Saturday, 10 August 2013

Surface fishing for carp - The beachcaster rig - hot stuff!

Over the years I have spent an awful lot of time sat behind carp rods, in fact when I think back I sometimes wonder what I would have caught if I hadn't become so engrossed in the one species. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed myself immensely and nothing beats a capture after a long period of hard work. Catching nothing for weeks, and in some cases months, on end was the way my fishing went for years. Hard waters captivated my imagination and you have to get into the mindset of taking the rough with the smooth, the fact is though you spend a hell of a lot of time waiting and if I had the hard figures on paper in front of me now I'm sure that I would be shocked at just how much time I spent sitting next to water doing nothing much. Marriage and a mortgage changed all of that, no longer could I dedicate so much time and in many ways that is what led me back to my roots and fishing for other species and I see that as a major result, my eyes were opened. I have always kept a couple of carp tickets but each year I use them less and less and my main water is now difficult for me to fish due to distance and the time required to get there, over night sessions are impossible, I have to face the fact that I really must decline the ticket next year but I do still enjoy a bit of carping. A local fishery became available to me this spring and though I was in two minds I eventually decided to join. Being only twenty minutes from home gives me the option of short sessions and as a rule that is how my fishing is done, it has to fit in and around my fairly hectic lifestyle.

The ticket landed on the door mat back in June but I can't honestly say that I felt inspired to use it, it got shoved in my licence wallet and forgot to be honest. As July went on the thermometer shot up and we experienced another good dose of extreme weather, we don't seem to get much "middle of the road" nowadays do we, if it rains it pours, if it blows it's a gale and when we finally get a summer it just about knocks you off your feet with roasting temperatures. Whilst dripping my way around behind the lawnmower trying to ignore the voice in my head that said knock off for the day the thought of dog biscuits suddenly came to mind. Yes, heat stroke had set in! As I've said many times before by far my favourite way of catching fish is when you can see them and in that weather there was only one place that any self respecting carp would be, on top. I managed to restrain myself for long enough to get another couple of jobs done before rushing home to create chaos in what is already the tackle store from hell. I tidy it, it becomes a mess, that cycle repeats itself several times through the year and the tidy spells never last for long. Sorting out some kind of floater set up was no easy task and bags and boxes were liberally distributed across half of the house before I was set to go and I can't even try to claim that there was any semblance of organisation in the end result.

Dear me it was hot, I let myself in through the gate and pulled up under a tree before I was anywhere near the lake to knock a cold can of pop back before venturing on. I had been told that the lakes get very busy but only two anglers were in sight on the one that I planned on fishing, probably two of the only three daft enough to bother I thought. I left my kit in the van and set off along the bank to see if I could find some willing victims but I only got a couple of hundred yards before I turned tail and shot back to the van, it was black with them.

I've always said that there is nothing as exciting yet stressful as floater fishing and that is usually compounded greatly by the weather conditions that make you want to do it in the first place. By the time I had got back to the swim with my tackle I was virtually collapsing and I shot straight into the last remaining sliver of shade and glugged away at a bottle of water while trying to compose myself. Two pouches of dog biscuits were quickly fired out and within a minute the curse of the floater angler arrived, gulls, they have the ability to ruin your day before you've even wet a line and there is only one way I know of to deter them, the beachcaster rig. For some reason they absolutely hate a line going from rod tip to float up in the air and avoid it like the plague. Luckily I had chucked the required components into my bag and so the controller floats were cast aside while I set up what in essence appears to be an incredibly crude rig but is one which has the ability to fool both feathered and scaley opponents.

The components of the rig are very simple, a heavy lead tied to the end of the line, a buffer bead above that followed by a large float, a bead with a small internal diameter and then a free running swivel to which is attached your hooklink. That is the easy bit, what makes the rig work is a combination of stop knots. The first knot stops the float, hence the small bore bead, this knot has both tag ends trimmed tight to the know and so it stops the float but allows the swivel to pass freely, you typically set this knot at about 1.5 times the depth of the water but there is room for adjustment. You then tie two further stop knots further up the line by about eight feet towards the rod, these catch the swivel and allow you to suspend the hooklink on the water's surface. On the first knot up from the float you trim only the tag end facing the float, the swivel can pass over but not slide back, the next knot you trim in the opposite direction and this is intended to stop the swivel from sliding too far up the line. That is the theory, in practice many variable affect how the rig behave, swivel bore and bait size can cause the hooklink to slide over all of the knots in some circumstances and worse of all you can find that the hooklink doesn't go over the first knot and ends up on top of the float. A high lob of a cast helps with this due to the time that the rig is in the air causing more resistance but it is a method which requires a lot of trial and error to get right and having used it for twenty odd years or so I can assure you that when it goes wrong you want to throw the rod in! When it comes to hookbaits all you need is something to create a silhouette, it could be a cork ball, bit of foam or whatever though some weight is an advantage particularly if there is a breeze, I tend to use a pop up boilie trimmed down to make it a bit rough looking. After casting out if all goes to plan the hooklink is suspended with no line at all touching the water, you do this by positioning the rod in an upright position, hence the name beachcaster, and adjusting the baitrunner bit by bit until you have get it right.

beachcaster rig carp fishing
The easy bit

For once miraculously the rig worked at the first attempt and was soon sitting pretty while I fired out a few more dog biscuits and the gulls circled overhead squawking in disgust. The carp were straight on to the feed and slurped down the free offerings rapidly before after only ten minutes one slipped up on the hook bait and the rod buckled over. When you first use the beachcaster it takes a bit of getting used to picking up the large amount of slack line before you make full contact with the fish, this was even more apparent in the fifteen foot or so deep swim I was fishing which meant about thirty feet of line to wind in. The fish put up a very disappointing fight and was soon waddling along the margins in front of me, I put it at a mid double until I netted it when I twigged that it was a bit bigger, I guess the clear water made it deceiving as it was actually 21lb 8, it was like I'd never been away!

surface fishing carp floater
21lb 8

With the rig out of the water the gulls moved in and demolished the remaining free offerings but as soon as I repositioned the rod they cleared off and I started to build the swim up once again only to have a swan arrive and really scupper my plan. Now swans don't care if your line is in the air or not, if they want your biscuits they will have them and the only way I know of to keep them away is to feed them off elsewhere and with my time, and biscuit supply, limited that wasn't an option. I persevered for another hour or so but I was constantly having to lift the hook bait from the surface to avoid hooking my feathered friend which combined with the sweat running in my eyes was starting to really irritate me and eventually I gave up.

A hundred yards or so back towards the van I could see more bow waves cutting through the surface and being out of sight of the swan I decided to try my luck there. Once again the response to the introduced bait was instant and I had several fish swirl at the hookbait without hooking up. One of the disadvantages of the rig is that the bait is under tension, if the fish attempt to take if delicately they are up against the resistance which makes it difficult to suck in. Of course the opposite effect is that it is self hooking in other circumstances. After an hour or so though another carp made a mistake and the float shot off sideways as I started to wind down. This fella at least gave me a proper battle before being enveloped in the mesh and at 23lb 9oz's I was more than happy. The fish were still mopping up the biscuits as I played that one and so I quickly got the rig back out and within minutes I was in again, this being a smaller fish of 16lb's but one with pretty scaling. I decided that I would retreat at that point, the two litres of water that I had were gone and I still felt dehydrated, a nice cold beer was in order.

surface fishing carp floaters
23lb 9

I was back the next afternoon and if anything in even hotter conditions. I made straight for the first swim I had caught from and found less fish present but still enough to make it a worthwhile prospect. As I expected less fish meant less competition for the bait and it took longer to get a good feeding response but once again the rig did the business and I had another quality fish of 23lb 10oz's on the bank. That disturbed the remaining fish and although I gave it another hour they weren't going to get back on to the feed and I moved off to try and find a better option. I trawled around the lake and the adjoining one for the next few hours finding small groups of fish here and there but only one very small common was caught and by eight pm I was just about ready to drop, in fact I found a nice shady spot and just lay on the grass for half an hour before heading off home. Next time I suggest that it's about time we had some hot weather please feel free to hit me!

floater fishing surface carp
23lb 10

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