Carp Fishing – Julian Cundiff's Top Ten Winter Tips
Julian Cundiff reveals his top ten tips for consistent winter carp success.
I was once asked by a very famous carp angler, who does not do much writing, whether I got fed up of doing instructional work for the magazines and websites? Frankly the answer is ‘no’ in that although I do have ’starting points’ for whatever I am doing fishing wise, things never stay the same and I am always updating and fine tuning what I do, nothing ever stays the same in this game.
So although the top ten winter tips I’m presenting for you here may be based on what I normally do, a year of hard fishing countrywide has given me plenty of new ideas that I can pass on. It’s only through regular fishing that you can really get in touch with what you are doing so my ‘ten’ are from overnighters, day sessions and plenty of successes and failures all year round and from winters past too…
1. Get out and do it
The single most important tip is that you can’t catch them sat at home watching television, fiddling with Facebook or sprouting cr*p on carp forums – even the FishingMagic forums!
The hard bit in fishing is the ‘doing’ and there is no such thing as wasted time in the colder months. Theory in books, magazines and on TV is all well and good but nothing beats getting out there, slipping on the Skeetex and earning your stripes. Don’t tell me you haven’t got time as my life is as manic and full as anyone. I have to travel to find ’action’ waters, I hate getting up just as much as you do but I know that the best way to learn is to do it for myself. My days are already planned off work, the venues sorted so there are no excuses for me – or for you!
2. When you are there - look
Although I do love the odd social when I am fishing I get so little time to fish that I have to make the time count so tend to be the most unsocial angler going. But when I go fishing unless the water is stuffed full of fish my eyes will do just as much of the work as my rods do.
Carp tend to be a lot less ’showy’ in the winter and you really have to look hard to see them. Elevated ground such as trees, watching the water, rather than reading etc, and being warm enough to do that all are important. I have glasses with various coloured lenses so I can watch in the sun or in the dark. One show could be enough to turn a session…or even a winter around.
3. Stay warm
An obvious point but the more comfortable you feel, the more effective you will fish. If you are cold you are more likely to huddle up inside the shelter or even more likely to find an excuse to go home early. I have the best warm clothing from the Nash Zero Tolerance range, wear Skeetex boots and brilliant warm gloves I got from Lee Jackson at the Tackle Box way back in the day.
Being warm makes me feel better, means I am more likely to sit on the bucket outside watching for fish rather than being tucked behind the brolly. The more I enjoy it the more likely I will be to go back the next time, whether I have blanked or caught.
4. Leave the books and TV at home
This really ties in with the looking aspect I guess. I absolutely love my reading and miss not having it with me. However on shorter sessions I know that I fish better if I look , and look, and keep looking. Also if I am concentrating on my fishing and not a rock star’s biography, or whatever, I fish better too. You can be more focused if nothing else is distracting your focus. So sadly the books and magazines stay at home and I just take a DAB radio and listen to ‘Planet Rock’ on very low (Not Derek Ritchie level!) as my entertainment. That’s my bit of ‘get up and go’ when I am packing up in the dark or I am sat on my own.
5. Fish off the barrow
If the terrain allows it I always fish off my Nash Trax barrow, simply because I fish better that way. My golden rule of fishing is that unless I am stalking in the winter months if I can fit it, and push it on the barrow I will take it.
I have two barrow bags: one is full of fishing kit, the other the stove, scales and clothing. When the rods are out I can sit on the barrow and it’s so easy to move if I see carp elsewhere - I just lay the rods on the barrow and off I go. Carrying gear is okay but I must admit I can never get my three rod kit down to carrying by hand scale (Is it just me?).
6. Blend it in
If you have watched the excellent underwater shows that Korda have done you will know there is no doubt that carp CAN be spooked by end tackle, unless of course they are competing for food and are ‘past the point of no return’. The problem with winter fishing is that clear water and carp that often pick and choose are NOT competing and end tackle can stand out badly unless you really do go to town with the effort.
I still have yet to see (or is that NOT see ) anything as good as the Nash Diffusion range when it comes to leaders, tubing, lead clips and the like. Whatever lakebed it rests on it simply disappears. Dabbing hook links with pens, rubbing them with putty and so on all helps. Fluorocarbon hook links help too.
7. Maximum bite registration
One thing I have noticed over the years is that as the temperatures drop not every take is a screamer, and that unless you are on the ball you can miss out on carp that are not bolting but simply shaking their heads to pop the hook out.
Rods always pointing directly at the end tackle and fluorocarbon main line (or Nash Bullet Braid) improve the sensitivity of bite registration. I also have my Sirens on maximum sensitivity and the visual indicators hanging so that any movement up or down is accentuated; having light bobbins on the floor may be trendy but they do not do much - in fact they will cost you fish.
I also favour mats to keep my rods clean and muck off my indicators and winter is one of the few times I also have a receiver with me as on blustery days it is easy to miss single bleeps. If it sounds then feel the line, if it’s quivering or over-tight there may be a hooked up carp trying to ‘do you’.
8. Liquidise and crumb
Winter feeding is all about maximum attraction and very little substance and I am convinced that in the colder months carp get very ‘picky’ in their feeding habits and almost seem to adopt a ‘take-it-or-leave it’ attitude to our food items.
Whilst single high attract hook baits can do the trick nothing beats increasing attraction for getting carp to make a mistake with a hook bait. Boilies and particles are great but my favourite is liquid attraction combined with crumb and this is how I do it:
Go to any supermarket and get some nice cheap sweetcorn then, using a hand blender (Argos do them at under £5), liquidise the corn until you get a frothy ‘soup’. After this add some crumbed boilies and you end up with what I call ‘mush’; sometimes I also add hemp that I have put through the blender – the result is a brilliant, intense cloud of attraction. The only problem with liquid attraction is that it can soon dissipate so I also add a couple of handfuls of Nash Soluballs to the liquid soup, these soak in the liquid and when you spod the soup out not only do you have the liquid but also the Soluballs pumping out the food signals too…
If you are using the liquid soup I detailed above then don’t make it easy on the carp - the only solid thing in your swim should have a size 7 or 8 Fang attached to it so before you start adding stringers or firing out loose feed just ask yourself one question: ‘Why?’
Will what you are doing really add to the attraction, or will it detract from the chances of a pick up.
In winter I tend to fish single hook baits and, at most, add some rubber maggots as an added visual incentive. These tend to be soaked as the water gets colder and are always fished with a couple of pieces of Solar foam around them on the cast to make sure there is no tangle and to help ‘kick out’ the rig when it sinks down as the foam pops off.
10. Be open minded
It’s very easy to slip into the trap of ‘same old, same old’ in summer months never mind the winter ones but in the colder months you do have to accept that the carp will make fewer mistakes and in many ways you have to ‘create’ that mistake.
As I said at the start I have ‘starting points’ but at the end of the day I want a carp in the net so whether it’s a lump of method paste, a zig rig, a bunch of maggots – or whatever it takes - I will do it. Sure I will go and do what I do but if someone is catching and I am not I will change to see what happens.
It’s easy to think you know best but the carp know best and if someone else’s indicator is dancing and mine isn’t…
Colour of baits, dropping closer or fishing further out, fishing higher or lower, changing tactics…Winter carp fishing is all about working at it and when you do the results will come…
I’m always here to help so follow my updates on Facebook at Julian P Cundiff or on Twitter by following me @juliancundiff