Change.... it’s a good thing | Julian Cundiff

It’s easy to get stuck in a groove, particularly if it brings success. But never be afraid of change, as Jules outlines in the following.

I confess... I have always liked stability in my life and, if I am totally honest, change is something I am a degree uncomfortable with at times. Heck, for many years I trotted out the mantra, “If it ain’t bust don’t fix it” and, by and large, that did work... in those days. However, life nowadays is totally different to life 10-years or more ago and the pace of life means if you don’t change (or adapt if you want to dress it up more kindly) you will fall behind. Certainly in carp fishing terms, with an increase in angler pressure and ability, you have to be constantly on top of your game to be consistent. Frankly, if you are not going forward you are going backwards in carp fishing – coast at your peril!
This year is going to be a big year for many people, particularly for me as, after almost 38-years in the Court’s service it’s time to hang up my books at the ripe old age of 55, and embrace a new chapter in my own life. With no specific plans to do anything it’s a massive change not to have my life as regimented as it has been since August 1980... and many of you thought I was a “full time” carp angler too! And there are changes for not only me, as Carpworld now has a new home with Carp-Talk publishing it from this issue onwards.
My involvement with the magazine goes back before even issue 1, when Tim Paisley discussed the feasibility of a regular carp magazine with me when we were working on the Carp Society’s Carp Fisher at his flat at Cemetery Road, in Sheffield, some 30-years ago. To be fair I think he was looking at it being under the auspices of the Carp Society, but that was not to be and, instead, Angling Publications and Carpworld were born. From issue 1 onwards I was a regular contributor (Tina, Carp Clinic and numerous other series), and for quite some time performed editorial duties with Tim. However, 30-years down the line the world is a different place, with carp fishing and carp magazines almost unrecognisable from that era. For Carpworld to survive it had, it has to change and I am honoured to be in the first issue of a new era – thanks Bev and Mick for the valued opportunity. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to look at five occasions when changing things round in my approach to carp fishing paid off and brought me success, and the ability to welcome change, not fear it. Hopefully, this may inspire you too, particularly if you are in a rut of blanking or struggling to get out there and do it. Join me on the journey...

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Sands, December 2007
Many, many years ago (mid-to-late 80s) I’d been very successful fishing pop-ups ‘off the lead’ and, to be honest, since then any carp I’d caught had been within two-inches of the bottom, or right off the surface. Zigs certainly were not known of in those days, even on some of the more popular southern waters I fished. However, like anything new once dreamt up (or more likely rediscovered/reinvented), they soon became flavour of the month and the world and his wife seemed to be extolling the virtues of zig fishing. To be fair I had not ignored it altogether and had tried it at one or two local waters, when the standard approaches were not producing. Sure, I’d had the odd one, but having perched myself up a tree one day and watched plenty of carp ignoring the piece of black foam in front of them, my confidence in the method was severely dented to the point I almost stopped trying it anymore. Not clever, but the truth I guess – so that was that for a few years.
My winter water in Lincolnshire had a good head of carp in it and for most of the winter I’d really done well fishing singles with crumb bags and stringers. However, it was clear that this wasn’t always working as, despite having carp all over me, bites were tending to come at dawn and dusk only. That left a lot of hours doing nothing which didn’t please me. Stood on the high bank I could see them over the bait, which made it even more frustrating to be honest. A foot under the surface maximum, in five feet of water – if they wouldn’t go down for the bait I’d have to put it in front of their noses. With no zig gear with me at all, I decided to bite the bullet and on my next trip fish both rods on zigs and make it work. I knew damn well that if I took the standard gear with me I’d soon have the same old same old rigs out, if I didn’t get a take pretty sharpish. With Saturday set aside, I was awake well before first light to find the Jeep white over after a hard frost and conditions not looking too clever at all. Still, plans were plans, so I wobbled my way down the M180 and, with dawn almost breaking, found myself all alone at a very cold lake with nothing but zig gear with me. Cat ice in the margins was not exactly what I had planned, but nothing ventured nothing gained as the saying goes. With five feet of water in front of me at the 60 to 80-yard mark, one rod was fished at three feet and one at four feet off the lead. Black foam soaked in strawberry flavour was the hookbait and time to get the Profile brolly up for a good kip. Hardly the best approach in the world but, it was a start, and it would have to do after a hard week at work – I needed to chill! With the kettle barely boiled the left-hand rod was away (amazingly) and I was on a flyer. Now the point of the story is not how many I caught (nine that day) but that it worked at all. It did and although I would not class myself as a zig specialist I now feel comfortable enough to use them when I feel the time is right...

Lesson One: New tactics don’t teach themselves – you need to go out and prove it for yourself.

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Westwoodside, December 2010
After a hard summer and autumn I had decided, this particular winter, to take it a little more relaxed and, rather than campaign on any one water, would instead flit about with friends fishing new waters or waters I didn’t usually fish. It was a chance to catch up with friends and not kill myself with early starts and/or winter overnighters. One trip was with Brian Skoyles and he was going to be kind enough to take me to Woodside Waters, which he was a member of and I had my name down on the waiting list. Now Brian won’t mind me saying that he isn’t the keenest of early risers, so we did meet up at the crack of... 8am, that beautiful December morning. It truly was a stunning morning, with clear blue skies and a bright sun, which was probably crap for carp fishing but great for relaxing. To make it even easier for ourselves we drove to the swims (Point and Hut) and got our respective methods sorted. Me, single tiny pop-ups with bags of maggots, and Brian with his heavily-glugged Trigga Ice bottom baits over a scattering of freebies. Kettle on, Scotch eggs demolished and relax. By 12 noon we’d yet to see fish at all and Brian decided to have a walk round to see if he could find any. He was back in 10 minutes having found a stack sunning themselves in the Bay and Willows swims. “Did I want to move?” After a season of working my socks off on my other waters, and with my hookbaits sat nicely in a pile of maggots, I honestly couldn’t really be bothered to move – but if the old boy wanted to, he was welcome to help himself. Me, I’d stick the kettle on and leave him to it.
So off he wandered with a single rod, landing net and bait bucket to see if he could winkle one out. Thirty minutes later he had one, and then another, as the carp were obviously stacked up and loving the warmth in the sheltered bay. Me? I caught bugger all and learnt a valuable lesson. On short sessions I now fish off the barrow if I can, and move at the drop of a hat if I feel I am not on them and they are elsewhere.
Lesson Two: Don’t sit and wait for the carp – go to them.

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Strawfields, July 2012
With mates like Chris Ball and Brian Skoyles, you’d think I should know my stuff on surface fishing but, in all honesty pre-2013, I really was pretty poor at it. With most of my carp fishing being overnighters there tended not to be a lot of scope for surface angling with the bivvy, bedchair and boilie approach. In fact, when I watched others doing it there seemed to be a lot of chasing carp round with a controller, in the heat, for very little reward – not for me thank you!

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Summer 2012 had been a pretty good one, for a change, and I’d found a lovely local water on the way to work that suited me to a tee. Just off the A19 I could drop in after work and its lovely scaley carp ran to almost 20lb and fed avidly in the margins, which made the close-in, stalking approach perfect on short sessions. With a mid-week day off I decided to have a ‘social’ session with my pal Graham Drewery and updated him with the tactical approach to it. Fill the margins in with a combination of hemp/chopped boilies/sweetcorn and pellets, and fish two tiny pop-ups over the top. All very relaxed, very successful and usually good for 5-10 carp a day.
Meeting up at just before 7am we were first at the gates, of course, and the day was a scorcher already. Cars to the swim and hide them behind the trees, bearing in mind we were margin fishing. A lap of the lake revealed plenty of carp in the Big Double and Halfway swims, so that’s where we set up for the day. Same old, same old for me and, within 20-minutes, I was fishing. Graham, being Graham, was a little less organised than me and his groundbait mix was whatever he had in his bucket from the last trip (or whatever he had scrounged off Brian). So a combination of boilies, pellets and dried-out sweetcorn was lobbed in the front of his swim and we sat back to enjoy the day. With some of Graham’s corn being old (to say the least) some of it had dried out and floated, much to my amusement, and the ducks too... and the carp. Within ten minutes carp were taking the bits off the top whilst our bottom rods did nothing. “Ever surface-fished here, Jules?” “No mate.” “Mind if I give it a go?” “Course not, mate...”
Needless to say, within minutes of casting out the controller (one of the Bolt Machine versions) Graham had one, then another, then another... It was a bit embarrassing on ‘my’ water. That day he had more than a dozen carp and I struggled to catch half that – talk about looking a plonker. Believe me, it was the last time I ever ignored surface fishing and, within six months, I was fully up to speed with tackle and tactics. In fact on one memorable day I had over 20 carp off the top – incredible fishing.

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Lesson Three: Even if you are not comfortable with a method, get to grips with it.

Barlow, January 2013
The winter had been really hard so far and most of my local waters were alternating between totally frozen and cat-iced. Luckily, I had one or two pals running lakes who would keep me up to date on the state of their waters, and by hook or by crook I was able to wet a line most weeks. One of the more consistent ones was Barlow Mere, a mixed fishery but, with carp in to mid-20s, it suited me fine. I’d done well so far with carp to upper doubles and plenty of them. The standard tactic was my multi-rig with a hi-viz pop-up and a mesh bag full of crumbed boilies to draw attention to the hookbait. Nothing fancy but very effective. My pal Pete, who ran the water, was not an out and out carp angler but his bog-standard, single bottom bait (no stringer or bag) was definitely producing the goods and, dare I say it, sometimes out fishing mine. How could that be? Mine was definitely a better hooker, it had more attraction and, heck, I was the carp angler not him! However, results were results and I at least had to give it a try, even though it surely was not as good (cough). So the new setup was added with the coated braid being swapped for a fluorocarbon link and the pop-up being swapped for a bottom bait heavily-soaked in Nashbait Strawberry Oil and sweetener. Without the mesh bag it felt almost ‘naked’ but, if I was going to try something new, I needed to go the whole hog not halfway house. Needless to say, my results improved immediately and takes were quicker and more often, which suited me just fine. Hookholds were incredible and, by and large, I caught a better stamp of carp. Perhaps the pop-up on a hard, clean bottom in clear shallow water was too obvious? Perhaps they were spooky of the crumb around the hookbait? Who knows and more importantly who cares.

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Lesson Four: If something is working better and, even if you can’t see why, get on that train whilst you can.

Lakewood, July 2016
I really felt I’d got to grips with the water during my second season on the venue. Year one was about looking and learning (probably as much from others as from my own results), and then upping my game the next year. Having seen Crowy’s incredible results on Nashbait Key, I would be a fool not to get on that whilst it was an edge over others. Sure, Simon had not fished this water, but the amount of waters he’d cleaned up on made me believe that this one would be no different for me and my angling. The advice I’d been given was not to overdo the bait, and little and often was the key (no pun intended honestly). By mid-summer I felt on top of my game on the water and catches of between three and six carp, on an 8 to 12-hour session, were not unusual. Location, rig and bait sorted, and it was just a matter of getting on them when I could. One thing that did slightly concern me was that whilst the carp tended to be shoal fish (when watching them they were usually in groups of between five and fifteen), my catches tended to be ‘picking them off’ rather than ‘multiple hits’. They loved the bait for sure and the rig was nailing them nicely, but if I was being honest with myself I felt I could do better.

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With a mid-week day booked off, it was great to arrive just before dawn and have the place to myself for a change. Even though it was just 5am and still misty, it was already warm with the night’s cloud cover keeping the warmth in. Stood in the Hut swim I could hear fish crashing to my left in the Pipe, so it seemed the obvious place to go. I wasn’t in a rush today, so took my time getting the gear ready and all three rods clipped up on the spots. The good old electrical tape and line clip, none of this ‘wraps’ stuff.
By now it was after 6am and I could see the water on the two spots I was going to cast to was chocolate brown, and clearly covered in carp so to speak. It looked perfect for a big hit, so I decided to chance my arm with the bait side of things. Normally, I would put two or three pouchfuls of Key over each rod (that’s around 80 15mm baits per rod) and top it up after each take. Rather than this approach, I decided to put three kilos over the two rods and see what happened. Twenty minutes later all three rods were in situ and two spots (about 10ft by 10ft) were blathered in Key freebies. Kettle on and, as ever, just as I am about to drink my first coffee the left-hand rod is away. Now I am not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of the day, but 24 carp and eight over 20lb speaks volumes I think. I eventually ran out of bait, rigs, leads and foam or it would have been more. And that approach on that water at the right time still can produce big hits.

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Lesson Five: If you feel that something is worth a gamble, go with your gut feeling even if conventional logic says it shouldn’t work. 

So there you have it. Five instances where change was a good thing and produced the results when ‘same old, same old’ wasn’t working. As Carpworld enters a new phase of its life (and me in my life too) let’s celebrate change not fear or fight it.
Good luck in 2018 Carpworld and to each and everyone of the readers, past and present too. 

Mick Clifford