I always look forward to the autumn months because the change in colours on many of the waters I fish is just amazing. The beech trees go the most beautiful golden brown and the falling leaves cover the ground in a bronze carpet. Add to this some lovely still, autumn days, glorious sunsets, huge bright moons and you can see that I love autumn.
One thing that isn’t so good is that as soon as we get the first heavy frost the fish just seem to go to sleep! Over the years I’ve read many articles and spoken with many anglers who are of the opinion that carp ‘feed up’ for winter. I can quite understand the logic behind this and it’s true to say that winter carp weights are very often at their highest so I guess there must be some truth in this. However, if it’s true it doesn’t seem to happen on the waters I fish! We had the first heavy frosts in the last week or two and immediately the carp I’d been seeing regularly swimming on the surface, under the bushes and feeding, have now just disappeared. The waters have been so quiet you’d think the fish had all gone abroad for the winter!
On one session two weeks ago I was back at our syndicate pool – the Weedy Lake as we’ve now started calling it. We had one final session getting the weed out and a new technique of using a slow-sinking rope worked wonders with tons of hornwort and Canadian pondweed being removed. So much so that when the water cleared after the first frosts – I’ve never been able to understand why this happens but it does – we could see the lakebed quite clearly and it was remarkably free of weed. So during the next week I fed a couple of spots with Protec Carp pellets and broken boilies and kept an eye on what was happening.
Fish were visiting the areas and taking some of the bait, then coming back for more later. They were using the areas like a larder – just nipping in and out for a little snack before wandering off around the lake. They were clearly evident doing this and all I had to do was sit quietly for half an hour and I’d see one or two come for a little feed.
In view of this I was quite excited when I turned up at the pool to fish for 48 hours. I dropped a few handfuls of Protec Carp in the spots, topped up with a few broken boilies then plopped a bait on the top. I’ve been using a hooklink that look just like weed on the pool. It’s quite remarkable how invisible it looks on the bottom. Just like the weed it’s supposed to imitate. The bait was finely balanced so as soon as a carp came along and sucked the bait would rocket to the back of its mouth, take a hold and we’d be off!
That’s the theory anyway! In practice I must admit it does seem to work better than a ‘standard’ bottom rig so it’s my standard rig at the moment. Anyway, I’d like to say that the fish just queued up for some food and I had several but it didn’t turn out that way. The first day the fish were active and came in and out of the feeding area frequently taking the odd snack. I think they knew something wasn’t quite right but the urge to feed was too much for them to resist. During the day they were getting more and more confident and I felt it was only a matter of time before one picked up the bait.
However, during the night I sat looking at a huge harvest moon – one of the best I’ve seen for several years – and I awoke to a carpet of frost over everything. Trees, grass, the fallen leaves and my rods and bivvy were coated in the white stuff. The sun came up and started to warm the land and water but the damage had been done. The fish that had been so active during the day had just disappeared and I did not see one ripple for the next 36 hours. In fact, I came back two days later and the baited area was looking untouched. After that the ducks found it and it had gone within minutes.
The next session I chose another lake where we were going to do a work party on the Sunday so I fished prior to packing up for a day of trimming back trees and making the banks and swims better for the winter.
This lake has a much higher stock of fish of all breeds and tends to fish better in the colder months. Recent reports had suggested that the spodding ban that has been in place during the year has resulted in the water quality improving (so much seed and particle was going in that the EA suggested we imposed the ban as the water quality was suffering along with catches) to a point that the water clarity was unlike anything we’ve seen for years and the fish were in much better condition. Fish were still being caught even after the recent frosts and showing signs of feeding quite regularly.
The trees on my side of the lake were still quite green being more sheltered but the trees opposite, being oak and beech, looked very different in their bronze autumn colours. I set up in one of my favourite swims opposite two trees on the far bank. The trees have been undercut by wave action and if you get a bait right under the bank it’s a virtual banker spot. I must have got everything right because I managed to get both rods into the perfect spot first time even with a PVA bag of Protec Carp and boilies on. Usually the PVA bag affects the aerodynamics of the rig a bit so it takes a couple of casts but today I got them in place first time so I was full of confidence.
Sitting back with a brew and a sausage butty I didn’t have to wait long before the alarm on one rod resulted in a small carp of around 10lb coming out for his picture session. The other rod took a little longer but the fish was even smaller at around 8lb. I didn’t bother taking a picture of this one which I suppose I should have done but I’m not one for checking back over the fish I catch so I didn’t bother.
The rods went back out easily and I settled down for the afternoon and night. Once again there was a heavy frost and I awoke to another carpet of white. The difference was amazing. The day before the fish were clearly visible on the surface, the banks were filled with Canada geese and the fence on the opposite bank was lined with seagulls waiting for anglers to start putting baits out with throwing sticks. This morning I could have been the only living thing for miles around. Not one seagull, goose or fish could be seen and that’s the way it stayed all day.
The next day was spent preparing the lake for winter and having a great time chatting with other anglers. The next few months will be quiet on the bank as the ‘summer’ anglers stay at home and only the hardened carpers (the idiots my wife says!) sit it out.
But as for the carp feeding up for winter and staying on the feed if you put bait in? The jury is out on this one for me. I’m sure that I’ll catch the odd fish or two during the coming months but to be honest I just feel that I’m going through the motions. Of course, I still enjoy seeing how the countryside changes, chatting with fishing pal John – who is now making excuses for staying at home, something he’s never done before – eating Aldi out of sausages and emptying the library of books but I go out fishing expecting NOT to catch rather than full of the enthusiasm of spring and summer. But you can’t catch ‘em sitting on the sofa so I’ll be out and about until the lakes ‘get lids on’ and I’m confident that at least my methods of bags of Protec Carp, ground into powder and topped off with a few broken boilies, will prove irresistible to any passing carp.