Dream Winter Brace - Ed Betteridge

I arrived at Christchurch Lake, located on the Linch Hill complex in Oxfordshire, after the 100-mile drive from my Derbyshire home. I was glad to get out of the car to stretch my legs to be honest, after the long-haul journey.
This would be my first fishing trip for over three months. A lot had changed in my life since the last time I’d wet a line. I had moved house in December and bought a new car that was a bit more fishing friendly than my old saloon. The excitement of living in the new home was short lived because, three weeks after exchanging contracts, I found out that I was to be made redundant from work after 15 years service!
I set up in a swim that I knew had received a bit of bait, because fellow Greys Carp Academy member Myles Gibson had been fishing it. Normally, I don’t like moving into a swim that someone has taken the time to bait, but the lake can get very busy and I knew that if I didn’t move in, someone else would. After getting the rods out and setting up camp it’s amazing how life’s stresses can drift away. The thoughts of job hunting and wondering how the mortgage was going to get paid were now distant memories and all I needed to worry about was how I was going to tempt a fish or two onto the bank.

From past experiences on the water I knew that the carp responded best to smaller, easily digestible food items in winter, so I supplemented my usual boilie approach with maggots and sweetcorn, and spodded out a few kilos of the mix to a clear area among the weed at 40 yards range.
The boilie I was using was a bait that I had done really well on in the summer and I knew it would fish well in winter because it has a low fishmeal content. Fishmeals can be too stodgy for fish when their metabolic rate is slowed by the cold temperatures but at only 20% fishmeal I knew that this bait would be fine. The boilie is not available on the market yet but I know that Vision Baits are keen to release it as soon as all the testing is completed.
The first night passed without any action, but I knew fish must be in the area so I had a play around with my rigs. I tied up a rig that consisted of five inches of Korda’s new N-Trap hook link in 15lb, a size 8 Wide Gape hook with a bit of shrink tube over the eye to help the rig flick over in the fishes mouth, which would hopefully find a good hook hold. I was fishing two baits on the spot, so I decided on two different hook baits. One was an orange fluoro in Citrus Fizz flavour and the other was a small pop-up from the new boilie that I was developing, but it was dyed white for extra attraction. I didn’t use a boilie stop on either rig, but instead looped a small rig ring on after threading on the boilie. I then used a sewing needle to thread between four and six maggots onto some 4lb line before tying this onto the ring to tip the boilie off nicely.
As the night passed and the rain beat onto my bivvy roof I wondered if I was wasting my time fishing this deep lake in February. However, at 3:30am my questions were answered as the Citrus Fizz Rod stuttered into life. It seemed to take ages to get my boots on and grab my waterproof jacket but I’m sure it was only a few seconds until I had the Prodigy rod in my hands, hooped over into what felt like a heavy weight.
The fish did not go on any tearing runs, it just meandered from side to side and I soon had him in the waiting net. I flicked the head torch on to see a nice mirror carp wallowing in the bottom of my net, looking stunning in its wintery colours. I quickly zeroed my scales to the weigh sling and hoisted him up. I was very pleased to see the needle swing way past the 30lb mark and settle on 36lb 6oz, which was my biggest winter capture and it seemed to make the cold wet conditions more bearable.
We did the photos the next morning and the colours of the fish were even more impressive in the daylight!
After returning the fish I made a quick phone call home to tell Zoe about my luck before I packed up. She told me that both her and 4 year old Jamie were ill with the flu. Zoe suggested I stayed an extra night to avoid the virus. I didn’t have to be told twice!
An extra night would be just fine by me, even though the rain was still coming down and the winter cold refused to let anything dry, I knew there was the chance of another fish.
I had to wait until 5:30am the following morning for the action to come and this time it was on the new bait. The fight was in complete contrast to the last fish as this one took line from the reel at regular intervals. It just didn’t seem to want to come in and it took me a good while to get it in close, but after a war of attrition I persuaded it over the net cord and safely into the waiting mesh. I switched the headtorch on and was greeted by the sight of another mirror carp, but this time it had big, plated linear scales all down its lateral line. It was yet another stunning carp and it even looked bigger than the last. This proved to be the case on the scales as it dragged the needle round to 39lb completing an unbelievable winter brace of carp and finishing an unforgettable session!
Ed Betteridge