Carp Fishing For Beginners – (Complete Guide & Top Tips On How To Get Started With Carp Fishing)

Carp Fishing For Beginners

Carp fishing is a pretty big deal. We guarantee you, once you have caught a carp, you'll be hooked for life, so be prepared.

To catch carp, you will need to know what you are doing. Sure, sometimes anglers can get lucky but carp are wise old creatures and usually are very hard to catch, especially the larger ones.

We've assembled this handy carp fishing for beginner's guide based on years of experience of both succeeding and failing!

We’ll take you through everything you need to know from the absolute basics to some more advanced tips and advice to get more carp on the bank.

This is a full and comprehensive guide so checkout the table of contents if you need to focus on any specific information relevant to your needs.

Let’s get into this…

How To Start Carp Fishing

Starting carp fishing doesn't require you to invest thousands on expensive gear and specialist equipment (that comes later if you want!).

For the time being, you can go for good all-round solutions that will form the foundation for your carp fishing adventure going forward.

Here's some great general guidance on what you need to do to get started.

1. Find a Venue

You'd be amazed at how many areas hold carp. You don't need to go anywhere too luxurious to start off with (although there are plenty of nice options).

A quick search online or even asking at your local tackle shop will yield good results. To find carp fishing venues that are prolific you could try: -

  • Local lakes
  • Nearby reservoirs
  • Canals
  • Private clubs and angling societies
  • Local parks

2. Get Kitted Out

As a bare minimum, you are going to need some basic tackle. Don't worry too much about going specialised at the moment. Here's a list of the general equipment you will need to get started: -

Basic Carp Fishing Gear

  • Rod
  • Reel
  • Line
  • Landing net
  • A selection of weights, hooks and terminal tackle
  • Bait box
  • Bait
  • A seat or seat box

Wait, is that it?

As a bare minimum, yes… If you want to go a bit more in-depth, you could also get the following…

More Advanced Carp Fishing Gear

  • Bite Alarm
  • Rod Pod
  • Brolly system or bivvy
  • Scales and slings
  • A rod holdall
  • Carp care kits
  • Bait catapults
  • Keepnet
  • A carp barrow

This part of the list is more optional extras. They will make your experience better, but they aren't as essential as the first half of our list.

Carp Fishing Gear

Quite often carp anglers accumulate lots of fishing gear

3. Get a Rod Licence

While we are loathe to admit it, it is a legal requirement that you will need to buy a rod licence if you are going to fish in UK waters.

Why buy one?

Well, let's put it this way. It's a £2500 fine if you are caught without one… Think how much carp fishing gear that could buy!

4. Do Your Research

After you've got kitted out, researched local venues and got a rod licence, it's time to start doing some reading.

Our advice is to read and research all you can on carp fishing before you go. This guide is a great place to start.

5. Manage Your Expectations

While you may have seen magazine photos of people with huge 40lb carp, you may need to manage your expectations. Specimen hunting takes real effort and isn't easily done.

The good news?

Even a medium-sized carp will give you a fight to remember.

Oh, and remember.

It's called fishing, not 'catching', so don't be too disheartened if you don't catch on your very first try. Carp fishing is very much a sport of patience and persistence.

Carp Fishing Methods

One of the beautiful things about carp fishing is its diversity. There are many ways and means to catch a carp. Here are the most popular ways and a brief description of what they entail…

Float Fishing for Carp

Float fishing for carp is easy to do and involves next to no specialist gear whatsoever. It is the ideal method to try when you are just getting into carp fishing and can actually yield pretty impressive results!

Float fishing works by suspending your chosen bait underneath a floating indicator. When the fish takes the bait, the indicator will dip beneath the surface, telling you that you've had a bite!

This is an exciting way to fish. The first time you see that float dip below the surface is a real heart-stopping moment!

If you want to learn much more about this exciting method, we've got a full guide to float fishing for carp right here.

what breaking strain line when float fishing for carp

Float fishing for carp is a simple yet exciting method to use

Surface Fishing for Carp

If you think that float fishing sounds like fun, just wait until you try this.

This is fishing in its purest form, and it has existed for thousands of years. You'll know when you've got a bite because you'll literally see the fish you are about to catch.

Several baits are perfect for surface fishing for carp. These baits can either be free lined, i.e. with just a hook with your bait on, or cast out with a large float type contraction called a 'controller' float.

These floats can help get you some distance on your cast as well as act as an indicator for any takes.

best controller floats for carp fishing

A selection of controller floats for surface fishing

From there, you watch the bait as it floats along on top of the water until a fish happens to swim by and slurps it off the top!

It's a special kind of magic watching a carp lazily swimming towards your floating bait. As it closes in, your heart rate will be going through the roof.

If you are thinking about giving surface fishing ago, you may want to check out our dedicated article on the best floater fishing rods to ensure you are using the right equipment.

This video shows you surface fishing for carp in action…

Stalking Carp

Stalking carp isn't about catching fish (plural)…

It's about targeting a specific fish (single).

This isn't a method applicable all the time, but if you are fishing in clear water or the carp are on top, it can be great fun and a real challenge.

Essentially you will target fish visually. This is normally popular when you see fish in the margins where you present individual baits and look for visual cues that the carp has taken the bait. Often, carp will 'patrol' certain areas.

If you are smart about it, you can learn their behaviour and use this knowledge to catch a specific fish 'doing the rounds'.

Check out this video showing a great example of stalking for carp...

Ledgering for Carp

Ledgering for carp is what most people actually think of as 'carp fishing'.

It is a deadly technique and probably accounts for more carp caught in the UK than any other method.

Ledgering is fishing on the bottom. This is achieved by casting out a length of line (called a rig) attached to a lead weight. This lead weight sinks and anchors the bait on or near the bottom.

Bites are normally detected by watching the tip of the rod or through various bite indicators and/or bite alarms. If there is a twitch, bend, sudden movement, or sound, it means that you've got a fish on!

carp rod setup with indicators

2 carp rods set up with bite alarms and indicators

Method Feeder

Method feeding is similar to ledgering. However, there is one subtle (but significant) difference.

Remember how we said that ledgering uses a lead weight to hold the bait on the bottom?

When method feeding, this lead weight (or feeder in this example) is packed with tasty treats that carp love to eat! As a result, your entire rig or end tackle actually attracts fish to your hook bait.

Method feeding sometimes requires a bit of specialist gear, but it is a very effective way to catch carp. You can read more about it here.

Carp Fishing Gear For Beginners

In the carp fishing world, there is so much gear available to buy nowadays that it can be a real minefield for anyone new to the sport.

To actually ascertain what is a necessity and what is a luxury is challenging with limited experience.

This next section will take you through what you need to start the sport of carp fishing and provide some suggestions based on our own experiences throughout the years.

Carp Fishing Starter Kits

When starting a new hobby or sport, it can seem like an uphill battle to choose the best gear, and it is hard to know what is right.

Here's the good news.

If you want a one-stop shop for most of the carp fishing gear you'll need, there are solutions out there.

Such as?

An all in one carp fishing starter kit.

This setup has pretty much everything you'll need to get you out fishing for carp. And what's more, it is pretty darn cheap! Why spend a fortune getting kitted out when you can get everything you need for the price of one premium carp rod?

Check this carp fishing starter kit out as it offers great value for money and has everything you need to pretty much get started…

Carp Rods For Beginners

Everyone always loves buying rods. And carp anglers are no exception. Choosing the best carp rod isn't challenging, but there are a few features that you are definitely going to want.

A good action, the ability to fish in different ways and the means to cast a rig a fair distance are all important.

We've got an article here that goes into plenty of detail about choosing carp rods.

Here's why it would be great for a carp fishing beginner:

  • For a start, it isn't going to break the bank.
  • You get two rods in this package
  • At 2.75lbs test, it sits right in the optimum region for catching carp (yes, even the big ones)
  • It's the perfect length to try out most of the disciplines mentioned above.

Carp Reels For Beginners

Carp reels can run into hundreds of pounds if you go for something a little 'designer'. But for now, you just want something reliable and will teach you the basics.

The main features you want to look for will include an easily adjustable drag, a good retrieval rate and a large enough spool to make casting easy.

We do have a full guide on carp reels, which you can find here.

This reel will keep you going long after you cease being a 'beginner' to carp fishing. We even know some experienced guys who still use the Fox 10000!

It would be a great choice of reel when starting carp fishing because: -

  • It has a phenomenal retrieval rate, over a metre for each turn of the handle!
  • The reel has an impressive line capacity
  • Its pretty lightweight

Carp Line For Beginners

It's pretty easy to get hung up on line, and there is an ongoing debate about which line is the best for carp fishing. While not the most expensive part of your kit, your line is crucial.

Think about it.

It is literally the only thing keeping you in contact with the fish!

A good breaking strain to start with would be in the 8 – 12lb mark, but you can read more on it here.

Mono is by far the easiest for beginners to handle, with excellent low visibility qualities and a lot of stretch (good for hiding ham-fistedness).

We've got plenty of other good suggestions too, take a peek at our dedicated carp fishing line guide.

To get you going, something like the Daiwa Hyper Sensor would be ideal...

Here's why it's a great line: -

  • It has amazing knot strength
  • It is low diameter for its given breaking strain
  • It is hard to see gun metal grey in the water, meaning you are more likely to catch!

Carp Rod Pod for Beginners

Rod pods are designed to make life super simple. Consider it a fancy rod rest for several rods, allowing you to recline in comfort, awaiting a take.

Rod pods aren't essential but are exceptionally handy for a quick set up and especially useful if you are fishing from a platform or very hard ground. You can read all about the various types of rod pods in our guide here.

Want something to get you started? The Leeda Rogue is perfect for beginners...

What makes this rod pod a great option for beginners: -

  • It is very reasonably priced.
  • You can fit a total of up to three rods
  • Its really adjustable, making it ideal for lots of different venues

Bite Alarms for Beginners

Bite alarms allow you to fish 'hands-free'. In fact, you don't even need to be looking at your rod. Bite alarms sense when there is movement and vibrations on your line. This movement triggers an audible alarm.

These are a luxury extra, but you'll find that most serious carp fishermen will invest in a good quality bite alarm.

If you are new to bite alarms and need some advice on how to set them up properly, we have a detailed article on that subject right here.

The reason this bite alarm is ideal is it's: -

  • Really great value
  • Has lots of customisable options, with volume and tone.
  • Has a universal fitting
  • The battery lasts for ages

You could also consider getting a visual bite indicator if you want a cheaper solution or as many carp anglers do, use them alongside a bite alarm to add enhanced bite detection.

Tackle Box

Your tackle box is a key piece of equipment, and you'll definitely need one for carp fishing. This is where you'll keep all your bits and pieces, including: -

  • Hooks
  • Rigs
  • Beads
  • Tools
  • Swivels

And much more…

Ideally, you want something with plenty of dividers, and that is durable. 

Fishing Chair

Unless you intend to stand all day, you will need a nice chair to sit in. And you are going to be using it a lot.

Our advice. Invest in something really comfortable. There is a huge range of carp fishing chairs out there.

What makes it so great?

Well, it is pretty good value for a start, and it is lightweight and adjustable. The mud feet stop you from sinking, and they are adjustable, meaning it is easy to keep level, regardless of the terrain.

Brolly System Or Bivvy For Beginners

Suppose you plan on fishing in all weathers or even intend to make a full day (and night) of it. In that case, you will need a good bivvy or a really decent brolly system. These keep the rain off and form your 'command centre' for your carp fishing.

When it comes to buying a brolly system, you could go cheap, but something like this would be ideal as a one-off purchase.

You can even fish out of the front of it! Peg mounts keep it nice and secure, and it can be put up in a matter of seconds.

Rucksack Or Bag

As a carp fishing beginner, you'll soon learn that the more storage you have, the better. It always pays to have a decent rucksack Rucksack Or Bag.

You can stow gear, odds and ends, bait… And even your lunch! There are plenty of carp fishing rucksacks on the market; here are some of the best.

Rod Holdall

But I only need one rod… Yeah, right. It's a certainty you will eventually want a multitude of rods, and you'll definitely need something to carry them in.

Holdalls make it easy, and they also protect your rods from the elements, not to mention damage.

Check out our dedicated guide for expert guidance on which rod holdalls are the best here.

Carp Barrow For Beginners

Once you get into carp fishing, you will have plenty of gear. A barrow is the most efficient means to get it to and from the swim.

You can get a real feel for the best carp barrow here. There are some really neat options!

Landing Net

A carp isn't 'caught' until it's safely folded in your net. If you want to catch big fish, you will need a big landing net. It actually makes getting the fish in much easier. The bigger, the better!

There are things you will need to avoid. Things such as knotted mesh is a big no-no. To make sure you choose the right landing net, we'd advise a quick visit here, to see what's what.

A good landing net doesn't have to break the bank either. Something like this by NGT will do everything you need, and it even comes with its own 'stinkbag'.

Unhooking Mat Or Cradle

We'd say that an unhooking mat is vital if you get into carp fishing. It protects the fish's delicate scales and ensures that it is returned to the water in perfect condition.

We'll be honest, some carp cradles look good enough to sleep in.

But for now, aim for a carp cradle that is mid-priced and will be guaranteed to protect the fish.


Onto scales of a different kind now. If you want to boast to your mates, you'll need to know how big the fish really was (no, holding your arms out wide doesn't count).

Fishing scales can be paired up with a carp sling, and nowadays, they are mostly digital. Here are some of the best scales on the market.

Catapult Or Throwing Stick

Baiting up your swim is vital to attract carp to your hook bait. The distances you'll eventually be casting aren't within throwing range.

So what's the answer?

A decent bait catapult. A big pouch and wide arms mean you'll be able to bombard your swim with great accuracy, and they should be pretty durable too.

A throwing stick is good for bigger baits, such as boilies. 

Carp Care Kit

As a carp fishing beginner, you might not realise, but the pro's really look after their catch. It's the least we can do to protect our sport.


Well, you can buy kits to give your caught fish a little TLC. Some antiseptics keep their mouths in pristine condition and special gels to protect damaged scales. Want to know how carp care kits are used? We've got a great guide here.

What Is The Best Carp Rig To Catch Carp?

Choosing the best carp rig to catch carp can be tricky, and each angler will have their own theories.

Your best bet will be a standard bottom rig for a tried and trusted rig. It is easy to make, highly effective and works with most baits.

There are loads of rigs out there, and we've made a full guide to show you what they are about. Take a quick glance at our article here.

What Is the Best Bait to Catch Carp?

The most popular bait for catching carp has to be the humble boilie. With this bait alone, you'll have hundreds of options regarding colour, size and flavour options, literally.

Tiger nuts are also deadly carp bait. However, some venues restrict their use, so check beforehand.

There are a variety of baits that have all been super successful in catching carp. Want to know what they are? Here's a full list.

Best Boilies For Carp Fishing UK

Boilies come in all sorts of shape, sizes and colours

How To Load A Carp Fishing Reel

Loading a carp fishing reel is actually pretty easy. You'll need the following:

  • The butt section of your rod.
  • The reel
  • Carp fishing line.

As to how you do it, we could write you a step-by-step guide talking about how to tie complex knots, top tips and the differences between winding braid and mono…


We could show you on video. Which would you prefer?

Yep, we thought so. Check this short video out for all you need to know on loading a carp reel with line: -

How To Cast A Carp Fishing Rod Far

Distance casting relies on one thing only. Good technique. Generating inertia doesn't mean you have to cast 'fast' or 'hard'.

That's why anglers with slight builds can cast just as far as the bigger guys. Good technique comes with greater accuracy, vital for carp fishing success.

One thing you will need is a decent rod. What counts as 'decent'? Well, something with a strong test curve and features will wring every last yard out of each cast. Here are the kind of rods we are talking about.

Where To Cast To When Carp Fishing?

Knowing where to cast can vary depending on several factors. The weather, the season, the venue and the method you are using can all make a difference to where you should cast.

Here are some of the areas that will nearly always produce fish: -

  • Next to cover, such as weed beds, lily pads and overhanging trees.
  • Deep water (especially in winter)
  • Shelves, undulations and drop-offs on the water bed.
  • The margins both bankside and off islands.

How To Bait Your Swim When Carp Fishing?

Generally, you should aim to bait your swim regularly when carp fishing. By adding a constant stream of bait, you will keep the carp interested and keep them in the vicinity of where you are going to cast.

Here's a good general rule of thumb for baiting your swim.

  • If you can see fish are present or you are getting takes, keep baiting up the swim.
  • If the bites start to taper off, or there are fewer signs of fish showing, slow it down or even stop completely.

Other Carp Fishing For Beginners Tips

We can talk equipment and tactics all day, but there are one or two things about carp fishing that you'll normally have to learn by doing. Let us save you a little work.

Here are some top general tips about carp fishing…

#1. Patience

Carp fishing is rarely 'fast and furious'; instead, it is slow and deliberate. The aim is to take your time and do things the right way.

Be patient, and accept that you are looking for quality, not quantity, when the bites are slow.

#2. Watercraft

Good watercraft can be the difference in being successful with any angling discipline but especially when fishing for old, wise carp.

Being able to recognise the signs of fish moving or fish feeding is a crucial part of good watercraft.

When I was starting to learn the key elements of watercraft, I used to climb trees and observe the lake I was fishing from an elevated position for hours. You can learn so much from just watching!

#3. Be Organised

Carp fishing is all about being slow and methodical. Sorting your 'personal admin' is 90% the key to carp fishing success. Organise your gear the night before you go, and have a pocket, pouch or section for each item you need.

#4. Practice Makes Perfect

If at first, you don't succeed…

If we knew we would catch every time, fishing would actually be pretty boring. If you haven't caught, don't despair. Try and ask yourself why you didn't catch. What will you do next time to avoid repeating the same error?

#5. Talk To Other Carp Fishermen

You can learn a lot by asking other anglers. And the good news is that most carp fishermen are all too happy to share advice and information (sometimes even when you don't ask for it).

#6. Keep Detailed Notes

Remember above we talked about analysing your performance so you can improve. The easiest way to achieve this is to create a log or diary about each trip you undertake. In a journal, you can make notes on the following kinds of things: -

  • Where you fished
  • Your catch rate
  • What bait you used
  • The weather
  • Season
  • Time
  • Peg location

And so much more… By creating a detailed record, you can identify trends. As a result, you should stand a reasonable chance of replicating success more often. Logbooks, purpose-built for anglers are actually a really nice idea.

Final Thoughts

Carp fishing, for beginners, can be a steep hill to climb. Hopefully, our complete guide has given you a good idea of the equipment you need and some hints and tips on how you can progress in this wonderful sport.

Start small, be patient and dive into this exciting hobby with a willingness to learn, and you won't go far wrong.

Thanks for reading…

Tight Lines!

If you need any fishing tackle please consider visiting one of our recommended online fishing tackle shops.

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