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.


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.