Friday 24 January 2014

Burrows 'Getting Back In The Groove'

So it finally looks like winter is on the way out, and what a long one it has been. I persevered through the colder months and surprisingly had a fair amount of success. The bleak and sometimes brutal banks are slowly starting to sprout new life and with a new season comes new dreams and possibilities. I forgot what a pleasure it is to be on the bank without thermals and about five layers of clothing, I love the change from winter to spring, you actually start to feel alive again.. just.

My new membership for Kingfishers has come through and I have joined 'Bardag Angling' who run The Chase over in Dagenham, I have my sights set on a few different waters this year and I am really looking forward to getting started. Plenty of homework is required but to me that's all part of the process. I think it's important to keep a variation in your fishing.

Before I brave new ground I thought I'd pop down Burrows for a few sneaky sessions, Burrows is a water I will fish off and on because I really do love it there and the lake holds a stunning stamp of carp. The place is really thriving, it seems a lot more twenties are visiting the banks and a few new scamps are gracing landing nets, all the fish are so clean, be it a twenty or a low double, it's a total joy to bank any Burrows carp.

Before I went on my first session I popped down to have a walk around, obviously with the change of temperature rising a little a few anglers have been out and about. After having a chat with some of them it seems the water has been very slow and not a great deal had been giving itself up. I think the crazy weather we have been having over the past months is playing a role in this, I personally don't think the fish know whether they're coming or going. Baring all this in mind I planned an afternoon session, now the clocks have changed it's great to be able to stay out later and obviously this gives you longer on the bank and a higher chance of a bite. 

I had a rough idea where I wanted to fish, I have pinpointed a fair few spots I know I can catch from in varied conditions. I kept my rigs very simple, I was fishing a 'blow back' but I had replaced the ring with a tiny bit of tubing, I was using a size 8 fang twister, supernova braid with a small piece of tungsten putty a few inches away from the hook, I feel this adds to the shock when the carp picks the bait up. My lead was a Carpy Chris Inline pear which was 2 1/2 oz. My chosen bait was Starmers reliable sweet bird seed mix "Strawberry Mivvi" topped off with some fake corn, visually I think the red of the boilie blended in with yellow gave a great presentation.

Simple Rig

My Swim Choice
I arrived at the water around 1:30pm with the view point of staying until around 7:00pm. I opted on keeping the free offerings to a minimum relying on the fact my baits had been dipped in glug to help release a little more attraction. I was going for the opportunist take, I felt piling the bait in wasn't the right thing to do, taking into account the water had been pretty quiet over the past few weeks.

The hours started to pass pretty fast, there were no signs of any fish anywhere, it was very quiet. Instead of recasting for the hell of it, I just sat on my hands, I knew my rig positions were good, the bait was spot on, I had a sense that if I was going to get a take it would be a little later on in the day. 

6:30pm came and the wind had calmed down, the lake turned into a sheet of glass, it felt like the witching hour.. 'bite time'. Sure enough 6:45pm came and my right hand rod ripped off at pace. I lent into the fish that seemed to be racing towards me because there was no real resistance, I thought that I'd hooked into one of the scamps. When I got her in close that was when she really woke up, it felt heavy and was powering around, my barbel rods where being stretched to their limit. The fight went on for quite sometime and when I eventually got my first glimpse of the fish I knew I'd got a real nice chunk on. Eventually she tired, I eased the net under her, a lovely looking mirror laid there staring at me, scales sunk to 21IB 5oz, I was overjoyed and a little surprised.

21IB 5oz 

I got a few snap shots and slipped her back, it had just gone 7:00pm so I decided I'd pack up with the plan on coming down in a few days time. I wanted to get a few solid sessions in before moving on.

Day 2

My mind was starting to work over time because I just had this niggling feeling that the carp might be spending their time in the mid to upper layers. When the carp are hard on the deck you can pretty much gauge a take 45 minutes into the session, I was starting to think about putting a zig rig out. I came to the decision that I'd fish another day hard on the bottom and if I'm still getting the same feeling I'd fish a zig on my third session.

I opted to fish the same swim but this time I would fish Strawberry Mivvi on one rod and Octospice on the other, both would be topped off with fake corn. Octospice is a pretty special bait, Starmer originally made it for the french market, when I was down their work shop last visit, Ian gave me a small bag to try out and I caught on it instantly everywhere I took it. My spots were the same as the day before but a little tighter into the bank.

Starmers Octospice 'An Interesting Blend'

This day turned out to be a real tough one, the bobbins stayed static with not so much as a single bleep, a few fished jumped down where the underwater fence was but that was about it. I was now convinced that I was going to try fishing a zig on my next session.

I have never tried zigs on Burrows and it might just be the approach that could get me a bite when times are slow. I stuck it out until the bitter end and in the last few minutes of the session my left hand rod screamed off, 'last knockings' had delivered once again like it has so many times in the past. The fish put up a great fight, I slipped a lovely looking mirror over the net, scales sunk to 12IB, Octospice had tempted one on a tough day.

12IB Mirror

Back She Goes

Day 3

The conditions on session three were very different to the previous days, it was very sunny and very windy, there were waves on the water and trying to cast out was a bloody nightmare. I opted to fish one on the bottom and one on a 2ft zig. The 2ft zig was placed where I'd seen fish cruising mid water during the winter. The bottom bait was put in my usual marginal spot, I was using Starmers banana cream mixed with strawberry mivvi, I had both flavours chopped in a carp craze mesh bag and I was fishing half and half on the hair.

Half And Half Hook Bait

Finished Presentation

My zig rig was tied using the new Rig Moral specialist mono, with a size 6 Nash fang uni, I cut down a banana cream pop up to use as my hook bait. Instead of using a lead clip system I favour one of my small light inline leads. The lead was made specifically for me by 'Carpy Chris Knowler' to use with my solid bags but it comes in useful for other things, if I was fishing a zig over 3 1/2 ft then I would swap to a lead clip system so I could drop the lead if need be.

Rig Marole Specialist Mono

I am very impressed with the above hook link material, it goes near invisible in the water and has great knot strenght. If you steam its straight before using it, it keeps it shape very well.

'Carpy Chris' Solid Bag Lead

My little solid bag lead is a small flat inline that casts lovely, lands with little disturbance and is light enough to use with a short zig rig.

Simple Zig Set Up

You can see in the above photo that the hook link material is very hard to see, when the sun shines on it it turns translucent. When approaching zig fishing any little edge you can give yourself is helping to contribute to the effectiveness of the presentation.

When I arrived at the lake I decided to fish the same swim that I'd been in previous, my bottom bait was cast nice and tight into the margin with a bag of chops and a few freebies thrown around, my zig was put just off the deeper shelf that runs a rods length or so off the opposite bank.

Rig Positions

The day proceeded as expected with very little indication of fish anywhere, I felt really confident in my positioning so once again I just sat on my hands. When fishing zigs I make an agreement with myself that I am going to commit 100%, that's the only way you're ever going to know if the method is effective, I have used them in the past with varied success. I have decided I'm going to focus and explore them a lot more this season, if done correctly they can really add another dimension to your overall fishing.

The wind continued to batter the lake, afternoon bought with it showers and blasts of rain, it was starting to look pretty doubtful that I was going to bag a fish. All of sudden out the blue my zig rod bent round and I lifted into a hard fighting carp, the approach paid off and I was thrilled that I'd managed a take. The fish really put up one hell of a fight, as the water was broken by a straying dorsal I clocked the view of a lovely looking common, I eventually teased over my net, scales sunk to 13IB.

13IB On The Zig

I was so pleased to catch on a zig, I think I am going to incorporate them into my fishing a lot more, the secret to zig fishing for me is total coviction, if I choose to put one out then it stays out. Because the concept is a little weird sometimes you feel inclined to reel it in after a few hours and whack a bottom bait on but at the end of the day, you don't know until you try.

That was the only take I had all day, I did pop down a few days later for a few hours and had yet another take on the zig but unfortunately it took me into a snag and spat the hook. For the future I am going to start to work with adjustable zig rigs, many times have I been on a lake when I've seen fish cruising just under the surface, I have come up with a pretty reliable system which I believe will be effective.

Adjustable Zig Setup

The setup is really very simple, I will be using a Fox pike float fished upsidedown so the swivel can slot into the black tubing provided, the lead system will be pretty much the same as how you set a marker float up. Now doubt I will keep track of my results in future blogs, I am feeling optimistic, it might just be the key to those days where fishing hard on the deck just isn't happening.

Short Sessions 'Thoughts, Feelings, Tactics'

In this blog post I'd like to share my thoughts and feelings about fishing for carp on short sessions, I'm going to include material from a few different trips I've been on. I haven't done any night fishing for a long time now, I haven't felt the need. I know that there are certain lakes and even certain fish that feed at night, it has been said that the big girls are known to feed confidently under the cover of darkness. Many moons ago before I had my first twenty I'd be out on the bank for 4 days and 4 nights dreaming of the monsters that were lurking in the muddy waters that stood before me. When I get the calling I'm sure I'll get back under the stars soon enough, but for the time being, days and shorter sessions are doing me well.

The Barrow 'A Must For The Mobile Angler'
One thing that has become really important to me now more than ever is staying mobile, in the past I'd get all my kit set up, bed-chair, kettle, Bivvy-table, the lot, plonk myself down behind my rods all day and stay firmly rooted to my spot staring at my motionless swingers even though it was clear fish were very obviously showing and feeding in other areas of the lake.

Nowadays I have all my bare essentials next to me and everything else is on my barrow so if I see signs of fish elsewhere and it's possible to move onto them, then I will, this can change a potential blank into a result. Another thing is not being afraid to experiment in all areas, 'you don't know until you try' is a firm mantra I keep in my mind when the days seem slow.

There are a few things that I have started to do to help me get steady results on a lot of the waters I fish. First and foremost it's bait application, working with Starmer I have the luxury of being able to get hold of a fair amount of bait, at the end and during each session I throw groups of ten boilies around certain areas of the water, most of them being where I haven't caught before, or near underwater features that I find using a marker float. 

When I go home I keep in mind that the carp will be chomping on the bait between sessions and start to identify it as a safe and regular food source. Also if fishing two rods I'll find a spot I like the look of, I call this 'my third rod spot', through out the day I'll trickle bait on to it and then later on during the session I will cast to it, this can produce a quick take especially if some fish have found the bait and have been feeding on it undisturbed during the day.

4ft Shelf Dropping Steadily Down To 9ft
The obvious place to fish in the swim above is the far margin, I've steadily been baiting this area on and off for weeks and it produced a 26IB and 22IB common for me. It goes to show that seeking out and concentrating on underwater features can really pay off. 

One tactic that I have been experimenting with lately and have been incorporating into my margin fishing is something I call 'burying the bait, I have two approaches that I use, I started thinking about this years ago in one way or another. The first example is perfect for margin fishing but I wouldn't recommend it for distance fishing because I doubt it would stay intact for the cast. It's simply moulding your ground bait mix around the hook bait.

Stage 1 

Stage 2

I've been sticking to fairly dry mixes, I've tested all of them in the margin and I've come up with something that seems to work very well as it breaks down. I use Starmers 'Carp Chum', 'Carp Red' 'Green Lipped Mussel Pellets' and the 'White Green Lipped Mussel Method mix'. I make sure the 'Red' and the 'Chum' are mixed tightly and then I add the Mussel mix dry. I have found by doing this when the mixture enters the water the 'Red' and the 'Chum' settle and start to bubble and slowly dissolve whilst the 'Green Lipped Mussel' separates and creates a white cloud which works as a great attracter. As the mix breaks down your hook bait is sitting directly in the middle of a mini feast. I've caught a lot of carp using this in my margin fishing, it seems to trip them up.

18IB Common Caught On 'Burying The Bait'
The second example of this is very different and will probably come across as ludicrous to some who read it but bear with me. Many years ago I use to fish a lake called Scarlets, it was a hard lake because the silt was terrible, you would cast your lead into it and literally have your rod bent double to retrieve the rig. In silt and weed I use helicopters and pop ups, occasionally favoring the chod. 

I have never been a fan of the 'lead clip system' there's something about it that I don't get on with, I know thousands of carp get caught on it everyday but I favor an inline presentation, it's said that in-lines can pull your bait into silt and depending on how they land, crimp your hook link. I beg to differ, I feel if you feather you cast correctly then you can get the inline lead to land perfectly, I love fishing a stiff hook link tied with a 'figure of eight' knot on the swivel, combining these two elements and feathering the cast the hook-link throws itself forward landing perfectly.

The Figure Of Eight Knot On My Stiff Rigs
In Scarlets there was a 28IB mirror that hadn't seen the bank in about 4 years, the owner had a written record of its weight and date of capture, I put so much time into the lake, there use to be a fair amount of action but through the years it slowed up. I think that was due to a lot of fish being taken, it was one of those venues where the front gate was open 24 hours a day. The owner said that the carp became illusive but I think it was more the fact that they weren't in there anymore.... Anyway I wanted this 28IB mirror real bad. I decided that I was going to use a 2 1/2 inline lead with a really short hook-link fished in the really deep silty areas, I wanted to bury the bait. 

For this to work best you need to be 100% accurate with your free offerings. My theory was where I cast my rig deep into the silt I would bait up directly on top of it, as we know carp dig and steam through the bottom when they feed, my viewpoint was if a carp came across my baited spot it would kick the bottom up feeding on my free offerings and in doing so exposing my bottom bait that had theoretically been pulled deeper into the silt. 

All the rig components would be buried so there would be nothing for them to spook off. One early morning at around 5:30am I had a break through, whilst I was just about to take a swig of coffee the water erupted like a bloody volcano and my right hand rod tore off like nothing I'd ever seen before. I rushed up spilling my coffee and lent back into the fish, it was steaming off heading for the snags around the island, I was running along the bank trying to gain control. The fish started ploughing through the snags, half way through the fight the fish surfaced and it was the 28IB mirror, we knew this because of the distinctive scaling it had on its back and tail, I couldn't believe it. As the fish was racing down the side of the island the branches and snags were creaking and snapping, all of a sudden...... ping ! the line snapped. I couldn't believe it, I stood there just staring at the water, the angler who was up from me who had just set up packed up and went home because he had been targeting that fish for ages, after the realism of the situation sunk in I decided to pack up and go home as well, I was gutted.

The positive side of it was the fact my unorthodox presentation had worked but at the time it wasn't much consolation. I know it sounds odd but burying your hook bait in the silt fished under free offerings could trick the most wary carp into taking your hook bait. 

The next subject I'd like to briefly cover is 'casting to showing fish', now this took me a while to cotton on to. I had tried this in the past with very little success, there were days where I found I was just casting all over the place not leaving the bait anywhere long enough for a take. I put a rule in place that I'd only cast to showing fish if they were in or around the swim I was fishing. I use a simple but effective method for this, it's call a 'PVA pyramid' presentation. It's simply putting 5 boilies in your PVA funnel web system in the shape of a pyramid, I tie the PVA very tight so the boilies exploded all around the hook bait once the PVA has melted down.

My PVA Pyramids
I always mix it up a little bit, sometimes with chops and whole boilies, I believe this makes it harder for the carp to distinguish between the hook bait. 

Mixed PVA Pyramids

Just because the carp are jumping doesn't necessarily mean that they're feeding but if you've had very little action during the day, casting to a jumping fish can produce an opportunist take. Below are a few fish I've caught by casting to a jumping carp.

She's A Spotless Beauty

10 Minutes After The Cast

She Fell For My Pyramid Presentation
It shows that casting to jumping fish can pay off, but it's worth noting that if you truly feel confident in the traps you set sometimes it's best to sit on your hands and wait, there are many reasons why carp jump clear of the water, it doesn't always mean they're on the feed.

One last method I'd like to include is 'using the lake bottom to your advantage'. When possible I've gotten into the habit of reaching down into the margin and taken a big handful of the bottom you can learn a lot from this. I know that lake bottoms vary, taking into account gravel bars, silt pockets, weedy areas. A fair few waters I fish have clay bottoms so I use a very simple tactic to give me a sneaky edge. I simply rub the clay along my hook link and over my lead and tubing, this colors the whole rig allowing it to blend into the lake bed making it very had to detect, yesterday on a session I moved onto some feeding fish and had two takes in twenty minutes, I felt 'using the lake bottom to my advantage' played a big part in this.  

 Get Your Hands Dirty

Coat The Rig Components

There are many more approaches that I put into practice when fishing shorter sessions, I'm sure they'll be covered at a later date, only today when I was out on one of my regular lakes I came up with another idea and approach that could work really well, I'm going to work with it for a little while before I spill the beans, I'm feeling confident though, it involves getting your hands dirty again.

Now I've got to get blogging about some recent sessions, I'm a little behind, get out there and catch some fish, let me know how you get on.

See you on the bank sometime..........