January, it’s easy to look out the window at the dark grey clouds racing across the sky, rain hammering the windows, the bins blowing around in the back garden and reach for the remote rather than the rods. But, that said, a small win can feel like a massive result and before you know it, the mornings and evenings are getting lighter and in no time there’s a hint of spring in the air.
The angling optimist in me says, as soon as we reach December 21st and the darkest day of the year, everything must get better. But, the truth is, the next couple of months on the calendar are tough for fishing. There are still fish to be caught and some good ones too, but the greatest challenge during the winter months feels like the weather, the relentless flippin weather!
I personally love a winter dominated by high pressure weather systems that bring those really calm but cold and dry conditions. We’ve normally had a boot full of wind and rain through the autumn months so I’m ready for a change of seasons come January. But those conditions feel so rare, particularly here in Cornwall where the insulation of the sea all around us means even a frost is a novelty and the prevailing weather will be cold, damp and dark. That’s when it can be hard to get the motivation to get out and go fishing.
So how does an obsessive angler get their fishy fix when it can feel like everything is against you? Personally, I have to start by lowering the bar of expectation, really low. I have just a couple of hours to fish each week, in an evening, after work, which at this time of year means it’ll be in the dark. I’m probably not going to catch a monster, I just want to get off the sofa, feel a bit of weather blow away the cobwebs and catch a fish or two, of any size.
Where I live in Cornwall I’ve got the option of sea fishing and freshwater fishing, so in that respect I’ve got more opportunity than many. I would love the option of freshwater river fishing. I’m always jealous of the photos I see of barbel and chub on my social media feeds but on balance, over the course of the year, I wouldn’t swap those rivers for all that the sea offers.
If it’s sea fishing we’re looking at, the first consideration has to be safety and there can be days or even weeks on end where most marks simply aren’t safe to access. Sure you can always find shelter on the estuaries like the Fal and the Fowey but if there’s loads of muddy freshwater coming down the river, the fishing in my experience is generally poor. It’s also true that my knowledge of good winter shore fishing marks is lacking. Every year I say I’ll spend some time in the summer with the walking boots on filling in some gaps on the map. But when the sun’s shining I want to be exploring mullet and bream marks with a rod not looking for possible winter cod and Huss spots.
The alternative then is freshwater. I’m fortunate to be a member of freshwater fishing syndicate which allows me access to the water after dark. I simply can’t get there during daylight. The water holds a variety of species and includes some good sized specimens but size isn’t important, it’s just a bonus at this time of year. I could sit and wait for a carp but in truth, with the time available, I’m unlikely to catch one. I’ll save them for spring and summer when I can stalk them in the manner which I really enjoy. There are some good perch in the water and whilst they do feed after dark, prime time really is dusk and I arrive after this. So that leaves me with the resident Roach. There are some really good fish (so long as the cormorants don’t get them), and Roach do feed well after dark. It might all seem a bit clinical but really by process of elimination I get to what I can realistically catch in the time I’ve got rather than chase an unrealistic dream where in all honesty, I’ll get bored.
So last winter and again this year, after Christmas I’ve put my effort in a couple of hours each week, after work, fishing for Roach. It’s been really good fun. Challenging and rewarding and I’ve caught some nice ones too. I’ve been very close to a that wonderful two pound fish. It would be a nice to cross this numerical threshold but, a near two pound roach is a spectacular fish, the number attached to it really is relevant.
The other way I enjoy my winter fishing is to go with others. I love taking my kids fishing throughout the year and there’s no doubt it’s an easier experience when the sun is shining, the winds are calm and the are biting. But, even if it’s just 20 or 30 minutes, the smiles that spread out across their faces when they do reel in a spikey little Perch on a winters day is more than enough for my fishy fix. It’s that reminder that fishing is fun and it’s important to keep it that way, whatever the weather.
I need to take my own advice sometimes and with February just around the corner, it’s more important than ever. Let’s not let the rods get dusty in winter and keep the little wind and the big smiles coming.