After a break last weekend, Saturday was my first real winter carp fishing session and I headed down to my favourite winter carp venue in darkest Shropshire. Winter is the only time I visit this particular carp water, it’s well stocked and a run is always a possibility even when it’s cold.
I was the only angler on the lake yesterday, I didn’t bother to look for the fish, I simply dropped into a peg I knew very well. There was a nice area in front of my swim about 40 yards out that had proved to be a real hotspot for me in the past so it was just a case of drop my baits onto the spot then sit and wait. Should the carp be resident somewhere else on the lake, I had a very good view and being positioned centrally I could cover any rolling carp with a single hook bait or a small stringer. I usually opt for the small stringer when casting to showing carp, not only does it give a bit more attraction round the hook bait, the stringer also helps prevent tangles which sometimes occur when using braided hooklengths. My preferred method of doing stringers is to use the pva mesh system made popular by companies like korda and fox international, although i prefer to get my mesh off ebay as its cheaper!. A couple of pellets in a small pva mesh bag is ideal, it doesn’t have too much of an effect when it comes to casting and I can cover a lot of water in front of my swim should the carp be holding up somewhere else other than my favourite hotspot.
My approach to fishing this lake isn’t exactly text book winter carp fishing, I took a good selection of bait with me, none of which was going home again. Being my first winter session I wanted to get some bait onto my hotspot to encourage the fish to visit the area regularly, it was a natural hotspot anyway but I wanted a lot of my bait out there for them when they felt like a feed, to this end, I had a bucket of hemp, a small bucket of pellets, peparami and a jar of maize to bait up with. Obviously I didn’t want to put this in at the start of my session, it was cold and I figured the carp wouldn’t really be up for that bigger feed so I held it back until the last hour of my session.
I positioned my rigs and used my catapult to scatter a few pellets over my hook baits then I sat back to watch the water and have a brew. It was windy with a bit of light rain, not exactly my favourite winter fishing conditions when it comes to comfort but not bad for winter carp feeding. Despite the rain, I left the brolly in my holdall so I could see what was going on around the lake. No fish showed anywhere near my hook baits which was unfortunate!. In fact I spent several hours watching the water and saw nothing, it was only when the wind dropped off during the afternoon that I finally saw where the carp had been hiding, they were way off to my left and stacked up behind the wind and I watched as a couple of different fish rolled gently in the calm water.
I continued to watch the calm area of the lake and the more I looked the more I saw, a few of the fish were certainly within casting range but not with the 2oz leads I had on. I pondered changing my 2oz inline leads for safety clips and a 3oz streamlined bomb, this would put me amongst the carp and in with a shout of a fish. Whilst I was considering my options I noticed the odd fish seemed to be showing closer to me, in fact 15 minutes after considering swapping to a heavier lead I fancied I could reach them with my 2oz inliners.
I decided to hedge my bets, one rod would be left over a light scattering of bait on my favourite hotspot and the other I’d roam around with a pva stringer, I tied up another small pva mesh bag with a couple of pellets in then wound in the rod that was furthest away from the showing fish. I lightly nicked my hook into the pva mesh then whacked the rig as hard as I could towards the area I’d seen the fish show, it landed perfect, right in the heart of the area the carp where rolling. I settled down with a cup of coffee and a biscuit to see what happened, it’s not uncommon for carp to clear off from an area when a lead lands in it and I was happy to have reached the area with 2oz instead of 3 as there was just that little bit less spook factor. I watched carefully and sure enough another carp rolled just a minute after casting out. I sort of switched off for a minute or two, I had a few sips of my coffee and fed the resident robin another small slither of peparami.
Only 5 minutes passed when the delkim sounded a small flurry of bleeps, I looked at the rod tip and it was slowly bending round, I didn’t wait for the full blooded run, I knew the fish was on so I was straight on it, a soft strike saw the rod go over and my first carp of the winter was on. The carp did very little and came straight into the margins from a range of about 80 yards, once in the margins it put up a bit more of a fight, when it surfaced I thought it was quite a long fish, when it surfaced a second time I thought it had quite a wide back too and for a second I did think I had a 20 on. After a short time in the margins I slipped the net under a nice common, lifting it from the water I guessed at upper double rather than 20+ and the scales confirmed this with a weight of 18lb 2oz. Not a bad fish to kick off my winter campaign with!.
After a couple of photos I slipped the fish back and sorted out my gear, I tied another small pva mesh bag, a fresh hook bait and I was back in business with another decent cast to the same area. Time was moving on and I began to think about putting in the bait I’d brought with me, I positioned my bucket of hemp and added the dynamite maize and peparami to it, the pellets I’d put in separately. With a korda spod set up on my spare rod I was just about to start putting my bait in when the pva stringer rod wrapped round and a full blooded run developed!. I was on it straight away, after all, I was standing next to the rod when it went! Another fight similar to the last one eventually saw my second winter carp slip into the net, it was smaller than the last one but at 15lbs even, it was a decent reward for a days winter carping. I went through the same routine as the last fish, weigh, photograph, return then re-bait the rod and position it to the area the carp had showed.
Once the rod was back out I got on with the task of spodding in a bucket full of bait, that took well over an hour and it was well and truly dark when I finally emptied the bucket. With a big bait of bait down there I’m sure the carp will move onto it eventually, I know they did last winter and the hemp in particular kept them in the area all winter. Being such small seeds they can take some clearing and the carp seemed to keep coming back to my area time and time again last year, all I did was keep topping the swim up every week.
No more runs were forthcoming and with my baiting up duties finished I packed up and headed for home, commons of 15 and 18 were reward enough for the day, in fact I’d have been happy with one of them let alone two!.