Ice Fishing - Pete Castle

For the last three years I’ve been trying to catch a carp on Christmas Day. My fascination with fishing on Christmas Day started many years ago when I read a short story about a guy that went chub fishing every Christmas morning and how every year he met a winter wonderland all to himself. He had the whole river all to himself and I wanted to experience that peace and solitude.

We finally got to the lake, at Waveney Valley, found on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, a couple of days before Christmas and the rods went out fine. The casts slightly to my right felt deeper and there was certainly more silt. The right hand rod actually hit something on the way down, which left me feeling very confident. It’s hard to explain how cold it was that first day. The thermometer was reading – 4 degrees, but there was a slight breeze that made it feel a lot colder. I only had a few hours fishing time and I wanted to catch before it got dark.I couldn’t settle; my girlfriend was happily setting up the Christmas tree and getting things sorted in the lodge and I was pacing about up and down outside in the snow. I wasn’t cold; I was excited. I really fancied my chances and I really wanted to catch in the snow. All of sudden my left hand rod started to slowly bleep up. It was a very slow take and one that said big carp in cold conditions. I picked up the rod and it took on an instant curve. The fish then started to pick up speed and headed off down the lake to my right.

I thought it was a good fish as soon as I hooked it and after quite a hard battle I wasn’t too surprised to see a chunky mirror go over the net. I was absolutely buzzing - firstly, because I’d just caught a fish in the snow and subzero conditions, but also because I now knew that I could catch these fish from this lake in such cold weather, which I knew would leave me confident for the rest of the session. The air temperature was so cold that the net froze as soon as lifted the fish from the water. The water on the weigh sling was actually freezing in front of us, but I felt warmth right through my body when the scales went around to 32lb 4oz.

The morning of Christmas Eve came and I was up before first light to see if the gap I’d created with the aid of some ducks was still open. Thankfully it was and I was able to get back to fishing again. Nothing much happening throughout the day, but I did have a couple of liners around three o’clock, which was about the same time I’d caught the fish a couple of days before and this gave me the confidence I needed to keep going.
It was now Christmas Day and I was up and out again at first light to get my rods out before opening my presents. It might all sound a little bizarre this, but there is a silence on Christmas morning that you get on no other day of the year. I wanted to catch and my hole in the ice had stayed open. I’d baited the margins the night before with chilli hemp for the ducks and this had kept them diving for hours sending out ripples across my hole, which kept it free from ice. The rods went out fine and I was fishing again on Christmas Day; all I needed now was a fish.

I always switch off my buzzers when reeling in and as I stood up with my left hand rod at the end of the day my middle rod screamed to the top. The fish kicked straight away and kited off to the right again, but this time under a huge sheet of ice.

I broke the silence of the day by shouting loudly for my girlfriend because I really wanted her to be part of it. The carp put up a hardy battle in the harsh conditions and I couldn’t believe it when I finally put the net under the fish. I really thought my chance had gone, which made the excitement even more enjoyable. It wasn’t a massive carp, but this particular 17lb fish brought me an awful lot of pleasure. I’d finally beaten the ice and snow and caught two fish of my dreams in one session: a thirty in the snow and a carp on Christmas Day from under the ice.

For the full lowdown on this incredible session and some interesting pictures that I didn't have space to add on the site, check out Crafty Carper which is released on 17th February.

Pete Castle

(Nick Helleur's latest diary instalment is now available to view in the Features Section. Don't miss it, there are some stunners to see!)