Winter wonderland - Craig Runham

As I pulled up to the gate of my secret heaven one crisp and icy morning at 7am, the car temperature gauge read a chilly minus 2.5 degrees.

On inspection of the lock, it was frozen solid and the key would not even turn. Luckily, I had been for breakfast and had some hot coffee in the car. I poured the contents onto the lock and, after a couple of seconds, it was free.

As I drove through the gate, I peered across a winter wonderland - everything was covered in white. A light dusting of snow had covered the outside world overnight. In my head, conditions couldn't have been worse but I had a feeling something could happen.

As per usual I had a quick mooch round the lake and, not surprisingly, I was the only angler mad enough to be out. In the last 13 weeks the lake had only done a total of three bites - one to myself and two to my good friend Mike Patrick.

Mike had put in a lot of winter nights and his results were well deserved, to say the least. All three bites during the lean period had come to a similar area that Mike and myself had kept baited throughout the cold weather.

I walked the crunchy white grass around the perimeter and, after a full circuit, I had seen not a single sign. I simply had one choice and that was to fish the area that had the most winter form this year.

As I unloaded the gear from the car it began to snow. I chuckled to myself about how mad I must be. By the time I had the bivvy up, my hands were numb and every few seconds I had to blow warm air onto my blue hands. It's times like this that I really do question what I am doing!

I heard the gate open and looked up to see Mark, the fishery manager. He began to laugh and told me I must be mad - I simply had to agree with him as I felt that way too!

I started to sort the rods out, making a couple of fresh rigs whilst sat on the comfort of the bedchair. My rigs comprised of a six-inch Hybrid Soft section as a boom with a chod section attached. This was made up with 25lb Mouthtrap and a size 6 Choddy hook.

I fished this on a length of Kable leadcore with a Hybrid leadclip complete with a 4oz tournament lead. A cork ball Cell pop-up made by Mark Dean completed the set up.

A friend of mine, Carl, pulled up at the gate and then Shaun from the lake next door came walking into my swim. I told them I wanted to get the rods out before I put the kettle on.

They stood there patiently as the first rod was sent out to the area. A nice clean drop was felt on impact in around 16ft of water. I slackened the Kontour fluorocarbon after carefully sinking the line and placed it onto the alarm.

I turned around to see my good mate Mike Patric and his wife Shell strolling towards me clutching some coffees. Thanks mate, nice touch. The second rod was again sent out to the area, this time in around 14ft of water to a shallower area.

Again, the line was sunk and I pulled off a few feet of fluorocarbon and placed the rod on the alarm to allow the line to settle. I decided to put the kettle on as I tied another special pink corkball pop-up onto the rig.

Suddenly, the rod that had been in the water no longer than five minutes was away with line pouring from the clutch. The bobbin and the alarm wasn't even on yet. I ran out from under the bivvy and picked up the bent carbon.

Instantly, I was forced to give around 20 yards of line as a heavy fish plodded towards the centre of the lake. Everyone then proceeded to laugh and call me a lucky so and so. It was incredible - I was attached to a good fish and the rod had only been out for around five minutes.

After a very impressive series of runs, the fish was soon on a short line, doing its best to rid itself of the size six Choddy hook. After what seemed like an eternity, the fish began to tire as the runs became slower. The leadcore began cutting up through the clear, cold water and a large common, illuminated by the winter sun, came into view.

With everything going to plan, Mike was soon lifting the net containing my January prize! I was happy beyond belief as my first fish of 2015 was sat sulking in the net.

On inspection of the hook hold I was impressed to see the hook a good inch and a half back at the bottom of the mouth. The rig was clearly doing its job perfectly. It was a great start to the year!

The fish registered 32lb 10oz on the scales. I couldn't believe it - my first fish of 2015 and on my second night of the year. It was also the biggest common I’d caught from the lake since my campaign had started.

To add to it, it was absolutely freezing and it was January. A very special capture indeed.

Bag a big 'un,

Craig Runham