Fishing difficult waters has always motivated me to go the extra mile in my angling. I classify a lake as difficult if it has a low stock and is technically challenging. Submerged trees, thick weed beds or other obstacles under water all play there part in raising the difficulty factor of fishing a lake. Most of these structures can be a haven for carp. Generally, in these environments there will be an abundance of natural food, which can be another obstacle on hard waters as the fish will be quite happy eating naturals, why would they choose a boilie over a nice juicy caddis?

In Austria, we have some really nice waters that have all the aforementioned obstacles and these lakes contain some really good carp, catching them is a real challenge for me and I get a huge buzz when I succeed. I am in the lucky position to be allowed to fish a gravel pit near my hometown. It is a private lake and the owner is a friend of mine. When I started fishing there in 2005 the lake was 27 years old. Carp were stocked into this venue quite soon after it had been dug so as you can imagine within those 27 years the carp grew well, and nowadays it’s home to some of the most impressive big fish in Europe

Harder than expected:

Going back to when I first started fishing the venue, I knew I was the first serious angler who hunted the carp selectively in this particular water. It sounds like an easy task when you have total monopoly of the lake trying to coax out these mysterious fish, but I can assure you, my time on this water was far from easy. Although the lake is only around 12 acres it was extremely weedy and loads of trees had fallen into the lake.

It was a lake I could only fish successfully with the use of a boat. Using an echo sounder was difficult due to the massive weed which grew in places up to 6 meters high and in some places it would spread across the surface. This also made it difficult for me to use and electric outboard, which is an essential tool for me when using boats.

I remember very well, my first exploration ended in disbelief because I found it nearly impossible to locate fishable spots and I had to work hard to find suitable areas to place a rig. I started to bait with particles and boilies and I repeated this three times in a week for around 14 days. Slowly, I could recognize that the small holes in the weed slightly expanded. It was spring and you can imagine how exited I was when I started to fish, but on my first session I blanked. I was not disappointed, more surprised after knowing the fish had been visiting my spots and eating the bait I had been putting in. I was still conscious of the fact that I had fierce competition in shape of natural food like many small snails living in the weed, obviously the carp were more than happy eating these in the knowledge that they will not be caught. I continued my baiting strategy with maize, hemp and added small pellets and used instead of 20 mm boilies smaller 14 mm. In the end of the day I can´t say exactly if the smaller baits were the reason why I caught or which other factor were responsible, but when I moved onto this tactic things started to change for me.

Good years followed:

The next three years saw me landing some incredible carp. I pictured nearly all the carp I caught and prepared an extra photo album just for this lake so I could document the stock of fish and identify repeat captures. Playing a carp in such thick weed is always a big stunt, especially in the dark of night. I had to concentrate when going out on the boat to play fish and sometimes the carp would sit so deep in the weed that the only way to land them was to put the shock-leader in my hand and try to free it when I was directly above the fish. Due to the extreme environment I wasn’t able to land each carp I hooked, but I was satisfied with the percentage of carp which found their way into my landing net.

All becomes different:

The big change came in 2008 when my friend restocked the lake with too many small carp and even grass carp. He wanted to reduce the weed in his lake, which I could understand but I couldn’t help but feel like this was going to be bad news for my angling there. The weed reduced within the next two years but this certainly had a negative impact on my fishing. I caught loads of small carp and only a handful of better fish. A few recaptures of the old inhabitants showed how they were not adjusting so well with the new heightened stock levels. Each of the original big fish I caught the years prior had lost weight. Less natural food was present in the lake because of the missing weed and there was now a heightened competition for food due to the large amount of new carp that were obviously responsible for that. My friend recognised his mistake and made the right decision to rectify the situation. He started to remove the smaller carp and sold a good amount. So fortunately the stock between the old originals and the younger ones, which was definitively important for the future, ended in a much better balance.

More difficult than before:

Eventually as the lake matured and due to years of having a higher concertration of fish in the water the weed disappeared completely. It’s really hard to believe, but the fishing actually became a lot harder without the weed being present in abundance. One positive piece of information did take me by surprise though, it wasn’t until this period of time that I could identify just how many features the lake had. I knew about some plateaus and underwater features but because of the massive weedbeds the real bottom shape was hard to locate in years past.

I tried to catch carp in the open water, on plateaus or channels, or from other significant spots. I applied a variety of tactics to work out a winning formula, it was almost like fishing a brand new lake as it was such a different waterscape at this time compared to when I first fished there. I tried to be successful baiting large areas, as well as presenting baits on tight, dinner plate sized spots.

I fished Pop-Ups over a bed of particles or as singles but the results were more than moderate, even with smaller fish. I knew where the carp were as I dived the lake several times. They loved to be around the fallen trees near the bank and they seldom left this area. It seemed that the carp avoided the open water for feeding and ignored my hookbaits. Maybe on some sessions my time for prebaiting was sometimes too limited to make these spots interesting for the carp. So my main effort was to catch them from where they liked to be most. It was not a problem to locate the carp but to fish for them safely was the task. As a responsible angler I don´t like to fish too close to sunken trees. It is easier to get a run but the chance to land the fish is minimal. Line cuts and hook pulls are often the result and I hate losing a fish.

Risk with Responsibility:

Generally, I am not a big fan of braided mainline but in this situation it gave me a better chance to control a hooked carp. I baited the sunken trees but the main part of my food was spread alongside the bank about 10 meters in front of the trees. I tried to elicit the carp from their safe home. A good mix of particles, Trigga Pellets and several kilos of Trigga or Big Fish Mix boilies helped me to get the one or another bite from this area whilst I had nearly no action from the open water.

The distance from my bivvy to the hookbait at this spot is around 80 meters and I need the gap of 10 meters to the sunken obstacles. This is the minimum and important to give me the time eventually to control the fish. The clutch was set hard and the braided line doesn’t give me a great pleasure playing the fish, but it is the only way to hold the carp away from the trees.

This year I managed some lovely fish from the tree spot but the real stunners came from the open water. I don´t know what had made the change of patterns for the carp this year now because I hadn’t changed my approach too much from the year prior, but suddenly I caught fish from the plateaus and other spots from the middle of the lake. Two of the beauties were recaptures and old originals I had captured these fish for the first time in 2006 and 2007! They had not seen the bank since and I had never expected to catch these fish again a decade on from my initial reward. I thought these fish were no longer alive, so I was extremely pleased to know they were healthy and looking better than ever! Today, some of the originals are at better weights than ever and they really are some of the most special fish I’ve ever had the pleasure of catching.

Carp fishing can be strange sometimes and it is nice that not all can be explained. However, these two carp resisted my baits over such a long period and now I am confident that some of the good carp I had caught only once from the beginning of my fishing on this lake are still alive. This is great because it means I might just get the chance to meet these evasive carp once again some day!