Well, as the saying goes, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun and I can’t believe it’s nearly two months since I wrote my first instalment for this bi-monthly column so I must have been having fun!

I’ve never been one for counting how many nights I do as I like to think that everything I do fishing related goes into my captures. Take for instance the word preparation, which pretty much most anglers like to use, but realistically how many know what it actually means or how many actually put it into practice. I’m a person who prides myself on this word and that’s why I rarely fish more than two or three nights per week. The main reason is because I like to be organised and once I’m at a venue I stay at the lake until my fishing hours are over. I see so many unprepared anglers turn up and have to nip out to get things or come around on the cadge for things like catapults, hooks, gas etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slagging people off, it’s just how I like to be. Some like to nip out and get away from the lake, I personally don’t, as I think it breaks the spell.

Anyway, back to how much fishing I’ve done since the last piece. Well I can tell you exactly and it’s a total of 11 nights, which is actually quite low for me considering I love winter fishing and normally do at least twice that. Excuse time as we anglers love making excuses. All I can blame is the weather and a frozen lake for this lack of hours. Luckily, I discipline myself and make use of that down time. Whilst not fishing I don’t vegetate, I get on with jobs to get my kit in order for the Spring months ahead. Spring is a time of year where fishing can be quite aggressive and you need to be on it, so I don’t want to be bogged down with chores like making hook baits, cleaning and spooling up reels or even water proofing brollies etc. I like to be fully ready, so when the lakes are frozen this is exactly what I do when I’m at home.

Being in the main an outdoors type person there’s only so much cabin fever I can take and I have to get out and get some fresh air. Occasionally I might have a dabble for other species on the rivers, but one thing I really like to do is to start walking lakes which I’m intent on fishing during the Spring. Obviously when the lakes are frozen I’m unlikely to see any signs of fish other than the odd patch of gill bubbles trapped beneath the ice which will give away where some fish might be held up, but that’s not overly important at the time of looking. What I like about walking frozen lakes in harsh conditions it that I’m starting to get in touch with a lake when nature has just pushed the reset button and the only way is up. Maybe I’m mad but it’s just something I feel helps me get in tune right from the off. The other things I like about scoping lakes out during the dead of winter is that I rarely see anyone and as the undergrowth has died back, I can get in and discover areas that can become impenetrable during the Spring when everything starts racing up. Sometimes the water can also be at its clearest and I can prep margin spots by trimming or raking them out ready for baiting or getting a decent line lay. These are just a few things I’ve done to maximise my time over the last few weeks when I’ve not been sat behind the rods.

So, what’s happened when I have actually been fishing? Well it’s hardly been bobbins bonanza but that’s not what I’m about. I tend to target certain fish and once I’ve done my homework I’ll fish certain areas where I feel I’ve got the greatest chance of catching that or those particular fish. Luckily, I’ve pretty much managed to get in a favoured swim every time I have fished and even caught a couple of nice carp. One was a welcome common of 32lb+ and the other was a cracking mirror of 28lb 4oz. Both those fish fell to the same methods I’ve done well on recently and that’s fishing hinge rigs over a wide scattering of boilies. All I’ve changed is the length of boom section which I explained last month and my timing on baiting up. What I’ve been doing is baiting up with about a kilo of boilies at the start of my 48 or 72 hour session, then not re-baiting until I’ve caught. The pattern I’ve noticed is I tend to only catch 48 hours after baiting, so I was either putting too much in or the swim just took a while to settle. I suspect the latter as it’s a popular swim and all manner of bait gets put in and the modern trend of Spombing crumbed boilies is possibly why the swim doesn’t seem to do as many bites as it used to do. I’ve just been fishing boilies and I’m convinced if others who’d fished the swim did the same we’d have all caught more but hey, each to their own. If that’s how you fish and that’s what your confident in then crack on, but I do know the lake very well. Maybe this is why my shorter hook links have paid off when the carp have visited possibly the most baited swim on the lake. Maybe I should have just fished singles over that previous anglers bait, that has worked well before but I like to experiment with different strategies and if I’d gone down the singles route I might as well have bought a tub of cell hook baits. I prefer to get them on the baits I use rather than be a sheep. It’s just how I am.

In the last issue I finished off by mentioning how I’d be giving the Zigs a go. Well I did and to date I’ve yet to land one on that method. The only fish I did manage to hook was just after midnight on New Year’s Day. Why I lost that fish I don’t know and I’m even surprised I got the bite, because when the rod went off the sky was full of fireworks and a 5 foot zig in 8 feet of water was the last thing I thought would win a bite with all that disturbance going on in the sky. One thing I must say was it was a right buzz playing a fish in from 80 yards with the sky full of fireworks. In fact, I was actually in awe of the moment and that might actually be why it found the marginal weed and fell off after hitting my other line. Maybe in future I should concentrate on playing the fish more than the other goings on. Anyway, I considered most of that session as good angling as the entire lakes stock were on the surface on New Year’s Eve so I’d reacted to a situation and hooked a fish which is proper angling.

As for my future plans! Well, like I’ve said, I’ve been walking my chosen Spring water and familiarised myself with its layout and a few areas I’ll keep my eyes on and maybe start baiting them once I actually start seeing signs of carp moving in and around them areas. Other than that I will carry on where I’ve been all Winter for a few more sessions to hopefully catch what I’m after. Other than that when I’m not angling I’ll continue walking my Spring water at different times of the day and in all kinds of weather conditions. Some lakes the fish like to show themselves on flat, calm fresh mornings and on others they show well in the wind and rain. I like to work out the best conditions to see displays, so I’ll alternate these visits and even try to work out areas they show in, in certain conditions. In the past this has worked well for me, so I see no point in changing my approach to learning a water. Rig wise I can see the chod being something I’ll possibly be using for a few sessions until I become more familiar with areas or spots that I’ll start baiting once the carp give themselves away.

Basically, I consider February to be a transition period in my angling because I’m coming to the end of my Winter fishing and I’m looking forward to my Spring fishing. I must admit now all my kits in order I’m buzzing for it. One thing I’d love to do is catch a 40 pounder in February as it’s the only month of the year I haven’t caught one in, but with a week or so left I’m starting to think that it won’t happen. If it does, I’ll have the rocket fuel for the Spring ahead and if it doesn’t I’ll try again next year as I like to set myself little targets.

Whatever happens over the next couple of months it’ll be here in my next instalment. Until then be lucky and make sure you’ve done your prep!

Nigel Sharp