Catching carp from a river is one of those dreams that most of us anglers have, problem is most of almost always put it off for another day which ends up being another season entirely, the thing is though river carp are some of the easiest to catch if you know how to take them on.
There are five key things that you need to remember when targeting river carp, the first of which is by far the most important.
Location: Choose a stretch of river that suits you
Rivers often seem daunting to many, mile after mile of moving water with little more than bridges and the odd shrub to count as features but if you divide it up in to manageable sections you’re straight on to a winner.
Finding carp in rivers is often more simple than you think but there are certain characteristics of any given stretch of river that make it more or less likely to hold numbers of carp.
Stretches near prolific carp lakes or within its flood plain, syndicates or fisheries are a great bet.
As are those which regularly see course matches, people feeding ducks and of course stretches which have a long undisturbed length of river, meaning there is no locks or cut-offs.
Find a stretch near you that covers those points off but also is a manageable length, i.e the distance between two locks, concentrate your efforts there.
Effort: Keep on your toes and catch a ‘worldy’
Catching carp on rivers is not going to be easy.
Though once you actually find them, find a spot to angle for them and get a bait in front of them that wont get picked up by a bream your tactics can be pretty crude, but you need to put in the effort first to get that pay off.
The main issue with locating your target is the lack of visibility, its difficult to watch more than a 50 yard stretch at any give time, there could be a 10 strong shoal just a few swims down leaping out the water but you would be none the wiser.
Walking at first and last night as well as spotting on hot sunny days for basking fish is vital.
Of course you could cheat and look online for signs of people fishing in that area, though most are quiet and it is very rare to come across a carp angler on any stretch, there is sure to be some note online about your area from the past.
Bait: Confuddled by what bait to use on rivers?
Your choice of bait is absolutely pivotal to your success on the rivers, a lot more so than any lake or pit.
You have two big problems, firstly you need to use enough bait to hold fish in an area or bait up regularly enough to counter-act the volume.
Secondly and the biggest problem is the Bream, slabs, snotties, bastards. Whatever you want to call them, it’s a big problem.
There is literally no point in using particle to pre bait, pellets and most boilies fall in to the same category. I say most boilies, unless they are 22mm or above, you might as well throw them down the drain.
In my book you have a couple of choices with your baiting approach, either you have the time and budget to bait up most days with several kilos of particles, pellets, large boilies and a handful of tigers in the hope that the bream will focus on the smaller stuff.
Or you can go for my favorite baiting approach of all time, a handful of super sweet tigers. These bad boys have the pulling power of any bait you have ever seen, I’ve seen them described as the equivalent to sweets for children, couldn’t describe it better myself.
All you need is a kilo or two of raw, hard tigers, a bag of sugar and some talin (Check the CC Moore site). Soak the tigers for a day or two in water, then boil them up for 35-45 minutes with some talin, add to a bucket including the juices, throw in 500g of sugar per kilo of tigers, cover them up and put them away for a couple of weeks, maybe more.
Check and stir them every now and again, they will go to a slime, very sticky, but just leave them until this turns in to a preserving alcoholic liquid which will keep the tigers fresh for years, seriously. If you keep them covered in liquid, you might need to top it up, they wont go off.
Find your spots on the river, then add a handful of these awesome-nuts every night or two.
They won’t fill the carp up, they almost certainly wont be eaten by the bream but they will pull the carp in from hundreds of yards away as they seek out that sweet smell oozing from the tigers. Keep these going in and when you turn up, use a small PVA stick with a few nuts, one balanced on the hair and expect a quick bite.
Note: Don’t use too many tigers, a dozen or so nuts on several spots covering half a mile of river is more than enough to give them the taste. Tigers are not particularly good for carp so make sure you prepare them properly and don’t use too many. Less is more, even kids get sick after too many sweets!
Rigs: Keep it clean, simple and confident
I wouldn’t worry too much about using any complicated rigs, just stick to what you know works and keep it simple.
River carp do not see the pressures of their lake-bread relatives so they have no reason to be wary.
Just make sure your rig is functional, your hook is sharp and your end tackle is capable of landing your targets.
Rivers often have lots of underwater snags so a strong mainline, large hooks and fishing locked up is the order of the day.
Remember that in flowing water your rigs may sit differently if not positioned correctly, try to ensure you cast with the flow, allowing your rig to be down stream of your lead to avoid any tangles.
Mobility: Stay on your toes or don’t bother
Carp move, there is no getting around that, if you’re struggling on your stretch, up sticks and go somewhere else, dont sit behind motionless rods especially if you have spotted fish elsewhere.
Ideally you want to have several spots pre-baited along your stretch, an hour or two in each in enough to get a run or see signs of fish in the area, travel light and don’t be scared to up sticks on the hunt for fish.
Remember that we go fishing to catch fish, not to sit and watch our rods.
Tilt the odds in your favour by pre-baiting several spots along your chosen stretch, ideally with some areas you can visually keep tabs of carp, margins under overhanging trees that you can climb or shallow bars are perfect for this.
Carp move up and down any given stretch looking for sources of food so if you can see the spots that they clear, you can track them down quicker.
This is a great little video for anyone who wants some further research.
Quick tip for anyone in Northants: The Nene around Northamptonshire holds a large number of big carp, mainly because of the copious amount of escapees from the valleys’ syndicates. Between Stanwick Lakes and Wellingborough certainly holds a good number of 30′s with rumours of bigger. The stretches from Weston mill to Ecton lakes is also well worth a look, carp to mid 30′s have been caught with trustworthy anglers claiming to have seen bigger.