01 Move swims
It can be difficult to abandon a swim that you have invested time and bait in but sometimes you have to accept that the fish are just not going to turn up in the time that you are there. However, you are better off spending two minutes in the right swim than two days in the wrong one so it really is worth moving sometimes. If you have seen fish showing or a swim that has been producing becomes vacant, then get packed up and round there even if you only have a short time left. After all, we are fishing not camping!
02 Scale down and camouflage
This is an old matchman’s tactic, and it is just as relevant to carp fishing. A slightly smaller hook or bait can make a big difference when the fish are wary and rig shy. Try lowering the hook size from an 8 to a 10, and either using a 10mm hookbait or whittling down your hookbait a little and switching to a light mono or fluorocarbon hooklink where the situation allows. The same applies to leads too. Try using the lightest lead possible that allows you to reach your spot, reducing the disturbance caused and use weed, mud or clay to help it blend in.
03 Rove a rod around
If it isn’t happening on the spots that you have chosen, then pick a rod and rove it round your swim, exploring different areas. A single bright pop-up is ideal for this approach as it will attract the attention of passing fish. Some swims have obvious spots to put a bait, others may seem barren, but covering as much water as possible will bring bonus bites. It can be worth casting near, but not on your bait; sometimes the fish will be happier picking up single baits from around the baited area rather than feeding on it.
04 Get on the Zig rigs
Even now, with many more anglers realising the effectiveness of Zig Rigs, it is an underused tactic. A lot of a carp’s time is spent in mid-water rather than on the bottom or surface, and there are times when the fish will be rolling and bubbling over your baited spot but no bites are forthcoming. Often, a Zig fished over this area will produce a take when traditional methods have failed. It isn’t just a tactic for spring either – Zigs are highly effective all year round, it is just a question of finding the right depth so don’t be afraid to play around until you receive action. Roving a Zig around can be a good way of locating where the fish are in the swim and allowing you to fish for them using more conventional methods.
05 Go for maximum attraction
If the carp are being choosy, you can increase the chances of a quick pick-up by going heavy on the attractors. Keep a selection of glugged hookbaits for just such an occasion or try dipping your hookbait and lead in Liquid Sweetcorn Extract or Minimino. Alternatively, try wrapping your hookbait in paste which will release lots of attraction into the water as it breaks down. A tiny, oily PVA Stick will also be more likely to produce a quick bite, as the fish are drawn to the hook bait quicker.
06 Go off stalking
It is always worth checking a few likely looking margin spots such as snags, lilies and reedbeds before you call it a day. If you can get a bait near them, then you are in with the chance of a quick bite. An alternative approach can produce the goods when the carp are lethargic. Where you can actually see the fish try free-lining a slow sinking bait, using either maggots, worms or a bit of bread.
07 Keep your eyes peeled
It might sound obvious but observation really does pay, especially when the going’s tough. The very best anglers are the ones that spend the most time watching what is going on. You might only get the smallest clue as to where the carp are and what they are doing, whether it be a subtle show, the vortex left by a tail near the surface or a tiny patch of bubbles. Miss it and you will miss out! If you only see one sign all session, make sure you use this tiny bit of information to your advantage and get a bait on it.
08 Try an alternative hookbait
When the going is tough, trying something a little different from the norm on the Hair will often score. The old favourites such as luncheon meat and sweetcorn really do still work, so keep a tin in your bag just in case. Don’t forget the nuts too: peanuts, tigers and brazils are classic carp-catchers and the fish will often favour them over a boilie in the warmer months. It is also a great tactic meshing up particle baits such as hemp or salmon fry crumb, that the carp won’t associate with danger like they might a boilie. The one bait that I always turn to when I’m struggling for a bite is the ever-faithful Tutti Frutti. There is something about a Tutti that carp can’t resist and it has saved me a few blanks over the years, especially in cold water.
09 Tweak your rig and get results!
Sometimes the most minor adjustments can mean the difference between success and failure. It could be that your presentation could be a little better and your rig more effective so try lengthening the Hair or shortening the hooklink a little if you feel that you have had fish in the swim but not had a pick-up. It could be that the carp are feeding cautiously on that day and that a relatively minor adjustment to the rig will make all the difference and put a fish on the bank.
10 Leave the rods until last
Stay positive right until the end. When it comes to packing up it is amazing how many people reel the rods in first before packing away their gear. Maximise the amount of time that the baits are in the water and leave them until the very last. If you have to pack the alarms away, leave the rods on the deck. It’s a very satisfying way to save a session when the sound of the clutch alerts you to a last-gasp bite!
And if all else fails, then try one of these...
Learn something new
A blank session doesn’t have to be a wasted session. If, when it comes down to it, the fish really aren’t playing ball, get the marker rod out or have a cast about and try and locate a new potential spot or two. Have a walk round and if other anglers around you have caught, take note of the conditions and where they were catching from to help you build a picture of the venue for any future visits.
Bait for next time
If it is a water that you fish regularly, then use the opportunity to put a bit of bait in rather than just throwing it away. Priming a spot in the margin or establishing your boilies as a food source will stand you in good stead for future trips and give you confidence.