Out with the old and in with the new, Auld Lang syne, New Year’s resolutions or hangovers.
However you choose to greet the new year it is generally accepted that it is a time of reflection and a time of planning, of looking ahead and considering how you might make the coming year better than the one you are leaving behind covered in streamers and half-drunk glasses of punch.
In carp angling it is probably less of a turning point than it is in normal life, that accolade is reserved for April the first, or June the sixteenth in some cases but still; it doesn’t hurt to be prepared now does it.
So, assuming you have your new rods, or sleeping bag, bivvy, FishSpy, toasted sandwich maker or whatever it was that Santa shoved down your chimney, you will definitely be gagging to get out there and give it go but where to, that is the question.
If it’s a quick bend of the new rods in winter you need, and you haven’t been for a little while, then staying realistic is the best option.
There is nothing quite as soul destroying in the cold weather as a blank trip on a lake where you soon realise you have no chance whatsoever; much better to lower your sights and have a quick day on a productive day-ticket lake.
Even if it’s just a small double or two in the bottom of the net at least you are back out there fishing and shaking off the winter blues and the excess mince pies.
If, like me, you are a winter stalwart and keep on angling regardless of the time of year then you probably have your venue already chosen and underway, hopefully you have chosen well and taken into account it’s previous winter form, stock levels, size and age of the fish and the realistic chance of actually catching some of them before April.
I have wasted so many months of my life, a scary amount, chasing smoke and mirrors around venues that were never, ever, going to do a winter bite. Lakes that had zero winter form, had never even seen a fish jump during the colder months let alone produced a bite. The reason for this madness was always the same, the fish were huge and the rewards if I did catch one would be beyond belief.
Nowadays I tend to be a little more rooted in my daydreams and I add a touch of reality to the mix, choosing venues that have some fantastic fish but also those that hold enough back up carp to make a bite a distinct possibility and not just a pipe-dream.
The last couple of winters I joined the Quarry syndicate in Essex. This is sort of a halfway house if you like, it’s not easy by any standards but there are enough fish to make it viable, which is good enough for me.
The first year I landed my biggest ever January carp in the form of ‘shoulders’ a huge mirror of forty-four pounds and I had a couple of other good hits with a few blanks in-between but the good times made up for the bad.
This year I am a bit more undecided on a particular venue, so I have chosen to dot about a bit instead, mainly social sessions with mates on various waters across the country.
Next week, for example, I have two nights booked on Yateley Pads Lake with Mr F, I am really looking forward to that one and hopefully a big old January carp in the net.
In years gone by I have targeted lakes such as Lynch Hill, Hunts Corner, Linear’s Manor Farm and Monks Pit, all venues that I probably wouldn’t dream of fishing in the summer or autumn but all holding enough carp to make them decent winter waters, once the bulk of the anglers drop off.
I personally think that January and March are the hardest months of the entire fishing calendar, with December coming a close runner-up. Any carp caught during these months has got to be worth it’s body weight in gold and even a little gold is better than none at all.
A bonus like Shoulders is great, it’s a winter fish of a lifetime but it’s the others that made the entire winter enjoyable, and every other successful one before that as well.
Mates can make all the difference to a bit of winter fishing and make the whole episode far more bearable and, sometimes, that is just what you need to get you through.
In the Spring and Summer, I would rather not see another angler; nothing personal but I love fishing on my own but during the winter that all changes.
It’s also a good time to plan ahead a little further, to look into more detail what is available for the spring and summer because it will be here before you know it and lakes are not as easily accessible as they once were.
Hanging up the rods in the garage for winter, and falling out of touch with all things carpy, will make you rusty and slower to get going once the better weather does arrive and, of course, you are never going to land a winter carp if you aren’t actually on the bank trying to.
Like I said above, it doesn’t even need to be a full session, not even an over-nighter really, if you pick the right venues you can travel light, pack a flask and some sandwiches and just do a few hours to keep your hand in.