Whenever possible try to find a water that allows you to look in on carp. Watch them feed and notice how feeding activity differs from one bait to another. Note how they approach a carpet of bait and see how they react to a rig. Being able to watch carp in their natural world is a massive edge as far as I am concerned, as I can make any necessary tweaks to a rig before I go out onto the bigger waters where you need to rely on rig effectiveness to succeed. Watching them feed and seeing how they react to certain rigs and presentations takes away a lot of the guesswork and allows confidence to bloom (photo 5)
Many carp anglers have been brainwashed by the magazines into thinking that carp are some kind of mythical, uncatchable beast with the mental powers of Stephen Hawking. In fact they have a brain the size of a pea and just like any creature in the natural world they need to feed in order to live. Seeing how carp approach a bait carpet can often astonish the newcomer to carp fishing, who may well have preconceived ideas about their supposedly super-shy, mega-cautious and deeply suspicious quarry. However, once they have witnessed the kind of confident, aggressive and competitive feeding by carp that have really got their heads down they never forget it, and will soon realise that when carp really want a bait they are anything BUT shy, cautious or suspicious!
This is where the bait aspect of carp fishing enters the picture. It is a real eye opener to see fish feeding on a bait to which they are indifferent and then comparing that activity with carp that are munching on a bait they really want to eat and in which they have full confidence. If the carp want the bait badly enough to be competing for every mouthful they are unlikely to be less cautious. On the other hand, if the bait isn’t truly grabbing the carp’s attention, they may feel more suspicious about it (photo 6).
It is often stated that hard pressured carp are rig shy but it this really the case? I wonder how many anglers who offer this argument are using inferior bait/bait carpets. Might this not account for their poor results? I am sure in my own mind that truly rig shy carp are a figment of anglers’ imagination. Yes, a carp may be able to identify the hookbait from the way it behaves but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t pick it up. From my own observations I have watched carp pick up a hookbait a dozen or more times without showing any sign of suspicion. What does this tell me? That the carp isn’t shy of the rig/hooklink/lead weight etc.! It also tells me that the rig is not working as effectively as it could.
True I have seen carp approach a hookbait with caution, and, true, I have watched them sheer away from it at the last minute or swim past the hookbait as if eyeing it up. But this only tells me that the fish is interested but there is something about the way the bait is behaving that tells it all is not as it should be. This doesn’t make the fish rig shy, merely cautions. If it were truly rig shy it would simply leave the hookbait alone and not come back. Let me tell you, on the waters where I have been able to watch carp they return to any hookbait that they truly want to eat time and time again. From my own experience of watching carp the oft-quoted rig shy carp does not exist. In many years of watching carp react to baits I have never seen one that appeared actively afraid of the hookbait, even after it had sucked it in and ejected it (in some cases several times).
Too often we accept what we think might be happening as gospel without confirming what is actually happening with our own eyes. Now I accept that not everyone has the opportunity to look in on carp but I am sure that if most of you put your mind to it you could find a lake where some degree of up close and personal observation is possible. After all, if I can watch them in one of the hardest Home Counties waters in the land I am sure you can find one nearer to home.
As I proposed at the beginning, it is my contention that rigs and bait are inseparable. The best rig is the world will be less effective if you put a duff hookbait on it and by the same token, the best bait in the world will not produce the goods if your rig is rubbish. So where is the happy medium we need to reach to maximize both aspects of the game? I believe it starts with the bait and the presentation. They are equally important one to the other so let’s look at how we can achieve the most effective presentation when confronted with some of carp angling’s everyday situations.
Once you have the bait sorted out to the extent where it is as irresistible as possible to the carp, the rig now comes to the fore. When I see the latest super-rig in the magazines I am amazed at the inventiveness of the guy who thought that one up. On the other hand I usually ask myself, ‘Just how really necessary is that?’ Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if the rig has truly come about out of necessity or is just the result of a long afternoon’s cogitation and invention.
There are very few what I would call really gifted technical carp anglers writing in the magazines these days. When I need inspiration I don’t turn to the pages of the modern magazines, instead I go back over what has already been written (and possibly forgotten about) by some of the most consistent carp catchers around; guys like Brian Skoyles, Bill Cottam, Jim Gibbinson, Julian Cundiff and Tim Paisley. These guys talk and write about presentation with refreshing frankness, stating their preference for simplicity over complication; for actual effectiveness over assumed effectiveness. Read Bill Cottam’ s latest book and see for yourself just how meticulously he sets his traps, getting his presentation right every time. Bill is without doubt one of the most successful catchers of huge carp in Europe and is respected for his no-nonsense approach to rigs (photo 7). You won’t find reams of technical jargon-filled pages in his book. Just simple no-nonsense advice on how to maximize rig efficiency. Mind you, if you took away his Super Nova he’d be heart broken.