This month's Blog has nothing to do with success (or otherwise) with the opposite, or even the same sex! Instead I want to look at fishing relatively unknown lightly fished lakes, the so-called 'virgin lakes'.
You’d be surprised at just how many virgin waters are out there and these represent the ultimate challenge. Why? I hear you say. Surely if the carp have not been fished for they'll be easy-peasy. Not necessarily! I know of a couple of lakes down my way where the carp are un-pressured but they are far from easy. The one in the photo is just such a lake.
I think the modern approach of using HNV boilies can have its drawback, one of which is the fact that the carp have not yet come to think of them as 'Food'. (The subject of 'food baits' is one I have written about before, so have a search.) Some would say that carp need to be weaned onto your bait. I disagree; if it is sending out the right messages they will react to it. However, I now believe the carp can become confused by too many food messages coming at them all at once.
So what is too many? Here you can see a wealth of attractors, which I use frequently. A few of these can be highly effective in a bait. All of them is overkill! Now I will freely admit that there was a time when I didn't believe you could have too many 'come hither' food signals; now I think that such an approach is flawed. I reached this conclusion when watching a shoal of river carp I had found on a small river in France. I had put together what I felt as irresistible bait just oozing with positive vibes. To my astonishment they totally ignored the freebies and flatly refused to feed. Why, I wondered? Were they confused by the plethora of feeding triggers coming at them, their olfactory senses overwhelmed, the 'eat me' signals completely wiped out? But these were, in all likelihood, virgin carp! Surely they should have responded very positively if I had got the bait right. Reluctantly I had to accept the fact that no matter how natural the bait may be to us, to a carp it could be the complete opposite when they are receiving conflicting messages.
I love fishing new lakes and rivers. I love them for their unpredictable nature; you never know what is going to come along next. I love them for the relative naivety of the carp and the unpressured surroundings and atmosphere. I adore out-of-the-way lakes and rivers and relish the prospect of venturing into pastures new. Sadly reality rears its ugly head more often than ever these days, as due to the slow but steady advance of Time I simply cannot muster the effort and sheer hard work involved in looking for and then fishing virgin lakes. However, I can offer no more exciting a challenge to aspiring young carpers that fishing a new virgin water. This was the case when I started fishing the Chateau Lake (Etang de la Poiteviniere 44)
Of course, every now-famous venue water starts out as virgin. All the UK's high profile pits and reservoirs were unknown once upon a time and it took the adventurous pioneering spirit of our top anglers to uncover their secrets. On the continent St Cassien, Orient, Der, Raduta and many others were all virgin before some free spirit discovered their potential. The now world-famous Rainbow Lake was unfished when Bill and I visited it in 1994 to make the first ever video about the now-famous lake (see photo). Now look at it!
I guess that nowadays I am best known for fishing small private lakes where most of the carp have names and the venues are booked up years in advance. It was not always like that! My history is littered with examples of waters I visited when they were entirely or relatively unknown and in some cases I opened them up to a wider audience. College Reservoir in the county of Cornwall was totally unfished when Carole and I first went there in 1982 but in three short years it went from unknown to well-known and it was impossible to get a swim at the busy times.
The same applies to France. In 1989 my mate and I did a real Tour de France, looking for the unknown, and not knowing if we’d found it! We visited two lakes in central France that, as far as we knew, nobody other than the odd French guy had ever fished before. It was our first tentative step into the world of Euro carping but we were confident and hopeful. We had the Michelin map open on our knee and were playing 'join the dots' with bits of blur on the map. OK, a bit hit or miss, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the saying goes.
One day we arrived at a large reservoir that looked entirely deserted, not an angler in sight as far as the eye could see. Not too encouraging! My ability to speak rudimentary French helped and in the nearest bar we soon discovered that indeed, the lake did hold a few carp. On the other hand said our informant, we might be advised to look elsewhere, as there were other lakes in the general area that held much bigger and better fish. Apparently these reservoirs were being fished mainly by the French but also by a few German and Dutch anglers. Why didn’t we go there, you ask? Good point! I suppose it was a stubborn streak in both of us that persuaded us to stay put on the unknown quantity.
As it turned out we didn’t do too well on that visit, but we caught enough to encourage a return visit and when we went back the following year, and in subsequent years thereafter, we caught more and bigger fish. In fact, I was lucky enough to catch my first ‘forty’ (forty pounds or elbees and they say on the continent, a magic target figure for UK anglers), and my mate, Liam, landed a beautiful mirror carp with four huge scales on its shoulder. It weighed just under 14kg and was a repeat capture from our previous visit when it had weighed just under 10kg. Clearly a fish that was growing well. Though we have never been back to the lake, over the years we have watched as these same two fish keep cropping up in the press and recently Liam’s fish appeared on the cover of a well-known French magazine. It now weighs over 24kg and ‘my’ forty regularly comes out at over 28kg. Why don’t we go back? Another good question. Somehow it wouldn’t feel quite right. Anyway, we’ve been there, done that. Time to move on.
In 1988, when I first visited France we fished a lake that nowadays is one of the best-known lakes in France. Myself and a couple of my mates were the only anglers on the whole 200 acre lake and at the time we thought we were fishing for a lot of doubles with perhaps the odd twenty thrown in. This turned out to be the case but since then I have watched those carp grow from low twenties to over sixty pounds. Sadly this once pristine lake has been ruined by angler pressure to the extent that night fishing is banned and only a limited number of permits are issued each year. As the word gets out so the waters slowly change from 'virgin', to 'known', to 'circuit'. When they reach the last category they often start to attract the attention of the authorities and angling becomes more restricted or even banned altogether.
I’d love to find another Lac de la Poiteviniere! I remember how hard I tried to get onto that lake…For three years running I kept hustling away at the owners to open what was at the time a very private lake, one that was full of carp! It was so frustrating standing on the road at the gate to the estate, watching carp crash out with gay abandon, knowing that here was a dream lake that was unfished, totally virgin, yet absolutely and 100% private and likely to remain so.
However, in 1994, the owners saw the sense in letting anglers onto the lake and at last I was allowed to step onto that hallowed ground. Now, nearly thirty years later the lake is well-known and is certainly no virgin, but way back then I felt like I had been given the key to heaven’s door! I truly have lost count of the number of big carp, 15kg and more, that I have landed from The Chat, certainly hundreds, maybe even more!
Mind you, it has to be said that I have fished some right turkeys in my time but if you don’t try them you may always have that niggling doubt in the back of your mind that you might have missed out on something. I can remember fishing a lake that was reputed to hold fish to 25kg…I wish! If indeed it did hold them, we never saw them! We fished it hard for two nights and three days before pulling off, exhausted, after catching about a million carp, only one of which went over 5kg!
So lets say you have found that rare jewel, a carp lake that has never been fished before. So how do you go about fishing this paradise, especially if it is a large lake, as these can be really intimidating to the beginner? Well, you could just go in with boiled baits, I suppose, but in my book that can be a bit of a hit and miss approach. It could be that the carp have never seen a boiled bait before. Even though the bait firms go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that they use the best feeding triggers and other flavours and attractors available, as already mentioned, there will always be venues where boiled baits are not an immediate success.
I believe that in order to create feeding activity I need to attract as many fish as possible into my swim. By this I mean all coarse fish, not simply carp. I want to attract anything that swims to the bait carpet in the hope that their frantic feeding activity will in turn draw carp to the bait to investigate. Carp are inquisitive and greedy creatures and you can use this to your advantage by triggering their curiosity via the feeding frenzy caused by the smaller fish. OK, these fish are in a frenzy on surface baits, but imagine creating a similar aggressive/competitive feeding spree on the lakebed.
The best way to attract smaller fish is to offer them a carpet of soft, well-flavoured bait, and a lot of it! Groundbait, pellets, seeds and smaller particles all play their part in forming an attractive bait carpet but you can also add boilie crumb and a few chopped baits as well for when the carp eventually arrive. Groats and pellets are probably the most convenient baits under these circumstances but don't ignore the commercial groundbaits where all the hard work has been done for you. Take our own SuperRed (see photo) for instance, based on our formidable additive Robin Red. All you could ever wish for in a pre-mixed groundbait.
Mix SuperRed with a blend of liquid attractors diluted in water and you are ready to rock and roll.
You will find that the natural binders in SuperRed will help you to form groundbait balls and these can be fired out by catapult or a groundbait sling to augment the bait carpet. This gives the bait added pulling power and encourages even the most cautious carp to creep in to investigate the source of this strange smelling grub.
This stunning cocktail of attraction is the perfect trio of liquid attractors. Add it to water and then add it to SuperRed and then blend in with a fork or similar. The liquids compliment the natural attraction of SuperRed and back up the pulling power of the groundbait.
If I am going to be away from home for a few days, say on a weekend session, then I like to pre-mix my liquid attraction at home, storing it in an empty drinks bottle. This makes creating fresh groundbait at the waterside easy.
As a starting point I introduce 15-20kg of the prepared soft groundbait mix over quite a wide area around my chosen spot. It might be that the carp don’t arrive straight away but if you have seen fish showing in the area and have isolated a significant underwater feature, it is a good bet that they will arrive sooner or later. Once they do so you need to be ready to top up the bait carpet with more groundbait, this time adding some harder carp-specific free offerings to the mix: I like to add a few tiger nuts to the groundbait.
Eventually you should aim to stop putting in soft baits altogether. By now the small fry will have done their job so you want them to leave the bait to the carp. The more fry-resistant hard baits in the swim, the more confidant the carp will become. These hard boiled Robin Red 'chops' are perfect. I outline how to create 'chops' elsewhere in my blogs, but briefly it involves rolling the ball of paste into pan-sized sausages, then boiling the sausages and when they have cooled cutting them into 'chops'.
Tiger nuts are a seemingly instant carp baits and are a good initial bait on any virgin water. I have no idea what it is in tigers that attracts carp so well but they sure do work. The main problem with them is that I think most anglers put too many in. On a huge lake this is not likely to be a problem but on a smaller lake it is as well to err on the side of caution. It is all too easy to over bait with tigers and on small lakes an excess of tigers can have a dire effect on the fishing before they have even had a chance to get going
Now, if you’ve done your groundwork right, then at the very least you should start to see signs of fish activity. I’m not saying that carp are going to start leaping all over the place, crashing out, head-and-shouldering and generally making a commotion! It could be that the smaller fish have already arrived and are doing their thing so the carp may be just around the corner. On the other hand even the hottest swims sometimes take time to warm up. It could be that you haven’t put enough bait in and it has all been devoured leaving little or nothing for the carp. This photo is of 25kg of PVA-meshed 'bits'…enough? Depends on how many carp you are fishing for!
So how much is enough? That will differ from lake to lake and with the head of fish but you will soon find out just how much bait you should be introducing each day. Hectic action followed by long blank spells means that the fish are probably moving out of the swim because there’s no more bait left. Steady feeding, when no one time of the day seems any better or worse than another, probably indicates that you’ve got the baiting just about right. As a general rule of thumb, for a week-long session on a large public reservoir or lake - the Chat for instance - I take the following:
• 50kg Mixed seeds and small particles such as hemp seed, groats, etc
• 25kg groundbait such as SuperRed.
• 5 jars of Dynamite Baits’ tiger nuts
• 10kg of ready-made boilies
• 10kg of home made or pre-rolled boilies
• 2 litres of mixed natural attractors
• 20kg Pellets
I can hear your gasps now and, yes, it sounds like a lot, but why skimp on the bait when this might be your only chance to hit the big time before the world and his wife find the lake? This big mirror came on a huge carpet of bait. I'd far rather take too much bait than not enough!
On the other hand, on small intimate lakes such as Le Queroy I usually take a lot less, and then I fish for one take at a time. This involves using only enough bait to encourage a pick up, without piling in the bait to an excessive level. What's "enough"? That's the million-dollar question! In fact the individual angler will have to decide himself how much bait to introduce to tempt a carp into picking up the hookbait. It may be a little as the hookbait and a three-bait stringer. Or maybe the hookbait, a stringer, a handful of crumb and a dozen freebies. You'll have to decide for yourself. On Le Q. I regard small amount of Robin Red & Hempseed as 'enough'.
Things move fast in the carp world these days so strike while the iron's hot. Get out there and be a pioneer! It’s so much more satisfying that following the crowd! Back in the day when I first started carping in my Cornwall I though there was only one or two carp waters in the county. Then I started exploring and discovered many more! Catching them was a doddle!