Many recreational anglers often seek the species, and carp fishing has become a sport in many parts of the world. Because carp put in a decent fight when hunted, the carp fishing “sport” attracts more challenging souls every day.
Of all the freshwater bodies that carp can live in, we’re going to be focusing on rivers. So, if you’re a new carp angler seeking knowledge, you’re in the right place. Below is your beginner’s guide to river carping, so let’s get straight to it.
Understanding Carp Behaviour
Understanding fish behaviour goes a long way in catching it, and the case is no different when it comes to fishing for carp.
Do Carp Behave Differently in Different Waters?
As you embark on your carp fishing journey, you’ll find that carp behave differently in different bodies of water. Carp is a freshwater fish, which means that you can find them in water bodies like ponds, lakes, and rivers.
River Carp vs. Lake Carp
While both are bodies of fresh water, lakes and rivers have different dynamics. Thus, creatures living in these bodies have to adopt different survival and feeding mechanisms.
You can also see our post here on carp day ticket waters for your next carp adventure.
Lakes are usually calmer and much smaller than rivers, so carp fish living there move a lot less. Unlike lake carp, river carp need to constantly fight through the river’s currents. Because they need to utilize a lot of energy for movement, river carp will usually eat more than their lake-bound cousins.
With the river’s wild currents, river carp can swim up to a few kilometres every day. This means that if you spot a wild river carp somewhere today, it’ll probably be far gone when your return tomorrow. Lake carp differ greatly in this matter, where they have chosen spots for hiding and others for food sourcing.
Some carp-bearing lakes are extremely popular, so the carp there is used by anglers and common fishing baits. You’d think this would be a major disadvantage, but it’s actually the other way around. Being accustomed to the baits, the carp won’t be suspicious of your hooks and will be more likely to bite them.
This isn’t the case in wild rivers. If the wild fish has never seen bait before, it’ll grow highly suspicious and will be very unlikely to bite it.
Generally speaking, river carping is challenging and requires more skill because carps are rarely visible in rivers. Therefore, beginners usually practise in lakes and ponds before upgrading to river carp fishing.
Locating River Carp
Now that you have a brief idea of river carp behaviour, it’s time to locate the fish. Locating this river fish isn’t as straightforward as you may assume; the process requires a lot of walking, planning, knowledge, testing, and patience. However, there are some factors that can lead you through it.
Hiding Spots and Food Sources
There are locations along the river where natural food sources are abundant, so look for these when carp fishing. For example, carp tend to hang around on river shoulders because the tide is low and the food is plentiful.
Large boulders and rocky bottoms also present perfect spots for the carp to hide and feed. Similarly, natural obstacles and above-water structures like bridges are good locations to explore when carp fishing.
Unlike their lake-bound cousins, river carp are shoaled fish. This means that if you find one river carp, it’s probable that you’ll find others nearby. Similarly, scaring off one carp will scare the rest of the shoal.
River Carp Baiting
Carp is an intelligent fish species, so keep that in mind when planning your next carp fishing trip. For instance, the fish can recognize any foreign sounds or changes in environmental patterns. See the different types of carp here.
There are some baiting techniques that you can use to maximize your chances of landing some carp. For starters, you want to cast gently and be as quiet as possible while fishing so as not to raise any suspicion. Additionally, wearing suitable clothes serves the same purpose: it helps you blend in with the environment.
A standard technique that you should know about is pre-baiting.
Pre-baiting is the practice of laying out harmless bait to lure in the fish before laying the hooked bait. This won’t only keep the carp in the area but also subconsciously train them to be less wary of the real bait when you present it. Essentially, it’s playing mind games on the carp to get them to fall for your bait when it’s fishing time.
Moreover, this practice allows you to test out your baits before the real fishing begins; carp in different areas may have different bait preferences.
Best Baits for River Carp
As we mentioned, it may take some trial and error before finding the best bait for your river fishing. So let’s see some of the best types used for carp fishing.
As reported by most anglers, boilies are the best baits to catch carp in rivers. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a boilie is a type of fishing bait for carp with the texture of a boiled dough ball. Boilies come in different colours, sizes, flavours, and scents, each of which serves a different purpose.
For example, big boilies are best used in summer and the warmer months when carps are more active and aggressive. Similarly, you can use smaller boilies when the carp slow down for the winter. Additionally, murkier waters call for brighter boilies, and carp respond better to sweeter baits.
Because boilies are relatively larger than other kinds of bait, they won’t attract smaller fish.
Pellets and Sweet Corn
The carp don’t like pellets and corn, but some anglers use them. However, these will attract other nuisance species like bream. A cool technique that some anglers use is combining sweet corn with sweet boilies.
Tiger nuts are also excellent carp baits used by many anglers. A plus point that these nuts have is being relatively bream-proof.
River Carp Fishing Gear
Now that you have a decent background on river carp, it’s time to discuss fishing gear. When fishing rivers, picking the right equipment is crucial because of the unpredictable river currents. Before we get into it, let’s lay some basic angling terminology.
Important Angling Terminology
Fishing rods, lines, hooks, sinkers, and rigs are all terms we’re going to use, so it’s important to understand exactly what they are before we proceed.
The fishing rod is the long, flexible pole that anglers use in fishing.
A fishing line, or main line, is the chord or string used in rod and line fishing.
The hook is the L-shaped piece of metal hanging at the end of the line with the substantial purpose of catching the fish. A hook catches a fish either by impaling its mouth or snatching its body.
A fishing sinker is a weight used in conjunction with the fishing hook to help the bait sink to certain water levels. Sinkers come in different shapes and masses to serve different purposes.
A fishing rig is a structure found at the end of the carp fishing line that consists of the sinker, hook, snap, and swivel. A hair rig is a fishing method where the bait is presented without actually sitting on the hook. In this case, the bait is assembled on a “hair” behind the hook.
Optimal Carp Fishing Gear
When it comes to river carp, choosing the right rod is key. If you want to catch larger carp, you’ll want to opt for a rod that’s roughly 3.6 m long and has a test curve of approximately 2 kg. As for the main line, 9 kg should suffice.
To present your bait to the carp, the hair rig is the way to go. With this structure, you’ll be positioning a boilie or two on a “hair” behind the hook. Here, the hook will be completely free to securely snatch the carp’s mouth.
Finally, let’s talk about the sinkers. With river carping, you don’t have as much weight freedom as you do in lake carping; you can only go up to 2 ounces when river fishing. The heavier the sinker weight, the bigger the splash it makes, and the spookier it’s for the carp below. Thus, only use as much weight as absolutely required.
You might also want to check out our post here on carp fishing setup for beginners for a more in-depth guide.
Carp Fishing Seasons
Carp fishing is an activity for all seasons, but some will yield better results than others. One thing you should know about rivers is they warm up slowly. This means that it takes more time for the water to absorb the heat, leading to longer river winters.
Like most creatures, carp are more active in warmer temperatures, and active carps are easier to catch. As we’ve discussed, active carp eat more and are more likely to fall for your bait. Additionally, the long winter leads to more aggressive feeding patterns. So, if you’re a beginner, you may want to start during summer and build up your skills for the winter.
River Carping During Night
You can go carp fishing at night if you want to catch carp after sunset. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want a successful night fishing session. First and foremost, don’t forget your flashlight. When choosing a light, you want to pick something that’s bright enough for you but not too bright so as not to spook the carp. You can even opt for a headlight to free your hands.
Secondly, you’ll need to be extra careful with the noise. Because everything slows down at night, the slightest movement on your part can disturb the fish. To add on, if you’re using boilies, the size and colour of the baits are important. At night fishing for carp, you want to prioritize larger and brighter boilies to catch carp.
Moreover, carps move closer to the riverbanks and areas of shallow water during nighttime. Thus, you can catch the fish right from beneath you without the need to throw distant casts. Finally, schedule those night trips in the warmer months if you want more productive river carping.
Final Tips and Tricks
Now that we’ve covered most of it, we’ll leave you with a few more tips for carp fishing and tricks for your upcoming fishing trip.
- Avoid Spawning Seasons. In fish, broadcast spawning is the reproductive period where the eggs get externally fertilized. If you notice that the carp are spawning, you should probably put your rod down. Interrupting their reproductive cycle won’t only affect the fish, but it’ll also affect your fishing.
- Be Patient. As with most things in life, becoming a skilled carp angler takes a lot of time and practice. It’s easy to get discouraged when things don’t go your way, but always remember that fishing is a sport of patience.
- Get Your Papers Straight. In many parts of the world, fishing in rivers requires a license. So, make sure you’re authorized before you set out on your carp fishing trip.
If you are interested, you can check out our post here to see what is the british carp record.
Carp fishing is a sport that has grown in popularity among many recreational anglers. Rivers are the most challenging of all freshwater bodies due to their currents and carp behaviour.
Therefore, to embark on a successful carp fishing trip to the rivers, you’ll need to understand a few things beforehand. These include carp behaviour, locating the carp, and optimizing your baits and fishing gear.