Features: Tactics

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One Bite Wonder

Even though most of my sessions involve arriving in the dark, street lights mean you can still spot signs of carp showing

Mr Urban Banx explains how he beats the winter blues to keep catching in the cold – and without a big money syndicate ticket in sight!

Anyone who has followed the Urban Banx series will see more clearly than ever that carp are all over the place, and the more you dig around for information the more you’ll be amazed at the free fishing on offer.

Canals and rivers offer much more consistent fishing than stillwaters during the colder months
Urban Banx should have encouraged everyone to look about – carp get in all sorts of places!

I’m not one for fighting for a swim on a well stocked ticket fishery; in cold weather you’ll find me in a park or on a river or canal. Most of my winter fishing is on small stretches of canal or river, and with a little scouting you can find some amazing places to fish, and mostly you don’t have to pay either. Experience says that carp living in rivers and canals stay much more active. With boat traffic and the flow, a carp can’t sit dormant for days on end in the same area under a snag tree where no one can fish for it. When a lake has shut up shop for the winter, canals and rivers still produce bites even when the temperature plummets.

Most of my fishing is short session angling between work commitments. If it’s in between tackle shows or I’m stopping overnight to break up a long journey, I like the sense of adventure that finding and fishing new spots gives me. Most of the time I’m turning up to a venue in the dark and it’s normally a piece of water that I haven’t seen before. Local knowledge is always the biggest help trying to locate a few fish, but also just walking the venue will show areas that look more promising. You might even hear one show itself in the dark.

As most of my fishing is done in the hours of darkness I need everything organized and working for me. Location and the bait play a big part, but also presentation, so that from the moment my leads hit the water I’m fishing with the best possible chance of a bite.

So much water, so much free fishing and carp everywhere if you are prepared to look!
A combination of my favourite carp baits: bread, maggots, Citruz, fizzing stick mix and hemp
High attract but virtually no food – the perfect one bite approach for winter

Use your loaf!

Most anglers shun the attention of bream and other nuisance fish, but I am convinced that they play a big part in getting any carp interested in feeding, particularly on venues that don’t see a lot of anglers. I have some go-to ingredients that help get fish feeding in even the coldest conditions. All are great fish catchers, but when you put them all together there isn’t a carp on earth that could turn them down. Their job is to get one bite from a place I have often never fished.

Bread is my all-time number one. Most well trodden park lakes and canals have some sort of bird feeding area. Even if there’s not an ‘official’ bird feeding area, you know that some areas of canals and rivers will always attract bread throwers, which makes it the most regular food source for a fish and one they don’t view at all suspiciously.

My high attract mix starts with mashing bread into a slop by adding water. I then add maggots and hemp, because they always get a feeding reaction. To add a signature to the mix I blend some Citruz boilies to crumb and add a little dose of the matching fizzing stick mix for that highly visual, bright pink element to the mix. The finished mix can be hand fed, spodded or dropped out of a baiting spoon on to a far margin with next to no disturbance. The baiting spoon is by far my favourite method of applying a sloppy winter mix, allowing me to get a hookbait perfectly over the top. You get more bites because the fish have no choice but to feed over the rig. With little in the way of solid food particles it’s an attractor mix, like a matchman’s cloud groundbait. The result is enough stimulation to get fish looking around, without taking too long for a bite, which is ideal! The only larger items are a smattering of 10mm Citruz boilies and my hookbait and PVA bag over the top. Citruz has become my go-to boilie over the last couple of years. I never leave without a bag simply because every carp I have fished for likes it.

This common was part of a multiple catch from a marina in horrible conditions

Simple and reliable

The carp I’m trying to catch aren’t riggy like they are on hard-fished waters, so strong, reliable and simple to tie is the order of the day. I don’t want to lose anything I hook from a breakage, but equally I want to be able to tie a few rigs in the car while travelling. The chod rig is my go-to rig for light baiting with boilies, but for fishing over high attract slop a simple blow-out rig with a Cultured hookbait is perfect, producing clouds of attraction as it breaks down, pulling fish in to feed.

I want my rigs and baits to work over multiple venues and they can do just that. Rivers and canals are similar, although you rarely have to contend with any sort of flow on a canal unless you are fishing an inlet. The flow of a river might lead me to lengthen my hooklinks and up my lead size if the flow is relatively fast, but it’s all just about fishing to the conditions, like you would on a lake. Again, the golden rule is keep it simple. If you get such a potent handful of feed in the right place you are going to get a bite, and probably quickly. To me that’s more exciting than camping out in a bivvy on a circuit water through a long dark winter.

If you are stuck in a rut struggling to get a bite on your local venue, get yourself on Google Earth and check out all the water around you. You could be surprised that after just a couple of trips you find somewhere to give you a little winter buzz – and that’s what I do it for!

A lovely cold water carp caught quickly over a handful of bread-based slop

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