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10 Nov 2017
by CARPology
The mistakes every angler makes
Fishery owner, fish expert and experienced carp angler, Ben Gratwicke reveals the most common mistakes we all make...

Having been a mad keen carper, a fish farmer who regularly visited fisheries and now a fishery owner and manager, I think I have seen most things when it comes to the kind of mistakes anglers make when hunting their quarry. I walk my fishery, Diggerlakes a number of times a week and so from my experience of what I have seen, I have come up with six of the most common mistakes anglers make when approaching a fishery and a way or ways in which they can fix these general errors.

1 Location

Top of the list and the most common mistake. No matter what rig, what super bait, rod, reel or new bivvy, if you are in the wrong swim you will not catch, full stop.

I get people moaning all the time about how they have not caught and this fishery is rubbish and are there any fish in here? So many anglers jump in either a swim that has just produced a good hit of fish; they caught from it last time they were here; it’s the nearest to the car park; they fancy the look of the area or on the basis of they can get their new bivvy in it. STOP.

Firstly, take time to look carefully around the lake wearing a decent set of Polaroid’s. I see so few anglers wearing them and they are a must. Look at the weather conditions: is it sunny? Which way is the wind blowing? How many anglers are on the lake and where are they? Take your time, look in each area, watch the water, climb a tree for a better viewpoint. A badly presented rig in the right place is better than a well-presented rig in the wrong place!

2 Don't run before you can walk

If you are just starting out, take your time, do your apprenticeship, work your way up the ladder learning all the way. What I mean by this is catch a few easy fish on a water that best suits your angling level. Don’t be too proud to want to catch fish no matter what size. I get a lot of people spend their hard earned money on the harder of the two lakes at Digger Lakes and after 48hrs they have caught nothing, they go home with no fish and blame it on the fishery, whereas if they had fished the easier water next-door they would have caught a few, learned something and gone home happy.

Size in carp fishing is NOT everything. I would have far more respect for an angler that comes to the fishery and regularly catches carp no matter what size – full stop, rather than a person who has caught one or two bigger fish over the same time. Look at straightforward tried and tested methods of catching and don’t try to complicate matters, they are only carp!

3 Being inconsistent

Good bait will catch fish over and over again, a good rig will do the same, so put these together and then it’s down to the angler. You don’t have to look far these days for a list of good rigs, good bait and good anglers who use them and catch. Too many anglers chop and change at the drop of a hat, if it doesn’t work one day that’s it and they are onto the next wonder bait or rig.

At our fishery, CC Moore’s baits work very well and so does pellet. Tick, that’s the bait sorted. Small bottom baits tipped with some colour works well. Tick, that’s the presentation sorted. Line-aligner on a six- to eight-inch hybrid hooklink with a size 6 or 8 hook catches more than its fair share. Tick.

So there is your set-up and I am sure if you fished away with the above combination you would catch a lot of fish. A good angler works a method and sticks with it, as being consistent is the key. You look at any big name angler and you will find they have their favourite bait, rig/presentation and the way in which they apply it. If they don’t catch then usually it’s down to the fish and the situation and they try again but you won’t see them throwing their bait in the bushes and cutting their rigs up as they have confidence in what they’re doing and just keep going.

4 Spooking fish

Oh my God, if I had a pound for every time I have advised anglers at our fishery to keep back, well out the way, don’t set-up on the front of the swim and keep quiet, I would be a very rich man and our lakes would be syndicate!

On a busy carp fishery, the fish are always on their guard so it is a constant battle for the angler to outwit them with every little edge helping. I walk the fishery probably eight to ten times a week as well as the bailiffs who help me and you can bet your house on it, the day there is no one on the lake or anglers only at one end the fish are going mad, bubbling, rolling and generally having a party, but as soon as an angler starts putting up his bivvy, banging in his banksticks, waving his marker rod, spod rod and 4oz lead about, they are back on guard or worse, off to the other end of the lake.

If you have fish in front of you try to keep well back, out of the way. Keep the noise to a minimum and maybe quietly lob a couple of singles out while you set-up away from the lake quietly. Keep your footfall to a minimum and keep low if fish are close in. Drop down a lead size or two so that it minimizes the disturbance. If you can bivvy up back from the swim, do so or even put up some sort of screen so that your movements can’t be seen easily. You can buy camo mesh for pigeon shooting and it makes a great temporary screen. Wear dull, drab coloured clothing and cover your arms in the summer if you are stalking as white arms stick out.

5 Getting your bait application wrong

There are so many bait firms around now all claiming to have the next wonder bait that has caught this, that and the other
and how their field-testers emptied that southern stillwater. Many of the baits these days are of a very high quality and will catch lots of fish BUT they have to be applied properly. When you have chosen your swim based on location of carp, think about how long you are fishing for, you don’t want to be heaving in 5kg of bait if you are doing a short evening session so some thought needs to go into what and how much bait you put in.

6 Getting the finer details wrong

New rods, new reels, pukka bivvy, loads of food, best bait, all the gear and looks the absolute business and then proceed to cast out without thinking why you have cast it there.

Once you have chosen your swim, just take the time to walk through it and work out exactly why you are doing something and how will the carp react to it. Your bait and rig positioning, the type of rig, the amount of bait etc., etc. Look at the water in front of you, look at what everyone else is doing. Do you need to plumb or are you able to get away with one or two casts to keep noise down? Is your rig the right rig for the job, is it tied right, is it safe and is the hook sharp? Once you have chosen your spots, is one rod’s line lay going to affect the other? Are your hands clean from alien smells before you touch your rigs? The list of all the smaller details is endless, just take your time and think because once you have thrashed your swim to death with a marker rod, thrown bait all over the place it’s too late.

I would often quietly walk into Simon Scott’s swim when we fished together many years ago and quite often I would hear him talking away but when I got close to his swim there was no one with him. I later found out he had the same condition as me, in which you talk your way through all your decisions. “Right, I will put that rod there and then the other rod can go there which will leave this rod etc., etc.” Have a mental checklist or write one down so that you think through everything you do so that you are absolutely 100% fishing to your best ability and if it’s not right, change it and get it right.

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