Winter can be a really testing time at its best, here’s a few of my tried and tested approaches that will hopefully keep bites coming on those long and dark nights.
1. Location – is really the key, you can have all the best bait and gear in the world but it’s no good if it’s all in the wrong place. Always spend time surveying the water. Peak times of activity are usually first/last light. That being said always keep listen out for them in the hours of darkness as they often give there whereabouts. Most of all don’t be afraid to up sticks and move, if you do here them. Ten minutes in the right place is far better than twelve hours in the wrong. Winter Carping can really be rewarding but unfortunately over the years, I have seen more anglers enjoying their comforts and lacking in their willingness to move on to showing fish.
2. Rigs – Simple rigs catch fish and don’t be afraid to scale down on hook sizes and breaking strains of hook link materials. Most of my winter fishing is done with size 10 hooks and 0.28mm mono hook links. This is mainly because the waters I fish literally turn to crystal clear tap water through the colder months and I want to be able offer the best presentation possible.
3. Bait – less really is more! But less doesn’t mean less effective. Throughout the summer months my preparation starts with my choice of hook-baits. I start by taking 20 of each pop ups and bottom baits and slowly start add the liquid attraction. This process cannot be rushed and takes time. My go to choice of liquid attractor is Amino, to that I will add a sweetener and a flavour. Once mixed this is then added to my hook baits gradually so the baits absorb it in over time. Once they appear dry then the process is repeated. Eventually you will find the baits cannot take in anymore. At this point they are near prefect, but you have to keep them prepped. Over time the liquids will slowly evaporate, so regular maintenance is needed. Just keep adding small amounts of liquid attraction to keep them in tip top condition. You now have some of the most potent single hook baits available which cannot be matched by anything off the shelf. You will also discover what was once a popup has now become a loaded wafter, perfect for presenting over any terrain and bottom bait has the attraction of a kilo of boilies.
My approach mostly works around fishing high attract singles presented in the right areas. But don’t be afraid to crush up a few un-prepped boilies/pellet which can be added as a PVA stick or bag. The key really is about having the confidence about what you are doing; remember I am fishing for one bite at a time, so don’t be afraid to wind in and cover another spot if you see something more appealing happening. So here a storey about how successful this approach can be. I had donned the waders and armed myself with a gardening rake a few winters ago. I cleared a spot amongst a thick dying weed bed, probably an area of around 6ft. I knew this area would be a natural larder for the carp during the colder months. Unfortunately another angler had decided he also liked this peg but luckily had not discovered the spot I had prepared.
December turned to mid-February and try as I might I just couldn’t get in to my prepared spot. The lake had not done a fish since early November, then on my very next visited the Car park was empty, the adrenalin raced through my body as I ran with the barrow to the lake. I went about setting up as the light faded and then a herd what sounded like a paving slab hitting the water, quickly I spun round to see only the after mass of what looked like a very sizeable fish. What was more amazing was the fact it was right on my spot! The traps were set and I had managed to get 2 rods on the cleared area. Very soon the temperatures dropped and darkest teamed up with the bitter sting of the frost took over. 6.45 am two quick sharp beeps and the left hand rod, then nothing! Now wide awake the kettle was on as I slowly started to see the darkness begin to subside as the sun struggled to rise. 7.35 I hear the crank as the hanger hits the rod blank way before the alarm actually sounded. Fish on! Straight away the rod arched over as the fish let me know his strength. Positive but gracefully slow followed, thump, thump the fish headed for open water and continued to stay there for the next ten minutes. Slowly I gained line back on the reel, but always aware not to apply to much pressure on the tiny hook. Another ten mins elapsed as it plodded around the margins before gracefully rolling onto its side, showing me its beautiful bronzed flank in the brief morning sun. Straight away I recognised it as being one of the biggest resident Commons in the lake, everything had finally fell into place and what a way to start the new season.