The Complete Guide to Overnighters

Posted by Julian Cundiff
1772 days ago

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Interested in doubling your catch rate, avoiding the crowds and most importantly enjoying your carp fishing again? Read on!


"With apologies to Bon Jovi - I will sleep when I'm dead"....

It’s 1985 and yet again Three Lakes Specimen Carp Lake (Lake 3 at the time ) is heaving on a Friday night. Despite getting off early from work there are twelve anglers on already and the sole swim I have left for the weekend has a small margin to call its own and not much else. To put it mildly I was less than happy and as most of the action was in the hours of darkness I was going to spend a long time doing nothing, and very little time with any chance of success. To make it worse my lady friend at the time was not entirely happy weekends were being devoted to carp fishing and as I relied on her for running me to conferences and gigs it looked like it could get messy.

"It was almost as though the carp had been waiting for weekenders to go home..."

 So the kind offer of thirteenth choice of swim was avoided and instead I had a weekend off. Sunday afternoon I was back in the car park on my trusty motorbike to see what had been caught in my absence and there was not a soul to be seen. Not only that but word from my pal who did fish was that nothing had been caught and nothing seen. Well that may have been true Friday and Saturday but in just one hour I saw fish after fish show in different swims with plenty of bubbling and coloured water too. It was almost as though the carp had been waiting for the weekenders to go home. A quick dash back home and all the gear was loaded onto my motorbike. Yes I knew I was at work the following day but I might as well take advantage.

And so my foray into the world of overnight fishing began. I managed a double that night (believe me in 1985 that was a result…) and it made me realise that I didn’t have to fish weekends to catch carp. Starting with the odd Sunday night by 1986 it was virtually all I did and almost thirty years on I am still doing it. Of course if I didn’t have a job, and didn’t have a life I could fish 24-7 but I do have both. Literally 80 per cent or more of my carp EVER caught have been on overnight sessions from 6pm to 6am. That’s a lot of carp and a lot of nights. And if I can do it then virtually EVERYONE reading this piece can.

Why fish overnighters? Crikey, I can think of a million and one reasons why and not many reasons why not! Let’s face it when a writer gives you advice on catching carp it tends only to be relevant if you are doing the same things as he is. So if he is a full timer, or has the ability to fish full time no matter how well meaning his advice is it’s not going to be much use to you if you work five days a week and have family commitments at a weekend.

"Everyone has to sleep each day so you might as well sleep behind rods..."

Now me, I’m probably not a lot different to most of you when it comes to time. Since 1980 I have worked a five day week from 9-5 and weekends have always been precious and usually full of girls, concerts, family, motorbikes and whatever else I can cram in. So when I write about my fishing it could be you writing it too. It has to be overnighters for the bulk of the season and it’s about being real and consistent. Overnighters allow you not only to work in the week and have a life at weekends but also to do one, two or even more nights a week without getting your life out of balance. Everyone has to sleep each day so you might as well sleep behind rods under a Groundhog with your baits out than sit at home watching TV and going brain dead. Even nowadays the majority of anglers THINK they have to fish weekends or not at all so by going on any night from Sunday through to Thursday most anglers won't be there.

Sure the odd one or two might early season and occasionally some do a longer session starting on a Thursday or finishing on a Monday but not the bulk of anglers. Less competition for swims means you get to choose one where you WANT to be rather than taking the best of the remaining swims available. Less pressure on a water means the carp are also more likely to trip up on your hookbait. It’s quieter and more enjoyable so you are more likely to want to keep doing it and it allows you to enjoy weekends without thinking you are missing out on fishing. To me it’s a no-brainer.


Let’s get real - I'd love to do overnighters at Nashy’s Church Lake if I could but the 400 mile plus round trip kills that gem of an idea. Overnighters are great but you need to be realistic. Think about not only where you live but where you work. On some of my waters I go directly to the lake from work, but prefer to have my gear at my house or my parents and go there to get changed and in the morning go from the lake to there, bath or shower and then work. Going straight to work from the lake can take its toll and not having a bath, not having somewhere to store your tackle securely and so on is not clever. So when picking a lake remember it’s not weekend operations but hit and run overnighters. I live near Doncaster and I work near and around York so my venues tend to be no more than 45 minutes from either of those.

Be it Drax, Tilery, Motorway, Tyram, Three Lakes or Jurassic Park the water has to fit in with the time I can give it - ideally arriving no later than 6pm and leaving no earlier than 6am. Shifts will give you more leeway but whatever your work or schooling situation that’s the first point. Can you realistically go and keep going without spending too much time travelling or being late for work? Fishing should never cost you your job, no carp is worth that. And remember these sessions be it once, twice or more a week cost money in fuel alone. Taking into account travel time how many waters does that give you a choice of fishing? I have around 6-8 that I favour but I guess if you live further south you have more to go at and further north probably less.

"It needs to tick the enjoyment boxes too..."

If you intend to fish a water regularly it needs to tick the enjoyment boxes too. There are some waters I can do the odd session on but night after night all year round ? No thanks. And the last thing you want to do is change or drop waters mid season. Consistently going week in week out gives you a huge advantage getting into the feel/flow. Your choice in April should still be the right one in September. Visit it on the nights you are LIKELY to fish and ensure you can get there and back in sufficient time and if possible have secondary routes planned for the inevitable road closures or tea time traffic. Often I go to a water one way at night but a different way back in the morning due to less traffic.

You soon also pick up clues as to who fishes what nights and it is possible to pick your nights to coincide with the quietest times. Some waters are dead on Sunday and Monday nights whereas others are quieter midweek. The only way to find that out is to get out there and do it guys...Simple stuff for sure but over the course of a year believe me it impacts a lot on what you may or may not be catching.


The great thing about overnighting is that it’s the same gear, but if possible less of it. I do see lots of articles, well meaning I am sure, about cutting your gear down to the bare bones and carrying it all by hand. That’s fine if you have to but in my opinion overnighting is more about being ORGANISED than being minimal. If the water you are targeting has limited access and barrows are not feasible it’s all well and good. My ethos is to take what I need, or may need and ensure it can all fit on the barrow in one trip and can be pushed to any swim without cardiac arrest. I use a Trax Evo and it’s spot on, strong enough to take all my gear and compact enough to get straight in the back of the Jeep without needing to take the wheel off. Whatever you take for your normal weekend or 24 hour session generally that’s okay for overnighting providing it can be done in one trip.


Here’s the luggage I take and what it holds:


Standard Bedchair Bag: SS3 sleep system/pillow and peg bag
Quiver: Five rods in skins, two landing nets, shelter and banksticks
Two Barrow Bags: Bag One has tackle box, alarms, PVA tub, lead and leader box, spares box, scales and rig wallets. Bag Two contains camera bag, water bottle, food box, kettle, stove and waterproofs.
Large Garden bag: Kaptive Mat, Retainer Sling, towels and rod mats. A bungee cord keeps it compact.
Polar Cool Bag: Pop up pots, catapults, Spombs and spares and enough boilies for the session.

All that fits beautifully on the Trax Evo. The cool bag goes in the under compartment, both barrow bags and garden bag on the frame and above it the bedchair bag and above that the quiver. One large bungee strap holds it all in place and even at 52 I can push it anywhere. The trick is not necessarily get rid of gear but to be organised. I take a Groundhog Brolly most of the time but no groundsheet. I don’t take bivvy tables but two lightweight Bivvy Trays are just as good and fit in the Barrow Bag easily.

Occasionally I take a large bucket with either mush or floaters but it’s about being organised not short of something when you are there. The more you go the more you will start to cut down on gear and realise what you do and don't need. The first trip or two will see the major changes and eventually you will have it down to a tee. Listen I have been fishing overnight for almost thirty years and I’m still learning.



If much of your time has been spent fishing in the daylight hours then fishing mainly in the hours of darkness does take a little getting used to especially if you are wanting to capitalise on good feeding conditions. A head torch is a must and a spare mini torch or two for the tackle boxes. I used to carry a gas lamp too but now just have a small light from Ikea hanging from the Groundhog rib - safer by far!

"I always draw a plan of the swim..."

As soon as I’m set up I always draw a plan of the swim particularly noting sight lines for casting at night. The rods are almost always on single sticks pointing directly at the end tackle. Once I have established where they are going to be cast to I draw the sight line on the plan and clip up and mark up accordingly. Now different anglers have different preferences when it comes to clipping up with some liking the distance sticks, others pacing their lines out and so on. That doesn’t matter as long as you do it and it WORKS.

No matter where that end tackle drops you MUST be in a position to hit that spot again in the dark if need be. Personally I prefer either tape or our own Spot On paint on marker but its what’s best for you. If you draw a plan, stand in the same spot and clip up correctly multiple catches in the dark are more than possible....Be organised and you will have a HUGE advantage over many there who tend to think about such things when it’s too late and that perfect cast has been ruined by a bream half an hour after dark.



1. Be able to take photos on your own. Often you will be on your own, or far enough from someone to make it unfair and unsafe for them or you to leave rods to do pictures. Equip yourself and practice self timer photography. It takes me under 90 seconds to get my camera kit ready.

2. Drink plenty of water. This definitely aids concentration and feeling better. If you don’t drink it on the bank drink it in the car to and from the lake. I drink at LEAST a litre of water in the car on my trips guys.

3. Don’t eat crap or drink alcohol. It makes you feel sluggish, impares your ability and will cost you fish. Eat as well as possible so fruit, bagels, plain biscuits, brown bread and soup are ideal. Crisps, chocolate, sausage rolls, beer, energy drinks and pizzas are crap for you and on overnighters you can’t afford to feel anything less than 100 per cent.

4. Don’t choose a rock hard water unless you are very experienced. You do need to see some rewards from time to time and noble as it may be weeks or months without a bite will drag you down night after night.

5. Don’t pick overly prolific waters either or you will run yourself into the ground. I love places like Chestnut Pool, Drayton and Strawfields but catching 10 fish or more and going to work will kill you. I can cope with the odd hectic night but not on that scale and still do my job. Some sleep is necessary and I can exist on around four hours but any less is problematical. Be sensible.

6. Look long term. It may be difficult to start with but you do get used to it once you get into the flow of organising yourself and your time properly. The first few are tough for me each year but once I am in a groove it becomes second nature and compared to the punishment of weekend angling still gets my vote.

7. If possible do one overnighter a week when you can get down slightly earlier so it’s not as much of a rush. Sunday afternoons are ideal as most anglers are gone by lunchtime. My preferred start day is Sunday and if I can get an early finish one afternoon I will do that too.

8. Nothing is set in stone and to be a successful overnight angler you need to be flexible. If you get a flyer from work it’s important that the gear is ready for fishing. When I come home from a session I ensure the gear is cleaned, rigs tied and no matter what happens I’m ready to do another night be it tomorrow, the next day or whenever. I have turned up at a lake and found it far too busy so changed my day. Similarly I have slipped in extra days when conditions are good and angler pressure less.

9. Choose NIGHT spots. Think about the hours you have available to you and choose your swim accordingly. Some swims fish better in the dark and it’s pointless fishing the shallows where you first see fish if they move out at 6pm. The more you go the easier it will be to find out which are best....

10. Although it is possible to have multiple catches at night I tend to concentrate on getting a bite rather than filling it in. Single baits, stringers, bags over a scattering of bait are all proven overnight tactics. When, and if I can do two nights in a row I do like to bait up between sessions. Regular baiting does help but consistency in going is far more important.


So those are my top ten tips for anyone who has not tried overnighters. My last book Short Session Success had a full chapter on it so you may find the extra detail in that helps you this year. Angling Publications do it at just £9.99 so contact them at or ring 01142580812.

And as ever if you follow me on Twitter @juliancundiff or Facebook Julian P Cundiff i will do my best to help you with any teething troubles.