Being locked inside a 400-acre country park with 35 acres of water to play with is not everyone’s idea of fun. But it’s majestic! Yes, angling in the winter is hard going but if the rewards are their then it’s all worth it right? With the original historic stock depleted since my last stint on this majestic venue, clearly statistically the winter would prove to me more of a challenge than previous winters.

Sadly, covid impacted the start to my winter campaign. Our children caught covid first, then I contracted it and that put pay to really getting anything going until after Christmas. I did have a brief dabble in November, but upon reflection I was not tuning in for whatever reason and only had nuisance fish for my efforts.

It’s a three hundred or so yard barrow push from the car park before you even start to set eyes on the lake. We then get provided a carp care kit made up of a landing net, sling, and safety mat. That’s another couple of hundred yards up and back, including signing in. So, you already feel like you’ve made a big effort before you get started. I treated myself to a pair of sealskin gloves this year, those prove to be a good purchase. Don’t know why, historically always decent clothing, footwear and headwear had, but neglected my hands LOL.

Going into the winter, I always make sure I have a rig board fully loaded with plenty of my two or three favoured rigs. Previous winters on Welly have responded well to a bright pink pop up presented in the right place. With the lakebed now having a tidy general spread of silk, onion, and blanket weed. I had already decided that my go to winter rigs would be a hinged stiff and multi rig that had already proven to work sat across the weed during the milder autumn period. I had already built up a huge amount of confidence presenting those rigs helicopter style and adjusting the top bead depending on the depth of weed substrate. Hook holds were also exceptional. A simple short 18” Camflex Leadcore leader, to a Stiff hinged rig made up of a 6” Stiff-Link boom to a 1” Trip Wire hook link and a size 4 Rigga BCR  hook. With the out turned eye, this pattern is exceptional for a stiffy!

My other chosen rig when on clearer substrate is a 6” Multi Rig incorporating Stiff-Link Hook Link and a short subtle section of peeled back Green Ultra-Skin Soft to a size 4 Covert Dark Wide Gape Talon Tip Hook.

Going in to winter this year I was determined to keep the bait going into certain areas. I have huge confidence in Sticky Manilla and opted for mainly 16mm which I prepared at home by washing out the bait in boiled rainwater for 2hrs. I opt for boiling water as it makes the bait soft and porous (permeable to fluids). After the 2hrs I drain off the water and then add a reasonable drop of water thin liquid to rehydrate and then refreeze in 1kg bags. Then prior to each session, it’s just a case of grabbing a bag or two from the freezer and while the bait thaws, it draws in all those final drops of liquid. Then within minutes of it being deployed on to the lakebed, I know the boilies are instantly soft and high in leaking attraction.

It wasn’t planned, but a good friend on the syndicate Gavin Carter (aka White Pigeon, aka DJ Carter) who has now retired (he is youthful with it) was frequenting Welly during the week and I was dropping in every other weekend. Carp fishing is always more helpful when useful and trusted insights can be shared. Both being on the same bait and fishing similar areas, became an obvious thing to do. It most definitely helped put odds in each other’s favour. Two weeks away from any lake, numerous things change. This way, we both helped each other stay tuned in.

Most of the time I much prefer slacker line lay from hook bait to rod tip. I always try and avoid back leads now unless they are essential. I just personally think a back lead can create an unnecessary anchor point and it has definitely resulted in hindered bite indication in the past. This winter, using the tried and trusted Gardner 15lb GT-HD (High Definition) monofilament I fished tight lines, relatively tight clutches and the smallest of bites resulted in carp on the bank. All the carp I caught were caked in leaches, so they were clearly not travelling far. I solely used the GT-HD last time on welly, and it was faultless. The Low-Viz Green colour gives superb camouflage whether you are fishing slack or tight lines. One thing I do religiously is clean my line on every retrieval after it’s been lying dormant across the lakebed. I just loosely wrap a baby wipe into the top eye of the rod and reel in. It completely revitalises that Low-Viz green property back to its original glory.

Welly is generally very shallow with average depths of only 4-5ft. It does drop deeper in some specific areas, but the majority is consistent in depth. This is what can make it productive in the winter if you do the classic things like stay mobile and keep eyes and ears always open. Being so shallow, Welly has always responded to the super carpy low pressure and high winds. In years gone by, particularly when named storms whip through. Whatever the time of year, those always have had a tendency of throwing up the carp. With this winter being cold, but full of rain and high winds it was perfect.

Early February was cold, but conditions were ok to be fair with very cold blustery winds. The carp had most definitely gone to ground, and the lake was very sparse again of anglers. This obviously opens lots of areas, which sometimes can make it a challenge to narrow down a plan. There were a couple on occupying two swims next to each other called ‘Three Trees’ and ‘Wides’. That end had done a carp and I could see why that area was favoured. I did push my barrow in to Grassy, but then set off for a couple of slow laps. If the carp are lurking in the woodwork, with the water being tap clear you can normally locate a few. After a fruitless walk round, I started to assume they would be in open water and probably nestled in a few weed beds.


Nothing happened during the night, so at first light I decided to recharge the hook baits and try a specific old, favoured spot but deliberately avoided the clear silt area and dropped them shorter on to thicker onion weed. With two rods in that zone, I pulled one in much closer and off at almost 90 degrees to a spot a swan was continuously working hard to get at whatever was on the lakebed. This swan was hammering this area non-stop the previous day. By 6am, it was the final roll of the dice. Absolutely nuts, as by 8am I had landed three pristine, dark chestnut with patches of winter red common carp. The first one rattled off and was secured in a sling while I got my camera together, then the second rod rattled off. Two carp now secure, the third rod where the swan was so fixated on then rattled off. I literally then had three commons that I had to photo one after the other. Absolutely crazy. It was then a super quick pack down as it was time to watch my youngest play grassroots football.

After that result, I was clearly itching to get back. Whenever I am down to go fishing at a weekend, I go whatever the conditions. Keeping a close eye on weather conditions through the week a fortnight after the hat trick of commons, it was evident a freak storm was on its way. Friday 18th February and storm Eunice hit hard. At its peak, winds of up to 122mph were recorded at the Needles on the Isle of Wight – a new record for England. Putting safety first, I put off my arrival on the Friday until early evening. It was still brutal, and trees were down everywhere as I made my way safely over to Welly, but you got the sense the very worst of it was passing. With the winds very strong south westerlies, I had to get back in Grassy.

On a shallow lake with the wind ripping through and waves with white tips, under tow plays a bit part in my decision to where to locate and present my rigs. Grassy gives you access towards the end of south westerly waves, which is where these fish tend to be under those conditions. But it’s one of the lakes large islands that draws me to this peg. The island acts as a large wind break and at range generates calmer water and reduced undertow. It only offers average depths but weed in abundance and allot of water at your disposal. A peg called ‘Pole’ next door to the left is frequently empty, so you really do have an immense amount of water that is not accessible from any other peg near Grassy.

After quickly erecting my bivvie at a 90-degree angle with my back to the brutal wind, was my first challenge. Thankfully, the peg in Grassy does back on to a set of smaller silver birches that were helping cut through the wind to prevent me taking its full force. Barrow unloaded and after quickly warming the hands, it was rods time. Even though I was only fishing 80 or so yards, I had to upgrade to a 4.5oz lead and I added a couple of extra wraps to compensate for the fierce cross wind that would inevitably cause a ridiculous bow on the cast. I also had to punch the cast low and hard to take as much of the bow out as possible. Spombing 2kg of boilies was even more fun LOL. Crazy, but it worked, and the kettle was then fired up. The rain and the odd hailstorm were then relentless. Even when the wind normalised, it was still 40-50mph. But I was fishing and in the dry.

If three commons were a result the fortnight before, what followed was a right touch. At first light, the first rod was away and by 9am, two more carp graced the net. In total, I went on to have 7 bites and 6 carp landed in 40 hours angling. Unfortunately, none of the big A team paid me a visit, but a nice original character named “Melted Tail” looked glorious in its winter colours. I got absolutely soaked and it was uncomfortable at times, but boy it was a mental spell of angling reflecting. With only one other angler on who was on the opposite side of the lake, it was a tad of a challenge keeping the camera lens dry for the self takes.

A fortnight later, the laptop was packed away on the Friday, and it was time to go back for another dabble. Conditions this time significantly different to the previous two sessions, so I already assumed the behaviour of the carp would match. Higher pressure, much milder with warmer bright south easterlies just putting a gentle ripple across the water. It had a real feel of spring to it, even though it was the start of March.

I arrived to find not many anglers on again which was a surprise. With the light now starting to fade away, I made my way on foot first without the barrow via Bramble Bay. Bramble is on the end of a south easterly and during periods of high pressure the carp can often retreat under the numerous snag lined canopies. Bramble (or specifically Turtle Corner in Bramble Bay) does have a favoured set which is hit hard from the sun in such conditions. As I walked up the gravel slope approaching this area, I heard a carp crash straight away and swiftly turned on the spot to hastily go and grab me loaded barrow.

I dropped into a peg called Up and Over, which gives you sole access to the best spots in Bramble. It’s in these situations having fished the lake previously and maintaining all my distances in my iPhone comes in very handy. The rods were quickly deployed with minimal fuss using 2oz leads and it was time to settle back. It was starting to get cold, but not a sniff of rain. Within 3hrs I had nailed three carp. Not big fish, but they were on me. I had to land the second one while the first was still resting in the landing net. The disturbance unsettled the area for the night and my ATTs alarms remained silent. First thing in the morning, I relocated myself further down the lake when I still had a hunch the bigger carp might be lurking.

So, in summary, three two-night sessions resulted in 13 bites and 12 carp. February into early March was incredibly kind, even if the conditions were brutal. I felt like I made the most of particularly storm ‘Eunice’ and got absolutely turned inside out for my efforts.

Now, eyes on the prize in to the Spring and early summer until my ticket expires. Come on the Willow and the Big Common, the two big carp I still desperately need.

Be lucky, Carl