Every year just before winter really kicks in I always end up making myself an empty promise that I’ll do some fishing for other species. Like the last half a dozen or so winters, this relatively mild one has seen that promise get broken and I’ve found myself whacking in the hours behind the carp rods. Now I know some of you might think it’s been a cold winter but up until a few weeks ago we haven’t really had any prolonged cold weather and when the lakes have actually frozen they have only had a thin lid on them for 24 hours at the most.
During the early part of the winter I was consistently catching from open water spots in a swim I’d pretty much concentrated on throughout the late autumn. Surprisingly enough the two open water rods seemed to dry up around the beginning of December but that was purely down to lack of weed in the lake. The next place to look was the only other cover and that was the lily beds and snags around the lake. Being as only half of the fifteen sets of lilies were near the bank and only a couple of them were close to deep water it was fairly easy to check them and the two areas of what I’d call ‘holding snags’. As you would expect from a group of pressured fish it was fairly obvious where I found them. What was surprising was how active those fish where every time I went and watched them. This went on right through December and into the New Year then suddenly they disappeared but that I think was more due to sudden angling pressure hitting those areas. Moan if you like about it but that’s fishing and knowing it was coming I baited and milked those areas for every bite I could while it lasted. As for sizes I was unlucky not to get amongst the big’uns but during the winter a bites a bite and from my relentless little and often baiting antics around the lake during the cover of darkness.
Basically I know Pit 3 so well it was also a bit of an experiment of mine and just proves that the old methods of baiting around a lake purely to keep fish moving and finding my bait everywhere they went is definitely an edge.
After the open water bites dried up, the rod down the edge near a snag gave me consistent action in some of the worst weather we’d had up until and just after Christmas. I fished with freezing winds and sleet in my face at times but when you’re seeing fish in just a couple of feet of water what do you do? It’s so easy to go and fish the North bank and get the odd bit of winter sun in your face but that sort of fishing only offered the barren open water with nothing to hold them other than maybe the upper layers and a possible zig chance. To me that wasn’t inviting, seeing fish was though and if it meant I only had one rod fishing effectively on fish so be it. One rod’s better than none and a bite off a smaller fish is also the same.
During early January, after taking several fish in harsh conditions, the area became devoid of fish and after the Christmas break which went on until early January it became apparent that angling pressure had pushed the fish to around the island/bar which separates the lake nigh on in half. Obviously this area was shallower and the dying lily beds around this area still offered a fair amount of cover and a comfort area when the lake was busy, so it was no surprise to see that this was the bulk of the fishes next port of call and mine after being pressured out of my old faithful swim.
Well they say a change is as good as the rest and my first night of the year in the famous ‘Double Boards’ saw me land a lovely fully scaled of just over 30lbs and an upper 20 common. The funny thing about this fully and all the other mirrors I’d caught this winter was that they were all new ones for me, which is saying something as I’ve caught a lot of the Pit 3 residents over the years and basically there’s only a small handful of the bigger fish (A-team) left for me to catch.
One of those few big’uns left is a fish called Gregory and tops out at over 48lbs so as you can imagine that fish keeps me going and gets me out of bed during the winter and I almost laugh at how keen I still am at my age.
The next problem I had, was the Double Boards is like I said is a famous swim and word was out about several captures (not just mine) from around the bar, so it didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what happened next and being wise to this I knew this wasn’t a swim worth working. It’s just one of those swims that constantly gets pressure and during the month of January it only had one night without an angler present and saw well over 2,000 rod hours done in it. When you break that down to fish caught it worked out about 200 hours per rod for each fish. Statistically other swims did better. This is where determination and water craft pays off when you’re up against it!
Occasionally, I did manage to get back in the Double Boards but I didn’t catch every time and during those blank sessions I actually wound in other anglers baits, which I knew to have been in the swim for over ten days, so that proves it’s not just a swim you go in, chuck out and wind a carp in. In actual fact, because it’s one of the busiest swims on the lake and has been for years, I think the fish are becoming wiser to the constantly fished spots/areas. Again, this is where my knowledge of the lake and watercraft pays off and I know that swim only seems to fish well when the rest of the lakes busy and that’s why I quite like fishing a Friday night in there. One thing I do when I manage to get in there is to make sure I get the rods out early and have them settled for when the afternoon rush begins. This is something I call an old Yateley trick and it’s paid off several times for me over the last month or so and so far has cranked 2018’s catch list up quite nicely already. Frustratingly for me still no real big’uns amongst those fish, but like I say a bites a bite and from an area they have become increasingly riggy on over the years I’m convinced the sharpened Covert Dark Chod hooks by Jason Haywood are definitely part of an edge I’ve had all winter. As for baits and rigs I’ve stuck to what I know works, using the ever faithful hinged stiff rig which is probably the most consistent catcher on Frimley for decades. Bait wise I remained undistracted by test baits or the maggot myth and used good old Urban Baits Nutcracker. Basically knowing the lake, watercraft and sharpened hooks is what’s given me my edges this winter. All I’ve got to do is learn a new lake for this coming spring and look forward to a bit of chod chucking, zigging and some floater fishing over the next few months and I can’t bloody wait either.