It never ceases to amaze me what a stark contrast there can be between two lakes on the same complex when it comes to winter carp fishing. This is most definitely the case at Wetlands, where the specimen lake fishes much harder than the match lake, even though the lakes are less than 20 yards apart at one point, have similar depths and are filled with water of similar origin and quality. Of course there are significant differences in carp stock and other factors, that might explain the difference in winter form. The match lake of around 4 acres is heavily stocked with single figure carp (with a lesser proportion of low doubles amongst them), whereas the specimen lake of approximately 9.5 acres has a much lower stocking density, mostly of double figure carp (with a proportion of twenties amongst them and the odd thirty pounder). What's more the match lake receives a very regular supply of anglers bait from the well supported matches that take place on alternate days. Another difference that became blatantly apparent to me this week, is that the match lake is surrounded by high banks and dense trees which provide a very effective screening protection from cold winds. In contrast the specimen lake is much more open and exposed to the elements.
Last week, when I arrived at Wetlands the specimen lake was 99% frozen over. The only part remaining ice free was a narrow strip in front of the mini-islands to the left of peg 5. I did manage to extend the clear area by trampling about in my chest waders and even put a couple of rods in the zone, but I only saw bream activity during the day and the exercise proved to be in vain. By evening a strong, but cold SW wind was funneling through the swim, clearing sufficient ice to put three rods on more widely spaced spots. Accordingly, I remained in situ throughout the night and took advantage of the improved conditions. Disappointingly, no carp action transpired.
This week, given that a SW wind was again blowing across the lake, I had it in mind to give peg 5 another go. Unfortunately, my plans were thwarted by the presence of an angler, who had occupied the peg for a couple of nights and wasn't due to leave until the evening. Consequently, I dropped into peg 4 which covers some water in the path of the wind. My first impressions were that the wind was a bit warmer than the ground temperature, but eventually I came to the conclusion that the effort of lugging equipment onto the banks had raised my own temperature enough to give me a false view and it soon became clear that the wind was in fact, bitingly cold. Indeed, I was mightily glad of the bank-side hut, which afforded much welcome protection. Although I kept my eyes well peeled throughout the day, I didn't spot a single sign of carp presence and the indicators on my fanned out rods remained doggedly static.
Around 4.00 pm the last of the match anglers drove out of the compound gate and a frenzied race against time commenced. I needed to transfer all my tackle to the lake before darkness descended. The chances of overnight success on the specimen lake were decidedly slim, whereas the odds of putting a curve in the rods on the match lake were considerably higher. I parked as close as possible to the rustic wooden gate near peg 5 and staggered down the steps with all my gear in only two trips, by loading myself to the limit, like a Nepalese donkey. Naturally, the first thing I did (apart from assembling the landing net and weighing cradle) was to put three rods out towards various spots near the far bank. The left, middle and right hand rods propelled single, faded pink, highly flavoured boilies out to the water in front of pegs 30, 25 and 22, respectively. Each had a small PVA bag of Skretting 4.5mm Protec pellets attached to provide a limited but highly attractive amount of feed in the vicinity of each hook bait.
Initially, I thought I might have to wait until well into darkness before the onset of a feeding spell, but I was pleasantly surprised when the right hand rod signaled a jittery take at 5.10pm. A welcome 9lb Linear Mirror duly hit the spreader block and looked awesome with beautiful apple-slice scales glinting in the light of my head torch. Amazingly, the action continued through the evening, with a 7lb 4oz Common at 6.00pm and a 6lb 12oz near Leather Mirror at 7.30pm. Then, at 10.20pm I had two simultaneous takes resulting in a 12lb 10oz Mirror and a 7lb 2oz Common. All went quiet overnight, but recommenced in daylight, with a 5lb 4oz Common at 8.00am, followed by a diminutive 3lb 14oz Mirror at 8.15am, immediately before winding in to head for home.
Thankfully, I love catching carp of any size, so I was extremely pleased with these early January results. Of course it's nice to land the occasional monster, but winter carp fishing is rarely easy, and is made so much more pleasant if the action is reasonably regular. Hopefully, next week will produce more of the same, provided that the forecast snow and freezing conditions don't put a spanner in the works.