Sunday, 12 March 2017

Burrows 'Echos From The Valley' Part 2

"Balance - a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions" 

In this blog I'm accounting for a short afternoon session I managed to fit in down on Burrows. But first I'd like to explain what I feel about both balance and mindset, these two things play a huge part in both my angling and the way I try to live my life. For many of us out there, 'angling is life' ... try and bare with me on this one. 

It had been a good few weeks since my last session, my work had been all over the place and fishing, unfortunately had to take a back seat. Times like these are always frustrating especially when you know that the conditions are perfect. But from a "perspective" point of view, it can really work in my favour. My 'angling flame' has to stay burning bright for me to fish well. I've written a lot in the past about both perspective and mindset, I'm very conscious of both of these things because they pretty much dictate my existence. It's these two elements that exhaust me the most because they're forever changing and I'm forever wrestling with them. Over time I've come to understand that too much of one thing can end up having the reverse effect, even if it's something that you really enjoy. Trying your best to balance everything within your life 'as close to equal as you can' is something that I continue to try and master, it's far from easy. 

Equal Measure 

Nowadays very few people have a work/life balance, many are working all the hours under the sun, some in jobs they hate, just to survive. I feel that in UK society more than any other, we've got an 'equilibrium' crisis which I think is contributing to the current turmoil that we seem to be experiencing on a daily basis. Simply put many lives are out of balance and it's having a huge knock on effect, how the hell do we balance the scales? I don't think there's an answer to this question, in a life that's so critically out of balance, you've got to try and find your own stability in the best way you can. So ... what does this have to do with carp angling?, in my mind there's a very solid parallel, angling metaphors are stitched tightly within our everyday lives and only the 'angler' has the chance to see them.

If I have a block of free time and I'm out on the bank everyday, as the days pass I find it hard to maintain the focus that I feel I need to be fishing as effectively as I can. For me to get the best out of everything I need time away from it. Time away always allows the mind to file and process everything its been doing, so when you start again both your mindset and perspective are rested and fresh. I noticed this a lot with my drumming, I'd be on my kit everyday, rehearsing, playing shows and basically forcing the issue from noon until night, year in and year out. I thought that I was doing the right thing but it eventually became clear that I was totally overdoing it. I lost my perspective completely to the point where I was starting to think I was actually regressing, and it was this approach that led to my eventual burnout at 'the ripe old age of 36'. If I'd actually taken the time to step back for a while, I would of realised that I was doing just fine.

I know we're all different but it was through this experience that I learnt how I needed to approach things in the future, not just in my angling, but everything that I was doing. Balance is in everything around us and more importantly, within us. It doesn't take a great deal to tip the scales, it can come in many forms both physically and mentally. For example, take our ears, they're not just for hearing, the inner parts contain a fluid that keeps us centred, allows us to walk straight and basically function. It only takes a fraction of this fluid to move or leak into a different part of the ear, for us to suffer vertigo, feel dizzy and have a hard time even standing up. There are some that might be reading this who have experienced these symptoms, its hard to believe something so small can have such a big impact. 

Another example is both the brain and the stomach, so many carefully balanced vitamins, minerals and chemicals have to work in perfect unison for both to function correctly. It doesn't take much to throw them out and it can have real adverse effects on our system. We have a cosmos inside of us and when it's both balanced and managed correctly, we in turn feel so much better for it. Moving away from ourselves, take 'practice' for example, does it really make perfect? too a point I think it does, but I feel if you over do it, there's a risk that you will peak and slowly fall into the boundaries of 'stale'. This in turn can have a negative impact on your perspective and all of a sudden something you enjoy doing can feel more like a 'psychological operation' than a pleasure.  

In regards to 'mindset', I feel this runs parallel with balance. It's hard to think correctly if you're spending a vast majority of time doing something you dislike. I think the same goes for spending too much time doing something you love. The best example I can give of this is being in a hugely successful touring band. In bands, when you start out you're hungry and driven by the thought of succeeding and most will do whatever it takes to get to where they want to be. You rehearse religiously, work hard on writing songs, get out there and play as much as you can. If you're lucky enough to sign a major record deal and start to sell some records then what you truly love becomes your job. But there is a downside to this, what started off pretty harmless, as a group of mates meeting up having a laugh and writing tunes, suddenly turns into a different kind of beast.

All of a sudden you have to write music non stop and along with it, the tunes have to be good otherwise they wont get released. If you don't come up with the goods your 'dream' could wash away down the drain in a matter of months. In addition, add 18 - 20 months of touring in to that, most nights over different time zones, hammering out the same old 'fan favourites' night after night. All of a sudden things get strained and stagnant, you're not away from it long enough to have any balanced perspective on what you are doing. Maybe this thing you always thought you wanted isn't quite what you thought it would be. Many times I've heard people talk about having seen their favourite band saying "it was good, but they seemed to just be going through the motions". It's because most of the time they are, that's the mindset they tend to find themselves in.

Under The Firmament

So let us bring this all the way back to angling, starting with the basics. Nothing beats fishing with a balanced setup, when both your rod and reel are balanced, it makes everything feel so much more intuitive in terms of casting, accuracy and playing fish. On top of that, the lead size has to be balanced in comparison to the test curve of the rod. If you've got a powerful rod then a 3oz lead and above makes it far easier to compress the blank on the cast, this in turn helps us to reach those distant spots. Regarding rigs, using a 'critically balanced' presentation is imperative in certain angling situations. For your bait to float slowly and poetically onto to any low lying weed or debris, it has to be balanced perfectly. Too much putty and it could sink too quick, too little putty and you run the risk of the bait not sinking at all, staying suspended directly off the lead.     

Moving away from rigs and tackle and looking at results, I like a balanced catch rate, I wouldn't want to be catching all the time, in the same way that I wouldn't like to blank all the time either. This is why I fish lots of different waters, each with a varying level of difficulty. If I've had a great session on one of my productive waters, it then gives me some added fuel in the 'inspiration' tank to sit it out on one of my harder venues. A change of scenery changes my perspective and with each water that I fish, it shifts my viewpoint on the next. Now we move onto my final example, 'time'. I'm a short session angler, I moved away from 'long haul' fishing over a decade ago and I feel I've improved because of it. When I use to night-fish, I'd find after a few days with very little sleep, my mindset was all over the place which in turn effected my whole perspective.

I consider myself very lucky, I manage to get out on the bank more than most because of the way I earn my living. However I'm still very aware when I'm starting to over do it and I've learnt when I need to step away for a while. Don't get me wrong, I've often sat there on those warm sunny days, watching both the water and my rods thinking "I wish I could do this full time". But in all honesty I couldn't, I personally don't think it would make me a better angler. If anything, as mentioned before, it would probably end up having the reverse effect - because it's not a balanced existence. To conclude, it all really depends on the individual, but if we learn to master 'balance' in its many forms, we all might start to see a positive shift, not only in angling but in everything that we do. I hope what I've been trying to explain has made some kind of sense to you.
And now we move on with the session.......

Over the past few weeks it was as if the start of winter had been put on hold, we were experiencing a burst of milder weather and I wanted to maximise on it. I was really short on time but I was desperate to try and pop out for at least an afternoon. Looking through my diary the days were filled right up, however there was a small block of time that if I prepared properly, would see me by the water for an early afternoon session. It was to be the tale end of the following Wednesday that I planned to make my escape. Between now and then the approach was to get my head down, do what I had to do and prey to god nothing else came in that would blast my angling plans out the proverbial window. The days past fast, I was literally in a trance, counting down the minutes until I could get out and cast a much needed line.

Soon enough Wednesday arrived and after nailing my job in the morning, I was lake bound. I couldn't wait to unlock the gate that led me up to the car park down on the Paddlesworth complex. Once that gate is locked behind me, all the chaos from the outside world disperses. Arriving at the car park, I literally threw my kit onto my 'dilapidated' MK2 carp porter and headed down the path towards Burrows. As the lake unfolded itself perfectly in front of my eyes, it looked nothing short of stunning, I just couldn't wait to get set up and get fishing. I was so inspired because it had been such a long time since my last session. I had a feeling that anything could happen and even though I only had a few hours, if I played my cards right, I might just lay claim to a scaly prize.

The Valley Unfolding

I took a moment to take in the view, the trees stood rigid like an army of skeletons, the sky hung above, stretching into 'forever', and the water looked its usual 'mysterious' self. Just for a moment everything was released from the winters grip, surprisingly there was still some traces of green on the trees, I knew it was going to last long though. A very gentle breeze was blowing down towards the muddy double, this is the first swim that you come to. I usually avoid it because it gets hammered, because my session was short I thought 'what the hell', I might as well give it a go. The conditions felt very familiar to me and I knew they'd be a few fish ghosting around the far margins. The plan was to fish single hook baits close to the features, I wasn't going to overfeed, I wanted a quick bite. As usual nothing was going to be complicated, placement was the key. Both rigs were going to be semi-fixed bottom baits, the hook-links were combined from both 'trigga-link' & 'camfusion'. 

Trigga-Link/Camfusion Combi

My chosen bait was Caribbean, I have great confidence fishing these as singles. The selected spot for my left hand rod was nice and clean, it was going to be placed a few inches off of some overhanging foliage on the opposite margin. The right hand spot was dirty but I knew I could get away with fishing a bottom bait in it. My plan was to literally touch the overhanging trees on the cast, it runs surprisingly deep really close in. Because I was fishing both rods tight to the margins, where there could be a few possible snags, I was going to be fishing 2oz back-leads and super tight lines. I wanted to slow the carp down as much as possible on the take, plus this would really enhance the 'spring' like effect of the trigga-link. The second that alarm sounded, I was going to be on it like a gun shot.

View From The Swim

A few casts later saw me hitting my spots, both drops felt good, back leads were placed on both of my lines, I then proceeded to carefully wind-down until the tips of each rod started to bow round. I was set, the slightest movement on either rod would be detected with precision. I had four hours maximum ahead of me so the plan was to sit directly behind my rods, take in the sights and sounds, watch closely and do my best to become a 'human sponge'. I was desperate for a 'spiritual detox', life lately had been chaotic and the grind of the 'matrix' we live in had been bringing me down quite badly. There's nothing better to "balance" your thoughts than being by the water waiting for the unexpected.

After an hour or so everything became very still, I'd had a number of liners off of both rods. There were fish about for sure, but was a single hook bait enough to entice a bite, I sat on my hands feeling confident that it could. Due to the time of day I abstained from my usual coffee intake and opted for a proper cup of Yorkshire tea. I was being kept company by a small Robin that insisted on landing on both my rods and my boot. Every half hour or so I'd hear the shrill call of a Kingfisher, I'd spot its gleaming turquoise speeding inches away from the waters skin. The gulls were circling above me, screaming and occasionally landing where my baits had been cast. I felt they were watching and waiting to intercept any freebies that might come their way, today though, they were out of luck. Everything around me was a perfect portrait of bank-side life, now if I could only catch a carp, the portrait would be complete. 

My right rod bleeped, the tempo of my pulse increased, the bleep was followed by a jolt. Before I had time to think, the rod bent right round and both the bobbin and the drag were screaming, the take was pure violence. I was up and at it in a flash, applying the pressure fast and hard, the fish was pulling with real power tight underneath the marginal branches. My heart was in my mouth, the pressure was constant, I held ... and held some more. Suddenly things slackened off as it kited towards me at such a speed I could barely wind fast enough to reel in the slack. I had one angry carp on the end of my line and it felt like a good one. The panic was over, now it was just a case of getting it in the net, it was a good few minutes before I eventually saw what looked to be an incredible looking common. Yet again it looked like Burrows was going to unearth another one of its diamonds. 

After one hell of a spirited fight, the carp turned gently up on its side and waved the white flag. I slid the net under my prize and took a rather deep sigh of relief, what a result and what a fish. Gently unhooking her in the net and lifting her over into my cradle, I was literally blown away with its proportions. This carp was the perfect example of why, 9 years on, I still love Burrows as much as the day I first laid eyes on the place. You've got to go along way to find a water that holds so many quality conditioned carp. I've rarely been disappointed with any of the fish I've caught. I just hope everyone that fishes it, along with all the other waters up and down the country, keep giving the carp the respect that they deserve. 

A few photos were taken to preserve the memory and back home she went, looking at my watch I had very little time left so I decided I'd pack up on a high. My mission was successful and my portrait of the day was complete. It was great to get back out, even though it was a short trip, I felt like I'd soaked up everything I could and I was going to use this as inspiration to help get me through the 'real world' that was waiting for me on the other side of the car park gate. On the way home I felt the 'matrix' closing in around me, I instantly started to plan my next escape.   



Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Gardner TLB Bite Alarm Review

"As in all my reviews I'd like to start by stating that I'm in no way connected to Gardner Tackle. This is an independent write up that I hope might help you out if you've been thinking about purchasing the Gardner TLB bite alarm."

I love carp tackle of all kinds, for me, bite alarms are like snare drums and cymbals, you can never have too many of them. I own a fair amount of different alarms, the most current being the Gardner ATT's, the rest are a mix of the older Fox micron series, most notably, and still my favourite to this day the DXR. In carp angling more than any other style of fishing you get trends, fashions and 'buzz' items. I can happily say that I take no notice of any of this. I simply buy what appeals to me, I don't buy what I'm told I 'should' like.

New alarms are coming out onto the market so fast these days that it's hard to keep up. So many are cram packed with the latest features and tricks that it can all get a little confusing. To be honest I feel they're just a variation of a theme. I started to think about how many of these features I really needed, and in reality it's very few. I think the more something has, the higher chance there is of something malfunctioning. Don't get me wrong, I love a gadget as much as the next man but reliability and functionality are the main priorities for me. I want something that simply does its job. In regards to the TLB alarms, along with the ATTs, it's pretty much the most featureless alarm that you'll find. But it makes up for it in other ways. The long & short is, its stood the test of time.

I had my eyes on these for so long and I finally bit the bullet and purchased two. During the winter months I stay really mobile, even with the rain beating on my back and I'm up to my eyeballs in clay. I'll move if I feel I'm not on the fish, I wanted an alarm that could cope with being mistreated. I was looking for something I didn't have to concern myself with and I knew, however messy things got, I didn't have to worry about not being alerted to a bite. As we know, during winter you don't want to be missing anything. So far my TLBs have been my faithful companion and I sense they're going to be keeping me company whilst out on the bank for many years to come. So ... where do we start?

They come in two finishes, one is an understated matte black, the other is a 'bling' looking silver, I opted for the black ones, the silver is a little too shiny for me. The overall design is pretty retro and compact, I think it's either 'your kind of thing' or it isn't, I personally really love the look, it's very reminiscent of the first generation of bite alarms that came on the market. There's definitely a thorough 'nod' to the old skool and I can safely say that there isn't another alarm out there that looks even close to the TLB.

The build quality is second to none, and best of all they're made here in the UK. The face plate and roller wheel cover are made of polished steel. You have two handy little slots for isotopes. All of its electronic components are safely sealed within a compartment that's separate to the battery and output socket. There have been tests that show its still fully operational underwater, so if you do accidentally drop it in the lake, you needn't worry if it's going to work or not, it will. I think it's safe to say that it's as close to 'bomb proof' as you're going to get. I've used mine a lot this winter in very wet conditions and the alarm hasn't missed a single bleep. In fact I don't even dry them off, I just turn them off and chuck them in my tackle bag. Come the next session I simply turn them back on and they're good to go.

I know there's always a continuous debate that seems to go on amongst many carp anglers in regards to alarms with a roller wheel system. For the twenty plus years I've been carp fishing I've never once had a roller wheel freeze up on me. And that's when I've been out on three night sessions in winter where literally everything, including most of the lake I was fishing had frozen. I feel some roller wheel alarms have too much of the actual wheel mechanism exposed, thus making it easier for it to jam/or freeze up. Due to the design of the TLB, the roller wheel is nicely tucked away in its own housing. I think this greatly reduces the chance of any issues occurring.

Moving onto the speaker, this is seriously loud, its output is 93db, the upside to this is, you'll clearly hear when you've got a bite. The downside is, so will the rest of the lake. You can however buy 'buzzer plugs' that reduce the volume considerably. The guys at Matrix Innovations have produced one that fits into the Steve Neville alarm speaker. I can confirm that they also fit into the TLBs perfectly. I recommend them if you're camped up close to your alarms. 

The alarm has a 2.5mm mini jack socket on its bottom side edge, this enables it to work perfectly with the ATT V2 dongles and wireless receiver. This means you get all the benefits of a wireless system with the added benefit of the TLB's rugged design. What I tend to do nowadays is mute all my alarms and use a wireless receiver on low volume. The only person that needs to know I've got a run is me. Gardner have made special 120 degree angled adaptors that allow the dongles to sit nice and straight. Due to the angle of the built in mini jack input, without the adaptors your dongle sits at an awkward angle. It will still work fine, but if you want that 'OCD' symmetry look I recommend the angled adaptors.

One point that I really like about the overall design is the LED, it's protruding slightly and super bright in both daylight and darkness. It stays on 10 seconds after an indication and mimics perfectly what's coming out of the speaker. If you get a solid 'one toner' it stays static. If you get a finicky bite it will flicker in unison with what you're hearing. It was the brightness of the LED that let the ATTs down, in sunlight you'd have difficulty seeing them. It's a shame they didn't carry the TLB LED design over to the ATT range. 

120 Degree Adaptor Jack

Moving onto the sensitivity, this is where I feel a lot of modern alarms go way over the top. Having loads of different settings is all very well but I've found I usually end up turning everything right down. The TLB is more than capable of picking up the slightest of tweaks and liners, I'm guessing that it's probably a 4 mag wheel, which is the same as the ATT. Having acute sensitivity can be a pain if it's a windy day or if you've got a lot of undertow in the water. I feel to get the best results from any 'roller wheel' system you have to use a heavy bobbin. I'm currently using one that weighs 17g. Reason being, because it pins the line down nice and tight over the roller wheel.

Roller Wheel Housing

Last but not least, to power the alarm you will need a single 23a/12v battery, this can be purchased from most tackle shops. Mine are still going strong and if it's anything like the ATT battery life I wont be changing them for a very longtime, even with regular use. I have to say that I love these alarms and I have 100% confidence that when I flick the on switch they're going to be ready to go. The only point that might bother some people is the volume, "why not buy an alarm with a volume control". The TLB has been specifically designed so there's nothing that can go wrong. It's a quirky little piece and the fixed volume is simply one of its quirks. 

I think that bite alarms are a very personal item and it's all down to what the individual feels they require. Some swear by Delkims, others love FOX, it all really depends on what you're looking for. If you're after an alarm with all the 'bells & whistles', then the TLB is probably not for you. If, however you're looking for a simple, unique, well built work horse that continues to stand the test of time. Then the Gardner TLB bite alarm might just be the one you're looking for. There's not much left to say, I hope you've found this review helpful, whatever alarms you have, or choose in the future, best of luck and be lucky out there on the bank.

Out On The Water With The TLBs

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Braxted Front Lake 'The Process'

A fair amount of time has evaporated since my last blog, here we are a few weeks into 2017 and I find myself asking, 'where the hell did 2016 go?'. It feels the older I get the days, weeks and months seem to go careering past me at a rate of knots. I understand that time is a precious thing but I must admit, I have no real desire to hold onto it, it simply comes and goes, I think it has a tendency to pass us by faster when we're making correct use of it. I find the days tend to drag badly if you feel you have no real sense of purpose. Angling, however, is the anglers purpose.

I always look forward to a new angling year, it's an exciting prospect, and with it, comes yet another set of new possibilities. As usual, I have no real targets, no PB's to beat. I just want to continue to get out there and do the best I can, consistency is the key. If I can continue to catch a few from all my chosen waters, eventually a monster might just find itself staring up at me from the depths of my net mesh. Many moons ago when my angling life was in its infancy I made the mistake of giving myself too many targets and goals. I got wrapped up in all the aspects that seemed to pull me away from what I thought angling should really be about.

I remember when '18' was my magic number, back then that was a mythical size fish for me and I wanted to catch one so badly. The problem was the only lakes that were available didn't have a great deal of 'bigger carp' living in them, but I carried on regardless. As time went by my need for 'the number' turned into an uncontrollable obsession, I found myself spending an unhealthy amount of my life camped up on my local club water, longing for the next bite to be what I so desperately needed. The weeks morphed into months, the outside world became, almost obsolete, I was on a path that only had one route and I wasn't going to deviate from it until my desire had been pacified. 

It was on one very warm night back in the early 90's, I was laying on my old Fox Supa bed chair looking up at the cosmos overhead, contemplating the possibility of alien life .. when out of the darkness, my optonic lit up like a beacon of hope, followed by a screaming buzzer and the beautiful whirring of my old Shimano 6010 bait runners. I lifted the rod high into the darkness and as I stood there, man against beast on my own, I went on to finally land 'my number'. Sitting here now I can still see it so clear and it will, no doubt, be a moment that will stay with me forever.

I was so happy, my mission was accomplished, but only for a short time, it was crazy how quick my next number became '20'. I started to think, "where do you stop", maybe at '30', '40', '50' .. I think you get my point. It was years later when I realised exactly what I'd missed in the lead up to that original 'target'I'd missed the journey, my mind was so fixed on the destination that I'd pretty much disregarded both the adventure and the carp I'd caught along the way. I'd been wearing 'blinkers', I might have finally caught 'the number' I was aiming for, but I really hadn't learnt a great deal. I felt that I'd become very one dimensional, my fishing had turned, almost mechanical. 

That's when my outlook on my angling changed, for me it became apparent that it's not about the numbers or the 'named fish', it's not about the 'PBs' or the size, it's about the process. It's something I've written about so much, and it goes for everything you do in life, from building a house to learning an instrument, it's what you learn in the process of doing anything that eventually allows you to understand why and how you got the result. Personally I've found angling without any targets has allowed me to appreciate everything to do with carp fishing as a whole, you just take it as it comes. I find approaching it in this way keeps my enthusiasm primed and I rarely get a sense of burn-out. 

On the flip-side to what I'm saying, I understand that we all fish for different reasons, and as individuals we all have different motivations for doing what we do. I know guys that are highly driven to catch the biggest residents of the lakes they fish and then move on, others like to sit it out on the pits for the potential unknown beasts that could be lurking. The explanation I've given above is simply putting across what viewpoint works best for me, whatever way you're going at it, don't let 'the chase' blind you of the process, stop and smell the roses/carp once in a while.

The 20IB Obsession 'Winter 1994'

This now brings me on to my latest blog post, it's accounting for a session up on Braxted front lake back in the winter of 2015. It's a strange water for me, as much as I love the place I can only fish it when I really get the urge to do so. Opening my eyes on the morning of my trip, I instantly got a fire in my belly and the 'the front' was calling me to come and pay it a visit. Over the past few seasons I've been rewarded with some pretty special fish from the place and some of the commons have been the best I've caught. Through time I've sussed out around five spots that I know, 'if the fish are feeding', I stand a good chance at getting a pick up.

Front Lake Common 2014
I was up and out quick and my enthusiasm to get the rods out was barely controllable. Whizzing up the motorway with London becoming an 'ant sized speck' in my rear view mirror, all sights where set on getting to the water in quick time. I visualised being pumped out the industrial heart of the capital, to continue my journey into the veins and arteries of the Essex countryside. I was escaping the concrete prison and off to find my own piece of paradise. Off the A12 I went, my destination was less than a mile away, I weaved myself through the country lanes and farm tracks, as I pulled into the car park, 'front lake' was peering at me through the trees, it looked perfect.

Exiting the van, my mental enthusiasm had actually distorted the fact that the weather was very dull. The life around the lake was so still and murky, there was a gentle breeze pushing down towards the car park which made the front section of the water look very inviting. One quick lap revealed nothing of any significance, as always the Braxted carp were keeping their cards close to their chest. I was going to have to go on instinct and past experience, so I chose to setup down the car park end, I was certain that the odd fish might be ghosting around, if not now, later.

View From The Swim

Whilst I was meticulously setting up my swim, a few sun beams started to break through the clouds above, this instantly changed the whole feel of the water. All the dead colours from the surrounding trees lit up so bright, all of a sudden the prospect of catching a carp became an obtainable prospect. I decided I'd be shooting for my usual spots, the left rod would go half way down the slope that gently drops down from the car park bank. The right rod would be placed in the deep marginal run directly opposite. Once the baits were placed I was going to leave them, I didn't see any point in recasting, patience was going to be my faithful ally.

Combi Materials

Regarding my rigs for this session, I'd adjusted them slightly, this time of the year front lake goes really clear. Instead of using my standard 'trigga-link combi', I'd opted for an 'amnesia combi'. The supple section was tied with Krystons Silkworm, this gave the rig a lovely hinge and allowed plenty of free movement for the hook-bait. The white Amnesia in 15IB literally disappears when its in the water, thinking about it, I've been using it on and off for the past 20 or so years and I still rate it highly. It's easy to work with, abrasion resistant, knots well and once steamed holds it shape. Along with this I'd upped my lead size to 3.5oz, from 2.5oz, I wanted to magnify the shock effect.

Amnesia Combi

Honey Nectar was my bait of choice, I wasn't going to use anything other than a single hook-bait. I sensed that the carp might not be up for much, out of all the waters I fish, front lake is a place where I feel 100% confident in keeping my baiting to a minimum. Working on the basis that carp like to check items that they come across, I was hoping that even if they weren't up for the grub, the bright orange colour of the bait might just attract them to investigate. With all these little tweaks and details covered, I could sit comfortably knowing that I was fishing effectively. 

A couple of casts saw my rigs land exactly where I wanted them to, back-leads were slipped on and now with the bobbins and alarms 'set to stun', I scrambled to get my brew kit unpacked. With the kettle gently bubbling and the smell of fresh coffee emanating from the bottom of my cafetiere I felt pretty dam rich, if I could just go and land myself a carp, I'd feel like the wealthiest man alive. It's these simple pleasures that really mean the most to me, forget the big house and expensive car, give me a good coffee and a carp any day of the week. 

Sitting there looking out over the water everything felt pretty desolate, there were no signs or signals that any fish were in the vicinity. It always seems to go this way though, bites just seem to come out of the blue, I sat tight, hours started to pass, I'd overdosed on coffee so now I was on the 'Yorkshire' tea. The day was passing and with it came many moods, the lake went from welcoming me to literally giving every reason that I should up and leave. But I wasn't going to be beaten that easily, and as afternoon started to yawn the rain came .. hard, I got the brolly up, I'd made up my mind that I was going to stay a few hours after dark. 

The light started to fade fast and before I knew it I was staring into the darkness. I sat hunched underneath my brolly hoping that at any moment the LED from one of my bite alarms would shine, signalling that a carp had been fooled by my carefully placed trap. The rain eased off, the clouds cleared revealing the fullest moon I'd seen in a very long time, everything felt perfect. The atmosphere was sliced like a knife when I suddenly received a short sharp liner off my right hand rod. I now sat on the edge of my seat, eyes fixed on the vivid blue light from my ATT. As soon as the LED latched off I got a few more knocks, now with my head torch on, I was poised ready for some action. BANG... the rod was away.

Both the alarm and reel drag were screaming, it felt like I'd waited an eternity for this bite. I was met with a dead weight and as my rod bent double trying to cushion the run, it became apparent that I was hooked into 'what felt' like a lump of a fish. It powered hard to the right stripping line as it went, my 3IB test curve 'Ballistas' where translating every tug, thrust and pull, it was a spiritual experience. As the fished edged ever closer I was dying to get just a tiny glimpse of the potential beast that I'd been wrestling with. Slowly it began to tire, out of the darkness and into the light of my head-torch beam I caught sight of a very wide and deep bodied common. I teased her slowly over the net .. result!

The Perfect Prize

I took a minute to catch my breath, lifting the carp out and placing it safe into my cradle, it was pretty clear that I'd caught one of the bigger residence. On closer inspection it had a fair amount of damage around its mouth and some heavy abrasions on its body. This was a shame, it's always sad to see, I applied both 'wound seal' and 'propolis' to the effected areas, got a quick shot, and then sent her home. I was really happy that I'd managed to get a bite, I stuck it out and it paid off. I must admit though, I felt a little deflated, the condition of the fish really wasn't great. 

A Bruised Braxted Beauty

Carp angling is a beautiful thing but I'm under no illusion that for the carp the capture must be a very stressful situation. Every fish I catch I handle with great care, they're all fleeting visitors that we greet, respect and send home. I want them to go back the same way they came out, to look as untouched as possible, not only for the fishes sake but for the next angler who's lucky enough to catch them. Of course the odd mishap can happen, it's just the nature of the sport but it's important to make the whole 'catch & release' process as seamless as possible. I drove home from the session in a strangely reflective mood, that was going to be my last visit to a CAA water for the rest of the season. The journey flew by fast and as I saw London shining majestically on the horizon, I was already planning my next escape.

On a side note -

"In regards to the subject of bad mouth damage, I think there are measures that can be taken to help reduce this from happening. I understand completely that some bad hook holds are unavoidable, but I personally think that if you're careful with how you play the fish and thoughtful in regards to the type of tackle you're using, then the chances of bad damage can be minimised. I personally feel the 'test curve' is a grey area for some and I wish it was written about more in the major angling press. For me a high test curve rod is only needed if I'm fishing at range, using solid bags or fishing a weedy venue. In my mind a 3.5 test curve and above is a 'distance' tool, 'playability' is secondary.

If I'm using a rod of this power I'm very conscious on how my drag is set as to not exert to much direct pressure. I still want to be in control but I want line to come off my spool before the rod locks up. Most of my fishing is done on a 2.5 or 2 3/4 test curve, they're a joy to play fish on and due to the 'give' in the blank, less pressure is put directly on the hook hold, which in turn reduces the risk of tearing. I believe yanking fish in fast on a stiff rod, and/or striking hard 'when in reality we're using self hooking rigs' is what contributes to this damage. Let us all remember that the carp doesn't, simply stop existing, when we release it back into the water. Bad damage caused by bad angling practice can hinder the quality of that carps existence. As anglers it's our job to preserve these creatures."  



Sunday, 6 November 2016

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 1

Echoes From The Valley is going to be an ongoing series of blogs accounting for all my future sessions on Burrows. It's a water that I find myself returning to time and time again. Regular visitors to this blog will be aware that its pretty much a 'main stay' among all of my writing. It's the one water that I feel so connected to, its location, along with the quality of fish it contains makes it a perfect escape. Through the years I've told many tales about the place, its always got a story to tell. 

Some who fish the Paddlesworth complex down in Snodland might describe it as a runs water, a few years back it might have been, and depending on how you fish it, it could well still be for some. For me though, it's not about the number of fish I catch, it's about trying to suss out how to pick off the solitary lumps that tend to ghost around in-between the shoal fish. During summers passed I've spent hours watching large dark shadows move around in ones and twos. It's those fish I'm desperate to meet, I may well of met some of them already, but I just can't help thinking there's still a special few I'm yet to greet. 

If you can manage to tempt one, they're very special, the commons come in all shapes and sizes and some of the mirrors are so unique, it still amazes me the surprises it manages to reveal. To put it into perspective, the Pollard, the main big fish water is literally yards away, it has a heavy head of 20's, 30's and at least one 40. But I have no real interest in fishing it, I'm sure at some stage in the future I will and that will then become one of my new stories. At the moment though, unearthing what Burrows is still hiding is my main focus. 

I've said it so many times before, a water is like an unwritten story, it has a beginning, middle and an end, the end comes when we choose to write it. Sometimes we'll rewrite whats already been written, 'pitching ourselves up again on a venue we long left behind' but I'm in no rush to move on, I like to write the story of my waters slowly, accurately, carefully stitching the paragraphs together, understanding what's being hidden between the lines, and familiarising myself with all the characters. In regards to Burrows, I'm not even half way through the book. 

Summertime In The Valley

I think when you move onto a water with the single mission of catching "the biggest fish" and then moving on. It's as if you're writing the last page of a story that has no beginning or middle. Nowadays I find that there's way too much focus on "size", and it's not just in angling. We now live in a world where big is best, success is measured by the size of your house, the price of your car, how many 'likes' and 'followers' you have on 'anti' social media. This bares no resemblance of reality to me. My reality is watching the sun rise over the water, witnessing a carp leap from its world into ours just for a second, and most importantly, continuing to be who I truly am despite what life throws at me. 

This blog is going to account for an afternoon session I managed to tuck in between work. I have to admit the 120 mile round trip to fish my Chelmsford waters is something I can't always bring myself to do. Especially when the traffic is really heavy, there are times when it feels like a days work rather than a relaxing fishing trip. My last session up at Braxted was such a success, it felt right to check back in down Burrows, if only for a short session. It's usually this time of the year that the better fish start to surrender themselves.

Winter was now well and truly on its way and over the last couple of weeks the chill had really started to lower the water temperatures. I knew that the carp would be on the feed and I was eager to get out fishing. My work had been really full on, but I made it a priority to carry my tackle with me, on the off chance that I could sneak a few hours in. Having finished everything I had to do, by early afternoon I was racing down the A2, I stopped at the garage to stock up on a few supplies and use the van as a temporary changing room. I was so excited to be getting the rods out, during the remaining journey I managed to pack away my 'working' head and firmly engage my angling mind. 

Autumn Waking In The Valley
It's all about the 'mindset', thinking the right way can make or a break a session, I had no fixed ideas or expectations. I was going to get to the water, gauge the situation and then take it from there. Arriving at the complex and taking the drive up 'the green mile' to the car park, I was surprised to see the place deserted. One of the many beauties of fishing this time of the year is the fact a lot of people start to hang their rods up. You now become one of a few anglers that stick with it, come rain, shine, snow and ice, the same familiar cars will always be parked up. 

I can't imagine hanging my rods up, winter on the waters can be a productive time, I do however change my approach, opting to stay mobile. The 12ft rods now go down to 8.5ft and all the essential items stay firmly on the barrow, 'sitting it out', becomes a passing thought. Now with the water to yourself the world can feel like your oyster, staying active, priming little spots and moving on any shows that might occur. This trip would be the last static session before I would become the traveller. Upping sticks and going to search for my carp rather than waiting for them to come to me.

Wheeling my barrow down the ever bumpy pathway, I walked straight into a living portrait, the water and the woodland surrounding me was drenched in golden and rustic yellows and browns. It was like I was superimposing myself into a still life painting, flurries of leaves were falling, there was a chill in the air, it felt so dam right for a bite. The wind was pushing down towards me, I usually stay clear of the pressured swims but 'the muddy double' looked like the place to pitch up. Instead of targeting the 'obvious spots' I thought I'd fish both rods down in the dirt. There's a lovely deep margin spot that I've always favoured over 'the obvious'.

View From The Swim 

For this spot to work you have to get really close to the over hanging branches. The deep run I'm wanting to hit is directly under them, a few measured casts later and I was clipped up and ready to place my bait. It was important that I hit the clip and feathered the rig perfectly, anything less than this and I wouldn't be able to sit comfortably knowing that I was fishing effectively. Nothing beats that feeling when you hit your spot 'bang-on'.

My bait for today was going to be something a little different, I wasn't going to put anything out there. I only had a few hours and I wanted to maximise on my chances, I was going to combine both the Honey Nectar and the White Chocolate together. A few weeks back whilst out on a job I had my first crunchy chocolate bar for quite some time. It got me thinking about bait combinations, what carp could resist a 'Honey Chocolate' treat? To give the white chocolate just a little bit more kick, I'd soaked it in tangerine fish flavour. 

Honey Nectar & White Chocolate

I rate citrus flavours when the waters get cold, the plan was to fish a single on the hair and have a nice little mouthful in a mesh bag containing a combination of both boilies crushed up. It smelt so good and the fleck of both the white and the orange was sure to catch the eye of a passing carp. I find if I can blend two baits together that not only smell good but visually look inviting, I feel I've got all bases covered. I'm really not into generic mainstream 'buzz baits'. I want to try and offer the fish something a little different.

A Tasty Little Package

Both rods went out with little fuss, I was more than confident something was going to occur. The air was now biting and the wind was pushing gently towards my spots. It was already 3pm and I knew if I was going to get a fish, it would be in the next hour. I took a seat, put the kettle on and sat back to watch the almost silent theatre that was playing out around me. The low winter sun made it feel like the sky was closing in, every leaf on every tree looked as if it was clinging on for dear life before finally falling. Their journey was going to be short, some would be lucky enough to come to rest on the soil, prolonging their life for just a little while longer. Many would perish below the depths like forgotten carcasses, soon to rot down and become the future silt I would attempt to present a rig in.

The cycle of life and existence has always intrigued me, not just human life but almost every living, and un-living object we see. It's surreal when you really think about it, we're all just temporary passages on this spinning globe. We live, we wear out and eventually we're all buried beneath its earth, we go from inhabiting, procreating and trying to scratch a life on its surface, only to end up prisoners below its ground, 6ft down. Everything has a shelf-life, but I'm determined to try to live and fish well past my alleged 'sell by date'

There I was deep in thought, contemplating my own fate when suddenly I felt very much alive as my right hand rod ripped into action. The globe was still spinning, my heart was very much beating and I was battling a creature from the deep. The fight felt good, the carp was clearly not happy with its decision to pick up the tasty treat I had offered. Closer and closer it came, a fleck of grey haunted the flat spot as it cut the surface. The net was primed, ready for the scoop, any moment now ... RESULT!

My Prize Awaits

Looking down at the slate grey mirror in my net as my marble size bait rested hanging from it's mouth. I felt like I'd uncovered another one of Burrows jewels, just for a few hours I'd delved into the wild and won. The spot once again produced and my sweet little bait combination had worked perfectly. Over the next few months it was going to be something that I would experiment with. I wanted to stick to the old school flavours, fiddle like a crazy scientist to see if I could create a few more unique smelling mouthfuls.

Slate Grey
After saluting the fish 'farewell' I decided to get my gear together and head home. The spot is usually good for one bite and to be honest my 'carping obsession' had been quenched for at least the next 24 hours. The 'Echos From The Valley' series is going to be full of sessions, some short, some long, maybe just a few hours. But it's going to be a continuos story that I'm really going to enjoy sharing with you. There's nothing like truly connecting with a water, a place you go to get away when you're worn out with the system, or seeking a proper escape, a stretch of openness that you always leave feeling just that little bit better. Have you found a place like this? if not maybe you should start your search.