Winter Carp on The Musselberry

It’s early February 2014, and life long friend and fishing partner Dom and I are off to Drayton reservoir.  We picked this venue as it’s smack bang in the middle of both of us, with me being in Cheshire and Dom in Norfolk, it’s about a 2 hr drive for both of us.  The other thing about Drayton is it has a reputation for being a good place to go for a bite or two, even in winter.

Dom keeps an eye on the waterSo everything was in place and we arrange to meet at the lake at 6am.  In preparation Dom makes up some spod mix over the weekend prior, and I set about making us some of The Musselberry boilies.  The water is known to produce fish on zig rigs and bright pop-ups, however, we wanted to really put The Musselberry to the test.  We wanted to take it ‘out of its comfort zone’, and see how it would perform, on a new water, and in contrast to the going method.  We planned to fish bottom baits over the spod mix with a scattering of free baits.


We already knew quite a bit about the lake even though we’d never been before, as its very well-known, and Dom did some great research on the place.  As we walk along the dam wall and down the left hand side there is a real cold chill in the air, and all is very still.  A couple of anglers are setting up on the dam wall, but apart from that the whole lake was empty.  We make our way right to the end of the left hand side of the lake, past the ‘point’, and a couple of spots take our fancy which have access to a lot of water and are well suited sites for our bivvys.

It’s a bit of a tradition for us to walk around the whole water we’re about to fish, something I’d recommend highly to anyone, especially on a first visit to a water.  Setting up at the first spot you come to is convenient, however you’ll never know what you could be missing, and we did see some fish moving around the point at the far end of the lake.  The boards don’t go all the way around the lake, so we set of back down the left hand side, across the dam wall and up along the right hand leg past the sailing club.

We come to a spot called the ‘double boards’, and from Dom’s investigations we know this is a popular winter spot, and being double width, the boards are ideal to set your bivvy up on and fish from.  A note here that Dom brought along some screw in bivvy pegs, without which, we wouldn’t have been able to set up in this spot, don’t leave home without them!  We walk on past to the end of the right hand side, but our minds are made up, we’re fishing on the double boards.  ideally we’d wanted to fish closer to the dam wall where the deeper water is, but this spot was the best compromise between location and where we could get our bivvys on.  The wind was really clattering into this spot, so if the fish we’re on the end of it, it could be even better.  The forecast had said the wind would be from a southerly direction, so usually warm, however it was anything but, so we’d have to wait and see what effect it would have on the fish.

Once all our gear was in place we started to set the rods up.  We decided to fish all four rods, two each, out at the same range along a line to the left of one of the marker buoys.  This gave us a fixed marker to aim for so we could be consistent throughout our stay.  In the picture below you can just about make out the flat spot on the water’s surface created by our spod mix.

photo22355So with a healthy area baited up with spod mix and about 1/2 a kg of The Musselberry spread over the area, we set about setting our bivvys up.  By now a few more anglers had arrived on the dam wall, along with about four more anglers to our right along the double boards.  The angler directly to our right had a fish on a 7 foot zig with a very small piece of yellow foam almost instantly.  Reinforcing to us that zigs could be used to good effect on this water.

The rest of the day passed without incident, no more fish came out on our side of the lake, and only a couple of fish came out on the dam wall, where by now half a dozen anglers were fishing.  Three anglers had also set up on the point, who also hadn’t had anything to our knowledge.  We could now really feel the sting in the winds tail howling into our section of the lake, pushing waves through the boards and lapping them up at the base of our bivvys and our feet.  Moving all the gear and setting up had given us a false sense of the actual temperature, now still and watching the water it was bitterly cold.

We rebated the spot at about 4pm and recast all four rods in readiness for the evening.  While I sorted the rods and spoded out Dom got to work making tea, a fantastic warming curry he’d prepared for us.  Washed down with a brew and a beer, it was a very welcome meal we were both ready for.

All was very quiet on the lake, it was now 6pm and the day anglers had gone leaving us and the guys on the point with the lake between us.  With the wind now chilling us to the bone, we retreated into the bivvy to have a beer and chew the fat.  At 7pm Dom’s alarm sang out, we flew out of our sleeping bags and out the door, a firm strike and Dom was into our first fish from the water!  A fairly lethargic battle of a few minutes and he landed it without much drama.  Fish can be very lethargic in cold water, which was evident during this battle.  Still, a nice start and a welcome bust of adrenaline was now running through our veins!

11lb 10ozWe re-set the rod up with a PVA bag of crumbled boilies and cast it back out into the darkness.  Back in the bivvy, the clock ticked past 8pm and it was now my turn as my left hand rod sprang into life.  Again a slow battle ensued, and after a few minutes we had another nice mirror carp in the cradle to be admired!  At 1oz smaller than Doms fish maybe a school of similar year class fish had dropped onto our baited area?

11lb 9ozWhat was obvious was that both bites had been exactly on the hour, 7pm and 8pm almost to the second.  Reasons for this, I’m not sure, but there has to be something in it as the pattern continued at 9pm when Dom had a dropped run.  Then at exactly 10pm my right hand rod went on a screamer.  A more spirited fight than the last signalled this could be a better fish, and mid fight my left hand rod also went!  Dom struck into this fish but unfortunately something had snagged the line near the bite alarm, as can happen in the night and with high winds which snapped the line.  We both fish safe rigs so the fish wont come to any harm, it’s just one of those things that can happen in angling.  We netted the fish I was playing and sure enough it looked bigger this time.

12lb 15ozTipping the scales a fraction under 13lb it was a little bigger.  By now the wind had changed around, and although it was still blowing into our area it had become more of a side wind, and we were struggling to get the rods out accurately in the inky blackness.  I think we must have been missing our spots a little, we did have two more runs, but no more fish.

We woke in the morning to still very cold conditions, but a brighter sky and a slightly more forgiving wind.  It had been very cold through the early hours and the only action we heard on the lake was our three fish, and a single run from the point, I’m not sure if they landed their fish but fingers crossed they did, we could hear they had it on for some time.

photo 198We had an early morning visit from a signet as dawn was breaking over the water, lovely to see, it’s a big part of angling getting close to nature.  You can also see from the picture above how the wind is pushing the waves up through the boards.  I had my concerns about this to start with, but I have to say it was very therapeutic during the couple of hours sleep we had listening to the waves lapping the boards beneath us.

We didn’t have anymore fish that morning, leaving the tally at three for the trip all caught during the evening.  We were happy with that though, our first time on the venue, and we had learnt a lot about the water.  The bait did a great job, flying in the face of the going methods and still producing fish for us the first time this water had seen the bait.

After packing up we said our goodbyes until the next trip.  We’ll go back to Drayton again in the future I’m sure, the facilities were great and there are plenty of fish to go at.  Though some others on the lake did fail to catch, its worth remembering it was early February, and the wind was trying to knock the houses over!

photo09876tTight lines



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