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27 Jul 2016
by Shaun Harrison
Do you find wind embarrassing?
Seasoned carp angler, Shaun Harrison, reveals some of his findings he's accumulated over the past 35 years - and they'll certainly make you think about wind in a totally different way...

I certainly do, as sometimes trying to be a little clever can completely backfire. Out of all of the differing weather conditions we have thrown at us, I feel the wind can be one of the most frustrating ones to work out where the carp will be most likely to slip up and make a mistake. The more a water is fished, the more difficult it can be to work out.

Where carp want to be and where carp actually end up being isn’t necessarily the same thing. Given a relatively un-fished venue then the chances are the carp will always try and get on the end of any new wind and feed with abandon in the slightly churned up and oxygenated water, seeking out the various aquatic life as well as that off the land that has fallen into the water and been carried along in the surface film before finally sinking through to a watery grave.

Depending upon what you are actually trying to catch on your lake will very much affect how you pick out your swim. If you simply wish to catch carp then the best bit of advice I could ever give to anyone is the same as was given to me in the 70s and that was to look carefully at every swim on the windward side of the lake and choose the swim which has slightly more froth, bubbles or scum in the edge. One swim will be slightly more affected than the others and you can be sure there will be carp in front of that swim and very often not very far out.

I ran along with that advice taken well and truly on board for a few years and it certainly stood me in very good stead with me getting amongst my share of carp. I’m pretty certain I caught more carp because of it. Rather than simply sitting facing a wind in a favourite spot I would fish the one next-door if it had a slightly bigger blow funnelling into it.

Best of both worlds: being able to fish in and out of the wind. The crease is always a good bet

I still take that advice today on new waters whilst trying to learn the habits of the fish. I feel it extremely important on a new venue to try and get a couple of fish under your belt early on, regardless of the sizes of them, just so you have a little more to work with, knowing your rigs and baits will be fine before starting to try and get clever and fish swims which perhaps wouldn’t be so obvious to the casual observer.

So, why did I ever start to move forward from fishing the obvious swim right on the end of the wind? Simple: the size of the carp other anglers were catching. At the time (early 80s when it started to become obvious) I was fishing what was basically a rectangular pool. It had been dug for the ballast for building up a railway embankment which ran along one bank. It was a very well-known water in its day, having lots of different ‘names’ fishing it over the years. It featured very heavily in George Sharman’s brilliant book, Carp and the Carp Angler.

I was holding my head high with the numbers of carp I would catch but found it a little frustrating that others would be in what I thought to be less favourable swims but would catch the better fish that were eluding me. In those days I used to do an awful lot of stalking as well. Priming spots in different areas (you could back then with hardly any other carp anglers around) then doing a couple or three laps a day of the pool and often managing to winkle a fish out. This was lovely fishing, proper eyeball-to-eyeball stuff in gin clear water. I would watch the fish take the free-lined bottom bait before striking the hook home.

All good stuff but what has this got to do with wind direction I almost hear you ask before trying to find something else to read. Well, I’m getting there, please bear with me.

A common site at Grenville: the scaly’s love it

A lot of these fish I would find happily feeding on my baited spots were in swims you simply wouldn’t consider setting up in had you arrived at an empty lake. They would be behind the wind, halfway down on a wind, in fact, anywhere. This got me thinking. I do a lot of thinking and I find the best way for me to take in information is to put things onto paper to actually look at rather than swirling them around in my head. For me, things become so much clearer once you have a few sheets of paper in front of you. As I have said many times before, I have always kept a detailed log of my angling and my diaries are very important to me, certainly making it easier to work things out and see things in a clearer light.

Perhaps I should write one day about my log keeping, some of the things I record and how I record them. Some things perhaps wouldn’t seem too obvious but can become incredibly helpful in showing when it is safe to re-cast and re-bait for example. But hey, I’m allowing my mind to wander as usual, I must stay focussed…

Apart from the usual things I used to include in the diary, I also started to draw a diagram of the pool which was easy with it simply being rectangular in shape. On it I would put a wind arrow and indicate what was caught and where, and just as importantly the swims that had been fished and not produced. Now it didn’t take very long at all to start to see that fishing into the wind would produce the most fish but being three swims or so back from a big wind would produce a higher average size of fish.

This was quite a revelation for me and made so much sense as to why I had been struggling to catch the better fish sat behind the rods, as at that time my better fish had all been stalked. Once I had started to produce a few of these ‘wind sheets’ I started to look back in my diaries and was able to produce more and quite a clear picture for that particular pool was really starting to form. Suffice to say I started to catch a few of its larger residents.

Brook keeping a look out on a Grenville breeze

Now that is just one water and one example of how you can be seen to be getting it right with consistent catches but not necessarily be getting it right if you are targeting particular fish. I have fished a lot of different waters over the years and it is quite common for the fish to behave totally different from water-to-water in terms of how they lead their lives. When the wind is involved, not only do you get differences to fish reactions from water-to-water, you also get a different reaction between different strains of carp.

Different strains

Now I have to point out here that all carp love to get on the end of a big wind, particularly a new warm wind. That in my mind is a definite fact. A big thing to bear in mind though is that some carp are happy to remain on a big wind whilst others will move in for a very short period before backing right off again.

Just like us, different carp have different preferences. I hate rain yet some of my friends love it. This preference and feeling comfortable in certain conditions is quite noticeable on one of the pits I am currently fishing. I have touched on this before elsewhere but it is such an important thing to think about that I will cover it again.

40lb plus behind the wind before it changed

I have been fishing this pit for a few years now and interestingly I have never been anywhere where the carp’s behaviour appears to alter each year as this place. It can be like fishing a new water each season. One thing, however, that has remained relatively consistent though to my mind has been the carp’s reaction to the wind. Before I move any further on with this, it is important to note that there are always going to be exceptions to the rule with any living creature with a mind of its own and particularly in angling it is very easy to counteract with things along the line of… ‘Yes, but what about such and such a fish. That didn’t do that’. Or… ‘Bert had half-a-dozen from there in those conditions.’

All we can do for a pretty accurate guide is look at the bigger picture and the greater percentages. Going along the human way of looking at and explaining things as I like to, if you were to offer 100 kids the choice between half-a-dozen Brussels sprouts and half-a-dozen chocolates, you may get one or two choose the Brussels but it would be a pretty accurate guide that kids don’t like sprouts.

34lb 12oz and then the wind blew in and the carp moved out

The water I am describing has been stocked with modern-day hump-backed, fast-growing, fish farm Simmos type carp as well as a much leaner and scaly variety from Andy Parker as well as some of the more recent scaly fish from the Simmo strain. Now, to my mind this makes for a nice variety. I don’t want all of the carp I catch to look similar and from the same place but that is just me. What has become apparent with these strains of fish is their comfort zones when it comes to a decent wind blowing over the lake. Right from early on fishing there it seemed that the lesser scaled, deeper-bodied fish only got onto a big wind for a very short period and would then back right off again. I interpret that as the fish move in early for a quick feed then move off again to where they felt more comfortable and often it would be the areas right off of the wind that a lot of the larger fish would be caught.

On the other hand, the leaner, scaly fish seem to really enjoy being on the wind and will stay there even after they have had a good feed. The scaly fish haven’t grown as large yet but some have crept over the 30lb mark so we aren’t talking small fish here, albeit they are small in comparison to many of the other carp in there.

Generally speaking, if you fish into a big wind on this water you will be in with a very good chance of catching a carp but if it is the largest fish you would rather put more odds in favour of catching then you will be better off behind the wind where the fish are spending most of their time. It is all about comfort zones and where the carp feel happiest.

Some examples

I could give quite a few examples to back-up what I am about to write but will keep it brief for you to mull over and perhaps think towards your own waters and past captures. The larger the water, the more pronounced I have found this to be but generally speaking, the nice shaped carp with lots of clothes (scales) will tolerate a lot more than the fatter carp with fewer clothes. I first noticed this many years ago on some of my more extreme winter captures, they would invariably be very scaly mirrors or commons that I caught when conditions were really cold and the lesser scaled fish would usually only slip up with them in the milder periods.

Once something is in my mind I like to elaborate further and delve deeper. My first few captures of the larger fish were coming from behind the wind when I was unable to get a good choice of swim. The times I was able to get on the end of a big wind I would catch but usually it would be the scaly’s and rarely the larger fish. I thought about this long and hard and I started to notice more and more of the bigger fish coming out far from the end of the wind and it soon started to look to me as though the Simmo’s simply didn’t like to be on a big wind for long, yet the scaly’s were more than happy.

I started to talk to others fishing for Simmo’s on other waters and suddenly it became apparent that quite a few of them would be caught from behind the wind. I think they simply enjoy a quiet life away from the turbulence and undertow of the big waters only venturing in for short periods to take advantage of a natural harvest. A classic example to show the change around of fish in my swim happened a couple of years ago whilst fishing for these Simmo’s and Scaly’s.

A lump being played a long way away from the full force of the wind
The result: 35lb+

I had turned up to find the wind favourable off of my back to be able to get a decent bed of bait out with the catapult, which is always my first choice method. I am convinced the sound of bait splattering the surface over a quite wide area rather than landing heavy from high up in a tight group actually attracts a few fish. I’m possibly wrong with that statement, as it is possible it simply doesn’t spook them off the same when they are already there. It can be a fine line between catapulting bait to ‘spray’ bait rather than hammer bait in and is something I find difficult to explain but you must have noticed yourself sometimes you can bait up and you hardly make a sound whereas other times the baits will go a little too high and land like bullets.

Anyway, I was quick to take advantage and soon had a couple of kilo of mixed colour and flavour boilies scattered around the swim. I forgot to mention that I had gone to the lake straight from work and it was hammering it down with rain. I wasn’t going to be sat in my work clothes so I made the decision to save the dry fishing clothes and set up and bait up in my nice work clothes. I got absolutely wet through but I was always going to change out of those clothes anyway so after casting and baiting, I’m in the bivvy getting the clean dry clothes on.

Minutes later I was away. I had several hundred metres of water in front of me yet the carp were tucked in, out of the wind, over 500-metres away from the windward margin. This piece isn’t about fish taking line and me turning it so I will end the fight there and say I netted a real clean mirror that found out it was over 40lb for the first time in its life.

I got the rod back out and a few hours later I netted another fish of 34lb 12oz. I am only mentioning the weights here to illustrate the group of fish that were tucked up out of the wind. I drifted off to sleep really content knowing I’d had a couple of cracking fish early on and possibly a decent shoal of them still in front of me as I had been lucky how the fish had fought leaving the area totally so I didn’t have to worry about them spooking other fish in the area.

The following morning I awoke to a wind blowing into the bivvy. The wind had turned to face the total opposite direction and seemingly ideal conditions with a warm wind pushing in saw the shoal of big fish move off. I saw them showing much further out and they carried on getting further.

Froth in the margins and another scaly

The next take was a scaly; a gorgeous scaly, but certainly not one from the group that had been in front of me. That afternoon I had another couple of gorgeous scaly’s but the larger fish had moved on and to totally back up the fact that the bigger, lesser scaled fish seem happier on the big water behind the wind was to me confirmed, as a large one was landed immediately opposite me – behind the wind.

Like I say, there will always be exceptions but some strains of carp definitely seem hardier and more tolerant of rough conditions than others.

Conclusion

In summary, if you want to consistently catch carp then keep following the wind. But, and it is a big ‘but’, take a lot of notice as to where others are catching fish and if there are some strange common denominators cropping up. Some carp are much less predictable than other carp. None of them can be taken totally for granted. If it is a new warm wind the chances are most carp in the lake will at some stage go and have a mooch around but possibly a lot of them won’t stay around for long. There are certain places in all lakes where the carp feed and want to feed but they know there is likely to be a trap awaiting them. Fishing into the wind on a pressured lake will put you on fish but those fish aren’t necessarily going to slip-up as easily as one in a less obvious spot.

When looking at the wind and its effect, try and imagine the lake with no water in it. Particularly on the older pits there will be a lot of hills (bars) and messy slimy muddy areas (silt), as the wind hits these hills it is going to funnel around them creating a current (undertow). You end up with what is best described as little rivers under the surface with both a decent flow and shelter. Think where the predominant winds usually blow and within time there will be similar on the lakebed as there is on a river with silt and food traps as well as much cleaner areas. Just because the fish was caught on the back of a wind, was it really out of the flow? Now undercurrents really are a very frustrating thing to try and understand, I’m still trying to get my head around them and their effects on the carp after 35 years of catching the things but it is all wind-related.

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