For this article I thought I would play Devil’s advocate a little and, at the very least, provoke a little thought. We are fast approaching winter, and the year has flown by so quickly – it only just feels like we are getting over the appalling winter we all suffered last year.
So how many of you fine down for winter? A fair few I would imagine, I know I certainly do but, for reasons very different to the norm. It has long been the opinion that it’s the ‘done’ thing; the fish are less active, more finicky, only feeding on bits and pieces. The water is cold and crystal clear, all good reasons for fining down our tackle, and making everything less conspicuous. Or are they?
As the temperature drops, the eyesight of Carp deteriorates, so why do we need to fine down? It is said that the eye of a Carp functions at only 70% of its normal capacity in cold water, so surely we can step the gear up? But then again, why would we want to do that? The fact is, if it has been working for you through the summer time there is absolutely no reason to change it. If you have been using size 6 hooks all year then why change to a size 10?
The reason I fine my tackle down in the winter is because I can! Let me explain. I always like to balance my gear to the type of angling I am participating in. I will only ever use gear strong enough for the situation I am in so, in the winter time the weed has died back and I don’t need to be using 15lb line to land a Carp. Common sense must prevail and if snags are present then I fish accordingly otherwise I drop down to 10lb line. I love to play a fish, and the combination of a 9ft Greys Stalking Rod, my little Diawa reels, and lighter line and tackle is hard to beat. If I could use this combo all year round then I would, but it’s simply not possible. That’s why I fine down in winter. Please be sensible and base your equipment around the situation you’re fishing in but by no means think it is essential to fine down.
Then we come to bait. All the big firms start making 10mm baits in the autumn, and most people turn to what I call bit fishing: corn, hemp, pellets, maggots and ground baits. Now I must apologise in advance because I can’t remember the guy’s names, but a few years back there were some terrific catch reports in the magazines from these fellas all through the winter and all on big boillies. Towards the end of the season they wrote an article on their fabulous sessions and explained why they opted for big baits. Being creatures with high survival instincts a Carp will generally expel as little energy for as much reward as is possible. Their reasoning was, why would a big fat Carp expel the energy to grub around picking up several 10 mm baits when it could get just as much nutrition from picking up one 20mm bait: more reward for much less effort. It makes a huge amount of sense when you think about it, and it certainly worked for them.
Carp do slow down in the winter, but if you can keep the bait going in they will generally keep feeding. You will want to cut back on the amount, but little and often in the same areas will keep them ticking over. I normally find I can keep them feeding until the lake freezes, then I can’t get the bait in, and when It defrosts its normally game over. The same would apply if you missed a few days: the bites would dry up very quickly.
It’s worth remembering that as the eyesight of Carp gets worse in cold waters, other senses heighten, namely smell to compensate. I guess that’s why a bright coloured over flavoured pop up is so effective. This winter I plan to use a small mouthful packed with flavour/smell. Cloud 9 stick mix rammed with IB dip from the mainline stable, and a 16mm IB popup. When I say rammed, I use a whole pot of dip to about a pound of stick mix. And before anyone starts jumping up and down about cost, bear in mind that I use a tiny stick about the size of a 20mm boillie on each rod. Used like this a pound of stick mix lasts a very long time, and is fine just left in a bucket in the back of the van. The dip is a lovely creamy yellow colour, like custard, and when combined with the cloud 9, gives off a milky looking, citrus smelling cloud around your hook bait. Perfect for winter!
As I said at the start of this article, what I really wanted to do is provoke a little thought. Winter can be a real grind, especially the last couple we have experienced which seem as if they went on forever. It’s even more disparaging if you are blanking. Daring to try something a little different can make it all worthwhile, and easier to leave the warmth of the fire if you think you are going to bag a winter wacker. Good luck and tight lines.