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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Cants Mere 'The Perfect Sky'

So here we are in the middle of a heatwave, the world outside my window is burning up in more ways than one. There's discontent, a distinctive sense of unease as the perpetual propaganda machine insists on keeping the population fighting amongst itself. London town feels more like a concrete desert rather than a buzzing metropolitan city. It's during these periods where I usually grab my rods and get the hell out of town, but with the severe heat continually pounding down on the waters. I'm finding the carp are literally fixed in a docile trance - 'which in turn puts me in one as well'. I need adrenaline in my life, something to get the blood flowing and the heart pounding. Angling provides all these things for me and without it I really don't feel right at all. However, part of angling is to understand when you're using your time wisely and when you aren't. I've said it before, but you've got to go when you know the fish are up for it - whatever the weather. Summer can be a very misleading part of the season, it might be nice out on the banks, you can get a nice tan and sunbathe, but the long and short of it is, it really isn't the best conditions, especially when carp are involved.

On the whole, it has been really tough, I've managed to pick a few off but, for the most it, I feel I've been 'flogging a dead horse'. This can have a few downsides, from an angling point of view, you can burn yourself out easily when it's clear that it just isn't happening. Secondly, and on a more personal level, with no means of escape, I'm subjected to the painfully ordinary 'everyday' that I've spent my life trying so hard to avoid. The days just seem to drift on by, I work and try to write but if you're not stimulated then there's nothing to really write about, all in all it's a very frustrating time. So to ease my slightly 'shackled' feelings I'd like to take you back to a 'short' afternoon session that I did up on Cants mere. This blog harks back to the start of summer in 2016, it's hard to believe that so much time has passed me by but when you're in a perpetual state of 'pursuit', time just doesn't come into it, you're forever focused on the next water, the next cast and the next potential piece of the wild being eased over the landing net cords. Factor in the constant search for words, both poetically and for the blogs, you really don't have much mental space for anything else.

Escape The Monotony

My past sessions on Cants had been successful and I knew there were some more good fish to be had, word still hadn't really got out about the size of the carp that now resided there. I was sticking to my original plan, I'd focus on the water hard and when the crowds started to arrive I'd simply ghost off and start fishing somewhere else. Over the last year or so I've started to choose my waters carefully. When the banks are heaving and everyone is chasing the same prize, it sucks every ounce of enjoyment out of it for me. Hence why I don't just jump on the day ticket circuit, the idea of turning up to Linear or Farlows and hemming myself in between hundreds of other lines is my idea of hell. I value isolation and peace far more than the chance of a 30/40IB fish. There's part of me that feels if I did fish these types of places I may well have a few bigger carp underneath my belt, but I've got to stay true to myself. Part of my own fishing is the continuous search for the perfect space. That destination between the 'here and now', that feels like the perfect home, it's a location you can't really describe in words, but you know in your heart when you've found it.

The Perfect Sky
On the day of the session I was pretty eager to get going, for two main reasons. Firstly the conditions felt spot on, it was really overcast with rain showers and a lovely strong wind. As I stepped foot outside, hung right above my head, was the perfect sky. I've fished under this type of sky before and I've always had a good result. Secondly, after the best part of 25 years of searching, I'd finally managed to get hold of a mint set of the original Tony Fordham, Sportex Kevlar carp rods. I'd always dreamt of having a set of these from the moment I'd laid my eyes on them, harking way back to the days of Crowborough tackle. I managed to pick up a set of three for an amazing price, they've got a super thick blank, they're as light as hell and they have the classic purple whipping that was the first thing that caught my eye. I think it's safe to say that another part of my angling life is very much complete owning a set of these rods. I was itching to use them and I thought that Cants would be the perfect place to give them a good go. If they could withstand the crazy thrusts from some of those long commons then they could survive anything. The tackle was packed and I was soon 'zig zagging' up the A12, the rain was beating down the windscreen and, every so often, a gust of wind would catch the van, it was pretty treacherous but when the water is calling you, you've got to listen.

The Dream

As expected, when I arrived at the venue the car park was empty, the rain had eased and the wind had dropped, this gave me enough time to do a quick lap of the water and get myself setup. Looking at the clouds gathering in the distance it was clear that I was going to be getting a right old soaking today. But I knew the fish were going to be feeding so I was prepared to 'take it on the chin'. After a quick scout about it was clear to me that there were some fish tucked up in the back bay. I could see at least five separate patches of fizzing, it was a 'no brainer'. I picked the swim directly opposite, this gave me a lot of options. Because carp were clearly in the vicinity, I'd give myself one cast with each rod. They'd be no clipping up or faffing about, both rigs would go straight out followed by a couple of handfuls of bait, this would be spread around the whole of the bay area. I wasn't going to feed directly over the top of each rod. The fish were there so I wanted to get them rooting about, if I was going to start piling it in I could kill the situation before I'd even started. I was going to take on the role of an 'angling sniper', get everything in position as 'covertly' as possible without alerting the carp to my presence.

View From The Swim
Bait-wise I'd opted for the 'sweet plum seed', it's super effective and one that I want to start using more. Because I wasn't familiar with this specific section of the lake I was going to ditch the bottom baits and fish low-lying pop ups. Judging by the amount of trees surrounding the bay, I suspected there was fair amount of junk on the deck. Rig-wise, as usual it was straightforward, I'd be fishing 1.5oz inline leads with a relatively short hook-link. This might sound a little odd for fishing over possible debris, but I didn't want to give the carp an inch. There have been at least two separate occasions in the past where I've witness carp ditch a pop up on a long hook-link. I wanted everything short, compact and discreet. I fish this rig on various hook-link materials, my favorite being a 'Trigga-Link' combi. Today I'd opted for the 'Rig-Morale' hydro link in 25IB, I'd cut the fluorocarbon inner core out, just short of the hook eye, this created a lovely hinge effect. Add a PVA nugget on the cast and that should ensure it lands well and sits primed ready for a carp to come along.

A Simple Pop Up Presentation

So with both rods ready I now had to gauge the correct amount of 'oomph' to put into each cast. I hadn't really helped myself opting to use a set rods I'd never fished with before, I was going to go on instinct here. Picking up the first rod and preparing for the penultimate casts, it felt slightly odd, the old Sportex blank is much thicker than any rod I've used before, and it's incredibly light. Raising the rod above my head, I really felt like I had 'history in my hands'. A short sharp jolt saw the lead fly seamlessly through the air, as the rig cut through the waters skin, I waited for a 'DONK', I didn't get one. The impact of the lead hitting the bottom kicked up a small explosion of bubbles, I was definitely in the silt. The second rod went out as poetically as the first, I was now fishing. I catapulted roughly two handfuls of bait all around the bay, I wanted the fish to start actively seeking out each individual boilie. If they started to get into a rhythm, I had no doubt that one would trip up on my hook bait.

As the heavy clouds started to move in overhead I just managed to get the brolly up before the heavens fractured. It happened within seconds, the sheer power and velocity of the rain was unbelievable. If I was on a ship it would of sunk, never to be seem again. I perched underneath my fibreshield clinging onto the storm poles. It's seen me through many storms before, the gusts of wind where rocking it backwards and forwards. For a second I though that 'Armageddon' might've finally arrived, coming to take back a planet that's rightly his. In all fairness I wouldn't blame it if it did, when I look at the sheer misery and destruction that the human race has inflicted on the earth, it makes perfect sense to me that 'the powers that be' would want to take back what is inherently theirs. Whilst the chaos continued I held on for dear life and tried to focus my mind elsewhere. Through the madness that was unfolding I could see clear feeding bubbles coming up all around the bay, the fish were clearly feeding heavily.

Armageddon
As I sat still clinging on as if my life depended on it, the water started to flood in underneath my brolly, within a few minutes there was a small stream running under my feet. It was all strangely exhilarating, all the colors of the trees were so vivid and the air was clear and fresh. The concrete desert of London seemed a million miles away and I couldn't help but think how lucky I was to be able to escape it every so often. Eventually everything started to ease, the rain, that minutes ago resembled bullets, was dispersing, the clouds that resembled my perfect sky started to clear, and before I knew it. The sun was shining and it felt like a completely different day, it's as if the world had cleansed itself of all the wrong doings. As I crawled out from underneath my shelter, I soaked up the atmosphere, paying close attention to the million and one rain drops dripping and 'plopping' off the trees and thumping onto the ground. I had such a profound sense of clarity, now all I needed was a carp to complete the picture. 

Cleansed
Peering out across the water it appeared that the feeding had slowed down, I really hoped that the sudden sun was going to throw them right off. I've experienced this before, everything is perfect, it's looking like a bite is on the cards. Only for the sun to start beating its heat down, thus moving the goal post considerably. A few hours past and the conditions stayed exactly the same, there was no point in me recasting or applying anymore bait. The swim was setup perfectly, patience was the key. The afternoon was swallowed up in a blink of any eye and I really started to doubt that anything was going to happen. I watch the water, the rod tips and waited, I was urging something to happen. Just when I thought that all was lost, two fish topped in the bay, they were perfectly synchronized. Directly below where they showed, streams of bubbles starting flooding to the surface. I was on edge, it all seemed too perfect.

The world fell silent .. then ... 'BOOM', my left rod was away, a huge eruption came from where I'd placed the bait. This was a big fish, I could feel it in my bones. I lifted into dead weight, the fish powered off to right with such force. I tinkered with the clutch, the 'Sportex' blank was not arched right around. Every so often it would creak - which was slightly worrying, I put this down to the fact that they really hadn't been used and the varnish/resin was expressing its disgust as they were forced out of retirement to handle such a beast on their first outing. The rod handled the carp beautifully, I was making good ground and with some careful consideration the fish was slowly coming my way. Not before too long I finally had it in netting distance, I still hadn't laid my eyes on it. All of a sudden it surfaced, it was a common and it was rather large. With my legs shaking and my arm aching I slide the net into position, 'slowly does it' ....... 'RESULT'. Peering down at the beast that laid waiting in my net, it was clear that it was a very big fish.

After The Storm, The Beast Arrives
To be honest I was totally speechless, this was a serious creature, it's as if the violence of the weather I'd experienced earlier had manifested itself into the shape of carp, and I'd gone and tamed it. The width of its back was crazy and both the color and proportions were nothing short of perfect. A few shots were taken and I slipped her back home, it was a surreal experience watching it gently glide off into the nothingness. I didn't bother casting back out, my expectations had been surpassed so I thought I'd leave on a high. It had been a short, crazy day, 'Armageddon' had arrived in the shape of a beast, a cleansing of the world through biblical rainfall had washed all the 'ills' away, and I had a chance to use a set of rods I'd been obsessing about for the best part of two decades. Who said fishing was boring?. The low evening sun accompanied me on the journey home, and as I approach London town I saw Canary Wharf looming on the skyline in the distance. I knew I was entering back into the apparent 'real world', a land of confusion, a place that offers a strange sense of isolation, the polar opposite to what angling provides. I would do my very best to survive until the next opportunity came for me to make my escape. I sensed it wouldn't be too long before the water was calling me once again.

Concrete Deserts

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 10

A few weeks had gone by since my last session, I'd been really busy with 'life' and it was stopping me from getting out. Times like these can be very frustrating and we can all relate to them. You can feel your 'angling' life slowing passing you by and all you can do is observe as the perfect days and evening bite times get replaced with fighting your way through the city streets and the system. Real life doesn't move and pass in the same way as time on the bank, it drags, splinters and keeps you chained to 'the wage'. We're continually being 'tapped' to consume, we're cleverly drawn into the theater of politics and mundane current affairs. We're presented with elections and referendums that are simply an illusion to make us all feel that we actually have some say over our existence. I've come to the conclusion that we don't, so it's up to us to try and create both opportunities and situations where we do. For the 'angler' those times are when we're scoping a water out, deciding where we're going to fish and putting as much thought as possible into getting the end result we want, a piece of the wild both in our nets and hands.

You can't control the wild, it has no race, no language, no system, it is what it is and it will continue to do exactly what it wants. That is why slipping ourselves into it and taming just a small piece is such a big achievement. So as I worked and tried desperately to navigate myself in and out of the everyday, my angling mind was busy hatching a plan. I was thinking back to my Winter down on Burrows and how I religiously stuck to one spot. I started to think what that spot would fish like in the warmer months, out of all the marginal areas, it's a apot that gets ignored a lot of the time. I had a feeling that it wouldn't have seen a great deal of pressure since I was last there. I thought it might just be worth a shot, to be honest my days on Burrows were slowly coming to an end. This blog along with a few that I did later on in the year will signal the end of the journey. There's a number of reasons why, which I won't bother going into now, but for the time being I was eager and inspired to get back down there. 

Now with the warmth in full swing and the days sunny and bright, come the morning of my session, I got out the house nice and early. Days like these aren't worth wasting and it's only in recent years, being alcohol free, do I realize just how many perfect days I've wasted nursing a poisonous hangover. I love the early mornings and nothing beats the sunrise, the air is still and acutely clean, the sky is sharp, free from smog and the morning dew temporarily drapes over everything until it's forced to evaporate into nothingness. Thinking back, one thing I miss from when I use to night fish were the sunrises, I have great memories of peering out my bivy door as the mist rose off from the skin of the water. There was a stillness and a peace that you couldn't find anywhere else. However, I don't miss the extreme tiredness, the damp bivy and the feeling of a new day starting having been awake for nights on end. There's nothing worse than a dawn chorus when you haven't split the night into day with sleep. 

I arrived at the water just as the sun started to appear over the treeline, there wasn't really anyone about, I suspected the handful of cars in the car park belonged to anglers that were fishing the Pollard. As I pushed my gear down the woodland track it became clear that Burrows was empty - result!. As usual, everything looked perfect, it always does and as I made my way down the clay paths to my chosen swim, I couldn't help but stop for a few minutes, just to take the atmosphere in. As I've mentioned hundreds of times before, you've got to go a long way to find a better looking water and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly I get pulled to its world. It obviously helped that I was the only one on the water, it's amazing how the feel of a lake can change when you've got lots of people about. The serine peacefulness can quickly get replaced with the annoying sounds of civilization.
      
View From The Swim
I wasted no time in getting setup, it was pretty much second nature considering I'd spent my whole Winter in this exact swim. The rods we're clipped up at 12.5 lengths, both the casts saw me kissing the branches over on the far bank. They landed perfectly, I was so confident in their positioning that I wasn't going to recast until I'd had a fish off of each rod. Once the bobbins were set I proceeded to get a good helping of bait out, my short to medium range Gardener 'Skorpion Stick' made easy work of this, the best £8.99 I've ever spent. My chosen bait for today was the 'Sweet Plum Seed', this is a highly effective bait. It's a combination fish-meal that comes in a lovely dark red color, not only that but it smells amazing. Just to add a slight twister to things, I was going to fish a small mesh bag on each rod that contained some crushed sweet plum seed boilies and a smattering of 'high' oil tuna pellets. At first this struck me as a strange combination but when you smelt both the flavors together, the aroma was strangely satisfying. 

Sweet Plum Seed & Tuna Pellets
  
One of the main questions I seem to get asked a lot is regarding the bait that I use, many people want to know why I don't just stick to one flavor. The answer to this is simple, I have 100% confidence in all the baits that Starmer produce. I know that they all work so I don't have to give it a second thought, there is no magic bait, it's all about how you present it and where you put it. Also I believe that certain waters respond better to certain flavors, this was something that I came to understand years ago. Graham at Crowborough tackle told me about this way back at the start of the 90's and through the years it really has proven to be the case. Going way back, and using my Bax Farm stint as an example, I couldn't get a bite for love nor money on fruity baits. The minute I changed to fish meal I started to catch straight away and there's been a number of waters where this has worked the other way around. Fruity baits dominated whilst fish-meal & spicy flavors didn't get a look in. Through years of chopping, changing and making notes, you start to get an idea and an understanding of what the fish tend to respond to on specific waters.

Regarding my rigs for this session, as usual they were straight forward, semi-fixed inlines fished with a 2.5oz lead, the hairs were long, the material was a semi-stiff coated braid stripped back a few inches above the eye of the hook. To enhance both the 'hinge' and 'shock' effect I placed a heavy tungsten bead where the stripped braid meets the coated section. Once again, this little touch was something else I learnt from Graham at Crowborough tackle. Back in those days, because there weren't any tungsten beads on the market, we'd use a shot instead. I was going through a stage where I seemed to be getting finicky bites, he said the shot on the braid seemed to shock/surprise the carp, thus making them bolt. I know that some might think this theory is a load of rubbish, mainly because all your 'famous' anglers haven't mentioned it, but I can confirm that it works very well and its something that I've been doing periodically for a very long time. So with a bait I have 100% confidence in and a rig that's very effective and simple. It really was just a case of waiting and hoping that the carp would come and visit my 'underwater' dinner table.

The Bolt Bead
So with the technical aspects out the way it was just the 'inevitable' waiting game. It was hard to believe that only a few months ago I was sitting in this exact same swim freezing. The lake was gloomy and bleak with very few signs of life. Today I was in another universe, my brain couldn't process just how many colors lay around me and with existence in full flow. I sensed the time was going to pass very quickly, I'd simply observe the world around me until I received an indication that one of the residence below the surface was willing to pay me a visit. I started to wonder exactly what was going on under the water, does every single carp have a routine?. Do they participate in the carp equivalent of 'the morning jog', or meet up in a certain spot and have a chat about recent goings on whilst sipping on some carp equivalent of coffee. Were there gangs of fish that others feared? maybe there's some kind of postcode war going on, hence why, on occasions the same fish gets caught from the same spot multiple times. Maybe the fish we catch with injuries aren't inflicted by anglers at all, they may have just be victims of 'carp crime', having been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Whilst I sat there deep in pleasant fiction I abruptly got alerted to my right hand rod, I received two savage liners. The bobbin shot up and dropped right back down twice within seconds of each other. This caused my heart rate to fly through the roof, within moments it was away, as I sprung out the chair my heart literally shot into my mouth. It doesn't matter how many times your rod goes off, it never ceases to send a crazy adrenaline through your whole body. As I lifted into the fish I had a passing thought that, whatever was on the end, had clearly finished its morning jog and coffee and clearly fancied a bite to eat. As expected the fish bolted for the sunken post but I managed to steer it well clear, landing carp from this swim felt like second nature. Like all the carp in Burrows, it kited all over the place and refused to give up, once under the rod tip, it circled and pulled, kicking up the silt in the process. But with steady pressure and a little patience, through the murk, appeared a lovely looking mirror carp.

An Early Bite Came Calling
A few photos were taken and I slipped her back, I hoped that she wasn't going to make her way back over to my carefully prepared dining area and warn all her mates about the potential trap. A fresh bait was carefully threaded onto the hair, the rod was clipped up and a recast was performed. The clip was kissed, I waited for the addictive 'DONK', I was primed and ready for the next fish. At this point all the remaining clouds cleared and the sun came shining down, the water was such a brilliant blue, it was one of those days where you just couldn't imagine yourself existing anywhere else. And best of all I still had the whole lake to myself. Before I let my mind sink back into some kind of day dream, my 'throwing stick hand' started to itch. Considering I'd already had a fish, it made sense to top the swim back up, all in all I introduced about 5 large handfuls, these were spread in a wide area around both of my rods.

 Birds Nest Hair
  
Over the next hour of two the heat of the day really started to beat down on my back and with the sun high overhead, I sensed that the carp probably weren't spending a great deal of time on the bottom. I contemplated zigs but decided I'd just sit it out, I suspected some action would come towards late afternoon. I've had some success on Burrows using zigs but I feel that the only way to really use them is when you commit 100%. It isn't an approach that you try halfheartedly, not only that but there genuinely wasn't any evidence that the fish were in the upper layers or near the surface. If carp were topping, twirling and showing then that probably would've swayed me. I was happy to just watch the world go by and wait for my alarms to start singing, I knew that they would. I've fished this water enough to know, that if I keep the bait going in then there's a high chance that a group of fish will come across it. If this happens then you can find yourself having multiple takes in a very short space of time. 

Burrows 'A Different Space .. A Different Time
The hours came and went and before I knew it mid afternoon was crawling towards me, the heat of the day started to ease off slightly. A lovely light, cooling breeze arrived, I started to get a sense that bite time was close. It's a very familiar feeling, there's a deafening sense of quiet and everything around you, including the water, has a certain stillness to it. It's as if the world slows down whilst the water wakes up. Come 4 o'clock, fish started to show just down to the right of my baited area, they were super close to the margins. It was 'bite-time', I could feel it in my bones. Minutes later I started to get some small indications, both alarms were fidgeting, I had a sense that more than one fish had come across my bait. Moments later the right rod fired off, I was on 'automatic pilot', I lifted into it and applied steady side strain to the left, as expected the fish bolted sharp to the right towards the post. I steered it clear, it then shot towards me super fast, I was reeling in the slack like a bloody madman. A short intense tussle under the tip saw my net engulf another lovely looking mirror.

Let Bite Time Commence
This fish was very broad, I had a feeling that in a few years it was going to go on to be a very large resident, a 'future sage' of the water for sure. Back it went, I got the rod back out quick, speedily followed by another good helping of bait. If there were fish about I wanted to keep them feeding, if I didn't cash in now I knew the chance of a few more could pass me by. Moments after the bobbin was hung my left rod flew off at speed, I was on it quick, as expected, it bolted towards the post. It just goes to show that the carp know exactly what they're doing. They're masters of their environment and if there's a 'get out clause', they're sure as hell going to know where it is. Another nutty fight commenced and as the fish signaled 'retreat' I netted another good mirror. This was an awesome looking fish, it had clearly been sunbathing, its back and shoulders were a dark 'pastel grey' color with a lovely bronze 'rustic' coloration to its tail. I don't know if it was just my imagination but it appeared to be smiling. 'check image below'

Pastel Grey
The rod went straight back out followed by another load of bait, if I was to get another fish I'd stop topping the swim up. I felt that the area had a few more bites left in it so there was no need to 'overfeed'. Reducing the amount of bait available can speed the takes up. You just have to gauge the situation, when you've fished a water a lot, over time you start to see patterns of behaviour and when you hit a moment in the day where bites are coming fast, you've got to make the most of it, you've got to play the cards right. I finally managed to take a seat, my sleeves were soaked, I now officially smelt of carp. Whilst I was taking a moment to savor the 'stench' the right rod was away again, this was a steaming take, a proper 'blank bender'. It was exactly the same drill as all the previous fish, a fast run towards the post, side strain, and then a drawn out dose of utter chaos right up until the 'white flag' was waved. Peering down into my net, another 'classic Burrows mirror' was waiting for me. This was a dumpy looking fish, a proper little character.

Dumpy
After slipping her back, a clean cast kissed the clip, I held off on the bait. I had about an hour or so left, I knew there was probably enough bait still out there to keep the carp mooching about. Time past, the action had slowed down, I started to pack up the non-essentials, it was during the closing minutes that the right rod screamed off. It was clear as I lent into this fish that it was a larger one, it didn't bolt for the post, opting to take me out into the open water. The initial run was long and slow, this fish was plodding instead of frantically darting left, right and center. Applying steady pressure, I managed to ease her towards me, it surfaced a short way out, it had a serious set of shoulders on it. Soon enough, I slipped the net under a rather unique looking carp, it was another mirror, its back was really broad, looking closely I think I'd had this one before back in the winter. It was good to see it again and in top condition.

The Closing Bite
The moment was savored and the 'release' was performed, this fish signaled the end of the session, I was soaked and the swim was a right mess, these are the markings of a great day. The last few hours were pretty intense, clearly a group of fish had moved in and I'd managed to keep them there. I've had a fair few sessions on Burrows like this, for the time of the year and accounting for the way the water seems to play out. I don't bother fishing for a bite at a time, loading the swim up and working on a 'hit' has always been the way to go for me. This approach doesn't work on all waters, the trick is to suss out which ones respond to it. There are certain factors to take to into account. Are the carp solitary? Do they move around in groups?, waters were the fish move around in shoals tend to respond better to this way of fishing. I got all my gear together, it was a slow packed down, the evening was perfect and I wasn't in rush to wave it goodbye. It had been a great day, 5 bites, 5 fish landed, my curiosity about my 'winter' spot had been pacified. I could now re-enter the 'system' a satisfied man, however I was wondering how long that would last, I knew that somewhere deep in my head another obsession was rooting itself. I guess I was going to have to wait to see where it took me. 

    

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Cants Mere 'Head In The Past'

Its been a while since I've had both the time and focus to take a seat and put 'fingers to keyboard'. Now with Spring finally in full form after, what seemed like a very long, cold and miserable Winter, my head is well and truly lost on the waters once again. This year I've joined a new club and I've been totally obsessed with working out the two venues I've chosen to focus on. I managed to get a few Winter trips under my belt, not as many as I would've liked, however I was lucky enough to land some nice fish. When the temperatures really dropped and the snow came, it pretty much killed off all the action. I used this time to get on with work and bury my head in some 'carp fishing literature'. Every so often I have to revisit the past to help me understand how certain things have evolved, not just in fishing, both music and drums as well. Looking back can help you see things in a simpler, less confused way, and because the past is now very much ignored, taking inspiration from it can change the way you view what you're doing in the 'here and now'.    

I found myself reading Kevin Maddocks 'Carp Fever' for the 30th time and getting totally sucked into 'Carp County - Kent and the Evolution Of Carp Fishing'. Both of these books hark back to the 'wonder years' of carp angling and it became apparent, 'as I was getting lost among the pages', it's the distant past of our beloved sport that inspires me the most. I find this puts me in a weird place because, the now over-saturated and extreme commercialization of carp fishing has turned it into a very different beast, one that bares no resemblance to what it once was. You've got to be careful when it comes to 'nostalgia', you can look back through rose tinted glasses and convince yourself that things were so much better 'back in the day'. When in reality that isn't always the case, however I feel with carp fishing, the best days are very much behind us. I consider myself lucky because when I started at the beginning of the 90's, I feel that I experienced the tail end of the 'glory days' and those early years will stay with me forever. 

Those Days Of Magic
I understand 'progress' but like I've mentioned many times before, 'progress' doesn't always make things better. I know it depends on what specific field we're speaking of. Obviously 'progress' in both science and technology has been, and remains to be both unbelievable and invaluable. But in other areas it can tear the heart and soul clean out of the issue. For me elements of apparent 'progress' in carp angling amount to simple 'convenience'. The main aspect that really catches me about the 'pioneers' of the past was the sheer determination and focus to catch. Size didn't come into it, it was simply about getting the bites, if a monster came along in the process then that made it all the sweeter. But the true fundamental was learning the 'craft' of real angling and enjoying the whole experience and journey. 

When you read the two books I've mentioned above, the enjoyment, the journey and the friendships made along the way were on par, if not more important than the fish they caught. Each element fueled the other, there were no distractions, marketing campaigns and a barrage of unnecessary products to pull you away from the essence of what you were doing. Reading about how excited these guys got landing singles and doubles is where the real honesty lies for me. The gear they used was basic, with a vast majority of it being homemade, the clothes they wore were standard, completely unfashionable and usually not up to the job. But none of that mattered, it was about the waters and the fish that lived within them.

Nowadays I think for many, this has got completely lost somewhere down the line. I'm personally having a hard time trying to find inspiration. So many waters are over fished and from what I'm seeing the carp are suffering for it - this is something that I will be touching on in a future blog. I've come to understand, for me to feel inspired about my own fishing, I have to keep my head well and truly out of the 'modern day', and quietly continue to try and walk my own path. Paying too much attention to the 'current carp circus' can really muddy my perspective. I find this leads me to stray away from the 'circuit/named fish waters', targeting places that may only contain a few larger fish. 

But to be honest, I prefer it this way, not only does it make it special when you catch some of the larger residence. It minimizes the stupidity and contact that you can come across when a water is full of big carp and everyone is chasing them. In regards to the magic I once felt back when I first started, I do feel it's still possible to obtain. I just think you've got to put more effort in trying to find it. So, to all you guys and girls out there that love their fishing, who sometimes find themselves void of inspiration. I urge you to dip back into our angling past every now and again, I'm sure you'll find something that will connect with you and help to keep your flame burning bright.

Innovation - Not Imitation
In this blog I'd like to account for an afternoon session up on Cants mere, after my last trip being such a success. I was itching to get back with the hope I could trick a few more carp into taking my carefully positioned treat. After a quick job in the morning I headed up to the water for midday, the conditions were very different to last time. It was warm and bright with a very light breeze, this helped take the edge off the heat from the sun. I was scooting up the A12 with the windows of the van fully open, the further I got from the city, the sweeter the smell. 


As I left London I was clearly inhaling the fumes from a thousand engines, you could see a giant cloud of smog looming over Canary Wharf. There were sirens, car horns and a general mood of frustration, this all slowly melted away when I hit the back roads just a few miles away from Cants. The air was clear, clean, with the occasional 'whiff' or horse manure, if I could blend the smell of 'carp slim' into the mix then it would almost be the perfect aroma. Finally arriving at the gates to Cants, I shuffled the padlock in my hands, opened it and proceeded to drive up the bumpy path to the car park. I was now in a 'secret world' only a few knew of, best of all, I was the only one on the whole complex.

Dumping everything on my 'ever deteriorating' MK11 carp porter, I made my way down to the banks of Cants, passing Blunts on the way, I couldn't help but stop and take a moment to observe the peace. I spotted a few dark shadows just under the surface of the water, I stood there transfixed until they slowly glided out of view. As the first part of Cants came into view, I could see a lovely gentle breeze pushing down towards the car park bank. I made my way around to swim 8, left my gear and then took a slow walk around the lake. Everything appeared to be quiet, I couldn't see any fish in the upper layers which was surprising considering the warmth and scum lines that were developing. I decided to keep it simple and approach the water exactly the same way as I did last time. Swim 8 gave me access to the two bars that ran down either side of the island, they produced for me before so I saw no reason why they wouldn't again. 

Tiger Fish

I'm not usually so one dimensional but considering this was my second session on the place, I wanted to work my way in slowly. For those that may have missed my first session, you can view it here Cants Mere Part 1. My approach was going to be exactly the same as the previous trip, simple semi-fixed bottom bait rigs with a nice spread of boilie over each rod. My hook-link material was my ever faithful 'Trigga-Link' combined with 'Sufix' Camfusion. The hairs were long, fished on a 'blow-back'. As usual I'd opted to use my 5.3mm rig rings, these provide perfect separation and free movement of the bait. I'd run out of Pineapple CSL so I'd chosen to use the 'tiger-fish'. To finish the whole thing off I was going to use small mesh bags containing 'multi-mix' pellets with a sprinkle of hot chilli hemp ground bait. This would not only spice up my hook bait but also add a nice dash of color.

Mesh Bag Contents

A few measured casts with a lead and braided line saw me locate the bars super quick, both rods were clipped up and pinged out with no fuss, I then spread a fairly large amount of bait around both areas. I wanted enough out there to attract any carp that might be passing through, today there was no time for subtleties. Large beds of bait worked very well last time so I was hoping to mirror the success in the short time that I had. I may only be fishing to what amounted to 5 or so hours but I sensed the carp would be up for a fair bit of grub, everything in the 'ether' felt right. Bobbins were hung and the alarms were switched on, I was now officially 'angling' and it felt really good. It seemed like an age had past since I was last out and if there's one time in my life where I can clear my mind and align myself with the world, it's when I'm perched behind 'the carbon', watching, thinking and waiting.

The universe around the lake was buzzing with life, the trees were creaking, every branch was stretching towards the sun, the bees and insects were buzzing incessantly and the continuous politics from the geese and ducks were whipping up the waters surface to a foam.  All these things might seem obvious for some but when you live in a void of continuous bodies and industrial clutter like London, you learn to look, listen and appreciate all the tiny little aspects you're so often starved of. I consider myself very lucky that, literally, just at the end of my road I'm straight onto the motorway, turning right is my escape route up to Chelmsford and turning left takes me right into the heart of 'Carp County' itself, Kent.  

 View From The Swim
Sitting back in my chair, it took all of three seconds for me to get locked into my usual ritual of watching both the water and my rod tips. My focus would move from the waters skin and then to the tip of the blank and back again. I started to get visions of those old 'cat' clocks with the eyes that moved back and forth, no wonder when I leave the water at the end of each session my vision is distorted as if everything appears to be rippling. The reason I do this is pretty straightforward. I don't want to miss anything and there's been so many times when my tips 'nudge' and 'knock' without registering on the alarms. Anything that signals to me that fish are about is valuable information. It turned out that I didn't have to be so acute in my observations because I started to get some major liners on my right hand rod almost straight away.

 The Tips, The Water, And Back Again

Through the next 20 minutes or so the liners kept reoccurring and I had absolutely no doubt that fish were feeding on my freebies, I knew it was just a matter of time before my rod went off. I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the imminent chaos to occur, I knew I had to be on my rod quick because, for experience, the carp in Cants fire away like rockets. Sure enough the bite came, the rod melted off at such a pace that, even though I was expecting it, it still surprised me. I was on it fast, as expected the rod arced round and the clutch 'whizzed' and 'whirled', I let the fish run and take as much line as it wanted. The first minute or two I let the fish 'blow its initial load', then I started to tease it my way. Due to the deep margins, when it came in close it was powering downwards. There were a few tense moments involving the marginal snags but eventually I eased the fish over my net cords. It was a lovely looking mirror, long with a dark bronze coloration.

Cants Bronze
It was nice to catch a mirror considering they're pretty thin on the ground in most of the Chelmsford waters. It was clean all over and scale perfect, however it did have some mouth damage which was sad to see. I treated it with my Propolis and speedily got it back home. I'd like to use this time to express my concern about the increasing mouth damage that I'm coming across. It really does appear to be getting worse and to be totally honest its starting to get me down a lot. I understand that sometimes it's unavoidable, we all occasionally get dodgy hook holds and some hook-link materials have a tendency to cut more than others, but I don't think that the damage I'm seeing is purely down to that. I think its got more to do with some people having no real understanding of how to 'play' a fish correctly. I feel this is down to lack of education, the mags and DVDs may promote how to look after your catch whilst on the bank but few, if any, actually demonstrate how to 'play' a fish safely.

Side Thought

Nowadays with the mind control-fashion of 3.5 test curve rods, heavy lines, cluttered rigs - and instant anglers, it's no surprise that the fish are suffering for it. In my mind these types of rods are solely designed for distance and maybe solid bags, you can land all sizes of carp on a 2.5 - 2.75 - 3IB test curve rod with no bother. If anything you have more chance of landing it because the blank is far more forgiving so the chance of the hook 'tearing' out is minimized greatly. Not only that but the fight is far more pleasurable and instinctive because you can feel every tug and pull. The whole point of playing a fish is to tire it out, if this is done correctly then the whole procedure of unhooking, weighing and taking a few photos is made much easier. If the carp is tired it wont be flipping about, thus minimizing the chances of it getting damaged whilst out the water.

I find when a fish is ready for the net it will signal this by going up on its side, yanking, hurrying and rushing it in is not the way to do it. Remember that any damage or deformity that you inflict, the carp will have to live with for the rest of its life. Not only that but it spoils the whole 'catching' experience for the anglers out there that want to be seeking out well conditioned fish. I feel that, as anglers, when we catch a fish, the whole point of the procedure is to return it as if untouched. I think that all of us should keep this in mind and aspire to achieve it, when I have a session where all the fish have been returned to their home in the same condition they came out, then I feel I've not only achieved what I set out to do but it makes the whole experience far more fulfilling for, not only myself, but for others that will go on to catch those fish in the future.

Back To The Session 

After a few quick photos I slipped her home and got the rod back out. I held off on putting anymore bait out, I only had a short time left so I didn't see the point. In true angling style, the time was running away from me and before I knew it, it was early evening. Half day sessions can be very frustrating because when you're just starting to get into it, it's time to pack up. I decided to wait it out until later, the chance of another fish was too tempting, even if it meant getting home late. It was a pleasure to watch the day play out and as the sun started to lower slightly, and the breeze evaporating to nothing. The atmosphere of the water completely changed and I had a very strong feeling that something magic could happen.

Closing The Day On Cants With Eric
Last knockings started to crawl towards me but I sat tight, I'd had a few 'bleeps' on my left rod but nothing came from them. Strangely, 15 or so minutes later, my right rod started to pull and knock, the bobbin would gently rise and drop again. I was now completely transfixed on both the water and my rod tip as if, in some strange way my intense concentration might magically make it go off. It just so happened that a few minutes later, it did. The alarm screamed and the rod tip bent tight round, the fish had bolted straight towards the snaggy channel to my right. 

As I picked the rod up it was 'pile driving' towards the snags, I tightened up and gave as much side strain as I could. I quickly found the sweet spot on my clutch so, just as the rod was about to lock up, it would feed off just the right amount of line. As mentioned previously in this blog, no 'yanking' or 'heaving' took place, I didn't want to get this carp in to find that I'd cut its mouth up. Steady, sensible pressure was maintained until I managed to turn the fish towards me, it was a crazy fight and right down to the last second it gave everything it had. The fish revealed itself as it slowly went up on its side to signal defeat, it was a long dark common, easily in the low to mid 20IB bracket.

A Truly Incredible Carp
This was a serious fish and the photo above really doesn't do it justice, firstly and most importantly, the hook hold was nice and clean, it was super long, dark and each scale was perfectly positioned. The sheer power in the fight was nothing short of 'spectacular', last knockings delivered me with a prize that I'd never forget. I took a minute to admire it, got some shots and sent her back home - in exactly the same condition she came out. In my mind I'd accomplished exactly what I set out to do, I packed up slowly and as I made my way back to the van the sun was starting to fade, the heat of the day had ceased and the world was a few hours away from sleep. Driving back down the bumpy track to the gate, I shuffled the padlock once more, which gave me entry back into the apparent 'real world', a place I'm not so keen on. Locking the gate behind me, I had a vision that the time on both Blunts and Cants would simply stop and slip into some kind of strange cryogenic trance, and upon my return they'll wake and everything will spring back into life once again.  
          

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Braxted Reservoir 'The Spinning Coin'

I woke up under the clearest of skies, above my head the deepest of one hundred thousand blues. The sun was bright and high in the sky, the breeze was light and warm, I love days like these so much. The conditions were perfect to be out on the water, however I was up and out early for different reasons, I had work to do. Walking to the van without my tackle felt odd and very frustrating. Hopping up into the cab and reluctantly turning the key in the ignition, I suddenly had a wild thought. I was heading up to Colchester but after that my day was free. It occurred to me that on the way up I pass by Braxted. If everything goes according to plan, once I'd done my work I could swing by the waters for an afternoon session. I wouldn't have a great deal of time but it was worth a shot.

One Hundred Thousand Blues
Before I'd even finished that thought I was racing back into my flat to get my tackle. It was all very undignified, I literally grabbed everything by the handful, dragged it out the door and 'carefully' threw it all in the back of the van, smelly fishing clothes included. Now with the engine humming, I opened all the windows fully, cranked the stereo up to 'ear bleeding' volume and made my way out of the city. I whizzed up the motorway and on towards the Dartford tunnel, the music was pumping hard. I had no doubt that the monstrous riffs of the 'self-titled Killing Joke album' were battering everyone within a mile radius. As I entered the tunnel, the music carried and reverberated to crazy levels, I instantly got flashbacks to 'Donnington Monsters Of Rock' 1993.

As I reached the A12 I had a head full of carp and music, the adrenaline was racing through my veins and my thoughts were already at the waters edge. How was I going to fish?, Should I fish zigs?, both of these questions couldn't be answered until I was in my swim and ready for the casts. I simply couldn't wait to get to the lake, however, I still had to hold onto some kind of reality, I was forgetting I had a job on. The journey seemed to last forever and as I past Braxted on the way up, I started to get pretty dam impatient. The miles limped by, the minutes felt like hours. After what felt like a lifetime I eventually rolled into my destination, 'Status-Graphite'. It's a small family run business that builds both guitars and basses out of wood and graphite, they supply to some of the biggest touring bands in the world. What they produce is total quality - if 'Status' built fishing rods, 'I'd take 12 sets'.     

The Task Was Easy
The place has a strange connection to my fishing, one of the craftsmen that works there is the son of the late great Roger Heaton who was bailiff on Kingfishers Hoo complex. I always have a coffee and we have a little natter about all things angling, sadly Roger passed away December 2017. I will miss him very much and the lakes just wont feel the same without him around. So after much conversation, coffees were finished and the guitars were left for servicing, my next destination was the water. I sparked the vans ignition, opened the windows fully again, set the stereo to 'stun' and I was on the road once more. The journey back flew by and before I knew it I was winding down the old farm track to the Braxted car park. As I pulled up, to my surprise, the whole complex was empty, there were no cars and no signs of another human anywhere. It was looking like I had the whole place to myself.

I hopped into the back of the van and covertly changed into my 'stinky' fishing threads. I then took a slow walk around both the front and back lake. By this time some heavy cloud cover started to move in over head, this changed the feel of the day drastically. I had a feeling though that it might actually improve the fishing. Back lake looked lovely and I was tempted, however I knew that come 5:30 it would start to fill up with anglers 'that are only after the big one'. I didn't really want to find myself hemmed in between lots of guys casting out to their 'pre-baited' spots, some of whom think they own the lake. I decided to give it a swerve, the choice was now between the res or front lake, I really couldn't make up my mind. After a good 15 minutes of juggling random 'pros & cons' around in my head, I decided to flip a coin, heads 'the res' & tails 'front lake'.

Heads Or Tails

Prising out a slightly discolored two pence piece from my wallet, I flipped it off my thumb and waited for the decision to reveal itself to me. The penny twirled in the air for a second or two and then hit the floor with a muted thud. It was 'heads', the 'res' it was, the idea of the back breaking walk up wasn't inspiring me much but the coin had spoken. I began the killer journey, it really doesn't get any easier, as usual, by the time I got to the top I was seeing double. This was actually an improvement, usually I'm on the verge of blacking out. By this time it was mid afternoon so I was looking at about 4/5 hours of fishing, that was more than enough to tempt a bite or two. Being the only one up there felt inspiring, it was like a doorway to another world that only I had the key to.

I did a quick lap before deciding where to set up, surprisingly there weren't any signs of fish. This was very rare, the carp in the res are usually pretty clumsy at giving their location away. The water looked dead so I thought I'd follow the wind. It was pushing nicely down towards the dam wall, I'm usually reluctant to fish the dam swim because it gets hammered, but I thought it was worth a go. I was now in two minds whether to fish zigs or bottom baits, I was having a day of extreme 'indecisiveness' so instead of spending more time tangled in thought. I got the coin out again, heads 'zigs' & tails 'bottom baits'. A nice sharp thumb flick saw the coin twirling in the air once more, it hit the deck on tails, the coin had spoken, I'd be fishing on the bottom.

The dam wall swim has a few "go to areas" but I wasn't planning to target any of these. I wanted to get a spot going in the slightly deeper water, the plan was to fish both rods close together and load the swim up with a lot of bait. Taking into consideration that I didn't have a great deal of time, it might sound stupid to be fishing with a lot of bait, but I just a had a feeling that it was the right way to go. There's a pretty high stock of fish in the res and I always use a lot of bait when I'm fishing on the bottom. As usual everything was going to be kept really simple, I'd be fishing running rigs in combination with bottom baits. My bait of choice was 'Tigerfish', I'd be fishing a single boilie on the hair with a small mesh bag containing crushed Tigerfish and a few high oil pellets. This would add a little bit of extra attraction around my hook bait.   

Crushed Tiger Fish

I performed a few measured casts in the 'ball park' area I was planning to target. Both rods were then clipped up to 13 rod lengths, I made the penultimate casts, both landed perfectly. It worked out that both rigs were roughly a rod length away from each other. I then proceeded to spread about a kilo and a half of freebies in and around the area. It was a proper big spread, I didn't keep it too tight, I wanted to draw the carp in and get them feeding confidently. Working on the basis that over the past year or so, a lot of smaller fish seemed to be coming through. I wanted enough bait out there to, 'hopefully' attracted the slightly larger ones. Both alarms were flicked on, bobbins were hung and I could finally take a seat.

View From The Swim
It had been a pretty busy day and it seemed like a hell of a lot of effort for what would only amount to a couple of hours. But I'm always up for getting the rods out whenever possible, you don't have to be doing long haul sessions. Within twenty minutes of setting up all the clouds cleared and it was bright sunshine once again. My favorite kind of day had returned, I sat there alone by the water watching everything around me. The light breeze continued to push down towards the dam, gulls cut through the sky above and the usual politics was occurring between the mallards and coots, they appear to be forever at war. Sitting surveying everything around the water, the real world seemed like it was a million miles away, which was fine with me, for the next few hours I had no interest in it.

Over the next hour or so I started to receive a few liners and a couple of carp topped towards the back of my spot. There were definitely fish moving in on my bait and all the signs were pointing to a bite. I grabbed my binoculars and started scanning the area, I clocked a few patches of bubbles. They were quite hard to see because the ripples were obscuring them but I counted at least five separate patches. Now with a slightly raised heart rate I sat as still as a statue and focused on my rod tips, one could go at any second. More line bites started and as my attention went from my tips, to the water, and back again. A huge eruption appeared directly over my right hand rod, you could literally see the silt clouding in the upper layers.

The Tip Of My Attention
BANG! my right rod exploded into life, the buzzer screamed and the clutch whirled and clicked, grabbing the rod and leaning into the madness. The blank arched round and I was connected to, what felt like, a really good fish. It was steaming at speed out into the open water, I held on tight, with the sun low over head I was being blinded by the reflection on the surface of the water. I literally couldn't see anything, I clambered up holding the rod in one hand and managed to grab my polarized sunglasses with the other. Waiting for the bright blotches to disappear from within my eyes-balls, I was 'back in the game'. At this point I hadn't gained any ground so I decided to let the carp 'blow its load' and then start to tease it back towards me.

I wasn't in any rush, this fish felt heavy so I just braced for the ride, after another 10 minutes or so I finally started to guide her my way. It was now only a short distance out and as it fought for every inch of its life, just below the surface, the suns rays suddenly reflected off a huge flank of large mirror scales, that's a moment I'll never forget. I instantly knew which fish it was. A few years back an angler I got talking to on the bank had showed me a photo of this specific fish. To say that it's unique looking is an understatement. I was now feeling really nervous and as I lowered the net down and went for the final scoop, I prayed to god that it would go in with no fuss. To my relief the carp cruised over the cords with no sudden bid for freedom. 

A Shimmering Prize
I couldn't quite believe what I was witnessing, this was an incredible example of a mirror carp and I can safely say that it was way up there with one of the best I've ever caught. It was an honour to be able to hold such a mind blowing creature. It seemed that passing both my choices and decisions over to a measly, discolored two pence coin really paid off. It wasn't something I was going to make a habit of but fate had definitely dealt me a winning hand. I gave the fish a good soaking with some water, checked its mouth which was perfect - 'due to the fact I hadn't bullied it'. Now it was time to get a few shots, preserve the memory and then send her back home.

Pure Perfection - in every sense
To say I was happy would be dishonest, I was blown away, I was so pleased that I'd decided to make the effort to fish today, this capture wouldn't of happened otherwise. It just goes to show, like many times before, short sessions can pay off. If the fish are feeding and you drop in on them then you can get quick results. The rest of the afternoon passed me by without another bite, this really didn't bother me, to be able to sit and watch the day slowly decay into evening was a simple pleasure, I packed up 'a happy man'. The long walk back down to the van was a blur and as I started my journey home, with both windows wide open and the stereo pumping out some hard and heavy riffs. I once again felt lucky to have angling in my life, you just never know what might happen. This short and 'indecisive' session will be one that I'll remember for many years to come. Where will I end up next? I might just let the coin decide.

Heads Or Tails?