Craig Runham reveals his secrets to winter success!

With winter just around the corner and Christmas merely a blink away, our attentions turn to our winter waters in search of a bite or two during those short bleak winter days.

Winter fishing is not all doom and gloom as just a few alterations to our tactics and baiting, winter fishing can be very fulfilling. Winter for me is simply a magical time to spend on the bank.

The outside world can be a breathtaking place to spend your time in the colder months. Those crisp clear mornings with bright blue sky's are to be appreciated for sure. As the temperature plummets and before the outside turns into a winter wonderland, I turn my attention to selecting the right water for my winter angling.

Personally, I tend to choose a couple of waters and purchase a couple of tickets. This year I have selected a club water ticket and one ticket that I know very little about. I know the club water has winter form as I spent a few nights on the water last spring. You are best to choose waters with a reasonable head of fish present. There is no point chasing ten fish in ten acres all winter as the chances of being successful is extremely slim to say the least.

To make fishing during the winter more comfortable, I would suggest the first thing you sort out would be your clothing. A decent winter suit and suitable footwear is a must. Being warm will make you fish better and make you feel comfortable in the cold conditions. The other thing is hot drinks and food. Even for short day sessions, I always take my brew kit. Keeping warm is a must if you are to enjoy winter angling.

During the colder months, the carp’s metabolism slows down and it takes longer periods of time for the fish to breakdown food items. With this in mind, the old saying of "you can put it in but you can't take it out" springs to mind. There is often no need to be using kilos and kilos of bait during the winter as it will simply be wasted, with the bird life only getting fatter for it. Most of my winter angling is done over a maximum of a few handfuls of bait at any one time. So until I receive any action, I tend to sit on my hands and not introduce more bait just for the sake of it.

The biggest advantage no matter what time of the year is to have good watercraft skills. This will maximise your chances of a successful winter. Tiny signs may be all you will see but being able to spot the small signs will always lead to great things. Small pin pricking or venting of a fish will give their whereabouts. Always try your hardest to locate your quarry before setting up. Travel light so if conditions are to change or you see fish elsewhere it's easy to move. It's essential to be on the fish as much as possible. It is pointless being sat in an area all day freezing cold with no hope of a fish whatsoever.

I get asked this question a lot; what would I do if I had found the fish? How would I target them? To start with, I take the conditions into consideration. If it's sunny and high pressure, the chances are the fish will be high in the water so a zig may be the right choice.

If I can see fizzing or any signs of actual feeding then I'll find a single hookbait with 20 odd baits scattered around the area is enough. If successful and I'm lucky enough to get a bite from the situation, then I may add some more extra bait into the equation. Usually if I'm moving onto showing fish in this situation, I find a single high attract pop-up is enough to get a bite. Sometimes introducing too much bait can overdo it. The old saying of "you can put it in but you can't take it out" comes to mind again.

Some people find it hard to sit through the long dark nights staring into the darkness for god knows how many hours. I find a good book can pass the time during those long spells of no activity. I for one couldn't sit out all those hours staring out the bivvy into the dull blackness.

During the colder months, the fish tend to feed for very short spells. It is a good idea to maximise these short spells of action. I always make sure I have spare rigs at the waiting in the case of a bite, that way I can unhook the fish in the water, tie on a new rig and put the rod out within minutes therefore maximising the chance of another quick succession bite.

I have fished lakes in the past during the winter when it was pointless fishing the lake at night. Every single bite that winter came during daylight hours, I even pinpointed bite time to a two-hour slot. The following sessions that winter I fished short daytime sessions set around the bite time to very good effect. If you work out a feeding time routine, it can work so well for you just planning the short trips to coincide with these small windows of activity can catch you a lot more fish.

Casting at showing fish in the winter can be devastating. These showing fish are clearly active and on the move which makes them easier to catch. I have lost count of how many times I have caught big winter fish casting a single pop-up at a showing fish. If I see a fish show during the colder months, I will almost certainly wind a rod in and cast a rig into the rings. This has saved many blank trips for me during the winters gone past. Don't get me wrong, I have had occasions on certain lakes where casting at a showing fish doesn't work but most of the time it will produce in bonus fish on the bank.

Another question that pops up every winter is do I scale down during the winter? The answer is simply no. I've never seen a reason to do so. The carp’s eyesight is proven to be poorer during the cold winter months so I don't feel the need to. I have tried to scale down end components in the past and it has in turn lost me fish.

I feel so much more confident in a strong size six hook staying in than I would say playing a thirty on a size ten hook. Many winters ago, I was on a water scratching to get a bite so decided to scale down to a 10mm pop-up and a size ten hook. That night I hooked into the fish I had been waiting for all winter only to have the small hook open up on a snag mid fight. I was devastated to say the least as I felt the small hook in that circumstance cost me a target fish. Since that day, I have stuck with the components I fully trust in for all my fishing, be it summer or winter.

The most important part of any fishing trip is to enjoy it. If you don't enjoy being out in the winter then winter fishing may not be for you. With the right gear and right mindset, I find winter fishing to be most enjoyable and rewarding. Those winter captures make it even more of an achievement to me. I hope a few of the things I have underlined help you have a winter to remember.

As I write this, I am sat in the dark and the rain is beating down on the bivvy. I'm enjoying it as much as ever.