Patience is the key

The colourful scene belies just how harsh the conditions were

It’s an old saying that patience is a virtue and it’s one that comes in very handy at times in carp fishing, says Steve Briggs.

I can say without much doubt that having a lack of patience has cost me a fish or two (probably several) in the past. As time has gone on, however, I have found it easier to sit on my hands when needed, and my latest trip was certainly one where it paid off.

Fishing at this time of year in very cold water conditions is never going to be all-systems-go unless you’re fishing somewhere heavily stocked with smaller fish. For the most part it requires getting tactics right and then hoping that the fish are going to play their part. This trip to Rainbow was actually one that I turned down to begin with, as various shows need to be attended and I’d have to miss one or the other. As the time drew nearer, however, the urge to get the rods out again won the day – like it normally does!

Using the Key in its various forms gave me small amounts of quality and attraction
The new Cultured Key hookbaits have been very effective wherever I’ve taken them

I knew what I’d be heading into. It had been very cold in the whole area for a couple of weeks with water temperatures struggling to get above five degrees and catches were tailing off rather than picking up. It was going to be tough going and the best-case scenario was that action was going to be thin on the ground. What I needed to do was to make sure that I was fishing as well as I could, meaning a bait that the fish would find attractive enough to pick up, even if they weren’t really in a feeding mood – and, of course, the right amounts in the right areas. Last time out I’d used several kilos of bait every time I placed a rod and it had worked well, but this time would need a total rethink in all departments.

My plan was to use small groups of very attractive baits and to leave them in place for as long as possible. Although my use of the new Nashbait, The Key, had been limited, I knew that it was exactly what I was looking for: high quality and very attractive. For hookbaits I once again opted for the Cultured Key, which are best described as wafters with a highly attractive, dissolving paste coating. I’d done very well with those at Villedon previously and I reckoned that they might just give me the edge I was after. They would be fished snowman style with a glugged Key pop-up completing the setup. Freebies would be normal Key in both round and dumbbell shapes.

The rods could be out for several days, so getting everything right was essential
I knew that the Twisters wouldn’t let me down

The depths out in front of my allotted area weren’t great for this time of year, being mainly over 20ft. There were various raised bits and pieces which came up to 15ft or 16ft and, although still on the deep side, they were the best of the options I had. I knew that they were all good producing areas in warmer temperatures, but in such cold conditions I would’ve preferred something perhaps a little shallower. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury.

Each hookbait was baited the same; each one was lowered gently from the boat and then two handfuls of 10mm x 15mm dumbbells were dropped very close around it along with a small sprinkling of hemp. I also dotted around 15 round 20mm Key freebies around the general area, my thinking being that those baits might grab the attention of any fish drifting by and they would be drawn to the active attraction created by the dissolving wafter hookbaits.

I knew it would be a waiting game and that’s how it started to pan out. There were few signs to show whether or not fish were in the area, and one blank day soon turned into two and then three. It’s impossible not to have some doubts about whether or not you have got everything right, but the distinct lack of action elsewhere told me that everyone was in the same situation. I really felt that the longer the baits were there, the more my chances were improving, and if I were to change spots I’d be starting all over again – not to mention creating more baited areas, which was the last thing I wanted when the fish weren’t feeding strongly. When it got to the fifth day, however, my curiosity got the better of me, and I felt I needed to check the hookbaits just to make sure all was okay. All I did was raise each one slowly from the boat and, as it turned out, they were all still in perfect condition, so I did no more than slowly lower them back into position along with a few more freebies.

After five hard days, this really was a sight for sore eyes

That night a big storm arrived with huge northerly winds and I could do no more than retreat into the bivvy and zip the door shut. At first light a short series of bleeps on the R3 got my attention. I thought it could be a branch hitting the line, but sure enough it was a take and there was a solid-feeling lump on the other end. Taking to the boat was out of the question, but thankfully I was fishing the open water spots. Yard by yard I eased the fish back until it was finally within netting range and, wading amongst the waves, I managed to bundle it in to the net. Relief, or what? In the net was a lovely chunky mirror of 47lb 5oz – a sight for sore eyes on that blustery morning!

When the wind relented a little I got the rod straight back out with renewed enthusiasm, and you could’ve knocked me over with a feather when the same rod went off about an hour later! It was a strange take and the fish hardly moved from the spot to begin with, but eventually it waddled off into the deeper water. This time I could use the boat and wasted no time in getting out above the fish, which plodded away down below. I knew the size four Twister would hold, so I just had to be patient. Sure enough, I soon had another chunk in the net. This time it was a really deep-bodied fish of 58½lb and a brilliant surprise.

I knew at the start that it was going to be tough, and that’s how it turned out. Normally, though, over a period of time there will be small windows of opportunity. No matter how small they are, it’s important to be ready for them and to use tactics and baits which are going to entice those tricky fish into making a mistake. It took a few days to come good, but it paid to be patient and to believe in what I was doing, and I left the Lake a happy man!

The deep-bodied 58½lb mirror which made my week complete

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