Winter has come

I think I can safely say winter is here after I’ve done a night in temperatures down to -5ºC and woken up to find a thin layer of frost on my sleeping bag. Fortunately it’s a good sleeping bag and I was warm as toast inside, until nature called and I had to emerge.

Winter carp fishing is enjoyable as long as you’re comfortable, and ice permitting, it is never too cold to catch a carp. A lot of venues up and down the country have been fishing really hard, which I put down to the temperatures dropping rapidly. The cold shock seems to have put the brakes on captures, but I guarantee you that it will come good soon. All we need is a run of consistent temperatures for the carp to get used to and they will gradually start to feed again. Mild spells raising the water temperature by a degree or two are even better, so keep an eye on the weather forecast and, if you can, get out on the bank when it looks good. I’m planning to do just that where I can this winter, but I’ll be going regardless of the weather.

I paid a brief visit to the Carp Society show on the Sunday then shot off to Farlows with Ray Pulford from LA Carp. We raced against dusk from the show and lost. We were in no real hurry once darkness had descended, so we had a good look around Lake 2, hoping for signs of carp. Ray fancied a swim which gave him access to open water where there had been a few signs of activity. Earlier in the day I’d been speaking to Ian Russell at the show and had asked for his advice on Lake 2. He told me of a small swim near a corner after a couple of double swims, so I headed off for a look. In the blackness I could make out a fallen tree on the far bank which looked like it just had to hold carp. I’m not totally sure I was in the actual swim Ian told me to take a look at, but I was happy with my choice.

I swung a small lead around to gauge the depth and get a general feel for the swim. The fallen tree opposite had a hard bottom around it, indicating that carp had fed around there, so it was an obvious place for a rig. I clipped up as tight as I could in the darkness, but before I cast a rig out I attached a Mini Spomb to the quick link swivel and deposited two loads of chopped TM1 boilies and sweetcorn on the spot. There was no need for the spod rod to come out as the Mini (and Midi) Spombs are easily handled by normal carp rods and it’s a super accurate way of baiting up. After that I dispatched a simple balanced bottom bait with a small PVA stick to finish the trap.

A carpy looking swim
A stunning common in the winter sun
A carpy looking swim
A stunning common in the winter sun

The open water felt a bit deeper with a softer, silty bottom, but I have caught from such areas on well stocked venues in the past, especially when casting to bubblers. This rod was baited with a pop-up on my usual multi-rig and would be the roving rod the following day, searching the swim for carp and being cast to any signs, no matter how small.

The margin was quite deep and to my right the bottom felt very hard, perfect for the third and final rod. I had another multi-rig on that rod, so after a quick touch up of the hook point it was baited with a white TM1 pop-up and dunked in the matching Glupe. I only put the single hookbait on that spot, as I planned to re-evaluate things in the morning and make any changes I felt were needed.

The night passed without a take, but several liners told me I was in the right area. A few more people had turned up and the open water was taking a bit of a hammering from leads and spods, so I was liking my quiet corner more. The right-hand rod in the margin signalled a stuttering take and the start of a strange fight with a carp. With the fish shaking its head violently and not doing much else I thought it was a tench or small carp to start with. Then things turned a bit more normal with the fish charging up and down the deep margin, but not willing to come up to the surface. Eventually it gave a bit of ground and I saw a nice common, which I guessed to be nothing more than a stubborn low double.

Ray walked into my swim, bemoaning the bombardment of open water, including his spots, just in time to skilfully slide the net under my prize. It looked a bit bigger than I’d thought and Ray assured me I’d bagged a twenty, which is a good fish for the venue. The sun was just rising and we found a great spot for the photos, which Ray did a great job with. The fish was 22lb 2oz and in mint condition. That and the weird fight it had given me leads me to believe it’s a fish that is either very rarely caught or a recent stocky. Whatever the truth is, I was happy to be holding it up for the camera.

Reliable indication is paramount in winter
A little boost to the hookbait
Time for a brew up!

I did make a few changes through the day. Once it was daylight and I could see things clearly, the first was to redo the rod up to the fallen tree, so I could get it as tight as possible. As with any snag fishing the line was fished tight, so I wouldn’t have any problems should I get a take.

The open water pop-up was recast at regular intervals through the day to search out any carp; twice it was cast to bubblers, but to no avail. The margin rod which had produced the common was the most likely to produce again, so I chose to fish maggots over it and bait it gradually through the day. Maggots are a great winter tactic and the research I’d done on the venue had shown they work well.

John Llewellyn joined me for the second night, but despite our best efforts no more fish were caught, which I think we can put down to the temperature plummeting well below zero. I was surprised that the fallen tree hadn’t produced, but I can imagine it’s been under a lot of pressure, being such an obvious feature. I was happy with the pristine common and had enjoyed the company of both Ray and John.

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