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Winter fishing is not for the faint hearted, and although the fish are undoubtedly harder to catch during the colder months, they are still catchable. In this article I am going to discuss how I approach my winter sessions, what I change from my summer/spring fishing and hopefully a few tips that will help you get more carp on the bank over the winter period.
Strangely, winter is one of my favourite times of year for fishing. It might sound odd that I enjoy going out in the freezing cold, with less daylight hours and less chances of catching a fish, but I enjoy the challenge and the banks are a lot quieter. I often have the lake to myself, which really aids my roving style of fishing. Unless you have experienced it, there truly is no better feeling than when you feel the warmth of the winter sun come up on a cold frosty morning.
The first thing I change when we are going to into the colder months is where I fish - I really think that venue choice can make or break a winter campaign. There is no point fishing big pits with low stocks - these fish are hard enough to catch when the fish are feeding hard and at their most active. My syndicate only has around 40 carp in it, and although I may winkle one or two out during the course of winter if I put all my effort into it, I am really just looking to get a bend in the rod and to continue catching until spring comes. I like to change to my club lakes as I generally find that they have better winter form and higher stocks, which put the odds in my favour. I am more than happy to sacrifice the chance of a larger carp in order to continue getting bites and stay motivated to get out fishing
Once I have my venue lined up, I will then set about making sure I have the correct kit for winter fishing. One of the most important things I have found over the years is that you have to be comfortable, as this will increase your effort levels and keep you motivated, ultimately putting more fish on the bank. You have made the effort to get out and find a venue that gives you a chance of catching one, but there is no point in going if you turn up unequipped and ‘pub chuck’ the rods out because you are too cold. ‘Layering up’ does not have to be expensive - I use some thermals from Tesco as my base layer, then a pair of fleece lined combat trousers from Mountain Warehouse, a thick winter hoody and lastly a thick Trakker coat which I have found to be not only warm, but not too restrictive so I can still cast effectively. Apart from clothing, I will not be seen on the bank in winter without a kettle or a flask - hot drinks really do make such a difference and they can boost your morale on the coldest of days.
Now that I have given myself the best odds of being comfortable/warm, and on a suitable venue, my approach to fishing is very similar to the rest of the year. I do not change my rigs or hook size as I have 100% faith in my rig mechanics. I am not sure why anyone would change this element of their approach in winter, as the carp are still the same - just less active. As long as your hook is sticky sharp it should catch hold on the slightest of pickups.
When winter fishing I put a lot of time into finding the fish, as once you have found them they generally shoal up in winter and do not tend to move far (unless there is a big change in the weather). Despite the fish not being as active in the colder months, they will still give themselves away at some point. Also, one of the great things about winter is that water clarity tends to improve, so this in itself helps and puts the odds back in your favour when trying to locate the fish.
The last thing that I want to touch on in is that I change my bait and baiting strategy during winter. I will still use the same hook bait, which is a CCMoore Pacific Tuna wafter, however I will opt to fish this in conjunction with a stick mix, as opposed to whole boilies. I look to create as many feeding signals as possible with limited amount of food content for the carp to consume, as their metabolism slows considerably and they get fuller quicker during winter. Fine crumb will not only keep them searching for more food, but it is highly digestible and inhibits them from getting full, meaning that they continue to feed for longer. I guess it is similar to me having Haribo - I always go back for more and can never have too much! For reference, I use the following components in my winter stick mix: all from CCMoore pacific tuna bag mix, milk n nut crush bag mix, liver powder, crayfish meal, feedstim xp liquid and amino blend 365 liquid. I mix all the dry goods first, then slowly add the liquid. Although, it is all about experimenting and finding what works for you, but the key is to feed small but highly attractive items that the fish cannot resist.
From my own experience, I have definitely been able to enjoy my winter fishing more by implementing all of the above, keeping the bites coming and catch some stunners during the more difficult months of the year. I may not catch large carp during winter, but for what they lack in size they make up for in looks. I hope you have taken something out of this that will aid your winter campaign.
See you on the bank sometime