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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Micklem Mere 'Fishing For Mysteries' Part 1

When I first laid eyes on Micklem Mere I knew that I was in the presence of something special. Located deep in the countryside on the fringes of Chelmsford, it stays hidden, obscured from view. Very little is known about the place other than it use to be a trout fishery, there are rumours that some big carp are residing within it, stocked years ago they've just been left to grow and have long since been forgotten.  

The trout have now been removed but the tales of trout fisherman being snapped up by big carp are still prevalent. The meres best days are yet to come and I feel that it's going to be a very special water once a good few years have passed it by. The landscape around it is bleak, there's very little tree cover and there are no real designated swims. For those anglers out there that find mystery a romance, there's no better place to spend your time.

Alone On The Mere
Last season I dipped my angling toes into Micklems waters but didn't manage to bank any carp at all. My focus was very much split between other venues, being my first season on the Chelmsford ticket, I became preoccupied with other venues. Now that my second season is underway I'd made the decision to really try and explore the mere in far greater detail. 

Reports were coming through of mid to upper doubles gracing peoples nets and a good few twenties were materialising, it seemed the myths were becoming a reality. Obviously this got my mind racing and I was eager to unearth what the mere was hiding, other venues such as Braxted and Wicks would have to wait. It was very clear to me that another one of my angling itches was coming on and I had to scratch it sooner rather than later.

The Unwritten

So, where was I going to start? 

When a water is 'unwritten' you have nothing solid to go on. The little experience I have with the place was going to be my starting point, I felt that I had to go back to move forwards. Firstly I was going to drop the boilie approach, I hadn't managed to get a single bite on them. 

My mind regressed back to my old John Wilson book, 'How To Catch Carp', I started to think that an old fashion approach might just be the key to success. It's a water that hasn't really seen high protein baits before and the carp have obviously been feeding on the abundance of naturals that have always been in the water. I sensed that old school baits like corn, meat, pellets etc could do the trick.

"Nowadays it's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the only bait that catches carp are boilies, I for one will admit that I have fallen into this way of thinking so many times, I think it's safe to say that I'm well and truly a "boilie junkie". I love everything about them and as most of you will know who read my blogs on a regular basis, I don't stick to one type, I use lots of different flavours all made up from different base-mixes". 


Different waters respond to different flavours and I feel chopping and changing gives you a broader scope on what the carp are willing to take. But as we all know, you've got to fish correctly for the situation that sits before you and on Micklem I'd made the decision that I was going to be hanging up my throwing stick for the foreseeable future. 

Micklem Mere 'Time Freezes'
On previous trips I'd had a probe around with both my marker rods, the makeup of the lake is very interesting. It's like a bomb crater sloping up from its deepest point, the margins can be anything from 3ft a good few yards out and then drop right off to around 9/10ft. 

The bottom isn't particularly clear, there's weed that appears very heavy in some places, there's some hard spots, muddy silty sections, and areas that hold lighter patches of weed. If you're prepared to put the time in to find them, there are a lot of interesting little spots to target. I feel both preparation and thought on a water such as Micklem are the two major key factors to success.

After a great deal of heavy thinking I decided that I was going to use solid bags combined with slop fished over the top. The slop itself would contain the same elements as my solid bag mix. The water is fairly large so I wanted to try and draw the fish in, I felt comfortable with the idea of using a spod in the short term. Taking into account the carp probably hadn't come across them much before, in my mind they hadn't yet associated the sound of it hitting the water with danger. 

I had a deep feeling that the spod approach would die off pretty quickly so I wanted to try and cash in on it as much as I could prior to this being the case. I brainstormed a list of ingredients that I thought could aid me in my quest to land my first Micklem carp.



With my thoughts well and truly balanced I was raring to go come the morning of my first session. I went through the usual 'rig-marole' of getting up the A12 as fast a possible, this time around, avoiding the morning rush hour. I arrived at the lake early, the sun was peering over the tree line and the deserted mere sat in silence so very fittingly. 

There was the sound of a commotion going on in the distance as all the bird life that inhabited the mere were discussing their politics, a pair of swans swam in perfect symmetry like two appointed keepers of the water. "It's times like these where I feel that I've been so lucky in my life to have discover carp angling, there's nothing else like it."

Dawn Yawning
After the rather bumpy journey down the track with my barrow, I took a seat on one of the wooden benches and watched the water for a while. If you look hard the carp do tend to show themselves on the sly, the wind was gently pushing up to the far end. The back bank is 'no fishing', from past experience I've noticed that the carp do tend to hold up there, with some sharp observation I clocked a few flat spots in and around that area. I decided I'd head up there to see if I could tempt a bite or two.

It was in this swim that I'd spent most of my time last season, it conducts a lot of water and ables you to fish the mouth of the back bay. The depths directly out in front are fairly uniform, averaging 5ft/6ft. To the left of me sits a clump of trees, in front of them is a large area that's very silty. During previous sessions I'd witnessed carp ghosting around the trees root systems and seeking shelter under the overhanging branches, they were so close in you could almost pick them out the water by hand.

Swim Location

Once all primary tackle items were setup I got down to the very 'scientific' job of mixing up both my solid bag and sloppy spod mixes. The base of both the mixes was a combination of hot chilli hemp and salmon marine ground-bait, to this I added porridge oats, salmon marine "high oil pellets" and some nut oil. The mix for my bags was obviously kept dry with a touch of oil to bind it all together. For my slop I kept all the above ingredients but added some corn and coconut milk. 

The Base Ingredients 

My hook bait was a single grain of buoyant corn topped off with half a 10m pineapple cream boilie, in my mind I had the best of both worlds covered, you had the ever reliable sweet corn with the vague scent of pineapple. This was fished on my standard pop up rig with a 2.5oz gripper lead, I kept the hook link a few inches shorter than normal so it would sit in the bag nicely. When I fish solid bags I leave a very short length of tubing on the line, this is to give the PVA bag something to bind to once its been licked and stuck for the cast.

A Simple Semi-Fixed Set Up

Finally all this gets tidily put into a PVA bag, at the moment I'm using the 'Carp Craze bullet bags'. They have a very slim profile, a draw string to tie the bag off and are a great shape for medium to long range fishing. Another advantage is, they come with very small holes already in them so you don't have to worry about piecing the bag to get any air out prior to casting.

Carp Craze Bullet Bag

Ready For The Cast

I clipped both my rods to 10.5 wraps, this distance put me in roughly about 5ft of water, the weed was slightly lighter in this area and I knew my presentation would be perfect. The spod rod was clipped at 11 wraps, both hook baits were roughly a meter apart from each other. 

Before I started my onslaught of "SLOPPING", I sparked the kettle up and had a quick coffee. Being such an open water, Micklem seems to amplify the elements, there were looming clouds shifting in the sky above, the suns rays would hit you on the face for a second or two, soon to be obscured again. The wind was steadily pushing up towards me, I really felt like I stood a chance of a bite.

With my spod rod in hand, "the game began", I found my rhythm relatively quickly and soon enough I was hitting the clip and feathering the cast as if it was second nature. "There's something strangely therapeutic about the "PING" of the line as it hits the clip, it's a very rewarding feeling"After a few minutes I was starting to get the odd liner, this was already more than what I'd had all last season. I kept the feed steady, semi expecting a run at any moment.

View From The Swim
Twenty minutes in whilst the spod was in mid-flight, both my bobbins lifted to the top and stopped. As I looked at the rod tips I could see they were very gently pulling round, furiously reeling the spod back in, I gently lifted into my right hand rod, I could feel a very dull pulling. As I began to reel in I could feel something was on the end, soon enough I spotted a miniature common with my bait hanging from its mouth. I gently netted it and then lifted into my left rod, the same dull pulling could be felt which soon resulted in a perfect little mirror carp. 

Both these fish were perfection and even though they were small, they still deserved the up most respect, like any fish that graces your mesh, it's a visitor, you greet it the way you would expect to be greeted and then safely send it on its way. I feel some anglers look upon small carp as a nuisance, but we must all remember, the monsters that we're all hunting for now, use to be small once. I had no doubt in my mind that one day these carp would be future kings. I was so pleased to of landed my first few Micklem fish, the approach was working, surly it was now just a matter of time before a larger slice of magic came swimming my way. 

Pure Perfection

On a water such as Micklem it's not about the size of the fish you catch, it's about the journey, and with each small carp caught, a little snap shot of the waters future is presented to you. Micklem is a venue for the long term, it hasn't been stocked to cater for the ever demanding 'big fish' angler, I believe it takes you right back to the essence of what angling is really all about. When you cast your rods out, nothing comes close to that feeling of 'not knowing' what could be on the end of your line when the alarm sounds. 

Shortly after casting back out and continuously applying the feed, I had another three small carp, I was determined to keep introducing the slop in the hope that a few better fish might move in. After an hour or so I was starting to feel slightly fatigued from all the casting in and out, I was now on my second bucket. There was still a part of me that felt I had to keep it up, I'd made the decision that once the bucket was empty I'd take a seat, have another coffee, sit back and let the bait that was already in the water do the work for me. 

Future Kings

Finally all the slop was gone, both my rod and reel were caked in the stuff, my clothes, face and hair had a generous covering, I was starting to look like a horror show. Taking a seat and sparking the kettle up, I kept my eyes firmly focused on the water. A few fish were showing to the back of the swim, a couple of them looked like the mythical doubles I'd been hearing about. I was already happy with the result but I was secretly willing one of the bigger carp to come and pay me a fleeting visit.

The day ticked by and as late afternoon came and went the activity out in front of me escalated, there were a number of shows very close to my spots. I can only assume that more fish had moved in now that the spodding had ceased. I knew there was a load of bait out there fluttering and twirling through the layers, it was now in the lap of the gods. Was I going to get the reward I was hoping for?

From out of nowhere I received a few bleeps off my right hand rod, soon enough it was away. This take was different, it ripped off and the clutch whizzed round, with my heart in my mouth I grabbed it, eased it back and ..... to my surprise, the rod arched round and I was connected to something heavy. I let it go, applying steady pressure, my mind was racing, could it be a secret monster? maybe it wasn't even a carp? I wanted answers to all these questions but at the same time I didn't really care. All I knew was, I was connected to something that felt good from a water I was desperate to understand.

The fish was taking me far left and all the way back to the far right, I kept the pressure steady. As it came closer I briefly saw a bright looking tail, it was a common and it certainly wasn't happy about being caught. Closer and closer it came, eventually leaning up on its side. I eased the net underneath, phheeww!! what a result.

Bronze Beauty
The relief I felt when I laid my eyes upon this fish in my net was nothing short of catatonic, it had an incredible bronze colouration to it, and most probably hadn't been caught before. After a few quick photos I spiritually saluted her as she swam from my sling back into the uncharted depths of the mere. 

I was so pleased with the results of the session, the approach worked and I've finally got my first few sentences of Micklems untold story. Instantly my thoughts were moulding around my next trip back. 

Taking into account the popularity of carp angling nowadays, there's very few unwritten waters, I know a lot of you out there yearn for that 'named fish' but I also know there are just as many searching for the unknown and the untouched. As stated before, Micklem is a water for the future and spending time with it, watching it grow and mature is part of the buzz. 

It's a world that I will be dedicating a lot of time to over the coming months. I doubt I'll land any real monsters 'but' the beauty of a place such as this is .. "you never know", and it's the not knowing that can keep us tied to the banks for a lifetime.