Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Keeping Warm in Winter

Judging by the quiet banks in winter most carp anglers seem to give up. The last couple of winters have certainly been harsh and I can understand why some anglers pack in fishing but winter is a good time to be out, carp can still be caught and there’s always the advantage of those quiet, angler free banks!. I think the key to winter carp fishing is to enjoy yourself and you can’t do that if you’re cold!. With this in mind I thought I’d take a look at some of the gear I use to keep myself warm on the bank in winter.

Thermal Suit. I have a Sundridge Igloo 3 to keep me warm in winter, I’ve found Sundridge suits to be excellent and the igloo 3 is outstanding. I’ve had this suit for around 6 years now and most winters I only ever need to wear a t-shirt underneath it’s that good!. The igloo 3 is actually a 3 piece suit consisting of the jacket, trousers and a third ‘sleepskin’ layer which is actually a fleece top for sleeping in. I rarely bother doing nights in winter, I prefer to fish short days so I can stay sharp and move around, I wore the third layer the first time I ever wore my igloo 3 and it’s never seen the light of day since because I was too hot!. A thermal suit will probably be the biggest purchase a winter carp angler will make and a Sundridge thermal suit should be top of the list, they are wind proof, water proof and extremely warm, just what you need on a cold winters day!.

Thermal Suits keep you warm no matter how cold it gets!

Buffalo Special 6 Shirt. Buffalo clothing has developed a cult following amongst carp anglers, the shirt is actually part of the buffalo ‘system’ of clothing and it’s the choice of shirt for mountain rescue teams, the armed forces, police surveillance and underwater search teams. Being used by such professionals is all the praise this shirt needs really, it’s a superb garment for the winter carp angler. The special 6 shirt or ‘SP6’ is designed to be worn next to your skin, it works by trapping in your body heat and if you add a layer of clothing underneath it you will actually get colder!. I know a few anglers who don’t wear anything else but a special 6 in winter, imagine that, going out and staying on the bank with a single layer on!, well the special 6 shirt is that good and if you’re going to be outdoors day and night in a bivvy then I’d seriously consider getting one of these!. I actually wear mine under my igloo jacket when the weather is particularly bad and any sane angler is indoors with the central heating on!. The special 6 shirt is incredibly light too.

Buffalo Special 6 Shirt, ideal cold weather clothing for winter carp fishing!

Thermal Fleece Hat. Most of your body heat is lost through your head so it makes sense to wear a thermal fleece hat in winter. I have a couple of fleece hats but the thinsulate fleece hats are the best by far, they are warm and comfortable to wear and I wouldn’t be without one. A fleece hat is probably the cheapest purchase a winter carp angler will make but it’s just as important as everything else when it comes to keeping warm.

Thermal Fleece Hat & Neck Warmer, both helped keep me warm whilst banking this winter lump!

Neck Warmer / Snood. Also known as a ‘snood’, for years I did without a fleece neck warmer and I don’t know why?. There’s nothing worse than getting a cold neck, in extreme circumstances it can be pretty painful as you loose the ability to turn your head when a stiff neck sets in, many times in the past I’ve been struck by a stiff neck and I’ve literally had to turn round just to look sideways because I couldn’t move it. I’m sure you’ve all had this happen at some point!. Since using a fleece neck warmer I’ve not suffered at all and they are a great addition to any anglers cold weather clothing. Coupled with a fleece hat you have some great thermal protection for your head and neck.

Sealskinz Socks. Moving down to your feet, it pays to wear two pairs of socks and I prefer a standard pair of Thermal Socks underneath and a pair of sealskinz socks on top of them. Like the SP6 shirt, sealskinz socks are actually made for outdoor enthusiasts, most notably mountain bikers. Sealskinz socks have also achieved a cult following amongst carp anglers, they are ideal for carp fishing simply because they are waterproof!, you can actually stand in the water with these socks on your feet and you won’t get wet!. For a carp angler running out of his bivvy to hit a run at 2am in the morning when it’s raining, they are perfect, no need to panic trying to get a pair of trainers or thermal boots on. I actually use Sealskinz socks in summer too, coupled with a pair of crocs they are perfect for fishing shallow margin swims where you might need to get your feet wet to net a fish safely. I find the combination of standard thermal socks with a pair of sealskinz socks on top of them really keeps my feet very dry and very warm indeed and if your feet are warm, so are you.

Sealskinz Socks, my first choice for keeping my feet warm in winter!

Skeetex Thermal Boots. A look at winter clothing wouldn’t be complete without some thermal boots. There are many different types of boots and shoes available to the winter carp angler but my choice is Skeetex Thermal Boots, when I say boots I mean the full on Wellington boot style. Skeetex thermal boots have a fleece inner lining and coupled with the two pairs of socks I’ve mentioned above, they offer excellent protection from the cold. I’ve been using skeetex boots for a long long time now and I’d recommend changing the fleece liners in them every few years, a new fleece lining feels like a new pair of boots and you’ll certainly notice the difference between new liners and ones that have seen 3 or 4 winters use.

Sealskinz Socks and Skeetex Thermal Boots, a great combination for keeping your feet warm in winter!


Whitby Hand Warmer. This is a great little device, it runs on lighter fluid and will keep your hands warm for up to 12 hours on a full load, I've done a small video to demonstrate and don't forget to subscribe to my Youtube Channel.

The Whitby Hand Warmer

Gloves. As with the thermal hat I prefer thinsulate thermal gloves to keep my hands warm, I usually just put my hands in the pockets of my thermal suit but I always have a decent pair of gloves in the outer pockets of my suit, you never know when they will come in handy and if it's a particularly cold day thinsulate thermal gloves can be a big help, specially if you've got your hands wet returning a fish!.

Fleece Hoody. I’ve never bothered wearing a hoody for fishing before but a year or two back I got caught out one spring and the weather turned bitterly cold, I ended up borrowing a fleece hoody to try and keep myself warm and since then I’ve bought a few myself. I don’t buy branded fleece hoodies, just a plain one for £10 or £15 off eBay is enough, for Spring and Autumn when a t-shirt leaves you too cold and a thermal suit is too warm, I find a fleece hoody fills the gap very well and I always make sure there’s one in the bottom of my rucksack just in case the weather gets a bit chilly.

Well that’s it for keeping warm in winter, the carp are still there to be caught and they always look stunning in their winter colours. If you kit yourself out with some good thermal clothing there’s no reason to give up until spring and if you make the effort to carry on going you can be rewarded with quieter banks and bigger carp as they reach their peak weights during the winter months….and you can still be fishing comfortably!.

Tight Lines, Mark.

Winter Carp Rigs and Tactics, click below to watch

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Yateley Sandhurst Lake - Hired for the Weekend

For the last 3 or 4 years the first week in May has always been an annual trip to Sandhurst carp lake on the famous Yateley fishing complex. This year was no exception and having hired the lake for the weekend at a cost of £1000 between 14 of us (£500 per 24hrs), I was optimistic about our chances of getting amongst some big carp, after all, less angling pressure on those Sandhurst carp would surely give us an edge.

The area local to sandhurst had been suffering from forest fires in the run up to this session and a few of the lads got caught out with certain roads being closed on the way down. Fortunately for me my trusty Sat Nav took me round the M25 and despite being behind most of the guys on the way down, I actually arrived earlier than they did!.
My early arrival gave me some time to have a look around and my first impression was that the fish were holed up in front of the famous pipe swim but this was a shared trip between a group of friends and we were drawing for swims, whoever picked out No 1 in the draw got first choice of swim and so on. I’ve never had much luck when it comes to drawing for swims and I’m certainly consistent with it!, I came out 13th out of 14 and needless to say I didn’t stand a chance of getting anywhere near the pipe swim or any of the adjacent swims!. I actually chose peg 9 on the road bank, I was familiar with this swim having fished it the previous year, peg 9 is actually directly opposite the pipes and there is a large hole in the middle of the lake which is directly between the two swims, by fishing onto the edge of the hole at long range I was hoping to pick off the odd carp that might drift into this area during the weekend.

Peg 9 Looking accross to the famous 'pipe' swim

When visiting day ticket carp waters most anglers I know seem to take the kitchen sink when it comes to bait. Several different flavours of Boilie, Hemp, Pellets, particles, you name it, they take it. Much to my fishing neighbours surprise I had with me 3 handfuls of Tiger Nuts and some Yellow Foam!. I get the impression he thought I was mad bringing so little but I know sandhurst is a pressured water so I chose to avoid boilies altogether and stick to alternatives. As I was going to be fishing mainly at medium or long range I knew it was going to be a case of PVA mesh bags so I really didn’t need a lot of bait, I’ve learned from experience that most of it ends up going to waste so I took just enough to do the job.

I sent two rods out at range to the edge of the hole, both baited with tiger nuts with a small PVA Mesh bag attached to help avoid tangles. (You can see how I prepare and rig my tiger nuts Here). The third rod I fished on a zig rig baited with yellow foam. This rig has worked for me previously at sandhurst and with 3 rods in use I thought it was worth a try despite the weather not being warm.

I’d only been fishing for 4 or 5 hours when the left hand Delkim signalled a screamer, at the same time mine went my neighbours in peg 10 went as well and we both found ourselves playing carp at the same time. Last year I’d had 5 runs from peg 9 but landed only one of them and I’d not taken into account a snag in the water at around 70 yards range. As I played my fish in it found the snag and I ended up loosing it, to top this off my neighbour lost his on the same snag!. I wasn’t happy and I was kicking myself for making such a stupid error. Even though it had been a year since I’d fished there and only once before in that swim, I’d had a big enough lesson last time and I really should have done things differently. After that loss I pulled the other rod back in and re-rigged both rods with drop off leads instead of my usual inline leads. By loosing the lead on the take and playing any fish with the rod held high I would hopefully avoid the snag again. It had worked last year and I was sure it would again.

My drop off rigs were made using a Safety Lead Clip with the Tail Rubber completely removed, I simply PVA’d the back of the clip to make sure the lead wasn’t lost on the cast. I put both rods out to the edge of the hole again and sat back to wait. I had nothing during the first night and next morning I got to sit and watch two of my mates in the first and second pipes have run after run, the pair of them were racking up carp at quite a rate and all I could do was sit and watch. It was obvious the fish were in front of them and they both filled their boots.

My Trakker A-Lite at Sandhurst made for a comfy swim

Saturday afternoon we had a break and our annual BBQ in the car park, it was a weekend social after all. On one of these trips previously I was a bit under the weather and felt sick but I had no trouble this time and I put away several burgers, sausages and chicken kebabs during the afternoon, if the carp weren’t going to eat I certainly was!.

Once the BBQ was over we headed back to our swims and once again I put two Rods to the edge of the hole with the third on a zig at shorter range. Saturday evening continued the same as Saturday morning and I had to sit and watch the guys in the pipes swims catch yet more fish. I headed for the Sleeping Bag when it got dark and I slept until one of the rods on the edge of the hole signalled a run, there was no single bleeps or indication of what was to come, I woke to an absolute screamer!. I hit the rod and sure enough I finally had a carp hooked up. I knew the drill this time, I stepped backwards and up the bank to give me more height and I held the rod high above my head with the butt resting on my shoulder instead of my groin. This worked and despite being so far out I could clearly see by the far bank street lights that the fish was up near the surface. I cleared the snag no problem and kept the fish coming towards me, this carp put up a good fight in the margins and it was a good 15 minutes before I finally slipped the Landing Net under my prize.

I peeled back the mesh to see a nice mirror, it certainly looked over 25lb but I doubted it would make 30+, I left the fish in the net and set up the Unhooking Mat and camera ready for the weighing and photographing procedure. When I was ready I retrieved the fish, unhooked it and Weighed it. The mirror went 27lb exactly, not my biggest sandhurst carp by any means but I was happy enough, I took a few photos and returned my prize to the water. Recasting in the dark wasn’t too bad because I had street lights opposite and I was using these as far bank markers.

27lb Yateley Sandhurst Mirror Carp

After getting the rod back out I checked my watch and it was 4.00am. I turned in again only to be woken by my neighbour Ian a few hours later, like me, he had to sit and watch the two guys in the pipes catching whilst his rods stayed quiet but he’d finally nabbed one early on Sunday morning and I went to Photograph a 30lb+ common for him, an excellent result indeed!.

No more carp came my way despite me staying until early afternoon on Sunday, eventually I called it a day and headed for home. I was happy to have caught one in the end, coming out of the draw second to last is getting to be a bit of a habit for me but despite this I’ve still yet to blank when fishing sandhurst, I’ve had quite a few bad draws now and my bad luck can’t continue forever, sooner or later its going to be me sat on the fish and bagging up instead of scratching round for the odd straggler so roll on next time and some better luck!.

Sandhurst Carp Lake Social 2016, click to watch


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Trakker A-Lite Bivvy

At the beginning of this year I decided to upgrade some of my fishing gear. First on the list was some kind of new shelter. For the last 6 years I’ve been using a JRC Stealth Brolly for most of my fishing. It has been a brilliant shelter and I’ve certainly no complaints with my brolly, when the time comes I fully intend to buy another but for now I’ve relegated my Stealth Brolly to day only sessions where I might need to move quickly. I wanted a replacement that gave me a bit more cover than a brolly but still maintained the option of moving quickly. I didn’t want to spend a stupid amount of money on a top of the range bivvy either, I found what I was looking for in the shape of the Trakker A-Lite Bivvy.

Trakker A-Lite Bivvy has a nice open front

The Trakker A-Lite is a kind of cross between a brolly and a bivvy. It’s a pram hood style shelter but the front is quite open like a brolly and there is no door. I like this style of shelter because it offers a little more cover than a brolly but it’s open enough at the front to still be able to see the water comfortably from the Bedchair. The sides of the A-Lite roll back too offering an even better view should it be required. Fishing for carp is actually quite easy, in simple terms, you find the fish and you put a bait in the area they are frequenting and a fishing shelter that allows a good view of the lake is a big help in achieving this, I like to have my eyes on the water all the time and the open fronted A-Lite has certainly helped me to do this.

Carry bag for the Trakker A-Lite, a neat touch

The A-Lite itself is what you’d call ‘self contained’. By that I mean there are no hidden extras to buy. It comes complete with a groundsheet, all the T-Pegs, tension strap and bars to put it up. The pegs and tension bars have their own bags and the bivvy itself comes in a nice carry bag, when you get it on the bank, all you have to do is put it up which is extremely easy to do. Even in heavy winds pram hood style shelters are easy to put up, you simply put it on the floor, slot the poles together, tension it with the strap, peg the back down then lift from the front and peg down!. It’s a one man job no matter how windy it is and as someone who does overnighters even in rough weather, this appeals to me.

My Trakker A-Lite in action on a recent trip to Sandhurst

Price was also a consideration in picking the Trakker A-Lite and being made of 4oz PU Nylon instead of the more expensive Aquatex material, Trakker have managed to keep the price down to a reasonable level. Retailing at £140 all in, this is one carp bivvy that isn’t going to break the bank. There is also an ‘extra’ available for the A-Lite, an over wrap / winter skin which is available for around £100. I haven’t bothered buying the over wrap myself, the A-Lite on it’s own is plenty enough for me to be comfortable but it is nice to have an over wrap option for winter use should the need arise. The A-lite comfortably takes any size Bedchair and unlike my old Stealth Brolly, there is a lot of room overhead. It took me quite a while to get used to the extra headroom, for as long as I can remember I’ve been used to ducking down to avoid the ribs of my brolly so the A-Lite has proved to be quite a luxury for me.

If you are in the market for a shelter that provides enough cover to be comfortable but doesn’t break the bank I recommend you have a look at the Trakker A-Lite Bivvy, I’ve had mine for a while now and I have to say it‘s a top carp bivvy / shelter at a decent price. Although the A-Lite retails at £140 you can find them cheaper. I picked mine up on Ebay brand new for £130 so it pays to have a look around.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Bankside Entertainment

Well we’ve finally reached April and I’ve been back to doing my summer overnighters for a few weeks now. After our prolonged cold spell over the first half of the winter I went back to the syndicate in early January and I’ve been fishing there ever since. When I started night fishing again I had a few new gadgets with me to make life a bit more comfortable on the bank. I thought I’d take a quick look at a few gadgets both old and new that can help a fisherman, particularly a carp angler, pass the time on the bank.

Portable Power Pack. One of the things I bought last year was a portable power pack, these handy power supplies are ideal for camping and that makes them useful for fishing too.

Powering Portable Power Pack

The one I’ve bought is a 40 amp hour model (40ah), it has a cigarette lighter socket for powering anything that’s 12v, that means you can plug in things like a small LCD TV and a mobile phone etc. This particular model also has a 240v inverter so you can power mains devices too!. I actually use mine for recharging bait boat batteries on the bank, I have a very good solar panel for my bait boat batteries but on days when its cloudy I can use the inverter on my power supply and charge my boat batteries a quicker way with their mains charger.

This portable power pack even does mains!

Having a portable power pack is extremely useful and unlike a deep cycle leisure battery, a power pack is quite easy to carry, granted a deep cycle leisure battery lasts longer but who wants to drag one of those around when a power pack has a nice carrying handle and can be carried with one hand. This is definitely one of those things that make you wonder how you ever got along without one!.

12v Freeview TV. To go with my new portable power pack, I’ve also got myself a 10.2 inch / 12v Portable Freeview TV!.

My new 10.2" Freeview TV

Mine is a Nikkai TV and it comes with an SD Card Slot rather than a DVD Player although a lot of small 12v TV’s come with a built in DVD Players these days. Personally I’m happy with just the TV and going fishing on a Saturday night no longer means missing Match of the Day. Watching the news is handy too because there’s always a weather forecast at the end!. These new 12v Freeview TV’s are quite good on a power supply, I’ve left my TV on in an attempt to flatten my power pack and gave up after 8 hours solid, watching TV on the bank is something I just do for a few hours after dark or if there’s a big game on in the evening, 8 hours solid is a long time and I reckon a small TV like mine will run for several days on a power pack, possibly all week if its used sparingly.

Digital Freeview TV, runs great on the power pack above

Smart Phone. I upgraded my phone over the winter too and I now have a Samsung Galaxy which is an Android powered smart phone, not only do I have a mobile phone, I have full internet access and an unlimited supply of games courtesy of the apps available on Android Market.

Full internet access helps pass the time!

Obviously those anglers with an I-phone have exactly the same with their phones. Both Android and I-Phones are quite heavy on their batteries and this is where the power pack comes in handy, a 12v mobile phone car charger can be plugging into the cigarette lighter socket on the power pack and hey presto!, your phone can be used throughout your session, no need to turn it off as the power pack will keep it topped up for as long as you possibly need.

Galaxy Android Smart Phone, great for anglers!

I-Pod. I still take my ipod fishing too, this has been my main source of bank side entertainment for the last couple of years, I have a 120 gig model which has thousands of songs and a nice collection of films stored on it. I can’t see me using it much from now on but it’s still a handy device to have with you when the fish aren’t biting.

Apple I-Pod, another great gadget for an angler!

Portable Radio. Where would a carp angler be without a small radio?, I’ve had one for as long as I’ve been fishing and today’s radios are superb when it comes to battery life, my little transistor model goes for a couple of years before the batteries need changing!. I haven’t got one yet but now I have a power pack, a small DAB Radio will definitely be next on my list!.

Nintendo DS Lite. Not something I own myself but one of my mates takes a Nintendo DS Lite with him on longer sessions, he has the same power pack as me and he says a DS Lite has never flattened his power pack no matter how long he’s used it for. I’m not a big gamer but for those of you who like them, a DS Lite runs very well with a portable power pack too, you just plug it into the cigarette lighter socket on the power pack just like your phone or TV.

Well that’s all I can think of for bank side entertainment for now, I seem to have as much in the way of portable gadgets as I do fishing tackle but carp fishing isn’t just about sitting on a seat box for a few hours, it generally requires longer sessions which can mean days on the bank and its nice to have a few gadgets available to help pass the time.
Until next time, be lucky.

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