Dark too early to sleep and a star filled sky in conjunction with a white moon always spells a cold night in winter, within an hour of the sun being lost the grass is ice coated and the landing net behaves as if it has been starched. A time to retreat but if you are an angler this will mean nothing more than a brolley and a sleeping bag. A warm cup of chocolate may help as well but as you stare at the 3 isotopes on the bobbins, frozen into position, it would be easy to question your sanity especially angling for carp! The fish are as torpid as you in your sleeping bag and for now they show no inclination to move either, but they will at some point over 24 hours and that is where patience will pay dividends if you too can survive outdoors. But why do it when come May the bites will be delivered thick and fast? Firstly it’s the challenge, which is the reason I angle, and if it was easy I would soon lose interest in the task. A winter carp might not be the easiest of pursuits but should the alarm sound never will it have been from a better-conditioned fish: thick set, weighing the same as a breeze block and with immaculate livery. So as I pull the bag over my head to stop the frost biting me I do so happy and excited to see what sun up will bring. For this is when I expect the window of opportunity to arrive, to prove I’m not mad after all and you too can do the same by deploying a few little tricks of the trade.
The first is very simple and I say it every year and that is to use your eyes and they can be enhanced with both Polaroid glasses and binoculars. Location underpins everything else and without it failure is certain no matter what rig or bait you use. So look and look again because Mother Nature will give all the answers to you, spot them and put the pieces of the puzzle together correctly guarantees you a bite better than anything else. These signs aren’t always obvious like a crashing carp and can be no more than a backwards glance from a bird, stained water or pieces of fresh weed on the windward bank so it pays to be alert.
A rig that has a sharp hook, doesn’t tangle and sits correctly over the substrate you are fishing on are your technical considerations. There is no catch all super rig as demonstrated by every expert having their own personal preference and still catching plenty of fish. A chod, a stiff rig or a solid PVA bag will all catch carp along with countless other combinations for one main reason and that that it is positioned near feeding fish. So let’s skip rigs this time as the world doesn’t need another set up and move onto what gets them to suck it in the first place – your bait!
The amount of time carp are likely to feed in comparison to spring is obviously less as is the quantity so it’s generally best to grab their attention and win a quick bite. This is where hi attract fluro boilies come up trumps and their effectiveness is well know but these aren’t the only way of grabbing the carp’s attention.
When I go barbelling I would never dream of not taking paste and over the last couple of years I’m rapidly reaching a similar mind-set with carp. By not using the boiling process the attractor’s potency isn’t reduced and it leaches out into the water far quicker. You can simply wrap paste around your favourite boilie but why not use a wafter on the hair and lay it in the centre of a lump of paste? Then spray liquid attractant onto the boilie before sealing the juice in place by wrapping the paste round. Once cast out the scent trail will be very strong eventually leaving the hookbait in a potent cloud that will grab any carp’s attention.
Another way of using paste is by an idea given to me by a good mate, Phil Nicholls, who shuns publicity but has a great track record using this trick. He takes a small amount of Sticky’s krill paste and moulds it around a 12mm cork ball as if he is making a standard pop up before placing it in hot water for 30 seconds to form a very soft skin. Notice that I said ‘warm’ not boiling and this is roughly the temperature you would drink a cup of tea at. The reason is to maintain the paste’s effectiveness while still being able to cast it and avoid small fish. The ball is then placed inside a pair of brown women’s tights and these are pulled tight and twisted so barely visible. To hold everything in place a few overhand knots are tied around the base of the twisted part with ESP super floss before being cut. This leaves a small raised section on an otherwise smooth ball but by blobbing it with a lighter not only is this area further secured but it’s also barely noticeable. These hookbaits are then kept in pure krill liquid until they are required and can be tied on or skewered with a baiting needle. Whichever way you fish them one thing is for sure – nobody will be fishing a more attractive hookbait than you.
Winter carp fishing is a challenge but you will know exactly why you do it when the buzzers scream and the bobbin smacks again the rod. If it were easy it wouldn’t be a memory to cherish.
Top 5 Tips
1. Keep your eyes on the water as much as possible and even after dark continue to look and listen.
2. Feeding spells will be short so don’t panic if you haven’t had a bite quickly – it doesn’t mean you’re not near carp.
3. By combining paste with a liquid attractor you have the best of both worlds.
4. Weed in winter spells carp because as the water clears they will look for cover.
5. Don’t worry about using the latest rig – if your old one is working stick with it!