• Posted: 29th April 2020
  • Author: Kev Grout

1) If your life depended on somebody catching a carp for you, who would you pick and why?

Without shadow of a doubt, it would have to be my fiancée, Natalie. This answer might surprise some readers considering the talented list of anglers I could choose from, and indeed I would not blame you for thinking that I am just fishing for some much-needed ‘brownie points’ during lockdown, but I can easily justify my decision.

Natalie is the type of angler that, despite only having around 10 years’ carp fishing experience, will almost always show me up when we are out fishing together, by simply catching more fish than me. I used to put this down to ‘lady luck’, but as the years have gone by, that excuse has become rather exhausted.

So, these days I am more than happy to honour defeats in scenarios such as this, and praise Natalie for her ability to catch carp. Even when faced with the toughest and most intense match conditions that would test the best of us, she always manages to scratch a few extra critical bites.

There are many reasons for Natalie’s outstanding ability in catching carp when it really matters, and thus my decision for putting my life in her hands, but the most significant reason has to be that she had a great teacher – me!

Natalie with a 22lb 10oz common caught from a tricky Norfolk gravel pit

Me and Natalie during our first match together

2) If you could change one thing about carp fishing, what would it be?

This is an easy answer, and one that is very prominent in all aspects of my life: lower the environmental impact of carp fishing. Working as a Fishery Officer for the Environment Agency allows me to experience first-hand the unfortunately harm that angling, and fishery managers, cause to fish, other wildlife and the environment utilised for angling.

A critical part of my role is to respond to incidents of fish mortalities, investigating the cause and rectifying the impact, if possible. Although environmental factors like algae blooms can cause huge fish kills through no fault of the fishery manager, I am sorry to say that huge numbers of fish are lost due to poor management of stock levels and diseases.

Also, as an angler, I love to be surrounded by nature and wild animals. So, if I happen to see an animal entangled in fishing line, or trailing a fishing rig, it really angers me. In some cases, accidents do happen, especially when learning the art of angling, however I frequently find discarded line whilst at work and out fishing. As anglers, I feel we all have a responsibility to look after the environment and the animals that inhabit the venues we choose to fish, so I always find it very frustrating to find litter caused by angling.

General pollution and environmental harm caused by human activity are definitely going to impact angling in the future, so I feel it’s key that all anglers and fishery managers engage with the environment, to help look after and protect the sport we all love.

A 38-pounder with damaged fins. Another example of harm caused by anglers

3) What’s your biggest regret in carp fishing?

Although I have loved focusing my angling efforts on fishing in the UK, and especially competing in tournaments like the BCAC, I do regret my lack of carp fishing outside of the UK.

My regret of not spending enough time fishing in places like France is only worsened by the fact that, on the few occasions I have fished abroad, some of my angling dreams have indeed come true. The best example I can give you was when I caught a stunning 51lb common from Abbey Lakes, France, pretty much on my first cast, whilst competing in the European Carp Angling Championships. The best thing about the capture was that due to my lack of fishing experiences abroad, I decided to approach the angling situation exactly how I would have in the UK in terms of bait and rigs, so to bag a 50lb common first cast was an incredible feeling and set my confidence alight.

A 51lb common from Abbey Lakes, caught during the ECAC. The biggest fish I have ever caught

Although I really enjoyed fishing Abbey, nothing I have experienced in angling comes close to the place I am about to tell you about next…

4) What’s your idea of an angling paradise and what’s the closest you’ve come to fishing one?

Forget ‘the closest’; I’ve actually been there! Well, my version of angling paradise anyway.

The place I am referring to is in Poland, and as you can see from the pictures, it is an incredibility magical place, with white sandy margins, bright-blue water and surrounded by ancient pine forests.

I stumbled over this gem of a lake completely by chance when on holiday with the family around 12 years ago. Although I had every intention of fishing for carp whilst on holiday, I had no idea I was going to end up at such a gorgeous location. I can remember looking over the water for the first time and instantly convincing myself that huge carp had to inhabit this wild lake; it was just too perfect not to. Despite my confidence, I actually had no idea what stock was present within the lake, and the first two days’ fishing were tough going, resulting in only failed attempts. However, on the third day, I finally made the right move and found the fish I had been searching for.

At the time, the two 29lb commons I caught from this beautiful location were both PBs, which made the experience that bit more incredible.

I still regularly think about this magical lake in Poland, especially when looking for inspiration in my angling. Never before had I taken on such a challenge. With zero fishing experience abroad, extremely limited angling information or advice due to the location, and the whole practicality of travelling to Poland with the fishing kit, it was amazing to be rewarded so generously for my efforts.

When I remember back on this entire session, it feels quite honestly like a dream, as if I am imagining this crazy yet idyllic angling session that despite the ridiculous upheaval and challenges faced, my perfect angling experience unfolds, including the discovery of one of nature’s perfections.

The coolest place I have ever bivvied up

The first morning on my dream lake – simply stunning!

The productive swim

A perfect wild common carp

The second of two 29lb-plus wild Polish carp caught during the session

5) If you could bottle one emotion you’ve felt whilst carp fishing and keep it with you forever, what would that be?

Now this one is tricky to answer, as I am torn between two different angling achievements, but the emotion created was essentially the same.

The first achievement I am referring to is when I managed to retain my UK Carp Cup title for the third year running. This, for me, was one of the most exciting and emotional weekend’s angling I am ever likely to have, and when that final horn blew and it was confirmed that I had won for the third consecutive year, the feeling was immense and definitely one I would bottle for ever. However, winning the event was not the only incredible thing that occurred that weekend, as I also caught a number of stunning fish weighing 36lb, 38lb and 40lb-plus!

A 36lb Cottington chunk

A 40lb 15oz mirror from Cottington in the UK Carp Cup final, helping me win the event for the third year in a row

The second achievement was when Luke Church and I won a gold medal for England in the 2018 Tri-Nations. Just being selected for Carp Team England made me hugely proud, as it is a clear representation of all my angling achievements over the years, a personal goal that 10 years ago I would have felt was out of my reach. So, to then compete successfully in the match, catching more weight in fish than the rest of the competitors combined efforts, was truly incredible. I can remember on so many occasions during that match where me and Luke were quite literally having to pinch ourselves to make sure we were not dreaming, a truly incredible feeling that I will always remember and probably never come close to beating.

Two out of a total of 31 fish we caught during our first England cap

What a moment!

6) Have you ever experienced an epiphany-like moment when something just clicked and your results escalated as a consequence?

During my time as a Fishery Management student at Sparsholt College, I took up the opportunity to complete six weeks’ work experience at Linear Fisheries, where I planned on working during the day and fishing at the nights and weekends. However, looking back I must have been mad, with the whole experience totalling 35 nights’ fishing whilst working on the fishery every day, but my determination to catch some of Linear’s incredible residents drove me on.

One of the things I will always take away from this once-in-a-life-time angling experience was how much I learned, and how much I developed as an angler in such a relatively short space of time.

Fishing Linear has a tendency to be full of highs and lows, with the fish stocks being quite unpredictable due to the intense angling pressure, and this was most certainly true in this instance. Out of the six weeks I spent at Linear, I pretty much blanked for three weeks, but during the other three weeks I caught some incredible fish, including the stunning Jordan from Hardwick and Smiths at 38lb 12oz.

The amazing Jordan at 38lb 14oz

One of the angling tactics that caught the majority of my fish during this 35-night session, and still a tactic I use a huge amount to date, is to find confidently feeding fish and present a rig as quietly as possible, keeping disturbance to a minimum, with the ultimate goal of getting quick bites from the undisturbed feeding fish. Due to the turnaround of anglers that visit Linear, every swim receives some types of fish food almost daily. I quickly noticed the fish routinely took advantage of the free food by moving into quite areas of the lake to feed and quickly moved away if disturbed by anglers. So, I found that casting at feeding fish, setting traps as quietly as possible, was deadly and dramatically increased my success. This realisation was by far the most influential ‘light bulb’ moment in my angling.

By the 33rd night, I had caught around 50 fish in total and had smashed my PB with the capture of Jordan, so I felt that despite the lengthy blanks, I had made the most of the opportunity. However, little did I know that I was about to be given an incredible opportunity to put into practice everything I had learned and experienced during my epic Linear session.

So, on the 34th day, which was around early May time, the weather dramatically warmed up, which moved the fish in St John’s to the shallows in incredible numbers. Managing to get in a prime swim, I applied what I had learned, fishing quietly for a bite at a time, with what I can only describe as immense results.

The last night of the 35 nights I had to spend at Linear was incredible, as I banked 11 carp, including the Big Ghostie at 32lb, the Big Plated at 40lb 12oz and the Big Common at 41lb, plus seven twenties, all caught using the tactic I had developed over the previous six weeks.

The Big Plated from St John’s at 40lb 12oz

7) What is the most significant, thought-provoking thing you’ve ever seen whilst watching carp and how did it affect your angling?

So, this occurred very recently when fishing my current syndicate lake early autumn last year. The lake I am referring to is only around two acres, but it contains some incredible carp to around 41lb. However, during my first year on the syndicate in 2019, I faced some unique challenges. Firstly, by around May time the lake becomes engulfed by lilies, with 60% of the lake surface completely covered. The second unique challenge was that although the lake contained around 50 target fish, 10 of which were over 30lb, it also contained around 200 smaller carp.

The combination of these challenges led to a rather frustrating season where I caught loads of small fish and suffered a number of losses, resulting in none of the target fish gracing my net. However, on a session during late August, I witnessed fish behaviour that was to change my approach entirely, and my results as a consequence.

Despite the small size of the lake and the high numbers of carp, the fish in my syndicate lake are very difficult to spot, which is largely due to the lily pads. It was not unusual to see zero carp on a walk round, which I found both incredibly impressive with 250 carp avoiding being spotted, and also very confusing in terms of were the big fish were hiding. Thankfully, one very hot afternoon, I finally found the biggest fish in the lake sunbathing in a shallow corner. By this time the pads had just started to break down and the water was gin clear, so I could clearly see the size of the fish. At the time I was excited, to say the least, but I did not instantly realise how significant that sighting would turn out to be.

Up until this point, I had been concentrating my efforts on prebaiting with large beds of boilies. Even though I was using fairly crude, large hookbaits as a way of targeting the bigger fish, the smaller carp were so ravenous and I was catching so many, I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. However, being able to spot fish in the pads changed everything, as I could now specifically target the fish I wanted to catch. There was, however, one problem, as the only feasible tactic I could use to target the biggest fish within this shallow area was floater fishing, and with it now being early autumn, the days of warm weather were running short.

However, I did manage two days of the most incredibly exciting surface fishing, where on a number of occasions the biggest common in the lake, weighing around 39lb, very nearly took my hookbait. Although I did not manage to catch any of the really big fish, despite coming so close, I am adamant that come this summer, if I am going to catch the big fish from my syndicate, this is how I am going to achieve it.

To back up my confidence, I did manage to catch one of the target fish in the form of a stunning, old black creature which weighed in at a low-summer weight of 29lb 12oz. What a fish to catch off the surface, especially as I caught her on a free-lined pop-up only 10ft from my rod tip! To think I now have a very good opportunity to target a 40lb common using the same tactic this summer is so exciting; I simply cannot wait to have a go.

A 29lb common taken off the top

8) Is there a product on the market that you initially dismissed as a gimmick, only to change your mind over time? If so, what was it and why did you change your mind?

For those of you who know a bit about my match-angling tactics, this will be of little surprise to you, because the answer to this would definitely be the flatbed method feeder. I can honestly say I have caught more carp on flatbed feeders than any other type of carp-fishing rig. However, like most carp anglers, I used to dismiss this tactic, as it’s normally associated with catching very small carp from match waters.

Whilst fishing at Elphicks during a BCAC qualifier, my good friend and old angling partner, Matt Wyld, unleashed the full potential of the flatbed feeder, catching numerous 20-plus carp to 29lb. This was incredible to witness: such a small delicate rig catching such big fish and so quickly. To say this was a revolutionary moment in my match angling is a huge understatement.

Since this day I have caught so many big carp on the flatbed, with even 30lb-pounders that could engulf the whole feeder being tricked by the rig. There are many reasons why I think the flatbed is so effective for catching both small and large carp, but in most circumstances I think it offers the perfect presentation that most carp do not expect to come across.

The only thing that baffles me about the flatbed feeder now is, why isn’t every carp angler using them as much as me? In fact, it is a rare day that I see another carp angler casting flatbed feeders out into a lake. So, if an angler is looking for something new to try then I highly recommend they try flatbed feeders. However, getting the groundbait mix right is critical, so practice and research are required, and don’t use them in a lake that contains bream!

The flatbed feeder

9) What’s the most inspirational piece of carp-fishing literature you’ve ever read and why?

Believe it or not, I have never read a carp-fishing book in my life as, to be honest, I am not a fan of reading.

10) If you were to describe your perfect carp, what would it look like?

Quite simply put: the late Jordan from Hardwick and Smiths.

The amazing Jordan