Despite a distinct lack of recent winter form, Steve Renyard bounces back with a winter bag mix that will have you catching the carp!
Single Hookbaits with Nick Helleur - Text Only
Nick Helleur has a great session on Junction 12 Lake, fishing a tactic that he swears by for fishing early spring.
Junction 12 in Reading is a new lake for me and had never fished it before. I had got permission to have a little go for the winter and while nothing was getting caught, I was sure that once I had found the fish, I would be able to get a few.
The lake hadn’t been fished much in the colder months, but from what I gathered, the majority of the rod hours had gone into a swim known as The Point. It is an obvious spot to start, as you can command and see a lot of water. There was a lot of pretty shallow water in front, with the odd bit of clean ground out there amongst the weed too.
I had presumed that if any bait had been going in, it was more than likely going to have been introduced in front of there. I did the night, fishing singles to the area that has had the most attention. If any fish did fancy a feed, they would more than likely drift off to the spots that have seen bait.
I did the night; turning up late and casting a few bright ones out, each with a decent drop too. It was cold and rained all night; certainly not the best conditions to be out fishing. I didn’t see or hear anything for that trip and wrapped up around 9am, hoping to be back the following week.
I was gone for around 10-days and there had been a big weather change. It had gone from minus night-time temperatures, to over five degrees. The days were warmer too and it all began to feel a little bit better. I had to drop my little girl off on the Sunday and when I drove by, I could see nobody was on the lake.
I decided to fish that night, opting to go back in The Point. It was a very mild night with a flat calm lake, making it perfect spotting conditions.
I didn’t catch, see or hear anything, which got me thinking. To my left the lake was generally quite shallow. In front of me there were some shallow ground too and to my right, the lake was slightly deeper.
Given that there is a good head of carp in the lake and I hadn’t caught anything, I decided they must be down in the deeper water. The cold winds blew up to the shallow end and I couldn’t see the fish spending time up there. I had a cast around to a few areas and they felt lovely and clean, with a good depth too.
I fancied a trip back but decided to wait a few days after the warm winds had hit the lake. I got back a few days later as planned and wanted to fish the deeper section in the main bowl of the lake.
A lovely, strong and warm wind was blowing down to the deeper end of the lake and it looked so good. I arrived on dark and cast three rigs out to the zones that I thought the fish were going to be.
I was fishing typical Nick Helleur style, lazy some may say, but I’d say it is just keeping things simple. I used a fairly tall multi-rig, with a bright 16mm Peach and Pepper pop-up. It is a great rig for the spring, it doesn’t tangle and sits on top of any rubbish on the bottom. I used to fish hinges a lot, but in recent years I have had so many good results using this rig I use it all the time. I have used it everywhere whether it was for big carp or small fish on bites waters.
I like a hook link that I know won’t kink up, something that will kick the hookbait away from the lead and still offer a bit of flexibility. I like to have the bait really tight to the hook too.
I take some stripped coated braid, revealing the softer inner. I then double it over and thread the pop-up on. I then cut off a small bit of Bristle Filament to act as the hair stop. I then tie this to the ring, keeping everything nice and very secure.
With three rods out there, all on firm and deep drops, I was pretty confident going into the night. In the early hours, I got a couple of bites, both being nice twenty-pounders they were hooked so far back; it was a sure sign that they hadn’t really been fed for a while.
The must have out there for a while, fairly active and had no real food in front of them. This is when bright pop-ups are at their best and I am fortunate to have plenty of awesome pop-ups at my disposal. Historically, my favourite has always been that orange you got from an old Richworth Tutti Fruiti and Sticky’s Peach and Peppers are bang on. The attractor package is right, and the colour is so visual, especially in clear water, the carp just can’t ignore them.
You want something that can catch their eye and offer the right smells and tastes around it. Getting the right colour and attractor package is so important, especially when bites are hard to come by in the colder water. There is something so special about that colour and I have always done really well on them.
Despite the weather being warm to us, that water is still proper cold. Even if you are stood out in the t-shirt, the water may only be 6 degrees and those carp are not going to be smashing bait. This is when single hook baits, cast in to the right area, can be the best way of catching carp early on. The fish were both lovely, clean mirror carp that have hardly ever been caught. One was around 25lb, the other was 28lb and ounces. We got some nice shots rattled off and a bit of footage, before slipping them both back. The rods were then back out in the zone, each with fresh pop-ups on the end.
I pay a lot of attention to the drop. Everything hangs on getting the drop I am after. Everything from the time it takes to go down, to the feel of it when it touches down on the bottom. I have to know what I am fishing over and if it goes down with a firm ‘donk’, I know I am on a clean spot. I don’t mind a bit of weed, but when it is a really soft drop, I quickly whip the rod up and drop it down again.
With my pop-up sinking really slowly and attached to a helicopter, I know the rig won’t get caught on any weed. I set the bead quite high up, which keeps the hooklink away from it all. I wouldn’t do this so much in the summer, when the weed is a lot higher and thicker, but while it is low and only a bit of brittle Canadian pondweed, I can get away with it. Again, this isn’t something that would work with silkweed or anything that really clings on to the lead and rig.
I want crisp, brittle weed that I can lift and lower on top of. I knew the fish were just to the side of some shallow water, holding in a deeper area and that is where all the rigs went.
An hour or so had passed before the rod was away again. Unfortunately, I lost that one, which was a bit of a rarity on that rig. It was weeded for a while, but I was shocked to see the hook pop out the carp’s mouth, which looked over 30lb too. I changed the hook over, whipped a new pop-up on and got it back out, on its own with no bait around it.
Feeding is not something that comes in to my mind in the colder months and leading in to early spring. If I were to spread a kilo of boilies out there, every mouthful that fish has to take is one away from it taking my hook bait. On some lakes, the bites dry right up in the cold and this is when the singles are a real winner.
The key is to fish into the area in which the fish are frequenting. On here, it was a process of elimination over a couple of trips, before eventually tracking them down and catching them. This isn’t about wraps, fishing to a bar or feature as such, this is general area fishing. I am not committing to a baited spot and introducing a few quid’s worth of bait that I feel inclined to sit on. I’m on my toes, if I need to move I can be gone in a flash and have left no trail behind me. This session I stayed put because I was getting bites, but on other occasions I could have moved a dozen times and I won’t have left bait all over the lake in areas that the fish aren’t even there.
It was approaching late morning and looked so good for another bite, then ‘bang’, the same rod again was off, and I had another one latched on. This one was another lovely fish, which looked like it could possibly make 30lb. It wasn’t, but at 28lb 10oz it was another good fish that put up a hell of a scrap.
In less than 24-hours I had four bites, from a lake that hadn’t done a fish for months. It just shows that if you can get it right, find the fish, present some efficient rigs with good hook baits, it is all you need to catch some carp in the early spring days.
Step By Step
- Nick Pulls the pop-up on to some stripped braid and secures it with some Bristle filament.
- He then ties this to the ring on the multi rig.
- Make sure that the pop-up is sitting as tight to the hook as possible.
- Blob the tag ends with a lighter and the bait is ready to go.