Cold Water Carping

Your winter carp fishing ‘short break’ starts here.

Why settle for ‘drive and survive’? Do your homework, and you could just bag a belter on your next French trip…

Terry Hearn talks about those ‘little edges’ which, combined, can spell the difference between success and failure. Never are those edges more important than in winter. And if you’re considering a trip across the pond, they’re more important still.

To risk a tired old cliché: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And if a few hours’ ‘armchair angling’ could spare your blushes (and a blank) next trip out, what’s to lose?

To the Interweb!

In the colder months – be it in the UK or abroad – venue selection is everything: choose an ‘inland sea’ with minimal stock and – having just a few days at your disposal – you’re on a hiding to nothing.

The carp on deep, windswept gravel pits will all but shut down in winter.

With fish shoaling up tightly – and likely feeding just a few minutes each day – it’s a brave (possibly delusional) carper that would choose such a venue for their winter short break.

The good news: there are myriad alternatives offering proven cold-weather carp fishing form. And, in winter, near-empty banks – meaning chances are you’ll have the pick of the crop.

Stock levels are of course paramount: if you’re looking to get an unseasonal bend in the rod, you’ll want to choose a venue with a good head of fish. (And preferably a reasonable chance of chunk.) So where better to start than Angling Lines’ portfolio of French runs waters?

As a rule of thumb, shallower venues tend to fish more consistently throughout the winter; so, depth, too, is an important consideration, with relatively featureless venues – with minimal snags and limited weed growth – making for more peripatetic fish, which remain active all year round (rather lying all-but-dormant, often beyond casting range).

Technology is your friend here – equipping you to choose not just a venue, but likely spots to target too.

Social media – in particular, Facebook, and the many angling forums – can hook you up with a wealth of relevant experience. And Google Earth offers an invaluable overview of each venue, too, equipping you to make informed decisions from the comfort of your man cave.

Carp as we all know are sentient – not to say, contrary – creatures; so nothing is set in stone. But GE gives you a great starting point; helping you to seek out obvious features – such as sheltered bays, snags, weed beds, and shallower areas– that may provide your best chance of a bite.

And for the most part, winter is about just that: fishing for a bite. The fish’s metabolism slows down as the temperature plummets. Meaning they feed less frequently (and less intensively) – making singles and small bags the order of the day.

So choose your weapons accordingly.

In the colder months, the lakebed may be littered with leaves, branches, and dead and dying weed, making bait presentation more challenging. So select a rig that ensures your baits are fishing effectively amidst the chod.

Whether to ‘scale down’ your bait and hook size is a matter for debate.

Sure, the carp are lethargic, feeding only for a few minutes each day.

Consequently, many anglers contend that smaller baits are more likely to be picked up; and allow you to pult out a few freebies without risk of overfeeding.

But I believe there’s a flip side to this argument: if the carp can sate their hunger in a single mouthful – and that mouthful is a big, bright boilie, jammed-packed with flavour, and impossible to miss – will they not naturally ‘home in’ on that mouthful?

You be the judge. Either way, though, try not to get too bogged down in rig components and mechanics.

Rather, you should choose tried and tested rigs in which you have total confidence – be they choddies, hinged-stiffs, or whatever – and equip yourself accordingly.

Make a list of all the bits and bobs you’re likely to need (as you could be miles from the nearest tackle store). And tie up a bunch of rigs, in the warm, before your trip.

There’s no harm in researching ‘going baits’ too. But don’t take the feedback you get from former venue-visitors as gospel.

In winter, all bets are off, with conditions – and carpy preferences – changing all the time.

That said, ‘perennial’ particle baits, such as hemp and corn – a great visual attractor in clearer water – are effective all year round. And maggots can be absolutely devastating in winter, when nuisance fish are less of a, well, nuisance.

Whichever baits you choose to take along, however, the watchword is ‘attraction’ – not feed. So be sure to include in your armoury a mix of bright, fluoro hookbaits – and don’t be afraid to give them a boost with any of the range of Goos and liquids at your disposal.

Or indeed any of the more traditional (not to say cheaper) off-the-supermarket-shelf alternatives.

Like salt, for example which, though a great attractor at any time of year, really comes into its own in the colder months

Spices, such as turmeric (a great addition to maggots), chilli (de rigueur in your hemp)and belachan all serve to crank-up those food signals.

And pastes are a great change bait too, preferably mixed with alcohol to maximise flavour dispersal.

Being relatively odourless, vodka is a popular choice; but lest we forget one of the most successful cold-weather baits of all time: Nash’s whisky boilies. Oh and – I kid you not – Baileys, which make a distinctive dip to ramp the appeal of your hookbaits.

Also consider including a couple of bags of groundbait and /or a bucket of boilie crumb – both of which will release smell and attraction into the colder water, drawing in the fish without filling them up.

And this is key. Winter, generally, is not about fishing over bait. Which is great news for you, meaning – rather than loading the van with kilos of boilies and pellets – you can use the space to add a few extra comforts. 

Because this is not the time for toughing it out under a brolly.

Rather, the twin skin bivvy and five season bag – with optional bedchair cover and hot water bottle (no judgment here!) – are the order of the day.

As of course is plenty of warm and waterproof clothing – including, importantly, thermal footwear.

Remember too, when it comes to cooking, that gas behaves differently at this time of year. Specifically, propane turns to liquid at lower temperatures than butane, so it remains useable when there’s ice in the margins.

So if you do use gas, use a propane / butane mix, warming the canisters before using them.

But your better bet has to be the ever-reliable Coleman, master of the worst of the weather.

Winter success at an Angling Lines venue

And don’t forget the entertainment.

Regardless of the season, fishing is (or should be) a pleasure, to be enjoyed, not endured; so factor into your planning the inclusion of a tablet, pre-loaded with movies, books, games (or whatever) to keep you entertained through the relentless, cold, dark nights.

You’ll also need the means to keep your tablet, and your mobile – potentially your lifeline, if you get into trouble – fully charged.

So, pack spare batteries and power packs. (Solar panels, too – though these will be much less effective in the winter.)

Make sure your mobile contract offers affordable international roaming; for sat nav and other purposes.

And note-down all the names, contact numbers and addresses you’ll need – both on your phone, and in a notebook (for obvious reasons) – together with details of the local supermarkets and stores, tackle shop (if available), and of course your international rescue provider.

Check that your insurance covers you for driving on the continent. And remember to check the latest regs to ensure that you’re safe, and fully ‘road legal’ should disaster strike – equipped with the now mandatory cones, high viz jacket and other kit that the authorities insist upon, in the event of a breakdown.

Doing your homework – paying attention to the finer details before you set out – is your assurance of a stress free and enjoyable trip.

And your best chance of a few unseasonal biggies to boot.

Steve Calder

Browse our 36 French carp fishing venues here – many offer discounts on winter fishing. 


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