Winter-Ticket Carping

  • Posted: 1st March 2019
  • Author: Jack Barber

When November came around, it was time for me to start fishing my chosen winter syndicate. I had fished the lake a few times during the warmer months, so already had a bit of knowledge about the lake itself. I knew the lake had good winter form and held a decent stock of fish, so thought it would be an ideal water to bag a few fish throughout the colder months.

My first chance to get down the lake was the opening weekend in November. With a few spots already in mind, I could turn up in the dark after work and still fish effectively, which is what I did on the Friday night. I placed the rods out on maggot tactics with a small amount of 8mm and crumbed-up Switch boilies scattered around the area. The next two nights were very uneventful, with no sightings of any fish, although my friend did manage to catch in the peg next to me. For the final afternoon I moved swim and managed to winkle out a mid-double mirror at the death.

My first fish of the winter

My next two sessions were day sessions, the first of which was very quiet, although I did spot a few fish in different areas. Despite moving swim several times, however, nothing occurred. The next day session I set up after seeing a fish show in a small corner of the lake. The rods went out with two on short zigs and the other on the simple maggot tactic.

Maggot tactics

The peg went quiet, so I decided on a move further down the lake, having not been in the peg five minutes. I saw a fish show the next swim down and without hesitation the rods were wound in and I ran down with a single rod with a short 3ft zig attached. A couple of minutes passed before the rod was away! After a lengthy battle, a low-twenty mirror went in the net, a perfect example of when keeping mobile definitely paid off.

My first twenty of the winter

I couldn’t get down to the lake for the next few weeks due to work commitments, but managed to get a night in just before Christmas. I set up after work in the dark and rain and it wasn’t until the next morning before I heard a fish show, but that was up the other end of the lake. I packed up quickly and moved up there. I found several fish cruising around just under the surface in a snaggy tree down my right-hand margin. I quietly put two rods on zigs and got them in place. A couple of hours passed before the right-hand rod closest to the snag signalled a twitchy take, which resulted in a low-double common. It wasn’t long before the other rod in the same area ripped off with an awesome scaly mirror on the end.

I hadn’t realised it at the time, but catching those few fish on short zigs smothered in Sticky Sweet liquid had shown me the way to get amongst the fish this winter!

The Sticky Sweet was to play a big role in my winter angling

On my next session to the lake, I set up on the end of a mildly warm south-westerly wind, putting out short zigs of various colours and depths on all three rods. The first night passed quietly with no takes, but I did have a few liners, which convinced me stay put for the second night. Shortly into dark the first rod ticked away and I landed a wicked scraper-twenty common! Over the course of the night and next day I managed four more fish all from the same spot under a snaggy tree, all on short 2ft zigs covered in Sticky Sweet.

My second twenty of the winter

Two weeks later, I turned up again after dark to be met by a partly frozen lake. Unsurprisingly, there were no signs of fish and nothing to go on. Prior to this session the lake had been frozen solid for around a week, so I wasn’t expecting much to happen. Luckily the peg I’d caught fish from previously was free of ice, so I set up in there.

The first night was dead, as I expected, so the next day I moved around the lake with minimal tackle and just the rods. Nothing came from it, but a friend spotted a fish in the corner of the lake where I was originally fishing, so I instantly packed up and moved back round there. I put the banker rod under the snaggy tree where I had caught on previous sessions and it didn’t take long before it was signalling a twitchy take. A low-double mirror eventually hit the bottom of the net and I was more than pleased with the result given the conditions.

The night was quiet again and so was the morning, but just as I was starting to pack up, the same rod was away again with a mid-double common on the end. A lovely fish and a great way to end a tough session.

A well-earned mid-double

A week or so later, I got back down the lake for an overnighter, knowing some mega winds and low pressure were due to come in during the night in the form of Storm Eric. I set up in the usual swim, having not seen any signs in any other part of the lake. The night was hairy as I sat on the end of a 50mph wind and rain, and at 7 o’clock the next morning my brolly ended up in the trees behind me! However, shortly after recovering it, my banker rod under the tree ticked away with a lovely scaly mirror on the end, an awesome fish and one well worth a night of no sleep.

A stunning scaly in full winter colours

I didn’t have long left of the winter ticket left, so I put some holidays in at work and planned a three-night session on the last weekend of the ticket. I turned up as usual after work, only this time I could see the lake before darkness set in, and then began setting up in a peg at the top end of the lake. Having seen fish in a couple of areas, I decided this area was best. The weather had been quite warm all week and a few fish had started moving around.

Zig hookbaits soaking in Sticky Sweet

For my first rod I opted for a silty gully, electing to put out a bit of bait and fish my maggot approach over the top. The usual zigs went on the other two rods, fished to some likely looking areas around the island in front of me. A fish showed right over the zig rods and a few hours I bagged my first of the session. During the night and the following morning, I managed several more takes and landed four more fish, two of which scraped over the 20lb barrier, one of them being possibly my favourite fish of the winter – a wicked-looking linear.

My favourite fish of the winter at just over 20lb

Going into my second night, I was confident of some more takes, so rebaited the silty gully spot with a few more Spombs of crumbed 8mm Switch boilies, Crayfish Mini Mix pellets and maggots, all covered in Corn Steep Liquor. I changed my hookbait to a home-made 12mm fruity pop-up and left the zig rods as they were with 2ft zigs soaked in Sticky Sweet. At 1am, the bottom-bait rod ripped off with a chunky mirror, a great result on my first batch of home-made pop ups!

Home-made pop-ups over crumbed-up Switch

I topped up the spot and got the rod back out, but the following morning was quiet. My final night on the lake was drawing in, but with signs of fish in my peg, I decided to stay put.

The last session of my winter campaign

The zigs rods were back in position and the deeper gully spot was topped back up with a few more Spombs of bait ready for the night ahead. Fish were showing in my swim until the early hours, so to wake up without a take was a surprise. However, it hasn’t been light long when the middle rod pulled up tight. After a short fight I landed what was to be my last fish of the winter syndicate ticket. It was a lovely scaly mirror and an awesome way to end the campaign. All in all, I had a great winter and was glad I managed to get amongst a few decent fish.

Now, roll on the spring!

The swim that did most of my bites