The winter has to be my favourite month for carp fishing, that might sound like an odd statement to many but I do love my winter fishing, the lakes and rivers are much quieter with anglers, in fact in most cases because I tend to fish midweek rather than weekends, I will quite often have the lake to myself. The winter is a great time to be out on the bank and here are my tips to have you catching right the way through the colder months!
Choose the right venue
It’s no good fishing a 100 acre gravel pit with just 20 carp in it and expecting to catch well over the winter, it just won’t happen. Pick a well stocked venue that has a bit of winter form, ideally somewhere not too deep as I have found the deeper lakes just don’t fish very well when it’s get cold, whereas a nice shallow venue will warm quickly in the winter sun and encourage the fish to have a feed. Check out Berners hall fishery as all 3 of the lakes fish really well all year round and there is a great chance of a winter 30 or even a 40!
Any fool can be uncomfortable!
It’s true, in this day and age there really is no excuse for being cold or wet on the bank. If you are freezing cold or soaking wet you will either pack up and go home or not fish effectively and likely catch nothing. Get yourself some decent base layers, then layer over the top. If you get too warm remove a layer, not warm enough add a layer, simple! In order to be comfortable you need a good quality bivvy with a second skin and a groundsheet, yes you can tough it out under a brolly but I know what I prefer. It’s time to dig out your 5 season sleeping bags and thermal bedchair covers because even though you might have a mild spell, the temperatures overnight can plummet.
Plenty of hot food and drinks
It might sound a bit like stating the obvious but the amount of anglers I have seen on the banks over the winter who are surviving on shop bought sandwiches and fizzy drinks is unreal! Get yourself a stove, a kettle and a couple of small pans and you can knock up as much tea or coffee as you can handle and make yourself a bowl of soup or some other hot food. Chuck it all in a carryall and take it with you every time you go, even when the fish aren’t playing ball and bites are not forthcoming, a cup of tea or a sausage sandwich can really lift the spirits and keep you warm and focussed.
Winter bait choice
Once November comes I put away the robin red fishmeals type boilies and out comes the wrigglers! Yep, maggots have caught me more winter carp than any other bait hands down and I am not one of these anglers that takes 5 gallons with them, usually a couple of pints per night is plenty. I fish them in a stocking mesh PVA bag with either the mag aligner rig or a pop up maggot rig depending on what I am fishing over. Yes, small roach and bream can be an issue but if so, that is when I fish them popped up in a bunch and the small fish usually leave them alone. Another winter tactic that works well is single hookbait fishing with a bright pop up. A tactic I normally use to cast at a showing fish, single hookbait fishing can be deadly when the fish are not really in a feeding mood and you are tying to provoke a response with a high attract, bright hook bait. Of course, when everything falls into place, the weather is bang on and the fish are feeding then you can give them some food, but just go easy on the freebies!
Keep a box of spares
Something that I use all year round and just add a few bits through the winter. In the back of my car is a plastic storage box and inside are a few spare items that stay in the car just in case I need them. Some of the items I keep in there include; spare gas for the stove, 4 litres of bottled water, spare tea bags, my old gas stove, complete change of clothes, some instant food (pot noodles, chocolate etc), small tin of tiger nuts, small box containing spare leads, hooks, other terminal tackle, spare batteries for everything, a couple of pots of my favourite pop ups, spare waterproofs. I rarely need it bu I have been caught out before and run out of stuff that has put an end to my session. You might never use it but it is really handy to have it all there stashed away in case you need it.
Bite time is the right time!
In the colder months, the fish might only be willing to feed for a very small amount of time every day and if you can work out when that window of opportunity is you could be onto a winner. Last year I fished a local day ticket lake and quickly figured out that bite time was between 7am and 10am. It was a waste of time being there outside of that window, so I would arrive at the lake at 6am, have my rods fishing by 6.15 ready for the feeding spell to start. I was usually home by midday with a couple of carp on the back of my camera to show the wife and kids. Figure out the feeding spells and you could save yourself a lot of time and money!
Keep your eyes on the water
Unless there is an obvious reason to fish a certain swim, I will quite often set up in an area that gives me a good view of as much as the lake as possible. In the winter the fish shoal up and if one fish shows, then you can bet there are more. Make sure you sit at the front of your swim or position your bivvy so you can see the lake, make a cuppa and sit and watch. At some point the fish will show you where you need to be, then it’s just a case of moving to them.
Big is not always best
In the winter I fine tune my rigs and shrink everything down a size or two. My size 4 and 6 hooks are replaced with size 8’s and even size 10’s on occasion. My 25lb hooklink material is reduced to 15lb and I replace my 18lb mainline with a flurocarbon. Usually in winter the water goes crystal clear even on well stocked venues so keeping everything as conspicuous as possible is key. I keep my lead size the same at 4oz unless I am casting amongst fish then I will often use just enough weight to get me out there, looking for more a gentle plop as the lead hits the water rather than a whopping great splash!
Ignore single beeps at your peril!
Something I learned a while back and something that has undoubtedly caught me more carp. How often do we sit there as carp anglers and we get a single bleep on the alarm, what do we usually do? Ignore it! In the winter, I have gotten into the habit of investigating the single bleeps and especially the ones where the hanger or bobbin drops back slightly. Lifting into these has often resulted in a carp on the end. Trust me it works!
There we have a few winter tips to hopefully keep you fishing all the way through the winter, it really is a great time of year to be out on the bank and don’t forget the camera as the sunrises and sunsets can be spectacular!