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Tips for fishing a busy water
Here’s the scenario, you get to your chosen water and it’s rammed! You walk around the lake and there are one or two pegs left and you are unsure where to fish.
First of all, walk into the pegs and have a look at what they offer. Don't go bounding into it standing right at the front of it looking into the water. There may be fish already in there and you would just scare them off. Creep in and check if there are any margins, let's say with reeds or bushes/treeline where you can put one rod. Are other anglers able to cut you off and interfere with your fishing? If the peg is in a corner is there a cold wind blowing into it? If so I doubt any fish will visit it but you never know. If there is no wind and it's calm don't be put off that it's in the corner, especially if it is warm and there's surface scum in there. This scum can carry a lot of bugs on the surface and carp will go there to feed on them. Also the carp will feel more secure there due to the cover on the surface.
Just a couple of points if you do end up fishing in between anglers. Be courteous and go and ask them where they are casting their rod that is closest to you so you give them some space. Also, I wouldn't bother asking if they've seen any fish because I very much doubt they will tell you if they have because they more than likely don't want you fishing next to them. Also, it will knock your confidence if they say, no they've seen nothing.
Once you've picked your chosen swim, set up as quietly as you can and keep well back from the edge of the water. Don't get hammering in bank sticks or bivvy pegs because this is not only frowned upon but you will scare away any fish that are close to you and the person you are fishing next to.
The reason I'm saying all of this is because you need to think about what the carp might be thinking or feeling. With all these anglers on the lake, there's a lot of noise from people doing what I've just told you not to do. Also, they will be casting in marker floats, spod's and spombs making a lot of noise. If I was the carp I would head for the quietest place on the lake and that could be the swim you are about to set up in!
Don't get fooled that on all lakes spodding will attract fish because it won't. Some lake's it can but on other lakes, it can work against you. Read my blog when I was fishing on Kevin Nash’s Church lake and you will understand why.
With all this in mind, think about how to approach fishing the water you have in front of you. You need to approach it like there are fish in your swim because it’s been quiet unless you know someone has just vacated it. If they have, ask them where they have been fishing and fish over their bait and with a single hook bait to start. If not, and it's been vacant for some time, look to see if there's anything you can fish to like an island you can cast to or that margin with overhanging trees or bushes. Ideally, you want one cast per rod or the least casts you can make and having something you can visually see to fish to is easier and quieter than crashing a marker float or lead around trying to find a spot because if there are fish in the area this can spook them off. Ideally, if you are fishing with three rods, you may want to reduce it to two rods to cause less commotion.
If you are fishing in open water and you are unsure of the bottom and any known feeding spots, make any feature finding as quiet as possible. If it was me I would look for an area where no one can bother me and where I feel the carp may visit. One place is the marginal shelf but make sure the area you fish is not somewhere where people can disturb your spot by making noise walking past it or standing by it. Try and choose a quiet area tucked under a bush or against some reeds. If this isn't possible, fish a bit further out but still close to the bottom of the shelf.
If you need to fish in open water get your marker or spod rod and use a tournament casting lead, these are the torpedo-shaped one's. When these hit the water they don't make the splash like flat-sided or marker leads do. No, these aren't the best for feature finding but remember we just want to make sure the bottom where you wish to fish is clear with minimum disturbance. Cast it out and feel it down to see if you can feel a drop. If you can't do this don't worry, just gently tighten up to the lead then slowly pull back. If it's free you know it's clear or there may be some very fine weed which would be fine to fish over as any feeding fish will soon clear it away. If you are unsure, start fishing with a pop-up. One thing you can do is before you cast out is tie an old rig onto the swivel of the lead and if there is weed the hook of the rig should bring it back. If there's resistance there could be weed or it's plugged in silt or clay. Just pull back slightly and see if it pulls free and once you reel in just check the lead to see if there's any silt or clay on it. Assuming I cast out and it is clear, I will tighten up to the lead and clip up on my spool. I will then gently pull back slowly for a couple of rod lengths to see if I can feel anything else like gravel. If I do find a spot I feel would be better to fish on, I will clip up and reel in, recording the distance on my distance sticks. I will try and do this with as few casts as possible, preferably one cast per spot, trying to keep the disturbance down to a minimum.
So hopefully you find a clear spot on your first or second cast and you've clipped up using your distance sticks so you know the distance. I would then just use as light a lead as possible in the tournament-style. Also, I would use a Hi-Viz hook bait with a small PVA stick attached and cast that onto the spots I'm fishing and wait to see if anything happened over the next few hours.
If there are fish in your swim and you've managed to do all of this without spooking the fish away you could be in for a quick bite. If this happens this would make all the effort worth it. If you've sat for hours with no signs of any fish you could scatter some bait over your spots. Remember when putting out free offerings it doesn't have to be perfectly on the spot. When putting out boilies I like a large spread to keep the carp looking for the bait and when they find your hook bait they don't necessarily think it's a danger zone.
I hope this helps but if you only take one thing away with you, then make it setting up quietly and with the least amount of disturbance as possible because this could make all your fishing trips more productive. Just because you can't see the fish doesn't mean they aren't there!