Winter Carp Fishing – Keep on Catching
Chris Rose and Steve Spurgeon have some invaluable advice on how to keep those alarms screaming no matter what the weather does.
Winter carping is not for the faint-hearted and whilst it is fair to say that sport can be inconsistent throughout the winter months there is certainly no need to hang up your carp rods and wait until spring for the fish to switch back on. With a bit of planning and a little thought it is perfectly possible to keep the odd carp coming to the bank however bad the winter gets and with this winter, thus far at least, proving to be exceptionally mild you really should be out there doing it!
With this in mind the FishingMagic cameras caught up with Chris Rose and Steve Spurgeon, two of the best carp catchers in the country, and asked them to show us just how it is done!
Asking anyone to catch a winter carp for the camera is not, it has to be said, the easiest of challenges to set but the boys were up for and confident that they would be able to put a fish or two on the bank providing there wasn’t a sudden deterioration in conditions Steve explained,
“It’s not so much the colder winter temperatures that switch carp of but a sudden change, and by that I mean drop, in temperature. They will switch off as soon as conditions worsen that’s for sure but after a few days, once conditions have stabilised, they will start to feed again. For consistent winter carp catching you need periods of stable weather conditions – even if those conditions are not necessarily the best.”
“Of course,” he continued, “If conditions improve and the barometer drops, warm south-westerlies and a bit of a blow come in then it’s happy days!”
One of the main challenges for the would-be winter carper is the choice of venue and in this respect Chris and Steve advised against fishing the tougher, low stock density fisheries.
“If you want to catch at this time of year you must be on a water with a good head of fish.” Said Chris, “I don’t mean match-type commercials stuffed with pasties, but lakes with lots of good doubles and twenties and perhaps the odd 30 places like Drayton are good and where Welchy has got us today – Thorpe Lea – is pukka; plenty of good fish and it produces every day of the year unless it’s iced over, even then I reckon you might have a chance if you could find a bit of clear water!”
The lads decide to head to the motorway bank at the bottom end of the lake which has a reputation for being one of the most consistent areas for winter action; Steve dropping into the right hand swim close to one of the islands and Chris to his left looking out into open water.
Chris commented, “There are always plenty of fish in the open water here at Thorpe and large numbers of fish always hold up in the middle of the lake and I’ll be right amongst them with a good chuck.”
“Mind you,” he added, “Steve has a cracking spot alongside the side of the island which has a habit of turning up the odd very big fish and he can still hit the open water spot with his left hand rod so he’s possibly got the better of the swims – but I reckon we should both catch!”
Bait choice is a critical factor in winter carping success and both Chris and Steve tend to concentrate upon two baits above all others at this time of year: corn and maggots.
“I do bring a few tubs of pop ups with me,” said Steve “and on a lot of waters a nice, bright over-flavoured fluoro pop up is a great winter choice – even a zig will pick up fish very well but I think you can’t beat maggots and corn at this time of year; you just have to look at the top match anglers fishing the commercial carp pools, guess what baits they are on!”
Today both Chris and Steve have opted for a variation on the corn approach as Chris explained:
“As well as corn and maggot it will, perhaps, surprise a lot of people to know that hemp works just as well in the colder months as it does in the warmer ones, especially if you spice it up a bit so we’re both going to be making up hemp and corn hookbaits using some Baitzone chilli hemp and corn.”
Preparation of the hookbaits is achieved using a piece of Fox ArmaMesh, a very fine nylon mesh which can be used to create hookbaits from virtually anything, and the procedure is essentially the same as making a tiny PVA bag – with the major difference being that, unlike PVA mesh, ArmaMesh does not dissolve.
Having tied up a couple of small hookbaits Steve blobs the ends with a flame to give a nice, neat finish, threads it onto his hair and tips it off with a single grain of buoyant artificial corn. In the margins it looks absolutely perfect as the mesh is almost invisible and all you can see is the grain of artificial corn just sitting above a small parcel of hemp, chilli and corn.
As far as loosefeed is concerned both Chris and Steve are taking it easy and have tied up a couple of dozen PVA bags of the hemp, chilli and corn mixture – which is PVA friendly – and are simply catapulting the bags to their chosen spots to give small, discreet packets of attraction spread over a reasonably-sized area. The hookbaits are identical in all respects, apart from size.
To increase the attraction in the immediate vicinity of the hookbait Steve is also making up a pva stick of the chilli hemp and corn mixture with a small handful of Mainline pineapple groundbait at one end.
“I add a bit of groundbait to the end of the stick nearest to the hook,” he explained, “so when I pull my hook into the stick before casting out it is going into pure powder and there is no chance of me accidentally pulling my hook into something which might mask the point in any way.”
With the baits in place and a salvo of PVA bags fired over the top it’s time for the traditional carp ritual of putting the kettle on but before it has even had time to boil Steve’s open water rod is away and he’s attached to the first fish of the day which turns out to be a typically hard fighting Thorpe Lea mirror which is not too far shy of the 20lb mark and looking stunning in its winter colours.
Despite overnight temperatures dipping close to freezing, a very chill wind and some bright sunshine there are signs of the odd fish moving in the open water and both anglers reckon there should be a chance of another fish.
“Most lakes can have very predictable feeding spells at this time of year.” said Chris.
“Very often it’s late morning – like Steve’s fish just now - but late afternoon can be especially good on days like this when there is a bit of sun as it is when the lake is likely to have received the maximum amount of warmth.”
“Shame really, as we have to be off at lunchtime!” he added.
As if to reinforce the theory of a late morning feeding spell Steve has another take on his open water rod but the fish comes adrift after a couple of minutes. He checks his hook for sharpness before getting it out to the same spot and is rewarded with another run some 30 minutes later and this one stays on all the way to the net.
With three runs and two fish to his credit it doesn’t take long for Steve to start to wind up the fishless Chris and the banter reaches fever pitch when Steve’s island rod rips off shortly before the pair are due to up sticks and head home and Chris is resigned to net duty once again – until his right hand rod is up and running too and both anglers are playing fish at the same time.
With both carp safely banked the lads decide to call it a day to beat the traffic, although there is no doubt they would have continued to have picked up the odd fish right through the afternoon; proof that if you get the choice of bait and venue right carp are very catchable indeed right throughout the winter.