Whether fishing a giant lake or a tiny pool the margins – either tight up against an island or just in front of the bank - are always one of the biggest features. They almost always hold carp as they provide the fish with a natural patrol route.
Regardless of what other features the lake holds it's always worth getting the marker rod out and checking what's under your feet as well as up against any large permanent structures such as islands, reed-beds and the far bank.
I have been fishing a lake were just one rod length out you get a depth of 15ft deep whereas the rest of the lake is less than eight feet. That's a massive feature, especially as 90 per cent of the anglers would have cast directly over it in to the open water.
In most cases the margins are shallower than the rest of the lake which allows a larger range of weeds to grow. This in turn produces a greater amount of natural food alongside being the area where most anglers throw all their remaining bait after a session.
Most man-made lakes will have gradually sloping margins as that's the way they are excavated by the diggers. Older lakes will be different as the margins will have silted up at different rates depending on what vegetation is close by.
In a shallow margin you are likely to encounter vegetation such as weed or reeds. As well as holding lots of natural food, carp feel safe in weed.
Polished gravel spots or areas of smooth silt are a sure sign that the carp have visited the spots before. The shallow spots are better in the warmer months as the water temperature will be higher.
Deeper margins will normally hold less vegetation as the light won't be able to penetrate all the way down to the bottom. Despite this they will still hold a large quantity of natural food like bloodworm. The gullies are always worth looking at especially in the winter months.
With so many options available you can almost always find a suitable spot or two in the edge whatever the time of year.
Stalking carp in the edge is one of my favourite methods and as I try and do it on a regular basis I have geared my setup to make the experience as exciting as possible. You can use whatever rod you want but if you’re creeping through bankside vegetation a shorter rod makes the job a lot easier.
I use a 6ft Century T1 Tree Stalker which is perfect for getting in among those little holes that a 12ft rod wouldn’t. Reel choice is also down to the individual. Personally, for all work under 30 yards I use a centrepin - it gives you more of a direct fight with the fish and makes the whole experience more fun.
Few things in angling are more exciting than watching the fish feeding and actually picking up your hookbait.
If you’re in gin-clear water it’s important to make sure your rig blends in with lakebed. If you can see it from the bank then a carp will definitely see it when feeding. I use Gardner’s Covert range of end tackle which comes in a variety of colours to blend in with any lakebed type.
I always use a super slack line and a fluorocarbon mainline such as Mirage will keep everything pinned down and out the way of any feeding fish.
The advantage of watching fish taking your bait is that over time you can work out what rigs work best in certain situations. We all get done by fish but by tweaking your rigs accordingly you will maximise your pick-up to hooked ratio.
On my latest session I was fishing over a very hard, shallow spot. In this situation I favoured a short combi-rig tied with 4ins Gardner Subterfuge Super Stiff and 1ins of supple Trickster braid.
The hookbait was threaded on to a standard hair-rig with a short piece of shirk tubing steamed over the eye.
When fishing over a small bed off dark Hinders and Mainline pellets I’ve found that a bright white Milky Toffee pop-up will get me a pick up a lot faster than if I just use a matching pellet hookbait.
I’ve found that having a buoyant bait that just lifts the hook off the deck dramatically increases my catch rate.
When I first tried the white hookbait I thought the fish would see it and instantly spook. The complete opposite happened though. I dropped the rig over a bed off pellets and the first fish that entered the swim clocked the white bait, swam directly towards it and sucked it up before any other freebie.
Since then I’ve caught countless fish using this method so in any shallow water stalking situation I always try a bright hookbait first as opposed to a natural bait.
I always attach a small PVA bag off pellets to prevent the hook from snagging on any weed as well as creating a small pile of attraction around the hookbait.
Bait choice depends on the venue and time of year. In the warmer months oily pellets are by far the best for getting a quick feeding response. In the winter a maggot and hemp mix is more effective. My pellets are a mix between Hinders Little Gemz , Hinders large pellet combo and Mainline Response pellets. The different sizes keep the fish feeding in the swim for longer.
To make them even more effective I soak them in Hinders Salmon and Tuna Oil and Mainline Fossil Oil. I start to apply the oil way before the session and continuously add more until a day before. After being oiled up pellets will become darker and give off a massive slick which will help pull the carp in.