The first was a lovely little gravel pit in Sussex that I first saw last June when on a country walk. It is situated amongst dense woodland and back in the summer the margins were full of lily pads. In amongst them I had seen the grey shapes of some old large carp. I obtained a ticket straight away but it was not until now that I had found time to return.

Pulling in to the car park I found it deserted. Before unloading the gear I strolled through a small copse of trees that led to the lake. I was half expecting it to be covered in ice but apart from one small bay that had cat ice on it, the rest was clear. The lake is only a few acres so I strolled around it looking for inspiration - to be honest it was a cold day and I did not particularly want to fish but I had to get out into the fresh air knowing that Christmas was nearly here which meant days of being stuck indoors. I had walked halfway round the lake without seeing anything but then under some overhanging trees I glimpsed the shape of some carp deep down over a dead set of pads. The water was clear and with the aid of Polaroids I could see there were two carp, a mirror and a common, of around 20lb. They were not doing much but the common was definitely feeding, its head pushing into the bottom silt.

I quickly went back to the car and picked up the gear and made my way back to the area the carp were in. A few yards short of the carp was a small swim so I carefully put my stuff there and crawled back to the trees. The mirror was not to be seen but the common was still there although it had moved off a bit. Before it realised anything was wrong I dropped some trout pellets in on the area of silt it was feeding on before. Then with rod in hand I swung a light leger out baited with three trout pellets on a long hair. I led the line back to the swim and put the rod on a short rod rest with buzzer on top. I cast another rod out with a stringer up to the right, into another old set of pads and baited it with crushed boilies. Then I sat back and absorbed myself in the pleasant surroundings.

There was no sound of cars or trains or planes, just the winter birdlife scraping out a meal in the dead foliage. As I looked, a fish moved in the middle of the lake, the swirl was under water so I did not see what species it was but as I was carp fishing I presumed it was a carp - if I had been pike fishing I would have presumed it was a pike - strange that we all do that isnít it? An hour passed without any other action. I had crawled up to the trees a couple of times and had found one or other of the carp still around so I was quite confident. In fact another hour later, at last the buzzer burst into life as a carp finally took the trout pellets. I was about to wind in as I thought the pellets would have dissolved but these were hard, long lasting ones and in the cold water they should last several hours. They obviously were alright as line began to be taken rapidly off the free-spool of the reel. I lifted the rod and slowed the spool with my thumb before pulling in to the carp. This made it angrier and the fight began.

For a cold winter day the carp fought harder than a lot of summer fish and it was not until a few minutes later that I saw it roll on top, it was the common. The carp would not come much nearer though and a few times it found the remains of lilies. Finally though it rolled into the net. It was a lovely black coloured fish on top, it's scales gold and black. It's mouth was perfect, the size 10 hook neatly imbedded in its bottom lip. It was a long fish with not much belly so I guessed it would not perhaps go 20lb, but to be honest I did not care. My first visit to a water in the depths of winter with ice on the water and an 18lb carp in the net, fantastic.

The carp was cold to the touch and as I lowered it gently back in to the water I realised how cold that was as well, another frost surely would ice it over completely. The rest of the day was quiet. I moved around to another area where I had seen some movement but after another three hours with no action I packed up and left, more than happy.

Later in the week, with the weather even colder, I did a session on another gravel pit, a large water this time, with a cold north westerly wind blowing. I was not keen but it was a social with a mate so the time passed quickly with banter and several hot toddies. To my surprise my pal had a take mid-morning and netted a 13lb mirror, apparently the smallest carp caught all season from the pit, that happens often in winter though. The rest of the day was quiet and as dusk fell we set off to the warmth of the local pub.

So that was that, another Christmas here and time to make plans for next year. The last year has been fun. I started it in floods on my small Colne Valley pit and managed a nice mirror from under the ice when all else was impossible. Then I moved onto another small gravel pit after some elusive carp and ended up catching loads of nice tench, then I spent the summer and autumn on a lovely estate lake, catching lots of carp with two big commons. Yes, I think Iíll put 2001 down to as being a success; I even caught some nice Thames pike, that cannot be bad.

Happy Christmas to one and all, I hope Santa brings all you want and tight lines for 2002!

Have fun!