Carp fishing is an ever growing and massive industry especially in the UK. Carp can put up a tremendous fight and will definitely give that adrenaline rush you sit on the banks for hours on end waiting for. For an experienced angler looking to take up a new type of fishing or a complete beginner “How to carp fish?” definitely should be on your mind. The chance of having that 30lb plus fish ripping drag from your reel is just too much to not take action on. Can you imagine posing for a picture, after an exhilarating 40 minute battle, with a fish of this size on the bank? For many its only a dream.
Taking up a new type of fishing can be both an exciting and daunting experience and it would be great to have all the most important factors to get started set out easily on the one page wouldn’t it? Well here it is.
In this post I will be highlighting the main ways you can carp fish and the differences between each. Everyone has their own preference (For me its definitely a quiver tip rod with a method feeder packed with lovely “carp treats” and a nice fat boillie on a hair rig) but that’s a whole different story.
There are many ways you can go about carp fishing but depending on the day some will work and some may not (that’s fishing right). That being said more often than not the basics will work so read on to find out what you will need for your carp fishing journey.
Choosing a rod
Choosing a rod can be a daunting situation for anyone new to carp angling but really the process is easy. When looking for a rod you’ll come across many words you’ve never heard before but they all have incredibly simple meanings.
I’ll make sure and explain the difference in each type of carp rod, how it will be used and what you should be looking out for in a starter carp rod. You might even find some personal recommendations along the way.
If you are looking for a more in depth look into carp fishing rods be sure and check out my more detailed post. I’m sure all you beginner anglers won’t be looking to spend a lot on a new rod so make sure and have a read at my cheap carp fishing rod guide to bag a high quality rod for under 50 pounds.
Rod action refers to how much your rod will bend under pressure. There are three main types of action that rods are made with and each will have different benefits when casting and playing a fish. The three most common are;
Fast action – With fast action rods mainly only the last section of your rod will bend fully. Fast action rods have a lot of “back bone” and provide a lot of power through the cast to cast far distances. Fast action rods aren’t very forgiving on the fish and could lead to more hook pulls when fighting fish at close distances
Middle to tip action – These rods will perform as expected, flexing from the middle to tip of the rod. These rods are a bit more forgiving on the fish as they flex further as the fish runs. Most rods on the market will be marked as middle to tip.
Through Action – Through action rod will flex near enough all the way to the butt of the rod. These rods aren’t ideal at all for fighting powerful carp and I’d suggest avoiding them. I highly doubt you’ll find any carp rods marked as through action anyway.
What rod action you want to fish with generally comes down to personal preference but if you are completely new to carp fishing opt for a rod with middle to tip action as a solid all-rounder.
Rods will also come in varying test curves usually marked between 2.75 – 3.75lbs. Test curves are how much weight it takes to bend the rod to 90 degrees to the butt of the rod. But who really cares about the technical stuff I’m sure you just want to know how this affect fishing and choosing a rod, right?
Rods marked at the lower values won’t have as much power for casting large distance but will be more sensitive when playing fish which I think creates a lot more fun.
Rods marked with high test curves will provide good power for long distance fishing but as I said won’t be as sensitive when playing fish. These rods won’t be very forgiving on fish when fighting at close distances and can lead to more hook pulls
How your rod performs and feels will be a mixture of Action, Test curve rating and also length. It’ll take a wee bit of trial and error to feel out what you’ll enjoy. Personally I opt for shorter rods with lower test curves as I usually tend to fish the margins.
Types of Carp Rods
Depending on what type of carp fishing you are setting out to try there will be a rod to suit. General carp rods a re the most popular but will require bite alarms as a method of bite indication. They come in varying lengths with varying test curves and action, if you don’t know what these are have a read above. Carp rods will usually come in lengths between 10ft to 13ft. Shorter rods will be ideal for close range or margin fishing but if you are planning to fish far features you should be opting for a longer rod to rocket your bait out across the water.
Quiver tips rods are rods with very fine end sections. The extremely fine end section is excellent for bite detection as every knock or line bit from carp will make your rod tip flex. This is a personal favourite of mine as you’ll know exactly when there’s carp in the area, there’s no better feeling than watching the rod tip bend to 90 degrees with a fish on the end.
Quiver tip rods take a little more concentration that your typical carp fishing rod as you’ll constantly need to monitor your rod tip so no bites are missed or worse still your rod ends up in the water with no bleeping alerting you to a fish.
To fish the quiver tip effectively, cast your feeder out into your swim and set your rod in the rod rest at 90 degrees to where your feeder is. Slowly reel in the slack line until your rod tip bends slightly close to the water. Now get watching.
Quiver tip rods also come in varying test curves and lengths which once again will all depend on what size of fish you are targeting , how far out you are planning to fish and last of all complete personal preference.
Float rods are usually light and shorter rods. They are light so they can be held for long days float fishing as they are usually not put in a rod rest. Float rods are usually used to fish margins or close features and you’ll find them in different test curves lengths and sections just like the previous two types of rods.
Most commonly waggler floats will be used for carp and this can be an extremely productive way to target carp. If you choose to fit the top few feet or leave enough line so your hook bait sits on the bottom is completely up to you.
Now spod rods are not really aimed at the beginner angler but its best if you know what they are and what they are used for. Spod rods are not actually used for catching fish as such but they can definitely help you catch more fish.
Spod rods are heavy built long rods with plenty of power. These are used for casting “spods”, which are rocket shaped items that can be filled with nearly any type of bait. These spods are used to bait up far swims that you wouldn’t be able to throw or catapult bait to. Using a spod rod and spods is an extremely effective way of baiting up swims quickly without the need for multiple cast with a method feeder.
There are many rigs you can opt for with many guides online about how to tie each. Personally if you are new to carp angling I’d avoid looking into how to tie your own rigs until you have at least caught a good few fish. Tying rigs can be frustrating and time-consuming but don’t worry you can buy pre-tied rigs than can be attached to your set up effortlessly.
The simplest to use and most common pre-tied rig is the hair rig. The hair rig allows your bait to be presented naturally without being directly placed on the hook. This rig has revolutionised carp and works time and time again. This is the rig I’ll use most often and will nearly always opt for a pre-tied rig due to complete convenience.
Lands nets are a key part of carp fishing and you’ll definitely need to get a hold of one, how else are you planning to get your catch onto the banks?. A good few venues I have been to offer nets to any anglers that don’t have one or even forgotten to bring theirs but I’d still definitely advise you buy one for yourself.
When looking for a carp fishing net you’ll need to take what size of carp you are planning to target as they come in varying sizes. I’d advise opting for 36 inch net as a decent all-rounder unless you are out to target huge fish.
When looking for a net make sure it is made with carp friendly netting to avoid any damage to the carp from rough materials. Look for a net with fine mesh.
Make sure you have quite a large length of handle to make sure netting fish is far easier as you are not stretching to add some extra length. This can turn into an absolute nightmare when trying to net fish yourself.
If your net is a little on the heavy side you can buy a net float to wrap around the end of your rod closest to the mesh. This will mean when the end of your net is resting in the water waiting for a bite it won’t sink to the bottom. The float will also make your net a lot more easy to manoeuvre when you are landing a fish.
Unhooking mats are a massive part of keeping your catch and everyone should be using one. Unhooking mats are used to rest the carp on when you have them out of the water. The unhooking process is where the carp is most likely to sustain any damage so some thought should be put into how you handle the fish. Unhooking mats can be bought fairly cheaply and the benefits they provide are huge.
Unhooking mats can be bought in varying sizes with some coming with sides to make sure the more lively carp won’t wriggle themselves onto the hard ground. No matter how soft you think the grass or ground is there is still a high chance of fish getting injured if you lie them on the ground in the unhooking process. Sharp stones or anything hard on the ground can damage the carps’ delicate scales which can lead to infection and the carp dying. As anglers this is the last thing we want, we should be protecting the fish we love catching. Be good to the carp and hopefully they’ll be good to you!
The size of unhooking mat you are using should depend on the size of carp you are targeting, this should be pretty obvious but I still see people after massive carp with silly little unhooking mats.
You should always keep your mat wet or at least damp which will ensure the carps’ protective “slimy” layer won’t be rubbed off on the mat. Its good practice to wet your hands before handling any fish for the same reason
If you are looking for a more in depth look into unhook mats have a read here.
How to choose a carp water
When to start out choosing a body of water that holds carp shouldn’t be difficult. There are many carp fishing venues in the UK that will hold monster carp. That being said older carp are said to be a lot “wiser” and therefore harder to carp. Chances are they have been caught many times through their lives so will learn and obviously try to avoid being caught again (I can’t imagine its very pleasant). I know everyone wants to catch that carp of a lifetime but I’d strongly advise to start out on the smaller side, and remember there is still that chance of a massive carp.
If you do a bit of research in your area I can guarantee you will find at least a few waters within an hour from your house. Massive amounts of fun and excitement can be found catching carp up to double figures and this is where you should start. Look on forms and talk to the guys in your local tackle shop and they’ll be able to advise waters stacked with carp waiting to be caught.
Don’t jump in and head to the waters that are said to hold only a few massive carp as more than likely you could spend days without as much as a nibble which can be completely disheartening for not only the beginner carp angler.
Local knowledge is key here. Speak to people by the banks and ask what rigs and baits they are using but don’t get me wrong some anglers will rather not give up their “secrets” to catching.
Choosing a swim
Ok now that you’ve got all your new fancy gear and you’ve made it to your first carp fishing venue what do you do? Carp are shy and timid fish and seem to be smarter than you’d think so its never just as easy as throwing some bait on there and casting out into oblivion. Yes you might get lucky and catch the odd fish but you’ll find it far more productive if you put some thought into where you are going to fish. A “swim” is basically just the word used to describe the small area of the lake you are fishing and you should put a good bit of thought into choosing a swim to give yourself the best chance.
What should I be looking for then I hear you ask? Well to start us off carp like to hang out in places near cover where they feel most safe which are referred to as “features”. Features can range from anything to the margins, reed beds, lily pad patches, overhanging trees and close to any islands on the water. You’ll want to get you bait in nice and close to these features which is a whole art in itself but we’ll cover casting techniques further on in the post. Once you get the hand of picking swims you might want to start thinking about mastering the art of choosing a swim by considering underwater features but this can come at a later date.
Margin fishing is a favourite of mine as quite often you can find some of the biggest carp dwelling close to the banks looking food sources, whether it be natural or all the left over bait dumped in from anglers packing up. The margins are the biggest feature on the lake and make it a lot easier to cast accurately to if you are a complete beginner. As you’re fishing at close range it’ll also make landing the carp a lot easier.
Another good way for choosing a swim is to spend some time watching the water. With a bit of knowledge with what you should be looking for you should be able to spot areas where the carp are hanging out. There’s the obvious of looking to spot the actual carp whether it be swimming on the surface or jumping clean out of the water. If you see bubbles on the surface this will usually mean carp are feeding on the bottom or if you see areas of stained water this can show areas where the carp are swimming close to the bottom churning up the silt on the bottom.
There’s near endless hook baits all by different brands that you can choose to opt for (bearing in mind some will be more productive than others). Instead of boring you with the endless lists of baits available ill go over two of my favourite baits that will be sure to see you catching fish in no time.
Boilies are one of the baits you will see everywhere in the carp fishing world. They are a well-established type of bait and are considered to be the most popular by all carp anglers. You’ll find them in many colours or flavourings that appeal to the carp.
Boilies come in varying sizes usually from 6mm all the way up to 22mm. What size of boilie you chose will depend on the size of fish you plan to target. That being said the largest fish in the lake can be caught on a small boilie. Big baits doesn’t always mean big fish.
What colour and flavour you opt for will most depend on personal preference, time of year and what venue you are fishing.
In the winter months carps’ metabolism snow down and they become even more picky than usual. Spicy boiles seem to be the most preferred during the winter months as the spice oils in the baits dissolve into the water better giving you the chance of attracting and tempting more fish.
I’s suggest using brightly coloured boilies that really get the carps’ attention through the colder months.
In the warmer months you should be looking for boilies with higher protein content, so basically boilies with more meat content.
Sweetcorn is one of my favourite hook baits to use. The bright colour and sweet scent of sweetcorn makes it an effective bait all year round. It can be fixed easily straight onto the hook, onto a hair rig and even put straight into your ground-bait or micro pellet mix for added attraction.
You can buy sweetcorn in near enough any shop for far cheaper than boilies or any other carp fishing bait for that matter.
One thing I will fault sweetcorn for is that it seems brilliant at attracting all the nuisance fish in lakes leaving you catching smaller silver fish or with your sweetcorn stolen on the lake bed.
Casting is an art in itself and something that will take a lot of practicing to perfect (something I’ve still not managed). Casting is essential in carp fishing as you need to be able to cast accurately to features or swims you have taken the time to bait up. If you are not casting accurately to your swim every time the carp could be in the area enjoying all your free bait without a hook in sight. The video above will show you how to properly cast a method feeder effortlessly. If you are planning to fish the margins or to a close feature a small back hand cast will be ideal.
I’d suggest taking some time in a nearby park or field to get to grips with casting if you are completely new to fishing. Tie a feeder or weight onto the end to mimic the weight you will be casting at the water. Now pick a point and continuously try to cast to this area until you can cast to the same general area time and time again.