An Introduction to Carp Fishing for Beginners: The Lazy Way to Relax

Few pastimes take on reliably low cost, with fishing in general one conjures huge bags of bait on a weighted trolley and catalogs of kit. Nothing could be further from the truth. The basic requirements for 'carping' are, a fishing license, a cargo rod with good spool of line, selection of hooks, some weights, some bait and a few ancillary items. A rod rest and somewhere comfortable to sit completes the itinerary, and off you go. Food and drink are usually mandatory! Books and sketchpads, MP3 players, knitting and other accessories are optional. Fishing requires the art of patience.

I fish to relax primarily, if I catch a fish it's a bonus. Keep this is mind. Variables such as weather, time of year and where the bait is placed, are just a few variables that decide your tally. As with any discipline you never stop learning.

Taking the first item, it's surprising how many folk forget this little piece of paper in the gathering of equipment. It can, however be very costly (up to 2500 in the UK) if confronted by the local bailiff without one, and gives you a free criminal record to boot! Coarse fishing (Carp are coarse fish) licenses can be obtained from your local post office, online, direct debit or via the telephone from the Environmental Agency and range from a day, 8 day and full seasons duration. Bear in mind the season ends 31st march every year regardless of the date purchased. There are concessions for under 16's and over 65's. If you have a Blue Badge parking concession or receive Disability Living Allowance you have to provide your badge number or national insurance number at the time of purchase. Under 12's do not need a license, and if fishing with 3 or more rods you need a second license. For full pricing and further details are obtainable from the Environmental Agency website. Keep this license safe on your person, not in the car, where you could be in for a long walk or someplace where it could be mislaid.

Equipment for a beginner is daunting. Any modern angling shop is a plethora of technicality. Ask for help, before getting lost and losing fishing time. Firstly, you need a good carp rod and 'bait runner' reel. Then come the line and hooks. I personally would buy the hooks first. 'Hair' rigs are a good start. Here the hook sits above the bait which is placed on the hair, an extended piece of line running below the hook approx. 1-1.5 "long with a loop at the end. A plastic 'bait stop' slips into this loop, to prevent the bait from slipping off. You drop the lot in long grass! One of the many 'baptisms' for beginners.

Size of hook is up to you, I would go for ready made hook / tracks / hairs rather than making your own, they are more expensive, however we need to get fishing straight away do not we? So it cuts out the 'fiddling'. I have used many sizes of barbless hook depending on the size of fish your after. Barbless are required at almost all fishing lakes. Make sure you use them, some owners come around and check! Smaller hooks will increase your chances of any fish. Go for mid-sizes and differenting trace breaking strains, the line on the hook available in varying lengths. A starting point is 3-6 hooks to start with depending on your budget. I would then buy the main line. This needs to be a greater breaking strain than the trace. Again ask for advice on compatibility.

So, we've got the rod, reel, line, hooks all we need now is some weights to hold the line down on the bottom. 'Bombs' are a good starter. Buy a few in the range less than 1oz. To start. Maybe 3-6 they do get lost. Securing them to the line is done by either a sliding loop knot or 'lead' shot. Seek advice here from your angling friend or crimp some shot above and below the weight to secure it approx. 1-2ft. Above the hook and experiment. Put the weight on before tying on the hook!

Bait. This is the pandoras box! Everyone has their ideal mix of hook bait. We're not using ground bait today, and some lakes do not allow it anyway. Google it for more info. Most folk use 'boilies', a name derived from a stage in their manufacture. They are quite simply stiff balls of baitmix flavored with all sorts of goodies, that carp love, allegedly! Try a small bag of 2 or 3 different types. There are new varieties every season each purporting to be the best. Fish get bored easily you see, they like new flavors, they get 'wise' over time to bait flavors, especially in smaller lakes.

Inexpensive baits are probably on your shelves at home. Sweet corn, luncheon meat, pepperami, yep! Carp love it! Try anything, even ham and bread will work, and apply it directly to the hook. You will more than likely pick up some roach with sweet corn and a small hook. Most lakes stock other fish as well as carp. Roach are also expert in stripping soft larger carp bait, such as luncheon meat cubes, hence the use of the harder boilies.

An essential 'tool' required is a bait needle. This is needed to thread the boilie onto the hair, essential. I always keep a spare. The bait stops, a simple rod rest and we're ready to go! Nearly. A landing net is probably the next most expensive item after the reel and rod and the almost the last item to purchase. You can do without, but personally I would not go fishing without one, but that's just me. I've lost too many fish which slip the hook 6 "from the bank.

Assuming you are going to catch at some point, a disgorger and / or a pair of artery forceps, I keep both, are necessary to remove the barbless hook without damaging the fish. Some fish will throw the hook in the landing net, saving you the job, try not to kneel on it !. The disgorger is slid down the line and hook and gently rotated in the direction of hook whilst pushing gently down. I prefer the slim long forcep technique, primarily because I'm used to handling them.

You will attain your own preference with experience and type of hook placement. You can then pose with your fish for the photo album before quickly returning your prize to the water, either by hand, I prefer this, or via the net. Doing it by hand ensures the fish has fully recovered before releasing it. Make sure your hands are wet before handling the fish, they usually will be, but gloves or excessively dry hands may remove the fishes protective mucus coat. Fish also have a knack of swimming back into the net the wrong way! So now we're off!

Choosing a location to fish is down to personal choice. Usually one is introduced to fishing via an acquaintance, friend or family member who uses a certain favorite 'spot' and already fish. If you're a newbie, then access to a PC will reveal a coarse fishing lake in your area. You could also try the canals, the odd carp do lurk! They seem to get everywhere. I caught one unexpectedly, in a welsh river. The odds of catching in a commercially run lake are probably better though, and if you do not catch on your first fishing expedition you are most likely going to consider another pastime. Even if only one is landed it keeps your interest to catch more!

Payments to fish on private lakes are usually allocated as' day 'tickets', not expensive and vary dependent on the venue. Once at the lakeside, finding a good 'peg' or fishing spot on the bank to establish your arsenal of equipment is a matter of experience or luck, dependent on whether you have an angler with you or not. There's always one guy on the lake who reels in one after another, do not let this put you off, we're here to relax remember!

Sit yourself down having cast your bait and stowed your rod on the rest. Now soak up the day. The 'baitrunner' will do the work and notify you of a fish as it screams away the line. Get used to the clutch! Practice getting the right tension to avoid line breaks. Take in the sunshine or the rain, the clouds, the flora and the fauna. There are many sights to behold. In warmer weather dragonflies, damson fly's, stoats, kingfishers (they're great anglers!), Otters and in the dusk, water voles scurry for dropped bait if your quiet enough, they love sweet corn! Beware of bats flying into your lines at dusk, it's usually time to pack up at this time, most lakes do not allow night fishing, check on arrival!

Do not forget your camera or phone for the pictures, it's obligatory to relate stories of your adventures in the bar that evening too ….. we have to keep the myth going! So that's it, I do hope you give carp fishing some thought, it's a great day out in the fresh air, in nature and feeds the mind. It is a very lazy introduction to fishing, you might get hooked yourself!

To your good health and success

Steve Sandilands

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