Decluttering: Back To Basics with Alfie Russell

Alfie Russell takes a close look at how his attitude has changed regarding rigs, before he then turns back the clock…

Amazing quality of fish, as is often the case with Alfie!

I guess it has been written about hundreds of times in the past, but something that really does need to be drilled into us as carp anglers, and indeed anglers in general, is the need to stick to what we know works! I think the majority of anglers move with the times, and with social media continuing to promote a ton of new tactics and ways of catching carp, things have become overcomplicated… it’s simple! 
Full circle
During my angling career, I have really gone full circle when it comes to rigs and presentation. Spending lots of time observing feeding carp and catching them up close and personal have opened my eyes to how, the majority of the time, we are just over complicating things, especially when trying to catch the un-pressured, illusive old ones like those I tend to target. For the last couple of years, I have reverted to uncomplicated tactics, just like those I used to use when I first started carp fishing… very simple, but effective ones.

I spent a lot of my summer on the river targeting the unknown this year, and also spent time on a huge, low-stock water. I started off on the river using a pop-up rig fished blowback-style: a simple helicopter set-up that I have caught carp on, from all kinds of venues. I noticed that I was doing well, but I was catching a lot of small fish. I was also having a few hook-pulls. I didn’t put this down to the rig or hook pattern, but more the helicopter set-up I was using. I just wasn’t confident that it was pulling the hook home instantly as I’d have liked.

After getting hold of a lovely small fishing boat, I sat back and rewatched some of the Thames missions filmed with Terry. With my aim of fishing the river by boat in the near future, the films gave me a little idea of what to expect. I noticed that Terry was using simple Snowman Rigs, something that I started to use also, and carried on with for many years, quite effectively. It seems, though, that for no apparent reason, I ended up drifting away from using such rig arrangements. I opted, then, to change, looking to experience fewer hook-pulls and perhaps landing bigger carp. I ditched the helicopter set-ups and went straight in with lead clips, fixed leads that would drop off on the bite, and bottom-bait rigs fished blowback-style with the ESP Grippers in a size 4.

By this point, I had a spot well and truly rocking on the river and I knew I should have been due a few better fish. This particular river was always being stocked by Buddhist monks. I’m not too clear why, but they were obviously giving back to nature and had put loads of small carp into the river system, fish of between two and five pounds, and loads of them! I had as many as eight in a night… truly frustrating when you are fishing for illusive big carp!

I thought about how many carp I catch for the little time I do these days. Due to family commitments, and a few health issues I’m constantly battling with, I am grateful to still manage some fishing. I noted that I used to do well using simple tactics when I started carping, and being a much more experienced angler than I was, thought it was time to re-incorporate those tactics. It seemed that making this change really did bring more action.

Simple is often best!

Super simple
Simple Snowman Rigs and lead clip arrangements with the ready-tied ESP Lead Clip Leaders, and Cryogen Grippers with shrink tubing worked wonders on the river. One morning when everything aligned, I managed five bites, all of which produced mega carp. Jack Reid popped down to shoot some footage for a future piece and he captured some amazing images of the fish. Throughout my nights on the river, fishing off the bank, I’d have my rods laid out on the towpath. Sitting up all night, I wouldn’t use alarms, and would just wait to hear the clutch fizzing off. I noticed what I was experiencing whilst using the helicopters and pop-ups. I’d get strange tugs and almost savage line bites, enough to pull the rod from the clip before it whizzed off for a few seconds! I was even striking into them at times!

The rig arrangement I was using wasn’t necessary, perhaps, as the spot I was fishing was incredibly clean. I just think I was genuinely being done by fairly easy-to-catch carp, having overcomplicated things. That’s when I decided to make the changes mentioned, and which brought a great number of beautiful carp to the bank. I had some proper battles where I just wouldn’t have been confident converting bites into landed fish, if I wasn’t using such a simple and effective set-up.

The campaign continues, with a film sometime next year!

This isn’t a campaign article, as I am still locked into fishing the stretch of river in pursuit of some amazing fish that swim in the urban waterway. Instead, it is an insight into how sometimes, it is worth sitting back and evaluating the ways in which we target carp, to see if we are able to simplify our approach, go back to basics and use the tactics which continue to catch carp all over the world.

I hope everyone has a good Christmas and New Year, as we hopefully take some of positives from what has been a horrible 2020 for many. This pandemic has taught us all a lot, and I am glad that we can just still get out there and catch some amazing carp!