This month’s panel give their thoughts on whether or not to change your strategy to accommodate the changes brought on by the clocks going back and the nights starting to draw in...
Do you still continue to persist
WITH FISHING OVERNIGHTERS AND/OR WEEKENDS AS THE NIGHTS DRAW IN? OR DO YOU NOW START TO WHITTLE DOWN YOUR HOURS AND TRY TO OPTIMISE YOUR TIME SPENT ON THE BANK AROUND EXPECTED BITE TIMES DURING THE HOURS OF DAYLIGHT?
As autumn disappears over the horizon and is replaced by the long dark nights of winter, many guys pack their kit away and head for the sanctuary of a warm fire. For me, however, nothing appeals more than crisp mornings, deserted banks and carp wearing their most glorious colours.
In short, I’m a lover of winter angling, but the time I have tended to spend on the bank in recent years has become far more selective, as I tend to strip it all back and concentrate on short day sessions. There are a number of reasons behind this, but the main one is the carp are so much more active during the day than they are through those long, dark, cold nights.
I make sure my kit is as minimalistic and as prepared as I can get away with, swapping my main tackle bag for a trimmed-down version and having fresh rigs ready to go at the drop of a hat. This means that I’m able to take advantage of small windows of opportunity and makes staying on fish that little bit easier.
I always pick a venue within a manageable distance from home – ideally less than 30 minutes away, and somewhere that holds a reasonable stock of carp. The depth is also important, as a nice, shallow venue (less than about 8-feet) will tend to fish better during the long term, than a deeper one. Shallow waters are far more reactive to changes in the weather and so too are its inhabitants.
Once I’ve selected a water, I try to keep some bait going in two or three times a week, in one or two areas. It doesn’t have to be much – 40 to 50 Switch boilies spread over a zone will hold the fish’s interest, as the natural larders lose their appeal and give you a great area to drop back on should you turn up and not find anything to go on. That said, there’s no substitute for location, and generally during the colder months if you can find one, you’ll find a few. So I always turn up before first light and position myself with a good view over the water and a brew in hand. I’ve found bite times can become very localised during this period of the year, so I always keep a note of where and what times I’ve had fish, as this can help you cut your sessions down even shorter and keep you one step ahead of the carp.
I use this time of the year to earn back some Brownie points at home and catch up with friends I’ve neglected for most of the spring, summer and autumn – and by fishing days only, it gives me a great life balance whilst still allowing me to scratch that itch to get out on the bank whenever I want.
Over the past few years my angling has naturally evolved into almost solely overnight sessions. This is mainly due to a busy work schedule. I often find myself arriving at the lake during the evening which is okay when the temperatures and daylight hours are on my side, but moving into the autumn months and winter, I do have to adapt my approach to give myself the best chance of a bite.
Overnighters during the winter are testing, and, in my opinion, you have to be really in tune with your water to maximize these sessions. Particularly with the venue I have been focusing on this last season, I have noticed that the bite-times are moving later and later into the morning, as the sun takes progressively longer to rise and warm up the water. This is an overnighter angler’s worst nightmare, because if you can only fish these short sessions, but are having to pull off the lake before the bite time, it is almost not even worth the effort in some circumstances. All venues are different so I am just speaking from experience, based on where I am right now, but for me I do begin to wind down the overnighters and instead focus on short day sessions whenever possible.
I still think it is key to stay as in the loop as much as you can with regard to what is being caught and recording the bite times as accurately as possible to try and pinpoint a time to have a rig in position.
The banks are generally quieter during the colder months and I find that these shorter day-sessions are usually more productive for me personally. It is definitely more a case of spending the right time, rather than spending as much time, during the autumn/winter months for me, whilst keeping in the know.
This time of year, when the nights start drawing in and the temperatures start to drop, is without a doubt my favourite time to be on the bank for numerous reasons. One of which is that it only takes a couple of frosty nights for the vast majority of anglers to hang up their rods until next spring, making the banks much quieter and giving me more opportunity to move around the lake if required.
As we drift from autumn into early winter, I like to try and capitalise with some extra bonus fish. As the weed dies off, there is certainly less natural food around and the carp are on the lookout for some extra pickings to see them through the cold winter months.
For me, personally, I don’t change my fishing routine much at all, which consists of two nights midweek and some short five-hour sessions around my shift work. Rather than cutting back on my fishing time over this period, if anything, I will try and make the extra effort to get down to the lake more during the hours of darkness. I’ve found traditionally, on the majority of the lakes I’ve fished in October, November and December that the night time can be a very productive time to be on the bank.
Even if I don’t catch, it’s rarely wasted time, as the carp certainly like to show themselves at night, even in the coldest of conditions and, more often than not, they will give their location away offering me an advantage for my next visit.
I can give lots of examples over the years where I have benefited from this, but one that stands out in particular was only last season whilst fishing Kingsmead 1 on the Horton Complex. I had just finished a late shift at work and, instead of going straight home, I decided to pop over to the lake for just an hour to see if I could see any carp activity. After almost an hour of watching the water in wintry conditions, I had witnessed two shows in a swim called Starry’s. The display certainly didn’t last long but by just making that extra effort of getting down to the lake it gave me a good indication on where the fish were holding up. Following a quick trip back home and with the car quickly loaded, I headed straight back to the swim armed with the information I had gathered. I cast two baits to the exact area where I had seen the activity in the hope that the fish would still be around in that area. It wasn’t until the following morning that the extra effort paid off, but I wound up catching a stunning Suttonstrain carp weighing 33lb.
Even though I caught during daylight hours, which quite possibly could of been the bite time on the lake, I certainly wouldn’t have got my fish location correct – the reason being I didn’t see any shows the whole time I was there in the day, and I certainly wouldn’t have had any idea of the whereabouts of the fish in over 30 acres of water without the knowledge I gained that previous evening.
Whilst a lot of people may prefer to retire the rods for the winter, personally I still fish right the way through. It’s actually one of my favourite times to be out angling. Crisp, clear nights make way to beautiful sunrises and you just can’t beat the warmth of that first morning brew as you climb tentatively out from under the sleeping bag. Not to mention the banks are quieter and the carp are at their highest weights and looking at their best.
Don’t get me wrong, it can be a hard slog. The seemingly endless nights and countless hours spent watching a lifeless expanse of water can get a little depressing at times, but the rewards are still there to be had if you’re prepared to put the effort in. From my experience on the lakes that I fish, bite times can be very sporadic and unpredictable and not just during the hours of daylight like you might expect, so it’s quite difficult to predict the best times to be on the bank.
There are often just tiny little windows when the fish will get their heads down for a brief period and, obviously, the longer you can spend lakeside, the more chance you have of being there for one of those short feeding spells. This rings true at any time of year of course, but it’s even more significant in winter – so I still prefer to fish 48-hour sessions wherever possible to maximise my chances of a bite.
My syndicate water is an old glacial mere – thousands of years old and, as a result, it is teeming with naturals. So it tends to actually fish better as the weather cools and the naturals start to die back, with the carp then forced to turn to anglers’ baits. It all depends what you want out of your own angling I suppose.
Obviously, we all go fishing to catch carp, but I don’t fish easy waters and I’m happy to sit it out and wait regardless of the time of year. One thing I would say is that it’s important to fish a water that at least has some winter form, as we all need that glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel to keep the fire burning through what can be a very testing time of year.
As a happily married man and father to a five-year old daughter, 90% of my fishing time consists solely of single overnighters. This means that whenever an opportunity occurs, I take it with both hands and get the rods out. Once a year I go fishing for a week in France and the rest is always constructed of solitary nights. As a result, there aren’t many Friday nights where you won’t find me on the bankside unless it is winter.
Okay, it isn’t the most ideal fishing situation, but you definitely won’t catch ’em from your couch. Fishing a single night in between work is sometimes pretty hard going and will definitely take its toll in the long run, so I only do this when I feel I’m really onto the fish. Sometimes you just know (feel it) when the carp are having it, and it is then that you simply have to be there and make the extra effort.
I don’t have to tell you that fishing over a weekend is usually the busiest time on a lake and, as such, it is therefore also the most difficult time to be successful.
Do I still persist with fishing overnighters as the nights draw in? My answer is loud and clear – of course I do!
This period of the season is the time to be out and about, especially as the carp will start to munch and pack on their fat reserves before winter proper arrives. Arriving after work in the dark, getting the bivvy up, casting the rods in, etc., is of course a royal pain – everything is a lot easier when it’s still light. But for the foreseeable, there is no way around this. To make life that little bit easier everything comes down to preparation. My hooklinks are already tied and baited, someway beforehand.
Sometimes they have been soaking a couple of days in a bait-soak like Solar’s Stimulin Amino, the Quench, or Top Banana. Hooklinks are made from trusted and tangle-free material, so it is one less thing for me to worry about.
Having fished different swims in the past, marking relevant distances with the aid of a pair of wrap-sticks and noting them down in a book or on the iphone, I’m able to get baits on my best spots around the lake in no time. I don’t even use a bivvy – an umbrella and Solar’s 5-season sleeping bag is all I need to keep me warm. I probably don’t have to tell you that if you’re able to prebait certain swims at this time a year, your chances of catching are greatly increased.
If the hours of darkness are too long for you, make sure you’ve got something to read, make yourself a good brew, go to bed early or fish together with a friend to kill the time. I can’t deny the feeling that the sooner it gets dark, the earlier you can expect your bites. Most of my bites occur in the first hours of darkness until early morning anyway and that goes for most of the season. So long as you’re well prepared, there is no reason why you shouldn’t go out fishing when the days are getting shorter and the nights are a lot longer. It’s the best time of
year, so make the most of it!
GREG SHEPHERD Age: 33 Favourite Venue: Patching Pond UK PB: 39lb 12oz
IMAGES1. The little-and-often application of a good-quality boilie such as the Switch will keep fish revisiting an area2. Arrive early, get the kettle on and let them give the game away3. A lovely daytime, late-november scaly carp – enough to brighten up anyone’s day3
LOUIS RUSSO Age: 29 Favourite Venue: Anywhere with a good stock of Eels UK PB: 35lb-plus
IMAGES1. A few hours at the right time of day, are far more preferable for me these days – not by choice, I add 2. Somewhere, away from the rat race, allows me to try my luck against less-pressured carp3. This time of year always yields fish in their best clothes!2
IMAGES1. Once the leaves have started to fall in numbers and there has been a frost or two, the banks quieten off significantly – perfect!2. Keeping your ear to the ground and being prepared to travel light, and move regardless of the weather will pay dividends. Note the lack of legs on the pod...3. What’s not to like?4. This stunning 33-pounder made my winter last season3 4
MICHAEL BROMFIELD Age: 48 Favourite Venue: Horton Complex (sometimes) UK PB: 43lb 8oz
IMAGES1. Daybreak at this time of year – one of my favourite periods to be on the bank2. The rewards are always there, although bite times can be very sporadic in my experience. Consequently I still favour a 48hour session where and whenever possible3. You can always find something to do during the quieter spells 2
STEPHEN MAY Age: 30 Favourite Venue: Blakemere UK PB: 30lb 12oz
IMAGES1. Keep at it! A stunning 46lb mirror taken on an overnighter as the evenings started to draw in2. Solar’s Stimuli Amino, Top Banana and Quench – use a bait you have total confidence in during the colder months 1
WESLEY LAGAERT Age: 39 Favourite Venue: Waesmere Syndicate UK PB: 47lb