As much as I love fishing rivers, the close season gives me the opportunity to dabble for big crucians and tench. There is something quite magical about a crucian carp. Photos rarely do them justice. That magnificent burnt or buttery gold, that glistens in the sun, really is quite spectacular. I defy anyone to not be awestruck by the sight of a big crucian.
For some years I have been chasing these lovely creatures, hoping for a really big one, with 4lb plus being the ultimate goal. However I probably put myself at a disadvantage as I like to fish in a certain way. A way that I derive the maximum pleasure from.
For me watching the tip of a float bob and weave, as fish mooch around in the swim, is the ultimate pleasure. The excitement tingles and tantalises the senses. You can quite literally be on the edge of your seat with anticipation as those crafty little devils play with the bait.
Nothing is quite as frustrating as a crucian carp. They toy with the bait. They tease it, nudge it and almost flirt with it! By God, they can drive you insane. The delicately set float dips and sways as they brush against the line and gently mouth the bait. Many a strike will connect with nothing, despite the float gliding away in a confident bite. Too many times I have popped the bait right out of a crucians mouth, as I’ve lifted the rod top to check the bait. This is what makes them so challenging and so engrossing to catch.
Punching out a method feeder and fishing bolt rig style just doesn’t do it for me I’m afraid. Each to their own of course and without a doubt a method feeder on the right day, will produce the goods far more than my humble approach. However it’s not just the catching that excites me, it’s the method and how it gets me the results I want.
My set up is very simple. I like to use a nice forgiving rod, as hook pulls can also be commonplace. I tend to use my 14ft Drennan Matchpro Ultralight as it’s soft enough to cope with small hooks and lightish hooklengths. I will use either a fixed spool, or on occasion,s my centrepin. Most of the fishing is in close, really close and as the summer draws near, I will fish right up against the reeds in just 18” of water. However if casting of any distance is required, then the fixed spool is a must.
I have found that you need a sensitive float. A small Drennan (5xNo4) insert waggler is my preferred choice. The insert can be removed and a small isotope put in it’s place, as the light fades.
These isotopes are the brightest I’ve found so far and normally last 4-5 hours. I tie my own hooklengths. I don’t trust hooks to nylon when fishing for big fish like tench and crucians. I like to be in control and I don’t want to loose a fish due to someone else’s mistake or a manufacturing defect.
I use a small swivel to attach the mainline and hooklength. Around the swivel I mould some extra heavy tungsten putty. This means I can dispense with split shot altogether, and so reduce the likelihood of line damage and breakages.
The only time I may use a small soft shot is if I’m using casters. Then I use one as a dropper shot. Other than that I let the bait anchor itself.
This is when fishing up to the marginal shelf can come into its own. The float will drift up against it and come to rest so plumbing the depth is vital. You do not want to be too over depth, otherwise the really delicate bites won’t register. Ideally the bait needs to just rest on the bottom.
Obviously lake beds vary in depth due to their uneven nature, so it’s difficult to be absolutely exact. The pole angler can overcome this by fishing the exact spot each and every time, but I think it’s harder when using a rod and reel.
That’s basically it in terms of tackle and set up. What’s left is bait choice.
I particularly like dendrobaena worms. They are a good sized bait and the crucians really love them. If you need to, you can pinch a little bit of the worm’s tail off and slide the bait up a 14 hook. I have also had a great deal of success with small hookable pellets (Garlic flavour being one of the best), casters, sweetcorn and small cubes of luncheon meat. If the fishing is a little slow, keep ringing the changes by switching baits.
You will find that crucians love to work the margins. The lakes that I fish are surrounded by reed beds and in places, beautiful lily pads. They are the typical Mr Crabtree swims. Look hard enough and you’ll picture him and Peter sitting by his rod, as bubbles fizz over his groundbait, anticipating the bite.
Talking of groundbait, I try not to put too much in as this will pull in big numbers of tench. You need to strike the right balance to encourage the crucians to feed but keep the greedy tench at bay. I like to soak mini pellets for a couple of minutes and then drain them off. They can then be squeezed into small balls and thrown into your swim. I will occasionally use a generic groundbait if and when I feel it’s needed.
I love to sit poised, ready for action, as the light fades and the nocturnal world awakes around me. On those warm spring nights you’ll see crucians rolling in the margins, because they too are aroused from their daytime slumber as darkness descends. Some you will look at in astonishment, as their size beggars belief. I’ve even had them knock the tip of my rod tip when rolling in really close, sometimes inches from the bank.
When the float disappears and the strike meets with a heavy weight, and a fish starts a ponderous circle in front of you, you’ll know it’s a good crucian carp. They plod around on the bottom, nothing overly exciting in their fight but so many big ones come adrift, that your heart will be in your mouth. Until the moment that golden flank is enmeshed safely within the folds of the landing net, a crucian is not truly yours.
It’s a wonderful and rewarding way to fish. The prize of a big crucian carp over 2lbs really takes some beating. If you’re really lucky the lake that you fish may well hold fish over 3lbs or even 4lbs like my lake.
This makes spring and early summer a very special time of the year for me. Give them a go, you won’t regret it.