01.10.15

Make the most of your autumn carping!

Autumn, just like the spring, is many carp anglers’ favourite time to be out on the bank. Why? Well, with the fish on the feed and getting ready for the onslaught of winter, it means that there’s usually a chance to put a fish or two on the bank. Couple that with the distinct possibility that the larger fish in your venues are more targetable than at other times, autumn is certainly not a time not to be missed!

My own fishing tends to be based around spring and autumn campaigns on the water that I fancy. This gives me a chance to recharge the batteries when the fishing can be a little slower during the midst of winter or when we get the heat of the summer. I do venture out to keep in touch with the venues I’m on though, which is always a good idea as it helps you to keep in tune with the water and the events that are taking place.

As with the other seasons, there’s always things you can do, a tweak to your approach maybe, that will in turn put the odds in your favour. Hopefully this piece will give an insight into how I like to approach my autumn campaigns and help you to shape your own campaign into a successful one.


WATERCRAFT

By far and away the most important aspect of fishing during the autumn (as with any other period!) is watercraft and the ability to find the fish. It also helps to be able to predict when the fish are going to get their heads down and therefore, when the best time to be on the bank is!

I’m a great believer of the ‘first light’ window when it comes to fish giving their presence away. I always make sure my alarm is set just before first light so I can get out of bed and watch the water as the sun is making its way above the horizon. On some lakes I have fished in the past, if you missed the first hour of daylight, you wouldn’t see another sign all through the day and you’d therefore be taking a guess at where the fish might be.

This brings me on nicely to predicting the fish’s movements. If I can’t get down the lake at first light (which is most occasions for me as I’m a weekend angler!) I like to keep an eye on the weather and what it’s doing. This isn’t necessarily during the time I’ll be there, but I’ll also keep a keen eye on the weather on the approach to the session. Keep an eye out for changes in conditions and new weather fronts coming in, especially after a prolonged spell of settled weather and air pressure.

On numerous occasions I have turned up at a lake knowing there would be a fresh wind and air pressure drop coming in later that evening or even the next day, and even though I’d set up in a swim currently devoid of fish, I knew I could get the rods out before they turned up and put myself in pole position when they did. This has paid dividends for me on numerous occasions and might be something you could add to your angling.

The main thing that will enable you to predict the fish’s movements is a build up of knowledge about your venue and the fish themselves. Every venue is different and this can be caused by a host of reasons. The only way to predict what the fish in your lake will be doing on a given day is a knowledge of what they have done before in similar conditions. Hopefully you will have gained this over the course of the season.

My own fishing usually revolves around fishing just one specific venue at a time. I find that this really helps me keep my finger on the pulse and gets me in a zone where I’m confident in where I think they’ll be. I always keep note of times the fish tend to be showing, as this helps me know when I need to be looking harder than at other times.

During recent years on the venues I’ve fished, one thing I’ve really noticed is that the fish seem to become more active in the hours of darkness at this time of year. Last autumn was no different and I’d usually be waiting until the hours of darkness to locate the fish and then set up where they are. This can be a real hassle but I’d rather know that I was on them than guess where they were. This resulted in a couple of cracking fish that proved making the effort was definitely worthwhile. If I’d set up in a main swim and chucked them out and gone to bed I’d never have heard the fish in the little corner of the lake, and my session would probably have ended as a blank.

One thing that helped the most when moving on to the fish was that I knew the spots in the swims really well. Throughout the year I always make sure that I fish around the lake and build up a map of the spots that I think will do bites. I carry around a little notepad in my rucksack that is like a bible to me. When setting up on fish, I want to get the rods out with minimal disturbance and I want to be fishing on an spot I think they’re more likely to feed, rather than just chucking out chods to them and hoping they’ll find them. This enables me to do both and I’m sure it helps no end. Once I’ve had a bite off a spot I’ll make sure that I note it down as it’s usually good for another!

Spots can change from spring to summer as the weed comes up and some spots can become unfishable, so it’s always worthwhile keeping an eye on them by running a lead over the areas whenever you have a chance. If it comes to late summer and the spots are still clear, it’s highly likely that these will stay as they are and allow you to fish them right throughout the autumn and winter.

This brings me on to the type of spot I’m looking for at this time of year. Last year was probably my best example of what I’m looking for when targeting a feeding spot. The lake I was fishing was barren of any great weed growth, so it could be a little bit of a headache as to where to place the hook baits. The lake was a typical one and had a mixture of all different areas but the type of areas I was trying to locate were silty ones.

At this time of year, the fish will be well on whatever naturals are available and the softer areas of silt are where there's going to be plenty of grub. It’s all well and good fishing in these areas and you will get bites, but my main preference is to find a harder spot within the thick silt by probing it with a marker rod and feeling for a harder drop. What I’m basically looking for is an area of firmer silt, which is usually like that because it’s been cleaned by the fish.

Once I've located the harder areas by feeling for the drop, I then make sure I pull the lead over them. What I'm looking for is a smooth glide over the bottom that doesn't feel like it's being dragged through anything. Ideally it should feel like you're dragging it over a piece of glass. The rod will usually compress and flick back slowly if you're pulling through heavier silt.

There are two reasons why I want my rig on this type of spot. The first is that this is likely to be where the fish come back to feed when in the area and the second reason is that I can fish with 100% confidence knowing my rig will be sat well, rather than buried in the silt.

Don’t get me wrong, areas of gravel will still produce fish but I’d rather be where the fish are more likely to feed. When the bottom has been turned over to the point the gravel is coming through, to me, it means that the area has been totally harvested and they will be more than likely be feeding elsewhere.

Also, always keep your eyes peeled for numerous shows in a particular area. On some lakes, the fish can really give the game away by doing this and letting you know that there’s something in that specific area that they like. It’s certainly worth pinpointing it, putting a rig on it but also note it down so you can easily locate it again.
Like any other time of year, try to ensure you stay mobile and get on the fish as often as possible. Being on, or being near them will only ever increase your chances of a bite. So make the effort and be prepared to move at the drop of a hat. My main motto is that effort equals reward.

What you put into your fishing you will always get back in terms of results. It’s always the anglers willing to put in the extra mile that catch what others may think is more than their fair share, but they’re just getting what they deserve. Whether this be moving in the dark or torrential rain (or both!), by making the extra effort it often leads to a well deserved result!


BAIT AND APPLICATION

We all know that autumn is a great time to be out because the fish are on the lookout for food! This can especially be the case after a warm summer when they’ve had a good spawn out. The fish use the autumn window to put on enough weight to help sustain them through the colder months, which in turn, means that there’s always a chance that the fish will be somewhere on your venue having a good feed at some point during your session.

My main baiting approach for the autumn is to use boilies. Without doubt, boilies are the best bait when it comes to helping the fish to get back into peak condition the quickest. When fishing, I try to apply enough bait throughout the season so that the fish recognise it as a good food source when it comes to this time of year. This way, I don’t have to fish over too much in order to get the bites I’m after, as the fish are at a point where they’ll drop down and feed on my bait without hesitation.

In a fishing situation, I always tend to bait fairly lightly. The way I see it is that on the venues I target, I’m fishing for a bite at a time or often, a quick bite. Fishing with massive beds of bait can sometimes hinder this approach, but this will differ from venue to venue. I don’t tend to fish heavily stocked waters, but if I was fishing a lake which had a bigger head of fish, I would certainly give them more bait in order to attract them in to the swim in the first place and then try to hold them there so I can keep the action coming.

My application of bait differs from water to water dependant on features. Last autumn, I was targeting large, open-water areas of silty bottom. This lent itself perfectly to spreading the bait over a large area with a throwing stick and then fishing my rods across it. I find spread baiting like this will grab the fish’s attention and then hold them in the area for longer as they search out all the bait. It also helps to get pickups as the fish will be travelling between each bait rather than be pinned to the bottom.

If I’m fishing a heavily weeded lake and I’m ‘spot fishing’ amongst it, that’s when I try to be far more accurate with my baiting. Using a stick and scattering the bait will work but I find it better to get the spod rod out and put the bait directly on the spot I’m fishing. I still don’t fish over too much bait and I also tend to try and move the spod through the water when it lands so that all the bait is still spreading as it’s descending through the water. This way it won’t all be in little piles and will keep the fish on the move whilst feeding.

If the weed surrounding the spot is low, I will still use the spread (throwing stick) approach. If you can get the fish feeding in and around the weed it will get their confidence up to much higher levels as they tend to feel much safer feeding in it.

At this time of year above any other, one tactic that can really pay off is pre-baiting. This can be done in many ways. The best way to do it in my opinion is to be at the lake on a regular basis and keep spots primed with smaller quantities. As I live a fair drive away from where I fish, my pre-baiting is usually done by putting out a decent hit of bait as I’m leaving the lake at the end of a session. I will usually do this by looking at the weather forecast and taking an educated guess on where the fish could end up during my time away and where they’re also likely to be when I get back.

The way I see it, by pre-baiting, I’m effectively fishing whilst not having rods out and it puts the odds firmly in my favour for when I’m back on the bank. It will also increase the odds of a quick bite as the fish’s confidence will increase no end when they're able to have a free meal.
One thing I will still do though is if I think I have a better chance elsewhere, I won’t hesitate in moving away from my pre-baited area. Sometimes, putting in large quantities can effectively tie you to a swim (it’s difficult not to let it!). But, if you see fish showing away from your area and you haven’t seen anything near you, it’s definitely time to draw the line, up sticks and get on them! There’s nothing better for confidence than knowing you’re well and truly on the fish.

One thing I will stress though, is to show some etiquette when pre-baiting your venue. The old saying is, ‘do to others as you would have done to you’. This basically means that if someone was to do the same thing to you, would you have a problem with it? If the answer is yes, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it! When pre-baiting, I tend to only do it if I have permission from the anglers that are fishing. This will only be asked for if I’m baiting an area well away from where they are, as asking for permission to bait the swim next door to someone will usually result in a negative response.

The main time I choose to pre-bait is when I’ve finished my session and the lake is empty. I will then use that opportunity to put some bait out. 90% of the time when fishing, my hook bait will be a pale or brighter version of the bait that I'm putting out. I've had really good success using white hookbaits all throughout the year and autumn is certainly no different. I don't think by using brighter hookbaits that it causes any harm, I honestly believe that if a fish sees it, more often than not it will pick it up, especially if an area has been primed.


RIGS

I tend to use only a few different rigs throughout the year and they'll change only due to the type of area I'm fishing or what kind of baiting approach I'm using. Like I said above, at this time of year my fishing is heavily based on boilies. This lends itself perfectly to fishing some type of pop-up rig. My favourite rig for this is the multi rig. There are various reasons for this but the main ones are:

1) I can fish it low on the deck, basically mimicking a bottom bait but with all the benefits of a pop up rig, i.e. better hook-holds and keeping the hook point off the bottom.
2) It always tends to sit well. Used in conjunction with the N-Trap semi-stiff hook link and an anti tangle sleeve, I can honestly say I've never had a tangle and the rig kicks out straight from the lead every time.
3) The way I see it, every little doubt that I can take out of my mind lets me concentrate on other aspects when I'm fishing.

My main rig advice would be to stick to what you know! If you have rigs that you're confident in and have caught you fish in the past, then those rigs will continue to catch for you at this time of year. Some people will scale down in the winter months but I always continue with what I know works. By scaling down, you run the risk of losing fish if the water you're fishing is full of snags or weed. When I fish, I want to land whatever I hook, so by using strong and reliable end tackle I know I have can play the fish with total confidence that my gear won't let me down.

One thing all my rigs will always have in common is a razor sharp hook. I take utmost care with my hook points and the moment I think they're not sharp enough, I'll change them. I'm a firm believer that the sharper your hook, the better chance you have of hooking the fish in the first place. I file all my own hooks and can't remember the last time I cast out without putting one on the rig. This is another huge benefit of using the multi rig as you can change the hook over quickly.

This year I've been using the Krank Choddy hooks in conjunction with the multi rig and I have been very impressed at the hook holds I've been getting. I've always been wary of using an in-turned point on a low multi rig as my thoughts were that it would close the gape between the point and the rig material and therefore reduce the hooking ability of the rig.

As soon as I saw the Krank Choddy I knew it was the ideal hook for the rig as the gape is extremely wide. Couple this with the fact it also has an in-turned point (which tend to get better hook holds), it's certainly proved to be a winning combination. They also sharpen really easily and I can get them how I want in double quick time.


COMFORT

One major thing that I can't stress enough as the colder months come around is that you stay comfortable whilst on the bank. There's nothing worse than looking across a lake when it looks miserable and you're freezing cold. It's amazing how much your outlook can change just by staying warm and keeping yourself fed properly.

If you're not comfortable on the bank then it’s more than likely you’ll not be enjoying your session and that’ll make you want to pack up! As the saying goes, “you'll never catch them at home.”

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