How we long for those summer days to return, watching the cruising carp, slapping those mozquitos as they penetrate the follicle as the sun`s rays bring the tranquil evening surface to life. The high-pressure days can be so hot that we silently hope for a splash of Scotch mist to cool the prickly skin, absolutely stunning summer conditions, but not necessarily advantageous to feeding activity or big hits! Let`s get back to reality, we are now in the coolest season, and the summer comforts are only months away. In this article, I will explain my findings on my favourite carp conditions.
Meteorology affects our pursuit to such a magnitude that the decision-making process is often based upon current weather, for example, wind direction aids us in location as the fish relocate. If the carp are in the surface layers then it may be advantageous to fish accordingly. Baiting is reduced in certain conditions and increased in others, our climatic conditions affect the carp`s lifestyle so much, yet how much attention do we pay to the weather? By monitoring conditions and fishing in commonly perceived feeding conditions your catch rate will improve! I deduce to what many are now thinking, anglers in full-time employment are unable to choose conditions?
Full-time employment means the majority are obliged to give a period of notice prior to taking time off employment, therefore it`s unlikely that this time will coincide with favourite fishing conditions. I manage to fish my perceived best conditions by going down for single mid-weeknights and packing up early the following morning before work. Going to these lengths when I feel the atmosphere is such that the chance of a bite is enhanced, I live an hour’s drive from my current chosen venue, for me, distance is not an issue.
The million-dollar question: what are perfect conditions? Having monitored the weather over the years and many angling decisions being based upon the climate or the forecast of it, I can sub conclude that 80 % of the time I get it right. In the same gasp there have been times when they look ideal and the carp think otherwise, but generally speaking, others fishing the same lake or I will catch.
Therefore it is not my objective to dictate to you when the fish will feed but to pass on my conclusions, if I were able to foretell the best times to fish I would be marketing the information.
My interpretations of summer textbook carp conditions are a nice warm low-pressured overcast breezy day with the occasional thunderstorm. An example of this was illustrated during a recent mayflower pool trip, landing over 50 carp to 40 lb plus. Conditions were an overkill of what was hoped for, perfect! Mother nature did not want me fishing as she persistently displayed her distaste in the manner of some awe-inspiring firepower, lightning, low pressured fronts of nimbus clouds (the towering cotton wool type.) How right I was as I recall stating, “In these conditions, we should catch.” And that we did! Almost all of my big hits have come in what is classed as bendy conditions.
There are a number of factors that are of interest to the carp angler, these being wind direction, speed, temperature, cyclones, and anti-cyclones. All of these have an impact on the carp`s behaviour, albeit some more than others, my own interpretation of the right conditions is detailed below, but bare in mind that carp don’t always think in a textbook manner.
High-pressure air masses
It is widely accepted that high-pressured still air systems produce the warmest weather in the summer and the coldest in the winter and most experienced anglers will agree that these are not the best fishy conditions, especially when there is little wind. During a hot still spell carp tend to venture into the upper layers of water during the day to bathe and enjoy the solar radiation within the band of warm water commonly known as a thermocline. The thermocline plays an important part in the behaviour of the lake habitat. It is an area of water within the water column in which the warmer upper waters are prevented from mixing with those at a deeper level. This barrier prevents the interchange of nutrients between the two and so in a way produces two separate environments for pond creatures.
I have personally witnessed the thermo layer whilst scuba diving in a deep Dutch lake. The change from warm to cold water was not as gradual as expected; it was warmer for 7 ft, then a distinct line of 2 different temperatures, so distinct that I could have almost placed a ruler on the change. During the night the thermo lowers and the fish often follow, again I have a first-hand account of this due to speaking to some Dutch fire brigade divers on the same deep lake, I recall them stating that they prefer to dive an hour after dusk as the warm water thermo drops down in-depth, interesting?
As soon as the sun starts to warm the water the following morning carp return to the surface layers. Probably the reason why zig rigs are better during the day than at night. I am not saying that a zig won`t catch during the night but in my experience, they are far more effective once the sun has warmed the water and the carp have ventured into the upper levels. Carp are inclined to feed more confidently when a good breeze accompanies high pressures, in these conditions on larger venues they normally follow the wind i.e. many fish will be in the windy half of the lake. There are exceptions, holding areas, angler pressure, or features that may influence their movements, but generally speaking a percentage of a lakes stock move on a warm breeze to features in the bendy half.
High pressured winter conditions tend to bring the coldest nights and are often still, when a high-pressure system is evident for several days the water temperature reduces to a point that water solidifies to ice particles. Due to this, I am more selective in regards to fishing conditions during our shorter days, preferring to fish in lows. A low in winter tends to be warmer, windier but wetter and from past results has been a good winter feeding indicator. There are many who will disagree with me on this, I would be interested to see someone record under water during the winter months in varying conditions (that’s an idea for a DVD) I am sure it would open our eyes. I think we would see more carp stationary in mid-water than one would envisage.
In winter the thermo is not as defined due to the reduced variation in temperature from day to night. The difference between day and night temperatures at this time of year rarely exceeds 8 degrees centigrade whereas in the summer it can be as much as 20 degrees. As a result, the carps movement throughout the depths will not be so great, preferring to remain at a comfortable level, maybe the warmer layer.
Low-pressure air masses
Low pressured masses or anticyclones at the right time of year produce the best catches, I don’t think there can be much argument in this as the catch reports in carp talk prove it. Occasionally I will read recent catch reports in the website chat rooms, these are a good indication of general feeding conditions and have noticed many good catches when our country has been subject to low pressured breezy conditions. This data along with my own findings lead to the conclusion that these conditions produce better fish. I am so convinced that whenever they are forecasted I will reach into my freezer for my golden boilies.
During the winter, low-pressured fronts can bring cold downpours or even snow and cause a sharp change in water temperature that in turn has an effect on fish behaviour. A warm winter south-westerly may have the opposite effect by increasing the water temperature in the upper layers. The general consensus of opinion is that longer stable weather conditions are better during the cooler months. I agree with this to a certain extent, preferring warm prolonged south westerlies rather than long periods of cold still highs, but do not agree that long stable high pressures are good in winter. I have caught on a number of occasions during winter highs but usually just before the lake freezes and only when fishing next to winter holding areas, snags or reed beds..
Predicting fishing conditions
Fishing in the right conditions can only aid in your quest for carp, by watching the forecast and predicting the best times to fish I have been more successful, than if I had fished on pre-selected dates i.e. every other weekend. It is quite a simple process of being able to read the weather forecast and predict better feeding conditions. Of course, I will not be right every time but generally speaking, my chances are greatly improved, even if it means single overnight sessions before going to work early the following morning.
The 24-hour forecast is the best guide and contrary to popular belief is fairly accurate. A detailed forecast will give wind direction, speed, temperature, and pressure. When a reasonable wind is predicted I often prepare to deploy, even better is a warm wind when the isobars on the forecast are close together. After a period of still weather, these conditions often get the carp moving.
It is not my intention to go into detail on how to read the forecast, but in order to understand what to look for, I have included a short overview:
Isobars are lines of equal pressure, these can be seen on forecasts as circular lines and look similar to map contours, the tighter the lines the stronger the wind. Pressure systems are indicated as highs or lows with arrows to indicate wind direction, (bare in mind that direction is stated as the direction from which the wind is coming.) In the UK temperatures are indicated in degrees Celsius and in mainland Europe degrees Fahrenheit or Kelvin.
Changes in air pressure often signify weather changes. Rising air pressure is a good sign of fair weather, whereas falling air pressure generally signals stormy weather. This is because a drop in air pressure often indicates that a cyclone, or low-pressure system, is moving into an area, bringing clouds and precipitation. A rise in air pressure frequently means that an anticyclone or high-pressure system is moving into an area, bringing fair weather, hence the reason I have a household barometer hanging in my lavatory and often monitor it when fishing lake 2 (think about it.)
Once the forecast is understood it is a simple case of applying the conditions to the lake you are fishing e.g. mentally picture the wind direction on your lake, you may recall how well the carp fed during past similar conditions, all of which will aid us in our plight. The anglers that have fished the same lake for many years subconsciously know the likely whereabouts of the carp in certain conditions.
Long-range forecasts have been beneficial during longer sessions, I recall arriving at a 60-acre lake in France and speaking to some Dutch carpists who were packing up after a successful weeks fishing. The wind was blowing onto their bank and had been blowing in that direction the previous week, this wind pushed much fish toward their area. My decision was not to fish there due to having a long-range forecast for the week that predicted a 360-degree change in direction the following day. Due to this, I opted to set up camp on the opposite bank, where the forecasted wind was going to blow towards.
The first night I blanked, but the wind picked up the following morning and pushed the fish away from where they had been the week before and brought them towards my swim. Resulting in a number of carp to 42 lb. In hindsight that web printout made a difference between setting up where the carp were on arrival and where they moved to the coming week. A quick search on the Internet brings up many sites where you can print out a short or long-range forecast, I would recommend you take the time to print one prior to any long session.
Preferred conditions in the cooler months
Please note that during my synopsis of winter conditions I have not placed a good by any of the comments, as it is very difficult to predict winter carpy conditions, perhaps other writers can pass on their opinions?
Clear, cold still frosty conditions – Very difficult to gauge, results have been a bit hit and miss, but there are occasions when the carp activity has proved otherwise.
Freezing fog – Worst, in fact, I can only recall a couple of takes during 23+ years of carp angling.
Overcast with cold winds – Difficult to comment on but generally not good, especially when the wind is blowing from the east.
Overcast with warm winds – Prior to last year, winter season I would have said, “perfect winter conditions.” However, my results from the last mild winter indicate otherwise! Would not like to put my neck out on this one.
Cloudy snow clouds – These can be reasonable winter conditions, especially when the air temperature rises.
Warm south westerly and broken clouds – Good to reasonable chance of a winter bite and you may meet me on the bank if these are forecast.
Preferred conditions in the warmer months
The conditions listed below are not definitive as carp have a habit of feeding when we least expect them to; this is a guideline and guideline only.
Hot, still with little variable wind – Not normally good for bottom fishing, feeding tends to be morning or evening.
Hot sunny days with a good breeze – The water is more oxygenated and can bring results, especially if the past days have been still.
Warm winds, broken clouds with white horses on the water – Good to very good, especially at the windy half of the lake.
Broken towering nimbus clouds, occasional thunder with a good wind – Excellent, I have had some of my best catches during these conditions.
Overcast with a breeze and occasional shower – Can produce some good hits at the right time of year.
Persistent rain – Not good 100% covering of low-lying clouds with occasional drizzle – Good to very good, some good catches have come my way in such conditions.
The above are only guidelines, sometimes when you least expect a pick up the alarm will break the silence, but more often than not the carp will feed stronger just before, during, or just after a good low pressured blow.
It is evident on so many lakes, Lac du Der rarely fishes well during still air conditions, many of the European lakes respond well to low-pressure systems and even better when a low is accompanied by towering thunderclouds and a good breeze. When conditions are right, many carp from a multitude of lakes will grace the pages of carp talk the following week – coincidence or conditions?
I am growing increasingly interested in moon phases and having read some of Tim Paisley`s comments on the subject feel the need to agree, and believe that a combination of weather conditions in the right moon phase produces the best catches and biggest fish.
I will endeavour to monitor moon phases more, as yet I don’t believe we as carp anglers have gathered enough substantial evidence to prove or disprove the theory, but my gut feeling is that there is something in it. Only time and factual data will substantiate any theories that affect the cyprinoid`s behaviour. Due to the amount of thinking anglers, underwater cameras, and scientific data we are learning more every year about carp habits.
My recent fluke of 50 carp during a 6-day session with 14 over 30 lbs to 40 lb+ indicates just how important weather conditions are to us. The weather for the majority of the week consisted of low pressure with a good breeze, on the one clear sunny day fewer carp were caught!
The moral is:
Go fishing as much as you wish for enjoyment, but try to choose your conditions for the best results, the weather is important use it to your advantage!