Surface fishing for carp

In the warmer months one of the most affective methods is surface fishing for carp. As the water warms up carp spend much of their time in the upper layers, so presenting a bait on or near the surface can get fantastic results. For me surface fishing comes in several forms. There are various methods and approaches that you can take when catching fish off the top. Within this article write about my approach.

Stalking carp on the surface

Stalking carp off the top is probably my favourite approach to surface fishing. Here we become hunters, where we try to find our quarry and apply stealth and intense focus to capture our target. You hide behind trees, in reeds and bushes. You get scratched, stung by nettles and get random cramps where you’ve been crouched in weird positions for ages! You watch the water like a heron – you are still, quiet, trying not to be there.

roundtail common

Above: A 35lb 4oz common which took the bait just a few feet from the bank – whist I crouched behind some reed stems.

This is the perfect method for the angler on a limited amount of time. You’re not putting in loads of bait or trying to get something going. You’ve not got time for the bait and wait game. You’re finding the fish and you are discreetly trying to winkle one out! You don’t need lots of tackle and you don’t need lots of bait so it’s perfect for the opportunist angler.

It is essential that you wear clothes that help you blend into the surroundings. You’ve definitely got to keep low, and stay off the skyline. One of the most important things of all is to wear a decent pair of polarised glasses, because only by wearing these will you be able to find and watch your target properly.

Once you’ve found a few fish (and this can take numerous laps of the lake) place your gear down well away from the waters edge. Get behind something-bush, some reeds, a tree – you’ll be amazed how close they will come to you when they don’t know that you are there! I then simply just watch the fish. What path are they taking in, what route around the swim are they circulating. I then start to throw in a few mixers or sticky floaters. Not too many at first just a couple at a time. Then again patiently wait to see their reaction. If a fish starts to take one or two then start to add a few more.

sticky floaters

Above: Mixers are the obvious choice but I’ve also had some decent results mixing these with Sticky Floaters.

Once they are taking confidently and within casting range then it’s time to position a hookbait. For this type of fishing I wouldn’t use a controller, it will simply freeline a trimmed down pop-up on a very short hair, to a size 10 Korda Mixa hook and either 10lb or 12lb breaking strain leader, consider what’s around you – snags, pads, weed etc. I opt for Korda Kruiser Control as a leader of about 6 foot in length. This is tied grinner to grinner style to 15lb mainline. I also make sure the mainline is a floating line not a heavy sinking line that drags everything down in the water. Also consider using vaseline or a way to greece up the leader to make sure it sits nicely on the surface.

surface fishing for carp

Above: Elvis at 35lb from Walthamstow taken with another couple of fish, all from separate spots around a large reservoir.

Getting this close to the fish when surface fishing for carp is perfect. If you’ve got a few fish in front of you then I tend to watch the one that I want. In what other style of fishing can you actually try and pick your fish! Watch that specific fish before you cast out. Again watch the path it’s taking and try and predict where it’s going to be a few seconds before it’s there. We want to place this hookbait in its path but not so close to the fish that you spook it, so it’s important that you can predict where it’s going. So don’t hurry to get the hookbait in the water, watch the fish, understand its movements and try and predict its behaviour. For me this part is so important to picking out the better fish and getting a result. Make sure you’re not casting AT the fish – you’ll just spook them. Remember be discrete, slow, delicate, hidden – stay unnoticed.

This is a fantastic method on rivers too. You can wonder or ride a bike along the river and apply the same method once you’ve found a few fish. The only difference is that I tend to use bread on the rivers because the fish are more used to seeing this as people feed the ducks and swans. I may still feed with a few mixers but tend to use bread on the hook – and a larger hook too, like a size 4 and at least 12lb line because the river just tends to be more snaggy.

surface fishing river lea carp

Above: A stunning fully scaled carp stalked from the River Lea.

This is a great method – so on a hot day grab a few bits n bobs, be stealthy and catch some carp!

Creating a mass feeding situation

This is a great method on lakes that have a reasonable stock of fish. You need to create a feeding situation where the fish are competing with eachother. The technique involves introducing mixers using the spomb and lots of them. Often I’ll have 8kg of mixers. I set up the spod rod with a medium sized spomb. Another tip is to cover your mixers in hemp oil which I buy from the supermarket as it’s a lot cheaper than in the tackle shops! The oil flattens the surface and helps you see what’s going on at range. It also acts as an additional attraction to pull the fish up to your free offerings.

Farlows Floater Fishing
Above: Mixers and lots of them. Don’t forget that you need to feed off the bird life and once you get the fish going. I always take a couple of loafs of bread too which is used to keep the birdlife happy in the margins and away from my fishing spot.

Floaters
Above: Hemp oil to flatten the surface and pull the fish up in the water.

floater fishing
Above: All the bits I need for my floater rod set up.

The first thing I do is tie a small loop in my 12lb Kruiser Control hook length. I mount a trimmed down boilie onto this and tie on a size 10 or 8 Mixa hook and ensure the hook is very tight to the bait via a short hair. The hook length I use is surprisingly short. We have been educated to make the hook length really long when floater fishing but I do the opposite. I use a Nash Bolt Machine controller and I want a short hook length of around 2 foot to make sure the bolt takes effect. Once you have the fish in a feeding frenzy I do not think the controller spooks them (or the spomb for that matter).

fryerning mirror carp

Above: A lake record 40lb+ common taken along with another fish after feeding mixers on mass.

I want to spomb to the same spot so I wrap this around some distance sticks. I cast passed the spombed mixers with my hookbait and slowly reel it back to settle amongst the free offerings. Often the fish hooks itself thanks to the bolt machine and the short hook length. You got to be patient when feeding initially. Sometimes its taken me 45mins – 1 hour before they start feeding with enough vigour to start actually fishing for them. 

Farlows Lake 2 Carp
Above: A stunning mirror of around 20lb. Farlows really is home to some great looking carp!

Something different – surface fishing for carp with a fly

Fly fishing is actually a very good method for surface fishing for carp. It’s a great way to get a freelined surface bait out that little bit further. It’s not just a gimmick, it actually make a lots of sense. You can very delicately drop a freelined bait onto the water. You can control the flies direction in the air and place it near fish quite gently. I’ve done a fair amount of fly fishing for trout and pike – which obviously helps here.

fly fishing for carp

Above: A nice mirror caught on a fly rod – like playing it on spaghetti!

Consider that coarse fishing lakes are not like trout lakes. We have lots of trees, low hanging branches and bushes that often impeed casting. The lakes I’ve tried this on have at least a few swims where I can cast a fly effectively. You need plently of space behind you to perform a reasonable cast.

dear hair flies

Above: Deer hair flies 

Again the key is to feed the fish and build their confidence before you start fishing. Again, I use Kruiser Control hooklengths and have a very high quality floating fly line on the reel. The rod I use is a 9 weight rod – which is actually quite a heavy for a fly rod (but still very light in comparison to your typical carp rod!) It’s like playing a fish on spaghetti when you hook one! It bends double as makes even small fish feel huge. It’s a lot of fun!

carp fly fishing

Above: Caught fair and square on the fly!

The bits and pieces you need:-

  • A fairly strong fly rod. 9 weight.
  • A fly reel loaded with floating line (get the best you can afford as this makes a lot of difference).
  • 10lb – 12lb breaking strain leader of floating mono.
  • A deer hair fly that is really buoyant and imitates a mixer perfectly.

So there you have it. My complete guide to surface fishing for carp. The summer is almost upon us so grab a rod and a bag of floaters and get out there! Thanks for reading and enjoy your fishing 😉

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