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08 Apr 2016
by Simon Blanford and Andy Bell
Carp Letter from America - March 2016
Simon Blanford and Andy Bell are back for 2016 with their first instalment of the year of Carp Letter from America...

Last year we introduced our series about carp fishing here in America. At least here in our own little corner of the northeast of this rather large country. In our first couple of articles we may have mentioned polar vortex weather systems, lake effect snow and temperatures well below freezing as well as a more general appreciation of carp and carp fishing here. This year we find ourselves coming out of an unusually mild winter. The ice is already off the local river and even more surprisingly the lakes are free from the curse of solid water too. The water isn’t anywhere near tepid yet but things seem to be well advanced in comparison to last year and we might not have to wait until close to May to bank our first carp of the season.

That’s not to say that a non-carping winter wasn’t eventful. Last year we were threatened with ice fishing and only narrowly avoided having to endure the event when Andy hurled himself at the ground and managed to break a couple of ribs. It wasn’t exactly clear whether this was a calculated act of self harm to get us off the hook, or simply a timely loss of leg function, a self-administered condition brought on by Andy’s main winter pursuit: adding to his lifetime total of beer brands he has personally sampled.

One of approximately 37 causes of leg malfunction.

This year a more (or less) sober Andy was inveigled to actually do a spot of ice fishing. He caught no carp of course. But all was not lost for he has stumbled on the next ridiculous trend in carp fishing fashion – ultra, ultra stealth rods. Put them down somewhere in the undergrowth and never find them again. Now that’s a stealth rod (all marketing enquiries should be directed to anywhere but here).

Andy showing off the new ultra, ultra stealth rods while winter carping.

More generally, it has already been, and will increasingly be, a busy year here in America. It’s been four years since Obama was re-elected and given that he cannot stand again various other forms of life have crawled out to try and win their parties nomination for a run at the presidency. It would therefore, seem to be a very good year to spend as much time as possible fishing for large carp.

But where to concentrate our efforts? By any estimation last season was a spectacular introduction to American carping with both of us landing thirties and the end haul including some fifty odd twenties from a variety of waters, both running and still. We’ll have to spend some time back at the Other Lake, a water that holds the most immaculate commons we’ve ever beheld and the scene of much success last season. But we also hanker for venues a little further afield. There is the General Pinochet Lake further east about which we have only heard good things. There is the bucolic Little Lake with its weed and muddy shallows. And then there may be a recce north to Connecticut to test a large river of the same name. If that goes well it might result in us entering a team in the carp competition held on the river in October, one of a number of big money carp tournaments regularly held across the country.

There are tactics to consider too. Last year we fished a particle mix with corn as hook bait. It certainly worked and at least for convenience and budgetary considerations, this is likely to be our main line of attack again at the start of this season. We did muck around a bit with other baits though and a twenty to Spam will almost certainly see the Vikings favourite included in the list of off-the-shelf baits we’ll use. We’re also keen to test boilies. Experienced American carpers have told us that boilies attract the better fish and do away with mere ‘nuisance’ animals between ten and nineteen pounds. We’re dubious about this but are keen to test modern boilies (and therefore all the R&D that have gone into them) against the more parochial baits we’ve used previously. One problem with this, as many carpers must know, is cost. A one-kilo bag of CC Moore’s finest costs $17 here and when one considers the amount of pre-baiting we have done in the past on these huge expanses of water the cost of using shop bought bait is soon prohibitive. On the other hand Andy has laid his grubby little fingers on two tubs of coloured pop-ups, one white with a vanilla and toffee twist and the other pink with some sort of special northern flavour. The idea of fishing brightly coloured pop-ups as attractors was not even a gleam in our carp fishing eyes when we strutted our woeful stuff before departing for the States and so we are both intrigued as to how the method will work here against largely naive, wild fish. One might think that the more wary and less educated fish, used to natural food, wouldn’t touch something bright pink with a bargepole. On the other hand we know that carp are inherently curious and so a pink ball that stands out amongst a bed of other baits might be just the ticket.

White and pink to be tried this season.

Andy brought his tubs of bait back with him after a visit to the old country. Traveling light and hampered by the weight restrictions of modern airlines he couldn’t bring back any heavy artillery but did return bearing gifts in the shape of an assortment of end tackle, good hooks, braid, and the like care of those nice people at Fox. So we start the season in good shape in this regard even though Andy is suffering a conspicuous lack of rods (he broke two last season) and reels in working condition. The rigs we used last season were simple clipped lead affairs with braided hook length to shrink tubed, line-aligned hooks, the hair trapped to the shank with a bit of silicone tubing. We didn’t try anything more elaborate other than on the spot designs of zig(ish) and chod(ish) rigs when we thought they might be necessary. Indeed we went more retro returning at times to not only a running rig, but a running rig constructed with straight-through mono to bait impaled directly on the hook. The sight of a washing-up bottle indicator climbing steadily and surely to the rod and the Spam caught twenty pounder that resulted was one to make a middle-aged carp fisher come over all emotional.

Even with the success of these Palaeolithic rigs we did notice a number of rod-tip knocks, line tightenings and other assorted indications that didn’t result in full blown runs let alone beeps from the alarms or determined climbs by the indicators. Now, there can be all sorts of reasons for such subtle signs of interest at the end of your tackle but on some of our waters the only runs we get are from carp - the vegetarian based bait excluding the hoards of perch-family fish that might otherwise show an interest. So we began to think we were getting done on occasion and a more considered end rig might be a good idea. To that end we are determined to give the Worthy-helipad-KY-blow hard rig a go. Clearly we need to delve into CARPology’s rig guide to better acquaint ourselves with the rig’s mechanics but, after all, stealing ideas from your betters is what it’s all about - isn’t it?

All in all the forthcoming season has the promise to be every bit as exciting as last. We are more experienced (a bit), more knowledgeable about our local waters (a little) and know better when and where the carp might put in an appearance (well…..). Next month then you can look forward to April’s missive when we are sure to show you our first carp of the year. Or not. Whatever, it’ll be here in Carp Letter from America 2.

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