It’s January, it’s cold, it’s miserable and as is often the case I’m utterly useless when it comes to catching carp at this time of year. Normally, I’d rather not bother, this January, however, I’m as keen as I would be in the Spring.

Light levels play a significant part in my motivation to be out there and ‘doing it’ almost as much as it does in terms of geeing the fish up. Luckily however, my newfound penchant for the zigs has given me the tools and motivation required to ‘man up’, as they have given me the necessary extra string to my bow tactically. In the past, I just couldn’t get my head around them. Don’t get me wrong, if a situation presents itself where there’s a chance to get a bite on the bottom using conventional tactics, then I won’t hesitate to go down that road, but I’m definitely happier placing a bait at the level that I think the fish are residing in, rather than doubting my sanity of actually being there time after time and having baits sat pointlessly on the lake bed.

Ok, it can be tedious with the lack of daylight, getting dark almost as soon as it’s got light, but with the comforts like my Coleman burner and my luscious new Compact Carp Duvet sleeping bag, I refuse to be beaten by the cold; something I am generally really good at, which is being frozen.

Another reason for my newfound fondness for January might be something to do with the struggles I endured over at Dinton during the summer, and the fact that I simply haven’t had my satisfaction tablet from the venue. You could say that it’s treated me mean and kept me keen. My god, that lake can be infuriating! Just when I think I am finally piecing it together over consecutive sessions, the goal posts get realigned the moment I apply my newfound idea that I always sure is going to be THE winning formula.

The year previous, I had to work so hard to try and keep up with the young’uns (who never seem to even miss a fish fart) that by the time I had clocked the carp’s whereabouts, and went to move on the fish, the younger, keener and super talented nippers would already have had one of them in the net. They’d often move in the middle of the night, whilst I was sleeping off a BBQ’d meat fest and the odd beverage.

So, for this season I was fitter and ready for the challenge, convinced that I knew what to do. Wrong.

Dinton had its traditional month’s break after the fish started to spawn and the noticeable difference from the year previous was the abundance of weed. It really was taking hold, something I knew was prevalent on there during past seasons, but it hadn’t really done that the year before. In fact, as the season progressed, a number of swims were totally unfishable.

My friend Ian continued to catch from where he left off from in the Spring, but even he was beginning to suffer a few blanks as the lake started to heat up more and the fish didn’t show in the numbers they used to the previous year. Jon Cash on the other hand displayed truly heroic angling abilities by making the lake look almost easy, I don’t think anyone has ever demonstrated that sort of dominance over there, so I doff my cap to him.

One thing I took from this season was that if you gave them what they wanted, food wise, they would have it. I know that sounds obvious, but it really was just that. Too many times I’ve sat behind the rods convinced that the conditions, presentation and my watercraft is spot on, only for the bobbins to remain motionless. Those carp have always been fussy.

This season, the approach of staying mobile didn’t really yield the results we were all accustomed to. A lot of the weed was actually floating, and the fish were more than happy staying beneath it for extended periods, knowing they were safe from harassment. A few of the guys persevered in working swims by means of weed clearing and regular baiting and this proved pivotal when it came into the autumnal months, as they reaped the benefits of all that prep work.

I was trying to get a food bait going on there, but it was proving a harder task than perhaps I first thought. I did get on the fish on more than one occasion, with possibly my best chances coming from a swim known as Diving Boards. The scenario was that I had seen a few fish from up the tree, mooching about on the back of a weed-bed that was just behind a more noticeable clear area. At this point the area wasn’t seeing that much attention from the other anglers, so I felt I was going to be able to at least put a few nights in during the forthcoming weeks, and try and get something going, despite the swim traditionally being pretty popular with syndicate members.

After leading about I had two spots, one wasn’t hard to find if somebody else dropped into the swim. In fact, it was well known to a lot of the regulars, but the other spot was much harder to find. It was sandwiched between two weedbeds and really required good control of the line and terminal tackle on the cast, to prevent the lead travelling further upon impact with the water and then get a controlled drop. It was tricky to say the least and at a distance that wouldn’t be easy to open up by means of the weed rake and hours of hard labour.

After a few nights over a 3-week period, which saw me doing the best I could in getting my nut-based boilies onto the zones, I finally received notification from the left-hand ATTs that Mr Carp was finally been cajoled into making a mistake by my efforts. The bobbin pulled up tight and it pulled the tip around hard, taking very little line against a tight clutch as it plunged it’s nose deep into a weed bed.

As the sun started to lift above the trees, and whilst it was still so early that the park was starved of the usual dog walking mayhem, I commenced battle with the fish. I conceded and gained line, before everything went slack. I was gutted, truly gutted. I blamed myself, as you do. Truth be told, it simply made me decide to swap over to a braided mainline approach; and I did indeed change over to the Hydro Sink upon my next visit. However, for now I still had another night ahead of me and needed to sort myself out and make amends.

Almost to the minute, 24 hours later, I received a far better take on the right hand rod, the more blatant spot, but it was also a lot closer this time so I was able to apply far better control in terms of preventing the fish from reaching the dense weedbeds. Not taking any chances whilst playing the fish, I jumped straight into the waders and subsequently into the lake as a neighbouring tree looked as if it intended causing me problems! This time, I won the battle and netted a typically stunning Dinton common, just shy of 25lb. Somehow, I had contrived to lose my camera remote, so I tried to improvise and instead got some really crisp pictures of the foliage behind me and a blurry carp. Yet another hard lesson learnt.

The next time I returned, I was armed with my beautiful new GTD 12ft rods and spools loaded with 22lb HydroSink braid, and I couldn’t get into the swim! I wasn’t too bothered, as I felt the fish had moved out of the area anyway. I’m not brilliant at staying put in the same swim for too long, and a change of scenery was welcomed – but it wasn’t really the right policy to deploy this season.

Instead, in a new swim, I was able to position my baits with wonderful ease into small holes in weed. At the time, I wasn’t sure whether it was the lovely responsiveness of the rods or the lack in stretch with the braid. Either way, it led to far less disturbance, far greater control and, in the event of hooking a fish, a far greater chance of landing it because of the braid being able to cut through the weed.

Interestingly, the fish also seemed less concerned over its presence than say mono. whether they can’t distinguish it from weed, I don’t know, but I’ve not seen fish bolt like they have when they come into contact with mono. I’m definitely converted and cannot see myself using anything but HydroSink on weedy lakes from now on, despite my love for the GT-HD.

Before I knew it, winter was here, and I had no idea where the time had gone. Above all, I enjoyed my time on Dinton and continue to do so and am persevering rather than visiting other waters in an attempt to get bite’s more frequently. The fish in White Swan are just unbelievable, so you just have to compete against all the odds if you want to see some of them on the bank. It’s never easy when the rewards are this great, but then I suppose that’s why I’m carping hard during January, as I’d like to think effort equals reward.

Tight Lines, Nice Dan Chart