Winter Whackers! - Dan Leney

This year my fishing has been mainly on Wraysbury One, where I spent most of my time, usually four nights a week; being a teacher has its perks. When the seasons close in it is always a struggle to get sorted on such a big pit, especially in the winter, so I move onto other challenges, knowing that I will be back in spring. The Mets Lake and Thorney Weir complex is only 30 minutes from home and offered the chance of a winter thirty so I chose to concentrate there for a bit.
The spot I chose was 20 yards down a tree line up against an overhang, which comes out 10 yards from the bank over 4ft of water. Being such a small space, I decided to fish two rods a foot apart down the tree line and spray maggots through the trees towards the spot.
One Sunday morning first light about 06.20am, I was up checking everything was good; reels all locked up tight but with really slack lines hugging the bottom from rod to rig. Four coots were diving and splashing all over the spot, “Great,” I thought to myself, “Another morning wasted”. I turned around to fire up the Primus again when my left Delkim burst into life. With the rods locked up I just watched the rod tip bend round. “Coots!” I thought, then I decided to hit it being as I might ruin his day as well. It soon became clear that this was no coot. It slowly started to work its way to the snags, but with 20lb main line and my Infinities, he had no chance, so I started walking backwards up the bank so as not to change the hook angle and just keep the pressure on until it reached the nearside margin. Suddenly, it went mental under the tip and stripped a good 30 yards of line as it charged down the nearside margin into the channel. These moments are the reason I go carp fishing, waiting for that excitement to happen, then the fish broke the surface and I knew that this was one off the target of five thirties over the winter.
Frost all over my rods and freezing hands, who cares, I had a good fish in the net first time of asking. I lay the net down and grabbed a bivvy peg and pinned the net to the ground so that the fish could recover as well as myself. First thing’s first, new bag on the spot because there could be more there and in the winter feeding times are very short, so making the most of this opportunity would be a bonus. Having zeroed the scales they flew round to 35lb 10oz. I was proper chuffed at this, especially with the beautiful early winter colours; purples and blues covered the carp and this is one of the most fascinating changes in a colour you will ever see. Having the carp on the mat can tell you many things. Firstly, there were leeches on its anal fin, giving the impression that it had been laying up for a while down the end of the channel, which the big girls normally do. Secondly, it’s mouth and belly were really stained black with silt, telling me they had been feeding in the bloodworm beds, which are where most of the silt in the lake is. Finally, three red maggots lay on the unhooking mat. I had not been using them but he had obviously been feeding on them. So, next session, maggot solid bags were to be the order of the day.
I have two rigs that I use for my winter fishing. Firstly, the hook link is two inches of silt-coloured, uncoated braid, tied to a size-10 Mixa B hook. To get the rig to work I am trying to create a mini mag-aligner so forcing a rubber grub up the hook and over the eye, so it acts as a kicker with three real maggots gently nicked onto the hook. This is then dipped in GLM powder to soak up the liquid excess from the leaking maggots. This is essential to dry this first because it is all neatly packed into a sold bag. Maggots fill the majority of the bag, until the last half inch as this is filled with more salmon fry crumb so you can get some purchase to tighten the bag down, otherwise there is too much air in the bag.
Having spent the last few weeks in an area by the car park, which is on the end of a southerly wind and is tree-lined, the fish felt comfortable in there. When one gets caught they don’t seem to be too bothered either, which is nice. The only issue is that they are in the snags and I mean really in them. The only way they come out is by feeding small quantities of bait to get them moving and maggots do this job perfectly. You can fish the snag from two different swims. One is a 25-yard flick along the tree line or a 60-yard chuck directly at the snag. The second option casting at the snags was a better option because when locked up and a fish is on it can’t go anywhere resulting in no lost fish.
The basis of my winter mix is salmon fry crumb, which I find takes on liquids very quickly and to this I mean a lot of liquids. Next, I add small betaine pellets and mini Ultramix pellet, frozen sea snails, chopped Odyssey XXX boilie and chopped lobworms. This forms the basis of the dry mix, which I put to one side to diffuse. Green Lipped Mussel powder, Betaine powder, rock salt and liver powder are then added to the dry mix. Finally, in a separate bottle, Marine Amino Compound, Krill compound, CSL liquid, liquid betaine and a splash of tabasco sauce are mixed. This is shaken together with a liberal amount of hot water, which helps diffuse the liquids through the water column quicker. Finally, I always carry a pint of liquidised maggots so that a positive food signal is coming from the area that is as natural as I can get. This is then added to the dry mix with a splash of corn and left to rest for half an hour so that all the pellets take on liquids but don’t turn to mush. Now I’m not talking about kilos of bait but just enough for your session so that there are a couple of handfuls of the mix on the baited area every cast.
At 12.00pm one night I awoke for a tea and a listen to the water and I noticed the wind strengthen and then whip round right into my face. “Good for me,” I thought, “What will this bring?” because I knew they follow the wind in here a lot. At 1.05pm I was awoken by a constant “beep, beep, beep,” I hopped over the first rod and hit the furthest, instantly dropping the tip below the waters’ surface and holding away from the snags. I let the tip do the work and prayed my gear and knots were good, I just held it in the dark. All the other fish from this snag had made a couple of shakes of the head and runs for the snag but came back, this was just a heavy plod, even with constant pressure. I held on and finally it started to come back to me. I always fish a heavy lead on a helicopter rig in these situations. When the fish rolled in front of me, I scooped the net up first time under it without seeing what fish it was. I hadn’t put the headtorch on because I have really spooked fish coming to the net so I left it off. I dropped the net and put my rod over the top on the ground, leaving the bulk of the net in the water to gather my thoughts. I flicked on the torch and gazed into the awaiting net at my prize and was amazed at the sight. A common with the biggest head I had ever seen on a carp, with a huge eye staring up at me. On the scales and they came back as 44lb 4oz so 5lb for the sling gave 39lb 4oz, a new common PB for me, buzzing!
The next morning came and went without any action until, 14:30, when the right-hand rod arched over again. This time another solid fish began to bang its head in the snags. I eased it away from the snag and it headed out to open water, “This is new,” I thought to myself. Being as I’d had a few from this snag I knew this could be a bit special as well. The fish came in nice and easy after its initial run and a lovely mirror sat in the net. Same as all the rest, the net went down rod on top and resting in the edge while I gathered my thoughts again. On the scales she went 30lb and a bit, maing it a brace of thirties in a session in the winter… I was buzzing!!
So far this winter I have had 42 carp, including nine thirties and only two doubles since October. Everyone has their own scale of what is a good scale of angling and I believe that I haven’t done too bad.
Slack Lines and Keep Warm!
Dan Leney