• Posted: 25th March 2020
  • Author: Tony Payne

Approaching the winter in 2019, I decided it was time to look for a new water, somewhere with a decent stock to give me the chance of a few bites during the colder months. Having searched on the Internet and walked around a few club lakes, I opted for a winter ticket at Manor Farm in Bedfordshire, after noticing an advert on their Facebook page. I was particularly interested in Booneys, the largest lake on the complex and home to some very pretty fish, including my new main target, the Big Scaly, which I’d seen some photographs of and really liked what I saw.


Excited for my ticket to start in November, I was eager to get some bait together. I had decided to go ahead with a solid-bag approach, not something I’d done much of in the past, but it was soon to become my favourite winter tactic. With this in mind, I filled my bait bucket with Betastim Mini Mix pellets and both PB and Milky Malt wafters, along with some match Liquid Boosters to give some of those bags a kick! 

The essentials required for my winter approach

The time had come for me to load my car and be on my way to the lake for my first session. Setting up, I was excited and had high expectations after watching numerous shows out in front of my chosen swim. 


Whilst having a lead about, it soon became very apparent the topography of the lake was very interesting. I’ve never fished a lake with so many sudden ups and downs, gullies and plateaux, with the odd weedbed thrown in, which of course made it very interesting. I decided to fish at the bottom of one of these drop-offs in around 13-14ft of water on a nice firm bit of silt to present my solid bags. 


Going to bed brimming with confidence, I was a tad disheartened to wake up after a quiet night. Not to worry, though, as I still had one more night ahead of me. Still sticking to the same spots, I was sure they had to do a bite, and come 8pm, they did! At this point I had no idea 8pm bites were to be a common theme in this particular swim, but I ended up having three as part of a short flurry of action. 

Off the mark!

The following week I returned to see the swim I chose to fish previously was free, so after catching out of there before, I headed straight for it. 


Again, with fish showing in front, I was excited to get the rods out. Following the same tactics from the week before, I fired three solid bags on to the spots. 


Like clockwork, at 8pm I was rushed out of my brolly to grab my rod after receiving a screaming take. During the initial run it must have stripped 50 yards of line off me and wouldn’t stop for anything. As you’ll see from the length of it, there’s no wonder it gave me the run-around!

29lb 8oz of hard-fighting common

I went on to land a few smaller commons following this, so packing up the next morning was easy, as I was more than happy with what I’d caught. However, it wasn’t over quite yet. Just as everything was packed down and I reached for my final rod to be reeled in, the clutch started to click and I was into another fish, which turned out to be a lovely, unique-looking common.

A great way to end the session

I made I few more trips after this, managing to get plenty of fish. Although all being small commons, I certainly didn’t mind, as it’s always enjoyable to get a bend in the rod, especially in the winter. 


With some unfavourable weather forecast, I decided to give fishing a rest for a weekend, only to hear that in my absence the Big Scaly had been out. Speaking to a regular who fishes the lake, he went on to tell me, “Yeah, it always seems to come out about this time of year, and then again exactly a week later, before disappearing for ages.”


I think you can imagine what was running through my head at this moment. Yes, I was going make sure I was there fishing a week after its capture!


Sure enough, I arrived at the lake the next week, keeping an eye out as I was setting up. However, to be honest, I wasn’t feeling it, as the lake just looked dead, but I carried on regardless and fired out three bags on to the spots. Going to bed not expecting anything to happen, it was a big surprise when the 8pm bite time produced once again. It was a slow, steady take followed by a sluggish fight, usually a tell-tale sign of a bigger fish. Even still, I could not believe what I saw when a fish slid over the come up for the net… it was the Big Scaly! After quickly securing it safely, I could hardly contain my excitement and had to call a few friends before doing the photos. 

The quest for Big Scaly was over!

After the scaly beauty, the action didn’t stop there and I had another awesome-looking carp the following morning. I went on to land a total of nine fish that session. It just goes to show that sometimes things happen when you least expect it and the carp write the rules.

Another awesome fish the morning after Big Scaly

After then I had another few weeks away from the lake and decided to come back again over the Christmas holidays. Much to my amazement, I only went and landed my target fish yet again! I usually wouldn’t bother much about recaptures, but I was just as blown away with this fish the second time I had it on the bank, especially as this time it was in the day, so I was able to appreciate it in all her winter colours. 

What a carp!

I still returned to the lake multiple times after this and enjoyed every session. I found the lake would turn on and off like a switch and each week would be different. I’d always go by how the lake was fishing by asking the bailiff or fellow anglers. If it was fishing well, I’d apply a bed of bait over my bags, usually being 6mm Betastim pellets and NuttaS chops. But funnily enough, I’d sometimes have more success when the lake was fishing poor. In this situation I’d only offer the contents of my solid bags and my high-attract hookbaits with nothing else over the top. On occasions I’d even have double takes, receiving a triple take during one hectic moment. 


It just goes to show how much of a deadly tactic solid-bag fishing really is. I’ve learned they open you up to many opportunities, from getting a quick bite in tough conditions to casting to showing fish. You just know if a fish comes across it, your bait is presented well and it’s getting hooked!


Another memorable capture was an outrageously orange common that I’d spotted in the snags after a walk around the lake. It must have only taken half an hour before it couldn’t resist my high-attract bag! 

Another solid-bag victim

I will definitely be re-joining next winter in the hope of catching one of the big commons that reside in the lake. Although with the longer nights and sometimes uncomfortable weather, I’ve learned that if you pick the right venue, getting your baiting approach and, of course, location right, winter fishing can be a lot of fun and there’s plenty of action to be had! 


Obviously I love the long, warm days, summer barbeques and lakes thriving with life, but I’m never sad to see those last few leaves hit the ground at the end of autumn, signifying the star of a new winter campaign.


A few more fish from my winter on Booneys…