I love the winter and actually find it both more enjoyable and sometimes slightly easier than carp fishing in the summer months. Carp are creatures of habit and in the winter they are more likely to follow set patterns than in the summer months. There are also fewer anglers on the bank and generally less disturbance on the water, so if you have got your wits about you, winter fishing can be very easy indeed.
1) Timing is everything
Shelve location for a moment, the most important part of winter carp fishing is timing as you can be in exactly the right place but at the wrong time and catch absolutely nothing.
Find out as much as you can about the lake that you are fishing and when the feeding times are, but whatever happens, make sure you get there for first light. In the winter, first light through till about 11am always seems to be a brilliant time. I much prefer it to dusk and will often finish my session and be home before dark having had a good few fish and a really enjoyable day.
Location is the second most important point and can be split into three different categories – the lake you are fishing, the swim you choose and the area within that swim where the fish feel most comfortable. For a start, pick a heavily stocked lake (commercial match lakes are brilliant and overlooked) so you know you have a good chance of a bite. Keep in touch with what’s going on as the carp tend to stay in the same sort of area each winter. Once you know where they are they won’t move far unless they see a lot of pressure or there is a big weather change. Finally, spread your rods about. Put them in different areas and re-cast regularly, every 30 minutes or so, and you‘ll soon find out where they are.
3) Leave the bivvy at home
Travelling light is a really important part of winter fishing as I like to be on the move. I usually catch them, or at least find out they are there, pretty quickly, and if I haven’t caught or at least had a sign in an hour or so then I’ll often up sticks and head off somewhere else. I use three-piece Warrior rods and a small rucksack, and sometimes I don’t even take a chair as it makes me more active and keeps me warmer. If it looks like it might not rain or the wind is not bad, a simple golf umbrella is enough to keep the chill and light rain off and it sits perfectly in the holdall.
How many times have you heard people say, ‘it had only been out there 10 minutes’? Plenty. And that’s why a re-cast every half an hour is often one of the best things you can do to catch a fish. It keeps you active, reduces the boredom, and gives you more of a chance of finding where the fish are. You don’t have to cast into a massively different spot either.
5) Go for bright and smelly
Bright and smelly baits are very often the key to success in winter, and yellow, white and my favourite pink are all absolute winners. A lot of the time I will use a small 10mm or 12 mm pink or yellow mini boilie or a wafter and couple it with a stinky PVA stick doused in one of my favourite liquids. Making it easy for the fish to both see and smell your bait often works wonders.
6) Stockings and sticks rule
Keep the baiting light and don’t fire in loads of boilies on short sessions. Single baits work well but a small PVA stocking mesh bag or a stick is by far the best. Ignore solid PVA bags as they take far too long to tie up and you are less likely to re-cast so often if you have to tie a bag up all the time. Stocking mesh dissolves better and faster, keeping you in the speed-fishing zone. I like to make up a few at a time during the session to give me something to do and also to keep the sticks fresh.
7) Don’t ignore zigs
This is a massive tip, and one that produces a huge number of fish. Carp spend a lot of time up in the water and a bright-yellow zig works wonders. If you haven’t used them before, try a yellow zig soaked in sweetener fished between 18ins and 2ft off the bottom on a light nylon link. Carp regularly sit just off the bottom in winter and this is the killing zone.