A few winter carping fishing basics
Cold water carping is all about location - like the carp in your fish pond they are prone to shoaling up tightly, so location is key.
Small baits, very small PVA bags of baits fished on fluorocarbon leaders, in-line leads and fluorocarbon hook lengths, with small size 12's or 10's hooks, are the order of the day. I am not bothered if I get bream or tench as at least it's activity - and if we can trick these fish, well, we can trick carp. Carp will often feed alongside or bully-off other fish in the swim. Do not over-feed the carp as they do not need much food, just a little to keep them interested.
With winter fast approaching, many anglers will be hanging their rods up when the first hard frost arrives, but what they don't realise is that there are many rewards up for grabs for braving the cold.
Here is how I approach my winter fishing.
Make no mistake, winter fishing is hard, and choosing the right venue for a winter campaign or even a few day sessions is crucial. A shallow, well stocked, venue will provide you with the best chance of a bite in the cold. It really depends what you want from your fishing. Venues such as Thorpe Lea in Surrey, Sandhurst lake in Yateley, and Linear Fisheries in Oxfordshire are all excellent winter day-ticket venues worth considering.
The Right Kit
Keeping warm in the winter will not only keep you happy, but will also make you more efficient and increase your chances of a bite in the cold. Let's look at some of the kit needed to make winter fishing comfortable.
Bivvy – A good sturdy bivvy, with a twin skin to keep the warm in and prevent condensation is essential, a heavy duty groundsheet will keep the cold and the rain out too and generally make life a bit more bearable. Good examples are the Chub Cyfish+ or the Chub Vizor with the extreme canopy cover.
Sleeping Bag – A good quality 5 season bag is worth investing in if you are planning on doing some serious winter night fishing, a thermal sleeping bag cover will provide added warmth in the coldest of weathers, depending on how much you feel the cold. A good buy is the Cub Cloud 9 3 season bag, couple this with a Chub Cloud 9 fleece bed chair cover and you can turn a 3 season sleeping bag into a 5 season arrangement.
Clothing – I don't want to tell you how to dress yourself but it's surprising how many anglers are under gunned in the clothing department when it comes to winter fishing. More thinner layers of clothing are better than a couple of thick layers. If you do get too warm then it's easy to remove thinner layers and still be comfortable. The Chub Vantage base layer suit when used in conjunction with hoodies and the Chub Vantage all weather bib and brace / jacket combo is a great way to keep warm and dry. If you cannot get warm then you cannot concentrate and even worse you might get frost bite in extreme circumstances so always take enough clothes and a few spare in the car just in case the weather changes and catches you out.
Cooking and Home Comforts – A good quality petrol stove is perfect for winter sessions as gas stoves can be hard to light in the coldest of weathers as the gas turns to liquid. Petrol stoves will work in the coldest of weathers, and are superb for making moral boosting drinks and hot food! The Coleman Sportster is a fantastic bit of kit, and a stove well worth investing in, with a small amount of maintenance each year it will give you years of cooking and tea making!
There are a vast array of gadgets and bits of kit to make life more comfortable on the bank. Bivvy heaters, portable DVD players, the list is endless; with the night's drawing in and darkness arriving around 5pm, and first light not until 8am, that's a lot of dark hours spent on the bank. Make life as comfortable as you can.
Once you have your winter kit sorted, and a venue arranged you can start to plan your fishing. Do as much research as possible, with the more popular day ticket waters you can find out reams and reams of information if you dig deep enough. How does the lake fish in the winter? Any areas that produce well in the colder months? The more research you can do, the better prepared you can be.
Bait – This is a subject I could write pages and pages on, but for this piece I will keep it simple and suggest a few tried and tested baits.
Boilies are the obvious choice but steer clear of high oil content boilies. Your good summer fish meal bait will more than likely struggle to produce in the winter. A good fruity or bird food based boile will see you right. Nut based boilies such as the Dynamite Tiger Nut ones are usually a good bet in the winter, try your own and see what works for you.
High visibility fruity pop ups produce time and time again. Yellow pineapple pop-ups and orange tutti fruitti's have accounted for thousands of winter carp and you should always have a tub of either in your bag - when the going gets tough, a single pop up can often produce the goods.
Maggots are a favored year-round bait of the pleasure angler but they are also a fantastic winter carp bait. If the lake you target is full of small nuisance fish then you may find they are not very effective but if carp are dominant then they can be a very instant bait, often encouraging carp to feed even in the coldest of weathers. Fished with a large PVA bag of freebies and mag aligner style or even using one of the Korda maggot klips, maggots can be devastating!
Peperami is a very underrated bait and has caught me lots of carp in cooler weather. Fished with a mesh bag of pellet and crushed peperami, often tipped with a fake piece of corn, it can often produce a take when the boiles aren't being touched.
If you have been baiting a few spots around your lake through the summer and autumn, then don't assume you have to stop once the winter arrives. If you keep presenting bait on the spots the carp can be encouraged to continue feeding all the way through the winter. Keep topping up the bait and try not to stop the baiting-up. If you do stop the carp will slow down into a winter slumber and either slip into a semi dormant state, or find somewhere else to feed.
Keep your eyes peeled, showing carp in the winter are very rare and should you see signs of carp you need to move onto them to maximize your chances of producing a take.
Winter is a time to be cherished on the bank; the number of anglers will be dwindling, the fish will be at good weights and in peak condition. However, the fish are without question harder to catch, but that just makes it all the more rewarding!
So here are my top 5 tips for winter fishing:
1) Kit yourself out properly - being cold and uncomfortable won't help you catch fish!
2) Make sure you have a supply of hot drinks and food, a steaming cup of tea can be a fantastic morale booster when the fishing is hard going.
3) Be prepared to up sticks and move if the fish are not in front of you.
4) A single bright pop up can often induce a take when other baits are not being touched.
5) Keep at it! Winter fishing can be tough and gruelling, but the rewards can be great!
I hope you find this helpful and are encouraged to give winter carp fishing a try, until next time tight lines and good luck!
Ian Gemson - www.smartcarping.com