For most carp anglers blanking is a necessary evil we all have to go through at some stage, but how do you deal with it when you've spent all year waiting for a holiday abroad to be faced with motionless bobbins and silent alarms?
For those of us who have been in that position you know how it feels, you've spent all year prepping, planning, researching and generally building yourself up for a week of hauling monsters across the pond and you sit behind your silent rods all week desperately hoping for just one fish to save a blank and not have to go home to the relentless banter from the lads (and the missus). Stress management would be a good place to start here but I'm not a psychiatrist so I cant help you with that one sorry!
So lets start from the beginning, you arrive at your chosen venue for your week ahead and the first link in the chain is the draw. The make or break moment at the start of the week where the carp gods have your fait in their hands, If your lucky enough to have the lake to yourself then this may not apply. For some everything rests on the draw, you've done the walk, stalked the bailiff thrown as many red herrings as possible into the mix and everyones jumping up and down to do the draw.
So here is TOP TIP NUMBER 1: Get ahead of the pack, don't wait for the group to walk around together, get your eyes on the water and be the first foot in every swim. The first few hours on your chosen venue in my opinion is one of the most important. The lake has usually had a few hours rest from the previous group and those fish will be moving around. This is critical to locate your fish, the more time spent watching the water the better your swim choice will be! let the noisy group walk around with the bailiff and find out about who caught what last week. You can guarantee everyone will be talking about what the bailiff said when you all get back to the start.
I like to refer to the traffic light system for this based on how happy you are about your swim:
GREEN - BUZZING: So you got a good draw or you've arrived where you want to be! or close enough, result!
AMBER - NEUTRAL: You didn't get the area you wanted but things could be worse...
RED - RAGING: You came out last and might as well fish the stock pond!
TOP TIP NUMBER 2: Always have a plan B, it doesn't matter If your in the best swim by the time you've got your rods out of the van those fish that were stacked up in front of you may have moved out. Identify the swims that are free and always be prepared to move. effort always equals reward.
This is something very individual to us all as anglers as we all have our own preferences when it comes to approaching a new water. However one of the biggest mistakes by far I see and have also been guilty of this myself in the past is over baiting the swim. I think it's important to start with small amounts of food items and then build on that depending on how your swim reacts to your baiting approach. If you fill it in on day 1 and the fish decide to go off the feeding frenzy they were on the previous week you've just made life very difficult for yourself.
TOP TIP NUMBER 3: Softly softly catchy monkey. You can always add more but you can't take it away. Start with small amounts of food items If you are trying to draw fish into the swim. Use baits that breakdown quickly leaving lots of attraction but very little substance for the carp to eat. Groundbait and pellets are great for this!
RECOGNISING THE SIGNS!
So you've spent a few days In the swim with no action, the pressure is starting to build, the thought of going home on a blank after spending months maybe years planning for this one week is unthinkable! So here are signs to look out for when blanking.
Questioning your rigs:
I think at times we can all be guilty of this but don't over complicate things, If you are confident in your rigs at home then you can be sure they will work across the pond. If in doubt go back to basics and keep it simple! Ye old faithful standard hair rig has caught more carp than any other.
Blaming other anglers:
This is one you will see on just about every group trip away when the fishing gets tough. Keep focused on what your doing and don't worry If noddy next door has been thrashing his swim with a marker float all day.
Blaming the venue/fish:
"There's not as many fish in here as they say there is" I've heard this one on a few occasions from other groups who have struggled or the all time classic "thought this was supposed to be a runs water". Even in the most perfect conditions carp have a tendancy to totally switch off. There could be 10,000 fish in your swim all swimming past your hookbait, don't blame the venue or the fish, if it was easy all the time we wouldn't do it.
The most annoying trait of the blanking angler, If this is you just stop! nobody likes a winger, If your starting to throw your toys out the pram get away from the venue for the day and clear your head. I can promise you will come back with a fresh perspective and new found confidence.
TOP TIP NUMBER 4: Dealing with stress is different for everyone, If you feel yourself building up find a way to put your fuse out. Setting fire to someones bivvy is not the answer!
Do you stay or do you go! for some this is an easy decision, for others it's a very tough one. You've spent 3/4 days trying to build your swim and its just not happening. For me if there are swims available elsewhere I will make the move, even If i have 3 weeks worth of gear to pack up and setup again I'm here to catch carp, not to sit sulking in my bivvy because the fish haven't turned up in my swim. Moving swims doesn't mean you've failed, you can't catch fish that aren't in front of you so get off your arse and make the effort. If the fish are clearly in your swim but you still cant get a bite, try a different approach. Zigs are a massive edge and still massively under used in my opinion. If they aren't feeding on the bottom put it in front of their faces. I'll say it again effort always equals reward.
TOP TIP NUMBER 5: Take the time to go around and speak to everyone fishing the venue, you may have missed an edge or a tactic that could swing things in your favour. Knowledge is power!
THE LAST STAND
You've exhausted all avenues, tried every tactic, moved to every available swim and still cant catch a cold. The last stand is fast approaching so what options do you have left? heres some avenues to consider.
Pirate flag poacher:
If your away with a group of friends and someone has had a great week catching I would get round for a cup of tea waving the white flag and ask to come and drop a few rods in beside them. At the end of the day your all on holiday and If someone is having a bad week 9 times out of 10 your gonna find a mate will be happy to let you move in for the last day or 2.
If moving isn't an option, or the whole lake is totally dead get on google maps! There's hundreds of public lakes, canals and rivers in Europe and you can bet your last bag of boilies there will be somewhere close to get the rods out! Having done this in the past myself I can tell you the sense of achievement bagging one from a public water is incredible and will give you stories to tell on the bank for life.
Its Saturday morning and the lucky lay down is the only thing standing between saving a blank and going home with your head in your hands. A sad moment for any fisherman as the inevitable conclusion presents itself and the final lead comes skipping across the surface. It's times like this that define us as fisherman and you must take it as a lesson learnt rather than a battle lost. If you have worked hard for your prize then you can go home happy that you have tried your best without reward. Blanking abroad for the first time is like doing your first shot of tequila, you might not like it very much but you can be pretty sure you'll do it again at some point. Just think...you could've been at work all week instead ;p
The search continues....