Let’s face it, long sessions aren’t everyone’s cup of tea at this time of year, so how does one of the UK’s top carpers, Steve Spurgeon, go about catching on shorter, day-only trips?

1 - Location Is Everything

Let’s start with setting your goals for the session and, perhaps, your campaign. Are you just going to flit from one water to another and have the odd day session here and there, or is it going to be a regular thing to the same water?

Whichever you decide, venue choice is vital. I have been doing quite a few short sessions, anything from a few evening hours through to full days from dawn til dusk, on Braxted Fishery’s Reservoir. This lake has a good head of carp and offers the real chance of a few winter bites. Although there are a lot of newer stockies around 6-10lb there are also a lot of doubles and 20-pounders. It’s the perfect venue for some winter fishing and is days-only, so there are no cold, uncomfortable nights for me at this time of year. Finding yourself a similar venue – this one is on a Chelmsford club ticket, but everybody should have something similar somewhere near them. It’s really not about fishing huge, under-stocked waters at this time of year, unless you’re either hardcore or insane, which are probably the same thing!

Let’s assume that you are going to visit the venue regularly over the winter months. It’s going to pay dividends getting to know the place and making notes, which I do on my Swim Mapper. This will save you a lot of time and effort on your next trips. Today is a typical example of a cold, wintry day which, although clear at the moment, has a forecast of a fair few inches of snow later on, the first snow of the year in fact. When I arrived, the wind was bitterly cold and blowing from the East, usually the coldest winds we get in winter. So, the east bank was the most obvious option, as the fish were almost certainly going to back off the cold blow. Although the sun would not hit this bank until much later on, if at all, I figured that the coldest water would be on the far side, and the carp would not find it too comfortable on that side of the lake.

The lake isn’t particularly big so I could always make a longer cast, or move if I felt the need later in the day, provided nobody else turned up and fished the opposite swims. So, I chose the first swim on the east bank, from which I knew a few spots already and I wasted no time in getting set up, still in total darkness. The carp on this lake, while numerous, tend not to move around all that much in the colder months, and you’ll find this is the case on most venues. The swim I’d chosen gave me lots of options, including the deeper areas of water where I think the carp often hang out, although I could move easily along the east bank if I needed to, which we’ll get to later. While in the swim, however, I make every effort to watch and listen for carp. If you’re setting up in the dark you’ll be amazed at how your lack of vision heightens your other senses and you’ll be able to hear any carp crashing, and pinpoint their location, even if you can’t see them.