The top 10 steps to catching in the winter with Phil Ringer

It takes a real leap of faith to cast into a vast water such as Boddington Reservoir in the depths of winter and catch a number of carp – they could be anywhere!

However, there are some very simple things you can do to stack the odds in your favour. It’s true that throwing a bomb or feeder out and relying on the law of averages for a carp to find the bait will work – but that’s no good under match conditions.

Ideally, I want a bite every cast to stand any chance of winning a few quid. My 10-point plan for nobbling a few winter carp has worked time and time again. There’s nothing complicated to it, no herculean casts or fancy rigs needed. It’s all about getting the basics right and then making small changes throughout the day to get the tip to go round.

Step 1 - Set up comfortably

There are no prizes for being the first angler to catch, so take your time setting out your stall so that when you begin fishing everything will be to hand. You could be waiting up to half-an-hour for a bite so when it comes, you don’t want to be groping around for the landing net. Equally, make sure your seatbox is set comfortably. 

Having pellet banders, Method moulds, pellet cones and spare hooklinks to hand is also vital, as is an array of bait and additives. That way I don’t have to get off my box and faff about looking for some pop-ups – and miss the inevitable bite!

Step 2 - Feeder or Bomb

Winter carp fishing revolves around fishing the tip, and the first decision to make is whether to use a bomb or a feeder. I’ll look at how the lake is fishing before I even arrive on the bank so I have an idea in my head as to whether the fish will want a bit of feed or not. 

If they will, it’s a Hybrid feeder (above) in conjunction with my favourite hookbait, an 8mm Chocolate Orange Wafter, but if the water is cold and weights are not brilliant I’ll think about beginning on the bomb with a pellet cone and two yellow 8mm wafters – a great bait when the going gets tough.

Step 3 - The right distance

It’s unlikely that the carp will be at short range, but you don’t need to hit the horizon. Around 50m is a good starting point, so you will need a rod that can do the job – something around 12ft or 13ft. I deliberately begin by casting shorter because I know that the fish will push further out into the lake as the day goes on. 

This means that my final cast of the day will often be the longest. Begin fishing at the range of your casting and you’ll only be left with the option of coming back towards you.That’s no good. 

Step 4 - Clipping up

Accuracy is important when every bite is at a premium, so that means using your line clip and a pair of distance measuring sticks so you can say with certainty where you will be casting to. Often, if I catch a fish, I will throw back to the same spot to see if its mate is about but without a line clip, the cast will never be 100 per cent accurate.

Step 5 - Fish positively

You may only catch six carp in a typical winter session and end up waiting up to 40 minutes for each bite. The very worst thing that can happen in this instance is to lose the fish that you hook by gearing up too lightly with a size 18 hook and a light hooklink. 

I want to be confident that when I hook a carp, I will get it in, so that means a size 10 Guru QM1 hook and a 0.17mm hooklink. Remember, it’s not about getting a bite as soon as you can, so delicate rigs aren’t as important as in summer.

Step 6 - Go left and then right

Not only do I vary how far I cast into the lake – I also change how far down or far up the swim I go. By this, I mean that I will cast 10 or 20 yards to the left or right of my starting point directly in front of me. 

A carp may well be sitting just 10 yards away, but in winter lethargic fish won’t move on to the spot where your feeder or bomb is sat. By winding in and casting down the peg, however, your chances of catching are instantly increased.

Step 7 - Timing your casts

A stopwatch is a vital part of my winter match fishing carp kit as it lets me know how long the rig has been out in the swim. I pay a lot of attention to how long it takes me to get a bite, and I’ve found that between 20 and 35 minutes is the optimum time for a bite to come. Naturally I need to know at a glance when I’m approaching the ‘witching hour’. 

Normally, I will wind in again after half-an-hour but if the lake is fishing very hard then I may leave the bait out another 15 minutes.

Step 8 - Method ball sizes

These are the two Method balls I use – ‘skinny’ or ‘fat’, based on how many micro pellets are moulded on to them. The skinny ball is used at the start as it puts a minimal amount of bait into the swim, working on the assumption that the carp won’t initially want a lot of bait. 

If it turns out that the fish are feeding reasonably well, I’ll change to the fat ball with double the amount of pellets to give them what they want. This change tends to happen in the second half of the match when things have warmed up a little.

Step 9 - Changing hookbaits

Changing what’s on the hook can trigger a big change in what you catch at any time, but especially in winter. You may get no response on a wafter, whereas a stack of three bits of corn can see the tip fly round. We all have favourite baits and mine is an 8mm Chocolate Orange Wafter for starters.

But if I am getting no response, my next cast might see me change to a corn stack, a yellow wafter or a small, highly visible pop-up. Often, just a change in colour can make all the difference.

Step 10 - Using additives

I know a lot of anglers who think additives are nonsense but I think this all boils down to confidence – I don’t think they can do any harm, especially in winter. I always carry a bottle of Almond Power Smoke Korda Goo, which I drape on to the hookbait inside the Method ball. This releases a lasting green cloud as it breaks down. 

Bread can be changed too by dyeing it from its natural white colour, and almost any hookbait on your tray can be dipped in an additive just before casting out.