END OF THE FALL
October proved to be an amazing month with myself and my fishing companions landing over ten thirty pound carp and two forties! A lot of factors went into this success, non less important than working hard in previous sessions to locate feeding areas and finely honing our baiting approach. Having confidence in my bait and rigs is very important to me as it leaves me to concentrate solely on finding the fish. I finished the month with one of my best captures of the past 20 years, managing to land a 43lb Linear from a water that I consider to be a head banger.
As we moved into November the weather in the North East became very unsettled with some days being in the 30’s and some as high as the 60’s. This meant the fishing suffered as a result and unlike previous years where I would start to target my winter spots, instead I had to look for a few other areas that might produce before the winter really arrived. I made a couple trips to areas I had fished in October but soon cut them short as it was obvious the fish were no longer around. I decided instead to spend two trips fishing an area where I could test a home-made soluble boilie and also catch plenty of fish. I made up a couple of batches of bait and planned my sessions.
The sessions proved to be a success with over 30 carp landed. I was also very happy with the bait as it was more successful than I initially envisioned. The breakdown time was less than 3 hours and to make up a couple of kilo’s only took about 45 minutes. While I wasn’t fishing for large carp, the area was very popular and the fish are probably some of the ‘riggiest’ carp I have come across in the USA. As a result it is a good location to work on refining my rigs and baiting approach. The lessons learnt from these carp come in handy when targeting bigger fish that start to exhibit some of the same wariness to baits and rigs and it usually means I can stay one step ahead of the fish and change tactics if and when I need to do so. There are a lot of ‘instant’ carp anglers who want to catch big fish straight from the off, but they would be far better served catching numbers of smaller fish and serving an apprenticeship of sorts. I see a lot of anglers constantly changing baits, recasting too often and similar. Once you catch a number of smaller carp on varying tactics you gain a lot of experience and confidence as to what works and what does not work.
With the winter fast approaching I am always amazed when other anglers comment on how they are packing away their tackle for several months until the spring!! Sometimes this is due to not wanting to fish in extreme conditions but I honestly think that 90% of US Carper’s believe carp cannot be caught below a certain temperature. If you are one of these anglers, let me assure you that carp can be caught in any conditions! It just takes time and effort and as such it is very rewarding when you achieve success. While some areas will completely ‘ice out’ there will always be rivers or warm water outlets where you can tempt a fish or two. I have even caught carp under the ice or when I have had to break the ice just to cast a line into the water. Some of my most memorable sessions have taken place in the winter and I urge you to get out a few times and try it yourself.
My first session of the winter was planned for December 1st, which coincided with a very cold weather prediction. I had previously thought I would travel up to the St. Lawrence but as Craig was planning to fish as well a closer location was chosen. We settled on the Seneca River and Lake Onondaga as this is an area where Craig had received good success in the previous winter. Unfortunately, Craig was delayed so I was to spend the first 24 hours fishing on my own. Not wanting to set up a bivvy I chose a spot that was accessible by car and made the 4 hour journey to the river. I set up slowly during the daylight and baited fairly heavily for this time of year! I was pretty sure no one had fished the area for a few weeks and I was also sure that if there were carp in the swim they would respond to some bait. I was also using a mixture of home made soluble boilies and Dynamite boilies, so the breakdown times would vary. A few hours into darkness, with the snow gathering around me and the temperature dropping the carp started to feed!
From 6pm until around 11pm I landed six fish with a few nice twenties amongst them. I was using some new Dynamite hook baits and was very happy they were all working. I know a lot of carpers fine down their approach in the winter using smaller baits and hooks, but I was doing the opposite. My baiting approach was to use 20mm and bigger baits as I wanted the fish to find them easily. I was also using boilies only, with no particles at all. Rig wise I was using either two 20mm bottom baits or a snowman, consisting of a 20mm bottom bait and a 15mm fluro pop-up. As such, my hook sizes were also bigger with size 4’s or 6’s Ashima’s (C900 and C887). The approach definitely worked as the action was consistent throughout the whole trip.
The action slowed down after 11pm and I managed to stay warm in my car until I was awoken at 4.30am by another low twenty. I took a quick picture and returned the fish safely back to it’s watery home. At this point the unhooking mat, sling and net were all frozen solid! I recast and rebaited and then got back into my sleeping bag to warm up. Just over an hour later the left hand rod tore off and after a steady, slow fight I netted a 30lb plus common. I was chuffed as I had set myself a target of ten winter twenties and one thirty and it looked like I might achieve all of them in my first session! The fish was quickly weighted (33lb 5oz) and I took a few self takes with the camera as although it was only one hour until first light the water was relatively shallow and I did not want to risk the safety of the fish. It doesn’t take too long to master taking pictures on your own. You just need a half decent camera with a self take function (mine has a nice multi picture setting, but was under $150) and a tripod.
Once the morning arrived I packed up and moved perhaps half a mile to the mouth of the river and lake as I knew this was a decent day time spot. Prior to leaving I baited up the current spot with around 2kg of boilies in preparation of fishing the area for another night. It was still very cold (23 degrees) and by around 10am I was fishing off of a rocky point. It was pretty precarious as the rocks had lots of gaps between then and they were covered in fresh snow!
I was waiting for Craig to arrive with breakfast and was not really expecting any action until the sun broke through, but over the next couple of hours I landed five carp. They were all 15 to 19lb’s but I was happy with the action and even had two on at the same time.
Craig arrived around noon and with him another local angler. Over the course of the next five hours we landed over twenty fish between us and although most were mid and upper doubles we did manage a few nice twenties as well. Again, I kept bait going in after each fish, probably using a good 1kg of bait throughout the day but it seemed to work as I had over a dozen fish from less than seven hours fishing. We packed up just into darkness and made our way back to my first swim.
We quickly set up and within minutes of casting out we were both getting line bites. It was clear that there were fish in the area and that they were active. The decision to bait fairly heavily looked like it was going to pay off so it was now just a matter of waiting to see what we would catch. After an hour or so Craig landed his first fish, a 25lb common with a massive head. As he was unhooking this fish I also hooked into a fish and in short order we had a brace of mid twenties on the bank, my own a fat 27lb common.
The rest of the night was hectic with Craig having several fish up to 4am when he landed a rare mirror. His action slowed after the mirror, but my swim took off. Between 4am and 7am I landed seven more fish and unhooked them all in the water, returning a couple of nice twenties without a photo, as I was too tired! We fished the next morning off the opposite side of the rocks, but as it was raining I decided to leave early and make the long trek home.
On the long drive home I reflected on my first winter session. I had caught over 30 carp and had done so on a number of new baits. My goals for the winter had all been achieved (10 x twenty/1 x thirty) and I decided to reevaluate. In previous winters I had chased numbers of fish caught, with 2011/2 bringing over 200 carp and this year I had wanted quality over quantity. I decided that I would fish at least two new waters over the winter and also pick two more trips where I would have the opportunity to catch large (25lb+) carp. The first of these was set as I was entered to fish in the Austin ATC which would leave me one more venue to target. For the next month I would fish a few short day sessions just to get out, before targeting my chosen waters in January when hopefully the winter weather would be settled and the fish waiting for me.