I suspect that the majority of carp anglers when arriving at a new lake for the first time look out across the water and look for features such as islands, weed beds, lilies and structures, maybe even getting a leading rod out and casting around to see what is out there.
While all of these are standard and obvious approaches, I wonder how many of these anglers creep around the edges looking under trees and bushes, in snags and marginal shelves.
To me, these are obvious places to begin the search for your quarry, especially if the venue holds matches as bait is often thrown into the margins after the match.
The more marginal cover the lake has, the more likely you are to find carp very close in, sometimes even sitting in undercuts beneath the bank. Carp will still visit the margins on lakes with very little in the way of bankside foliage but they will be a lot more wary and more importantly it is harder to sneak up on them without being spotted. Stealth and polarised glasses are two of your best friends here, I have found so many carp right in the edge just by being extremely quiet and carefully creeping into position behind a tree or other bankside vegetation.
If you cannot see through the water, look for subtle signs like bubbles coming up, a reed stem moving when the others aren’t, a lily pad or similar being nudged, a leaf on the surface turning in a circle to suggest a carp has moved its tale below or what I call nervous water where the water appears to be trembling due to the presence of a carp.
Finding the carp first, watching them feed and where possible seeing them take the bait is for me the most exciting way to fish. The bites can come very quickly when fishing this way because I’m watching the fish and reacting to what it is doing and where it is heading. A small freelined piece of slowly sinking bread dropped into the path of a moving carp can be deadly but other times a bait needs to be positioned along a patrol route in readiness for the carp to return.
It’s always worth creeping around the lake and dropping some bait into any likely looking spots and this can create multiple opportunities for a bite because your bait is working for you while you aren’t there. For this I will often bait with some small pellets or a couple of boilies that I've crumbed up in my hand
During the daylight hours when I can see the rig, I will generally use a piece of boilie on the hair because smaller baits are generally taken with much more confidence (especially in shallower water) and it better matches the free offerings but at night time when the bait could potentially be out all night, I will revert to baiting with whole boilies because I need to know that they aren’t being picked apart by nuisance fish and a wafter hook bait because they are tougher skinned and will fly up into the mouth easier than the freebies.
The beauty of fishing so close in is that you can be certain the rig is positioned perfectly and you can be deadly accurate with baiting.
Make sure that you are set up well back from the edge so the rods cannot be seen by any carp swimming through.
Fishing the margins can be hugely productive as it is an area of the lake that is overlooked by so many other anglers and it isn’t just a small fish tactic either, I have hooked the biggest resident in seven different lakes from within a rod length of the bank and on my last water 5 of the biggest carp in the lake were landed from a spot where the rig was lowered off of the rod tip.
Best of luck when searching the margins