Mainly I’m a carp angler who needs a target fish to get me out of bed and get the grey matter going, so I tend to fish all year round for carp. About the only time I deviate from carp fishing to other species is when the lakes have a lid on them or if I’m timed out on a water which has time limits in place. Obviously after being a carp angler for 35 years I’ve a fair few years of winter carping under my belt and I choose my winter waters carefully. Gone are the days of me sitting on a low stocked, deep weedy waters that’s for sure. I prefer to fish weed free waters with a decent head of carp to go at and preferably a fair few big’uns amongst them. The reason I like to pick a lake that’s not deep or weedy is purely because they tend to respond more quickly to changes in the weather and the lack of weed gives the fish less cover and they’ll be more predictable as to where they’ll rest up i.e. snags, dying Lilly beds or major features like islands or plateaus.

Another thing I like to have on a water during the dead of the winter (which will surprise a few of you) is a bit of company. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a fishing companion it means having other anglers regularly fishing the same water. My line of thought behind this is based on something I’ve noticed over the last couple of decades. It seems the more anglers on a lake tend to keep the fish moving around and all the while bait keeps going in they tend to keep grazing on it. The first time I noticed this was a good few years ago so instead of adopting my normal selfish approach like I do in the summer I tend to start encouraging others to fish. Yes, this can dilute my chances of dominating a water but all the time leads, Spombs and the like are shifting the fish about I feel like I’ve more chance at catching a few fish than I would if I was going it alone.

Sometimes when the lake I’m fishing does become quiet I’ll spend some time replicating angling pressure by leading around in other swims, putting some baits here and there and also jump around on a few holding snags. I’ve never really talked about these practices before but I am now and one of the most important months to be doing this is December and this years been no different. The reason I consider December to be the most important month to do this is because no matter how keen others are lakes tend to get quieter because people have things like Christmas shopping to do and attend Christmas parties etc. I’ve even noticed on waters like Sandhurst and Frimley the water starts to get clearer which indicates less fish movement, so like I say I try to keep them moving and keep the baits regularly trickling in. This I believe is part of why I do quite well in January which I’ll explain later.

Anyway, December went well from the off and a couple of weeks ago after a move of swim onto showing fish I bagged a nice Common of 49lbs 4oz. And another smaller fish which I didn’t weigh as I thought getting the rod back out quickly to maximise bite time was more important. Both of those fish fell to my preferred method of fishing hinge rigs over a wide scattering of boilies. Not a great deal of baits were introduced as I didn’t want to spook fish which were evidently already in the swim and feeding. The only thing I did do slightly different to what I’ve been recently doing was to put 3 small Spombs of maggots over each rod just to get things going on around the hook baits i.e. small silver fish and bird life feeding. Whether this made a difference I don’t know but it’s something I tend to do when the water starts to go clear and when I get a quick result after casting out like this I’m convinced that’s part of why I caught.

So basically over the last month that’s what I’ve done and although I’ve not racked up loads of captures I’ve managed to catch yet another big’un in 2018 which I’m more than happy about as I’d had a run of a lot of small fish during the previous year after getting wrapped up in methods I believe aren’t the one for consistently catching big carp.

Other than that my fishing in December has been fairly sociable and during those sessions I’ve fished with some good friends whom have fished on other waters. As you do we talk fishing and lakes get mentioned then the photos start getting shown around and the grey matter starts working again. This is where the following year starts getting planned. This is where January becomes a busy month for me because although I’ll be maximising my fishing time and trying to cash in on some good fishing time while the fish are still moving after the Christmas break, I’ll also be visiting and scoping out new waters for the Spring which for me starts early. Historically I’ve always done well at catching big fish in January but I still don’t like to just go mad on the fishing as I believe walking lakes from the time of when they’re at their deadest and the water temperatures are at rock bottom is more important than actually fishing them. I tend to try and walk waters more times than I can count before I’ll even take a rod with me and this is why I don’t count how many nights a campaign takes. To me every hour at a lake is part of gaining knowledge and the bigger picture which eventually results in the capture of a target fish. Sometimes these results happen fast with very few rod hours, which will look great to the onlookers but it’s the behind the scenes stuff they don’t see. Wading, pruning, raking, plumbing, the lot goes on. When I look back on campaigns which have either been a failure or a grind it’s been down to poor planning, so I like to get ahead of this early in the year and watch a lake wake up.

Rig wise nothing too special goes on in Nigel’s world, I tend to stick to what I know works and I’ll pretty much be fishing hinge rigs for this the second half of my winter campaign. The only things I tend to change with the hinge rig is to use slightly shorter boom sections and pre sharpened Covert Dark Chod hooks. My line of thinking behind this is because I feel when the fish are feeding they’ll be a lot less aggressive so by shortening the hooklink and using a seriously sharp hook I’m more likely to hook a lethargic fish which will be moving very slowly between mouthfuls. Bait wise I’ll keep that going in on a little and often basis in several different places around a lake as I tend to fish busier waters so it’s hard to claim a swim or area which also keeps me thinking and looking ahead.

If I had to name another method I’ll be trying over the next month or so it would definitely be zigs. The reason I’ll be giving them a go is purely because I believe that on pressured waters when they can’t be found in or around the edges, in Lily beds or around major feature they’ll quite often be sat mid water out in the open water. So rather than wait for that farcical low pressure to make them drop down and feed why not try and present a bait to them. Zigs definitely work in the winter and can actually gain more bites than conventional methods so I’ll be using them on at least one rod, as for air pressures I actually think it doesn’t matter a toss and they feed when they want to or when they feel safe to do so like when angling pressure drops off! I’ve caught so many good fish in the first few weeks of January and most of which were off the bottom in high pressure and frosty nights from a number of different waters and even deep weedy ones like the Road lake. This is why I believe if you keep the momentum going throughout December and into January you can cash in on some good fishing which will give you the rocket fuel to carry you on into the New Year. Hopefully this has given you an insight into my way of thinking and inspire you to do the same with your own fishing.

Remember the early bird catches the worm!

Be lucky!
Nigel Sharp