The water was very cold and clear, so much more like winter, with the end of the season now visible on the horizon now was the time to put some concentrated effort in, as I knew the carp would soon start moving and would be hungry. The winter on this lake had been a poor one for me with just two carp caught since November, things had to improve.

I arrived to find the lake deserted as usual but at least now with the lower water I could get baits into much more hopeful positions. After several casts with each rod I was able to find a couple of nice clear areas amongst the weed. I still used the predictable PVA bags full of trout pellets and crushed boilies but now as usual in the coldest part of winter I swapped to small white pop-ups that I fished two inches off the bottom. Last January this tactic produced two nice mirrors for me even in frosty weather. The baits have no flavour at all being made just from a simple pop-up mix but I think the light colour just attracts any carp that may be slightly interested in something to chew on. Others have found similar results if you read between the lines in the angling press.

It was a mild cloudy dry evening as total darkness fell. I sat looking out over the water desperately looking for signs of life. However all I saw were the odd dimpling as roach played on the surface. No larger swirls though so I retired to the shelter when the garage outside the gate closed up for the night. I was confident of a take given the 25lb mirror and the 2lb eel that I had taken before the freeze up but I am sorry to say that nothing disturbed my slumbers. That is, apart from the quacking of ducks and the hooting of a owl who decided to spend half the night looking for mice from the branches of the tree above me. I would be back though, so I prayed the weather would remain mild but with a little less rain, some hope!

A few things have happened during the winter to affect the angling world that perhaps I should reflect on. The first and most important to me was the sad death of Peter Stone. Like a lot of ‘specimen hunters’ who started in the early 1970s, Stoney was one of my inspirations and heroes. Unlike most kids in those days I started my fishing not on rivers catching bleak but on local gravel pits after roach and bream. Peters superb book 'Gravel Pit Angling' was a bible to me. Before this the only book written specifically about gravel pits was a 1962 small book that still spread the word of killing most of what you caught and contained many a recipe to this end. Peter’s superb catches of bream from my local Thames are legendary and another of his books simply called 'Bream' was also an inspiration. These books gave me the urge to catch a double figure bream and I am happy to say I succeeded many times before the carp bug hit the world, and me, as we reached the 1980s. Peter will be sadly missed by the angling world. To me, he was no less an ambassador to angling, just in a different way, than his good friend Richard Walker.

Another thing to affect angling was the decision not to abolish the close season on rivers. Thank goodness common sense ruled on this one, and that the Government listened to anglers as well as the EA. It was bad enough abolishing it on stillwaters but to abolish it on rivers would have been a grave mistake. Stillwaters can be controlled as individual fisheries so those that are closed during the traditional close season can be preserved. How can you do that with a river? It’s all or nothing. Rivers need to be protected, have they not enough to go through with the pollution that is chucked in to them consistently. Any older angler will tell you about the state of river fishing compared to even 10 years ago, abolishing the close season on them would have been the last nail.

Connected to this, I read a couple of well known anglers who supported the lifting of the close season on rivers for the simple reason that due to flood conditions rivers are unfishable for 7 or 8 months. What rot, get off your backside and get out there, or is it just too cold and wet for you? Try telling Stuart Morgan that the rivers are unfishable. He went out there regardless and adapted to the conditions to take three barbel of 14lb 4oz, 17lb 9oz and 17lb 14oz in two sessions, the two 17lbers being over the current record. If you have seen the pictures of those fish you can not fail to be impressed by them, what magnificent fish. The uncharitable will say they came from a river full of big barbel, well try going out there in flood conditions and catch them, they still have to be hooked. A record fish that is fully deserved, well done my son!

Lastly this winter will be remembered for the rain. It has made the fishing difficult but they say we should get used to it. Well I for one hope it does become the norm because for me it means fewer anglers on the banks and more superb mild weather that makes the fish feed, in rivers or in stillwaters. Come on you rain!

Have fun!