Without doubt, the banks of Wetlands specimen lake have been trodden rather more frequently by anglers boots this winter than in times past. Whilst the increase in popularity has it's down side, namely more angling pressure on the water, a significant advantage is that bait is constantly being trickled into the venue, hopefully encouraging the incumbent carp to keep feeding throughout the colder months. Having said that though, the dreaded water fowl seem all the more ravenous at this time of year and are utterly determined to mop up every last morsel of food that enters the water. Add to that a couple of brazen swans and a recipe for intense frustration emerges. I must admit that I had to smile this week when the white marauders went down on Pat's baited patch for the umpteenth time prompting a near nervous breakdown situation and an explosion of four letter expletives that came drifting across the lake, followed by a barrage of missiles. Added to such winter scenarios is the dubious pleasure of sitting for hours on the end of a biting cold wind, or worse. Hence, it's not difficult to see that winter carping is definitely not for the faint hearted. In my case, the task is made even more onerous by my refusal to zip up my sleeping bag, or close the door of my bivvy. Obviously, this is in the interests of a quick exit, should a carp happen to sample my hook bait, but I've frequently been told that there is a fine line between trying to act 'hard' and just plain insanity. Upon my arrival at 7.00 am, I came across Wayne and Richard who informed me that pegs 1, 7, 9 and 10 were already booked, so without much thought I opted for peg 3 and drove straight round to unload. To my dismay, I found myself sitting right in the teeth of a strong and cold-edged wind that numbed my fingers within seconds of exposure to it. What's more I had to resort to storm tactics to erect my bivvy, to avoid losing it over the fence. This entailed firstly pegging the groundsheet firmly to the ground and then sequentially substituting bivvy fastening rings (whilst hanging on to it for dear life) until it was all securely positioned. Past experience has shown me that extra long tent pegs and a rubber headed mallet are essential bits of winter kit. One notion that regularly drives my winter fishing is a theory promoted by the likes of Dave Lane and Kevin Nash, namely that: in any given carp lake, there will usually be a number of residents willing to feed, albeit at a specific location and for a brief period of time. The all important key to success of course, is to have a baited hook in the right place, at the right time. This is easier said than done and if someone else has solved the mystery quicker than you (or simply been fortunate enough to choose the optimum peg by chance) then it can be very disconcerting to watch a fellow carper enjoy multiple catches whilst you sit it out with motionless indicators. Such was the case throughout Monday. A young day angler arrived late and set up in peg 7. In spite of an apparent lack of previous experience of fishing Wetlands, he put his rods out with confident conviction and before long had bagged himself a couple of decent carp, both 20 pound specimens. Meanwhile, the 4 other anglers that included myself, looked on with head scratching disbelief. Although I had carefully scoured my designated area of water for at least an hour before committing my rods to any permanent positions (difficult when the water surface is heavily ruffled by a strong wind), I saw absolutely no evidence of carp presence. Inevitably, I resorted to the same old historic hot spots and resigned myself to a potentially long wait. The left hand rod, sporting double tiger nuts and a PVA mesh bag of Skretting 4.5 mm Protec pellets targeted "Crocodile Island". The middle rod, baited with a Tutti-frutti snowman and an identical PVA bag went out to the island margin (protected from the direct wind force). The right hand rod, similarly baited with Tutti and a PVA bag of pellets was simply given an underarm cast into the deeper middle water channel. Not surprisingly, I spent most of the day huddled inside the bank side hut attempting to brew numerous cups of warming coffee on a stove that took twice as long to boil as usual due to constant wind buffeting. Eventually, the victorious young angler in peg 7 packed up and left the site well before darkness descended. By the time that darkness closed fully upon me, a blank session outcome seemed very much on the cards. Over the last few weeks the few carp that had come my way had done so in daylight hours, so I didn't hold out much hope of a night time bonus fish. Accordingly, I retired early to the warmth of my 5 season sleeping bag, prepared for a quick getaway at first light, but didn't bother to set an alarm call on my mobile phone. At 5.30 am I was awakened momentarily by the sound of a few bleeps from my right hand rod. I stared at the illuminated LED through the bivvy door for a couple of minutes, but no further movement of the bobbin occurred and I drifted back into the land of nod. Then at 6.10 am the same rod emitted a similar burst of bleeps. This time I got out of the sleeping bag and hovered over the rod, hoping for further indication. The bobbin subsequently quivered ever so slightly, at which point I lifted the rod smartly, only to take up a lot of slack line before eventually making contact with a solid resistance. A slow plodding fight ensued, with no real drama until I was about to scoop my prize into the landing net. It simultaneously woke up with a burst of renewed energy until reluctantly it succumbed to sustained pressure. To my delight a fair amount of effort was required to lift it onto the bank, whereupon a lovely orange hued Mirror gleamed on the unhooking cradle and registered a welcome weight of 18 lb 10 oz on the scales. To quote the proverbial saying: "It's all well that ends well!" Certainly, I was mightily pleased to have landed a decent carp at the very last opportunity. All that waiting and winter induced discomfort had been more than worthwhile and I'll be back next week for more of the same, with undiminished enthusiasm.
Best fishes, Kelvin