LESSONS LEARNT Part 1: Frustratingly beaten by frozen lakes, STEVE RENYARD reveals how you can use the knowledge he’s gained over the years to master weekend sessions.


Angler: Steve Renyard
UK PB: 48lb 8oz
Sponsors: Richworth, Ultima, Shimano and Nash
Our Weekender puts his record on the line each month
and he often catches to order.

Mother Nature has once again let us know who’s in control of our carp fishing destiny. With a trip to a water in the Cotswolds planned in hope of a winter cracker, I was really looking forward to getting out on the bank. However, a prolonged spell of freezing weather has seen lakes up and down the country ice over, so it’s no surprise come the weekend of the feature that I am in fact not going angling at all.

The Weekender series has become the driving force behind my fishing these days. I get out two weekends a month, so my time is precious and important. Each time I go, therefore, I’m hungry for success. Not only do I want to succeed for the cameras and the feature, but I need to get my ‘fix’ too. In fact, I actually thrive on the added pressure that it puts on my fishing.
I’ve been doing this series for seven years and it has seen me tackle all manner of waters and trial a wide variety of tactics and baits. With limited time, and often facing an unfamiliar venue, getting the tactics right as quickly as possible is vital. This will be a similar situation to what many of you face so, with no chance of getting the rods out, I thought it the perfect opportunity to take stock of my experiences and pass on what I’ve learnt.

Weekend angling can be difficult, not least because it’s when most of us get the chance to go. The result is that it’s when venues are at their busiest and, consequently, the carp are under the most pressure. In this situation they shut down, or more accurately, are constantly on their guard. They’ll spend time in mid-water, away from the ‘dangers’ of the lake bed, and when they do feed, they will do so tentatively.

Gut feeling plays a big part in swim choice, which comes from experience. However, access to marginal features or having the option to fish at long range are two key things that I’ll look for when arriving at a busy venue. Your average carp angler can probably fish up to 100, or maybe 120, yards. So, being able to fish competently beyond this range, say up to 160 yards, will work in your favour. It’ll give you access to an area of the lake in which the carp aren’t used to being caught and where they will be under the least amount of pressure when the banks are packed. Switching to using fluorocarbon leaders and lighter main line, say 10lb, can give you vital extra yards on your casts.

You have to get to know your quarry and learn the carp’s habits. Some anglers have the luxury of fishing a water session after session and learning the specific traits of the carp that they’re chasing. When you’re targeting a different venue from one session to the next you need to take what you know about carp as a species and use that in your favour. On this front, angler pressure is the overriding factor in how the carp behave and they will get as far away from it as they can. This is also why snaggy areas should never be ignored. The carp feel safe here, and will congregate when under pressure.

Wellington Country Park was a classic example of carp switching off when the lake became busy. With just two or three anglers on the lake you could catch five or six carp in a night, but as soon as it was busy you had to really work for a bite. A couple of mates used to fish on a Thursday night and would often catch two or three. Come Friday, when the lake started to fill up and the carp knew that they were about to be descended upon en masse, it was often the end of the action. If you can nick an extra night either side of your usual weekend session it can be the difference between success and failure. On numerous occasions I’ve stopped on for the Sunday night because bites have been few and far between throughout the weekend, and by Monday morning I’ve had a couple of decent fish.

The most recent example was the feature that I did on Southlake in Reading that went into the December 2010 issue. I had four bites on the Sunday night, landing three to just under 30lb and losing one, having not had a bite from Friday through to Sunday evening. On this particular session the lake was busier than normal and the carp had responded by congregating in the snags at one end along a no-fishing bank; the perfect example of them escaping angling pressure. The only swims that could target these areas were taken, so I had to make the best of the situation in front of me. However, come Sunday night, when most of the anglers had left, the carp ventured out from their sanctuary and fed.

Effort equals reward and those that work at their fishing, pay attention to detail and are willing to go that bit further to tempt a bite will, more often than not, be the most successful by some margin. One thing that I’ve been doing for the past 20 years is hone my hook points using a nailfile to ensure that they’re as sharp as possible. That extra percentage will get extra bites. The adaptability, and willingness, to alter your approach is a must and also fits under the banner of ‘effort’. There are occasions when you’ll only get a bite using a zig rig, which I detest using by the way, or a floater or perhaps a certain bait. Those that work at it, trying various things until they get a bite, will be the most consistent anglers by far, especially when flitting from one venue to another.

I remember turning up for a session on Linear Fisheries’ St John’s Lake and, as per usual, it was packed. There was one swim left in the corner at the far end, into which the journalist and I crammed. There was an overhanging bush on the far margin and I’d spotted a couple of fish milling around the area, again snaggy, as they tried to hide from the pressure. Rather than simply casting tight to the bush I made the effort to cast onto the far bank, walk around the lake and then place my rigs and baits by hand. There were six carp caught from the water that weekend. I had five, including a 33lb common, and the journalist had the other one. That’s the difference a little extra effort can make.

The use of fluorocarbon has been a huge edge, especially when it comes to catching during the day. Carp, particularly pressured ones, will feed by sight during daylight hours. If you can eliminate the possibility of them seeing your rig, be that the hook link or leader, they are far more likely to pick up the bait. If they can’t detect anything wrong with the bait by sight then the only other way that they can test it is to pick it up in their mouth. Providing your rig’s sound, you’re in. When fishing through the summer you may have 18 hours of daylight, so it becomes even more important that you hide your presentation, and what better way to do so than with a material that’s virtually invisible underwater. Fluorocarbon leaders and my fluorocarbon basic-complicated rig is therefore the setup that I will start a session with – on a couple of rods at least. I’m always willing to adapt, but this is a starting point that I’m confident with no matter where I’m fishing.

A part of fishing that’s rarely written about is failure. Sometimes, no matter how experienced you are or how hard you work, it just doesn’t pan out and you blank, but that’s carp fishing. There have been times on Weekender when I simply haven’t been able to tempt a bite, but if we emptied every lake on every session then we’d soon all get bored of carp fishing. The challenge, and consequently the achievement of catching, is what we get our kicks from. You have to learn from your failures. Not only does this give you a little more ammunition for your next session, if you pack up having learnt something then the session’s been a productive one, even if you haven’t caught.

To be a competent carp angler you have to have it in your veins and want to be out there chasing your quarry, doing something that you love. If you have that then you’ll enjoy whatever’s thrown at you. I love fishing every venue I go to, and I think that this comes across in my fishing and allows me to enjoy every minute on the bank, even when I’m really up against it. You should never lose sight of the fact that your fishing should be enjoyable. After all, that’s the reason we all started going in the first place.