Jon Berry's December 12 angling column

‘WHAT do you do instead of fishing, when it gets really cold?’ I was asked this twice last week by colleagues who, like me, had woken to the first notable frosts of the year. They’d assumed, quite wrongly, that anglers reeled in and did something sensible at such times. Many of us don’t.

The secret to winter fishing, for me, is to keep on the move. The fish will be less mobile in cold weather, and we must go looking for them. A stalking, roaming approach helps us to keep warm, too.

The river angler knows this better than anyone. Floods and frosts will push fish in to unlikely spots that are best found only by casting in to them. And they may well be places that sensible, fair-weather anglers would dismiss.

I learned this from a master – the angling writer and former carp record-holder, Chris Yates, who could never be described as sensible. We were perch fishing on the Kennet three years ago and the main river was high and coloured. We’d walked for miles and nobody was catching, and had gathered round a Kelly Kettle in the Fisherman’s Hut to share our hard luck stories.

As we mortals supped scalding tea and blew in to our hands, Yates sat there, guru-like, pondering. ‘I know where they’ll be’, he announced after a protracted silence, and then he was off across the fields like a gangly, tweed-clad hare before we could put down our mugs and follow him.

We found him, perhaps half-an-hour later, trotting a worm in a side ditch that had swollen just enough to become fishable. And the perch, of course, were there. He caught 12 two-pounders that day and even allowed Kevin and me to have a cast. We both caught a ‘two’, and he soon shoved us off and continued plundering his ditch. Quite right too.

It’s not just perch that respond to this speculative, wandering approach. Chub, pike and silvers will all be hidden away somewhere, and you’ll just have to find them. Travel light, ensure your footwear is warm and waterproof, and be prepared to cover some miles. Move your bait around each swim, as the fish will be less inclined to chase it down, and persevere. You’ll find them, and may just have a story of great triumph to share with your own workmates on Monday morning.

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