This next session turned into a learning curve for me. After nearly 40 years of being out on the bank, there’s always a surprise or two that springs up and a new trick or two to be learnt!
I’d been busting a gut to get a couple of nights on the bank (I feel like I’ve lost a limb if I don’t get my fishing fix!). I had things lined up for the following week and then shows to attend the following weekend too. Then, to top it all off, on the day I planned to go I heard that there was a lid on the lake! After a sharp night-time frost, and rock bottom mid-winter water temps at this point, the less dense surface water didn’t take much persuading to do its worst. Then, during that day a mild front came in with a little rain so I called around to see if anyone was down for a look about (some anglers lived closer than me) and was pleasantly surprised when Nick called me and said it was ice free again. Happy days indeed!
Driving to the lake I stopped for a coffee and it was quite noticeable how much colder it was getting with signs of a frost in the shadows of the trees. Fearing the worst, I soon pulled up at the gate to find that the smaller lake was three quarters frozen over. Things were not looking good after the long drive.
With a heavy heart I went for a walk to see if the main lake was the same. Much to my surprise it was only frozen down the bottom corner and along towards the island on one side… Game-on!
I spent a while looking for signs and after failing to spot a single show anywhere I opted to set up on an open water swim – the next one up from my main winter swim as it happens.
With icy cold water, it was just going to be single snowmen and a few chops attached to one of my Covert Wide Gape Talon Tip set ups. After a motionless afternoon, as far as the bobbins were concerned anyway a frosty night drew in and I was sure it was going to freeze over. Oh well, if nothing else I would have had my little fishing fix.
Without a single bleep through the night, I awoke well rested to find the lake had frozen solid yet again! I decided to sit and wait for the sun to defrost my bivvy before starting any sort of pack away.
As I sat there on the edge of my bed, whiling away the time, I was amazed at what occurred next! About 15 yards out a carp decided to try and bosh out in the ice, spraying 5mm thick ice all around the hole. I sat there utterly gob smacked as I really couldn’t believe what I had just seen. Just for the record it was a black old mirror that swam away with a head ache.
I find these things truly amazing and there is always a lot to be learnt from experiences like this… After taking photos and studying the spread of broken ice that was left sat on the ice around the hole I got to thinking… If a stone had been thrown in, the broken ice always seems to ends up in the hole, not around it.
With this new found knowledge I spent an hour walking the lake and these tell tale signs were there for the entire world to see! I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that logically, where you see the most ‘head banger holes’ is where the carp are held up!
After finding a small ice-free part of water in the one corner, I managed to do a second night, but nothing happened in the way of bites. This conditions for this session were in no way ‘ideal’ at all; but as a first blank on my syndicate water I took it on the chin! Sometimes it’s about what you can learn, more than what you catch.
While we are on the subject of what I’ve found when the lakes are frozen, here’s another observation I made a long time ago on a Shropshire mere.
Winter carp don’t seem to move that far really, and as has been said many times before they are creatures of habit too. Every year you will find them in the areas they favoured the year before, with the odd exception being largely due to angling pressure.
A long time ago stumbled onto a quick fire way to find the carp’s holding areas in the colder months! I met up with a friend one January for a look around ‘The Old Mere’, and whilst we were there we spotted a carp in an area blowing like there’s no tomorrow! At the time I didn’t have gear with me, but I knew that I had to plan a quick trip. Somehow I managed to talk the wife into letting me go the very next day… Many of you know what it’s like!
Anyway after a whole lot of rushing about I managed to get everything sorted for the next morning. There had been a hard frost and there was a bit of snow on the hills! When I arrived at the mere I pulled up at the lake, and “Noooo!…. Why me?”
It was frozen solid; with snow on top of the ice as well! It seems that I was just a few days too late, but I had noticed before that the carp seemed to feed a bit harder just before or on the night of a good frost; and I planned to use this knowledge later. It was just that on this occasion the previous night’s frost was the straw that broke the proverbial camels back so to speak.
A couple of cold weeks later, after a bit of rain, I went back for another look. All the blows and trapped air were stuck under the thick ice, most must have been from fish movement, feeding or just nudging the lake bed over the previous few weeks! I was amazed at what I found, in the two areas where I had been trickling bait in; there were two big blows, but no more trapped bubbles in the surrounding area at all! From this observation I concluded it couldn’t be just gas rising on its own.
Another area I found was right down the other end of the lake, and there must have been ten or twelve big circles of trapped air under the ice, for the world to see! How’s that for a tip?
After that I went round the venue taking pictures of the areas I saw trapped air under the ice. I let onto a couple of mates about this and shared the pictures with them. Believe me when I say it helped put a few extra carp on the bank by the end of that winter, including a winter 30lb plus common from the very area I saw all the trapped air under the ice!
Some people think I’m crazy fishing out in all weathers, but I do like finding the ‘unusual’ whilst out on the bank things – that you don’t see whilst sat in front of the TV at home.