The Edge Effect
by Simon Blanford
When carp fishing we look for a promising area of water, pick features, bait them and then we cast our rigs as close to those primed spots as we can manage. And we do cast don’t we. We have these long rods with meaty test curves that cry out for us to bend their backbone and send a few ounces of lead and hook and hook-bait towards the horizon.
Fishing this way the other evening, rigs lying among a scattering of free offerings out there somewhere in eighteen feet of unremarkable water, I noticed a slight welling of the surface just out from the bank to my left. This kind of movement, this tilting of the surface, often occurs when a fish with some heft idly shifts its bulk a little way below. I watched carefully looking for other movement, another welling or the soft curlicues of current a fish’s gently working tail can leave on the surface.
Carp passing under the rod tip as they search the margins for food.
There were none, but now I was paying attention, wasn’t the water a little cloudier just over there? I waited and then, appearing from the reflections, its large, lobed tail swinging amiably too and fro, was a carp. The fish stopped, tipped up, muddied a small section of real estate, righted itself and carried on, up to, and then past me and my three horizon pointing rods to be lost amongst the inverted trees to my right. I sat there, my baits sixty ineffective yards away, and wondered how many times I’d fished to distant marks only to have the very quarry I sought swim under my rod tips.
An immaculate dark common from the inside edge of the lily pads.
There is a particular attraction about the transition zone between the waters edge and the banks that hem it in. These zones are sometimes profitable, often interesting and frequently dangerous. In the natural word boundaries between habitats, areas where one ecosystem shades into another (‘ecotones’ as they are called) are often places that have a bit of the character of both. They may have more sun for these living out in the open, a little less for those living in the shade. They may be shallower for those coming from the deep, or deeper for those coming from the shore. They also collect food. At the transition between lake and shore things fall off trees and tumble down the bank. From the water animals emerge, seek shelter or are simply blown there - the midges, mosquitoes and mayfly that get trapped on the point of adulthood, pile up on windward shores.
The hotspot in this swim turned out to be just over the edge of those sparse reed stems.
We create our own attractions too. On little ponds, town lakes, large reservoirs and riverbank parks fishermen everywhere spill baits and discard leftovers. Some of those tubs of nightcrawlers, redworms, mealworms or salted minnows not worth taking back to the fridge for the next foray are jettisoned in the margins. The angler who sets up an extra rod armed with corn, "just to see what’s about", at the end of the day will scatter the remaining kernels in the shallows. Then there are all those other pleasure seekers, the lovers, the families, the aging couples out picnicking. The shore is an excellent repository for hiding the half-eaten hot dog, the too dry corn fritter or grandma Jones’s flapjacks, so dense you need a crow to break them into manageable pieces. Lakes accept all with little complaint and so too, with their famously eclectic tastes, do carp.
A solid fish ambushed in the fall as it came in close to fatten up for winter.
The sight of that ambling carp galvanized me into throwing a handful of corn (too close to need the catapult) down the edge and placing a hookbait with a simple underarm lob amongst them. Every other hour through the night the alarm chirped into life as another patrolling fish fell to the simple trap. The long rods remained unmoved throughout.
Almost there. A bait sneaked onto the marginal shelf did the trick.
Fishing at distance is fun and catching from way out there confirmation that you can survive the examination of your casting technique, of your ability to construct tangle free rigs, of being able to accurately bait an area all those yards away. But its always worth remembering that there will often be a carp or two just down there, under those branches, along the marginal drop-off or right at your feet not three yards away feeding along the edge of their world.