• A stunning mirror caught by Matt while fishing a Fenland river.

    A stunning mirror caught by Matt while fishing a Fenland river.
  • Step 1 – Take a run ring and tie a six inch length of 15lb mono to it.

    Step 1 – Take a run ring and tie a six inch length of 15lb mono to it.
  • Step 2 – Now thread a cork ball or cylinder up the mono and push it up against the run ring.

    Step 2 – Now thread a cork ball or cylinder up the mono and push it up against the run ring.
  • Step 3 – With a sharp blade carefully make an insertion at the bottom of the run ring.

    Step 3 – With a sharp blade carefully make an insertion at the bottom of the run ring.
  • Step 4 – Now take a double swan shot and pinch it onto the bottom of the mono.

    Step 4 – Now take a double swan shot and pinch it onto the bottom of the mono.
  • Hooks and hooklinks need to be seriously strong on slow-moving, weed-packed Fenland rivers.

    Hooks and hooklinks need to be seriously strong on slow-moving, weed-packed Fenland rivers.
  • Crave boilies, Frenzied Hempseed and Monster Tiger Nuts form Matt's feed to hold carp a day before his session.

    Crave boilies, Frenzied Hempseed and Monster Tiger Nuts form Matt's feed to hold carp a day before his session.
  • Believe it or not, a water pistol filled with hemp jiuce will help you spot clear patches in adverse weather.

    Believe it or not, a water pistol filled with hemp jiuce will help you spot clear patches in adverse weather.

- Top river carp fishing tips

There’s something about walking alongside a crystal clear river, only for your eyes to be drawn to a large dark shape cruising just under the surface, writes Matt Rand. The chances are, the fish you are watching has never been hooked before, let alone seen an unhooking mat. This untapped style of carp fishing is all too rare these days and is the one reason I will never tire of the fishing the rivers.

In my area of the Cambridgeshire Fens, the network of rivers and drains that criss-cross the surrounding countryside equate to a lot of miles of water. With the majority of the waterways being slow-moving, thick vegetation rich in natural food items grow in abundance. And this creates an immense underwater jungle that provides carp with the perfect habitat.

Locating river carp is the single biggest battle for the pioneering river angler, as more often than not vast stretches will be totally devoid of fish. Preparation is key to putting some of these large, possibly uncaught creatures on the bank.

Preparation isn’t necessarily a case of pre-baiting either and I now much prefer to spend a lot more time on the bank in search of the fish rather than relying on a prolonged baiting campaign. There certainly are times when heavy baiting can draw the fish in, but it will also draw in vast shoals of bream, which can dramatically reduce your chances.

Standard approach for me nowadays is to spend as much time at the water’s edge as I possibly can. Only when I start to see a few fish, I will think about fishing the area. Bare in mind though, carp will often travel miles up and down stream, so it always pays to watch their behaviour in the area. Fish lying static against the flow, rolling or even better, bubbling up, are all signs of fish that are resident in an area.

Once you’re happy the fish are in the area, the most important thing is to not waste time! Just because the fish are there does not mean that they will necessarily hang around. With miles of river to travel, as soon as they start to exhaust a natural food source in one spot, they’ll soon move onto the next. Timing is definitely the most important thing after location; never take it for granted that they will be there for days afterwards.

Certainly in the rivers I fish, the weed growth can be extremely thick and create serious problems when it comes to placing baits. Years ago I used to prefer raking swims, but now I much prefer to find the natural holes that the carp tend to feed within. As with many rivers, the centre channel always seems to remain clean, which in my mind creates a kind of highway for the fish to pass through. Much like us stopping at a service station, I always look for clear patches that come straight off the central channel, - I’ve found that fish visit these with more regularity than enclosed gaps.

I’ve caught fish from smaller clearings, but I’ve had better hits of fish from larger clear spots, so it can pay to really look into the area once you’ve located the fish. A decent pair of polarised sunglasses is paramount as you won’t see a lot without them!

Another essential item for me is something that may sound a little strange… As we live in Britain, we always have the issue of bad weather, especially strong winds. Now, trying to locate potential spots to place you rigs with a good chop on the water is impossible, but believe it or not it can easily be got around with a water pistol and a bottle of hemp juice! By simply shooting the hemp juice upstream of where you want to look, you will create an oily slick – a flat spot in the water - you can then follow the flat spot as far down river as you want, topping it up as and when. I can’t guarantee you won’t get a few funny looks though, especially as all the new water guns seem to be battery powered and sound like an alien machine gun!

As soon as I’m happy with the spots I’ve marked out, it’s time to introduce a bit of bait. This is something that I’ve experimented with a lot over the years, and I’ve now come to the conclusion that one big feed the day before I fish seems to be enough if they are in residence. I’ve played with a few different mixes, but have now settled on a 50% mix of Dynamite Monster Tiger Nuts, 30% of 18mm ‘The Crave’ Freezer baits and 20% Frenzied Hempseed.

I drain all of the juices out of the particles for use within the water pistol at a later date. Amazingly, last year on several test sessions with ‘The Crave’, I found that every fish actually fell to my boilie rod rather than the tiger nut rod. Although the majority of the fish were passing tiger nuts on the mat after capture.

It’s fair to say that rigs do not need to be too technical for river carping, but they do need to be strong and efficient hookers. With the intense weed beds everything about your rig needs to be stepped up and well thought-out. For instance, you need to anticipate what will happen when a carp runs off with your bait in a hole amongst the weed. If you do not set the lead to eject quickly you will find that the carp will plough straight through it all, but on the other hand, if you allow the lead to eject quickly and fish a tight clutch, the fish will very quickly hit the surface and be much easier to play out in the water above the weeds.

From this point, it is important that your rig is strong and abrasion resistant as possible. My mainline is Shimano’s Tribal Carp mono in 15lb – it’s absolutely bullet-proof and well up to a bit of lily warfare. Beneath this I fish a length of ACE Hard-On Leadcore, how long very much depends on the size of the clear spot I’m fishing. The actual rig itself is a simple snowman set-up constructed out of 35lb ACE Camo Core and a new ACE Razor Point size 6 BBP with a line aligner Kicker. I’ve put these hooks through some serious grief on the rivers and not only have they stood up to the job, they’ve also been fine to cast straight back out afterwards.

Even though impeccable line lay isn’t so important for the relatively naive river carp, you do need to be very mindful of boat traffic etc. I personally dislike backleads - they really get in the way and very often can get stuck in the marginal weeds and cause you all sorts of problems. Flurocarbon also has the same issues, where it will lay flat on the weed and often bury over the course of a session. One way I have found of overcoming this is to create my own backlead using a run ring, a cork ball, length of mono and a double swan shot. Have a look at the series of images above to see how I create it.

The final product helps to keep your line close to the bottom away from the boats and means that you can sleep easier when you hear one coming. It also has the advantage of when you do lift into a carp the double swan shot usually pops straight off and you’re instantly in direct contact with the fish. As soon as I’ve attached the homemade backlead I’ll pay out a bit of slack just to prevent the line being bowstring tight.

Rivers hold so many surprises and it’s no wonder more and more people are stepping up to the challenge. I was proved just how you never know what’s coming next last year, when I slipped the net under an interesting upper double figure white koi – certainly not typical for a river! As well as this fish, I’ve also seen some large ghosties as well as a jet-black common with totally white fins! Although I think one of the best parts of fishing the rivers is something you don’t tend to see – other anglers!