Now looking back through catch reports back from the days of Rod Hutchinson to the present the humble tiger nut seems to be one of the best and one of the most successful baits in a carp angler’s extensive armoury, it has certainly stood the test of time. Many anglers are led to believe through personal adventures that these small nuts can actually syphon out the elusive larger carp that swim within their chosen puddle, pond, or pit. That said don’t get me wrong tiger nuts still catch smaller carp and continue to do so, but some of the anglers especially the “old school” ones swear they are selective, and in some ways I agree with them in certain scenarios I have trundled upon in my own journeys.
Big fish selective or not they are certainly an effective bait, if you read a few books that have a Yateley Car Park chapter in then you would be surprised not hear a mention of a tiger nut being flung out to a spot. And those small hard nuts have accounted for the prized inhabitants that swim in its famous depths time and time again. The modern surroundings in carp fishing offer a huge sweet shop selection of baits to use, but in my opinion a tiger nut is definitely a special one to behold.
The Intimate Pit
The first time I bought a large tub of tigers was a few year back, I remember going into the local tackle shop and looking over the dusty units to find out what bait I could use next to try and catch on. Behind the jars of hemp and tins of corn there lay tubs of tigers that were significantly more expensive than everything else in the shop, I always did have expensive taste. At the time I was fishing an intimate pit on the Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire borderline, it held some lovely old carp of the Leney variety plus other sorts, and tiger nuts were not being used on it as everyone opted for boilies, as usual on most lakes. Now the word intimate signifies a lake that is a puddle in most anglers eyes, but these small pits can hold some very lovely fish, and can spark as much excitement as a larger pit, there is no question that the excitement was well and truly lit with my short but successful season on this little water.
In this intimate pit one quarter of it looks like an underwater forest full of trees, bushes, and old sunken logs. It doesn’t take a scientist to realise that the carp loved this area of the lake, it offered them sanctuary, safety, and above all else food. The amount of small insects that used to clamber across the rotting flanks of the trees and misguidedly fall into the water was a spectacle in itself, let alone when a big pair of lips came up to break the silence and tranquillity to take the insects down into the murky water columns. The carp knew they couldn’t be touched in this area of the lake, they knew that they could sit here in the summer months and take full advantage of the wasps, ants, and other insects that were silly enough to venture close to the water on the Lilly pads and the jungle that grew over and around them.
Inside this snaggy corner of the lake set one swim… well I call it a swim but it was more like a ledge of about 2ft between two big bushes, with the marginal line made up of sunken logs, and bright green lilies. There was no room to put a bucket flat let alone a chair. Due to the jungle surroundings and the uncomfortable nature of this swim it was left alone, and the anglers were blind to the extra spot on the small pit.
Due to the fact it was being ignored I started to trickle tigers in every night after school for a week or so. After about three days of bait when I chucked my next lot of bait in I decided to sit in the undergrowth and overhangs quietly and skulk down to watch for a few minutes before the light inevitably faded on me. In that 5 minute period after I had disturbed the water with about 50 tigers I noticed small swirls on top of the water, the disturbances on the water were so small that they could have been created by a small unfortunate insect frantically swimming or squirming on the waters film. But I knew this was different then to confirm my “hunch” a part of a dark tail poked out of the water above the spot. My heart now raced, I had no rods with me but it didn’t matter, the spectacle before me for such a young age overwhelmed me. I had made something happen and I knew it was my doing. I left after the light faded and was scheming ideas all the way home on my rusty yellow bicycle.
My time eventually came on the weekend after a couple more days of baiting. I got down a few hours before id usually bait it so my theory was to get the rig plummeting into the swim well before the carp would be clocked in for a feed later on. Now by this time the tigers I had in the tub were going fizzy, and gloopy in the substance inside the tub. When you unscrewed the cap a sharp pshhhhhh sound used to scream out, almost like cracking open a shook bottle of lemonade. I slowly trickled in about four nuts that left small dimples on the top of the water that was now benefiting from a small layer of scum.
With the baits out I slowly got into position to lower a trap in, I was swinging the bait back and forth in a slow delicate motion and as it neared the spot I left the line go and trapped it when the lead was nearing the surface scum, now with all this precision and stealth as the lead was passing through the water column and just as I was getting ready to feel the soft thud on the blank the line ripped from my hands and bent the rod double. I was in and I could not believe it. My thoughts of stealth and precision were not needed from this particular carp.
The fight took place in such a small spot that the line was hitting every obstacle in the swim. While I was keeping the carp under control and not allowing it to surge into the underwater jungle to my right, it dawned on me I had no net set up… While the carp was starting to wallow on the surface layer, I quenched the rod between my knees and reached for my net and pole and quickly with shaking hands assembled it. I soon scooped out a really old looking fossil of a carp, one of the bigger characters of small pit. Its flanks were like grey leather with a few huge scales to break it up. Her tail was long and floppy, built for power; she really was a beautiful old carp with a huge pair of rubbery white lips and was my first carp on a tiger nut.
The time I had spent on that spot that season was very successful, the tiger nuts had succumbed quite a few of the residents that lived under the decaying roots and bushes. The average size of the fish I had caught was also higher, with two of the other old large residents falling for tiger nuts the same season. Also worth mentioning is the bream population in this pit. The main reason why the colour of the lake hasn’t got clarity is due to the huge shoals of bream. While I was on the tiger nuts I never had a single one, whereas when I was using boilies earlier in the season I would pick up four or five in a session. My personal theory is this; yes the bream did eat the tigers when I started introducing them, but when they reached there fill the digestion of them obviously put them off to seek these morsels for a 2nd or third time. In the pit at the time a few anglers were feeding boilies and particle mixes, so the bream soon learnt that they weren’t wanted on my spot as there was more suitable food for them elsewhere on the pit. But that said if I was the only one fishing it and baiting the lake I do believe the bream would have put in an appearance at some stage as the natural food larder in the lake is fairly small, so tiger nuts would be the only thing for them to really eat in the way of artificially introduced bait.
The Quarry Common
Looking back another interesting learning curve with the tiger nuts took place at an old quarry in Northamptonshire. The lake is surrounded by woodland and trees and is mature to the fact that you would think you were the first person to set foot on its ironstone bank. Within this deep crystal clear quarry lay around twelve of the purest English carp. The largest of the group is a common that is so dark on top that it tricks your eyes to see blue. This carp was never reported to be caught or even seen in the pit, the un caught aspect was certainly not surprising as It was made clear to me through observation on a certain clay margin on a warm springs day. On the start of spring I was feeding three spots around the Woodside margins of the quarry.
Through a huge learning curve a year or so back I found out that one half of the quarry would be neglected by the carp through the whole season. Only once or twice would a couple of carp patrol this other side known as the roadside bank. Once my pre-baiting got into the swing of things I noticed this elusive common that was a lot larger than the other residents starting to have a munch on one of my spots on the Woodside bank. Now this does take some believing, as it took me watching it to step back and think over what I was seeing.
I was feeding boilies and tiger nuts into the steep clay margin and they rolled a few inches to settle on the hard golden bottom. Now after ten minutes or so of me hiding down low and full of anticipation rod in hand and hooked to rings, I watched this carp take a tiger nut, right itself chew and then swim off, then come back take another tiger, and then repeat its first action. It carried on doing this until all the tiger nuts were gone… only then once the tigers were gone would it start plugging up the bottom to get the boilies up its carnivorous snout.
This happened time and time again, and me not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, or carp, knew exactly what bait to put on. So a fermenting tiger was threaded on, and with sticky fingers I lowered the rig into position.
A few minutes later while creeping my head over the branches I could see the carp taking tiger by tiger, bit at a time and getting ever closer to the hook bait after every chew. Once it came to my hook bait it too the whole lot in, righted itself….. My heart was now in my hands at this point pumping so hard I felt like id drop it. As it lifted it slowly went off to chew the bait and my lead was now being dragged behind it. I had done it I had hooked her, then she stopped and blew the whole lot out down the slope just as I was about to strike. After that missed opportunity to this day I have never been able to get her feeding in that steep clay margin again.
With a heart as low as it could be I moved off to set up for then night on a marginal bar and swung out two tigers. With my confidence in shatter I had no hope or vibe that I would lift that common any time soon. But like most things in life and especially in carp fishing, some things happen in the strangest of circumstances, and just as I was getting fed up of crap sachet coffees I was about to crawl into the bag, when I heard a beep down on the rods by the bar, then it was followed up by me falling down the bank and into a thorn bush on an attempt to hit the run that had now turned from a typical bream bite to a full blooded monster carp run. The line as I lifted up into the carp was pinging off the swan mussels that live on the bar; to this day I don’t know how it didn’t cut me off. It kited to the right straight into the large wavy lengths of the kelp weed that grew from the bottom a good 25ft down. After more grating I had somehow grown used to it on this fight, but slowly and surely the carp was now under my feet and I switched my head torch on to be greeted with a great dark golden flank reflect the light back in my dazed face… it was her and I knew it.
I quickly slipped the net under her and she was finally mine. She was sitting in the net pouting and blowing the small nut in and out of her silt stained lips. The next five minutes was a blur as they always are after such a special capture. She was big black and uncaught, and she hasn’t been caught since. There was a weird eeriness in that night after I had slipped her back, I’m not superstitious but the place never feels as welcoming after that capture…
That common proves to me that certain fish have a preference to certain baits, and she fed oh so very different on tiger nuts than she would over boilies. She would take her time with tigers and pick one at a time, but with boilies she would just devour them all, but not with such intensity as she would with the tigers, she always demolished them first.
My most recent scene for the tiger nuts took place on an 80 acre pit that I have already written a small amount about with my heavy baiting that took place on its habitant quarry of carp.
With my yet again short but successful time of this large pit I had always flung out a tiger nut on one rod, and regretfully I had nothing to show for my desperation of getting a bite on one. After a couple months of solely fishing boilies, I started to introduce particles, this then turned into a massive baiting campaign, bigger than anything I had previously carried out. I’m not going to hide the fact that this pissed quite a few people off, and my opinion follows… no comment… as I have nothing to say to the jealousy amongst our sport.
Now some may question why I was trying to flog an apparent dead horse using a tiger nut on one rod when it showed obvious proof that the underwater pigs were preferring the gouging on the little round balls. But me being stubborn and full of hope always stuck with them, after all I had so much confidence and could not admit it to myself that they weren’t a winner on this pit, at the end of the day they are carp they will eat anything?
After a few successful weeks on heavy but tight baiting over a large area I was yet to have the pleasure of seeing my third rod slowly plod off the spot with the tiger nut…. It remained static whilst the other rods continued to trick the carp in the hours of darkness. But one night the spot and the carp fell all into their place, like a jigsaw puzzle that soon assembled itself.
Although looking back the amount of hours I was throwing at the lake I must have been helping the puzzle along a bit. The tiger nut rod was always to the right of the other two; they were always rowed out to the same spot all within a few feet of each other. I recall rowing out while a mate used to hold a rod while I gripped the lead core between my lips, I would rely on my mate to feel the 5oz lumps of lead to the golden clay beneath the boat, the carp had well and truly “harvested the spot”. That most memorable night started like most other, with constant liners, and the odd squeal from a disturbed coot, or the odd pole going round shooting the swans with air guns. The poles going round shooting every bit of water fowl at night was a very regular occurrence, if a swan or duck showed its unfortunate head they usually got dazed by a big lamp then was followed by a whistling piece of lead. I seem to always end up with some great or terrible stories to tell after fishing such rough and ready waters, and although the bird life was a pest no one appreciates the foreigners shooting at them over the back of your brolly in the cold early hours of morning.
After the nightly ritual of bird watch, or bird “watch out”, I received a slow but sure take on my left rod, the nev pierced the witching hours silence with a horrendous shriek. With carp number one in the folds of my withered old net, I set about sacking her for the night. Once sorted I returned to the confines of my bed and set about a slow doze only to get mustered up at about 4am 4 hours before the last take to the same nasty shriek, but this time the middle rod. This time it was a lovely little common, so with a few shots for “proof” I lowered her into the black mist filled margin. Once again the only rod that was left in the confines of the spot was the tiger nut, but this time it was different.
At first light the tufties hit the remaining bait hard as usual, and the odd beep was regretfully ignored with the odd murmur of swearing coming from the confines of my bag. At around 8ish I awoke to look out to my remaining rod, then as if by magic the once lifeless bobbing slowly lifted up, in two minds of whether to watch a tuftie come up or just hit into it… I chose the latter, and I was into a slow heavy fish. I’d be lying if I thought it was massive, as I had no thought of a huge carp out of this rez, the quality of fish is what really drew me to it’s yellow rape lined banks months before. After a very dogged fight I finally creped my drawstring over her scaly flanks to secure her in my mesh.
The tiger nut had finally done me a fish, but at that blurry moment I still hadn’t clocked on to what I had landed. I broke the net down and the moment of lifting her bronze shoulders out of the water it became clear she was a cut above the rest. Once on the mat I hung her on the scales and it confirmed my feeling, I turned to jelly and my heart started pumping more than when I was actually playing her. She was perfect, from mouth to the tip of her dark old tail; she was the largest carp to have been landed from the rez for 18 months and was supposedly uncaught according to a few of the regulars, and her mouth was lined with dark stains that the environment had granted her, she was the one.
I quickly went about securing her in the edge with my spare sack while I got my head together and got some phone calls going out. The only problem was I hadn’t got any battery, so I waited on the footpath to annoy every passer-by for a phone call. Eventually a bloke was kind enough to help me out, thank you mate. Then within an hour the time had come to set the memory in stone, with a good camera man on hand he snapped away at her. She was utter perfection and is to date she is one that holds a nice place in my album and memory.
Now back to the point of the article she was the one and only fish I had caught on a tiger on this pit, now I had another 37 carp out of this water with none of them reaching anywhere near her size, and they were all near enough exclusively on boilies. Is it pot luck or was I granted a deserved reward for my effort in the tiger nut? I know what I believe, and looking back to that magical session I don’t think I would have been granted with such a memory if I hadn’t been fishing a tiger nut. If I had been fishing a boilie on that rod would have myself believe that it would have rattled off sooner with a smaller carp hung on it. The truth is I will never know, and truthfully I don’t want to either, its these “learning curves” and strokes of luck that definitely shape our angling, it must be the main reason why so many anglers have so many different opinions on so similar topics, that’s what makes carp fishing so interesting as the mystery will never diminish no matter how much research is done.
The Tiger Nut
Now onto the boring bit… for me anyway, with my tiger nuts I personally like them very gloopy, and have no issue with using any particles especially tigers in a matured state. I notice that in matured state they kick off an awful lot more smell and with it they must draw fish into the area a lot quicker. I have mentioned that I like the tiger to have a sort of slime around them, this slime holds a lot of attraction, and if tigers can get a solid thick coating of this slime I think they will out fish standard out the shop tigers in the runny liquid that just runs off them.
To get thick goo I add a lot of sugar and a bit of the talin liquid to the soaked tigers, then I boil. By the use of the sweet talin it seems to get the tiger even stickier than normal and very quickly too, after a 24 hour soak after boiling that goo is starting to really kick off. I personally like to leave the tigers maturing in my nan’s green house (no room for plants now) for as long as it takes for me to use them. I’m a bit naïve with the whole fresh bait thing, the way I look at it is they eat all sorts of crap day in day out at the bottom of a silty smelly old pit. So why do I have to serve them up le crème de le crème? The more mature the tigers get the thicker the substance around them forms and the more potent they become, they definitely get better with age in that respect.
Big fish selective or not? Well in my opinion they help along the way to the bigger fish, but there is no refusing to take on board the shear resilience of a tiger to pest fish, and the fact that they have caught and continue to catch some of the best carp in the country. They will always be in the forefront of my approach in the long future ahead, and they have given me many a happy memory and captures that inspires to keep searching for them special old creatures that haunt below air and tree.
Tom Betts Causebrook
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