Saturday, 4 April 2020

Starmer Baits '8 Years On'

Those that have kept up with my blogs throughout the years will know that I don't follow fashions or trends, as an angler and as a human I do my own thing and I like to form my own opinions through my own experiences. Many will also know that I don't push or plug the products that I use, I don't really see the point, I might mention the bait in the context of the blogs but that's about it, constant plugging and promoting is one of the mind numbing aspects of modern carp fishing and I don't want anything that I do to fall into that category. We all have the right to make our own decisions on what we choose to use, if you have confidence in what you're using then you can apply the whole of your mind to the most important aspect in angling, locating the fish. It goes without saying that this blog is not a sales pitch it's simply a review and write up of all the new products that Starmer Baits have developed in the past 8 years since I've been using them. They've expanded as a business, now producing both wild bird food and aquatic feed but this blog is going to be about the 'fishing' side of the company 

Going Strong Since 1976

Things have moved forward quite a lot since my last bait blog, if you haven't read that one you can check it out here Starmer Baits Part 1. We've seen a few baits disappear, not because they didn't catch fish, all the baits catch fish it's just the simple fact that some of the flavors sell more than others, so over time the poor sellers get phased out. The positive side to this is, with each bait that falls by the wayside another one is added to the range. One of the first new arrivals was a bait called 'TigerFish', the signs were very strong early on that this was going to be a great seller because it caught from the off, new customers were genuinely getting in touch with their catch reports. I can vouch for its effectiveness because I've caught, and continue to catch a lot of fish on it, as do a few other guys I know that have been on it for a few seasons now. I'd like to emphasize that this isn't a "wonder bait", there's no such thing, you still have to use watercraft and put the bait where the fish are. As we all know, you can't catch carp if they're not where you're putting your baits. I'm no bait scientist but the information I can give you is, it's rolled on a 60/40 birdseed and nut base mix and it has a hint of caramel to it, it's a great bait.

Tiger Fish
One of my favorite carp baits from the past was the Honey Nectar, this goes all the way back to the early 90's when Kevin Maddocks produced his own range of boilies. Honey Nectar was the bait I caught my first ever 20 on, all these years later I can still see that bite as clear as crystal in my mind. As time passed, many of the 'old skool' flavors seemed to fall out of favor. When I was looking around for bait companies that still produced some of the classics, Starmer was the one that stuck out. You had your 'Strawberry', 'Peach' and 'Pineapple' but to my extreme joy they were the only ones producing the Honey Nectar. Throughout the past 8 years I used a serious amount of this bait to great effect. A couple of years back due to the 'Nectar' part becoming hard to come by, it got phased out. A new boilie came along to take its place, thankfully still incorporating the vital 'Honey' element. We now have the rather 'sweetly' titled 'Honey Nut'.

An Old Original Caught On The Honey Nut
I jump to different baits like a madman, depending on the time of the year and what takes my specific fancy, but I decided to stick to the Honey Nut for a whole season. I had some awesome catches on it. It's very unique, again it's made on a 60/40 sweet birdseed base mix, to smell, it has the perfect balance between both the honey and the nut and it's a lovely 'unassuming' washed out color, I've found it to be very versatile, having had good results on singles, stringers and large beds, even though I still miss the good old Honey Nectar, the Honey Nut is a great addition to Starmers back catalogue.

Honey Nut
The next bait is literally 'hot off the press', it was released last month, there was a fairly long period of both testing and tweaking to get it just right. It comes under the name 'Monster Peanut' and produced really well during the testing stage with carp caught both here and abroad to over 40IB. I was trialing it this winter and it produced some lovely fish for me. As I said before, you've got to put your bait in the right place to get the take, no bait magically makes fish appear in front of you. It's got a similar look to the 'TigerFish', it's rolled on a 60/40 sweet birdseed base mix and, to me, smells like peanut butter, it's a bloody lovely smelling boilie which I'm going to use a lot this coming season and beyond. If you want to offer the carp something completely different to the 'norm', this might be the perfect bait to try.

Monster Peanut

Moving on to the final addition to the premium boilie range and another bait that I rate highly, Halibut & Tuna. It's made with a fishmeal & betaine base mix and it's black in color, it's very similar to the Coconut & Halibut that's now been moved over to the U.F.B range of boilies - 'I'll explain about the U.F.B shortly'. Despite popular belief, combination fishmeal baits can be really effective all year round, I've caught carp on the Halibut & Tuna in the dead of winter on lakes with dark bottoms when, in theory, a bait like this isn't believed to be effective. Once again it's different to a lot of other baits on the market and worth a go if you want to offer the carp something different.

Halibut & Tuna
That's pretty much covered the new additions to the premium range of baits, now we move on to one of the main developments that got me pretty dam excited when I first heard about it. A completely new range of boilies has been produced under the U.F.B banner, this stands for Ultimate Feed Boilie. These are a slightly cheaper range of bait but they're still high quality, when they first appeared I saw people slating them saying they must be full of cheap ingredients. I'd like to confirm that this is utter rubbish, no "cheap" ingredients are used in any of Starmers products, people are far too quick to judge. I have zero time for bait snobs and twats that slate companies they know very little about. The range may be missing the odd attractor that the premium boilies include, but they more than make up for it in other ways. You can literally customize these baits in any way you want. They've been specifically formulated to be used in conjunction with the glugs & new liquid feeds, they take on and soak up both these elements perfectly - that's what they've been designed to do.

Candy Sweet Cream U.F.B Soaked In Honey Nut Liquid Feed
The U.F.B has a classic range of flavors 'listed below', most notably the return 'by popular demand' of Garlic Mint. If you want a blank canvas to create your own unique boilie flavor you can buy the generic fishmeal & birdseed bait and use them to add your favored flavors to, between both the glugs, fish oils and the new liquid feeds, which I'll write about shortly, there are literally hundreds of combinations and options for you to experiment with. Two of the range that react very well to the odd 'tinkering' are both the Hempseed & the Bunspice. The possibilities are endless, don't be put off by the price, it's proper value for money and I've caught really well on the whole U.F.B range.

U.F.B Flavors

Value For Money 
Moving on, one slight grey area that suffered inconsistencies were the pop ups, this was a factor that everyone involved was aware of. If you're using cork balls/dust or other unnatural ingredients it's easy to get a really buoyant bait. However both Ian and Gareth at Starmer prioritize fish welfare above everything so the challenge was to produce a pop up that contained natural/safe ingredients. I'm happy to say that after a hell of a lot of trial and error, the old pop ups are a thing of the past. There is now a completely new 'buoyant' pop up that is not only safe for the fish, it breaks down after around 72 hours of being in the water, like all the bottom baits do. Last season I fished pop ups 'almost' exclusively due to the weedy waters I was on. They performed perfectly, on the days where the baits had been out all day and a bite didn't come, upon reeling in they still remained buoyant. I'm personally really happy with this development, there's a huge amount of flavors to choose from.

New Revised Pop Ups

Along side the development of the new pop ups a dedicated pop up base mix containing the exact ingredients has been put together that you can purchase and make your own at home. It comes in 4 different blends, Milk Protein, Fish-meal, Sweet Birdseed and Green Lipped Mussel. It has been designed so you can roll it on any rolling table, you can use any combination of flavor, color, additive etc. You simply roll the baits to your desired size, boil them for 2/3 minutes, leave them to dry or put them in the microwave and you're good to go. I'd like to stress the point that you don't need to add extra eggs to this mix.

Pop Up Base Mix

Moving on to another two great products, both 10mm and 6mm pop ups are now available, they come in a range of colors, both 'fluro' and standard. Individually both these sized baits are extremely buoyant, I was really surprised by this when I first used them. I find these great for solid bag fishing, you can create a 'mini snowman' presentation using both the 10mm & the 6mm combined. Not only that but they're perfect for topping off other baits, I personally think the 6mm range is a lovely touch. You have to use your common sense when using a bait this small, two tips I can give you to stop them splitting when threading, is to use the thinnest boilie needle you can get and always make sure the 'hair loop' is larger than usual. This will cure the problem of the bait 'splitting' on the knot of the hair loop ....... I hope that makes sense. Both come in an array of different flavors ranging from tangerine & peach to raspberry and krill.

10mm Mixed Pop Ups

6mm Mixed Pop Ups

That pretty much covers all of the 'boilie bait' developments, add that all to the existing lines and there's plenty to choose from and a lot of what is on offer is different to that of the mainstream companies. So I'd like to move on to one of the products that probably goes down as my current favorite, that's the liquid feeds. This was something that Starmer originally produced way back in the 90's a long time before most, but it never quite took off. Now with the popularity of spombing/spodding and zig fishing, liquids have had a huge upsurge in usage.

Liquid Feed & Sloppy Zigs
The liquids come in a large variety of flavors ranging from Whisky, Indian Spice, Peanut and Pineapple, I've used these extensively and come to notice that as it enters the water it seems to both sink to the bottom and rise to the surface, creating an awesome slick. This is especially good for fishing slop over zigs, 'as you'll see in the image above'. They're PVA friendly so you can inject them into solid bags, glug and soak your boilies, method mixes and pellets, a valid point to note is, they don't dissolve pellets they just make them a little softer. Along with all the above, as mentioned earlier they're perfect when combined with the U.F.B range, you can use a single flavor or add two or three together to create your own unique boilie flavor. All in all, they're a great product and I'm sure many out there will find them useful.

Liquid Feeds

Moving on to another giant step .... pellets, they've come on in leaps and bounds over the past couple of years, they're produced onsite and in-house by a 'mad scientist' machine that both Ian and Gareth designed and built. Once again the use of pellets within carp fishing has surged due to the popularity of spodding. I love to use them in solid bags and PVA sticks, they come in 2mm and 5mm sizes and both low oil and high oil are available. Within the 'attractor' pellet range you have flavors ranging from Coconut Cream, Hot Chilli Hemp and Tigernut & Maple. In the 'marine' pellet range flavors range from Krill, Green Lipped Mussel and Tuna. You also have a 'mixed option' this range contains a mix of flavors and sizes, one of my favorites from this is the black & white Coconut & Halibut pellet. Like all the other product lines there's lots to choose from, I've used all of the pellets off and on throughout my fishing and I find them effective and versatile. Another unique edition to the pellet range is the 'pre-drilled' halibut pellet, these come in 22mm, 17mm and a monster 28mm. Ideal when fishing for catfish, sturgeon and of course carp. These are a lovely product, super smelly and really oily, being pre-drilled there's no problem when sliding them onto the hair.

Coconut & Halibut

2mm Match Mix

  Pre-drilled Halibut Pellet

That pretty much covers the new and latest products, when you put them alongside all the existing ranges you have a very large, comprehensive selection to choose from that pretty much covers any fishing situation. There's a few things I haven't written about but you can always check the website out. Like I stated at the start of this blog, I'm not trying to sell anything here, or trying to tell you that the bait is "the best there is and you should get on it". Baits are a very personal thing and you've got to use something that you feel confident in. In regards to the mainstream companies out there, I've never really been particularly interested in anything they've ever had to offer, not just in fishing, pretty much everything from music to books etc, I've always found myself steering more towards the independent or unknown. I've never really been interested in what anyone else is using or what apparently 'works' and what doesn't. Like I stated at the start of this blog, I'd rather form my own opinion based on my own experiences. If you fancy trying something different and a little 'off the radar' then I can recommend Starmer as a good reliable 'port of call'.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 14

"It would appear that desperate times call for desperate measures and within these desperate times it seems that many people would rather step on your neck than hold their hand out to pull you through"

Observations Of The Outside World

I haven't written a blog for quite some time now, I've been preoccupied with life, work has been busy and I haven't really felt like communicating with the outside world at all. Not only that but 'via social media', something I genuinely try to stay away from, the whole 'modern carp fishing' scene and the concept of social media as a whole has been grinding on me, so much so that I've decided to delete my twitter account, the jury is still open on the 'page' I have on Facebook, not having an actual profile keeps me away from endless status updates, second to that, Instagram isn't so bad, I like the idea of sharing imagery. To me, it appears a vast majority of people out there are trying to be "rock stars", "angling gurus" or "social media sensations". Everyone's an artist, model, creative, dancer, writer, painter, sculpture, song writer and the most perplexing of all, a "Mental Health Advocate".  To me it all just comes across as an egotistical load of complete bollocks. Being so effected by mental health problems myself this "Mental Health Advocate" term seems to be used by people that want to gain more followers because of "their amazing contribution to mental health awareness" which in reality usually ends up with them just continually updating everyone on how bad they feel all the time, thus creating a platform to get the attention they so obviously crave. This 'observation' might come across as harsh, but having suffered with severe mental health problems myself, and still do, it's a subject, I not only have a huge amount of experience with, but it's something I'm very sensitive about. I can assure you that when I was manic, psychotic, chronically depressed, delusional and suicidal, the last thing on my mind was updating my social media informing everyone of my condition. But alas ........ we now live in a very narcissistic and shallow world and people will do just about anything to get that dopamine hit they continually require.     

Habitually Distracted

The way I see it, this continuous obsession with followers, likes and retweets is contributing towards the erosion of rational thought. However hard I tried I found myself preoccupied with the meaningless, I needed that notification fix, it's like my consciousness was split into two halves, one half was in the real world, the other, tangled in a virtual universe that held no baring on reality. I found myself looking for validation off of a bunch of strangers I'd never even met. HASH-TAGS were becoming a new language, all my thoughts had to be edited down to fit into 280 characters or less, my phone became an interface to access a reality that held absolutely no weight in the material world. I personally think social media is a virus within itself, it's a new form of mental illness and since quitting, all of a sudden the 'white noise' has fallen silent and I can, once again, think clearly, not be a victim of social engineering and not deprive myself of reality. Unplugging myself from "the Interface" is a beautiful feeling. These blogs will be my smoke signals to the outside world.

the interface

a vast junkyard of wasted humans,
forgotten geniuses eaten away
by their own genius,
derelict hosts once so nuanced 
prescribed an ‘overdose’
I’m living a counterfeit life
all seems real to an untrained eye,
it’s the era of the ‘death of self’
familiar imagery, thousands
having mastered mimicry
I haven’t heard one true voice

since we’ve wired ourselves
into the interface
we’re forced to participate,
the mob can’t wait to retaliate
to opposing views that challenge
their delusion, I feel the confusion,
it all seems such a waste,
I’ve spent years trying to cut
my connection to the interface,
it’s malpractice, a database
used to debase, a tool
to develop our predecessor
a freedom oppressor

So now I've finally decided to put "finger to keyboard", as you all know, I'm writing to you from a very different world, a somewhat uglier world than it was before, if that's possible. As you're aware, there is a virus, 'which I believe has been released on purpose' that is 'apparently' infecting thousands of people all over the planet. People are 'apparently' dying in numbers and with the help from the scaremongering media, ..... social media being the other main culprit yet again, .... we are now witnessing hysteria at a level never witnessed before. I've always said that "the true measure of the man is how he deals with a crisis", everyone can be a great thoughtful person when everything is going well. But when the shit hits the fan you tend to see people for what they really are. What I'm witnessing by the majority disgusts me beyond belief, the general public are like a pack of jackals scrambling over each other, tearing metaphorical flesh from the metaphorical bone as they strip the supermarket shelves and shops of anything and everything, caring, not one jot for those around them. 

Living in London you tend to see far more 'pond life' than you do if you're living out of town in more rural areas. But right now, human behaviour in every town and city has shown me that disconnecting from the masses and the fucked up social conditions that molds everyone's thought's and personalities has been the right decision to make. It's proven that in a crisis the majority turn into savages who are only looking after number 1. I'm sure there are some considerate people out there but I'm yet to meet them. I have no desire to communicate with those that have no thought for anyone other than themselves. I have nothing in common with those that take the moral high ground only went it suits them, I like people to be real not fake or a different person depending on whatever situation they're currently in. So whilst mankind continues to demonstrate that the distance between the evolution of the amoeba and the human is a lot less developed than one might think, I'll continue to 'stay down amongst' until this all blows over.   

So moving on to more positive things, over the winter I took a step back from fishing more than I'd done for a good few years, to be honest this worked in my favor. Not only did I enjoy my time on the bank more I also had some really productive sessions resulting in some really good fish, most notably the awesome mirror below. I don't know exactly what the driving force was but everything just fell perfectly into place. All my casts seem to be spot on, all my freebies were hitting the target and all the carp appeared to be playing ball. Compared to recent years we've had a pretty mild winter so I'm sure that this played a big part, marry that with the waters I chose to fish, it's no real surprise the bites came along.

A Cold Water Carp

So let us take the final journey back to the last two sessions that I did in the bottle-neck swim, all my recent blogs from the "Echoes From The Valley Series" are focused around this specific area of the water. It was a swim I was determined to make work for me, it turned into a complete single minded obsession. Results started off slowly but with a little persistence it started to fall into place. If you missed the first blog in this specific installment you can read it here Part 1. This blog will be accounting for my last two short sessions before I moved on elsewhere. The reason the last two sessions ended up being relatively short was due to the fact that most of the bites I'd had ended up being between 3:30 & 4:30 in the afternoon. Instead of getting up at the crack of dawn and waiting all day for the bite, it made sense for me to turn up just before bite time and leave once the take had materialized. It became clear to me that the swim was a bite a day if you approached it correctly. I think my first session was an exception, two bites came because it was very clear that carp were feeding there in numbers.

View From The Swim
On the day of my fist session I arrived at the water around 2:30 in the afternoon, the sun was shining, overhead the clouds were broken and there wasn't even a whisper of a breeze. The world seemed pretty dam perfect, fishing this area had now become second nature. I got my alarms and pod sorted, constructed the rods, rigged up and got both baits out with zero fuss. Today I'd decided on a bait change, I was using Tigernut & Maple, it's another bait I have a huge amount of confidence in. Just like all the sessions before, I baited relativity heavy over both rods, with the bait change came a rig change as well. Bottom baits had served me well but taking into consideration that both spots hold a lot of silt I decided to fish a pop up on a 'Withy pool rig', this would be fished on a helicopter system. The 'Withy' is such an underused rig nowadays. To be fair I haven't used it a great deal in recent times, mainly because I'm fishing waters where I don't need to use pop ups, but it's definitely one of my favorite ways to present a popped up bait.

The Withy

Anytime I'm using a Withy or something similar I always set it up so the bait sinks through the water nice and slow, this ensures that the rig will sit over any debris or silt that might be on the bottom. I create my own curves so I have them in a variety of heights and lengths, some are more aggressive than others, basically I make sure I've got options depending on where and what I'm fishing over. Once all the freebies were deposited there was nothing left to do other than wait for that bite to come. Once thing I love about this specific swim is the tree cover you have, it's the perfect place to sit in the shade, and as the wind blows, the leafy branches above gently sway and occasionally create an opening where the sun can fire through. Sitting there with the warmth of the sun on my face made me realize what a multifaceted pass time angling was, without sounding too obvious, it's not all about catching fish. 

It didn't take long for the time to pass and before I knew it 3:30 was upon me and the prospect of a bite was edging ever closer. The breeze started to pick up and just like clockwork, I started to get liners off of both rods, with some careful observation I could see evidence of feeding, mainly over my right hand spot. Just as 4:00 approached my right hand rod sprung into life ..... result, gently lifting into the fish, the rod arched round and the clutch whirled and ticked. This felt like a good one, I took it easy, there was no reason to panic, I let the fish lunge, pull and thrust, gently cushioning each blow. It really woke up under the rod tip and made ample use of the deep margins, as it began to tire I started to see a fleeting glimpse of a lovely looking common carp, it was deep bodied and almost perfect looking. A touch more patience saw it in the net, as I looked down at my prize, it was clear I'd caught another one of Burrows beauties. 

A Classic Common
My hunch about the bite time had been confirmed again, it appeared they definitely seemed to visit this spot to feed later on in the day. I believe the one main point that helped the area remain productive was the simple fact I'd be fishing it consistently over a period of time and a lot of bait had gone in. I didn't see the point in staying any longer, a second bite rarely comes, the plan was to come back the next day and pretty much replicate what I'd done today.

Back Tomorrow
After getting some odd jobs done in the morning I headed down to the water for about 2:30 again. The conditions were slightly different to the day before. There was more of a breeze on the water and it was way more overcast, it felt nice and fresh. I got both baits out straight away, placed the rods on the floor and then proceeded to set both my pod and alarms up. I reverted back to bottom baits on both rods, there was no real reason for this, I was baiting the swim with Tigernut & Maple but I was fishing Green Lipped Mussel on the hook with small mesh bags of crushed GLM and Bio CP2 Amino crumb. Again, there was no real reason for the hook bait change, I just fancied trying something different. There are times when I have a short attention span over a certain approach or bait, I have 100% confidence in all the different baits I use, hence why I do switch them around quite often.

View From The Swim
GLM Hook Bait & A Crumb Mesh Bag 
 GLM & Bio Cp2 Amino Crumb
So just like the day before I twiddled my thumbs until around 3:30 and once the magic hour arrived I sat on my chair watching closely for signs of feeding fish. On cue I started to get liners and I could see streams of bubbles coming up from the right hand area again. After another few minutes of 'fidgeting', the rod fired off, a huge explosion of bubbles erupted from the spot at the split second the alarm screamed. Making contact with this fish I could feel that it was decent, they were slow powerful lunges and it plodded about in a 'hippo like fashion'. As usual, underneath the rod tip was where it really woke up, after a fair tug-of-war I netted a large pale looking mirror. I knew instantly that I'd had this carp before, if my memory served me correctly it was about 22IB. I didn't bother weighing it but I suspected it was of a similar weight. It's certainly not the best looking fish Burrows has to offer but it was appreciated none the less. 

Repeat Capture
This fish signaled the end of the session for me, not only that but it closed my time fishing the "bottle-neck", I was really happy with all the fish that I'd had but I wanted to move on to some different waters now. This whole period of time has shown me that if you stick to a certain area, keep the bait going and plug away, it's possible to get steady results. Taking into consideration I couldn't buy a bite from this swim in the past, I was more than happy with the outcome. 

Mission Accomplished

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

New Direction S9 Bite Alarm Review

"As in all my reviews I'd like to start by stating that I'm in no way connected to new direction tackle. This is an independent write up that I hope might help you out if you've been thinking about purchasing the New Direction S9 bite alarms".

I tried not to do it but temptation got the better of me, I think it's time to admit that I'm a bite alarm junkie. However, when I purchase new alarms my older ones don't get relegated to the top shelf to gather dust. They're kept in a prime position amongst all my fishing tackle and will be used again when they take my fancy. I rotate all my alarms depending on what mood I'm in, there are days when I want to get my original chunky old FOX DXR's back on the buzzers, the classic 'micron' sound holds many fond memories for me. Then there are times when I want to down size and use my ATTs, it's "horses for courses". As we all know 'bite alarms don't catch us fish', but there's a buzz about looking at something different and hearing a different sound that seems to push the 'pleasure zone' button. The first thing that caught my eye about the ND S9's was the size and shape, they looked sturdy and compact and with a design that looks reminiscent to the head of a "decepticon transformer", I was pretty much sold straight away.

S9 Bite Alarm 

Decepticon Logo

After a short while arguing with myself if I really needed another set of alarms, I bit the bullet and made the order. The anticipation of their arrival got pretty intense but before I knew it a few days past and a parcel landed on my doormat. I decided to order the presentation set that included 2x S9 bite alarms and receiver, this set me back a mere £95.90. In all of three seconds, I tore the packaging open and proceeded the 'grand unveiling'. The alarms arrived in a tidy little protective case, in a little mesh compartment housed in the lid were the USB cables that you use to charge both the alarms & receiver.

Presentation Case
The Opening
One nice little touch were the extra 'pull out' compartments that, if you decided to buy another alarm or two, you could safely house them all in the one case. Slipping one of the alarms out I was struck by how solid it felt, it didn't feel cheap and tacky. Same went for the receiver, it felt good in the hands, the receivers aerial simply screws on and it's ready to go. Everything came charged up but I decided to plug it all in to make sure all the three pieces were fully charged and functioning correctly. Both the S9's and receiver contain a '500mAH Lithium-ion Battery' that you charge with a USB cable, you don't have to worry about buying and changing batteries. The neat little screen on the receiver tells you the percentage of battery life left in each unit.

 Receiver Screen

The stated standby time for both the alarms and receiver is 900 hours, it's hard to confirm if this is exactly right, I've been using them a lot since I purchased them and I've only had to charge one of the alarms once and that was only because it switched on in my bag without me knowing. I still have plenty of battery life left in the alarm I didn't charge and the receiver. Taking into account I made the purchase in August, I think that's pretty good going. When charging the heads you'll get a flashing red light that will switch off when fully charged. When charging the receiver each individual LED will flash and then go solid, this occurs with all five LEDs. When the receiver is fully charged all the LEDs will go static and stay on. The one flat alarm that I had to charge took about 35 minutes to be fully operational again. I have to say that I'm really impressed with the overall battery life, I can't fault it at all.

USB To Charge

Taking a closer look at the alarm itself, you have two tidy little snag ears that can be screwed on and off, you have a single button, a small speaker hole and one LED. It's pretty much as minimal as you can get. Looking at some of the older bite alarms New Direction produced, to look at, they were all singing and all dancing with loads of buttons and flashing lights. The stripped down, 'no thrills' look of the S9 appeals to me a lot more. Also there were a lot of complaints in regards to the battery life of the older models. It's clear this time around they've stripped away the unnecessary 'cosmetic' features that could of lead to the problems with the battery life in the past, opting for simplicity. The single LED and the 'buzz' of the buzzer itself isn't going to be running the power down in a hurry. As with the JRC Radars, it took a few models before they really got it right. I believe New Direction have got it right this time around with the S9 series.

So now lets take a closer look at the 'SPEC'

Bites are detected via roller wheel, there are 10 settings of sensitivity. I use it on the highest which is exceptionally good, if you gently flick the alarm body the alarm will buzz. I'd probably go as far to say that it comes close to being able to detect vibration. The volume has 7 settings including silent, I always have my heads muted or on a low volume as not to disturb anyone, relying on the receiver to alert me. I can confirm that both the speakers in the alarms and receiver are nice and clear. For me personally, I can't see me using many of the 'higher volume' settings. In regards to the 'tones', you have seven to choose from, starting with the lowest up to the highest. The sound of the buzzer is unique, and on the lower settings gives a very satisfying buzzzzzzz!!!!.  Not only that but the receiver will mimic perfectly the tone you've chosen for each head.

Sensitivity Settings
One feature that I really like is the fact that you can change the colour of the LED, you have five colors to choose from, you've got Blue, Red, White, Green and yellow. You assign the colour you want to the S9 head and then pair the receiver up with the same colour. You change the colour on each alarm by simply 'double tapping' the button on the alarm, this then allows you to shuffle through the colour options. Once you've decided which one you want, you move the roller wheel to assign and set it, it's very simple. Another feature that the button on the alarm commands is the option to 'MUTE' the head for 30 seconds. This gives you ample time to make adjustments to your bobbin. One point to take on board is, for the 'MUTE' to be effective you have to turn the receiver off as well. I find it quite annoying having muted the head only for the receiver to be firing off.

S9r Receiver 'The Control Center'

Lets now move onto the S9r receiver, this is a nice solid piece of kit with a magnetic back. To be able to access all the features on the alarm comfortably I recommend you purchase it. If you don't fancy the added cost you can download the 'New Direction' app onto your phone and connect to the alarm via bluetooth. But to be honest I wouldn't recommend it, I wasn't impressed with the App at all, it seemed very 'buggy' and it drained the battery on my phone at a scary rate. Adjusting the settings of the alarm is so much easier with the receiver. Everything is controlled via a small 'joystick', this allows you to remotely set the volume, tone and sensitivity of each alarm head. Not only that, it allows you to adjust the volume of the receiver itself and scroll through all the different menus. When I initially set everything up I found it a little complicated but it didn't take long for me to suss it out. Adjusting the settings wirelessly from the comfort of your day shelter when the rain is hammering down is a luxury and it works faultlessly.  

Range Test Option

The screen of the receiver is nice and bright, as are all the 'mini' LEDs, you can set both the time and date, check the battery level of each alarm and it even has a tidy little feature that tells you how many millimeters of line has moved through the roller wheel if you get a liner or a full blown take. Along with all the above it has a silent/vibration option, a 'drop back differentiation' setting and a 'range testing mode'. I haven't used this specific feature because I'm close to my rods at all times, however I've never had a problem with the receiver not connecting to the alarms. If you're into your tech you can also purchase a 'smart band' this connects wirelessly to the S9 alarm heads, the band then acts as a covert little receiver that can be worn on the wrist, it has small little LEDs on it that you can pair up with the LED colour of each alarm and it vibrates. I haven't purchased the smart band and I don't plan to but it looks like a pretty good idea.

Smart Band
I've had these alarms in constant use since August 2019, it's now December and they haven't missed a bleep. They've been out in torrential rain, baking sun and ended up in the lake after a violent take, they work as perfect as the day I got them. In regards to the alarms weak points, I'm hard pressed to find any, the only niggle is the brightness of the LED on the alarm itself. On a bright day you genuinely can't see any illumination, but if you're using the receiver then this isn't an issue at all. Also New Direction are yet to produce a dedicated protective case for the S9 range, this is a little annoying and is the reason one of my alarms turned on in transit without me knowing. I think that pretty much covers everything, for the price you're getting alarm that stands up to other models at twice, even three times the price. New Direction have out done themselves with the S9 series, if you're in the market for a new set of buzzers that don't strangle your bank account then look no further. I rate them 10/10.

Waiting For The Run


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Micklem Mere 'Fishing For Mysteries' Part 5

Over the past couple of months with all my focus having been applied to one lake and one swim I decided to go 'off-piste' for a day. I literally felt like my thinking was coming to a stand still, I could feel my neural pathways short circuiting, I fancied a change. I decided to take a trip up to Micklem Mere because I hadn't fished the place for quite some time. To me, Micklem is/was a special water and a completely different prospect to all the other venues I have available to me. The 'Fishing For Mysteries' series is ongoing and will document all my sessions fishing on the mere, if you missed the first in the series it can be found by clicking this link Fishing For Mysteries Part 1. Writing about the water how it was way back in 2016 is something that still inspires me, hardly anyone fished it because nobody really knew what was in it. Fast forward to the current day in 2019, in my mind, the water is a shadow of its former self. Once word got out that there were some rather large carp getting caught, with the help of the digital disease called "social media", people started flocking down in numbers. Unfortunately its now started to become like every other water out there, far too busy, way too pressured and, to be expected, the once pristine beautiful fish are starting to suffer mouth damage. 

Utopia Banished
I've mentioned it before in so many other blogs but there's just no excuse for mouth damage, there's no excuse for any damage inflicted on any fish. I understand that we all get the odd dodgy hook hold but what I'm seeing goes far deeper than that. I'm genuinely running out of places to fish that contain clean carp, the amount of waters I've turned my back on due to this problem is mounting up. I put this down to a lack of education, tackle firms will piece together 5 hour DVD's designed to market new products. But won't take 10 minutes to explain the concept of the clutch, the test curve and the relation these two elements have in landing a fish safely. So ... going back to Micklem, here in the current day it has become a casualty of the carp fishing circus. Anyway, lets put all the above behind us and magically transport ourselves back to October 2016. The aim was to get up just before first light and zoom out of London and up into Essex at a 'questionable' speed to get to the water just as the world was waking up. This was successfully achieved and as I pulled up to the gate to punch in the combination that gives me access to 'the other world'. I was feeling pretty dam excited, it felt good to be fishing a different water.

There's always a slight apprehension as the car park comes into view, I was pleasantly surprised to find it empty. It was looking like I was going to have the whole place to myself. Looking down from where I parked my van, the mere rests sunken in the landscape surrounded by a thin covering of trees and bushes. It always looks perfect, loading the barrow and trundling down the field I could literally feel the world on the other side of the gate disappear. The closer I got to the water the more obsolete the 'real world' became, very few waters have this effect on me. The fact the place was totally deserted played a huge part. I can assure you, if spods were flying and bivy pegs were being hammered in the ground, I probably would of turned straight around and left. I wasn't in a huge rush to get setup so I decided to take a wander and see if any carp were going to give themselves away. Placed periodically around the bank side are wooden benches, they're positioned perfectly so you can take a stroll and then take a seat to watch the water. I made my way half way along the car park bank and took a seat. Below is a very rough map.

View From Above

The wind was pushing down into my face, it was warm and fresh, now with the sun peering over the distant trees, I knew it was going to end up being a nice bright day. I'm always reluctant to fish the swims on the car park bank during the warmer months, mainly because, no less than a rod length out, it drops down to 18/19ft. I usually like to focus my attention up the other end which has some of the shallowest parts. After minor observation I carried on walking round and up along the road bank, the sun was now rising fast, the morning was dawning and as the light of the new day started to spread across the mere, with it came a clear sense of new possibilities. I still hadn't spotted any fish so I continued up past the back bay and onward into the 'out of bounds' area. The out of bounds area is pretty much 'jungle warfare', there's no clear path so you just improvise. It's pretty much just marshland, the long grass cracks, crumples and squelches under foot. Perched within this part of the landscape is an old derelict shed, its wood is weathered, its hinges rusty and broken. I can only assume this is a leftover from when the mere was a trout fishery. Whatever it was it looks a little too 'Blair Witch' for my liking.  

View From The Last Swim On The Field Bank 'The Shallows'
Walking from the out of bounds area the lake suddenly comes back into view, the first swim you come to is what I call the shallows. This part of the water is quite interesting, to the left you have a lovely silt area that stretches out a fair distance in front of the treeline. The water directly in front is around knee height and you can literally walk out right up until the point of the trees on the right hand side, 'check the photo above'. From the point of the tree the back bay begins and the depth falls away to around 9/10ft. On those early mornings when the sun is warm and the wind is pushing up, the carp have a tendency to group together a short distance out. Carrying on down towards where I started, I was yet to see anything showing, with a few more minutes of deliberation I decided I'd fish on the front on the wind. It wasn't exactly blowing a gale but there was enough of a breeze to convince me that a few fish might just be milling around the area. 

The Perfect Morning 'No Breeze'
Now with the morning sun high in the sky any clouds that were hanging over head were burning away fast. The little breeze there was died, the swim I decided to fish is quarter of the way up the field bank. It has a lovely feature in the shape of a slope that, very gradually falls away to around 11/12ft. My plan was to fish half way down this slope with both rods positioned about a rods length apart. To start off with I wasn't going to bait particularly heavy, opting for 4 bait stringers with a small mesh bag of crushed boilie. Around this I'd scatter a handful of freebies, baiting heavy straight away didn't feel like the right way to go. Bait wise I was going to be sticking with the green lipped mussel, my rigs were going to be simple semi-fixed setups with short hook links. Those that have read my blogs for quite sometime now know that I like to keep my rigs as simple as possible. I see no sense in complicating things, the rigs I use today are pretty much the same ones I've been using for the past 29 years, give or take the odd tweak.

Bait Tools
In the image below you can see the shallow water that stretches out a few feet in front of my rod tips, it's easy to make out where the slope starts because the bottom literally disappears. When I first started fishing Micklem this was an area that I pretty much ignored, having done a lot more research between this specific session and the current day. I have a strong reason to believe that I'm fishing on the road that the trucks used to excavate the gravel. I remember finding the same sort of 'road' when I was fishing Chase back lake, I had a lot of fish off it. Old roads and pathways hidden under the water in gravel pits can end up being great features to target. When the carp are actively showing themselves then fishing to hidden features doesn't enter my head. I just want to make sure I'm putting my bait where the fish are, on those days when the visual side of things resemble a 'tumble weed' I find targeting underwater features can be the difference between a blank and a bite. 

Over time I've built a pretty solid picture in my mind of all the waters I fish, I go through the same process with every venue. As the years go by I try to build a complete map, this map stays in my head, this vision in my mind may not be 100% accurate but it's something to work with. During the winter I might take some time after a session to mark up specific areas of interest. Approaching the waters in this way gives me a chance to really think about the best places to put a bait. I know that many nowadays use deeper sonars to help them suss things out, for me though you still can't beat a marker rod, a bare lead or a lead and float. I get a far greater thrill feeling the lead banging and juddering when I'm over a hard spot rather than the idea of relying on a piece of technology that may or may not be accurate.
View From The Swim
Even though I wasn't fishing a great distance I still wanted to wrap both rods so I was hitting the exact same mark on each cast. It worked out 7 rod lengths to the spots I'd chosen, this put me in 7ft of water. The bottom was hard with lightly scattered weed, I opted for slow sinking and low lying pop ups, this was to ensure my hook baits didn't get obscured by any weed they might land in. There's patchy weed scattered all around Micklem, none of it's really a problem to present a rig in. So after a rather lazy start I finally got both my rods out, 7 rod lengths is a tricky distance to cast without getting a bit of 'bounce back', but I managed to cushion them perfectly with the help of my Bruce Ashby 'BALLISTAS'. The back leads were slipped on, the bobbins were set and a handful of bait was deployed over both rigs. It was now time to sit back, 'try to relax' and see what the day was going to produce. I was under no illusion, your typical Micklem session is normally packed with the small stuff. I like to refer to them as 'future kings', they come in the shape of perfect looking common carp and if you're lucky a mirror or two. If the heavens are smiling down on you, you might hook into one of the secret monsters that, very occasionally reveal themselves. It's this prospect that keeps me coming back.

The Faithful 'Stringer' - Underused Nowadays

It was literally a few minutes before the bobbin on my left rod whizzed to the top and smacked the blank. I knew instantly that it was one of the small fish, when one of the larger 'secrets' pick your bait up the clutch will whizz and the alarm will sing. I lifted the rod up gently, the tip was knocking and the scamp on the other end was whizzing around like a bottle rocket. I slowly reeled it in, carefully unhooked it and sent it straight back. I always try to be as careful as possible with the small carp, they're delicate and I don't want to be damaging them. We're wanting all these fish to grow up as pristine as possible. 

Future King One
As soon as I got the rod back the right one was away, just like the bite before, the bobbin shot up to the top and slapped the blank, however this fish managed to take a little bit of line. The additive 'whirl' of the clutch kicked in for about 5 seconds, I could feel that it was a slightly better fish, it was putting up a fair fight and as it came into view it was clear that this one was a pretty decent low double. I decided to unhook it in the net and send it straight home. 

Future King Two
I suddenly had a change of thought regarding my baiting approach, if I wanted to stand a chance of hooking one of the better ones I needed to attempt to draw as many carp into the swim as possible. In my mind, the more bait I put out the higher the chance I had of a potential monster coming along. I reeled both my rods in and ran up to the van to get hold of my pellets and method mix. I always keep a few 'auxiliary' bags in the fishing wagon. 

Multi-Mix Pellets With Beastie Ball Method Mix
I knocked up a quick recipe that consisted of multi-mix pellets and beastie ball ground bait, to this I added some salmon oil. This was all blended together to make a nice 'tacky' consistency that would sit well in a mini spomb. I was going to keep the swim topped up with the pellet and ground bait, sticking with the same minimal feeding approach with the boilies. The attraction within the recipe I'd just concocted was more than enough to keep a scent in the swim. The mini spomb was clipped up to 7.5 rod lengths, I introduced 10 little rockets of bait and then got both my rigs back out. I'd feed the swim as and when, the bulk of the bait would be reintroduced after each bite. 

A Subtle Missile Of Flavor
Now with my new baiting plan executed the bobbins were clipped on, the bite alarms were 'set to stun' and I was ready to go again. I started to get lots of little knocks and indications on both alarms straight away, within minutes my left rod fired off. The bobbin fumbled about and then tore up and smacked the blank, upon lifting the rod up I could barely feel anything on the other end. I wound in slowly and as the lead came into view I could see a small fish rolling around, just like all the previous bites, I unhooked it gently and sent it home.

Future King Three
This rod went back out I didn't even bother changing the hook bait, over the top of this I dispensed 5 mini spombs. I started thinking back to previous sessions and there seemed to be a pattern, the better fish had a habit of coming along towards late afternoon and early evening. Before I'd even managed to sit down my right rod was the next one to go, the bite was practically identical to the last. Carefully winding in, I was met with another perfect looking common, it was barely a couple of pound but it had lovely red fins, when/if this fish grows on to be a monster, it's going to end up looking pretty special. 

Future King Four
The fish was returned, the rig went back out followed by another 5 missiles of feed. Things started to slow down from this point, the sun was now beating down hard. The liners ceased and both alarms stayed silent. To be honest I wasn't too bothered, this was usual practice for Micklem, I decided that I'd introduce 5 mini spombs every 45 minutes or so throughout the day, I knew the carp would come back around, you just had to be patient. In the meantime it gave me a chance to put on 'the all important kettle' and soak up the sights and sounds. Because no one else had turned up I felt like I had my own private lake. Sitting there waiting for the kettle to boil, I was scanning the waters surface for any signs of fish. I started to think back to the first time I cast my lines into Micklems water, it appeared so vast and the prospect of catching any fish at all felt like an impossibility. But like every water I've fished, once you start to work it out it's as if the place shrinks.

The hours slowly started to pass me by, I sat transfixed on the water and the distant horizon. I was drifting in and out of a daydream. I started to think about the confusion and conflict that was going on in the 'other world' beyond the gate and over the horizon line. I sat motionless with not one care in my mind at all, which is rather a rare occurrence. I started to think about the minor culture shock I feel when I've spent a day on my own in the middle of nowhere, and then I drive back to London to resume my existence. The pace quickens and before you know it the stress relief the day had provided is quickly undone as you find yourself fighting through the unforgiving streets of the city. For now though, I needn't concern myself with 'the normal' or 'mundane', I was craving the abnormal, I wanted a creature from the deep to pay me a visit. Both contemplation and questions about the possibility of extraterrestrials running the world saw the remaining hours of the afternoon fly by.

Come 5pm the feeling around the mere changed, even though I hadn't seen any indication of carp anywhere near me, I knew I was 'back in business', a bite wasn't far off. With the late September sun quickly cooling off it wasn't long before a few fish started showing themselves, some jumped up towards the back bay and another couple towards the middle out in front of me. I took this as a good sign, I was willing one of my alarms to go screaming off. I added 5 mini missiles to top my swim up and sat poised on the edge of my chair. My right rod sprung into life literally seconds after I'd put the extra feed in. The bobbin flew to the top and stayed there, I picked the rod up and gently wound in slowly, I could feel it was another little carp, as it came into view it was literally a couple of pound at most. 

Future King Number 5
I slipped it back during which my left rod went off, the bite was literally identical to the one I just had. Lifting into this fish, it at least put a small bend in the rod, it was darting around all over the show fighting like a fish at least double the weight it ended up being. I netted a lovely long common that had a unique tinge of orange to its appearance. I got it back straight away and worked on getting both rods out as quickly as I could. Once the bobbins were set I topped the swim up with a few more spombs hoping that one of the mere's secrets was going to pay me a visit before I had to leave. 

Future King Number 6
After the two quick bites the action stalled, I was convinced it was all going to 'kick off' like it had so many times in the past round about this same sort of time. Micklem can be so bloody unpredictable, I was happy with the carp I'd had but I was certain that something special had to come along at some point. I sat tight, the September sun was dropping towards the horizon line and with it, a chill moved in that very much indicated that summer was well and truly on the way out. Looking at the time it was 18:30pm, I was going to give it until 19:00pm, any later than that and I was going to be getting home pretty late, I had to be up early for work so I didn't fancy rushing around when I got home. I was looking at the clock on my phone as if it was a countdown to the end of existence. Time was ticking by way too fast, I literally had 10 minutes left and then .... "BANG", my right rod was away only this time it was a proper take. The tip of the rod hooped round sharp to the right and both the clutch and alarm sung, these two sounds in unison was what I'd been wanting to hear.

Rushing to the rod and lifting into the mystery, the blank arched round and I was into the first proper fight of the day. 'Last knockings' had paid off, the carp bolted straight out into the open water diving down deep. I savored the moment, I'd waited long enough for it to happen. I started to gain ground and as the fish edged closer it was bolting from left to right, it put up one hell of fight. Now literally under the rod tip it was using the depth close in, keeping well out the way of netting distance, I was dying to get a glimpse, the bigger fish from Micklem are always special. Soon enough it was ready, a perfect looking common carp resigned itself to the net mesh. It was a classic looking Micklem fish, it had a lovely high back, a large clean mouth, perfect proportions and it looked completely untouched, the setting sun reflected perfectly off of its spotless scales. I wasn't interested in the weight, weight is something that means very little to me nowadays, it's just about getting out there and trying to suss the equation out.

The Secret

With the sun setting and the light fading I sent the fish back home, I watched as it morphed into nothing as the mere swallowed it whole. I had no head-torch with me so it was a pretty undignified pack down. I scrambled along the bank and back up the hill to the car park, I literally threw everything in the back of the van in one quick motion. Upon locking the back door, I turned to give the mere one last look, I could just about make it out. I reluctantly drove back to the gate, I knew the minute I opened it I'd find myself back in the 'real' world, a place that, as the years go by, I find I'm withdrawing from more and more, it's uninspiring, a hamster wheel of repetition, a place where the ego is given way to much importance, where style overrides any form of substance. Nowadays it's more about survival for me than anything else, I wish I could look upon everyday life in a more positive way but I can't. On the upside though it was looking like I was going to only have to put up with it for a few days because I'd find myself back down Burrows fishing the bottle-neck once again.

Micklem Sleeping