After a gap of a couple of weeks, that included Christmas Day (and 7 days later), a totally frozen lake, I was glad to get on the banks of Wetlands once again. However, I was under no illusions that it would be nothing short of a momentous challenge to catch carp, given that the water temperature was only marginally above freezing point. Whilst native species such as bream and roach are happy to feed at such low temperatures, the same is not altogether true of imported species such as carp. The latter need a constant source of readily digestible food to dissuade them from slipping into a state of stubborn hibernation. Given that a couple of swans, plus a signet in tow, had recently arrived on the specimen lake, the chances of any surplus bait remaining for more than a couple of hours was remote, so I feared that the carp in the specimen lake might well have shut up shop for the rest of the winter.
I'm conscious that this might all sound a bit gloomy, but hey ho, it's surprising how quickly one season morphs into the next. Before we know it, the weekend of February 24/25th will be upon us with the Northern Angling show taking place in Manchester. Apparently, last year's event attracted over 14,000 attendees and the 2018 version is likely to exceed that figure. Skretting, my highly acclaimed sponsors will be present with a comprehensive range of pellets and other high quality, nutritiously profiled fish feed products, guaranteed to inspire even the most fastidious angler and fill him/her with eager anticipation for the fast approaching season, when the prospect of a spring whacker looms large.
Meanwhile, back to the plot. In contrast to the specimen lake, Wetlands match lake receives a regular trickle of bait throughout the colder months, such that there is always a reasonable chance of catching a few in the depths of winter. Having said that though, the catch weights have recently dropped significantly to around 20 or 30lbs, with bream making up the majority of the catches, with precious few carp amongst them. Hence I had it in mind to spend the daytime on peg 9 of the specimen lake and put in a couple of evening hours on the match lake, should the former prove unproductive.
Thankfully, peg 9 was free when I arrived at 7.00 am and even better, the match lake contest had been cancelled, meaning that I could get set up on there around 4.00pm, well before darkness fell. Nevertheless, I was determined to give it my best shot on the main lake before resorting to an easier option. And so, 3 rods were duly dispatched to 3 likely looking spots. The left hander was flicked down the tree lined margin to the point where the last branch protrudes. The middle rod was given an underarm cast towards the two snag bushes that reside on the borders of pegs 7 & 8. Finally, the right hander was sent down the causeway margin to the entrance of the last bay, where I'd seen definite bream movement. In each case the bait consisted of a Wet Baits LG0 18mm boilie (dunked in banana bait dip), nicked into a small PVA mesh bag of Skretting 4.5mm Protec pellets for maximum attraction. A dozen free baits were catapulted around each target location.
I was glad of a bit of company from Richard to while away some time on the bank, on a cold and otherwise mundane winter's day. As usual the topics discussed were wide ranging and passionate, covering such matters as the ethics of visiting violence upon intruders, the complexities of family life, and the importance of maintaining a philosophical attitude towards life and health. Having put the world to rights and returned to a state of sombre solitude, I availed myself of the opportunity to catch up on some sleep in my bivvy until the match lake beckoned. The only action during the day had been of the infuriating kind, as the swan threesome cleared each of my baited areas no less than three times over, in relentless succession. Hence, by 5.00 pm I was relieved to have 2 rods in place from peg 29 of the match lake. The baiting strategy was precisely the same as on the specimen lake, but this time I only used two rods, one towards the island margin and the other cast towards the dead centre of the lake. Any concerns that the freeze-up had wreaked a detrimental affect upon my chances of catching were eventually put to rest at 6.00 pm, when the island rod emitted a couple of bleeps and then went into meltdown. What's more, when I lifted the rod, I was greeted with the dogged resistance of a decent carp. Bearing in mind that the rod concerned was my new (Christmas present) Shimano TX5 which hitherto had yet to land a fish, I was hopeful that this would be the moment to notch up it's first success. Not surprisingly, as that very thought passed through my mind, the hook pulled and I was left holding an impotent rod, it's virginity intact. Ah well, that's carp fishing!
Much to my relief, at 6.30 pm the bobbin on the left hand rod ascended to the top of it's travel and remained under tension. This time, lifting the tip put me in contact with a lively, but obviously much smaller carp. After a spirited fight, the perpetrator was netted without drama and recorded a weight of 8lbs, on the nose. Still, at least I had managed to catch under highly unfavourable conditions, meaning that I could return to the specimen lake, job done. However, upon returning to peg 9, I discovered that my two spare rods (which had been propped upright against the wooden hut) had blown over, thus rendering the baited hooks available to the attentions of thieving rodents. Needless to say, the hair rigs had both been chewed through leaving a short length of braid attached to each hook, but no sign of a bait. Hence, I needed to completely re-tie new hook links on both rods before being able to replace 3 rods on their former spots, together with a spare available for midnight mishaps.
As expected, the night on the specimen lake passed without incident, until I was rudely awakened at dawn by the sound of frantic bleeping, as the swans cleared me out yet again. There seemed little point in gracing them with another free breakfast, so I shook the light covering of snow from my bivvy and packed up rather more rapidly than usual, eager to enjoy the delights of a warm bath. Sub-zero, winter fishing is never going to be a walk in the park, but it's still very satisfying to succeed under such demanding conditions. Roll on next week.