As the temperatures drop, good results are always going to be more difficult to come by. Even in the worst conditions carp will probably still feed to a certain extent, only those feeding periods will be further apart with less food being eaten on each occasion. Having just returned from a tough time in France I know only too well how we need to think very carefully about the right approach as it would be all too easy to get things slightly wrong, catch nothing and just put it down to the fish not feeding.
I almost didn’t make this trip at all as it would have to be cut short for the Poznan show taking place in Poland, but I thought about it and even a shorter trip in harsh conditions put me in with a better chance of catching than if I was sitting at home in front of the TV! I’d be sharing a swim with my good friend Gary and although we’d both caught from there before the main problem was that it’s mostly deep water out in front (especially on my side of the swim) and I’ve mostly found in the past that action will come from shallower areas, which tend to warm up quicker should there be any sun. Much of the water out in front was over 20ft deep with a few humps and plateaus rising up to 15ft or 16ft and those were the spots I targeted in the hope that fish would visit those spots at some stage. I was under no illusion that it was going to be anything other than a waiting game.
Bait choice is so important. I knew the fish wouldn’t feed heavily so what I wanted to give them was something which was as attractive as possible and a bait which would entice them to eat even if they weren’t in the mood. Although I hadn’t used The Key at that venue before I knew that it had all the qualities that I was looking for and in particular using the Cultured Key hook baits over the top I hoped that it would give off the attraction as well as the quality food signals. Baits were placed on the shallowest, hardest spots I could find with a couple of handfuls of 10mm x 15mm Key dumbbells tight around the hook bait with about ten or fifteen 20mm round freebies dotted around a wider area. The intention was to leave the baits in position for as long as possible - several days if needed as I knew the rigs wouldn’t be affected by nuisance species and I’ve often found that when it’s tough, moving the rods around is the worst thing you can do.
Gary received the first action from a small common and in fact over the next few days had another two smallish fish from the shallower areas which he had on his side of the swim. I was pleased to see those fish as it was really cold with water temperatures struggling to get above 5 degrees, but I was happy to wait in the hope that if and when action did come it would be from a better stamp of fish. However five days later I’d not had a bleep and despite being patient I felt I had to check the rigs. But I needn’t have worried as the hook baits still smelled very fresh and attractive after their time in the lake so I did no more than lower them back in to the same positions from the boat and just sprinkled a few more freebies around each one.
That night a huge storm ripped through the region with strong northerly winds blowing straight in to me. At first light one of my R3’s signalled a short burst of bleeps and although I doubted whether a fish was responsible, sure enough I felt a reassuring lunge on the other end. I had no chance of getting in the boat in those conditions and so slowly lured the heavy weight back towards me. Amongst the waves I saw a creamy flank hit the surface and reached out with the net - and at last I was off the mark! It was a real chunky mirror of 47lb 5oz and to be honest if that was my only action I would’ve gone home a happy man. But when I had the chance I got the rod back out on the spot and within an hour of doing that the same rod was away again! It felt heavy again and looked even heavier! I battled that one from the boat seeing it several times before I finally had it in the net. Sure enough it was quite a bit bigger at 58lb 8oz - a lovely deep-bodied mirror, which really made me smile!
As hard as I tried that was my last action of the trip, but so typical of my winter trips. Long periods of inactivity can be punctuated by brief windows of opportunity and it is a matter of accepting that it’s not going to be happening all the time but being ready for when it does happen. There’s always that ‘little’ matter of confidence too - it takes confidence to believe that your baits and rigs will work after several days and although I hadn’t used The Key on that lake before I just knew it would do the job. So for a trip which I almost didn’t make it didn’t turn out too badly really - although like most people I’ll be pleased when it warms up a bit!