I recently spent a week carp fishing with a good friend of mine who is a master of the art of watercraft, an art which seems to be considerably lost in the modern world of carp angling. It is something that rarely features in the press as it does not promote any products. Without some basic watercraft techniques, catching carp at a tricky venue can be very difficult indeed. In this piece I'm going to summarize the main watercraft tactics that we used which were vital to our success.
1. Work with the weather
The weather has a massive effect on the carp: high pressure, cold winds or still conditions can make fishing almost impossible so when this happens, do not fish! You can take your lines out of the water, rest the swim and look for signs of life around the lake. If you see some carp activity, put a rod on it no matter where that may be. If nothing comes of it, do not worry and get back on the hunt. As soon as the conditions improve, be it a drop in pressure or a change of wind, get your carp rig in the most promising spots ahead of the fish.
2. Relieve the pressure
On busy carp lakes where you fish as part of a group, carp are conditioned by angling pressure and no matter how slack your lines are, they will move away from these areas of the lake and seek out quiet zones that are not being fished. What you can do is decide, on purpose, not to fish a certain portion of the carp lake for some days. If you keep an area free from lines, the angling pressure that is applied elsewhere can press the fish into this safe zone and you then have a much stronger chance of being able to catch fish in that area after a few days.
3. Be stealthy
If you constantly thrash the water to a foam with leads and marker rods or go out in the boat extensively prodding the swim trying to find good fishing spots, it is a surefire way to spook every carp in the vicinity away from that zone. Now I'm not saying not to use a marker float or the boat but just by careful observation of the fish movements, you can let the carp tell you where to fish. When the time is right, you can get your baits into position with minimum disturbance, slacken off your lines and wait.
4. Adapt your baiting approach
Finally, you should vary your bait strategy based on weather conditions. When conditions look tough, tiny traps of less than a handful of bait (a mix of whole, chopped, and crumbed boilies and pellets) will do the business. If conditions improve and you see increased signs of activity, you can mix it up by dotting a dozen or so baits around your carp rig over an area of a couple of meters to get the fish moving from bait to bait. You can also choose to stop using pellets and just fish a couple of whole, chopped and crumbed baits over the rig to boost the bait scent in the middle of the spread of baits.