Saturday 19 July 2014

Gardner ATT Silent Alarm Review

As with all my product reviews I would like to state that I am in no way connected to Gardner Tackle. I was in the running for some new bite alarms for my two rod setup and after much deliberation I decided to purchase the ATT silent alarm. With this specific make there appears to be no real middle ground, people either love them or hate them.

I for one am a big fan and since purchasing them I have had absolutely no issues of any kind. In this blog post I am going to give my honest opinion. I have reviewed the attx-v2-modular-system receiver that pairs up with these alarms, you can read the review here Wireless Receiver Review. Having used the ATT's all year round and in all types of weather conditions I feel I can now give a rounded viewpoint. 

ATT Measurements

More than any other item of tackle, the bite alarm is the one piece of kit that is very easy to be led down the garden path with. I find we can get all hung up on the 'features' aspect and 'look', rather than the functionality and the reliability. A bite alarms primary job is to communicate fully what is occurring in the murky depths that stretch before us. 

The basic rule for me is that the more there is, the more chance you have of something going wrong. Don't get me wrong, I love the all singing, all dancing bite alarms as much as the next guy, hence why I still use my original Fox DXRs when fishing three rods, I still find I rarely use most of the features on them though. At the end of the day I look for build quality and if it makes a noise when I have a fish on.

Sleek And Simple

The first point that struck me about the ATTs is how small and compact they are. And it really is "what you see is what you get", it's just a roller wheel and an LED, no speaker, no buttons, smart, simple and sharp looking. The alarm itself is water resistant and pretty much bomb proof, it's a sealed unit so nothing can get in. Since owning them I haven't had to change the battery in the heads once. The "on & off" feature is as simple as you can get, there is a small magnet in the alarm cover that, once slipped over the alarm it actually turns it off. In the picture below you will see the small built in magnet on the case.

ATT Protective Cover With Built In Magnet

The ATT has a roller wheel system, the alarm is triggered by magnets fixed in the wheel itself. In regards to sensitivity you can get both two and four mag wheels. Being honest, the two mag is more than enough, it allows a little movement from both wind and undertow and you don't suffer from as many false indications, the four mag is overkill in my opinion. The wheels come in an array of colours to match up with the colours of the LEDs, this makes the alarm look super tidy and will definitely satisfy the "Tackle Tart" in you.

Pick A Colour 

I know that some people are wary of a roller wheel system, fearing that it might freeze up in extreme weather. I have never had any problems with this on any alarm that I have owned and they have all been roller wheel systems. As a precautionary measure, every few weeks I will remove the wheel and give the section of the alarm in which it's housed a good clean to remove any dirt and debris. Removing the wheel is simple with only having to undo a single screw that can be found on the side of the unit. 

Easy To Maintain

After trying a few different combinations I have come to find that a heavy bobbin or swinger is the best type to pair up with these specific alarms. This ensures that the line is kept nice and tight whilst it rests in the roller wheel, thus stopping the chance of a take not registering properly due to the line sliding through the wheel instead of gripping it. I favour a nice heavy stainless steel hanger. This approach is vital when fishing slack lines 

A Heavy Bobbin Gives Heavy Indication

Reviewing the indication I have had on the ATT's since using them, they've registered everything from vicious takes, tiny drop backs and even single bleeps where the carp has picked the bait up without bolting. What you hear from the alarm is a true representation of what is occurring. Having fished with guys that own the Delkim TXI's, I was very surprised to find that when they are on the maximum sensitivity a liner can sometimes sound like a full blown run. I think that it's important to have an alarm that truly represents exactly what is happening so no mishits are made - How many of us have hit into liners?

In the past I have read that people avoid the ATT system because there's a chance that if the receiver breaks you will be left with silent alarms, or if the battery runs out in the receiver you are in trouble. Firstly I always carry spare batteries, it's no hassle to carry a couple of AAA's in my bag, the battery life is long lasting on both the receiver and the alarm units. In regards to the receiver breaking, that's just a risk that is taken, you can't really 'odds that one'. You can get various cases for it, including a waterproof model that will keep it nice and safe.

Various Cases For The Receiver

There are a few minor issues that I have come across, nothing to do with the reliability, more to do with personal preference. Firstly in daylight you have to be face on to the alarm to see the LEDs illuminated, if you are sitting slightly either side, you can't tell which one is lit up. Obviously there is a function on the handset that lets you review which alarm was the last one to register, this is found out simply by pressing a button.

I Hope The Paragraph Below Makes Sense

Secondly when the receiver is on vibration mode, it vibrates in short bursts of around 2 seconds, even if you have a screaming run, it vibrates along with short intervals. This has actually cost me a fish in the past on a session where I had been experiencing a lot of false indications. It was gale force winds so the receiver was vibrating all the time, within this period I actually got a ripping take but due to the swim that I was in and the fact I couldn't see my rods, being hunched under a shelter, I just assumed the response from the receiver was still the wind. I didn't realise until I looked at my rods that one had been tearing off for a minute or so. Basically a liner registers with a similar vibration as a full blown run. I have only ever experienced this miscommunication when the receiver is on silent. When you have the volume up a bit, it's far easier to know what's occurring.

I am not sure what else to say really, all in all if you are looking for an alarm without 'all the bells and whistles', and 'does what it says on the tin', then I seriously recommend that you take a look at the ATTs. They really are one hell of an alarm for the money, they're built well, small, light and will compliment your setup in a cool understated fashion. The way I see it, if a product sells by the thousands, you're always going to get a few that are faulty, that's just the law of averages, it happens with cars, washing machines even fishing rods, that's just the way it is. Don't let other peoples negative experiences put you off of something that you where otherwise interested in. Get out there and have a good look for yourself. Apart from two minor points, I can't recommend these alarms enough and I have no doubt that they will last me for many years to come. 

 Three Of A Kind

Saturday 12 July 2014

Chelmsford Angling Association - Braxted Reservoir Part 2

In is blog entry I am going to document my second session on the Braxted reservoir, if you didn't check out part one you can read it here Braxted Reservoir Part 1. I am not going to go in to a huge amount of detail about my approach, it's exactly the same as my previous session. I wanted to get two solid sessions underneath my belt before exploring other parts of the water. I was working on the basis that if I approached it in the same way as I did last time, I should get a similar result.

This time around I was lucky enough to get the swim I was in last time, the plan was to fish in to the silt that ran along the dam wall. I arrived at the water for 10:30am. Before getting my rods out I decided to take a slow walk around the rest of the lake, I wanted to try and clock a few tasty looking spots for the future. 

There were a few marginal areas that looked great, I made a mental note with the consideration of giving them a good going over in the future. I am starting to feel that the reservoir could end up being an awesome venue for margin fishing. There are little to no features in the open water and with the abundance of overhanging trees it was clear to me that these were all potential fish holding areas.

View From The Swim
Once back in my swim I wasted no time in getting my kit set up, I replaced both my hook links with new ones and got the rods bang on the spots on the first cast. Once the bobbins were set I then proceeded to bait up the area heavily, once again I opted to use the Coconut Fish and Halibut & Coconut combined. This seems to be a very effective combination, both rods were fishing pop ups, they were set just a fraction off the bottom.

Starmers Coconut Fish Pop Ups

It really didn't take very long for the action to kick in and before I knew it I was in to my first hard fighting carp. It felt heavy and I had a feeling it could be a beauty, after a brutal fight I netted an immaculate looking common, scales fell to 19IB.

19IB Of Perfection
It really was one hell of a carp and it was spotless, everything about it was perfect. Wasting no time I got her back and proceeded to top up the swim, spreading the bait all around the area. I wanted to hold the fish and get them in to a solid rhythm of moving between the baits and sucking them up. Twenty minutes of so passed before the same rod was off again, I got a vicious drop back, I wound in the slack fast and was connected to my second fish of the session - things were off to a flying start. Once again, the fight was immense and I soon had another carp in the net, scales sunk to 14IB.

A Vicious Drop Back Resulted In Another Beauty
Once slipped back I went through the same process, the rig went back out followed by another load of bait. This time I was spreading it a good few meters around the spot. Things slowed up for a while, I knew there were still fish in the zone so I just sat on my hands. Liners were starting to occur so I knew it was just a matter of time. After about an hour, sure enough, the same rod was off again, it was another ripping take and after a modest wrestling match I had another clean common, this fished weighed in at 13IB on the button

Another On The Coconut Fish
Again, I went through the same process, rig went out and then the bait, by this time fish were actually topping and kicking up over the spot. It was crazy, they were really digging for the bait and I got liners within a few seconds of the lead hitting the bottom. All the fish were coming off the right hand rod, this was the rod I was casting at a very tight angle. With the help of my chest waders I was able to get the bait where others can't cast. 

It really goes to show that the carp aren't stupid, in theory my left had rod was in the perfect place but I feel it's a spot that's fished a lot and the carp obviously avoid it. It really starts to make you think about things in a different way and how important it is to find an area that the fish feel comfortable to feed in. I have come to learn that just because carp are showing in a certain place on the lake, it doesn't mean they're actually feeding there. On this occasion they obviously were but there have been countless times in the past where I have been on the fish and couldn't get a bite for love nor money.

I Hope The Theory Below Makes Sense To You

"The way I see it is, comparing that theory to humans, when we find a restaurant that we enjoy the food in, we will travel to go there. Just because, on route to that specific restaurant, we are seen checking other menus in the windows of other eating establishments, doesn't mean we are going to be stopping at each of them to have dinner, we are simply passing and showing a little interest in the other options that are available to us, before heading to the one that we enjoy eating in"

Before I knew it the same rod was off again, this fish was flying all over the show, a little mirror surfaced and literally threw itself in the net. I didn't weigh this fish but I guessed it was a smattering under double figures.

A Next Generation Braxted Mirror
It's been said that there aren't a great deal of mirrors in the water, actually all the Chelmsford waters contain predominately common carp. This might not have been a particularly big fish but I was pleased to catch it none the less. After slipping her back the rod was straight back out, this time I didn't put anymore bait out, I was pretty sure that the fish were holding solid and I was hoping to get really quick bites from this point onwards, due to the fact that the amount of freebies were now at a minimum.

To my surprise the next rod to go was the left one, finally some action off this spot. This fish felt very heavy and was peeling the line off the spool with ease, it was a long and drawn out fight. The energy and determination this fish was showing was nothing short of amazing. She eventually tired and I was left looking at a big fat common in the net, scales sank to 21IB 5oz, what a result.

Another Big Common Caught From The Soft Stuff
I was so pleased with this fish and it was totally unexpected, the day was passing and I only had a few hours remaining, I felt I was still good for another fish or two. After the cast, the rod literally shot off on the drop, before I knew what the hell was going on I was in to yet another fish. It was a nice steady plod, all the fish I have had so far have been such hard fighters. The carp surfaced and I caught a glimpse of a lovely looking mirror, it was honey colored. Eager to get her in, I gently kept the pressure on, eventually I slipped her in to the net, she was 17IB exactly, and what a fish she was.

A Unique Honey Colored Mirror
By this time the session was coming to an end, I slowly started to get my kit together, whilst doing so I had one last take which bought the session to an end in true fashion. It was a common of 16IB, a fish that looked like it had just spawned with a very broad back.

A Carp For The Closing Of The Day
Summing up, it was another great session, next time I pay the water a visit I want to try a totally different area, I'd love to pick off one of the bigger girls and I sense they could be hanging out away from the main bulk of fish. Before I come back I am wanting to give Braxted front lake a go and continue my quest on Wick Mere, Wick is putting me through the ringer at the moment but I am determined to get in to one of those long dark commons.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Carp Angling - 'Going Solo'

Many moons ago when I first started focusing my angling towards the elusive, majestic and continually perplexing "Cyprinus", I would either fish with a group of people or a mate, it seemed right back then, off we'd trot for a three day adventure. We'd stop off and stock up on cigarettes and junk food and head on down to our chosen water, it was like some kind of weird ritual. 

On arrival leaving the gear in the car, we'd walk around the lake with hawk eyes, in deep debate where we wanted to fish, what tactics we were going to adopt and at some point argue about how many 20's where probably swimming around in the lake. The number would always float between 3 or 5 with the very common "I swear I have seen bigger", thrown in for good measure. I must admit wholeheartedly that part of me really misses those days, life was simpler and less confused. But then 'life' happens and things slowly change, I am no longer in touch with any of the people I use to fish with, it seems sad considering we spent so much time together and in many ways experienced so much together, for now let us call it "Progress".

These days, I fish alone, very occasionally I will go to a quiet commercial water with my friend Alex, but apart from that, being alone by the water really feels right to me. Not only can I collect my thoughts about my chosen venue but I can arrange my thoughts about my life, angling and life aren't too dissimilar. 

You have periods where you know completely where you're at and where you're heading, other times you find yourself floundering around from corner to corner without a clue, when nothing you do seems to go right. I find if you can carry the discipline you have towards your angling and mould it into your everyday existence, then it can up the odds in things working out. "don't quote me on that"  

I find when I use to go on sessions with others, gaps started to appear regarding how I wanted to approach a water. I found that more times than not, you would setup in a swim where it was possible for you all to hang out. So even if there were better swims available, they were usually outweighed by 'the social element' of fishing in a group. Also I would find that your thoughts about the water, tactics etc, could be easily influenced by the conflict of others opinion. I remember fishing swims that I generally wasn't that happy with but proceeded to fish them so I was next to my mate.

The few points above are some of the reasons why I fish alone, along with the fact that I am pretty anti-social, I find 'society' somewhat tiresome. And having spent my whole life in an industry where I have been paid by other peoples mistakes, it's a relief to get away from the continuous clashing of souls. Would I go as far to say that I am a recluse, yes I think I would. I feel along with my angling, writing and my music, the subconscious goal was to build and existence that was bearable.

One Man And His Dog

One of the key points when fishing on your own is preparation, you have to have everything ready and in position, thus making landing, unhooking, weighing and taking a picture of your prize as controlled as possible. One thing I am not blind to is the element of stress that the fish go through during the capture. My number one priority is to make this experience for them as quick and as painless as possible, it took me a while to perfect but these are the simple steps that I go through once I have a carp in my net. 

1. Before lifting fish out of the water, slacken off the line so no pressure is on the hook hold when moving the fish to the unhooking mat.

2. Place fish on the first mat to unhook before lifting into the cradle and sling.

3. Lift the fish into the sling, 'which is open and ready in the cradle'.

4. Before lifting the fish on to the tripod for weighing, pour a little water gently over it, 'not directly in to the gills'.

5. Once weighed carry the sling back to the cradle and get your prize shot.

6. Return the fish to the water and send her home.

Once mastered, the above process can take as little as three minutes and the more you do it the faster you will get, it's important to have everything at hand. Next to the sling I will have my carp care kit, a bucket of lake water and my forceps. Many times in the past once the fish is in net I would be scrabbling around trying to get all my bits and pieces together, more times than not the swim would be in a mess and I'd be scratching through my bags for the items I needed. Having all you need at hand really makes dealing with the fish a breeze. 

All Your Vital Bits Of Kit Ready To Use

If I am staying mobile for the day I will still have everything set up but it will be kept on barrow, this way I can move quick if I feel I need to. It really depends on the lake I am fishing, certain waters lend themselves to staying mobile, others, the static approach is sometimes best.

A Tidy Swim Makes For Tidy Fishing
It took me a while to sort my 'self take' system out, I have always liked photography, I use a Cannon DSLR camera, the model is the EOS 1000D. Paired with this I have a wireless camera remote, I set the cameras focus and give myself 10 seconds on the built in timer to lift and hold the fish in the right position.

Once again I set the camera prior to capture so you don't have to mess around when the fish is on the bank. I invested in a small lightweight tripod, when looking at tripods it's important to get one with telescopic legs. This is so you can always get the camera level if setting up on uneven ground. Once again, the more you go through this process, the better you will get at it.

Mastering The Art Of "Self-Taking"
One of the questions I get asked a lot is "Do I get bored fishing on my own". The answer to this is No, I don't fish for the 'social' experience, I go to catch and work towards understanding the waters that I choose to target. With the popularity of night fishing becoming ever more apparent, I see that some anglers like to take everything including the kitchen sink. I walk past guys pitched up with radios, TV aerials, DVD players, a real home from home. 

Fair play if that's the way you want to do it, for me angling is an escape from all that, a place free from technology and the mundane grind of life. I take very little when it comes to comfort and entertainment, my entertainment is watching the water, religiously keeping my eyes fixed on the lake at all times. I have mentioned in the past that the water will give you all the answers you need, you've just got to be listening, you're not listening if you're fixed to a TV screen in your bivvy with the door zipped up.

Tools Of The Trade

My most relevant items are my binoculars, note pad and polaroid glasses. I have one pad for notes and another for poetry and prose. I record the times of all my bites on all my waters, doing this allows you to see if there is a pattern emerging. After a good few sessions you can start to gauge bite time and make sure you are on the water and fishing before hand. Along with this I will note everything else of interest, swim numbers, depths, how many wraps it is to each spot from certain swims, anything that I feel will help me build up a working picture of the water in front of me.

Applying this level of detail can eliminate the need to do long sessions, as we know, an hour in the right place beats three days in the wrong place. Once you've sussed bite time out on a few waters, you can end up hitting more than one lake in a day, especially if one is productive in the morning and another wakes up in the afternoon or early evening.

Taking all the above points into consideration it becomes even clearer why I enjoy fishing alone, the sense of freedom is enormous, it's you against the wild and the unknown. If you haven't gone solo much on the bank before, I suggest you give it a go. It might just work out being the thing you need to do to really unlock the potential of your angling.