Late winter and early spring is one of my favourite times to be out on the bank. With the longer daylight hours it seems the whole of the natural world knows it’s time to start altering their habits once again and everything slowly unfolds back into life.
I am sure the longer hours of daylight have a bigger affect on wildlife than the weather conditions. Certainly carp become much more active and I find myself ignoring what the weather is doing as the carp become more and more active.
Certainly I can see from the frogs in my garden – they come out of hibernation at a similar time each year regardless if we are still having frosts or not. It can’t be very nice being a wet amphibian in a frost but there you have it. Something has triggered them back to life and the carp are no different.
The increase in daylight hours means the average temperatures start to rise and so does the water temperature which in turn warms the cold blooded carp thus increasing their natural metabolism which results in them ‘going on the prowl’ more so than over the previous couple of months when their core temperature has been at an all time low.
This natural increase in metabolism means they will be digesting their food quicker and need to start eating a little more than they have been doing. I have always found the carp of early spring to be a little off guard at times and you can often catch fish that can be incredibly tricky come the summer months. Now is the time to pit your wits against a particularly difficult target fish, rather than go for multiple action fun.
I always like to incorporate a little bit of high visual bait into my feed at this time of the year. I don’t want those cruising fish to miss what I am offering. A lot of the baits I use tend to be quite washed out in colour as I like to pre-water log them making them appear as though they have been out there longer than they have – thus safer to eat. I find the odd bright coloured boilie or broken boilie and/or sweet corn to be a terrific addition to any baited patch during the ‘warm up’ period. But be careful – not too much of it. All I am trying to achieve is interest in the area and then let my main bait take over once the fish are rooting around.
I don’t bait heavily at this time of the year concentrating on trying to catch just one fish at a time then replicating the scenario if and when I do. I have put some quite big spring catches together in this way.
Definitely don’t ignore the shallower areas at this time of the year particularly your own margin. The first few sightings I have on a lot of waters after a winter of seeing nothing is a fish cruising by in the margins. One handful of boilies both whole and broken along with just a few grains of corn or alternate bright baits will be all you need to grab the carp’s attention. Give it a go – you may be surprised.
Don’t ignore the single hook bait approach at this time of the year either. Yellow, red or white are my preferred colour choices for this approach early in the year. If the bait you are using is a different colour simply take advantage of what I refer to as a sight bob on top of your bait. These days I use flouro pop-ups for this such as the Ultrabrite range or one of the tiny Pimple Pops available from Quest Baits. A favourite method of mine is half a fluoro boilie and half a ‘proper’ boilie. This helps to release the flavour a little quicker from the boilie and has the massive advantage that you can offer a variety of alternate colours through the day.
I usually have what I term as a roving rod for this approach and any possible sightings away from my baited area I will have a cast. I have certainly lost count of the number of bonus fish I have caught employing these tactics and what is more a showing fish over seemingly featureless ground can give away one hell of a productive area. But, make sure you mark your lines after each cast (I use size 4 or 6 pole elastic as it’s easily removed) so you can replicate it as well as check the area out at a later date with a marker rod.
I find most of my ‘productive’ areas these days come from sightings and following on from single bait captures. I honestly believe that on the more pressured waters most anglers have become so proficient with their marker rods that most end up finding and fishing the same areas. Give me a flat featureless area where the carp visit naturally any day – but as they say that is another story for another day.