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Drive to the lake, catch a big carp and be home in time for dinner. Sound good? Carp-catching expert, Michael Koester, shows us how stalking on the float can produce instant success…
I find Michael tucked away behind the bankside shrubbery of a beautiful estate lake near Duisburg, in northern Germany. He’s trying to conceal himself from the marginal carp that are stealthily cruising along the shelf looking for food.
Michael whispers: “Stalking is an art in itself but can be very rewarding providing you do it properly. It’s also extremely enjoyable. You can often watch the carp feeding at your feet and ambush them – you feel like a true hunter. Not only that, you can also maximise the time you spend on the bank by creeping around each swim. It also keeps the wife or girlfriend happy because you don’t need to spend hours on the bank in order to catch. How many of you sit behind motionless bite alarms for days on end only to blank? Quite a few I would guess. Well, even though I enjoy this style of angling for big carp I find nothing more enjoyable than stalking fish from right under my nose. It keeps the adrenaline pumping and my love for the sport burning!
“On entering the lake, my first job was to check out all the likely looking areas with merely a bucket of bait in my hand. This includes a variety of pellets, hemp, sweetcorn and chopped boilie. It also includes a favourite additive of mine – tuna chunks. They’re very salty and leak a fishy aroma in the water column attracting carp towards the hook bait.
“I introduce bait into many different swims via a spoon. It’s an accurate and quiet way of baiting up. Lilypads, weedy havens and overhanging trees provide great sanctuary for the carp so make sure you take a look. One tip is to always take a pair of polarising sunglasses because they eliminate the glare from the surface of the water allowing you to see all the sub-surface happenings. I couldn’t go stalking without them because they open up a whole new world below the surface. I also look for areas that have been fed on. Small, glowing areas of gravel that look ‘polished off’ are telltale signs that carp have been feeding.
Over time you can also create your own hotspot. If you consistently bait an area that the carp are willing to feed on it will eventually become clean. It’s a great way of clearing areas in the weed. By introducing small pellets and hemp over a number of weeks, the carp will soon tear through the weed and clear the area for you. I have some prime spots on this lake that I have created and they’re mega successful.”
Having prebaited some of the areas in this mature, old estate lake Michael concocts his rig presentation. The lake is simply stunning with ancient oak trees looming over the surface and sweeping willows covering the banks. Every now and then I notice a carp’s back break the surface causing the water to boil and rock.
“So what are your tactics going to be today then Michael?” I quietly enquire, giving the carp no indication that we’re here.
“I’m a little bit old school and like to target them with the float. I think the properties and advantages over a straight lead are second to none. Plopping a light, crystal waggler into the margins is a lot quieter than casting in a heavy lead so it keeps disturbance to a minimum. This is imperative in trying to outwit spooky, marginal specimens. At times, the slightest crack of a stick or heavy footstep could alert your presence and spook them instantly.
Not only is it quieter, it also provides a completely different line angle in the water. Rather than the line cutting through the column when legering, the float causes the line to sit directly underneath. This keeps your main line floating on the surface and out of the carp’s way.
“Consequently, I use a float but incorporate a tactic known as float legering. I basically fish the hook bait overdepth, allowing the float to rise up the line until it is at the correct depth. This is locked in pace with a float stop, which I create out of some marker material. Take a look at the pictures and you’ll see what I mean.
“My hooklength is kept simple, opting for some supple, camouflaged Korda Supernatural or Korda IQ. I like both because they blend in well with the lake bed. It’s imperative that your end tackle is as inconspicuous as possible on this lake because the water is gin clear so the carp can see everything. I weight the hook bait, which in this case is half a boilie tipped with a grain of imitation corn, down with a swivel wrapped in tungsten putty. This lays flush on the lake bed ready to be engulfed by a big old carp.
“I use a chopped boilie hook bait because it matches the free offerings in my mix. I always ensure that I use a hook bait that matches the mix that I’m introducing. In my mind, if you’re gaining their confidence in feeding on your free bait you have to use a bait that matches. I tip the boilie with a grain of buoyant imitation corn to add extra color and smell. The buoyancy also helps the hook bait shoot back into their mouth which makes it difficult for them to eject,” he explains.
With the rig tied and ready to go, Michael quietly creeps to the first swim. He conceals himself behind a nearby tree to keep out of the carp’s sight. A good tip is to keep your shadow out of sight and your silhouette out of the skyline. As a result, use bankside foliage to help you such as trees or bushes.
He underarm flicks the float into the margins, the float cocks and he’s patiently awaiting action while watching the underwater movements through his polaroids. We sit there for five minutes watching bream sift through the lake bed demolishing every pellet and grain of hemp that they can find.
Then, all of a sudden, three or four huge black shapes drift into view to join the banquet. They’re tails quiver from side to side as they slowly dip down to feed. We’re keeping as still as we can with sweat dripping off of our foreheads as we anticipate action. It’s roasting hot today with temperatures soaring up to 30 degrees without a breath of wind. Continuing to watch the carp devour each bait we suddenly see the gills flap as an agitated specimen powers out of the swim at a rate of knots. The float sails under sending sheets of bubbles and silt to the surface. The clutch fizzes and Michael’s in.
With so much surface weed present he has to play the fish on a tight clutch trying to persuade the fish from seeking sanctuary. If it does then it could spell danger. With the rod bent almost double the fish charges from left to right stripping yards of line from the spool. It’s like the carp has taken a dose of steroids, it fights that hard!
The Korda Kurv holds firm and eventually Michael nets his prize shouting: “Come on!” as it hits the spreader block. It’s a fine specimen around 18lb and goes to show how instant success can be if you get the confident in feeding on your bait. A lovely, dark mirror carp is soonposing for the camera and it’s all smiles. I’ve seen my first German carp and can’t wait for a dose of the action myself at some point in the week.
“The swim has been disturbed now so I’m going to introduce another two spoonfuls of bait and return later on today. I’m adamant that they’ll be back because it’s such an attractive mix. I’m also going to add a dose of salmon oil to the mix to enhance the flavors even further,” he comments.
Having baited the swim once again we take a walk to the next swim, which features a lovely gravel plateaux. It’s only shallow, around 3ft in depth, making it perfect for those marginal feeders. We immediately notice carp occupying the swim sending bubbles the size of pinheads to the surface. Each one pops and fizzes as carp feed on the tiny particles of bait. Always look for bubbles and muddy colorations in the water. It’s carp that causes them!
It doesn’t take Michael long to respond and he soon has a bait lying next to them. He flicks it just behind the feeding carp and carefully draws the hook bait back to avoid unnecessary disturbance.
“I love using small pellets and particles. For some reason, in Germany, carp anglers shy away from using small, attractive baits because there is a large abundance of resident bream. They don’t want to be up all night catching the snotty little critters. However, pellets and particles attract carp and are far more attractive than boilies in my mind. Yes they will attract the bream and nuisance species too, but those species, in turn, will attract the carp. If carp see activity on the bottom they will investigate. I’ve seen it so many times when stalking and if you employ it into a large, windswept water it will work too. I also love to use small particles and baits because they keep fish searching for longer. Many of the particles are so small that they will sink into the silt and gravel. Now, even though they’re not visual, they still leak off goodness and attraction, keeping the carp in the swim searching out every last one,” Michael explains.
While waiting for some more action I can’t help but notice the small amount of tackle that he has with him. Armed with one rod, a rucksack, unhooking mate, landing net and bait bucket Michael can keep mobile. Stalking is all about keeping on the move, following the fish at all times. You can’t catch them if you’re not on them – fact! Nonetheless, if you have too much gear with you such as alarms, three rods, chair and hoards of bait you won’t move as quickly and efficiently, if at all! Michael also has a short, stalking rod for the method so he can fish every nook and cranny in the lake.
Within minutes the float is away and he’s doing battle with another irate carp. It looks a similar sort of size as the last one but it’s cracking action and is soon in the net. In a mere two hours Michael has landed two upper doubles and goes to show how instant stalking can be. If you only ever get a few hours fishing because of commitments or a nagging wife or girlfriend, it’s well worth stalking because it can be very effective. It works for big fish too!
Words and Pictures - James Armstrong Team Korda 2008©
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