Islands are carp magnets and they’re very popular with the carp at this time of year, says Darrell Peck.
Although you can catch fish from open water, the islands are somewhere the fish definitely like to patrol. They really appeal to the fish and I’m sure that part of it is because of the tricky cast. Carp will always seek safer water and if this means hugging the island margins, then so be it. Consequently, on some waters you will have to be within inches of the island to receive consistent action.
The line clip is imperative for this kind of fishing. It ensures that you hit the same distance time and time again; no more, no less. The distance must be marked too. In order to do this I use Cygnet Distance Sticks and mark the line with Marker Elastic too, which means that if I do receive a bite, I can simply place the line back on the marker and recast. Using the Sticks is a safety measure, just in case the elastic moves or I get stuck in the island somehow. Once you’re all clipped and marked up, make sure that you always stand in the same position when casting, otherwise it will affect the positioning of the cast.
When casting to an island and aiming to land super-tight, I use a punchy technique, keeping the trajectory of the lead low. I raise the rod slightly before the lead hits the water in order to cushion the cast against the clip. Once the line reaches the clip I push the rod forward, which means that the lead will continue travelling through the water rather than springing back out of position. There are often trees cascading over the water surface, so a high cast will result in the inevitable: a rig up the tree. By keeping it low, I can funnel the lead underneath the branches perfectly. On many venues, islands can be undercut as the terrain has eroded underneath. Natural food can congregate there and this is another reason that carp love them so much. If you’re aiming to fish on and around the shelf, you can get away with a more traditional casting technique, but if you’re aiming to get right against the island margin, it’s important to follow the above-mentioned guidelines when casting.
Rig-wise, things are always kept relatively simple. Tangles can be a pain when island fishing, so I always use a leader. I generally use a distance-casting lead mounted on a Lead Clip and Dark Matter Tubing. This type of lead is designed to fly straight and true, meaning that it will travel to the destination with ease. As long as the bottom is firm, I opt for a single hookbait; either a pop-up rig or, if the ground is really clean, a bottom bait. The idea with using a single hookbait is that it can be cast several times in a row without the aggravation of attaching a PVA bag after each cast. Sometimes it will take a lot of casting to get the rig where you want it, but that’s just part of the game.
If the ground around the island margin is dirty then I sometimes attach a PVA stick; nothing fancy, just a stick made from boilie crumb. By pulling your hook inside the stick, you’re ultimately protecting it from catching on anything as it flies through the air and dramatically reducing the chance of a tangle. Not only that, you’re also providing a little parcel of attraction around your hookbait. As I said earlier, though, it can be a pain when you’re casting regularly in order to get it right.
The most important factor in island casting is bottle – never fear going that extra yard to get it right. Yes, you’re going to get the odd lead in a tree or hook up on a bush, but never settle for second best or a that’ll-do approach. It’s quite surprising how many times you can cast to an island without spooking the carp. On venues such as Walthamstow Reservoirs, which require pinpoint casting, you can often cast more than 10 times and then get a bite almost immediately. They feel safe there, so do everything in your power to get your rigs bang on the money; exactly where you would put them if you could do it by hand.
Having the correct tools can help you cast more accurately to features such as islands. If you’re casting a long distance, it can help to buy a fast taper rod. Couple it with a big pit reel and you’re one step closer. Reel line is imperative too. Make sure you use a line that doesn’t have too much stretch – Touchdown is absolutely perfect. The higher the breaking strain, the less stretch there will be. At the same time, though, the higher the breaking strain, the harder it will be to cast long distances.
Lead balance is also important and should be suited to the test curve of your rod. There’s nothing worse than a lead that is too heavy for a rod, it will bounce all over the place. As a general rule, use leads up to 3oz with 2½-3lb test rods, and 3oz and above will be okay for rods with a 3¼-3¾lb test curve. Balancing your tackle will improve the accuracy and distance of your casting no end.
Well, that’s my island fishing summed up. Now is a great time to put this into practice, so get out there and give it a go!