As I drove through the gate the rain was falling again but I could see something was wrong. All round the edges of the lake there were white areas of ice showing. The water level was still falling and what had happened was that the ice was still there but as the water level fell the ice in the edge buckled, one edge on the land and one on the new water level. My fears were confirmed when I threw a few stones in to the middle of the lake, the ping, ping noise they made as they bounced of solid ice rang round the leafless trees.

I sat back in the car for ten minutes thinking of what to do, or where else to go. I thought about the Thames or the river Mole but decided to have one walk round the lake to see if there was anywhere I could get a bait in. In the far corner under a tree the ice had gone, the continual dropping raindrops off the subject tree had melted the ice. Apart from that though, it was solid right to the edge. I climbed gingerly up a couple of trees to see what I could see. The water was crystal clear and one small bay in particular was now completely weed free. The light brown bottom could be seen across its whole area. In fact this light brown silt was around all the edges left where the floodwaters had receded.

Back at my usual swim there was an overhanging tree that I clambered up, getting a good view over the immediate vacinity. The near gravel bar was clearly visible with the remains of the lily bed showing. I saw nothing to inspire me but just as I thought of giving up I looked down right below me and there under the branches in the ice-encrusted water were two pale shapes. As I looked more carefully two carp came into view, both mirrors, not huge fish but they were there. They were not active at all, just lying there, but they were literally five feet from the bank in four foot of water.

I gently clambered down and considered the situation. Looking around an idea popped into my head. I remembered about ten years ago catching a couple of carp after breaking a hole in the ice and I had only just read the account of Alan Welch catching a 35lb mirror from a Colne Valley pit after having to break the ice in the edge. Hadn’t I also caught many pike by spending an hour or two breaking ice beforehand? I had to go for it.

I unlocked the padlock attaching the boat to a tree and pushed it into the edge. Kneeling right in the front I used a paddle to break the ice in front. The ice was surprisingly thick, around three quarters of an inch, so it was harder than I envisaged and very slow going. Eventually I had made a channel over to the over-hanging tree where the carp were. I did not break the ice right up to the tree, stopping a foot or two short. I slowly reversed the boat which was again not easy, it did not move well surrounded by hundreds of bits of ice. Eventually I made it and pulled the boat back onto the bank. The hole I had made was tiny, only about twice the size of the little boat but it had taken nearly an hour and the rain was still pouring down.

It was nearly dark so I couldn't see if the carp were still there. I suspected they may well be gone but I knew from experience carp in very cold weather rarely spook even with their roof being shattered. I only used one rod and gently flicked a light lead set-up with a small white pop-up boilie set to be 3 inches off the bottom. I knew the bottom was mucky where the carp were, dead weed etc, plus I wanted to force a reaction from the carp. A 'bottom' dark bait would have gone un-noticed. Light coloured baits seem to annoy carp in winter and in the end they have to eat them, that was the theory anyway! The rig dropped onto the ice beyond the tree so I gently pulled it across the ice before it slipped off in to the hole right on target.

I had just got everything set up when Geoff arrived; he looked at me as if I was mad, I just knew I was mad. He said he had seen carp further round the lake earlier in the day right in the edge, which boosted my confidence, I knew then I was in with a chance. An hour after Geoff left, another friend turned up ready to fish. He was very annoyed that the ice was still covering the lake but unless he too wanted to go out in the boat and create a hole, all he could do was return home, and home he went half-hour later.

Now on my own I settled in for a wait under the oval shelter. The noise of the ice gently pinging as it so-slowly began to give echoed around. The rain now at last had stopped and stars shone brightly. I wondered if I should have put some trout pellets out round the hook bait but I was sure the carp were not feeding, the hookbait should be enough to inspire a take. Half-hour later there were two bleeps from the buzzer. I crouched down by the rod and looked at the tip. The line had tightened; I had slackened it right off. Slowly the tip bent down an inch and the buzzer bleeped once more. Without any more ado I pulled into the carp.

The strike was met with solid resistance but despite the carp being only a few feet out it did not move, just one gentle thud came through the rod. Slowly it rose to the top and thrashed around on the edge of the ice hole. I did not want it charging off under the ice as the line would cut on its edge. Fortunately the carp was in no mood for a scrap and just rolled around, breaking up more of the loose ice and I was able to scoop it up into the net. The whole fight lasted no more than 30 seconds.

The mat, sling and scales were ready, normally these are packed away but I had a feeling that I might just catch, how’s that for confidence! On the mat the carp was well hooked in the bottom lip and was in fine winter colours, it was a mirror weighing exactly 18lb, what a peach. It behaved perfectly for the camera and was soon back in its icy home swimming away back under the ice. The rest of the session was fruitless and in the morning the ice was still there.

As they say, you won’t catch anything at home!

Have fun!