Beat The Winter Blues - Garth Ethelston

When is this weather going to ever break? It seems like we have been consumed by this cold snap for months. Every angler I know is bursting to get back on the banks regularly, myself included.

With all the snow and ice around it pays to look at the type of water you are fishing, and in extreme conditions if you still fancy getting out, then even a change of species may come up trumps.

For the last 3 or 4 years every time we have had snow, catching a carp in it has been my aim. This year however when mother nature deposited over a foot of snow on Oxfordshire the lakes were unfortunately frozen solid. The rivers didn’t look in much better nick either, running high and very cold. After two or three days of this, and a weekend of completing DIY chores badly, I had to get out come what may. The lakes were still solid so I headed off down the river and armed with my chub gear trudged through the deep snow. The intention was to fish or a couple of hours into darkness with little pva bags of Mainline’s Active 8 response pellet and a Hinders ellipse pellet lassoed to the hook. This was fished with a 1.1oz grippa running lead to a 18lb Supernatural hook-length and a size 12 Wide Gape.

Knowing I was in an area of the river that held a few fish I decided to sit it out and not move. The main priority was keeping warm with a biting northerly wind blowing straight into my face.

With darkness fallen and my body just about at the lower limits of what it could take, I received a small pull on the tip. In conditions like these ‘if it moves, hit it’ and I was soon playing a very powerful fish which tried its hardest to find sanctuary in some nearside snags. Any fish would have been welcome, but at 6lb 1oz I was over the moon, and after a few badly framed self takes she was soon back in her cold, watery world, leaving me with hands so painful I struggled to pack up.

Two weeks later I was hoping to be able to get the carp rods back out. Back in October I and a few friends had booked Cemex’s Angling’s Blue Pool for a social weekend. As the weekend came closer everything was still ice, and a call to Cemex on the Friday morning confirmed we wouldn’t be able to fish the Friday night. I had a meeting down at Horton on the Saturday, which luckily for me Barney, CEMEX’s Anglings boss, was also at. He kindly rang the bailiff for me and was told the margins were starting to thaw. ‘That will do for me’ I thought and by 4pm I was frantically trying to get two rods out before dark in the quarter of the lake that was now wobbly. Maggots were the bait of choice and soon both rods were positioned around a tree which overhung the deep margins, both fished with small PVA bags of maggots attached to the hook.

As darkness fell the ice started to creep back across the lake towards me, and as I got my head down I feared I might be frozen in by the morning. At some point in the early hours I had a couple of bleeps on one of my rods, but thought nothing more of it due to the pesky blue pool swans.

As soon as I woke I could see that the right hand bobbin was up to the top, I quickly jumped out of bed and felt the line which was bow string tight. On lifting the rod it immediately became obvious that when I had slackened the line off in the deep margins the night before it had become snagged on an under water obstacle. The line marker was still in the rings so it had not gone far. I slowly bent into the fish and the line grated back through the unseen object inch by inch. After a couple of minutes of this the line suddenly pinged free and I wound down to feel the fish was still on. The fight was dogged and the fish kept deep until eventually I netted a lovely deep, slate grey fish of just over 20lb. I had to be off early for a christening, so quickly the photos were taken with the half frozen lake in the background.

Whilst the weather is ‘pants’ it’s sometimes worth wrapping up warm and getting out there. You just never know!

Garth Ethelston