Former British Carp Champion and Fox-sponsored angler, Luke Church puts pen to paper for his first blog instalment of 2017...

I have been really looking forward to writing these blogs, not only so I can share my angling season and adventures with everybody, but also to hopefully help some other anglers who may be able to pick up some hints and tips along the way.

I want to start off the main part of my blog by discussing what has to have been quite possibly the worst autumn/winter to date for fishing and the lack of results, not only just for me but lots of other anglers have shared the same opinion experiencing the exact same thing. Personally October through to the end of January can only really be described as desolate. Early Autumn the weather took a turn for the worse bringing in lots of cold northerly winds and high pressure which stayed for quite some time leading to the Carp quickly changing their behaviour and becoming quite elusive up and down the country moving into the winter months. It was the complete opposite to what happened last year when ‘Storm Katrina’ kept the temperatures well above average and the Carp evidently enjoyed the unseasonable weather resulting in numerous big fish captures all the way up to Christmas 2015. I ask myself apart from the appalling weather systems that have contributed, did last year’s unusual mildness contribute to the fact this past winter was so woeful?

The lakes I had planned to fish throughout the winter had become very difficult only producing a handful of fish with plenty of anglers trying their hand at catching them. Both lakes have never fished so badly in this time, during this period I really struggled and to be truthful the only times I caught fish were when I went to some local runs waters just to get a bend in the rod to keep me sane at times! I always knew that soon enough the Carp would have to feed and I was hoping from February onwards when signs of spring started to show with the days getting longer and the sun becoming warmer things would start to change and that they certainly did.

I was mainly focusing my efforts on fishing at Airfields lakes Mustang Lake. A beautiful and exciting venue which holds in excess of over fifty 30lb+ carp with the biggest in there weighing in at an impressive 41lb 5oz. I was fortunate enough to have a winter ticket on there and the ticket was due to finish on the 12th March so over the past four weeks or so I have tried to get down when I can. Due to work commitments working on a Trout Farm the fish need feeding every weekend so I have to make sure I am home or nearby for this, meaning my weekend fishing can be limited especially with some other commitments and a busy lifestyle. I was trying to do an overnighter every other or third week, but even this was difficult at times with it being a 2hr 10minute round trip.

Above: It's important to use a bait you are confident in for winter fishing.

I did manage to get down for two weekends between February and mid-March. The fish started showing themselves in the early part of February after some warm weather fronts came in from the south. After watching the weather carefully I got down the lake on the first weekend of February and I was greeted at the lake to a fierce south easterly wind and temperatures were up a few degrees. I very excitably set up on the front of the wind and I spodded out some Nuttas boilies whole and halved smothered in the matching Hydro Spod Syrup. On dawn the next morning I received my first take from the lake this winter and after a short dogged fight I was very relieved to see a beautiful 25lb 4oz scaly linear in the bottom of my night – a fantastic result and such a rewarding capture since I had put lots of effort in prior to the capture for no return.

Above: A stunning Mustang linear.

My set up comprised of 16lb Trans Khaki Illusion fluorocarbon main line, which was attached to a 4ft of 20lb Trans Khaki Fluorocarbon Leader with an Edges Slik Lead Clip set up. The rig itself was 8 inches of 12lb Trans Khaki Illusion fluorocarbon hooklink tied to one the new Edges Medium Curves hooks in size 7.

Above: For the winter campaign I opted for Illusion Trans Khaki Fluorocarbon main line over normal mono.

Below: Rigs were tied from fluorocarbon with the new Edges Medium Curve hooks.

I stayed on for another night with the hope of some more action but unfortunately after that fish I never received any more activity on the rods. So with the bit between my teeth I was gagging to get back down at the next opportunity. The earliest I could get back to the lake was two weeks later for a weekend session. This was to be my last chance to fish a weekend session on the syndicate as I had other arrangements for my last weekend off, so I was really looking forward to it and hoping the fish would be on the move and starting to look for some grub. Big south westerly’s had been blowing for a few days before my arrival so I was thinking of heading somewhere on the lake where this blows into due to the fact it had finally started to warm up nicely and I was thinking they would be following it. When I arrived it was 14 degree and very much feeling like spring. I managed to get in the swim I wanted and it was looking good, I baited my spots and sat it out for the weekend. The lake was relatively busy and nothing had showed or been caught by the Sunday morning. I was somewhat confused by this considering the weather was bang on for it. With nothing to lose there was a margin to my right that hadn’t been fished all weekend so I decided to chuck a Switch Wafter with a small PVA mesh bag of crushed boilies dunked in the Spod Syrup along to the margin on the off chance of a few fish could be laying up in the quiet water. Low and behold within half an hour I was away, the fish was staying very deep and plodding slowly, at this point I was definitely thinking I was hooked into one of the larger residents in the lake. Thankfully after a spirited fight the fish rolled over the net cord and weighed in at 33lb 4oz – huge result! I did some quick snaps with the lovely deep bodied mirror and slipped it back.

Below: 33lb 4oz of Mustang chunk!

I soon got the rod back on the spot and within 15 minutes I was away again, this time resulting in one of the stunning scaly stockies which were introduced in November weighing in at 21lb 14oz. My set up was exactly the same as when I had caught the 25lber a few weeks back.  I was very pleased to say the least. I sat it out for the rest of the day praying for another bite but it never came but I left the lake a very happy angler.

Above: A stunning scaly stockie.

Upon seeing ‘Storm Doris’ arrive I was thinking of doing an overnighter as I couldn’t ignore the conditions. I managed to do a short night the day before she arrived but only a couple of liners for my efforts. The next day, the peg I left produced the lake record fish – white belly at a very impressive weight of 41lb 5oz. The conditions were just right and it seemed like Doris had woken up the fish across the country, which lots of chunks gracing the banks. After this I only managed one more quick night at the lake before the end of the syndicate which also didn’t result in any action but I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on there and that’s carp fishing, you can’t catch them every time.

That concludes my blog for this month; I hope you have enjoyed reading it. For the rest of March I will be fishing on my other syndicate water West Stow before the ticket runs out at the end of the month so my next blog I will be writing about how I got on. As I have been writing this the sun has been beaming down with lots of warmth, this is without doubt my favorite time of the year to be out on the bank and I can’t wait to be out again.

Be lucky!

Luke Church