Greg Ellis is finding it tough going at the moment.
Well, what can I say about this autumn we’re having at the moment? It’s been a struggle to say the least, and judging from other anglers I know and gathering information from them, it’s not just my water that seems to have gone all freakishly weird for the time of the year. It seems like most waters up and down the country have gone into some sort of shutdown. We had a mild winter last year and I remember packing up my gear on Christmas Day to pop home for dinner and there were daffodils growing behind my swim... yes, you read that right: daffodils! Last winter also produced a lot of big fish and even a new British record, so maybe this is payback from having it so good last year.
I’m intrigued to find out how this winter’s campaign is going to unfold, but so far I’m starting to think I’m going to be in for a rough ride.
The carp in my water seem to be fairly active, by which I mean they’re not localised and holding up in their favourite cold water areas of the lake as you’d most probably expect to find them at the moment. Maybe when we get some consistent frosts on a regular basis they’ll start to venture into those areas and stay there for the duration... maybe. They’re not showing themselves regularly and location is key right now. As the weed has died off and they’ve lost the hideouts they’ve been loving over the warmer months, they are now quite reliant on the wind, just as they were in the spring. I’ve recently done my annual week-long session on Kingsmead 1 and found this to be the case a few times. Showing up on the end of new winds and spotting a couple of subtle shows just to mark their presence, sometimes in the most unlikely areas that you’d not expect to find them, I had to be on the ball big time and I worked hard for what I caught. Searching day and night and keeping mobile to give myself the best possible chance of staying on the fish at all times paid off in the end with four bites and three fish landed in my seven nights. That doesn’t sound a lot, but it was good going for how it’s been fishing of late, and I was made up with the end result.
My baiting at this time of the year is completely different to how I’d go about doing it at other times of year. A top tip for letting you know how much bait to put in at the start of a session or throughout the course of your session is to let the carp do the talking. By that I mean you just have to look at recent captures and how they’ve been behaving or feeding prior to your arrival. On highly stocked waters you’d be able to give them some more bait no doubt, but I’m fishing for one bite at a time as we approach the winter months, and I’m trying to set out my plans as to where I want to be concentrating my efforts in the coming months. If there’s been a few fish out and you know they’ve been feeding then you can give them some bait, but the chances are that they’ve not been up to much and the lake has maybe done one or two bites, even with anglers on and off all week.
I fish weekends usually, but I have friends who fish midweek, so I can keep in contact with what’s going on when I’m not there. Staying in contact with the place and finding out what has been happening in my absence plays a big part in my angling at this time of the year. I’m lucky to have a good bunch of anglers on my syndicate and we all try to help when we can, within reason.
I usually turn up in the dark on a Friday night and a scattering of baits with a catapult or throwing stick, depending on the range, is fine for starters; a few handfuls on the spot is good enough for me. Obviously during the session and during the daylight hours I have no option but to use a Spomb due to the birdlife, mainly the seagulls. Three to four Midi Spombs does me well and my recent results have told me that this is quite enough bait at the moment. Over my week I experimented a little and to be fair it was pretty noticeable that the more bait I put in the less chance of a bite it had. Less is more, as they say, and this is definitely the case at the moment. It’s good to keep the bait going regularly into certain areas to try and keep the fish active and feeding, but you have to do it sensibly and know your limits. Overfeeding can be a killer and you’re only going to ruin it for yourself in the long run.
I’ve done well on pop-ups in the late autumn; this is the time I like to incorporate them into my angling. With all of the bottom debris from the leaves falling from trees and covering pretty much the whole of the lake bed, they can really come into their own and nick you a few bites. I fish snowman hookbaits at the moment with a small stick mix to mask the hook point and that’s been doing me bites for the time being, but I know they’ll start to fizzle out soon. Pop-ups are my favoured approach due to previous winter results, so I’m just waiting for the right time to convert over to all three rods on this method. I like to boost my pop-ups with a little attraction and soak them for that extra kick, a great single hookbait approach for whether I’m casting at showing fish or looking at trying to nick a quick bite on a hard day. Sometimes that single cast can make all the difference between a productive session and the dreaded blank.