A thorough understanding of angling pressure can help you get the best from any given angling situation or venue.
For me, any form of activity in or near the water exerts angling pressure on the carp: from walking the bank and setting up your bivvy to finding features, applying bait, casting your rigs and of course handling the fish.
There are very few carp lakes that receive no pressure at all and if you’re lucky enough to find one then enjoy it while it lasts! Many rivers are a good example of a low angling pressure environment. Yes, there are always areas that will be more popular than others but there is simply more room for the fish to stay away if they choose.
At the other end of the scale are the commercial French carp angling holiday venues such as the one I run where the carp angling pressure is near constant week on week off for 7 months of the year.
Whatever the type of venue you’re fishing, I believe that these tips can help reduce the levels of angling pressure and positively affect the results of a session.
1. Make yourself inconspicuous
This is very obvious but just try to be quiet, organised and careful on the bank. Think about how quietly you walk and talk and where and how you set up your gear.
2. Reduce the disturbance and intrusion into the water
One example of this is feature finding. Yes, it’s an important aspect of carp fishing but you need to watch how much you disturb the water with your marker float and how many times you’re out in a boat prodding for features.
3. Manage your bait
Bait is part of the makeup of the level of angling pressure and it is hard to manage because you never really know how much bait was applied by the angler(s) before you. In a low pressure angling environment, large quantities of bait make the job of catching carp much easier, but there is a tipping point at which the quantity of bait introduced begins to increase angling pressure and negatively affects results.
The routine introduction of true free bait (bait that you apply but do not fish over) is completely different to bait applied during a fishing situation. Baiting heavily while not fishing and then not baiting while fishing can be an extremely successful tactic and is one I use routinely myself.
Topping up after each fish definitely works but continuing to bait while fishing regardless of results is pure folly. My approach is always to start with small traps and move them about until they produce. I top up the swim with bait after a fish and gently ramp up the quantity if the runs continue. This minimises the amount of bait in the swim and minimises the angling pressure that the bait can create.
4. Casting or boating?
Whichever method you choose, it can be done well or badly but the key is to achieve a balance between disturbing the water and getting your rigs in place. Learning to cast well is an essential skill for any carp angler as it is the most often used method.
I must admit that after resisting for some 15 years, a year ago, I did invest in a bait boat specifically for use at my lake and I am delighted by the opportunities it provides in terms of stealth and accuracy.
A rowing boat is an excellent alternative and placing rigs on small gravel spots can be made easier with the aid of a prodding stick. Whichever method you choose, be accurate, quiet, get your rigs in place before bite time and all will be well.
5. Make your line inconspicuous
If you can fish a spot without the carp noticing your line, your results will be better. Understanding the area that you’re fishing and the zone through which your line will run can make the difference between good or poor presentation.
For me, slack lining is an essential part of my angling especially when I fish my lake. It is not appropriate at all venues but in the right situation it can make all the difference in the world. I much prefer slack lining to the use of back leads but as always back leads do have a role to play in certain circumstances.
For example, when fishing my local river, 4oz back leads are essential if you want to avoid your line being wiped out by the passing boats. When fishing at range on large, open, flat windswept venues, slack lines are a complete waste of time. As with everything in carp angling, there is a time and a place for everything, the trick is knowing when and what.
6. Rest your swim
From my experience, this is an underused technique. Our most successful clients actually fish for far fewer hours than the maximum 150 or so hours that are available in a week. Knowing when to fish and also when not to is a skill that requires many angling hours to understand.
All venues are different but the angler who works out when and when not to fish will generally outperform the others. For me carp angling means night fishing. I’d much rather rest the swim for the entire day and leave the carp alone than waste time and energy chasing them during daylight hours.
I believe that carp change their behaviour depending on what the anglers do and that the higher the levels of angling pressure the carp feel, the harder they will be to catch. I hope these ideas give you some food for thought.