Carp fishing in France

with lake side holiday accommodation.

Description of fish / carp caught from Smallwater lake.


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1Olb common carp caught by young

junior carp angler Damien (5 years old)

during a weeks fishing holiday

at Smallwater lake in March 2009

It took the young angler 20 minutes to land,

after which he said he was very tired & his arms ached.



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Have you ever thought to yourself "I wish I could go back in time knowing what I know now?" There would undoubtedly be things you would have done differently, chances you would have taken, and probably some you wouldn't have.

Think about this in your carp angling, how good would it have been to be the first to use sweetcorn like Chris Yates at Redmire, or the first on the hair rig like Len Middleton and Kevin Maddocks.

Well a few years ago I realised that a lot of what was 'new' in carp angling, had in fact simply been reinvented or even just repackaged, particularly with regards to some of the methods and baits being written about.

Particles, pellets, P.V.A. and the method, are a few examples of what are considered effective modern baits or methods for catching carp, however they have in fact simply made a comeback. I was using PVA products in 1982, and whilst today's P.V.A.  products have been greatly improved, the overall objective and function of its use remains the same. Chris Yates was catching carp on sweetcorn from Redmire Pool in 1973, a devastating bait even today and likewise Rod Hutchinson caned Redmire on hemp and other particles.

Well it occurred to me a couple of seasons ago that on two of the lakes I was fishing, the chances were that the vast majority of carp were under 10 years old and had therefore never seen many of the baits and methods that worked so well for me throughout the 80's. Now it's easy to think that we've progressed past all that, and in many respects we have. The choice and functionality of terminal tackle is certainly far better then what we had 25, 20, even just 15 years ago, however in most cases the principals remain the same, and anyway I had already convinced my self that a re-visit to some of my old carp books such as Kevin Maddocks 'Carp Fever', Rod Hutchinson's 'The Carp Strikes Back' George Sharman's 'The Carp and the Carp Angler', and even some of my old fishing records was in order.

I first started carp angling in 1982 at Stanborough Lakes, AKA 'The Cracker Factory' or 'The Aquarium' due to the number of carp it was possible to catch in one day, 10 doubles (good fish then in anyone's book) was common place. Fishing there had a number of advantages, firstly you'd catch a lot which was good for the enthusiasm, and the experience also helped you become a better angler, however the main advantage was that a number of the 'Big Names' (and there were only really a handful compared to nowadays) used Stanbrough to try out their latest inventions, and so it was that we were very often amongst the first anglers to find out what the most up-to-date methods being used were.

I remember the first time I ever saw the 'Hair Rig', a couple of anglers had been using it for a couple of months over there and absolutely hammering the place, but they'd always unhook the carp in the net and kept the rig well hidden. Finally someone I knew got in with them and like anyone with such a secret, couldn't wait to show it off. They showed him, he showed me. That's how it was, there wasn't weekly or monthly carp magazines giving away all the secrets then, you simply had to find it out for yourself.

So it was shown to me and I must admit I couldn't work it out, on the face of it all logic appeared to have been ignored, the bait wasn't anywhere near the hook! Once the theory hade been explained however things became much clearer, so much so in fact that it wasn't long before we were busy making our own modifications.

Ultimately however, due to its success the life span of the 'Original Hair Rig' was short lived and new material such as 'Dacron' soon replace the thin mono hair that we, and the carp had become accustomed to.

Getting back to the here and now, I had all these thought processes going on in my head I finally took the difficult decision to fish for carp in a way that I hadn't done for almost 20years and use the 'Original Hair Rig' as described in Kevin Maddocks's fully revised 4th edition of 'Carp Fever'. Of course my ESP hooks were obviously more advanced then the 'Jack Hiltons' I used on the rig in the 80's, as was the mono I was now using, but other then that the principal and set up remained unchanged.

The first of the two waters I was fishing responded immediately, and in the 6 months I fished the lake I was out catching other anglers by about 3:1! The second water I took the rig to proved even better. This lake was far more difficult due to the constant pressure the fish were under, however the Hair Rig did the trick and once again far out fished the other anglers. I further tested it by using the same bait on both of my two rods but with my favoured 'Snake Skin' set up on one of them. The results were conclusive as the Hair Rig rod out fished the Snake Skin rod time after time.

Following my success (which was about two years ago) I decided to raised this subject on a carp angling forum to see if the were any like minded anglers out there giving it a go. Well I wouldn't say that I was threatened, however it was put to me that it may be wise to keep it to myself. There were obviously people using the rig then and presumably doing rather well. However it has been about two years now and I've not heard of anyone using it, so either they are no longer using it or they are somehow managing to keep it a secret.

Unfortunately for me, due to family and business commitments I have not been in the position to fish anywhere near as much as I'd like to have done over the last couple of years, and therefore have not been able to continue my tests with the rig. I will however be back on a mission in a season that will see me scouring the history books for the next 'New' (or should that be 'Old') ways to catch carp.

Richard Stangroom


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