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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?