The scene was set. It was the second week of January, just four days before my birthday. I had a quick look at the weather and snow was forecast for the day of my birthday. Not the best conditions for angling I would agree but it has always been an ambition of mine to catch a 30Lb carp in the snow and with the white stuff forecast on my birthday, the scene was set. All I had to do is put myself in the right swim at the right time and I may just have a chance of all my dreams coming true at once. Add to this to the fact that January is the only month in the calendar that I have not managed to catch a carp of 30Lb+. This year my birthday fell on a Tuesday, another bonus seeing as my boss always gives us the day off to go fishing on our birthday, something that I am very thankful for. With my normal days off being Sunday and Monday, I could squeeze a three nighter in. I hadn’t been out carp fishing for a while and I just had that feeling that this session was going to be a special one.
My chosen venue for my bumper birthday session was Orchid lakes set in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside. Although I have spent most of my life fishing in Oxfordshire, Orchid is a venue which I have never really got round to fishing. I had only done one session in February 2012 and managed to sneak out a 21Lb just two days after the lake had de-frosted. Orchid is a venue which has been on the back burner for me for many years and this year I decided I would squeeze a few winter sessions in the try and figure the lake out a little with the aim of fishing it more the following winter. The lake which is aptly know as “home of the thirties” has a fantastic winter track record and had fished well over the festive period throwing up a good number of low thirties.
Again, big thanks goes to my boss for letting me sneak out of work an hour early on Saturday to ensure I arrived at Orchid before the gates closed. I managed to get there just before darkness and seen a fish show straight away. I set up in Chris’s bar; it was as close as I could get to the fish that showed seeing as it was fairly busy. The night passed uneventfully and was very cold. The morning was greeted with clear skies and with it being Sunday, I knew most of the anglers would be off so I needed to find the fish and get on them. Nothing was caught during the night. I was up before first light knowing the importance of watching the water. More often than not in winter, just one fish showing is more than enough to reveal the location of many more as they often shoal up.
7.30am and the sun had barely broken the horizon and I saw the inspiring sight of a winter carp slip free of the water and gently return down the same hole. I quickly ran up the bank trying to get a fixing on its position. It was pretty obvious that it was more out in front of a swim called new middles, a swim which was being vacated in a couple of hours. I quickly packed up my gear and was round there within thirty minutes, just in time to savour the magical moment another scaly lump rolled right in the middle of the swim at around 80 yards.
I lined it up with a far bank marker and I could just feel that everything was falling into place. Dean vacated the swim at 9.30am and I was straight out with the marker float. It is always a gamble thrashing the lake when you are on fish but I knew I had to find the perfect spot as I intended to take a gamble and put some bait in. After a few casts with the marker and accurate plumbing I found a spot that was lovely clean gravel with the odd freshwater clam on it. And more importantly it was 1.5 foot shallower than the surrounding area which was siltier. The shallower spot was exactly where the fish had showed and just screamed out as being the perfect spot for a bite or two. I knew I had got one of the most important parts of winter fishing right – ‘location’. I was on them and had found the perfect spot. The second important factor with winter fishing is getting the bait right. And for this session I had put my faith in CCMoore Live System. I had a mixture of 10mm, 15mm and 18mm baits and put out around 1kg to start with using a spomb. I kept the bait fairly tight and spread it over a two rod length square, basically the size of the shallower bar. By the time I was settled in and the bivvy was up with the rods out it was 11am. My good friend Bart was fishing with Nathan over the far side in the Alamo and were packing up to come and sit with me for a bit before they departed.
Bait photo (right) – “I had done the hard work of getting on them, now it was time to let the bait do the rest of the work”
The rods were only out for less than two hours and the right hander dropped back and then pulled up again. It was a twitchy bream type bite and as I picked the rod up I didn’t expect to feel much resistance but much to my surprise the rod hooped over and an angry carp powerfully kited up the lake. I really couldn’t believe that I was doing battle with a carp so soon! Bart arrived in the swim right on cue to do the honours with the net and I was soon posing with a stunning 24Lb 4oz mirror. With the rod back out on the spot in no time, I received another take just an hour later. Another cracking battle resulted in the 24Lb 8oz dumpy mirror on the bank.
Pic of 24.4- “A move onto showing fish and a 24Lber is in the net two hours later”
Pic of 24.8- “A lovely dumpy fish of 24Lb 8oz”
I knew I had got the location right and now the bait was paying dividends and doing the rest of the work. I was fishing Live System cork ball pop ups on hinged stiff links. I prefer to use cork ballers as they are rock hard, always remain consistent in their buoyancy and are identical in colour to the freebies offered. I gave the swim a top up with another kilo of mixed sized Live System boilies and got the rods set for the night. On darkness I saw another three fish show bang on the bait and it was obvious that I was going to catch.
Rig photo- “The best winter bait there is??”
I woke in the early hours of Monday morning on the eve of my birthday to a light sprinkling of show gently fluttering from the darkness. As I shone my head torch I could see it was beginning to settle too. It was around 3am and I was as excited as a kid at Christmas and was sat there willing it to settle. In fact I stayed awake for the rest of the night monitoring its progress.
A single bleep at 6.45am was followed by a slow and steady one toner as my Live System cork ball pop up had been snaffled up by an angry carp. I felt the crunch of the snow under my boots and as I picked up the rod, my hands were freezing as I dusted the snow off my reels. The fish took line steadily and stayed deep and plodded around with such power. It felt like a good one. The light was just emerging but it was still too dark to see without the head torch. As I guided the fish in closed she rolled about 15 yards out and she looked big. As I got her in close she powered her way into the reeds down to my right and I could see her huge frame led on her side in the reeds. I managed to slip the net under the bulk of her body but the reeds were in the way and I knew she still had a chance of escaping until her head was in the net. I had to pile on the pressure to turn her head and once she was in the net I realised one of my lifetime ambitions had been achieved. I was certain that I was looking at a 30Lb+ carp in the bottom of my net with the ground covered in snow. The scales confirmed my dreams as the needle settled on 36Lb 6oz. It was the biggest fish to come out of Orchid for 8 months! I slipped her into the net and rang Marsh Pratley who photographs every fish over 30Lb no matter what time of day or night it is caught. He told me to secure it into a recovery sling and he would be round within the hour.
I checked the hook point and cast the hinged stiff rig back onto the spot with perfect accuracy first time. The Live System Cork ball hookbaits are rock hard and literally last for ages before they need changing. I just give them a quick dip in the Live System bait dip before casting out to give an instant boost of attraction. I had just put the kettle on and my right hand spool spun into action firing the snow that had built up on the spool all over the place. The alarm was frozen and didn’t even register a bleep. I hit into a solid resistance and after a few nods of the head the fish she the hook and escaped. Moments later Marsh turned up and we got the photos of the 36Lber done and slipped her back to make someone else’s dream come true in the future. Marsh recognised the fish as one called Big Ron and she looked stunning in the full winter colours. It was a dream come true to catch such a stunning carp in the snow and the fact that it was the day before my 29th birthday made it the perfect early birthday present.
Pic of 36Lber- “All my dreams had come true at once, a 36Lb 6oz mirror in the snow the day before my birthday”
The session wasn’t over yet. I still had till the following afternoon and just knew they were well up for the bait I was feeding them and there was surely more fish to come, hopefully a birthday 30!
The day was quiet until I received a take which peeled off a bit of line before stopping. I had clearly been done but a wary Orchid old warrior. I topped up with another Kilo of Live System before dark and set the traps hoping to catch my first ever birthday carp.
I dozed off at about 10pm only to be woken up to a one toner not long after. After I picked the rod up and came around, I had a quick look at my watch and it was 29 past midnight. I chuckled to myself as I realised I had been 29 years old for only 29 minutes and I was doing battle with a carp in freezing conditions. “Perhaps it is a 29Lber I thought??” It wasn’t to be as it was only a mid double but still my first ever birthday carp. With the hinged stiff link back out on the spot I retreated to the warmth of my sleeping bag for a few hours kip.
I was up at the crack of dawn and as the first birthday txts came through on my phone I was greeted to yet another one toner. This time she came in fairly easy and everything went to plan. My fingers were crossed for a birthday 30Lber. It turned out to be a fish of 26Lb on the nose, absolutely gorgeous in her winter colours. It was my 5th and last fish in one of the most memorable session I have ever had.
Pic of 26Lber- “A stunning 26Lber on my birthday”
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