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With the cold weather starting to set in and the reality of winter definitely present, I found myself with some free time on what turned out to be a mild day. Itching to get on the bank again, I loaded my gear into the car to go to a set of waters situated on a farm close to where I live. I have fished at this venue for some years now and have been lucky enough to catch some incredible fish, including carp to over 37lb and a lake record catfish at 60lb. 
Harley Doughty Successful Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
As it was getting colder and the fish would not be moving about as much, I opted to fish one of their higher stocked waters. Upon arrival I met with the bailiff who does an excellent job of keeping an eye on the lakes and is always full of useful knowledge. Unfortunately, he informed me that it had slowed right down and there hadn't been much to report for about a week or so, just the odd carp here and there. With this information in the back of my mind I just used it to spur me on even more and prove that by applying the correct tactics and bait I could get a couple on the bank. 
 
My swim of choice was one I hadn't fished much in the past but it commanded a large portion of the lake, with some lovely deep margins in excess of around 6 or 7 foot and had a large tree growing out into the lake. This was a starting point for my right hand rod as I had seen fish there throughout the year so knew it was a patrol route and that they must stop and feed on any natural foods that would be falling in off the branches. To the left of the swim I had the whole side of the island, which is always a great swim throughout the warmer months but, as it can be quite shallow, I decided to put my left hand rod into open water to begin with as I knew there was an old stream bed which ran from the island to down to the end of the lake, with depths of around 14ft in places. Both rods were sent out with 14mm VNX+ as I tend to opt for a fruitier, smaller hook bait for the winter. This was attached to a rig that I started using last year on a trip to France. 
Seafood Boilies Successful Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
I have complete and utter faith in this rig and 90% of the hook holds are bang in the bottom lip. This, coupled with the hook to land ratio makes it a clear favourite for me. I honestly could count the fish I have lost on this rig on one hand. I tend to fish the rig the same throughout the year with very few adjustments needed and, in my experience, the only adjustment that needs to be made in certain conditions is the length of the hair and rig.  
VNX+ Boilies Successfu Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
So, the softer the lake bed I am fishing, the longer I will make the rig and the size of bait I am using dictates the length of the hair, so if I am using anything 18mm or larger I would have a few millimetres of separation between the bait and hook. Anything smaller than 14mm or 15mm baits I would have the silicone on the hook pulled round to get the bait as close as possible to the point of the hook. The reason for this is that the mechanics of this rig rely on making the point of the hook as heavy as possible so when a smaller bait is used I like to think that by having it closer to the point it is maximising the weight of that bait, whereas with a larger, heavier bait that is not a necessary. One other thing to note is that this is a bottom bait only rig because if a pop up is used then you are essentially making the hook point lighter, which will make it easier for the carp to get rid of the rig without it catching hold in the mouth as the rig is ejected. 
I fed some chopped boilies along with the 6mm activator pellets in a close bed around my rigs and it wasn't long before my right rod to the marginal snag was away and I managed to slip the net under a lovely scaley mirror. 
 
At this point I thought I was in for a day full of action but I had to remember that it was winter now and the fish would be feeding much less and this proved to be the case. It reached 4 o'clock and I hadn't seen any signs of fish. I baited some more spots in the edge to see if I could get something passing through to drop down but it just wasn’t happening so, in a last attempt to get some action in the dying minutes of the light I went to go for a look around in a swim very close to the island. 
 
When getting to the swim I immediately saw signs of carp so with only about 30 minutes until I had to be off this 'days only' water, I ran back to bundle up my gear and head to the new swim.  
 
VNX+ Boilies Successful Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
VNX+ Boilies Successful Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
I cast out with single hook baits still going with the faithful VNX+ and they couldn't have been out for more than 2 or 3 minutes before I was getting liners.  
 
Another 10 or 15 minutes of sitting on my hands and the right hand rod, which was positioned under a willow tree growing off the island, erupted into life and I was into a carp. Not wanting to loose it I kept steady but solid pressure on the fish to ensure it did not get too close to the island and cut me off on some of the underwater snags that I know are down there. After a very good fight and few near misses with a patch of lilly pads I slid the net under a beautiful low double common.  
 
I had set out with the hope of a big hit of fish but I think in hindsight my eagerness was blinded by the reality that winter carping can prove tricky, no matter what type of water you are fishing. But one thing is for sure, if the fish aren't where you are then you need to be where the fish are so get on your feet, stay visual and get a solid rig that you are confident in along with a top quality bait in front of them and they are still there to be had. 
Tagged as: Harley Doughty
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