The Summer Natural Angle
Despite the fish being as active as they ever will be, summer can also be a tricky time of the year to catch with any consistency. Firstly, the weed levels are up and with this come demanding situations, often algae blooms which make spotting fish very tricky. Secondly, there is the pressure factor, a few good seasons have passed with copious amounts of anglers wanting to catch their dreams early in the season, with the carp having witnessed every colour of hookbait under the sun!
There is also another very clear factor as to why the fishing has all of a sudden become very tricky and that is the naturals! They begin to thrive in the spring and by the summer months, the lakes are full of them; in the weed, silt, up in the layers and even on the surface. When large hatches begin to form, the fish simply do not have to eat anglers bait and in fact, become pre- occupied on a whole host of natural food items from snails, bugs and even fish eggs to name but a few. At this time, the carp can become very difficult to trip up on conventional tactics, with bright hookbaits and highly boosted bait items not even enough to tempt a bite!
These periods can vary depending greatly on the level of naturals within the lake, to the size and longitude of hatches. We speak to big fish angler Alex Grice to take a look at his approach to naturals, from finding the source to implementing bait that they find simply irresistible at this time of year.
Searching Them Out
You may have heard of the phrase, the ‘natural larder’ and by this it means an area, often varying in size, where there is a large volume of localised naturals present. This area can often change and may only last for a few days at a time, but the carp can sense this and make the most of these highly nutritional sources of food in their diet. Carp are extremely adapt to their environment and even the most subtle changes, such as a differing level of PH or in the case of naturals, a major hatch, they will no doubt be inquisitive to find out exactly what is going on!
To find these ‘larders’ requires close observation; watching at times when the carp are feeding and active, which quite often is at first light during the warmer parts of the year. Fizzing and subtle rolling are tell- tale signs of fish feeding and will often happen in areas that are out of the ordinary where the naturals have plumed. Keep your eyes peeled on areas that are regularly fizzing up too, as the fish will quite often gorge at the feeding period in the morning and then return later in the day.
Once you have spent time trying to suss out where the fish are feeding on natural, it is best to investigate once they have moved on elsewhere around the lake, such as mid-afternoon when the activity is slow. To properly investigate these areas and on venues where a boat is not allowed, I prefer the good old-fashioned technique of leading around using a grappling type lead with metal prongs that will pick up any weed or debris lying around the area. The key is to carefully investigate the area by casting and slowly drawing the lead back before retrieving it in.
What To Look For
Spots, naturals and lakebed types will differ greatly from venue to venue; I generally tend to fish gravel pits that are home to a good amount of weed during the summer months. By this point, many of the cleaner spots from the spring have blown and the fish are spending a lot more time feeding in the weed.
When I am investigating an area, I am primarily looking at the type of naturals in the weed and the density of them present. By rule of thumb, the greater amount of natural present in the weed, the better the spot, as the carp simply will not be able to resist a dinner plate of natural items. The spot also has to be presentable within reason; there is simply not point finding an area of Canadian weed full of naturals, as this will make effective presentation near on impossible! Low- lying silkweed is perfect, as with the right rig and lead arrangement, this will be more than suitable for presenting baits over.
The type of natural can differ greatly and most of that will depend on the type of lake; silty meres generally contain a higher level of bloodworm, whereas gravel pits, it can be snails and other types of insect. Naturals will be found everywhere throughout the lake, but when you hit a major hatch, it will become apparent; the weed will be alive with them and these are the spots that you want to aim to target.
Where To Look In Your Lake
Naturals are pretty much no different to leaves on a tree in my opinion; once they drift into the lake, they will settle and collect in certain spots. Areas between islands, around snags or depressions out in the lake are to name but a few where I think naturals will be found in numbers.
I guess other than the carp, there are a number of other fish species that will eat them, so their main aim is survival! Snaggy bays, areas of the lake that receive a lot of the warm sun and at the edge of bars are also well worth investigating with that grappling lead set- up.
I will always try to let the carp show me where these ‘larders’ are before going off on a hunch and trying to find them myself. This is even more apparent when targeting larger venues, where simply searching the lakebed could take days of your time.
Match The Hatch
When I say match the hatch, I don’t mean exactly what is on the spot, but by incorporating natural products into your usual mix, you are already giving yourself a head start and increasing the natural food signals! I typically use boilie for the majority of my fishing, but when I feel the carp are really switched onto the naturals, I then take a slightly different stance on things.
I still stick to the bait I am confident in using, but mix in other products such as natural powders, snails and hemp to mimic what is naturally found on the spot. Hemp is a brilliant natural attractor, as the white kernels look very much like snails and with the added crunch factor, feeding activity can attract other passing carp into the swim when they are being fed on.
Black tigers, where allowed, are also another neat edge that replicate larger snails, perfect for hookbaits when combined with small PVA sticks or loosefed on their own. My base for the stick mixes I use it the Pacific Tuna, but to this I add lots of Frozen Water Snails, along with some chopped up tiger nuts, just to give that overall mix a different level of appeal!
The Changing Clock
Don’t get me wrong, this approach is not necessarily the best option to use at all times of the year, my angling is heavily based around adopting and overcoming problems that I face and one of those is the heavy amount of naturals in the summer months. Even if I try something a little different on one of my rods during a session, at least I can then make some type of judgemental answer from the results I receive.
The daylight hours and temperatures will have a significant effect on the number of naturals present in the lake and then, this will change year to year. Certain weather systems that come in will also have a big influence on the number of naturals, such as the first warm winds of the year. It also pays to have a close look in the margins of the lake, as many naturals will find refuge in the shallow water. I have witnessed large numbers of snails present in the edge at times and this often means that the same type of processes are occurring out in the lake.
A high-quality boilie such as the Pacific Tuna or Odyssey XXX will naturally attract snails and such like, so it is worth bearing that in mind when targeting waters laden with those small, highly nutritious insects.
If you are looking to add another dimension to your carp fishing and delve into the underwater world of the magnificent creatures that we target, it may pay to take a slightly more natural look at your approach. When the chips are down, chances are the fish have switched and by simply tweeking your approach and adapting to the situation, results may soon be on the up once again!