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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Braxted Front Lake 'Navigating Rain Drops'

After so much mental focus being directed into zig fishing I thought it was about the right time to get my baits back on the bottom. My work has kept me away from the water a lot recently so any free time I've had I've been getting out as much as possible, rain or shine, nothing was going to stop me. To be honest I've felt pretty out of sync with my angling of late, I haven't yet found my groove. 

Sometimes I have such a hard time consolidating my thoughts, and it takes a good block of extensive fishing for me to tame the excitement of just being out behind the rods. If I'm buzzing too much about getting a session in I find myself going through the motions rather than adapting and considering the conditions on the day.

I've come to learn that front lake fishes its best when the weather is overcast and rainy, sun and heat really seems to put a nail in it. Upon opening my curtains on the day of the session my carp senses were through the roof, I knew I had to make the journey up to Braxted, the thought of pristine commons waiting to suck my bait in was a prospect I was willing to climb Everest for. This was going to be my first proper session of the season, I was up at 6am and out the house by 6:15am, determined to beat the "nightmare" traffic that the Blackwall tunnel so easily seems to produce. 

To my intense frustration it was already backed up, it never ceases to amaze me, with such a familiar sight in front of me I proceeded to do what I usually do in this situation, daydream about the day ahead, picturing the lake, my bait and the majestic carp that, "as I sit here in the bloody traffic", are drifting around on the lookout for some morning grub. I must admit the journey up to any of the Chelmsford waters can be a pain, especially if I'm doing it 2 - 3 times a week. This has got me considering a syndicate closer to home for next year, the time and the petrol money spent whizzing up and down the A12 really starts to add up.

Blackwall Tunnel 'The Misery Machine'

My cinematic thinking soon made the time pass, and before I knew it I was shooting up the motorway, a quick stop at the services was needed to stock up on vital edible items. The rest of the journey flew by and as I pulled into the lakes carp park, apart from a few other cars, it seemed pretty quiet, front lake was empty. 

It was pouring, I got out and had a walk around, getting totally soaked in the process. The wind was pushing nicely towards the car park so I pitched camp three swims up on the right side of the lake. When the conditions are like this I know that a few carp would be milling around the area of the water I was planning to target. 

The wind does seem to play a big part on where the carp will be, my confidence was sky high, these conditions were very familiar to me and I've always caught in them. I perched under my brolly, rigged up both rods and sat for a while whilst the kettle came to the boil. I was in no rush to cast out because the majority of the bites seem to come mid afternoon onwards. I wanted to just sit and soak it up, if I was lucky I might actually spot a fish or two.

As I sat watching the water, everything was racing, the trees were arcing in the direction of the wind and the sky looked like it could collapse on top of me at any given moment. I love these conditions and favour them so much over hot sunny days. There's something surreal about being perched under your brolly whilst natures chaos surrounds you, it provokes so many feelings that I can't even begin to write them down.

The Sky Is A Landfill 
After minor deliberation I decided to place my right rod directly opposite where the water shallows up towards the tree line, my left one was going to be placed on the semi steep slope that falls away at the car park end, it shelves down gradually to about 9ft. I always seem to manage to steal a bite from this spot if there are carp present and it's usually the first rod to go.

As usual bait was going to be kept to a minimum, everything was going to be pretty straightforward, bait up, one cast on both rods and then I was going to sit back quietly and wait. To me, through the months of fishing front lake, I really feel that any kind of disturbance has to be kept to a minimum, not only on arrival but also during the session.

Working on the basis that carp have acute senses, especially when it comes to vibration, one of the biggest weapons we all have as anglers is silence. What's the point in dressing head to toe in camo, "not that I ever do", trying to be stealth like if you're going to be heavy footed in your approach, it's a contradiction within itself.

I guess on some waters you can get away with being a little heavy handed, but here, more than any other lake I really try to morph into the surroundings. Many times I've quietly watched carp come so close in as I've kept low to the water, the moment I stand up and become visible on the sky line the fish spook. Witnessing carp patrolling a nose length away from me instantly shaped how I approached the lake, you really can get away with fishing so close in. Sometimes observing carp for an afternoon can be way more beneficial in the long run than actually fishing for them.

View From The Swim
Regarding both my rigs and bait presentation, I was going to be fishing my usual bottom baits on a 'blow-back', my chosen boilie was the ever faithful Raspberry Ripple. I have tweaked my bottom bait rig slightly, all my hook holds over the past months have been solid but a lot of the fish seemed to be hooked very close to the 'scissors'. 

As we know, hooking carp around the side sockets of their mouth can cause bad damage. I understand that sometimes there's no avoiding it because all carp feed differently, but I've put a few precautionary measures in place to try and avoid this from happening. 

The first and main change is the size of the 'silicone kicker', I've pretty much removed it opting now to use heat shrink silicone to solely protect the knot-less knot and tidy the finish of the rig up. I feel the kicker was contributing to the hook turning in such a way that it was nailing the 'scissors' rather than the bottom lip.

Shrinking The Kicker

Secondly I've positioned my rig ring further up the hook shank, literally millimetres, due to the pattern of the Fang X, doing this causes the hook point to sit at a slightly more aggressive angle. As we know, minor changes on rigs can make a big difference and I'm going to be interested to see if these tweaks help to produce safer hook-holds. 

In the image below you'll see the tweak of the rig ring changes the angle of the hook point slightly. As usual I've got a nice long hair, on its own it looks really long but when you put a big carps mouth in comparison to it, it's a perfect length. 

When using longer hairs I opt for longer hook links, this creates a nice balanced setup and every element of the rig has time to work correctly. A too shorter hook link with a long hair won't give the carp enough time to get the hook in its mouth before feeling resistance. 

Ring Further Up The Shank

Finally, being the 'hook-link addict' that I am, I'm currently using 'Ace Camo-Core' 15IB in weed green. I'm starting to lean towards semi-stiff hook links, this particular material has a weave that runs through it allowing its colouration to sit  obscured on the bottom so effectively. This is perfect for front lake because it's a very clean bottom.

Ace Camo-Core 15IB 

Back To The Session

The rods were out, both with single hook-baits on, I was confident in both of the rig positions so now it was just a case of waiting and watching. The wind was constant, the showers sporadic, I just sat tight underneath my brolly, eyes fixed on my rod tips. I watched as the rain drew maps on the water, I started trying to "navigate the raindrops" that were falling, maybe there was a message in them?

I noticed how sensitive the waters skin actually was, I started to wonder if the carp could feel it was raining, maybe it was transmitting some kind of morse code into their lateral line, convaying some kind of scrambled message. I had so many questions with very little answers... 

Then ... my left rod was away, crashing back down to earth I grabbed it and connected to a bullet train of sheer power, it was intense, the front lake commons really give it all they've got. I held on, cushioning the thrusts, giving line when needed, and getting well and truly soaked. Soon enough a gracious common was in the net, and what a beauty she was and to top it all, the hook hold was clean in the bottom lip, my anal tweaking worked. The clouds broke, the wind dropped and I had time to get an awesome shot of her.

Braxted Front Beauty
I've recently stopped weighing my fish, I don't want to demote such beautiful creatures to a number anymore, it detracts so much from the carp itself, they're all special. I can relate this viewpoint to age, I don't believe in 'human age', we simply live until we die, everything in between is a space I feel is there to fill with actions that allow us to develop the art of being human, I have no idea exactly what 'being human' means but I feel if you let your intuition guide you, you won't go far wrong. Just like angling, it's a journey and a process we have to go through, neither of which can be rushed.

Once she was back home I checked my rig, the boilie was still good and slightly washed out, a smooth cast got it straight back onto the spot, the bobbin was set and the wait was on. With the kettle bubbling away, I felt pretty dam happy I'd had yet another stunning fish. There hasn't been one carp that I've caught from front lake that's disappointed me, all of them are spotless and a reminder of why I battle the Blackwall tunnel and the journey to come and fish here.


The next few hours passed with no action, the showers continued, the wind dropped and the lake had an ominous feel about it, a bite could come at any moment, I could feel it. Come 4:30pm the sun came out and everything was calm, it was like a different day, I hovered over my rods and scanned the lake for any signs of fish. It was quiet, maybe all the carp were now on the bottom, all of them racing towards my lonesome boilie. 

Almost bang on 6pm my right rod ripped away, even though I was semi expecting it, it still made me jump. I was connected to another hard fighting fish, it powered along and my little 8.5ft margin creeper was creaking, its curve bent to its limit. Slowly but surely the carp was being tamed and after a great deal of heart stopping moments another common was in the net.


Last Knockings Never Lets Me Down
Once again the hook hold was clean, this carp was such a beauty and as I slipped her back I openly thanked her for allowing me to be blessed with her presence. What a fish and what a great session it had turned out to be, it continues to demonstrate that you don't have to pile the bait in to get the bites.  

Front lake never disappointments me and it goes to show that, whatever weather you have to deal with, you've got to get out there when you know it's the right time. It's all very well going fishing to get a tan but I'd much rather be getting soaked with the carp gracing my net than leaving on a blank with sunstroke.