I expect like me many of you are dusting off the carp gear ready for the warmer weather to arrive and for the carp to get their heads down prior to the rigours of spawning yet to come.
So, in anticipation of screaming reels and dancing indicators, here are a few more little tips and tweaks that might help your fishing in the warm-weather months to come.
TAMARIND AND OTHER SPICES
I doubt if there can be many who have not read about, or maybe even used, chilli flakes in their baits. They work well with particles such as chickpeas seeds such as hemp, or with cereals such as groats if you haven't tried them have a play…you may well be pleasantly surprised.
Another attractor worthy of serious attention is tamarind. I first used tamarind seeds in a few boiled bait recipes and their inclusion seemed to improve my baits, but it wasn't until I used Tamarind Chutney in a paste/Method mix that I realised the full potential of the stuff. Initially, I used the paste on the feeder adding it to a Robin Red groundbait, namely SuperRed, and it worked a treat.
Now, I have searched high and low for data about what it is about tamarind that so excited the carp but my search has been fruitless. No doubt one of the bait buffs of the carp world may be able to help me but, in the meantime, I shall simply carry on using it in the knowledge that it really does seem to produce the goods.
Briefly to recap: I first started using various oriental chutneys and pickles way back in the mists of time when my interest in carp baits was growing stronger by the day. I had switched from my usual, hard-fished venues where the carp were heavily pressured to a couple where it wasn't especially difficult to get a take. These were obviously ideal for doing a bit of experimenting, my reasoning being that if the bait didn't work here, it probably wouldn't work anywhere. OK, the carp were on the small side but they were pretty willing to take a bait so they proved that at the very least my ideas would work.
Incorporating the huge choice of these oriental bits and pieces into a baiting strategy wasn't too hard. A few grams of powder here, a teaspoonful of pickle there…that sort of thing. When it became clear that oriental delis held a lot of secrets, I started plundering their shelves and expanded my range of experiments considerably, and that is where Tamarind in its various guises comes in.
Tamarind is actually a fruit and is distinguished by a rather pungent, sweet and sour taste. You may well have eaten it yourself, without knowing it, as tamarind is used in Worcester Sauces, HP Sauce and other brown sauces. It contains useful antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals and it is often used as a taste enhancer. I started to use tamarind powder in my baits as I was told by the Indian owner of a local deli that it was used in Indian recipes to even out any sharp tastes. As I was using a milk protein hydrolysate at the time, which was actually quite bitter, I hoped the powder would help counter the bitterness. In fact, it did nothing of the kind and the hydrolysate didn't pull up any trees either, but that's another story.
Moving on I looked at the more common spices such as chilli, paprika and fenugreek but still, I continued to mess about with tamarind to quite encouraging effect once I had found a nice tamarind paste, which I incorporated into a Robin Red and Nectarblend birdfood base mix.
I caught some lovely fish on that bait and I continue to use it on and off to this day. Back then I don't think anyone else was using it so I kept it under my hat, as my little secret was putting quite a few fish on the bank.
Moving on and other challenges in the bait world came and went. Like everyone else I was looking for something that little bit different and when one day my missus brought home some Sweet Tamarind Chutney and I tried it with curry, I knew that this too could be a real goodie!
I had started fishing quite a well-pressured venue where the carp had seen it all and were pretty wary. I pinched the jar of chutney from the kitchen cupboard and took it to the lake with the idea being to use it as a hookbait dressing. It worked from the word go! The lake was as pretty as a picture but the fish had always played hard to get for me (and for others!) so it was nice to get a few fish from it.
In the mid-90s I started fishing a French lake that held some very special carp. I was working for the estate at the time so I was able to put in the hours at the lake. I put some bait into areas tucked away from sight and then returned to see if it was eaten or not. One of these areas was in a corner of the lake near the dam. In no time at all, I spotted carp in the area and in time they created what I call a dinner plate in the swim. That is to say, an area that is regularly visited by carp that feed so avidly that silt and weed get washed away leaving behind an area of bright, almost 'polished' lakebed. You can clearly see it in this photo.
Once I saw that the fish were visiting the area regularly, I made a point to keep the bait going in and soon I was even able to watch them feed. It was quite amazing to watch as they worked themselves up into a frenzy to get at every last morsel. Catching them became almost too easy.
I was helped in this by using a Robin Red nut-based mix that I put together for Haith's some time ago. SuperNut is one of the Three-In-One series of blends that I have been designing for Haith's since I joined the company in 2000. I regard it as one of the best mixes I have ever put together, right up there with SuperRed as perfect ground bait/Method Mix/Base Mix. In this photo, SuperNut is on the right, while SuperRed is on the left. As you can see the 'Nut is a bit coarser than the 'Red and this is down to the nut content.
This is SuperNut paste with added curry paste. The paste is moulded around the lead in order to increase attraction.
I usually make up two or three pastes with different levels of attraction using natural products where possible. The liquid foods such as Corn Steep Liquor or Liquid Yeast Extract are perfect and the addition of a spoonful of an Indian condiment adds still further to the overall attraction. The H-A, by the way, stands for High-Attract.
You may think it a bit far-fetched to use hot chilli pickles in your base mix or particles but the use of capsicums as carp attractors is well documented. These pickles have for a long time been a staple of my dinner table and my bait cupboard.
Whether you use them neat from the jar or add them to seed mixes, particles or base mixes, they will definitely add attraction and, just as important, taste. Not so long ago I fished A few years back I fished a popular lake in France and used Tamarind Chutney as a bait dip.
This is one of several big fish that I caught on this tactic…Give it a try yourself. You may just be surprised.
I get a lot of mail from anglers wishing to preserve boilies for a long session, say a week in France, for instance. While freezing is the accepted method, there are others that will extend the catching life of fresh bait by upwards of a month or more. Boilies go 'off' when the moisture in them reacts with airborne bacteria, which causes mould. If you can remove the moisture you will slow down or even halt the formation of mould on your baits. The widely accepted alternative to freezing is to air dry the baits in a loose weave air dry sack, the butterfly is optional!
There are several other ways of preserving bait for an extended period. Sugar is a desiccant (a substance that encourages dryness) so it absorbs water. Add a bag of sugar to a sack of bait and it will draw the moisture out of the boilies thus extending their shelf life. When you wish to use them simply riddle off the sugar. You will note that the baits feel sticky and their taste will be enhanced by the extra sweetness…and we all know how much carp like sweet things.
Salt is another effective desiccant as is rice.
Forgive me for mentioning glycerin again but this thick, sweet, 100% soluble liquid cannot be beaten as for a short- to medium-term preservative.
Boilies can be preserved by adding 25ml to the eggs prior to creating a boiled bait but you should also give the finished baits a good glug of glycerin post-production. Boilies thus treated don’t need any other form of preservative as harmful microbes will not grow in glycerin. Spores might land and rest on the product surface, but they won’t germinate. This photo shows a batch of Robin Red & Chilli boilies, perfectly made for us by Rollin' Baits.
As you can see the base mix contains enough binding material to allow the centre of the bait to remain soft and paste-like after boiling.
Unfortunately, this soft centre contains a fair bit of moisture which can cause the baits to go off quite quickly. In order to protect against the baits going off, add an outer coating of glycerin to the baits. You can also add other attractors to the glycerin to add still further to the attraction.
Add the attractors to the glycerin is a small bottle and give it a good shake, then pour the resulting high-powered attractor package over the baits that have been placed in a large bowl. Give the bowl a swirl to ensure that each bait receives a generous coating and then leave them to soak up all that carpy goodness.
The bait below are six weeks old, and thanks to the glycerin they are still good as new. The longer the baits stay in soak the harder they will become. They will also darken somewhat but they will now have an extended shelf life, plenty long enough for an extended trip. Plan ahead for maximum preservation. If you want to really push the boundaries, you can add further glugs of flavour-rich glycerin. Keep agitating the baits in their bag or another container to keep them soaking up the glycerin. In time they will become touch dry.
Though the baits harden on the outside on the inside they will still retain some of that paste-like texture that carp love so well.
You may well be planning your long trip in the height of the summer; maybe you are going to France. At times the heat can become almost intolerable and it doesn't help the bait travelling in the back of the van. So, it's a good idea to bag up the bait with yet another good glug of glycerin. Even if the bait sweats a bit en route the glycerin will still protect it from the heat and sunshine.
This crackling thirty was caught last summer during that astonishing almost tropical heatwave that they experienced in France. It was caught on a glycerin-preserved bait and was one of several that fell to the bait, a clear sign that none of the bait’s attraction had been lost or impaired in any way by the addition of the glycerin.
I am writing this is mid-February but outside my office window the birds are singing and the daffs are blooming. It won't be long before we are back on the bank in search of monsters…Cannot wait!