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.     

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Changing Times, Technology & Lack Of Etiquette

'Etiquette' - the customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group.

When I first came up with the idea of writing the 'Charlton Carper' blog the main aspect was to capture the essence and the reality of carp angling, there is no bullshit or 'slight of hand' in what I write, what you see is what you get. I always promised myself that there wouldn't be any form of negativity within my writing, but the subject I want to talk about is very much a reality, not only in carp angling, but in society as a whole, and it's negative. Before I continue, there's a chance that what I'm going to explain might rub some people up the wrong way, unfortunately that's just the way it is sometimes. I'm going to say it exactly how I see it, which, again, is what this blog is all about, so - where's Etiquette gone?

We live in troubled times and the state of our society is morphing and shifting into shapes that are very different to what they were decades ago. More than ever I sense that we really are living in a 'dog eat dog' world where the majority of people are happy to step on the necks of others to get to where they want to be. To a degree, I know its always been this way, but with the rise of technology and social media, it's amplified to colossal proportions. Social media has given a voice to many that don't have one of any significance in 'the real world', the negative voices always seem to be the ones that reach the furthest, this is where it gets dangerous. Our inner thoughts and feelings, good or bad, that use to be kept behind closed doors can be broadcast to the planet, in a moment of irrational thought, by a simple push of a button.

As humans we get given an incredible tool with 'the worldwide web', that if used correctly, can be such a beautiful thing. We have access to learning and knowledge that, 'a few decades ago', we could only really have dreamt of. But like all things humans are given, we rarely take it to dizzy new heights, we manage to take an incredible gift and drag it right down into the 'pond-life' region. I doubt that when Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the internet he thought that it would ever be used as a weapon in regards to both bullying, revenge porn and spreading ill feeling. In the same breath I doubt that Chad Hurley, when creating YouTube, thought 'happy-slapping' and other forms of hateful actions were going to be broadcast - simply for some 'low-life' to get as many hits as possible on his channel. It interests me to know exactly what it is in our DNA that leads certain people to do such things. 

For me the two examples above are on the same level as those incredibly sad and lonely individuals that start up Facebook groups among their bitter and twisted little mates. Solely to post pictures and belittle those who are just starting to get to grips with carp fishing. They're exactly the same sort of person that hides behind the word "banter" to basically get away with being a total prick. It doesn't take much to become a target, it can be as simple as the bait you use, not having the latest, extortionately priced tackle with matching Vass waders. Not fishing for a 'proper English carp', or simply holding a fish in a way that doesn't suit the experts - that are usually sitting on their computers 'and their high horse', at home having opinions about what everyone else is doing, instead of actually fishing themselves.

These types of actions can be far more damaging than you think, being mental health awareness week I feel it's fitting to touch on this point. Whilst you and your mates are sharing pictures of total strangers, posting them on facebook groups, systematically pulling them apart and having a real good laugh. You actually have no idea about 'said person' or what they could be growing through. Lets face it, no one really knows or cares about mental illness because it doesn't effect them. But I assure you that if you or someone in your family suddenly gets effected by it. Your viewpoint would change over night, it doesn't take much to push people over the edge when they're in a fragile state. Next time you see it fit to lay into someone for no real reason, both on and off line. Maybe you should consider this point. 

We all have to start somewhere and no one has the right to make anyone feel bad about what they're doing. In my mind the same 'lack of etiquette' used by some in the angling community online, carries seamlessly onto the banks. My last three sessions have been plagued with a stupidity that I try very hard to avoid. I won't bore you with the exact details but I will touch on the points a little later on. I grew up fishing in a time when a number of aspects ran parallel with each other. 1. the art of angling, 2. fish care 3. care and consideration for those I share the waters with. All these points are equally important but now-days number 3 is practically non-existent. I attribute this to the points I've made thus far. Times are changing, attitudes are changing and it's making its way onto the water. 

When Did Attitudes Change?

We live in a world of 'false idol worship', many are sucked into the celebrity illusion, they have no real self-belief so they put all their expectation in a 'tin god'. It seems that some want their five minutes of fame so badly, and they're going to try to get it any way they can. Be it X Factor, the voice, posting near naked photos of themselves to their 10.500 pervy followers on Instagram every 3 seconds, or aspiring to be the next carp angling star - 'whatever that means'. There was a time when genuine talent had to fight and rise to the surface, but nowadays, people want to short cut the graft in any way possible, and with this, mediocrity and the 'F**K everyone else' mindset has very much become the normal. Social media communication went from being a useful tool to keep in touch with family and friends, to being a facility to feed the ego with shameless self promotion and bile - don't get me wrong, for many it isn't, but for a certain demographic, it is. Out of all the above I think that the current carp angling scene and the way I see it heading, is the perfect example of all the above. 

I understand that many out there love their fishing, love the adventure, love the peace that comes with it, and quietly go about their business. I respect you for this, that's what it's all about. On the flip side though, I understand we have the arrogant, the elitist and those that will literally bend over, with 'vaseline in hand', for the chance to change their Facebook occupation to 'Consultant' or 'Field-Tester'. Again, if that's what floats your boat then fair play to you. But I personally think, this is where the problem lies, fishing isn't just about fishing anymore.

Gone are the days of just getting out there and soaking it up. It seems to be more of a contest between anglers themselves, it isn't 'you against the fish', it's you against the angler, against the fish'. It's the cliques, those that think they own the water, the snide stroke pullers. The backstabbing infantile mentality that big fish waters seem to breed, and of course, 'last but not least', the 'local hero's' walking around like the cock on the block, 'looking like human billboards, because they're with a tackle firm, or they're getting some free 'cake mix', from some bedroom bait company. All of a sudden they seem to think this gives them license to be 'Billy Big Bollocks'.

It was only last year one of the 'aforementioned' approached me when I was quietly daydreaming away. There I was fishing the shallows up on Braxted Reservoir, I was having a good session when out the blue this guy comes strolling over, who within about 30 seconds of meeting me had to throw in that he was a big player in a major tackle company, and he was only after the big common in back lake. Fair play to him and well done, but it didn't stop there. He then proceeded to give me a review of all the tackle I was using and how he'd be fishing if he was me. Ten or so minutes of him talking down to me about himself, he asked what I did for a living. When I proceeded to tell him what I do, his attitude quickly changed. Before I knew it, he was pretty much my best buddy and I got a certain invite to fish some very exclusive garden ponds for some pet fish. I'd like to add, I didn't except the invite.

This is only one example of many and might not appear relevant, but to me, this backs up the whole 'in it for myself' attitude. The only reason his tune changed was because he actually thought that he could benefit from knowing me. Solely because of the position I've managed to get myself in regarding my work. I don't look upon it as anything special and I certainly don't look upon myself as anything special, so why should he?. It's not quite the 'stepping on your neck' approach that I touched on before, more of a 'I'll climb on your back' and see where it gets me. Now lets take this 'back climbing' and put it in a fishing scenario. If you've got a guy that's clearly on the fish and he's fishing within the boundaries of his swim - what do you do?. 

Personally I'd leave him to it, he's there first and that's the way it is. I'd go and find another spot on the lake, get my baits out and get on with my day. But from what I've experienced of late, that isn't the case for some. What you shouldn't really do in this situation is set up next to him and cast your baits as close to his spots as possible. Equally it isn't really very good 'Etiquette' to then setup opposite him and proceed to cast or spod into, or on the edge of his water. For all you know, he got there at the crack of dawn and after a good few hours waiting patiently, he's finally got some fish on him. The last thing that guy is going to want is someone spooking the hell out of his water. Most of you reading this will understand my point, however if you're a "catch at any cost" type of person and you don't understand my point - maybe you should reread it until you do.

My second example and a very common one is, setting up opposite a carp angler when there's lots of free swims to choose from. I understand you've "paid your money and you can fish where you want", but from a 'consideration' point of view. Why setup directly opposite another angler if you don't have to?. I'm not talking about large waters here, I'm talking about you're standard size club water. We all know that 9 times out of 10, if possible, most carp anglers, 'me included', like to fish to the far margins. However when I grew up I was made aware that there's pretty much an unspoken code that, whenever the situation dictates and I can help it, I won't roll up and pitch camp opposite someone who's clearly fishing for carp. It's different if it's a pleasure angler, you can normally see their float, and if they're on the 'feeder', chances are they're only a short distance out. However I will still go around and ask 'how they're doing, and where they're fishing'. 

Fair play if you've got your heart set on fishing a lake and the only swim available is opposite someone else, then it's only right that the guy opposite, if he's fishing in the water that your swim dictates, should reel in and move his rigs. A nice friendly little chat can usually sort these types of scenarios out, however we know that this isn't always the case. I've witnessed some pretty bad altercations when some people aren't prepared to move anything, even though it's clear that they're fishing out of their swims zone into someone else's. I've never been on the receiving end myself because if I turn up to a rammed lake and only one swim is free, I will simply go elsewhere.

By now some of you may be thinking, "well if you dislike it all that much mate, why do it?". That answer is very simple, why should I stop doing something I love due to a rather large minority that clearly couldn't care less about anyone other than themselves. What I'm going to be doing in future is choosing carefully where, when and how I fish, in the hope that it will limit the chances of stupidity. In regards to my social media use, that will stop, the only thing I'll be sharing is links to future blogs. I've got nothing to prove and being hemmed in between incessant statuses telling me to #get on the going bait, is something I've never really felt comfortable with, in fact it's all rather mind numbing.

I could carry my point on but I feel I've said enough, if I was to touch on every example of selfish behavior, I'd be writing for a year. The aspects I've touched on are just a few of many. If what I'm trying to say hasn't been understood at this point, I fear that it never will be. To conclude, I've met, and continue to meet many good people when I'm out and about both on and off the bank who truly love their fishing. I understand that there are many anglers out there that are caring and considerate who understand completely what is and isn't exceptable behaviour. I'm not tarring everyone with the same brush. Maybe if there was more education then the penny might drop for the blissfully unaware.

Finally, I don't want to be writing a blog like this, maybe if tackle companies and the comics took some time to highlight what is and isn't exceptable. The problem might not be as bad, and overtime could become a thing of the past. But I can't see this happening anytime soon, they're too busy coming up with the next piece of overpriced garbage that we don't really need. Carp angling, like all styles of fishing is a beautiful pass time and all of us that do it are in it together. I feel with a little kind consideration, education and compassion for all those we share the waters with, it could be so much more enjoyable for everyone involved.       



Saturday, 22 April 2017

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 3

So it was literally a month or so before my Chelmsford waters were set to close for the season. I'd had a pretty good year and managed some really nice fish, I didn't get out as much as I would of liked but I felt I made the most out of the time I had. I was now going to be focusing all my efforts down on Burrows, it's the usual pattern I take until my CAA waters open up again. I've got my eye on another club that I'm considering of joining for 2017, but I haven't made my mind up just yet. I'd still keep both my KAPS and CAA tickets going though because variation is healthy. Last year my 'Ghost In Winter' series accounted for all my late Winter to early Spring trips down on the Burrows. Looking back, I'd had a productive time, this very blog is the start of me accounting for all my winter/spring 2015 sessions. 

The year before last I approached the water in a different way compared to how I had in the past. I stayed really active, moving, chopping and changing and basically trying to pick fish off as I went. This year I was going to approach it in a completely different way again. I was going to find an area that didn't receive a great deal of pressure throughout the year and target it, and continue to target it, in the hope that the carp would slowly identify the spot as an area that provides a regular food source. I was going to go against everything I'd previously written in regards to 'fishing modes' and the 'ruts' that we can find ourselves in.

Shift Your Viewpoint 
Regarding my term 'fishing modes', this is basically a phrase I use to describe those periods of time when you seem to find yourself just 'going through the motions'. It's like you're on automatic pilot, and you're not fully taking into account the angling situation that's presenting itself to you. I've experienced it so many times, thankfully though, I've started to realize when my 'automatic pilot' light is flashing. An example I can give and one I've been guilty of is, religiously fishing a swim that you've had previous success from and staying in it, it becomes a habit. Instead of exploring the water looking for more productive areas, you become accustom to just setting up in that specific spot every time and shooting for the same features. This can be a slippery slope because you're basing the prospect of future success on the fact you've done well from that swim in the past. 

But as we all know it just isn't that black & white, very rarely does a spot fish the same over a long period of timeTo take the above example to the extreme, I actually knew a guy that, if his favorite swim was taken, instead of fishing somewhere else and exploring, he'd simply go home. That's one hell of a rut to be stuck in, you learn nothing by staying within your comfort zone. You have to be willing to step out of it as much as possible, I feel that's the only time we really learn anything new. For instance, that's why I could never feel satisfied just fishing waters with clear bottoms. If you learn how to fish over weed and silt etc. It expands you're understanding, so the chances of you being confronted with a situation you can't deal with minimizes greatly.

Perfect Symmetry
This thought process became very clear to me when it came to my drumming, for years I listened to one style of music. I kept my mind completely closed to anything else. One day the penny finally dropped and I knew, for me to understand all styles of drumming, I had to soak up all styles of music. This in turn would expand my musical outlook and make me far more capable of playing 'almost' anything that was presented to me. The worst scenario that I never wanted to be presented with, was having to turn down a gig because I couldn't play the style of music required. Carrying that over to my fishing, I'd never want to limit the lakes I'm able to fish because I don't know how to deal with what's in front of me.

The second example of an 'angling rut' and one that I, again have been guilty of, is approaching all the waters I fish in exactly the same way. Simply put, I'd turn up, get my rigs out, scatter a bit of bait around and then just sit there waiting. The idea of moving or changing my presentation or approach very rarely entered my head. If by the end of the day I hadn't caught, I'd put it down to the fact that the fish weren't feeding. When in reality they probably were but I was just too 'locked into one way of thinking', that I didn't bother trying anything else. Obviously it's a different story these days and I can never leave a lake knowing that I hadn't done all I could to try and get a bite. All my waters fish differently, its taken a lot of time to suss them out, and to this day, I'm still trying to suss them out.

Back to the session ..

As stated earlier, my approach for this winter into Spring was going to throw the above paragraphs completely out the window. I was staying to one spot, I'd fish it in a mechanical way and stick with it through thick and thin. I sensed the approach would start off slow but with dedication and 'single bloody mindedness' it might just end up paying off. I'd go as far as saying that, even if I saw evidence of fish elsewhere on the water. I wouldn't move on them or be tempted to throw my 'master plan' out the window. I was really interested to see if, over time, I would start to see a pattern in the way the swim worked. I was going to keep a solid record of when the bites came, I knew that I'd be tempted to stray from this idea but I was going to try and see it through.

My Winter Swim 'Summer 2015'
The image above shows the area that I was going to target, it's a small marginal section that doesn't get a great deal of pressure. It sits quietly in between the popular 'go to spots'. Close in it's about 5.5ft with a relatively hard clay bottom, the plan was to get one bait to literally kiss the over hanging trees. The second bait would be placed about a rod length short of the margin, this put it in about 6.5ft of water. Both baits would be fished roughly a rod length apart. Because I know the carp move around in groups I wanted to keep my baiting fairly tight.

The red spot, 'in the image above' indicates the position of a sunken post, the swim that you can just about make out opposite never gets fished, there's a swim to the right out of shot that also never gets fished. It's cut off by a sunken tree, this pretty much cuts the whole spot off from any interference. I was going to keep well away from the post, having it in the vicinity though could work in my favor. I know from past experience that the carp bolt for it, and if 'in the carps wild mind' they've got a 'get out clause/snag' to race for. They might be a lot more willing to take my bait, I had more than enough distance to steer them away safely. To aid me in this theory I was going to be locked up and about an inch from my rods at all times.

 A Subtle Approach

On the bait front, I was going to go with two sure winners, Banana Cream was going to be fished on the hair and a single Honey Nectar was going to be crushed in a tiny mesh bag and slipped onto the hook for the cast. Both baits had been soaked and left in their corresponding bait glugs for well over a month, they'd expanded slightly and were bursting with flavor. I wasn't going to use a great deal, I planned to fish 20 freebies exactly, these would be spread around the area. I wanted to try and draw any passing fish in, I didn't want to overfeed them, this time of the year you can kill your chances from the off if you're not careful. After each session I'd add a few handfuls, especially if I knew that I'd be coming back the following day.

As usual my rigs were going to be simple, I was using my usual inline semi-fixed lead setup, one hook-link was an 'Amnesia' combi and the other was a 'trigga-link' combi. The 'Amnesia' hook-link was the one that was going to be fished in the clearer, shallower water. I wanted it to be as inconspicuous as possible. I also think having a stiff filament connected to a soft braid gives the carp something slightly different to contend with. The other hook-link combining the 'trigga-link' with a standard braid is becoming a mainstay on both my bottom bait and pop up rigs. I can see by the takes that I've been getting over the recent months that the carp have a definite moment of confusion when they take the bait. I'm a huge fan of the trigga-link, it's a very unique material. 

 The Trigga-link Spring Effect

Those that regularly read my blogs will know that all the rigs that I tend to use are pretty straightforward, I don't get hung up on them. I've been asked why I don't seem to use the more modern ones like the 'D-rig' and 'Chod' etc. The honest truth is, I don't feel the need to, carp were being caught from all types of waters long before these rigs came about. If you're not careful I feel that, 'the rig', can become a major distraction, location and bait application are the main focus points for me, a straightforward rig in the right place will catch you carp, if you keep that thought at the forefront of your mind then everything starts to become a little less complicated. Find what works for you, master it, stick with it and don't get sucked into the latest fads.

Taking into account that all of the above was a plan that I'd been hatching for quite sometime. When the day of my first session came around I was more than eager to start putting the whole thing into practice. There's no point in having a master plan if you're not going to follow it through with 'black ops' type precision. The van was loaded in all of 3 seconds and I was 'high-tailing' down the motorway towards the Paddlesworth complex. I had a thousand and one thoughts spilling around my mind, the first, and of course the most important was 'coffee', I'd run out and the thought of being on the bank without it just wasn't worth contemplating. It was cold and if I wanted to survive out there, a hot cup of pure caffeine was of the utmost importance. 

Stopping off and getting some supplies, 'including a fine ground Colombian blend', I was soon on the complex and making my way, with a precariously loaded carp-porter, around to the spot I was planning to target. There was no pleasure as I struggled to push the barrow through the soaking sludgy clay, my tyre, randomly sinking and grounding out when I least expected it. By the time I got to my swim I was sweating profusely and panting like a dog on heat - 'so much for my 'black ops' approach'. Finally at my swim I took a few minutes to de-sweat and catch my breath, the lake looked desolate but with clearer skies moving in over head, it felt good to be back. I've been down Burrows many times in these conditions and I knew in my guts that a bite was very much on the cards. 

Mental Lubrication
I was in no hurry to get set up, this was the start of a marathon not a sprint. Surveying the area I was planning to target, things became much clearer, I had a very definite picture in my mind of exactly how I was going to approach things. The first task was to clip up the distance on both rods and make a note of it, that would make life a lot easier on future sessions. After a few measured casts, feeling carefully for the drop, it worked out that the right rod would be clipped up at 12.5 rod lengths, with the left at 11.5. As mentioned before, both baits would be fished roughly one rod length away from each other, the 20 free offerings would be spread modestly around the area. Now all that I had left to do was make the penultimate casts, get the freebies in and sit back and let nature take its course.

View From The Swim
Lifting the first rod up over my head, both arms extended, I bid the first rig farewell as I jolted the butt section down towards my chest. The rig kissed the treeline, simultaneously hitting the clip .. perfect!. I replicated the precision with the second, the rig flew through the air, cut through the waters skin, shortly followed by the DONK!. Bobbins were set, freebies were deposited, now it was just a case of waiting, this was the start of a long process. Even if nothing happened today, it didn't matter, perseverance was the key. I sparked the kettle up and took a seat right next to my rods, everything was calm and I had the whole lake to myself. 

There are days when I embrace 'the bleak', I love it and it inspires, however there are times when it gets on top of me and I feel strangely solemn. Today could go either way, I started to imagine what the banks were going to look like come the summer. Burrows in bloom, more than any other lake looks so special, the trees are draped in a thousand greens, the water goes bright emerald and time has a habit of becoming irrelevant. The seasons come and go and life on the bank dies, only to be reborn again, and whilst all this is happening. Deep underwater, the carp are existing perfectly within their own universe, completely unaware of our lives above the surface. They don't realize that thousands of strange 'air breathing' creatures are dedicating minutes, days, weeks and years of their lives pitched up on the banks above, hoping to catch just a fleeting glimpse of them.

Rolling Weather Fronts
The day ticked on by and even though there were no signs of carp, I still had a feeling something might just happen. At least five different skies moved on through over head, and come mid afternoon hope arrived in the shape of the sun, and with it a change of mood. I started to get a few knocks and liners, the kettle was on once again and a fraction of adrenaline started to move through my body. Mid to late afternoon is by far my favorite time, the fish are usually on the mooch and looking for an early evening meal. My eyes were fixed on the rod tips, occasionally I'd glance over at my spot. I was watching waiting and willing the buzzer to start screaming. It eventually did, and what a feeling it was, the right rod close in was the one to go.

I was on it fast and as expected the fish shot towards the post, having already sussed that this would be the case, I was in control from the off and I pacified the run in its tracks. It was putting up a right scrap, my 'Ballistas' were slowly converting the fight into poetry, I could feel every pull, tug and lunge. Once under the tip I was presented with a perfect looking common. It wasn't ready to give up just yet, as it proceeded to muddy the margin as it span around from left to right, literally fighting for its life. Eventually I managed to slip her into the net, it was a great feeling. First trip, first fish, my over anal planning wasn't all in vain after all.  
Exactly What I Came For
It was exactly what I came for, it wasn't large, a mid double at most but I didn't care, it's one thing to have a plan but when it actually comes together it makes it all worthwhile. I was convinced that if I stuck with the spot and the approach, I might be able to pick off a few of the better fish, time will tell. I had a feeling that at this point in the season, the majority of the shoal fish would be patrolling the usual features and holding up in the obvious spots, but I wasn't after them, I was after the solitary loners. To look at, especially with no leaves on the trees, there was nothing special about the area I'd chosen, but that's what made it interesting. To find gold you've got to go looking for it, sometimes it's found in the most unassuming of places. There's never a sign saying "Dig Here".

I wrapped the rig to 12.5 rod lengths and back out it went, it landed nice and tight, tucked just under the bushes. I topped the swim up with another 10 baits, bobbins were set and I was once again perched within inches of my rods. Time was starting to get on now but I thought I'd sit it out, I wanted to see how the swim was going to play out. There might just be another bite in it for me, evening crept in and the light was starting to fade, both rods stayed silent. I decided to call it a day, I was happy, all the thoughts that I'd had during the session will no doubt ferment and by the time I come down again I'd feel more tuned in. It always takes me a few sessions to really feel in sync with both myself and the water.