A Man for All Sea­sons

As Dave comes full cir­cle on his first year writ­ing un­der the new ste­ward­ship, he airs his thoughts on the two gen­er­ally ac­cepted types of fish­ing avail­able to the com­mon man dur­ing the bit­ter­est time of the year

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Dave Lane

As Dave comes full cir­cle on his first year writ­ing un­der the new ste­ward­ship, he airs his thoughts on the two gen­er­ally ac­cepted types of fish­ing avail­able to the com­mon man dur­ing the bit­ter­est time of the year

SSo here we are then, chap­ter 12 of ‘A Man for All Sea­sons’ and we are al­most back to where we started a year ago. The fi­nal month I would like to look at is Jan­uary, of­ten one of the cold­est of the lot and also one of the harder ones in which to get mo­ti­vated. Christ­mas will have been and gone and it’s easy to fall out of rou­tine over the fes­tive pe­riod, with too much port and mince pies and a nice warm house full of peo­ple. Restart­ing again when it looks like a win­ter won­der­land out­side can be very hard in­deed but, on the right lakes, it can also be very re­ward­ing if you per­se­vere.

I have had a lot of fish at this time of year and, gen­er­ally, they fall into two dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories. Firstly, there are the syn­di­cate or ‘reg­u­lar’ wa­ter fish, and th­ese only come along if I have cho­sen wisely on a win­ter venue and kept in touch with the place. Se­condly, there are the ‘so­cial’ fish – carp caught from eas­ier wa­ters while shar­ing the ‘craic’ with a few mates.

If I look back on the first cat­e­gory, I sup­pose Monks would, once again, fig­ure highly in my re­sults at this time of year. The last win­ter I ever fished at the lake was by far the best and by keep­ing the food go­ing in all through the colder months we man­aged to pro­long the feed­ing ac­tiv­ity and re­ally bagged up. When bite time rolled around it was not un­com­mon to get two or three fish in quick suc­ces­sion and, more than once, I had two in the nets at once. If you are ever lucky enough to get on fish in the win­ter, that have a set and con­fi­dent feed­ing time, then the most im­por­tant thing is to get that rig back on the spot as quickly and qui­etly as pos­si­ble af­ter a cap­ture. Don’t even think about drag­ging a marker rod about look­ing for your ‘magic’ spot, just wrap it up, clip it up and get a sin­gle bait right on the money as quickly as pos­si­ble be­cause a sec­ond bite is al­ways on the cards.

All of the lads at Monks fished with two land­ing nets set up and I even had a third one in the bag just in case. It wasn’t al­ways that we ex­pected to catch two or three at once but there was a no-sack rule on there, so we’d leave a fish in the net whilst we re­cast the rod and, if an­other one came along be­fore the pho­tos were taken then, ob­vi­ously, you would need a back-up net to deal with it. Aside from Monks, how­ever, I spent a win­ter on a small es­tate lake up in Northants and al­though the fish­ing was never fran­tic it was steady, and I caught fish ev­ery month through­out some bit­terly cold weather. That par­tic­u­lar year we had quite a lot of snow and ice with Jan­uary be­ing the cold­est month of the lot, as it of­ten is.

The lake it­self had a flow in and out at ei­ther end, as es­tate lakes of­ten do, and this cre­ates a silt trap. In fact the whole lake be­comes one huge silt trap and most old es­tate lakes are in­cred­i­bly soft bot­tomed in­deed. On this par­tic­u­lar lake I would say that there was a min­i­mum of six feet of silt, maybe more in some places and that sort of gets you think­ing about your pre­sen­ta­tion. In years gone by I have fol­lowed the same route that I would guess a lot of you have tried in th­ese sit­u­a­tions – pop-ups, long hook links and bal­anced baits, chod rigs or he­li­copter set ups, any­thing to make sure your bait is vis­i­ble re­ally.

Over the years, though, I have come to re­alise that the sim­plest and most ef­fec­tive method in silt is ex­actly the op­po­site of th­ese, just a long hook link with a bot­tom bait and let it set­tle at the same depth (in the silt) as your free of­fer­ings and, of course, all the nat­u­ral food. If you did man­age to get your hook bait to sit on top of the silt with one of the other meth­ods then it’s a fair bet that your hook bait would be the only food item in that po­si­tion, and that is not ideal.

For some rea­son I have al­ways found that a ny­lon hook link works the best as well, a nice long one of at least 12 inches with a sim­ple hair and a sin­gle bait – al­though I some­times add a small PVA bag of crushed boilies just to in­crease the smell fac­tor down in the silt.

Fish­ing in this style has, with­out doubt, caught me far more fish on silt-bot­tomed lakes than any other sin­gle method. This is how I fished at the Es­tate Lake all through the win­ter and, as I have said, I caught fish on a fairly con­sis­tent ba­sis. Bites times are, with­out doubt, the key fac­tor in win­ter fish­ing but the es­tate lake fish had a strange pat­tern in­deed. They would go for a cou­ple of weeks with­out seem­ing to feed at all and then, when one did, they all did, and you could catch three fish in a day. Keep­ing warm and dry be­tween th­ese times was the big­gest chal­lenge, as the banks were very open and of­ten flooded, and Pad­war used to get in some right old states be­fore com­ing back in the bivvy and shar­ing it all with me, and the sleep­ing bag, and the roof some­times! Be­ing very shal­low the lake did used to suf­fer from ice and I think I had to leave early at least three times on the trot due to overnight freeze ups, but

I ended the win­ter with a new set of fish in the photo al­bum and a nice set of mem­o­ries and that is what it’s all about.

Right, on to the sec­ond cat­e­gory then – so­cial carp fish­ing. Th­ese can of­ten be a lot eas­ier to come by if I am hon­est, as there is a wealth of heav­ily-stocked day-ticket lakes around the coun­try as well as the op­por­tu­nity to tap into other lakes that your mates may have picked for a win­ter syn­di­cate. Most lakes al­low the odd guest in win­ter and I do like to have a catch up and fish dif­fer­ent lakes with good friends. Mak­ing mem­o­ries in win­ter is of­ten a job that is most def­i­nitely bet­ter shared amongst friends. It can be long and bor­ing on your own, even with a dog for com­pany. So­cial sea­son for me starts around Novem­ber time and goes on un­til April. From April un­til Novem­ber I would rather not see an­other an­gler at all, but the win­ter is a dif­fer­ent prospect en­tirely. Pick­ing a re­al­is­tic venue is para­mount if you ac­tu­ally want to have some fish in the equa­tion, as well as the oblig­a­tory bar­be­ques and bot­tles of red wine, of course.

A bar­beque may seem more like a sum­mer pur­suit but, be­lieve me, they not only give you some­thing to do in the late af­ter­noon, but they make a fan­tas­tic fire pit for the rest of the evening. I have spent many a win­ter’s night sat out next to a nice lit­tle fire when most oth­ers would be hud­dled up in the sleep­ing bag. The beauty of this is that you are still pay­ing at­ten­tion to the lake, you are still look­ing and lis­ten­ing for signs of carp and, as I said last month, one sin­gle sight­ing can turn ev­ery­thing around and make for a mem­o­rable cap­ture that you may have missed if you were zipped up in the bivvy.

On a very se­ri­ous note for a mo­ment, never be tempted to drag the rem­nants of a warm bar­beque into the bivvy though – not even right in the door­way as, apart from the more ob­vi­ous fire risk, they de­plete the oxy­gen avail­able in your tent at an alarm­ing rate. There have been many deaths over the years through this, par­tic­u­larly in the camp­ing world and it is a real dan­ger, so be a bit sensible and, most im­por­tantly, stay safe!

One venue that I al­ways seem to do well on is Blas­ford Hills, in Es­sex. It is only a small lake, but it has a great head of fish and, if you get your lo­ca­tion right, then they can be catch­able re­gard­less of the time of year. In fact, I think they are slightly eas­ier to catch in the win­ter as they spend less time on the sur­face. In the sum­mer there are no floaters al­lowed and, some­times, this can be a lit­tle frus­trat­ing but, in the colder months, they seem to feed very well in­deed on the bot­tom. Fish­ing for line bites with

the tips a lit­tle higher than usual and the rods well spread out, has been a good method for me. As soon as you start pick­ing up a few knocks and in­di­ca­tions on one rod then con­cen­trate them all in the same area and, usu­ally, the re­sults will come pretty quickly af­ter­wards. The last time I fished there I went 24-hours or so with­out a bite, and then, once I had found the fish, I man­aged seven takes in the next 24-hours, so it is def­i­nitely worth mov­ing those rods about a bit at this time of year.

Fish don’t move around any­where near as much as they would in warmer wa­ter and they can of­ten be shoaled up re­ally tight in Jan­uary, so lo­ca­tion is mas­sively im­por­tant and should never be over­looked in favour of a com­fort­able swim, or a lack mo­ti­va­tion to move swims. Jan­uary ses­sions need not be ball-bust­ing af­fairs that go on for days and chill you to the bone ei­ther, just a sin­gle night or even a few hours can put a fish on the bank in the right con­di­tions and the right area. I re­mem­ber years back when I was fish­ing an old sand pit near to my home. The lake was no­to­ri­ously a night-only venue and hardly did a bite dur­ing day­light hours, How­ever, I man­aged to find a small deep mar­gin area where the fish hung around in the morn­ings, prob­a­bly be­cause it faced the ris­ing sun and was a lit­tle more shel­tered from the cold­est winds.

Ev­ery other day I use to drive the 11 miles to the lake and sit there for about for an hour to watch the wa­ter, be­fore sprin­kling a few hand­fuls of bait along the mar­gins and then driv­ing back home. I al­ways had the rods in the car and on the oc­ca­sions that it looked, or felt, good, I would fish for a few hours un­til it was time to pick the kids up from school. By do­ing th­ese short bait­ing trips I cre­ated a lit­tle win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for my­self, and on the oc­ca­sions that I did fish I would gen­er­ally get a cou­ple of bites. It was a nice and sim­ple ap­proach that in­volved hardly any gear and just a few hours out in the cold, but it caught me fish that I would have nor­mally strug­gled to get on a ‘proper’ ses­sion at that time of year – so any­thing is pos­si­ble if you get all the pieces into place on the right venue.

ABOVE TOP F came to Monks for a lit­tle soiree...

RIGHT Make sure you stay warm and dry, it is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial at this time of year

ABOVE BOT­TOM A de­cent Monks’ mir­ror in the Jan­uary sun­light

ABOVE A very pale Es­tate Lake mir­ror

ABOVE A trip up to Yate­ley. There were no fish but it was all good fun

ABOVE A big, old com­mon from the Es­tate Lake

BOT­TOM Spread­ing the rods out and fish­ing for ‘lin­ers’ can pay div­i­dends in the depths of win­ter

MID­DLE Keep­ing the fires burn­ing

RIGHT Eat­ing well and stay­ing warm

RIGHT Night bites in Jan­uary MID­DLE A few hours a day on the sand pit BOT­TOM Just a lit­tle too cold on this oc­ca­sion

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