With a day session at his disposal, Max Hendry seeks out some winter carp fun to give him his fishing fix.
Name: Max Hendry
UKPB: 36lb 2oz
Occupation: Nashbait brand manager
Sponsors: Nash Tackle and Nashbait
As always I am buzzing to get out on the bank, no matter what the weather. Winter fishing is particularly fun as it allows me to indulge myself with a few visits to some local runs waters and get plenty of bites. It’s made even more fun when you have your mates there to enjoy it with.
The sole aim of my fishing at this time of year is to get bites and keep active. Big fish and campaign fishing can wait until it warms up a bit! In order to guarantee some action I look to fish the more highly stocked lakes and I try to go as regularly as possible, even if only for a few short hours. It was on one of my short day sessions that I thought I would drag Nash camera man Oli Davies along to see if I could get a few bites live for the cameras.
My venue of choice was to be Churchgate Lakes, in Essex. It’s a well-known day-ticket complex in the area but a fishery I have only visited to shoot features – I’ve never had the chance to wet a line myself. I took a walk round all the lakes and settled on the one right next to the car park. It’s got a decent stock of carp, but with the chance of a better fish too.
Although there was a match being held on there it was only the far bank that was pegged, leaving over half of the lake empty. This seemed to have a lot more fish activity than the other lakes on the complex as I walked around, so I reasoned that there would be more fish up for a feed.
I settled on a swim that allowed me access to a channel out between two islands. On the end of this a weeping willow lay over the water, and looked to be a great starting point. After a couple of flicks with the lead I soon deduced that the depth was around five feet straight off the island. This was an ample depth for fishing so I marked up the rod with marker elastic to ensure I could maintain accuracy throughout the session.
The cast was a little tricky as I needed to cast low and hard to slot the lead between two branches of the weeping willow. This allowed me to get a rig right into the cove formed by the trees, a place I am sure most anglers wouldn’t want to cast to through fear of catching up in the branches. As the line hit the clip I pointed the rod at the spot to ensure that the lead landed as far into the cove as possible.
With the first rod in position I wanted to get a nice bit of bait out there. The weather had been milder with highs up to 10ºC; today was colder again but it was due to brighten up later in the day and I thought a little bait might spur on a decent hit of fish.
Rather than just go down the boilie route, I wanted to give the fish something to really get feeding and competing with each other, and smaller food items are the best way to get the fish grubbing around. I had blended up some Strawberry Crush boilies to a really fine consistency in a food processor at home and the fine dust created resembled more of a stick mix. To this I added the matching Strawberry Crush booster juice and a little water until I could mould the crumb into firm balls. This would allow me to catapult small baby-fist-sized baits with a small match-style catapult to the spot.
I baited with 10 balls of crumb and cast a trimmed-down 15mm pop-up out to the spot. In the interest of giving the fish some bigger baits in the mix, I also catapulted 20 whole 15mm baits to the spot. I was hoping this would prevent the fish becoming preoccupied on the small food and meant that they would readily pick up my trimmed-down bait.
The second rod was cast a rod length to the left along the island margin, nice and tight over a small pouch of Strawberry Crush boilies. I fished a short drop on the bobbin so I could watch the slack line for line bites. With drizzle peppering the surface of the water, I put the brolly up quickly and got the gear in the dry.
After making a couple of spare rigs I watched intently with a cup of tea. Small, fizzy bubbles moved on the spot and every so often the line would twitch as a fish fed on the area. After 20 minutes the bobbin pulled up tight and I was into my first fish. After a spirited fight I landed a 6lb common; it was a good start. With the fish safely returned, I dropped the rig on the spot and re-baited. As the rig descended through the water it hit a fish on the way down – things were looking good for another bite.
With fish shoaling up tightly in winter I thought I would cast the other rod out to the spot too. As the northerly wind blew the willow canopy away from the bank it allowed me to drop the rigs right next to each other. Oli arrived just in time for the second bite and I soon had another fish from the spot in the net. It was interesting how the fish reacted to my baiting approach on the second bite. After around 15 minutes of no activity after casting out, I catapulted 10 baits to the area. Five minutes later the bobbin rose to the top and the line pinged from the line clip. More bait arriving in the area seemed to excite the fish into feeding harder.
With the fish shots of a lovely common carp all done I made Oli a brew. When he arrived his keen eyes had noticed a fish show in a quiet snaggy bay, an area obscured to my vision by the trees. I took a walk down there while he minded the rods and I dropped a handful of crushed baits on the snag bush before returning. This was to be my plan B for an opportune last-minute bite.
Back in the main swim I continued with the little-and-often baiting approach in between tying rigs and balancing my hook baits in the margin. I was fishing simple rigs so they were easy to tie. Slip D rigs are a presentation I have a lot of faith in, whether it be for bottom baits or pop-ups. I was fishing this with one of the super-sharp Nash Pinpoint hooks, opting for a size 7 Fang X. Teaming this with Combi Link in 35lb allows a trimmed-down, Strawberry Crush pop-up to kick out away from the lead perfectly. Perfectly balanced, this rig will reset itself should it be picked up and spat out by the fish.
Above the rig a simple lead clip with a 3oz lead can be cast anywhere and will be discharged in the unlikely event of the fish becoming snagged, although I didn’t want to be losing the lead unnecessarily on a water like this.
After landing three more carp to just below doubles, I was hoping for a better one to make a mistake, and continued to bait regularly hoping to draw in something bigger. The next bite proved to be a better one. The fish felt slow and ponderous compared to the previous fish and it took line from the clutch with purpose. After a couple of minutes of side-to-side plodding, I slipped the net under a good common, then folded up the mesh and turned her over for a better look.
Oli and I agreed that we both thought we had just got a 20-pounder in the net – that would do nicely. I lifted her on to the unhooking mat and weighed her at 20lb 4oz. The plan had worked and I had bagged one of the better-sized residents. After some lovely photos, and with the sun dipping behind the trees I decided that I would go and give the snaggy bush on the wind half an hour before I got on the road home. I had been baiting the spot all day with chopped boilies so it made sense to drop in there for a quick go. I was travelling light, so a quick pack-up and move was no hardship.
I flicked the two rods the short distance to the spots, laid the rods on the ground and put a stone on each spool so I could see if I had a take. I rebaited and sat back to eat the sandwiches I had been too busy all day to eat! No sooner had I finished my first chicken and stuffing sandwich, I was away on the right-hand rod fished to a snaggy tree. I ran to it and hooked into probably the smallest fish of the day, a 2lb common carp that was jet black and absolutely immaculate. Was it worth the move? Of course!
I recast and finished off my other sandwich before getting everything packed away and bidding farewell to Oli. I’d had a lovely day on the bank in great company, getting plenty of bites on a winter’s day. If you’re not getting out this winter, then I encourage you to find a local water, grab some mates and get out there fishing. It’s fun, gets you out of the house and will undoubtedly give you that much needed fishing fix until the spring!