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Rotary Letter, Watercraft and Feature Finding

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I've had a bit if time this morning to put paper to pen, well finger to key rather, so I thought I'd just get on with it.




Watercraft starts at home for me, google earth has proved to be an invaluable tool over the years, mainly because it gives you an entirely different prospective of your lake.
All these pictures can be screen shotted and saved directly to your device.
Make sure you make a note of compass reading's,
I always remember being told years ago
"If your ever in doubt, fish the north east corner"
This is the corner that receives the warmer south westerly winds during a good part of the year, it is also the corner that is sheltered away from the colder north easterly winds during the winter, so it's always a good starting point for me.
Once I'm satisfied I have a good enough collection of images saved, I'll go down to the water, just really to get my barings and get a feel for the place.
You'll often find me starting in the north east corner as I've already stated, and working my way round the entire lake, familiarising myself with the correlation between image and sight.
At this point I'd just like to point out three bits of essential kit that really will help you along you way.
Polarised Glasses
A Cap
I am still amazed to this day how many anglers don't own a pair of polarised glasses, there so useful for cutting out the surface glare on the water. Giving you sight down into the depths.


A Cap to keep any sunlight out of your eyes and a pair of binoculars to look for any distance features or even fish movements.
You might also want to take a pen and paper to mark down anything you see.
I take a lot if pictures on my phone as I'm walking round, mainly of fishy looking features.


I know the golden rule is to ask, start asking questions with the other anglers on the bank.
I never have, I've always preferred to try and work it out myself without any preconceptions from others.
If you do ask others, don't take everything as gold, see if a picture starts to build with all the info you get.


I've often just sat back on lakes and just watched. Sooner or later you'll see where they are casting, what time they are casting, what type of bait they are using and how much, but I still like to try and do things my own way.


When it comes to watercraft, there is no better signal than seeing fish. I used to spend hours sitting up trees watching fish.
I'm never in a rush to get a lead out either, you'll learn far more if you just watch, especially if the fish are relatively close to you.


Watch to see what direction they come from, see if they stop over certain spots for a mooch.
Years ago whilst pre baiting a gravel pit, I watched a group of fish move round, taking the same route every hour or so.


It was obvious they were aware of the presence of anglers as they'd act differently when they neared baited spots.
One of my pre baiting days just happened to be on a Sunday afternoon. I sat aloft in the willow just watching again.
Some of the anglers were pulling off to go home from the weekends fishing, I could see the fish at first.
Then I saw a cloud of brownish sediment coming up from one of the baited spots. It was as if the fish knew when the anglers were pulling off.
The water was nearly completely devoid of anglers, and the feeding really started. This was the first time I had ever seen this happen. It was a clear sign I needed to be fishing when all the anglers had gone.
That first weekend, I fished 4 days, from Friday to Monday night, one cast each rod, then I sat on the rods all weekend. I had my first take on the Sunday and my second on the Monday morning, on a water that wouldn't give up its fish very easily.
Seeing those fish was a massive lesson to me, and something that's always stayed with me.


Something I have noticed over the years is the direct correlation of fish with other wild life like birds.
On some waters some of the birds tend to follow the fish around, feeding on the sediment thrown up to the surface by feeding fish.
Some treat fish like the plague and keep well away giving you another clue.
Birds are very protective over their young, and will often bark at something lurking beneath, giving you another clue.
Watch the gulls, if they seen to congregating and swooping over a certain spot, there has to be a reason for it, and it's usually fish activity.


Treat carp like Solar Panels, they love a bit of sun, and can often be found sunning themselves somewhere. Look for where the sun comes up in the morning and where I dissappear in the evening, look at the areas the receive the most sun light during the day. Carp are relatively temperature controlled so you should always bare this in mind.


One of the most influential factors is angling pressure, look to see where the bulk of anglers are set up, look to see where and what time of day they are casting, and I bet you'll see a pattern emerge. Keep away from heavily populated areas, unless the fish give you a reason for being there.


Don't ignore overgrown swims, or swims tagged as no fish swims, I've lost count the amount of fish I've had from supposed no fish swims.


Most of all keep you eyes open and don't be in a rush, slow down stay calculated, write things down if you need too. Get a pair of polarised glasses, get a pair of binoculars and go and do some foundation building


I'm going to hand over to yonny :)


Feature Finding Kit
The kit I use is fairly normal to be honest, I've always been a fan of using bigger test curve rods to my normal fishing rods. I've never understood the fad of using 2.75lb tc rods. Stiffer rods I've found transmit more vibration from the braided mainline down to your hands.


I use two pieces of tape to mark out 12 inches of distance on my rod.




I would recommend a braid of 20 to 30lb, this should cope with most casting needs.
A word of warning about braid, wear a finder stall, I've recently had a near miss and believe me it hurts.


I do tie a 6 inch loop in the end of my braid so I can change from a lead, to a break away lead to a float.




Normally I'll start by just having a lead around, so just a simple lead on the line is all you need.




Once I have found a couple of spots, I like to attach a float set up and measure the depth, from the back of the feature, on the feature and to the front, sometimes even both sides, just to give me an idea of what the bottom is like.




The float is an MCF Weed beater, these are very buoyant, they fly nice and straight, plus I know from the lake bed to just under the top of the float there is a distance of 6 inches, enabling me to be quite accurate.


Once I've measured the spot, sometimes ill cast out this sea breakaway lead. The prongs are cable tied close, and these trap any weed giving me an indication of what I am fishing over.




If your new to feature finding get yourself set up and run the lead over different substrates in your garden so you get used to the feel them. Then you'll have an idea of what your doing when you go to your water.


Please, don't go down to your water and thrash it to a foam when your water is busy, the other anglers won't thank you for it at all. Try to pick a few hours one evening when angling pressure is low.


I absolutely hate using a marker set up whilst I'm fishing, I will always try to spent a few weeks before markering round various spots before I actually start fishing.
Make notes on your phone or into a book of the distance and sight your casting at so you have a reference for when you are fishing.


Right that's it
Over to you yonny :)


Could one of the staff please combine the two posts into one, thank you :)

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Great stuff Gazlaaar, and thanks for the nomination.


So - watercraft and feature finding, two very different subjects.


My views on watercraft are very different to the above. Watercraft is quite difficult to define IMO - for me it is the word that most closely describes that 6th sense that certain anglers have. I hate to say that I do not believe that watercraft is one of my strong points. Much of Gazlaaar's writings relate to observation, which I do think I'm very good at. I would say the result of those observations can help develop watercraft skills on a given water, but that alone is not enough. Anyone can find carp if they look hard enough.


For me the art of watercraft can be best described as the ability to predict not just where that carp will go, but where the carp will feed, based on the given conditions and how they will affect the water at a particular time. Let's say you show up at a water on a sunny day and find the carp sunbathing in the shallows - do you fish there? Many people would, but that for me shows zero watercraft. Let's say you've observed them feeding during early mornings in similar conditions previously down the other end of the lake - do you fish there? Many, including me probably, might well do. Does that show watercraft? I'm not so sure, that just shows that you can react to a previous experience. Those that practice great watercraft will be one step ahead - they'll know exactly where the carp will go, they'll likely know when they'll go there and why they'll go there. They'll be looking at the obvious stuff - wind, pressure, temps, depths, spots etc. and piecing them together to predict the carps behavior. It is that piecing it all together, accurately, that I consider to be watercraft, and I believe that some guys are just naturally good at it.


The water I fish at the moment does not react well to disturbance. If I show up and find them boshing all over a given swim and cast to them it's normally a case of bye-bye Mr. Carp. The natural solution is to set up in the  next swim, bait up, and wait for them to move in. So that normally gives you 3 choices - those being to set up to the right, the left, or the far side. My decision (and I'm talking very generally here) will be based primarily on temps vs. depths (i.e. if it's warmer I'd go to the shallower option) unless a very new warm wind is present in which case I'd probably choose the direction it was blowing. It works sometimes, other times not, and shows where my watercraft skills are lacking. Those with great watercraft skills will get this right every time - not just sometimes.


Carp are carp, and they don't always follow the rules. Sometimes they do the exact opposite of what you've seen them do in similar conditions. Those with truly excellent watercraft skills know why (prior to it happening, not afterwards!!).


Like I said earlier, those that exhibit the best watercraft are just naturals. I would go so far as to say they don't even realise they're doing it - they just look at the lake and conditions, find the carp, and follow that 'hunch' of where they think the carp will go to feed. That 6th sense - they have the ability to think like a carp almost. There are always one or two guys on any syndicate that just do really well without hogging a swim or baiting the hell out of the lake - they just show up and catch, consistently, making it look easy. It is good watercraft that enables them to do this.


Take someone like Terry Hearn - the number of times he's caught the biggy from a given lake within a week is mind blowing. If it was just a case of walking round, finding fish, and casting at them, we'd all be very successful anglers. But it's not. He knows where to look, and once he's found them he knows where to go to trick them into taking a bait. He's a natural angler with exceptional watercraft skills.


I do believe observation and experience can eventually rival good watercraft but only for a given lake. For example if you fish a particular lake for 5 years you will eventually learn what the carp do. But, when you fish a new lake, that counts for nothing - you have to re-learn everything for the new lake. Those with good watercraft can apply it to any lake, it does not have to be re-learned.


I have to say I envy guys with good watercraft skills.


Feature finding - I've actually written something about this recently on here so I'll open with a copy and paste jobby:


I spend far more time looking for feeding carp than I do looking for specific spots. In a normal angling situation if I see activity and can get a decent drop then I'm happy. It's only if I believe I've found something really special (i.e. after having a big hit) that I might spend any real time investigating/working a spot. When that happens I generally look for the cleanest bit and fish just off it where it's a little dirtier. I find bites are easier to come by just off the clean stuff. Obviously those areas will become cleaner with further baiting/feeding so it pays to just back off every now and then.


I'll now add to that:

As I said, the lake I'm currently fishing does not react well to casting at fish which kind of renders the above info redundant. So what do I look for if I'm fishing a swim hoping that carp will show up? In a word - ANYTHING! Anything DIFFERENT that is. Of course a significant difference in depth is always interesting, as is a blatant clear spot, but anything out of the ordinary is worth a rod IMO. I maintain I'm not fussy when it comes to spots and will happily fish over pretty much any substrate as long as something is a little different to the rest of the swim.


To mark up you cannot get simpler than my methods. I just use a bare lead on either my normal fishing rod or spod rod and count the lead down through the water to determine depth. I reckon I can gauge anything up to about 12 ft with an accuracy of +/- 1ft doing just this. Deeper waters may see me chucking the marker float out. The distance sticks see more and more action every year for me, they've become pretty important for my angling.


Most of my marking is done prior to going home. I dislike chucking leads around a swim repeatedly when I'm hoping that carp will be in the area at some point. If no bites come during a session I'll spend maybe 10 minutes having a decent lead about. If I've caught I may spend some time marking in an attempt to figure out exactly why.


Basically I prefer the carp to do my marking for me. If I see them playing up/feeding in an area, then I'm interested in that area.


That's about it from me. I'm now going to nominate the guy who's shown the greatest interest in the subject of feature finding - spr1985.

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I honestly think that watercraft can be improved upon, or learned, and equally, can be lost or wasted.
By wasted, I mean if you turn up fish the same spot, with the same rig, as every other trip without watching or learning you are wasting one of your biggest talents.

The more you watch and fish a water over time, the more you should learn about fish behaviour. This is not relevant just for carp, but for roach, bream and tench.

A patch of bubbles could be carp, or it could be bream, tench, eels, or even pike smacking the lakebed as they make a hit, as well as the lakebed naturally letting off gas. The watercraft is learning which is which!

Then you have fish following the wind, 'do they, don't they?' and this can be changed by a number of reasons.
From my experience of big open waters, the fish tend to follow a new wind more than on smaller more surrounded lakes, but angling pressure can change this if anglers take it to the extreme on the big water.

Note that 'new wind'. If the wind has been blowing from the same direction for a day or more, the fish seem to move away against it, so if you arrive at a lake on day three of that south westerly, the carp may have gone back to their usual haunts.
Some carp just do not follow the wind, they are resident in an area, that is where they stay, most of the time.

Is there a surfeit of food, natural or man made?
If the fish are feeding heavily on naturals, like bloodworm, or daphnia, then they can totally ignore boilies, or other baits.
The Lagoon carp spent ages feeding on daphnia this season. One fish did not move from the sluice for 2months there was so many daphnia blooms around it. This was despite a number of wind changes, the fish just stayed put.

I actually like finding bloodworm beds, they give me a very good idea of where fish can be, even in winter. Competing with bait on those spots can be tough, but chops, crumbled boilies and pellets will give the carp something to munch as well.

Watercraft is basically getting your bait to be taken in the spot the carp will accept it, with a rig that will get your hook-up. Note though, absolutely no rig is 100% efficient, but you can improve it by your feeding. If the carp feed happily, then an 'inefficient' rig can catch you fish. You do not need the latest super-duper ultra complicated rig going, most simple rigs can be improved by the hair length.

Now my current fishing, I can rarely identify one spot, the water is simply too big. Pressure changes the fish, they move away from regular casting, bait going in and spodding over them, most of the time. The exception can be when the yachts are on the water, splashing, falling in and spodding do not disturb the carp so much.

Feature finding
For years I have had the habit of putting a marker out, to identify spots, even every day just to pinpoint a spot specifically. I would cast to the marker and bait up to it. Now I do not think it so important to be so specific on this water, there are just too many different variables. I don't necessarily want to give my spots away, or advertise them, and after a check at the start of the trip, I will mark my fishing lines, clip my spod/spomb rod to get those spots every day.
I don't do distance sticks, I don't do reel turns, I do a (or multiple) cast with a marker, get it right, then clip and cast to it, and mark my line with power gum or insulation tape. That way I do not have to do the marker rod every day anymore.

I have Google Earthed my water, and I have a very nice map of part of it, I also have pictures of my old lake drained, with all the gravel bars and plateau being obviously above water.
I can't map it out as I want, I won't disturb other anglers, and there is usually someone on there at all times I am there, and I am currently only able to make it twice a month for two night trips, so everything is done on the fly. I learn a swim when I fish it for the first time.

This does not make an ideal way to learn, but has worked for me sometimes. Saying that, there are some swims I have fished on more than one occasion, and I do know some fairly well.

Next call, choices, choices, Smufter, can you give us your two pennorth please

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Next call, choices, choices, Smufter, can you give us your two pennorth please

Got to be honest, I don't spend a lot of time on "watercraft", tending to rely on my experience and "instinct" more than anything else.

I've been fishing for the best part of 50 years, albeit only targeting Carp for maybe the last 5 or so, so feel that I have picked up quite a bit of experience over the years.

Unfortunately, I am not a member of a syndi or club, so the waters I generally fish tend to be local day ticket waters.

With the greatest respect to others, watercraft is not a lot of use to you if you turn up and find that 9 of the 10 available swims are taken and you are lumbered in a swim that nobody else wants!

When I first arrived at the lake in France I knew that having exclusive use meant we could be a little more "choosy" over where we fished.

I hadn't caught particularly well over there the previous year, mainly due to the high temperatures experienced, but I gained a little knowledge on likely fish holding spots and it was these I concentrated on.

Looking for tell tale signs like sediment being stirred up on the bottom in certain areas of the lake at certain times of the day gave me a good idea of the residents feeding habits and their patrol routes.

I tend to fish smaller waters as well, which you quickly learn about. I personally steer clear of big venues. Despite my passion for fishing, the thought of having to fish a massive great pit where you have to cast 150 yards to hit feeding fish is not my idea of fun. Each to their own though.

I apologise if this reply isn't as "technical" as some, but I am what I consider to be a "traditional" (some would say "old fashioned) angler, preferring to fish light and simple.

I am just as happy freelining a lump of breadflake into the margins and watching my line entering the water as I am sitting behind a rod waiting for a bobbin to rise.

To somebody coming into this game new, reading about the various types of rods, reels and more particularly rigs there must be some helluva confusion.

Ronnie Rigs, German rigs, zigs, chods, pop ups, blowback, stiff rigs, hinged rigs.... what's that all about then?

Like I say, a lump of breadflake, or a chunk of luncheon meat freelined into the margins of any lake are likely to catch you a fish.

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haha!! watercraft, feature finding? its taken me an hour to find this thread :lol:

after two hectic days of driving without a break my head is in a bit of a weird state atm, so if i can have a couple of days to get it in gear i will sort out a long boring thesis on getting old while learning how not to blank.

my dissertation as i leave the complexities of bait composition and how to find carp (hence the regular blanks) to the experts will be on various types of rigs, where, when and how to use and how to build them to the best of my knowledge if that is allowed.

this will obviously not be aimed at the likes of CM, yonny, chilly and the other oldies but the ones who may actually benefit from it like returnees and newbies (members or not) who are actually looking for it and so any additions or amendments/corrections by the aforementioned geezers would be not only welcome but positively encouraged.

if anyone else would like to contribute in the interim, feel free and i will just chuck mine in inbetween :wink:


just a quick edit to say your up if your that eager Adam and i will follow in a couple of days :wink:

Edited by cyborx
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Thanks Cyborx. Hope I'm up to the challenge. :) As a quick note, this is from my perspective and experience. I don't pretend in any way to be an expert, this is just how I go about my fishing.

Probably the most important part of considering watercraft for me is the realisation that, like everything, watercraft is so venue specific that it's almost not worth writing an ABC on how to do it. It would simply be a list of different considerations, techniques and skills which most know, or can learn from the telly! It's the choice and application of said skills that make it worthwhile or not. So rather than "this is how a marker rod works", "this is what the wind can mean", I'm going to look at my current situation and how I apply watercraft to try and get the best out of a trip. Feature finding doesn't really come into it too much on this water, but I'll look at how the limited features that are on the lake influence the fishing

So it's a syndicate lake. Weedy, old, mature, shallow and stream fed and drained. It's gin clear, and half the time, covered in swans. So from this alone, without even seeing the lake, watercraft thoughts are starting to stir. Ok, mature and weedy. Is the weed patchy? How thick? Is it uniformly shallow, or uneven. It will be stuffed with naturals! How do the fish respond to boillies? A Google Earth pic gets it started nicely. Bays, compass directions, trees etc, even shallower spots can be gleaned without even visiting the lake.

In terms of approach to the lake, the basic watercraft for me was done once, and will not need doing again. With a marker rod it took me under an hour to realise that I won't be needing a marker rod on this lake. Depth change anywhere is nothing special. Nothing much to find bottom wise. It's a smooth clay bed, with more or less weed depending on the time of year. Not much to tell. Silty at one end, not at the other, but all pretty uniform. Depths, and depth changes, once known don't change. At 10acres It's not big enough to need to spend any amount of time learning each peg, and the weed and clear spots can be seen from the bank. I'll still pay attention to the lake bed in each session, but a couple of chucks with a bare lead on a fishing rod will more than suffice. Get a drop. Simple. No need at all to froth it up with a marker each time. The main considerations on a session by session basis will be fish location, weed progress, weather, and swans!

So this process starts days, even weeks before the session. Weather plays a big part on this lake, and although some may say not watercraft as such, it dictates where the fish will be, what mood they will be in, and what tactics will work best. Pretty key if you ask me!

I'm a compulsive weather watcher, and always keep track of it from a fishing point of view. Any changes in the weather will change the fishing. A sudden drop in pressure, a cool spell after a warm spell, a warm spell after a cool spell, and a switch in wind, first rain in a while and first dry in a while are the things that'll have me down there in a shot. Sometimes fishing if I can, but if not, watching. A cap and good polarised glasses are worth a million times more than a marker rod now! My glasses cost me a lot more than my market set up, and on this water it's the right way around. Quality polarised glasses over anything else!

So initially, whenever I visit I will walk the bank. It's fishing one side only, but you can walk the far bank to observe and bait up, and it's between 40 and 80 yards across. A long thin lake. By walking the bank it's usually easy enough to spot fish. If the fish are nowhere to be seen, and it's amazing how well a bunch of 20lb fish can hide in 4-5ft of gin clear water, then they're in the part that you can't see as well into. This being the middle of the widest part, and a slightly deeper area further up. You can also see the weed beds. When it's still you can climb a tree and see every single clear patch in front of you. They get smaller and smaller as the summer goes on, and this is where a key piece of the puzzle comes from. Every now and then a great big clear patch turns up. Normally at the top end. It doesn't see a line much up there as people don't like the long walk, so that's the area I fish a lot. These patches have been cleared out by fish rooting for naturals, usually snails, and they are a RUBISH place for a bait! Hmm, why, well they've already cleared these spots out, so they're off elsewhere. I've tried baiting them over and over, they just swim straight over the top without looking. An area devoid of natural food in a lake stuffed with it, but with a pile of boillies on is a trap, for sure! Add to this that the swans will find visible bait on clean patches very quickly, not the one here! The best spots are the smaller clear areas near to these big clear outs. A rig right on the edge of these spots will produce, but it requires a chuck to the far bank and a baiting pole to get this kind of accuracy, and is a bit hit and miss to be worth it. A spot off the clear patch is more likely, and they still seem to expect food in the area. Also great spots to pre bait, handful at a time, no more. There are some patches that they come back to again and again for a few months, but this needs interpreting before fishing. Can be great, easy even, but can be a waste of time! A rig in a clouded up spot will get a fast run, but it doesn't happen often! Only watching them will tell! So having observed, and fished, and observed some more, many patterns start to form. They turn up in certain spots when certain conditions prevail. They are nervous and flighty in other conditions, and will actively seek out bait in others. Sometimes they are there, and obvious, but in the kind of mood that they'll either ignore bait, or spook off it. In this situation it's not worth trying to fish for them, it just spooks them off line. Trying a different spot with no fish in, and bringing them in on bait is preferable. This is very venue specific, but from observing any lake over a long period and when changes in weather occur a pattern can be built. Worth mentioning here that catch reports also aid in this massively, but this lake is very lightly fished so others aren't much help in this respect. Also most don't give away their peg, but almost always take the shots in front of a tell tail bush, tree or bench. Any information puts the picture together, and is all worth having.

It's important to me to visit the lake regularly. Especially during seasonal changes as well. Spring and Autumn will always be the best times for fishing for carp, but they are also the times when the lake is changing the fastest. Fish behaviour, location, and response to food changes so fast that keeping on top of it is a challenge. 2 weeks without a walk in these times and I'll feel like I'm starting again! Fortunately fish tend to be creatures of habit, so next year should be a bit easier on the legs and harder on the arms!


Of course all of this goes out of the window when there are 70 swans on the lake! Your only option is to fish where they aren't. They can reach the bottom everywhere, and will clean you out if they find you. Watercraft? Swan dodging would be a better description! :D

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