I could not believe my eyes as I unlocked the gate, there in one of the two fishable swims was the unmistakable sight of the back of a bivvy. As I drove in and locked the gate again a head stuck up above the ramparts. It was one of the summer regulars, after a quick chat I found he had not fished there since October. This was very much a one off session but as he had an appointment the next day he had found himself a free couple of days and where better to spend it than carp fishing. He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him as he fully expected to find the lake to himself.

Fortunately he was in the swim that I do not fish often so my usual swim was free, I was indeed fortunate that he does not drive or without doubt he would have chosen my usual swim given that you can park right outside your bivvy there. He offered a cup of tea but I said I would be back after I had cast out as darkness was getting close.

The water level was still too high for easy casting so I still had to wade out and crouch down before whacking out the PVA bags. I could not get to the spot I really wanted due to the overhanging trees but there was no way I could wade out that far. Content though with the gentle thuds of both rods as the leads hit a firm bottom I fed the rods back to dry land and set the oval shelter back under the oak tree.

I was expecting clear skies and a cold night but there was heavy cloud cover and a gentle westerly breeze, in fact it even rained for a while so we thanked our blessings as we supped tea whilst the rush hour continued outside the gate. Suddenly there was a screech of brakes as a couple of kids on push bikes pulled up outside the gate, without hesitation one of them was off his bike and half way up the gate trying to climb over. We strolled across and gave him short shrift, him giving some story about wanting to to see what was on the other side. He obviously didnít expect us to be there for his illicit session of substance consuming and theft. After they had fled terrified I said we should have let him climb up to the top of the gate as he had obviously seen the razor wire adorning the top two bars of the gate in the darkness.

We had just settled back into a chat after this excitement when a pair of headlights illuminated the scene as a car drove up to the gate. It was Stewart, poaching on one of my days this time. We have been fishing alternate days through most of the winter. I accused him of fishing out of his allotted time as he drew up but I think he was most perturbed that both the fishable swims were occupied. We had a chat and after a quick look at the options I suggested he fish further round the lake where the track to the far side finally disappears into floodwater. He could set his bivvy up on the track and have his rods just the other side of the trees on the top of a flooded swim. With an easy cast he could get to the far side of the shallows where he had been concentrating on in autumn fishing from a swim on the far side. He could also have his car right next to him.

I left him to it and a while later I saw his casts hit the right spot. He came round after a while saying that he needed chestwaders in the end because of the overhanging trees, we chatted about waters for the spring and next season. He then went back to watch Eastenders on his portable TV! A while later a carp lolopped out between him and me but when I went round there for a while to see the end scene of the soap he said he had not heard a thing. We then went back to my swim where the three of us demolished my stock of beers.

The night remained quiet and the sky, as forecast, cleared as the full moon lay down a thin layer of frost. The joys of winter had arrived but spring at least was just round the corner. I expected my mate to be back two days later when I returned but I had the place to myself as usual. But winter had set in and a strong north or north-easterly wind was blowing straight into the swims. I was a little concerned about facing this cold wind but managed in the end to set up the shelter so it faced away from the water and wind and after wading out and casting I pulled the rods right back onto the bank so I could see them and the buzzers from the shelter. The cold wind continued all night and at times it reached a ferocious strength, minus 8 wind chill apparently.

I heard no carp move and unfortunately I was not required to leap into action during the night. I packed up at dawn a little concerned as to where my next carp was going to come from. I consoled myself by looking at my fishing database from the previous winter where January was slow but the carp came on to feed right on cue with a month to go in the season, roll on Valentines Day!

Have fun!