Ian Chillcott | Breaking The Mould

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Chilly takes a long, hard look at why we all pour so much into what we are led to believe we should be doing, without question, in the modern day. And then rebuffs it with pearls of wisdom and good practice from yesteryear...

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One of the great things about life, as I see it anyway, is that everyone has a different perspective on things. We all view our existence in a slightly different way. And in many respects, that is what makes this whole living thing so interesting... isn’t it? If we all looked at life similarly, it would be a pretty boring way to pass our time on this planet, and in many respects we would still be chasing woolly mammoths around in furry thongs! In saying that, it seems many believe I cannot have climbed very far up the evolutionary ladder, considering the way in which I think – and carry out my carp angling. I have even had it suggested that I get my head out of the past and concentrate on the future, and all it has to offer. Ironically, I would rather think about the past and everything it has taught us, things which are as relevant today as they have always been. Why confuse an issue, which most certainly doesn’t need it?

I am probably the most fortunate of anglers, in that I have an incredible crew to work for and alongside. Fox International and Mainline Baits are armed with the most brilliant of people, and every now and again I get to spend time with some of them. A case in point would be Harry Charrington, someone who holds the light for the future of carp fishing, and someone who has the most polite way of telling me I’m a bit of dickhead at times! I never do a single thing that Harry tells me when he is around which may improve things a little, but I certainly do them once his back is turned! Harry has the very unfortunate responsibility of coming out and filming for my Fox Vlog every so often, and it is times like these when we get to talk. One thing he has constantly reminded me of, is how good and comfortable my 60-inch Oval Brolly would be if I used the fibreglass rod that supports the front of the shelter. Now, I’m not one for carrying anything I believe isn’t needed. As an ex-Paratrooper, my life is dominated by limiting the load I have to carry. I only take a few leads, the minimum amount of terminal tackle, no ground sheet, no winter skin, no doors for the bivvy and as little food as possible. It all adds up to making a move much quicker and manageable, and, to be honest, gives my limited brain capacity far less to think about. However, yet again Harry reminded me about the rod for my brolly when we were filming at Hook Lake the other month, and this time I decided to see what the hell he was on about.

With Harry about 150 miles out of earshot, I retrieved my glass rod from some dusty corner in my loft. I set up my Oval in the back garden, and, very quickly and easily, threaded the ‘offending’ item into position. Well, knock me down with a pot of bright pop-ups, it looked ridiculously good, and, more to the point, opened up the accommodation and made it so much more stable! I was shocked to be honest, and raised my cup of tea to Harry. You live and learn... or do you?

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I should rephrase that really and say, do I learn? Yes, should be the definitive answer, but it would be more pertinent to ask, how much? How much have I been influenced by how it works, how it doesn’t and how it has been influenced by the media and attempts to sell a product or fishing style? I believe the trick is to try things for yourself, to make the decisions as you find them and, most importantly of all, not be influenced by what others say. Which probably means you’ll simply turn the page because I’m just about to say something(!) – but, here goes...

There can be no denying, although there are many who would argue against it, that understanding the environment and the carp which dwell in it should be every carp angler’s top priority. The vast majority of anglers think nothing of the sort, and would much prefer to find out what is the ‘most effective rig and bait’ – according to those trying to sell you something, of course. Then all they have to do is cast it out, and they will inevitably land a carp. Nothing could be further from the truth! I will always maintain that it is so important to find the right place to put your end tackle, and if it’s in the right place then, to a certain extent, it doesn’t really matter what it’s made up of. For me, the next most important thing is how you bait that area. Carp exist on this planet to eat. They haven’t evolved because of intelligence, they have evolved because of instinct and it is this instinct and evolution that has provided them with the greatest filtration system. This allows them to filter out the stuff they want to eat from the stuff they don’t. Simple! All that matters then is putting the rig in an area where the carp are prepared to feed, isn’t it? Once this is achieved the bait that follows will encourage the fish to feed there even more. However, angling pressure makes a difference, not in what the carp are looking for, because they cannot see half of what you are told they can, but in how they will feed. Long ago I realised the use of particles only lessened my chance of hooking a carp, because they encouraged the carp to feed on a small area, not having to move too far for the next mouthful. This allowed the filtration system, not intelligence, to eject the hook. Which, unremarkably, is an item that said system recognises as being something inedible. Boilies answered all those problems for me, and a spread of boilies has become my standard bait in every situation I come across, where I am fishing on the bottom. They offer a substantial mouthful, encouraging the carp to move between mouthfuls and therefore making your rig that much more effective, regardless the amount of unnecessary baggage you surround your hook with. I probably got that message some 30 years ago, and it still stands firm to this day.

Having learned the best way to get a bite, there were obviously other areas to take into consideration. And I guess the rigs themselves would have been the obvious thing to think about. There can be no denying that I have looked at other rigs and the different ways to set them up, but there was only one way I could test them out and find out what they were capable of – if anything. Stalking is a dying art – unfortunately the only angling available to most, is on a heavily-stocked venue which is invariably overcrowded. Creeping up on a carp and watching its reaction to bait and tackle is the best way to gain confidence in what you do, and many of my formative years, spent fishing on extremely limited time, were done that way. Most importantly of all was the fact that I never once, ever, saw a carp looking for tackle. I believe the only reason they look suspicious is because you’re inviting them into an area of the lake where they are at their most vulnerable from predation. Whatever rig I put there, in all instances, was eventually taken if they started eating in the first place, of course. It made me simplify things to where my rigs are today, long hairs and small hooks. All I have to think about is using the best materials to construct them from... and I have always done just that!

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Should I be using small hooks? Now there’s a leading question. I have heard on so many occasions that the bigger the carp, the bigger the hook should be. And an even more confusing issue is that a hook should be bigger when snag fishing or fishing in the weed. I have no idea where this idea came from, I just reckon that many feel a big hook is stronger for some strange reason... they are not! Over the years I experimented with bigger hooks, and it became so obvious that a carp was more likely to come adrift on a bigger hook. More of the smaller hook goes in, thus spreading the load throughout the length of the metal it’s made from, not only allowing you to apply whatever pressure you need to, but also ensuring the carp doesn’t fall off. To prove a point, I have to give an example and Rainbow Lake in France will do just fine. It’s the snaggiest lake known to man and I went there whilst testing some new hooks for Fox about 12 years ago. Many of the fish I caught, including the biggest carp I’ve ever landed, were on size 9 Arma-point SSCs! Hooklinks have received the same treatment over time, until eventually I got round to using the same material for all of my bottom bait fishing. Six to seven inches of 20lb Camotex Soft, in the Dark Camo, is how I use it, I never change it in colour or in length whatever surface I am fishing on. It just works wherever I use it, and in whatever circumstances... go figure, eh?

The last two things I have spoken about are camouflaged to a certain degree; the hooks being made of a non-reflective material and the hooklinks being broken up in a disruptive pattern effect. So why, in heaven’s name, would anyone want to put a bright hookbait on it? Something that is so alien to the carp, and, if you believe such things, so easy for them to identify as dangerous? It amazes me, and I’m sorry if you are one of those, but how can someone believe a carp would be scared of a shiny hook or a non-camouflaged hooklink, yet not a bright pink or white pop-up? If we have gone to all the trouble of trying to disguise our end tackle then why would anyone want to use such a visibly obvious hookbait? And let’s be honest here, I would suggest the majority of carp anglers do so these days, yet the carp keep getting caught on them. Is it simply a case that some feel the need to follow fashion and be ‘well carpy’ for using them? Or is it fundamental proof that carp cannot see colour, or even be scared by it? The latter being what I suspect is the case, and my mind boggles about some of the rubbish we have read over the years. In saying that, we are all driven by different things, and the carp fishing industry give the individual many avenues to explore. The trick is cutting out the crap and using that which we have the most confidence in. But amazingly there is more...

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I have read, and heard, many say that the sound of a lighter lead hitting the water scares a carp less. Really? I could think of nothing that is further from the truth. A 2oz lead will have exactly the same effect on a carp as a 4oz lead – however, there is one significant difference between them. A 4oz lead is infinitely more effective at hooking a carp. Nothing I have ever seen or witnessed will ever make me change my mind, and again, it has nothing to do with the size of the fish you are angling for. The bigger the lead, the further it will help impale the fish on the take. And the more secure that hook hold is from the outset, the more likely you are to land your fish. Again, it surely cannot get anymore simple than that?

As with all aspects of carp fishing, the tackle we use gets less important the farther away from the baited area we get. However, our only connection to that spot is the main line we use, and to be honest here, we ain’t reeling a fish in without it, are we? In the main I am using the Exocet 23lb Trans Khaki monofilament for the majority of my fishing. For one, it sinks like a brick and two, it is invisible in the water. Both are traits which fill me with confidence, of course. However, what happens if your preference is to fish bowstring-tight lines? That monofilament is lifted off the bottom and, most alarmingly, collects any floating debris and detritus that is drifting around in the water column. In essence, it makes the line incredibly visible, whatever it is made from! To me it makes sense to fish it reasonably slack. First of all, it ensures there is no line visible or detectable to the carp in my baited area. And let’s be thorough here, carp don’t just swim around in a spot we have fed, they use the whole lake including the area between your swim and where your end tackle lies. Surely the less obvious my tackle is, the more likely they are to feed with confidence. Secondly, is the controversial subject of bite detection, or should I say how effective is it? My friends and I have carried out countless tests on whether a tight line is more sensitive to a bite than a slack one. On every occasion the relatively slack line has responded better to the movement of the lead, and that is why I use it, simply because I believe it’s the best way to fish.

Which in a round and about way, brings us right back to the beginning of this piece, and my good friend, Harry Charrington. In many situations, Harry fishes his line incredibly tight, with large bobbins or a heavy-set swinger. It’s what he has the most confidence in, and no matter how much I tell him to slacken off his main line a little, I reckon he never will. Harry fishes different waters to me, in a completely different way at times, and isn’t it the way in which we all view carp fishing that adds to how exciting it can be? You don’t have to take a blind bit of notice of me to be honest, but do take notice of what your own eyes tell you. After all, they are undoubtedly the greatest carp fishing accessory we will ever have, and from the information they gather, so your personal confidence will rise. And at the end of the day, it is that confidence which catches the carp!

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Until next time, take care of you and yours. Chilly.

Mick Clifford