Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 6

"In this blog, along with the session, I'd like to share my thoughts on bait and baiting application" 

Winter now had a firm stranglehold on the world outside my window, the days were dragging, dull and lethargic. There was a bite in the air that penetrated deep to the bone. I always find this time of the year difficult, I experience a creeping sense of claustrophobia which isn't helped by the fact that, it was during the colder, darker months that I got ill. Even though its been about 6 years 'and counting', I don't believe the memory scars will ever really fade. Mental illness is such a terrible curse and the simplest of things can cause all the bad memories to come flooding back, it's as if I'm forever walking on a tightrope. 

It's really hard to explain, but from September onward until just before Spring, things are always tough. It all just reminds me of the confusion I felt and the hell I went through with both my situation and the NHS. I was dosed up on so much medication that I looked and felt like the walking dead, and the constant visits to the Priory where I had to dissect my thoughts over and over again, were utterly soul destroying. I wish there was a way to erase the part of me that catalogs all these experiences, but there isn't. So I have to try to occupy my mind with other things and create new memories. Thank God For Carp Fishing!

I'd been very busy with work so my angling had somewhat stalled, however, it was never far from my mind. I'd had a fair result up until now but I was starting to think if there was anything else I could do to tempt a few more bites. For some reason I was feeling that a standard boilie approach was almost to obvious. I started to think about both the shapes and sizes of the baits I was presenting. Maybe offering something of a different shape, and slightly smaller than your standard boilie, might just entice the carp into investigating with less apprehension. 

My mind revisited a 'Burrows' winter session from a few years back when I caught an incredible 24IB common on 5 or so boilies and a handful of broken up pellets. It was so cold and the only thing that stopped the water from freezing was the fact the wind was relentless. I threw the bait in by hand into the deep center channel that runs down the middle of the lake. I pictured ominous shadows slowly making their way through the deeper water. By the time the bait had hit the deck, I visualized it landing in a 'non-uniform' fashion. I didn't want it looking like a trap had been set - I wanted it to look as random as possible. Reminiscent of what it must look like when a pleasure angler casually throws his remaining bait, corn, meat, down into the margin at the end of the day before leaving.

5mm Pellet

I saw the pellets as a different form of attraction, firstly, they breakdown fast so there was no chance of the fish getting full up. Secondly, the fine dusting that they leave was more than enough to attract a passing fish. Because there were so few boilies in the swim, I knew I'd created a feeding situation where I'd upped the chances of my hook-bait getting picked up. Taking the extreme conditions into consideration, I felt this was a far more effective approach than just using a handful of bigger baits alone. There have been a number of times in Winter when I've seen fish pass over boilies without so much as a flinch, however, I have seen them drop down on pellet a number of times.
I believe that, depending on the time of the year, some fish don't really know if they want to feed or not. I feel it's our job to make them realize they do. This is where I think that careful thought on what you're offering and how you're applying it comes into play. You can often see how this develops when you fish on the surface, sometimes it can take a hell of a lot of effort to get them feeding and competing. On some occasions, it can start off with the odd one just nosing or mouthing the bait, they seem reluctant at first. However, if you're careful with your application, you can slowly get them feeding confidently. I feel that this can be the same when bottom bait fishing.  
Caught On A Scattering
What I'm going to explain next is open to interpretation, I'm no expert, I'm just sharing my thoughts, try to bare with me.

My thoughts about bait and its application seem to change on a regular basis, and to be honest, I'll be the first one to admit that on some occasions I'm very anal and over think it all way to much. It has a lot to do with the specific water that I might be fishing at the time, the angling pressure it gets, and how others tend to be tackling it. If I see a specific method being done to death, I'll be very reluctant to mimic it. It's just like rig placement, I see no point in putting my baits where everyone else does. I understand lakes have 'hot-spots', but I'm more inclined to want to find and develop my own. This approach may take a while to work, but with dedication and perseverance it usually comes together. I believe through time, the regular known spots simply dry up and stop producing, I feel the same about certain bait presentations.

Regarding both particles and 'spod' application, I'm not a huge fan, but I will use it if I know it can be effective on the specific venue I'm fishing at the time. I realize that back in the 80's and before, the pioneers were using home-made spods and they worked to great effect. For the first time, the spod allowed anglers to present a different type of bait, hemp, corn, etc at range, a range that it previously couldn't be presented at. I feel because the carp weren't use to seeing that kind of feed out at such distances, they feasted on it without a care in the world. But like most waters, the more a certain approach is adopted, through time, it can end up becoming less effective. I believe the carp start to become cautious and will change both their feeding habits and the locations they choose to feed, if both are under constant pressure.

I'm fully aware that nowadays spodding can work brilliantly on a lot of venues, especially densely stocked commercials where lots of fish are competing for the grub. I also get that if you're doing a long stint where you can get away with the disturbance, then it's the perfect approach to take when initially baiting up your chosen spots. However, I'm not referring to those types of places, I'm talking more about the venues where the carp are spooky, weary and solitary. Both Boreham Mere and Willows on the CAA ticket are perfect examples to use. It's on theses waters that I feel a more refined approach can pay off.

On the venues mentioned above and similar, I don't believe that the bigger residence feel comfortable sitting on a big bed of bait for to long. I think they want a quick bite, something easy, so they can grab it and keep moving. Why is it that some big carp go uncaught for months, sometimes years? are they seeing something that the others aren't. From experience, most of my better fish have come off a small mouthful or a single. I've been frying my neural-pathways trying to figure out why this is, is it because a small food package or single doesn't oppose a threat. Nowadays so much bait goes in all the waters, a single stand alone bait might be something that they just don't come across anymore. Are the 'Kings & Queens' of the waters avoiding the larger areas of bait? 

A Boreham Mere Beauty - Caught On A Single
So.. lets think about this - Do bigger wiser carp recognize certain baiting patterns?  

I think it's safe to say that bait spodded out falls in a pretty random way, a lot depends on the depth you're fishing in and the undertow. However if you're targeting a well known bar or plateau that sees a lot of spod mix, do the carp start to avoid it?. I can use my time on Chase back lake as an example, everyone use to go on about fishing at range. There was a defined bar that you could hit from a number of swims, spods would be flying out to it day and night. I personally never saw a great deal being caught, I decided I was going to approach the water differently. I was going to avoid the visible features, including the bar, and fish short/medium range, mainly in the margins. Those that have read my Chase blogs will know that I had great success doing this with fish up to 30IB.

 Bait Boat Presentation

My second example of an obvious baiting pattern is, that dropped from a bait boat, it can resemble a largish rectangle, usually containing everything a carp could only dream of eating - is that point alone a cause for caution. I believe on waters that allow bait boats, the carp are coming across a very familiar sight. I feel on venues like this, a single or a small mouthful could pay dividends. My final example is solid bags, they leave a very recognizable baiting pattern. It's basically a small roundish pile, on some waters they're so effective, others I can't buy a bite with them. Is this because its a method that's been used a lot in the past so the carp avoid the bait pattern a solid bag tends to leave?  

Most of these questions can't really be answered and there's always exceptions to the rule. But I can't help thinking that there might be some truth to what I've tried to explain. Going back to the more pressured spots, if the carp have the instinct to start avoiding them. Surely the same goes for a certain kind of presentation. To sum up, I think that when a carp continually comes across a certain bait application/presentation a lot, and continues to get caught out. Eventually it will/may steer well clear, meaning that thinking differently in terms of what, and how you're applying your bait, in the long term, could really pay off.

To Obvious On Some Waters?
A Simple 'Unassuming' Single
On the day of the session, I arrived at the water for about 10:30am, the conditions were very similar to my last trip. It was bright and cold and the lake was deserted, having been working a lot over the last few weeks. It felt great to be back out, within minutes I could feel my thoughts untangling. It didn't take long for my 'angling mind' to wake up and I started to feel both excited and inspired. After a great deal of thought, I decided that I was going to fish a small cut down piece of boilie on the hair, topped off with a small piece of white foam. Along with that, I was going to squash a handful of boilies and offer them up as freebies. I unfortunately didn't have any pellets left. Due to this change of approach, I'd have to walk around and apply my bait by hand. I felt that trying to put it out by catapult would've been pointless, I wanted to have the bait presented perfectly on my spot.

Presentation Change

Regarding tweaks to my rig, I'd shortened the hook-link to literally a couple of inches and I'd upped the lead size to 3oz. I wanted the carp to feel heavy resistance the second it picked the bait up. As usual I had a nice long hair, 'for separation', which was fished on a size 6 Fang Twister, with a 5.3m rig ring. Some people have asked me why I use such a big ring, I'll explain its purpose at some point in the future. Everything was set up and ready, I wandered around the other side to deposit my freebies. I took about a handful with me, that was more than enough. 

Walking around the deserted lake, branches creaked and snapped under foot. It was desolate, almost eerie, it was hard to picture how busy it tends to get in the height of the summer. Approaching my spot, I crept down, kept low and spread the squashed boilies 'randomly' along the marginal growth. Looking at the area from such a close proximity, I was really surprised just how close in I was getting the bites. It just goes to show that carp will come in close to feed at all times of the year.

Back in my swim with the rods now clipped up, I made the measured casts, both hit the clip with a very satisfying 'PING', my rod tips cushioned the impact beautifully. For some reason my anticipation was sky high, I think this was because I'd put a little more thought into the way I wanted to approach things. I was embracing the feeling when all of a sudden my right rod was away. Slightly stunned, I gently lifted into it, whatever was on the end was darting around like crazy. The tugs were reminiscent of a tench, I suspected that I'd hooked into one of the smaller fish, I didn't care though, a bite is a bite. A short fight saw me slide the net under a pristine little mirror, I had no doubt that he was destine to become a future king. I was very pleased with the quick action.

Welcome Company On An Eerie Day
Slipping the fish back into the crystal clear water, within seconds it morphed out of sight. The rod was once again wrapped and cast back out, 'right on the money'. If I was lucky enough to get another bite, I'd have to take another walk round to add a little more bait. For all I knew the carp I just caught could've eaten most of what I'd put out. With the kettle now on, I sat hunched on my chair, I was feeling the chill, it was all rather 'uninviting'. The colors around me were vivid, it's as if the landscape had been bleached. Winter can be such a strange time, with endless distance both over head and all around me, I still had an ominous feeling of isolation.

Now cupping my hand around a scorching cup off coffee, I paid close attention to the water. The ripples were constantly changing, whatever was happening below the surface was anyone's guess. I started to think about the elements within angling that I love the most. Moving aside the obvious, over the past few months its become apparent that it's the communication. Through rod and line, marker float and braid, we're forever trying to communicate with a world we can't readily see. That's where the art lies for me. Hence why I refuse to use 'new technologies' to bypass the lessons within learning. I fear technology, for me it provides convenience and takes away a great deal of the natural learning process. Why use a dictionary when you can spellcheck? Why write an elegant letter when you can email? Why use a marker float and braid when you can chuck a deeper pro out?.  

All my technological fears where erased as my left rod tore into action, I was on it fast, the fish flew towards me at a crazy pace. I was reeling in the slack like a madman. It was under the tip within minutes, here it decided to wake up, it was tugging and pulling with all its might, the beautiful tip action of my 'Ballistas' cushioned every lunge. All the energy from the fight was passing down the blank and making its way up my forearm. The fish cut the surface, its winter skin looked perfect, implanted within the landscape for a fraction of a moment. Soon enough I was slipping the second prize of the day over my net. It came in the shape of a lovely, plump mid-double mirror.

Draped In Winters Skin
After a few quick photos, back she went, I needed to put some more bait out so I reeled in my right hand rod and took another wander around the other side. Everything seemed to be working out today, I couldn't help but think it was because of the presentation change. Maybe my overblown theories on baiting patterns and application weren't so ridiculous after all. I've been accused in the past of giving the carp far to much credit, but I don't think that's a bad thing. It keeps you thinking, never underestimate anything, overestimation can keep you one step ahead at all times. I scattered another handful of squashed boilies randomly around my spot, time was ticking by now so I was eager to get back to rods and get them straight out.

Back at the swim, the rigs were once again clipped to 12.5 rod lengths, out they went. I was confident that I might be able to tempt another bite, the hours were starting to close the day. There was a drastic temperature drop, and with it came a more defined chop on the water. I decided I'd give it another hour or so, 'I was feeling lucky'. It was too late in the day for a extortionately dangerous dose of caffeine so I got the 'Yorkshire Tea' out, whilst the brewing ceremony was taking place, liners were occurring on both rods. My heart was racing so fast and I was anticipating possible chaos at any second. I just had time to squeeze the remaining 'goodness' within the tea bag into my cup, when, within an instant, the right rod was off. I instantly knew this was a better fish, it careered towards the sunken post. I managed to sway it away, the rod locked tight to the right and the clutch was humming, I had 'synchronicity' in the palm of my hand. 

I was gaining ground, I wasn't going to rush it, if I could get this fish in, then it would be the perfect end to a surprisingly fruitful session. Closer and closer she came, flat spots were appearing as she tried desperately to escape. I lowered the net whilst teasing her ever closer, the mesh engulfed her .. JOB DONE !!. Peering into the net I instantly recognized this fish as a repeat capture, only this time around she was a lot larger. I can't remember exactly when I last met her acquaintance but it was so good to see she was thriving and doing well. Her scales were subtle and perfect looking and her mouth was in really good shape, that's something I always love to see.

An Old Friend
I wished her well and sent her home, maybe we'd meet again a few more years down the line. It was the perfect way to end what I can only describe as a surprisingly productive day. As we know, there's so many variables in carp fishing so it's hard to pinpoint exactly why things happen and why they don't. I'd like to think that the slight change in the way I presented my offering played a part. Before I went home I spread three modest handfuls of bait all around the spot. I had to work the next day but I was thinking that I might come back for literally a few hours in the early morning. I'd be passing the water on the way through to where I was working. 

The next day I got on to the water for 6:30am and within an hour of having my rods out I managed another lovely looking heavy plated mirror carp. It looked like the little brother of the one I had a few sessions back. It goes without saying that I went to work that day with a head full of fish. It's a great feeling, the water is always waiting for you. However hard life gets and however much the system grinds you down, it can never take the water away from the angler. I was looking forward to my next trip.

An Early Morning Jewel




Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 5

In this post I'm not going to go into too much detail about my bait, rigs and location, all this was covered in part one. For those that may not have read it, you can check it out here - Winter Series Part One 

Weeks had past since my last trip, during this time my thoughts about how I wanted to fish the next few months had firmly rooted. I was walking around like a man obsessed, I wanted to cast out so badly, I had trigger happy hands. Any slight sound that was similar to a bite alarm had me on high alert, I swear I ended up striking my phone at least twice when it rang. When the opportunity to get out came around, I was like a kid in a candy store. All the preparation had been done, fresh rigs had been tied, rods and reels had been cleaned meticulously, and both my baits had been soaked up to the eye balls in glug. The sweet aroma of both the Banana Cream & Honey Nectar had been flooding my flat with smells that instantly reminded me of the past. In the summer fish-meals give me flash backs, in Autumn and Winter, Milk Proteins remind me of the cold nights I spent in my bivvy years ago, out in all weathers, pacifying this new obsession that I'd found in carp fishing, and angling as a whole.

I have such fond memories of 'the boilie', I'd spend hours on end in my local tackle shop smelling all these bags of 'strange little marble sized' carp sweets. The colors, the packaging, and the way all the different flavors would hit you as you walked in. Those were great times and I have to say that when Crowborough tackle finally closed its doors. It left a gaping hole in a lot of our 'local' lives. As I sit and type these words I can almost taste Richworths 'Hawaiian Pineapple', Starmers 'Garlic Mint', Nutrabaits 'Cream Cajouser' and, of course, the formidable Tropicanna Gold by Kevin Maddocks - along with many more. I remember rolling my own baits on a Solar sweet birdseed base-mix, The Quench, Wild Strawberry and The Caramel were the first flavors that I used, they all caught me a lot of fish. My baits weren't formulated very well, they were odd shapes and had a tendency to split, but they worked. We've all got to start somewhere when it comes to bait and it played a memorable part in my carp fishing history. Along with the baits I used, I flash back to the places I once fished.

Rod Hutchison Apotheosis 'Two Man'

Before I past my driving test I was pretty much a prisoner of the town I grew up in, "in more ways than one". I was very lucky though, because in and around Crowborough, East Sussex, there were a lot of waters in close proximity to each other. At times my parents would drop me off, other times I'd struggle with the little tackle I had, peddling like crazy on my bike. Determined to get my 'fishing fix' before the sun went down. It was a race against time, a race to catch up on all the fishing I'd missed, having not discovered it earlier in my life. My world was the water, the roads that took me to them, and of course the mythical fish that were residing in their depths. Once I left school I continued playing drums by night to earn my living and spent most of my days down by the waters edge waiting and anticipation.

Once driving, a whole new world opened up for me and that's when the night fishing took hold. I saved my pennies to purchase my first Bivvy, the Rod Hutchison Apotheosis, '2 man'. This was terrible compared to todays standards but it kept me and my mates safe and dry whilst we slept under the stars. There were around 9 of us that were fishing all the same waters at the same time. We ended up fishing together a lot, all the Crowborough Angling Club lakes became our second homes. Tanyards, Pippingford Park, Bunny Lane, the list went on, and if we weren't fishing together, we nearly always bumped into each other whilst traveling between waters. I have memories of endless summers pitched up on the bank, cook outs, beer that was kept in bags resting in the margins to keep them cool, and hour long conversations about the big mirrors and commons we'd all seen but never caught.

Locked In Time

One memory that always resurfaces is the night that all of us literally slept on top of each other in my bivvy. We'd been telling ghost stories and no one wanted to sleep on their own. The one tale that put the fear of god up all of us, was the story of a girl called Alice Bright. Apparently she committed suicide by jumping of a railway bridge, a road was named after her. It just so happened that the water we were doing the nights on was down the very bottom of Alice Bright Lane and the railway bridge was overlooking the lake, 'I kid you not'. It was a local legend that we'd all heard about at school and it had imprinted itself on all of our minds. We never witnessed anything whilst we were fishing but it was always eerie every time the sun went down. The railway bridge and its arches would stand like rigid archetypes under the light of the moon. You semi expected to see the ghostly figure of Alice making her way along the tracks at the top of the bridge, or even worse, along the other side of the lake.

All these memories will never be forgotten and each one of them has become a cross-thread that runs through me, and has contributed to making me the angler I am today. Nowadays, when I find myself losing sight of things due to how commercial carp fishing has now become. I take a moment to reflect and look back, it doesn't take me long to feel inspired again. I do often wonder what my old fishing companions are doing now. Did they carry on fishing? Do they find themselves thinking back to those times? I get the feeling that maybe I was the only one that continued the journey. Circumstances change, people change and the older we get, life and the mundane of the 'everyday' has a tendency to take over. There have been periods in my life where my angling was almost lost, destine to die a slow death in the clutches of 'responsibility'. But there was no way I was going to let that happen, there was far too much to lose. There are still so many waters yet to explore, countless secrets yet to be unearthed, and of course many memories yet to be written. The great thing now, is that I can share them in a 'digital' form with all those who choose to read them.

So with a head full of memories and a gut wrenching calling to get the rods out, I packed the van and headed off down Burrows to continue with my master plan. It was one of those cold bright winter days where everything had needle point clarity. The blue skies above appeared panoramic and each breath I took felt like my lungs were being cleansed of all the poisons that I 'unknowingly' inhale due to living in the city. My last session had been a very successful one, considering I had to change my plan at the final moment. However, today I really wanted to get back on track and start to properly target my secret spot. 

Driving 'full-pelt' down the motorway, my mind was racing, the journey flew by and as I pulled up into the clubs car park, it was deserted ... result? I loaded my barrow quickly and made my way down the path towards the water. It was looking perfect, stumbling through the mud and clay, I got to my 'self made swim' and proceeded to get everything setup with precision. The rods were already rigged up so I wrapped them to 12.5 rod lengths, slipped the baits onto both hairs and made the measured casts. I wanted to get them both 'spot on' straightaway, the plan was to keep any disturbance to a minimum. Stealth fishing was the key, today I was going to continue to really try and master 'silence', Winter is the perfect time of the year to practice this with the banks being so quiet. 

The Skeleton Of Trees

I have a firm belief that when carp don't know they're being fished for, they have a tendency to act in more of a natural way. Through the years I've seen so many examples on lots of different waters to back this belief up, I'll use the main lake at Hoo as my reference point. I'm currently putting a block of time in on this water and I'm having good results, I'm fishing it during the week when it's empty, only short afternoon sessions. The lake is very pressured and most weekends it will be rammed with anglers, you've got the spods flying, endless casting and lines suspended through the water at all angles. Occasionally on Sundays, I go down to Hoo to fish 'a relatively ignored' water called 'The Cut', I have to walk past main lake to get to it. More times than I can remember I've talked to anglers that have been down there for 12 hours, sometimes more, and they haven't had a fish. Along with that, they haven't even had a liner, let alone seen any jump. 

I usually finish my sessions on 'The Cut' late evening, by this time all the weekend anglers have gone home. The water is once again empty and it's peaceful and quiet, I'll always stop for about half hour to watch. I nearly always see carp activity, vortexes, flat spots and more times than not, fish jumping. I believe that when lots of leads start hitting that water the carp retreat to the reeds and don't really venture out until they feel it's safe to do so. All the sessions I've done recently on main lake - 'which will be written up in the months to come', have been successful because, I 'very quietly' make my way onto the water and wait until the fish give their location away. Once I've spotted where they are I'll fish for them, I'll make one cast and then sit back, watch, wait and remain as quiet as possible. It really has been as straightforward as that, mastering 'silence' is a skill and it's there for everyone to practice, I believe it can be the difference between blanking and catching.

Back To The Session 

Both baits kissed the clips perfectly, I was more than happy with where they landed. Freebies were then deposited tightly around the area, bobbins were hung, the alarms switched on, now it was time to engage in the most important bank-side activity of all ... getting the coffee on. Sitting back with the kettle creaking, the only sound, my Coleman gas cylinder battling desperately to bring my first brew to the boil. It, all of a sudden struck me just how still the environment was, the waters surface was like a sheet of glass, no bird-life was active, not one single branch was twitching on the trees around me. It was as if I'd unknowingly installed myself into a 'still-life' portrait, stranger still, I suddenly had this foreboding feeling of just how minuscule I was in the scheme of things. Inside our heads both our world and who we share it with seem so large, but the truth is, us as humans are barely a 'pinprick' on the surface of the universe - I really need to stop my thoughts running away from me!

Now with the steam from the kettle fogging the crystal clear landscape, I poured the boiling water onto my 'Colombians' finest. The sweet aroma of a thousand and one coffee beans infused itself into the air around me. Now it was the waiting game, sitting still and watching the water closely, there were no signs of carp anywhere. This is when you really have to stay confident in your approach, thinking back to some of the previous winters, I've learned that bites literally come out of the blue. There can be no indication whatsoever that the fish are in your vicinity. As the hours past, the temperature felt as if it was dropping. To try and warm myself up, I visualized the banks in bloom, in the height of the summer when the water is a deep emerald green and you can paddle in the margins barefoot, those times felt like a world away.

A Different World
A short, sharp liner suddenly drew my attention to my right-hand rod, all visualization stopped and I was very much 'in the moment'. My eyes now firmly on the rod tip, I registered a tiny jolt that didn't indicate on the alarm. It was clear that something was occurring, sitting there literally holding my breath, I was anticipating a bite, within seconds it was away. The rod tip tore round to the right and the clutch kicked in, I was on it fast. As expected the fish made a beeline towards the underwater post, I managed to steer her back my way. I kept the pressure on until I was out of danger. Now in the open water, it pulled slowly from left to right, and back again. I didn't want to curse the situation but it felt like a pretty heavy lump. I was slowly making head way and now with the fish about a rods length from the bank, I was starting to get nervous. I was dying to catch just a small glimpse of my winter prize.

As the fish tired, its back cut the waters skin, I was met with big plated scales that instantly reflected off the sun. It was very clear that I'd managed to catch yet another one of Burrows special secrets, 'it's the water that just keeps on giving'. It was a big heavy plated mirror that encapsulated what I can only describe as 'perfection'. I gently slipped the mesh under her and took a huge sigh of relief, peering down into the net, I couldn't quite believe what I was looking at. This had to be one of the best looking mirrors that I'd ever managed to catch, its winter skin morphed into the colors of the landscape perfectly, each scale, literally shimmering under the low winter sun.

Perfectly Plated 
After a few photos and a salute farewell, I found myself feeling both honored and inspired, that's one of the many beauties of carp angling, you never know what could happen at any given moment. From a lake that looked as desolate as you could get, one of the more unique residence decided to reveal itself. As time has gone by, I've learned to appreciate every single fish that I catch, if it's big then that's a bonus. If it's small then I know I've made contact with a future king, kings that will eventually grow on to be the next generations myths. I just hope that, not only the carp, but all species of fish are always given the respect that they deserve. 

With the sun starting to yawn over the horizon and with temperatures dropping, I decided to call it a day, I had to be up early for work so staying after dark wasn't an option. I was more than happy with the result, these winter sessions are a marathon, not a sprint,  they're going to be a long, slow process. As originally stated at the very start of this series of blogs. I'm anticipating that if I keep the bait going in, stick to both the spot and the approach, my catch rate could well improve, we'll have to wait and see.



Saturday, 27 May 2017

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 4

Over the past couple of weeks due to one thing or the other I hadn't managed to get out at all. Along with that, the weather had taken on a whole new form, the milder bright days of the past few months had gone. Each morning as I unwound the blinds I was greeted with a very different world, dark looming clouds and icy biting winds had implanted themselves in the 'everyday' and they weren't in a rush to leave. It's all too easy to hide away when the conditions are like this. However, it was not going to make me deviate from my plan, I needed to get out, I was going stir crazy. It's weird because I find that it's the normality of everyday life that gets to me the most. 

When I was active musically I felt removed from the 'normal'. Both your mind and your soul were consumed with creating something, most of the time it seemed to just create confusion and borderline madness, but that was fine for me, I embraced it fully and that became my 'normal'. I had this aching feeling that I was chasing after something, but deep down I had no idea what it was, somewhere inside, I knew the answer was hidden in between the heavy beat of a bass drum and a series of chords and melodies. Living that life felt very natural, it was an existence that I'd fine tuned as the years past. The '9-5' working day was an illness that I found myself always trying to shake off. This wasn't out of laziness, I've always worked hard, but I just couldn't help continually thinking .... surly there's more to life than this?.

Nothing is more confusing to me than the broken system that's forced upon us. I remember feeling this way from a very early age, I've spent a huge majority of my life trying to break through the 'matrix', ... I'm still trying. I think that's one of the major aspects that drew me to angling in the first place, and it still plays a huge part today. It's an ejector seat that can thrust you clean from the shackles of the 'malleable reality' that's continually being reshaped for us everyday of our lives. I truly believe that getting out there on the water is as close to 'actual reality' as we're going to get. It's the one place where outside influences can't eat away at our consciousness, it's a safe haven where we're not continually told how we should think and what we should feel.

I'm not necessarily talking about the packed circuit waters or commercial day tickets here, there's way too much contact on those types of venues. I'm talking about the quiet waters, solitary type venues buried deep in the heart of the countryside ignored by the crowds. Where, father and son, boy or girl, venture out with no preconceived ideas or expectations, all they have is a rod in hand and a head full of dreams - there's nothing like that feeling, we've all experienced it. I believe it's that first moment when you cast a float into 'your' virgin water for the very first time. That defining moment when the float gently bobs and sinks through the waters skin. Nothing quite compares to that feeling, that's what we've all got to try to remember and hold on to, that's reality.
Find Your Own Reality

So here I was, the day was dull, the sky collapsing, but I was on an adventure, off out to find my own little piece of 'reality'. Opening the front door to start 'the tackle packing ritual, I quickly received a side hook and a hefty upper cut from 'JACK FROST'. The season was really packing a punch, I was more than prepared to go 12 rounds though, my desire to catch a carp couldn't be tamed. Arriving at the gates of Paddlesworth, the trees were swaying and everything felt pretty unforgiving. All the preparation of my last session was going to come into play, I'd get the rods clipped up and out quick. The brolly would go up and I'd perch underneath, doing my best to obscure myself from the universe.  

As I walked around the top part of the lake I spotted what looked like a day shelter in the distance, and it looked close to my secret spot. Instead of struggling with the barrow, I ditched it in the 'muddy double swim' and took a wander. All my plans were dashed when I walked around the corner only to see an angler set up to the right of the swim I was planning to go in. My master-plan was going to have to get put on hold, there was no way I was going to setup next to him when the rest of the lake was empty. It was frustrating but maybe it was fate, I took a few moments to gather my thoughts. My target area wasn't going to move, it will be there waiting for me for next time. Because I'd left my barrow in the 'muddy double', I thought I may as well setup there.

I usually avoid this swim due to the constant pressure but the lake had been very quiet recently. I've found in the past that when you're forced to make a last minute change, sometimes it can end up being the best thing that could've happened. You haven't been overthinking anything, you just get on with it. I would take my planned baiting approach and simply transplant it into my new swim. Instead of aiming for the opposite margin, which is the 'go to' spot, I'd target the edges of what I call the bowl area. My left hand rod would be in the clear, my right-hand rod would be fished super tight to the marginal growth. The bottom is littered with debris so I was going to change the rig to a rotary system with a balanced pop up.

Looking at the image below you'll get a clearer idea of what I'm talking about. In my mind, I like to divide my waters up into sections or 'areas', I find that this allows me to think clearer about the 'said' lake as a whole. On that particular 
session 'pictured', I was fishing straight across, I didn't have any luck, to be honest I was more bothered about dodging flying branches, it was utter chaos being out in the storm - strangely I loved every minute of it. There's nothing quite like fishing for carp and fearing for your life all at the same time, it certainly adds a fresh spin on things.
The Muddy Double 'During The Storm Last Month' 2017

'Excuse the tangent I'm about to lead you on, it's all relevant'. 

In regards to my 'rotary/heli' setup, I was going to piece it together myself. I've never really been one to buy 'rig kits', it has been this way since day one, I know it might be hard for some new comers to the sport to believe, but when I started properly fishing for carp, there weren't any ready tied rigs or kits. You had to suss it all out yourself, I'm not ashamed to admit that I just couldn't get my head around any of it to start off with. Casting a rig without it tangling was something that literally drove me nuts. The other aspect that will probably sound crazy, I didn't understand the concept of the bolt rig. I had this firm belief that when a carp picked the bait up and felt resistance, it simply dropped it and swam off. We know now that some of the older wiser fish have a tendency to do this. But I was fishing local club waters, none of the carp were seasoned escape artists.

It goes without saying that when the penny finally dropped it really changed my fishing, I started to make rigs for all situations from random bits of end tackle, all of a sudden all these odds and ends on the shelves down my local tackle shop, began to make sense. Having started at it in this way, however annoying it was at the time, it gave me a complete understanding of rigs, when and why you use them and for what situation. The learning process can be so frustrating but it is of course necessary in everything we do - "don't let other people do the thinking for you". You'll see in the image below that the rig is straightforward, the key element for me is the the riser lead, it's so easy to cast and if you're landing in debris or low lying weed, it slips both in and out with no bother.

Helicopter Rig 'Right Hand Spot'

Back in the 'muddy double', now with both rods ready to go, I took a few measured casts, clipped up and got the baits exactly where I wanted them. Dipping my hand in the water, I was actually shocked at just how freezing it was, all of a sudden the prospect of landing a fish evaporated, I visualized all the carp in the lake sitting in a big group, not moving, practically hibernating. Being so wrapped up with at least five layers on, I genuinely couldn't feel just how cold it was. There was no turning back, so under the brolly I hid, the kettle was just starting to boil. Its steam trails looking like spectres as they gently floated out across the swim, it fitted the atmosphere perfectly.  

View From The Swim

I was slowly settling, knowing deep down that I was probably going to be looking at static rods all day, when to my utter surprise the left rod tore off at a crazy pace. I really didn't expect it, maybe it was an hallucination, lifting into the rod and feeling a very real force, there was no doubt that I had a carp on the end of my line. It kited out into the open water and pulled as hard as it could down towards the margin to my right. I knew exactly what it was planning to do, there's a rough gravel shelf that falls away fast. I knew it was going to try and take me across it to cut the line - how do I know this?. Because a few fish have done me on it in the past, I wasn't going to let that happen. 

Applying some serious side strain I manged to guide her out in front of me, I caught a glimpse of light brown, it was mirror and it looked like a really nice fish. As she came close in I let my rod tip do all the work, I was fishing with my Bruce Ashby Perimeter XPS today. Even though they're a heavier rod, they still have the lovely tip action that's synonymous with Mr Ashbys rod building. Very slowly she started to tire, the fight had definitely warmed me up and as I slipped the net under my first carp of the day. I felt a buzz of electricity jolt through my body, what a result, it looked like I'd picked the right swim. I know that in the 'muddy double', if you get one, there's usually a few more to come.

Warmth On A Freezing Day

Releasing the fish back into the water and watching her swim off was somewhat cathartic. Everything was crystal clear, I could see her gills gently expanding, the tail swaying with a fluid motion. Lots of little idiosyncrasies I usually miss when the waters are muddied up. Having felt like I'd embraced the moment fully, it was now time to clip back up and get the rod back out. The wraps were counted, a short sharp jolt was executed, the clip kissed .. DONK!. The rig was back in position, under the brolly I crawled, hands firmly in my pockets, I really couldn't feel my fingers at all.  Sitting looking out at the desolate and deserted land before me, I felt strangely optimistic.

Now with coffee in hand and 'e-cig' in the other, I proceeded to create vapor trials, long slow draws on my device allowed me to conjure up what looked like more 'specters' drifting in the space above the water. The cold air kept the vapor dense, gently shifting its shape. For a second or two it looked reminiscent of stallions cantering across a murky wasteland. I was determined to try and see the ghostly shape of Richard Walker executing the cast that changed carp fishing forever. Just as I thought he was making an appearance, my left rod was away. The bobbin smacked the blank at such force, it was a real wake up call. Leaning into the fish, I was met with a heavy weight, as the ghosts I created petered off into the ether. I was smack bang in reality wrestling with the wild. 

The fish was moving slowly, there was no shaking of the head, it was eerily calm, gliding from left to right. It came in pretty quick and then proceeded to wake up under the tip. I cushioned its lunges, it surfaced for a second, it was a common, and a good one at that. Draped in its winter skin, it was reluctant to reveal itself to me, I was growing inpatient, I wanted to feast my eyes on the prize. A few minutes passed, she came up on her side. I slide the net under, what I can only describe, as perfection. As she sat sulking in the net, I looked down in slight disbelief, this fish was perfect in every way. The scales were pristine, its fins, mouth, everything was perfect, I was blown away, and with the clouds now breaking overhead, this carp shone as the ultimate example as to why I love Burrows so much.

With the fish safely in the sling I slowly lowered her back into the water, upon doing so, a single kick saw her shoot like a torpedo back into the abyss, there was no hanging around, no fond farewell. I started to wonder where she was off to in such a hurry, maybe she was off to warn her friends to get the hell out of the area. Either way, I was very happy to get another bite, it was obvious they were feeding and I felt that there was a high chance of getting another one. The rod went straight back out, a few freebies followed, I was back under my brolly, waiting for the unexpected.

Clouds were moving fast overhead, they were accelerating, it was trying its best to brighten up, the claustrophobic murk of the morning had finally lifted, I was now met with overcast skies. Occasionally the suns rays would fire down and touch the water before being swallowed back up by a mass of cloud confusion. The wind was still beating down towards me, I was hoping a few fish might just be hitching a ride on the undercurrent. Over the next hour or so I was getting a few liners off of both rods, it was clear to me that I had fish in the vicinity. I was preying that at least one of them would find my bait.

Mid afternoon came, there was a single bleep on my left rod, the bobbin fidgeted, my bite alarm was spluttering, indicating possible chaos. There was a major drop back, then ... BANG!! I was away, on it like a shot, I lifted the rod, eased into its curve, the clutch ticked, instantly I knew I was into some big. It was solid, I held on, it kited to my left and just carried on going. I couldn't do a great deal with it so I just held fast, the heavy clouds above where getting thicker, the sun had gone, leaving me standing alone to deal with a prospective monster. It was nuts, my legs where shaking a little bit, very slowly, the carp started to let me in on the game. Closer and closer it came until I was looking at a series of flat spots and vortexes a few yards in front of me. In all of 3 seconds, I caught a glimpse, it was a mirror and it was big. 

All I had to do was tire it out, ease it over the mesh and I could finally lay eyes on my long awaited prize. The carp started to go up on its side, as I lowered the net in, it bolted, the 'NET FEAR' had given it a burst of energy. It was off again, so was my heart, it was literally in my mouth at this point. Side strain saw it coming back towards me, it surfaced, it went on its side, 'there was a fumble'. The mesh engulfed her ... job done!. Both my body and mind untangled, I let the relief wash over me, looking at the lump awaiting my attention down in the net, it was clear that I'd caught a beast. I decided I'd take the scales to it, to me it looked like a mid twenty, nowadays I only weigh fish if it's clear that they could be something special, 'size wise'. Scales were zeroed to the sling, tripod was up, scales fell to 25IB 5oz. I was blown away, I really didn't expect to catch a lump like this, to be honest I wasn't expecting to catch anything. 
25IB 5oz Of Cold Water Carp
Taking her back to the water, I held her upright until the 'kick of life' came, I made a point of watching her disappear completely. Time was starting to get on now, I was still good for another few hours. Clipping up, I got the rod back out, topped the swim up and put the kettle on, I needed some warmth, lubrication and some time to digest what had just happened. Today's results in such cold weather really throws the 'carp angling' rule book out the window. But at the same time, it was very inspiring. Fate had dealt me a winning hand, I was forced to fish in a different swim to the one that I'd intended. I'm positive that I wouldn't of had this kind of result if I was elsewhere on the water. It was clear the fish were down my end, and it shows that they will sometimes feed in freezing conditions if you can put a bait near to where they're holding up.

The day was crawling to a close now, I decided I'd start packing up the non-essentials. I always draw this process out in the hope a 'last knockings' bite might materialize. Almost everything was packed away, I reeled my right rod in and started to break it down. My back was turned, when all of a sudden the left rod fired into life, 'last knockings' had delivered a bonus fish. What a session this had turned out to be, the fight was spirited and full of minor drama, it put up a great account of itself. After a few tense moments I scooped my closing fish into the net, and what a fish it was, a unique looking mirror with high shoulders. It was the perfect carp to finish with, a proper looking character.

Bonus Fish 'Last Knockings'
What a day it had turned out to be, confusion in the skies, a fleeting sun and a good number of carp caught. It just goes to show how unpredictable angling can be, and you can never really know exactly what's going to happen. Maybe today was one of those flukes, or maybe it was the very simple case that the carp were pretty much grouped up within yards of where I'd chosen to cast. There are no definitive answers to any of these questions, I'm going to put it down to fate. Obviously when I next come down I'm going to be continuing with my initial plan, I really want to commit and follow it through. I have a very strong feeling that it's going to work, but, as stated before, I sense it's going to start off slow. Wheeling the barrow up the clay ridden path back to the car, I felt inspired, I was tired and very very cold. But the thought of getting back out as soon as possible was very much at the forefront of my mind.