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Sunday, 1 March 2015

Braxted Reservoir 'Enchanted, Looking Upwards'

So my Braxted stint continues, I haven't felt like fishing anywhere else for a while now. I'm still very much focused on the front lake, it conjures up such a strange anticipation, I really feel like I've sussed it out and I now understand that with the beauty of patience, the rewards do come. This blog however, is an account of a session I did up on the reservoir, I still felt there were a few more fish to be had, I had visions of big commons swimming around in my mind and I needed to tame them, I was obsessing.

The weather had changed drastically since my last visit, the sun was now obscured by overcast skies, it had been like this for quite sometime, the wind was violent with a noticeable chill and this was all added too by the clocks changing, this made the days feel somewhat tiresome. Come 4:15pm I am now witness to the most incredible sunsets and under the cover of darkness I'd spend an hour or two perched silently behind my rods, usually staring up at the sky, it's one hell of a view, being out of the city you can actually see every star, living in London you can forget the amazing sight that's there for you, simply by looking upwards. 

Even though summer hasn't long gone it's amazing how fast it becomes a distant memory. I find it hard to visualise the life that once inhabited the banks, now surrounded by shadows of former selves, it was pretty dam clear that 'the dead season' was well and truly upon us and I had a feeling it wasn't going anywhere fast.

Taking all the above into account I knew I now had to start thinking about approaching my fishing in a different way. Firstly my bait application had to be reviewed, I was going to cut back considerably, location was now the key, small packages of food, singles, washed out hook baits, staying mobile, my mind always spins when deciding exactly how I'm going to move forward from late Autumn through to winter. You have to change your mindset completely to change your results. 

It's easy to think that the carp are now "preparing for the big winter munch", it feels natural to carry on loading your spots up with loose feed, I personally don't think it's that black & white. There are so many elements to take into consideration, sometimes water temperatures alter slowly and the weather stays milder for longer, it goes without saying that perseverance during these times can really pay off. But other times when the temperature drops drastically over a few days, it can kill the waters outright. 

I experienced this not so long ago when the first frost suddenly appeared, a lot of my waters switched off over night, I did six sessions straight on six different waters, collectively I'd driven over 500 miles, I was rewarded with one bite for my efforts. That alone goes to show how fickle carp angling can be, but instead of waving a white flag in surrender, we have to stay defiant and try to charm this "carpy riddle", welcome its fickle nature and soldier on regardless. "Each Blank Brings You Closer To A Bite".

Sunset Beyond The Reservoir
I wanted to steer away from 'obvious' winter tactics, for instance, due to the sudden popularity of fluro coloured baits and how they're pushed in the angling press as a great winter tactic, especially when fished as singles. I naturally became very wary of them, to be honest, I've never actually incorporated this into my own fishing anyway. But you can pretty much guarantee that any method that's been publicised in a major way gets done to death on most waters. 

I decided to take this idea and turn it on its head, I was going to fish dark and dull coloured pop ups over a very light scattering of free offerings, a handful at most. I wanted something unassuming, not blatant, I wanted no visual attractor, the plan was to make the boilie do all the work, obviously having put it in the right place to begin with. 

Duller Colours, Brighter Possibilities 

On the morning of the session, I arrived at about 11:00am, it was one of those days where the sun was nowhere in sight, it felt like I was walking in to a scene straight out of "Wuthering Heights", it was dark, looming, bleak and being the only angler around I literally felt like the only person alive. Perfect!!

There wasn't a hope in hell of seeing any kind of fish activity so I headed straight for the centre of the lake. The margins are fairly deep in this specific area so I decided that I was going to fish only a short distance from my rod tips, it was a simple approach, there was no need to complicate things. As usual, being as quiet as possible and staying off the skyline was going to be the key to make this work in my favour.

View From The Swim 'Simplicity'
My chosen bait was the Bio Cp2 Amino, it consists of a blended summer fruit extract, combined with a green lip mussel base mix. They have a very unique smell and are still accounting for plenty of carp from all over Europe, its been a decade since their inception and they're still going strong. Every time I use the Bio CP2, I "cast with confidence"

I decided to go with a straightforward pop up presentation, scattering a few freebies moderately between my spots. If fish were passing and they were up for a feed I knew that this was enough to get them interested. Due to the make up of the lake bed, pop ups can be a deadly method. On the cast I feel for a 'soft drop', there's plenty of hard areas but I want to target the silty clay pockets, I feel when fishing a pop up, you can't really have a better presentation for this kind of bottom.

Feeling for the drop is such an important element to master, it's a crucial communication between you and the lake bed. The heavier lead the better, the more of the lead that hits the bottom, the more you'll going to be able to understand. I favour square/rectangle in-lines, 2 1/2oz minimum, feathering the cast gives you a solid signal. Remember, a massive part of angling is trying to communicate with what you can't physically see.

Make "The Drop" Count With The Right Lead
After a few subtle casts I found two spots that felt perfect to present my pop up over. Rigs were placed with little fuss and I proceeded to scatter half a handful of bait in a broad area around both my hook baits. One of the aspects I love about short range fishing is how accurate you can be with your baiting, there's nothing quite like getting both your rigs and freebies totally spot on. 

Being an avid user of pop ups I'd opted to fish them quite high off the bottom, you really can get away with doing this in the right situation, I think from a carps perspective looking down on the pop up, it doesn't really look much different to a bottom bait. I wouldn't recommend high pop ups over clean bottoms, I feel there's almost too much clarity for the fish to suss out that something isn't quite natural, the hook-bait popped up would stand out way to much, especially if all your 'bottom bait' freebies are in close quarters. 

Bio CP2 Amino

One point I always keep close to the front on my mind is the fact that carp feed differently over silt/soft clay, debris etc. Whilst they're feeding, particles and fragments are being kicked up and I feel the environment becomes murky thus making it easier for them to trip up on the hook-bait. The image below shows what the presentation looks like directly from above, it's fished exactly 3cm off the bottom. 

Another fine point that I think ups the chances of a take is "critically balancing" your bait. This can make a great difference in the example I have explained, if particles, food items etc are bouncing and flying around as the carp digs about, you want to make sure that your bait is mimicking that of its surroundings. If there's loads of debris flying about during intense feeding but your bait is perched tight on the bottom, this could be seen as danger and a take might not materialise. The more natural movement you can give your hook-bait, the better. 

Pop Up Presentation From Above

So.. the traps were set, the coffee was on and I finally had a chance to sit back and relax. The wind was still whistling and the skies remained dark, all in all it was a rather unwelcoming environment, but I sat tight intent on the fact that I'd done everything that I knew I could to get a bite. As I sat watching my rods, the obsessive visions of big commons slowly faded from my mind, soon they'd be a reality.

Half an hour in, my left hand rod tore away, I scrambled for it, the tip was bent tight around and the clutch was singing, I grabbed the rod, gently lent back and honoured the fight .. I was in .. and what a feeling it was. As the blank compressed the wind whistled through the eyes of the rod, it was singing a sick melody. 

With the brunt of the breeze in my face, slight drizzle and a hard fighting carp on the end of my line, never had the feeling of "taming the wild" been so relevant. I kept the pressure on, the fish was really giving me some stick, slowly she eased and a flat spot showed, breaking the waves that were chasing each other over the surface of the water. Not before too long a chunky common was resting in my net, scales fell to 18IB.

18IB Braxted Common On The Bio CP2 Amino
What an awesome display of common carp, long, lean and one hell of a fighter, the approached worked. I slipped her back, got the rod back out on the same spot, added a few freebies, set the bobbin and put another coffee on - "you gotta keep that caffeine coming". Time ticked by, the session felt rather laboured and I knew deep inside that the waters were now changing, things were going to be slower from this point on so I had to really start working for each bite.

Late afternoon came, a few liners were occurring on my right rod, I sat on edge expecting it to fire away, silence fell and then ... whhhoooosshhh .. it was off, I was on it like a shot, it kited sharp to my left and carried on peeling line off the spool, I let her go. Once she'd made her initial run, I was able to gain some ground, it was another good old scrap right up to the net, once safe within the mesh I was again presented with another perfect common, scales sunk to 16IB.

16IB Braxted Brute
Every fish I've had out the reservoir has been perfect, all with really clean mouths, character, each one full of energy, most being totally scale perfect. That's what carp angling is all about for me, good, clean and well looked after fish, size really is secondary. It's a gift to land any carp out of the reservoir. Before I started to get too sentimental, I slipped her home and got the rod back out, it was starting to get late, I thought I'd sit it out until after dark, a few more hours being beaten up by the weather was quite a welcoming thought. 

Time passed, I wasn't rewarded with anymore fish but I did have the front row seat to a mind-blowing sunset, as it faded over the horizon the breeze dropped, darkness settled around me and the clouds started to break apart. I was experiencing such a moment of clarity, just for a short time it felt as if nothing mattered anymore, other than 'right now', I felt myself aligning. 

The Plough

Both society and the world around us is not conducive to allowing any feeling of freedom, we're trapped in a rut, a system, surrounded by materialism, vanity and all things that are designed to pull us away from "who we are". Don't let this happen, find things that allow you to remember exactly what you're all about, for me it's my angling, writing and of course my drumming, what's yours?. Whatever it might be, keep it close, don't forget it, use it or go to it when you feel lost. 

I slowly got my tackle together and packed away, preparing myself for the back breaking walk to the car park, I took a moment to look up. Peering through the broken clouds were stars, the clearest I'd seen for quite sometime. As I looked closer I could see the constellation known as the plough, it was immense, perfectly placed directly above me. 

I'll leave you with a thought, most people spend all their lives looking so far forward into the future for answers, when most of the time 'the answer' they're looking for is right under their noses, here in the 'now'. Next time you're stuck for answers or seeking inspiration or you simply want to widen your perspective, wait until after dark, go outside and try looking up, you might just be surprised at what you could end up witnessing and feeling. 

Until next time ....