Carping Allegedly | Bill Cottam

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Inspired by the boys from the north west, my first real experience with oat groats came way back in the mid-’80s on the Mangrove Swamp, and very effective they proved to be. In those dark and distant days we used to mix them with a small percentage of tiger nuts, but a number of years further down the road, I found that mixing them with flaked maize and/or parti-blend proved to be even more effective; particularly when a sizable bucketful was enhanced with a tin of condensed or evaporated milk and a decent dollop of Multimino Liquid Food.

The joy of the groats, flaked maize and parti-blend combo is threefold; firstly carp love it, secondly the three products are as cheap as chips, and thirdly preparation on the bank is simplicity itself. No boiling or cooking is required and it is simply a case of generously covering the whole lot in lake water, adding the extra bits and pieces and then getting into a routine so as to ensure you work anything between 24 and 48 hours in front of yourself. The finished concoction creates a wonderful-smelling, milky and cloudy feed that everything which swims appears to home in on and rapidly become pre-occupied on. Mix that lot with a reasonable percentage of boilies and you have a big bed of carpy nose bag that certainly takes some beating.

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A few pals and I spent quite a bit of time on Fishabil in the early-’90s and – what had by then become known as the French blend, coupled with Big Fish Mix boilies – undoubtedly played a huge part in the success we were able to achieve. The approach was perfect for Fishabil at that time; the big numbers of fish that were particularly prone to moving on a whim were regularly stopped in their tracks by our beds of seeds and boilies and we succeeded in holding them in front of us for prolonged periods of time, which obviously enabled us to catch more than our share. Although the French blend approach remained my ‘go to’ method when tactics of that nature were called for, the next couple of decades only rarely saw me go down that particular route; I still had total faith in the tactic, but the type of waters I was fishing at the time appeared to respond better to a boilie-only approach. 

In the spring of this year however, I found myself on a notoriously-tough and challenging humungous French public water that I had wanted to fish for as long as I can remember. The water held big numbers of fish, including some of epic proportions, but on a water of such a size, getting on the fish and then holding them in front of you was undoubtedly going to be the biggest problem. I thought my aim was realistic from my first trip to such a venue… to catch a carp. I was hopeful that Trigga boilies, along with a decent quantity of the old faithful oat groats and flaked maize combo, might help me with my quest.

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I had a meeting in France on the Thursday prior to the start of the session and made my way over to the lake in the evening to have a poke around and a bite to eat. It was hot, incredibly still, and crawling with boat traffic and French folk enjoying the weather. I devoured a quick steak and chips and peered out over what was going to be home for the week; I was as excited as I can recall being for many-a-year!

My compadres for the week – Mike Wordingham and Richard Hughes – along with his son and his son’s friend – duly arrived the following morning and after paying our dues, we made our way to the swims. It was clear from the off that – as is so often the case on waters of this nature – just going about the tasks of positioning baits and retrieving them was going to be a chore in itself. We had thick mud, dense weed and rushes extending about 20m out in front of us and the depth of water ensured that wading out to anything like the water’s edge was an impossibility… even Peter Crouch would have found it hard going!

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My first job – to ensure I had some seed ready to go as soon as possible – was to get some French blend in soak and, with that in mind, I had brought along a plastic dust bin. I emptied in a full 20kg sack of groats, half a sack of flaked maize and topped it up with lake water, a 500ml bottle of Cream Cajouser Liquid Booster and three tins of condensed milk. I then gave the mixture a good stir, put the dustbin lid on and left the whole lot to cook in the furnace-like heat of the French sunshine whilst I set up house and got everything sorted. It was getting on for dusk by the time I returned to the particle bin and what greeted me, absolutely blew me away… I had forgotten just how nice it was!

Out in the boat, I was even more impressed: the way each scoop fell through the water just screamed carp. I could only imagine what it must have looked like on the lakebed mixed in with the Trigga I had scattered over the side as well.

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I will not bore you with the details, but the trip was a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to a water I hope to fish on many occasions again in the future. We didn’t empty the place by any stretch of the imagination, but landed fish to 39lb, and catfish to a guestimated 100lb+ which meant that the first fish from the water for me were certainly not a disappointment. 

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The Carp Angler’s Biscuit Barrel

I was fishing on a public water in Northern France a few weeks ago and somehow managed to get myself involved in a discussion with a couple of Dutch anglers; the topic of conversation basically surrounded who was the best carp angler in the world! I have to be honest and say that I made the point rather forcefully that – although in truth I couldn’t really care less – in my opinion it was impossible to judge such things as everybody fishes different waters, has different aims and aspirations, and has differing amounts of free time on their hands. It is simply not like choosing the best golfer, F1 driver or tennis player in the world! It is also fair to say that luck plays an enormous part in how successful or unsuccessful a carp angler is and although it does eventually come to an end, good fortune and destiny does play a big part in how any
angler is perceived.

I will not go down the age-old argument as to which is the most important aspect of all this carp angling nonsense, but I guess it is fair to assume that – generally speaking – the top guys have better fish location skills, greater-than-average rig-tying abilities, and an exceptionally good feel for bait and bait application… but I would suggest there might just be a bit more to it than that.

The anglers who have always made the best and longest-lasting impression on me are the ones who have it sorted in the biscuit department…

Choosing the cheapest biscuits you can find on the cheap and cheerful isle of the local discount supermarket is simply not good enough, so in my ongoing quest to offer advice that will improve the overall quality of the UK’s carp anglers I have included my guide to carp angling’s top ten biscuits; you are of course welcome to offer any comments you may have via Carpworld’s vast array of social media platforms, but I will warn you in advance that you are very likely to get shot down before you get your fingers off the keyboard; you do not get a physique like mine and become a fully-fledged member of Type 2 Diabetes UK by not being highly experienced in the
biscuit-eating stakes!

Anyway, enough about my failings;
here goes…

10. Rich Tea

A regular fishing mate of mine seemingly cannot get through and hour on the bank without filling his face with a fistful of McVitie’s finest and although I cannot deny, I have shared a packet or three with him over the years; I do find them a little bland, albeit addictively more-ish.

They lose marks in the prolonged dunking department though, with all but the most experienced Rich Tea eaters very often ending up with slurry at the bottom of the cup. 

To sum up, Rich Tea biscuits are a good all-rounder, but only really suited to the long-range anglers; breaking them in half creates a noise reminiscent of snapping twigs which will obviously have the effect of spooking any would-be margin feeders.

9. Digestives

Although other varieties are obviously available, I think it is widely accepted that McVitie’s are the Digestives of choice for the vast majority of carp anglers, and very tasty they are too. The Dark or – my own particular favourite – the Milk Chocolate Digestive certainly edge it on sex appeal and yum-yum value, but as any time-served Euro-carper will tell you, there can be issues with melting chocolate and sticky fingers in more tropical climes at certain times of the year.

Carp Tigers and tackle tarts should also bear in mind that midnight in-bivvy face-stuffing with any variety of Digestive can be very often be accompanied by a proliferation of setup-spoiling crumbs on the bivvy floor.

Those of you who are fans of biscuit factoids may well be interested to hear that the Digestive was originally developed in 1839 by two Scottish doctors who believed they had antacid properties due to the inclusion of sodium bicarbonate.

8. Shortbread

In at number 8, we have what many anglers’ rate as the ultimate tea or coffee dunker the ever-popular and undisputedly upper class Shortbread biscuit. Traditionally made from one part white sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour, these tasty little nibbles are not really the ideal coffee time fuel for the health-conscious carp angler, but certainly when it comes down to tasty and additive qualities there are right up there amongst the very best of them.

Winter carp anglers will have no doubt learned that Christmas time brings a nice selection of Shortbread bikkies available in re-sealable tins from all good supermarkets, or indeed supermarchés; more than a little useful for keeping the old dirty rodents at bay!

It has been said that Shortbreads have much in common with Derek Ritchie’s Facebook live streams, in that you either love ’em or hate ’em… personally, I am very much a fan (of the biscuits that is)!

7. Hobnobs

I have to be honest and tell you that the oat rich Hobnobs – chocolate or otherwise – do not particularly find favour with me, but it is an inescapable fact that they are permanent additions to many carp anglers’ bait bags.

It is a little known fact that the illustrious Hobinus-Nobinus is actually a Flapjack/Digestive hybrid, but unfortunately this once again leads to potentially frustrating crumbage on the bivvy floor unless great care is taken.

Hobnobs are reasonably good dunkers, but great care must be taken not to exceed the optimum immersion times; my suggestion is that you should let your drink cool slightly first and then err on the side of safety and opt for the swiftly in and out approach.

6. Custard Creams

The first of the sandwich-style biscuits to make it into our top ten are the magnificent Custard Creams and I have to say I have always found them dreadfully addictive and very easy to devour with a coffee or two following a bit of late night action on the rods; so much so in fact that I have to admit I have done a whole packet in one sitting on more than one occasion!

The tea drinkers amongst you tell me that these creamy custard-filled treats go wonderfully well with a cup of Rosie Lea, but coffee tends to be my bankside beverage of choice and I, too, am rather fond of a few of them by way of accompaniment.

I know many of you – like me – choose your friends according to what biscuits they are likely to have on offer and, with that in mind, it might interest you to hear that Luke Moffatt - he of big catfish and Les Graviers fame - is rather partial to a catering tin or two of Custard Creams.

5. Bourbon

Top five time now, and no list of carpy snacks could possibly be complete without the mighty Bourbon!

The simple sandwich-style biscuit consisting of two thin rectangular dark-chocolate-flavoured biscuits with a chocolate butter-cream filling has become a huge favourite with carp anglers. Their inherent texture make them ideal for dunking in tea or coffee without any fear of slurry-like residue in the bottom of the cup.

Those who really like to live life on the edge might also favour a few after dark Bourbons dunked in a mug of Baileys Irish Cream-enhanced hot chocolate, although obviously such excesses should only follow the capture of a particularly memorable fish. Feasting on such luxuries having not caught a good fish could very soon develop into a problem.

4. Jammy Dodger

Produced from Shortbread with a raspberry or strawberry filling, I suspect many will be surprised that the Jammy Dodger hasn’t made it into our top three, but unfortunately the makeup and taste – albeit very impressive and very nice – is just a tad on the childish side for it to be classed as a true piscator’s classic. And you don’t get enough in a packet!

Eating a whole packet to accompany one sizable cuppa is nothing to be proud of and, in truth, is relatively easy, particularly if the guy from the next peg has popped round for social. So taking advantage of many supermarkets’ three packets for the price of two offer certainly comes highly recommended.

To sum up: the trusty Jammy Dodger is a great choice of biscuit, albeit just a bit girly for the hardened, rough-shaven, carp tiger!

3. Ginger Nuts

Top three time now and I suggest maybe some of you may be surprised to see Ginger Nuts in at such a lofty position, but at the end of the day, I am the one sat keying this rubbish and I adore ‘em, so here they are…

My many years of tireless face stuffing and research, concludes that these are indeed a genuine global icon of the dunking world and that something seriously special happens when the combination of powdered ginger, assorted spices and molasses come in contact with the warmth of a freshly-made cup of coffee, and then with the tongue’s taste buds.

Check out the mightily impressive ingredient list provided by McVities as well. When the old bag mix is running low, a couple of these beauties ground up are undoubtedly capable of pulling the odd carp or two.

Crispy and crunchy, with taste to die for: what else could you wish for?

2. Jaffa Cake

Now before you all go telling me these wondrous snacks are cakes not biscuits, I am aware of the fact the law courts ruled in favour of McVities in 1991 and concluded that for VAT purposes they should be classified as cakes, making them tax free, but Mrs C buys them for me from the biscuit aisle of Tesco, and that is good enough for me!

Also, I hear that the difference between biscuits and cakes is that biscuits go soft when they pass their use-by dates and cakes go hard, so once again they qualify for inclusion.

The combination of Genoise sponge, a layer of orange jelly and a coating of chocolate have kept me company through many long nights in the bivvy over the years, although it has to be said that the age-old rule that a packet should not be opened until a carp has been caught is incredibly difficult to adhere to.

1. Chocolate Chip Cookie

Oh my God… If there is a better way to celebrate the capture of humongous carp than a brew and a fist full of big fat, Chocolate Chip Cookies I have yet to find it: eating them is undoubtedly the best thing I have ever done with my clothes on!

My own preference is for the milk chocolate chip variety rather than the dark chocolate alternative, although, in truth, scoffing either type is not exactly a hardship.

Not the cheapest biscuit in the world, but worth every penny and, at the end of the day, if finances mean you have to choose between a new set of reels or a lifetime’s supply of Chocolate Chip Cookies, I suggest you make do with the old reels. They all do basically the same job!

On the down side, each Cookie typically contains 8g of fat and 138 calories, so my advice is that you shouldn’t really exceed eight packets in a weekend! 

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Tyler Lowe-Fowlersecond