’ll develop a rubbery coating