"Nothing ventured, nothing gained", or to put it in carp fishing terms, "You can't catch them sat at home in front of the TV". Wise words that we've no doubt heard many times, but the harsh reality is that fishing in the winter is far from easy and the successes, though highly appreciated, are apt to be scant and hard earned. Certainly the allure of a central heating system and and a warm bed are at their greatest when the temperature outside hovers around zero. Such thoughts occupied my mind on Monday morning at 5.15 am, as the alarm clock radio prised me from my slumbers and kicked me reluctantly into the land of wakefulness. But carp anglers are made of stern stuff. We are driven by powerful and sometimes unrealistic goals, to the point of obsession. And sometimes, just sometimes, it all comes good in the end and we reap the rewards of our stubborn persistence.
It's worth mentioning here, that the previous Monday I had endured a fruitless 24 hour session on Peg 5, that began with several hours of ice clearing, using a small rowing boat equipped with a battery powered motor. The task proved more arduous than I had imagined. It's not easy to steer a boat in a blustery wind, plus retain ones balance, whilst thrusting wildly at the surrounding ice with a garden rake. The eventual outcome was severely aching arms, blistered hands, soaking wet gloves, a lost rake and a job that was only half completed. Still, it did enable me to put one rod out to a known hot spot in front of Peg 4, namely a double 15 mm Magnum 'Winter Wonder' attached to a small PVA mesh bag of Skretting 4 mm pellets. By 4.00 pm the gradually increasing wind had cleared enough ice to allow me to cast out two similarly loaded rods; one in front of the central snag bush and the other at about 40 yards distance, slightly to the right of the latter. Night time turned out to be a bit of an anxious time - the blustery wind morphed into a howling gale, that threatened to rip my bivvy from its moorings and send it skyward in an instant. Fortunately, the 12 inch tent pegs held firm in the sandy soil and a new day dawned without incident. The two lads on Peg 4 managed a small Common at around 9.30 am, but theirs was the only fish caught in the last few days.
Not surprisingly, this week, I settled in Peg 4 . Once more, a high proportion of the lake was covered with ice, but rather than spend another morning ice breaking, I opted to target the clearer areas. Hence, a 10 mm Mainline Pro-active Pineapple pop-up attached to a small bag of 4 mm Skretting pellets was swung sideways to settle under the Willow tree. A second rod, bearing a 15 mm/10 mm snowman combination (Essential IB and Dynamite Haith's Robin Red), plus the usual PVA bag of Skretting pellets was cast about 30 yards out in front of the peg. However, drifting ice caused havoc with bite detection throughout the day and by 3.00 pm, wearied by it all, I made the decision to switch to the ice-free match lake for the night. And so, by 4.30 pm, I was fully set up in Peg 4 of the match lake. According to the match anglers, the match had been won with a weight of 33 lbs and the majority of carp had been caught from the central area of the lake. Initially, I followed their advice and put two rods out into the middle, both armed with a highly flavoured and sprayed 15 mm pop-up. A third rod, bearing double 15mm Trigga Ice boilies (dipped first in Skretting bait soak and then coated in matching shrimp flakes) was simply under-armed out in front of the fishing platform. Unlike in previous sessions, the onset of darkness did not herald an intense feeding spell. In fact I had to wait until 6.05 pm before any action transpired, in the form of a small hyper-active carp that came off almost immediately. At 7.10 pm the same close-in rod produced a scale perfect 14 lb 0 oz Common. This was followed by a 7 lb 12 oz Common at 11.30 pm. Given that both carp were caught on bottom baits, I changed one of the central rods over to a snowman combination, namely a Mainline Essential IB 15 mm boilie, supported by a 10 mm Magnum 'Winter Wonder' pop-up, with a PVA mesh bag of Skretting pellets as ballast. This rod eventually produced an 11 lb 10 oz Mirror at 01.30 am, followed by a lovely scaly Mirror of 14 lb 12 oz at 05.50 am. The Mirror fought like a tiger on steroids. It took a good few minutes of tense battling before it emerged from the depths and revealed its identity at the surface. On the bank, it looked glorious with large apple-slice scales. The last fish of the session, a 10 lb Common came at 07.30 am from the close-in rod. So the final tally was 5 carp on the bank, two of them of a very good weight for the match lake. I suppose it's appropriate to end with another adage. "It's all well that ends well!" And long may it continue in 2015.