The Edge of Autumn

Proof of the pudding – what Holmesy does best

Mark Holmes has used many edges over the years to keep catching and one of his biggest is indeed the edge. No, it’s not bait but a simple tactic, often mentioned but rarely used.

Often I get labelled as being a little off the wall with my approach to catching carp. In my slide shows this year I have revealed a few edges that catch me bonus carp. Using deadbaits, insects, bare hooks have all been shown to people and most have been open mouthed, but still I know inside that they won’t use the tactics. Why? Well simply because, as a section of angling generally, carp anglers can’t be arsed! Now before you all start baying for my blood, I too fall into this category at times. However, without being too highbrow, I’ve had a few over the years so sometimes – just sometimes – catching another carp is not what it’s about for me. However, for beginners or intermediates that is a terrible outlook and one that needs knocking on the head. But hey-ho, we are all humans and we are all carp anglers.

Having said all of that, there is a tactic which I keep reading about in magazines and hear people talking about, yet rarely do I see people advocating it and that is the art of edge fishing. Now edge fishing is quite simply a tactic of fishing on the edge of features. But what constitutes a feature? Well, for many it is the edge of a baited area where the bigger specimens lurk… More often than not, though, that’s complete rubbish as we cannot see the carp over most beds of bait, so to suggest that is happening on your lake is based on one thing and one thing only: the results. This can be dangerous, though, because I have fallen foul of it myself. If you draw conclusions too quickly, you can end up going down a wrong path. Trust me, I’ve been down more wrong paths than Hansel and Gretel – a story written by the brothers Grimm, and that is very apt too!

Years ago a group of mates and I put 20ml of intense sweetener into a bait rather than the recommended dose of 2ml. First trip on the bank saw something like five runs from a one-run-a-year water… we’d cracked it! Three months later, however, not another bite. Only when I put the bait in a runs water and noticed the carp bow-waving away from it did I realise it attracted them in from a distance, but as they came nearer the bait their fins went rigid and off they bolted! Yet what about the first time out and the five runs? Well, it was the old tab end theory, which basically means carp have no fingers so they have to suck things in. Yes, it goes back out at an alarming rate, but the sucking in is bite time; hence the five bites! Poor carp, eh? Five times hooked on something they couldn’t stand!

My favourite marker float and lead arrangement – the slim build helps it rise quickly through the water in sparse/straggly weed

I find get a lot more understanding of the lake bed from the big and bulky leads I use

All my rods are individually marked and spots recorded in a notebook – OCD to the max!

These mini rakes are cast around the spot my marker float has identified – I can pick out the edge of features with these

So drawing conclusions that are too rigid is a no-no. That is why most of my decisions are made on the bank while I am fishing.

The ‘edge edge’ I advocate is applicable to many different swims, lakes and situations. I have often spoken about fixed points. Now a fixed point is something sought out by creatures which get predated on; something they can use to ‘cover’ their backs. That is why edges are so important. That fixed point in the aquatic world can be a bank, sunken weedbed, bottom of a slope, side of a plateau, far side of a gravel bar, snags and all manner of other things. Most carp tend to like to hold up against these edges and also initially will look to position themselves slightly in front of these fixed points. Of course the exception could be overhead snags or weedbeds where the carp will venture into the snag for added security as and when.

The main type of attack you need to find these points depends very much on watercraft and marker work. Marker work is without doubt an art form; one that I’m constantly learning about and trying to improve on. As with all things in this current crazy carp world, at present it tends to follow a simplistic approach. The simplistic edict is always “let’s present a bait on a clear patch”. So the marker float is cast out and pulled along the bottom… Donk, and donk, donk – that’ll do. Clip up, bait added, rod cast to it and we are fishing. Nothing wrong with that and it probably describes 99% of a carper’s approach. Yes, it will catch fish but, as I keep saying, you should look to be doing something different from the rest to catch more than the rest.

First thing I would recommend is getting yourself two marker rods. I first saw this nigh on 20 years ago now and the guy I saw doing it still does it today with great affect. When I quizzed him why he does it he was quite forthright in his reasons. He said, “How can you find the edge of your feature, know how large it is and what is next to it with one marker rod?” The simple answer is you can’t, can you?

Not what you want from a hook, is it? Make sure you take your hooklink off before casting your fishing rod for a feel around the marker

There is a ‘halfway house’ I have used on occasions, but it’s one I would only suggest the more experienced anglers do. Once your first (or only) marker float is on your spot, lead around with your fishing rod. That way you can clip up quickly and also get a real feel for the area around the marker spot. Whilst doing this I have found a nice little way of fishing. I keep casting until I find a completely different drop. That can be weed, silt, silkweed or even harder debris. I then cast back to my marker float and repeat it until I am happy I am just fishing on the edge of the different feel or edge of my marked spot. Strangely enough it doesn’t have to be a particular type of vegetation, as it works with silkweed, onion weed, even Canadian, and as for silt it is again a real winner.

One cautionary note, though, it goes without saying that you need to learn to mark, clip and cast accurately to do this efficiently. Similarly do not use you hooklink while you are doing this as it can damage the point of your hook. I have in my possession some old raking tools that double up as ‘edge finders’ and I keep them well hidden on the busier waters I fish.

Another word of caution: this practise does lead to water disturbance so it tends to be a tactic I would never use with carp already in my swim. It is a great session tactic when you are preparing the spots for carp to move on to, and that ultimately is the advantage of edge fishing.

As with most of the articles I write, word count limits me to divulge the full extent of the tactic, but hopefully the marker float disciples amongst you will drop their jaws when I tell you I have just finished a full chapter on this art for the book I’m writing. Hold on to your hats!

46lb target fish caught from a 2ft depression between two raised humps – careful marker work showed this would be a carp’s preferred route

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