We all know that winter fishing can be frustratingly unproductive, to say the least, with the very occasional hard earned capture standing in stark, but glorious contrast against an otherwise featureless backdrop of repetitive blank sessions. My previous experience has generally been that of a significant slow down in November and December, followed by an almost total shut down during January and February, with a sluggish and begrudging recovery thereafter, until Spring eventually kicks in with exuberant joy. However, this year Wetlands seems to have slipped into static dormancy rather sooner than in previous years. Even Pat, who is undoubtedly one of the most prolific of anglers to grace its banks, has struggled big style, with nothing caught after late October. What's more, the nearby match lake, which is absolutely stuffed full of hungry carp has mirrored the autumn slow down, with unseasonably low catch weights being recorded. And so, it was against that rather gloomy prognosis that I reserved peg 3 and turned up at Wetlands for my first session of 2019 on Wetlands specimen lake. Yes, the chances of catching were undeniably slim, but I had a cunning plan in mind, and I wasn't about to give up completely, especially given that Richard informed me that 7 or 8 carp (up to 20 lbs, or so) had been extricated during the last couple of weeks. The cunning plan, I refer to, was more a case of ruling out defined areas of the lake in a carefully orchestrated sequence, in the hope of eventually working out by default, where the carp were hiding out. I added in to the equation knowledge gleaned from other anglers, in an attempt to speed up the process. Accordingly, I was fairly confident that pegs 10, 9 and 8 were not the main winter holding areas and pegs 1 and 2 are probably too shallow to fit the bill. That left pegs 3 to 7 in the frame for further exploration. Although pegs 6 and 7 have been productive in previous years, I wanted to give pegs 3 to 5 a decent trial before resorting to historical practice. With no other anglers booked in to 4 or 5, fishing peg 3 would potentially allow me to cast my rods more widely across the neighbouring swims. After a circular tour of the lake, without seeing any evidence of carp, I unloaded my gear and began setting up in peg 3. By now the lingering winter darkness had given way to a reasonable level of daylight, sufficient to allow me to scan the water in front of me. The sight that initially greeted my eyes filled me with instant sense of horror. A pair of swans (presumably those that had been shooed off the lake a few weeks earlier) had seemingly returned and were nonchalantly relaxing in the middle of my water, eagerly waiting to gobble up any bait that might come their way. Knowing that the swans in question have 1st class degrees in bait theft and have a persistence equivalent to a dog pursuing a bitch on heat, I knew that drastic action was required. Before casting out, I rushed round to peg 9, where the boat was moored. It took me a good 15 minutes to bale out more than a 6 inch depth of water from its mid section before I could climb aboard and paddle gently round to the island corner opposite peg 6, whereupon the intruders came into view. Sensing that something was about to happen they had retreated to peg 2. I took a deep breath and began my approach, paddling furiously in their direction, whilst shouting abuse at them. As I neared peg 2, they attempted to out flank me by hugging the bank margin ready to give me the slip on my left hand side. I counted the move by veering sharply to the left and then stood up, so that I could wave the extended oar menacingly aloft. Realising that I was on course to cut them off, they reacted by spinning rapidly round and commencing a take-off run up towards peg 1. Once airborne, they circled the lake before heading off in an easterly direction. Hoping against hope that my actions had dislodged the unwelcome guests at least for the duration of my session, I tied up the boat in peg 3 and began to think about suitable fishing spots for my three rods. As I pondered the question, I noticed a couple of swirls on the surface. One was near the boundary of peg 2 (near the last, central, dotted island), and the other was 20 yards out in front of me, towards the preexisting cut through, affectionately known as the motorway. I was about to begin casting rods to the spots, when the female swan re-appeared, this time in peg 6 water. She clearly intended to drift over in my direction, whilst emitting regular calls to attract her male counterpart. Hurriedly, I got back into the boat with the intention of discouraging her from doing so. Even so, I only managed to shunt her out of close range. Thankfully after another 30 minutes of calling her mate in vain, she gave up trying and took off in his direction. Much to my relief, this was the last I saw of the swans for the remainder of my visit. Naturally, my left hand and middle rods were assigned to the aforementioned spots, whereas my right hand rod was cast towards the deeper water in the margin of the central island. This was one of the areas that Richard deliberately excavated in the winter of 2018. I used my bait boat to convey a re-issued Tutti Frutti 15 mm boilie and matching 10 mm pop-up to the spot together with a few handfuls of Skretting 4.5 mm Protec pellets. The other two rods were similarly baited, together with a PVA mesh bag of the same pellets. I used a combination of a throwing stick and catapult to scatter a few (of my last remaining) Wet Baits 18 mm KCG boilies around each spot. I then conjured up the first of many hot coffee drinks before erecting the bivvy and settling in the wooden hut for an anticipated long wait. Surprisingly, at 4.05 pm my middle rod let out a few bleeps as the hanger twitched up and down in small movements. Suspecting that a rogue bream was responsible, I lifted the rod tip and was overjoyed to receive the unmistakable counter pull of a decent sized carp. Usually, the fight from a winter carp is somewhat tame compared to a summer equivalent, but this contender was in no mood to surrender quickly. It doggedly contested every inch of the way into the landing net and slipped out again on the first attempt. The second attempt clinched the deal and I let out a cry of "Yes" as my first Wetlands winter carp of 2019 hit the spreader block. To say that I was elated was an understatement. On the scales a magnificent orange hued Mirror recorded 17 lbs 14 oz and I was genuinely thrilled to bits. Certainly, I returned home the following morning (after an otherwise quiet night) with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. This session had certainly been one to treasure.