The best way to succeed at winter carp fishing is to just do it, says Rob Hughes.
Sometimes it seems the world is catching fish and you’re not. Social media can make things worse; it’s great to keep up with what’s going on, but if you are not catching (or worse, not even going), it can seem you’re being left behind. Sound familiar? Well, it happens to us all and the best way to solve it is to get back in the saddle and have a go. Don’t worry about catching ‘enormadons’. It’s hard enough doing that at any time of year. Just get out and have a crack at catching a few fish.
This is the best way to do it:
Forget rock-hard waters, hard waters, and even moderate waters. Get yourself somewhere that you can get a bite or three very quickly. The usual day-ticket venues like Drayton and Thorpe Lea are great, but if you don’t live anywhere near one, get yourself to your local commercial match venue. They’re everywhere and when they were set up they were stocked with a load of carp for the match lads. Those carp have grown and in the main are totally ignored by many carpers, being seen to be a little too ‘noddy’ for us. Rubbish! There are loads of doubles and a good few twenties in these lakes, so get out to your local match venue and have a crack for a day. No excuses.
Got no time?
I know how you feel. In fact, despite being involved in the trade and supposedly fishing all the time, it’s not true. I’ve got loads of commitments that mean I can only get out at limited times, and in the winter it’s primarily days only for me. The key is having everything always set up and ready to rock. Travel as light as possible with minimum kit, so all you have to do is grab and go when there’s a window of opportunity. If you need a bivvy, bed and preparation of bait it becomes an epic, so get your gear chopped down and have it ready to go at a minute’s notice.
Location is key
Location is absolutely vital, and if you are off the pace the chances are you won’t know where they are so will spend ages trying to find them. Two words of wisdom here, both relating to what we have already looked at. Travel light and you are more likely to move should you need to, and secondly the venue choice is massively important. Location is simple if you go to a match venue: nip into the lodge, find out where the matches were won from the previous weekend and whether the weights were made up of carp. If they were, happy days. You already know which peg or area they are in. It’s now just a case of tightening up on the minor details.
Don’t worry about bait
Seriously, the last thing you should be worrying about on a day session is bait. It should already be in the bag ready to go. You need a pot of white Milky Malts, some PBs and some Wraysberries. Pop-ups will do the job perfectly, but if you want a bottom bait then drop it to the deck with putty, or better still, trim it to a wafter. You don’t need freebies as you will only be baiting up when you cast out, and that should be in the form of PVA sticks or small bags. I tend to make up my bag mix the night before using a mix of coarse pellets, liquidised bread, crushed boilies, and a few crushed pop-ups of different colours as well. Into that I pour some liquid flavour and leave it to dampen overnight – simples!
Try a wrap
In the cold water, solubility and visibility are the keys to success – unless you are lucky enough to land on a carp’s nose. If the water is coloured up then scent will be the key to catching the carp. Try a bottom bait or even a wafter in an EVO wrap. It’s incredibly water soluble and will leach off flavour like there’s no tomorrow. Unlike other paste wraps, the EVO system is de-fatted, which makes it brilliant in cold water, and the fact that it melts off the hookbaits in a few hours lends itself very well indeed to regular recasting.
Don’t ignore zigs
Zigs can be absolutely deadly at this time of year so, after your first forays around the bottom, don’t be shy about trying a zig or two. Don’t hang around, however; if you are where the fish are, you will know pretty quickly if they are feeding or not. A glug of Sticky Sweet hookbait dip is just what the doctor ordered and can turn a standard zig into an irresistible snack. Try the middle third of water, going lower if it’s cold or higher if the sun’s out. The carp will be up there trying to get any heat that they can from the sun’s rays.
Recast and hit the clip
How many times have you heard people say, “It’s only been out there 10 minutes”? Loads, and that’s because a lot of the time if you shove food in front of a fish it will pick it up. Alternatively, the fish were always on your spot, there was just something wrong with the rig. Regular recasting brings bites. When you do cast out it’s vital to hit the clip as well, as it reduces the chance of a tangle. It also slows the descent of the rig and acts like a feature finder. You can feel if there are fish midwater if you know what to look for, and more importantly, you feel what you are fishing over. If it’s clay, you’re in the right spot at this time of year, so always feel it down – and check the lead for any telltale signs.
Finally, be realistic about what you want to achieve. There are carp out there to be caught, but on short smash-and-grab sessions, as I call them, a handful of doubles or a twenty is a great result. Don’t be distracted by anglers catching big fish in tough conditions if you are not in a position where you can play the game too. You can only catch if you get out there and have a crack at it. I must say that some of the winter fishing I have had on short sessions has been absolutely brilliant. Up and out for first light, as mornings seem to be the key. A few fish in the bag before lunch, and back to pick up the kids from school with a warm feeling that I have actually been out, caught a few and achieved something.