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. 

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