Sunday 23 November 2014

Boreham Mere 'A Tsunami Of Thought'

I first laid eyes on Boreham mere when I participated in an out of season work party, to me, it's a proper history water and many sought after carp have resided within its depths over the decades. The lake itself feels like it's locked in time, the minute you shut the gate behind you and walk down the path, the mere presents itself through the trees, it's a magical sight and you really get the feeling that there's some special carp just waiting to be tamed. It's no means easy by any stretch of the imagination but I have no doubt the rewards are abundant if you put the time in, as we know anything worth having isn't easy to obtain.

When I approach waters that are known to be ball breakers I find that I have to think about them in a completely different way. There are a number of venues that I fish that are very tricky, it's all to do with your mind set. You can't step on to a hard venue with the same expectations as you do when tackling a more productive water.

I have walked the lake a few times and I'm yet to see a single carp, there are a lot of places for them to hide. There's a mass of overhanging trees, reeds and a good majority of the water is taken up with beds of pads. Among the main features are two islands, there is a lot to go at and some real obvious looking spots, I plan to avoid all of them, I have a feeling that all these areas see a lot of pressure, I wanted to explore the nooks and crannies. As usual my head starting spinning with possibilities so I really had to pace myself with my thinking. 

Boreham Beauty
It became clear that a lot of people cast as close to the pads as possible, a good few fish come from doing this. There have also been reports of anglers casting over the pads and dragging the carp through them. I personally think this is disgusting behaviour, I won't fish spots if I know that I won't be able to land the fish safely. The "fish at any cost" approach is unfortunately something that now plagues modern carp angling. I have said in previous posts that fish care starts from the fight, heaving and yanking them around can do untold damage and create even more stress to an already stressful situation.  

I have a theory that a lot of the bigger, more elusive fish are solitary creatures, on Boreham I want to be fishing for a bite at a time. I don't think the "big hit" method is going to work, the mouthful approach has been doing me well over the past few months. As we know, too much of one thing has the reverse effect, this goes for everything from drinking alcohol and coffee to eating sweets and fatty foods. It's all fine in moderation but too much of one thing can have adverse effects. 

I believe this also carries through to baiting strategies, all the waters see so much bait, kilos upon kilos are being put in all the time. We know that this can work on some waters very well but I believe it can also kill a lake outright. I believe pressured waters fish differently to those that don't see so much angling pressure, I find that the 'by the book' approach can fall short. I have come to understand that there are so many variables in carp fishing and you have to adjust all the time to cater for the situation that stands before you.

Closing The Day On The Mere
I think there is this set belief that the carp will simply hoover up everything that they come across. I personally don't believe this is the case, I think bait can be sitting on the lake bed for days at a time, maybe the odd fish will pass by and take a few mouthfuls, and the scamps might eventually move in and have a feast but I don't think the carp 'always' has the bottomless stomach that we think it does, again I believe angling pressure changes the way the fish feed.

How do we know when and when not to pile the bait in?

The above question is very simple for me, it's a process of trial and error, dedicating sessions to different baiting patterns and making notes on what's the most effective on each specific water. There are at least three waters that I know I can get away with piling it in, the rest requires thought and careful application. Boreham instantly communicated to me that careful application was the way forward. 

My first two sessions were spent targeting the shallows, this is the end with the majority of the pads. Within these sessions I chose to try a few different baiting approaches, on one rod I had a tight spread, the other a large spread covering a good five or so meters around the hook bait. As expect, neither rods produced a fish, with two blanks under my belt I decided to follow my original plan, which was to fish singles.

When I arrived at the water for my third session the lake had an optimistic feel about it, there was a light drizzle and a gentle warm breeze, it felt right. My swim of choice was on the opposite end to the shallows, it was called 'Bottles', I liked the look of this specific swim because it gave you a lot of options. As previously stated, I wanted to avoid all the obvious features so I decided to target the channels in between both the pads and the island that was directly in front of me.

Before getting my baits out I wanted to suss out what I was fishing over, I've heard there are a lot of under water features all over the place. I wanted to do this quick with the least amount of disturbance so I removed my marker float and opted to have a quick chuck about with just a lead. The bottom was predominately soft, my left hand spot felt silty, as I checked the lead I could see a good few bloodworm within the soft stuff, that was a very good sign. The right hand spot again felt soft, I decided to put a bottom bait on the bloodworm patch and a pop up on the right hand rod.

Subtle Feature Finding
My chosen baits were Honey Nectar and Banana Cream, I have a huge amount of confidence fishing these two flavors as singles. As usual my rigs were nothing complicated, my bottom bait had a nice long hair and the pop up was balanced well. To me rigs are such a grey area within angling, I find when I over complicate things, problems can easily occur. 

The more simple you make it the less there is to go wrong, I find people can get really hung up on the specifics, I still believe that if the fish are feeding and you are right on top of them, two side hooked grains of corn on a float will pretty much catch anything that swims. I have four different rigs that cover all fishing conditions, I have used them for the past 20 years with good effect, apart from the hook link materials, I can't see myself changing anything ....  "if it ain't broke", it doesn't need to be fixed.

Basic Bottom Bait
 Basic Pop Up Rig
Once the rigs were sorted and the lines clipped up, I sat back to have an extra strong coffee before casting out. The wind was in my face and I had a real gut feeling the fish could well be following it. Once the caffeine buzz kicked in I got both baits out with clean, feathered casts, popped the back leads on, set my bobbins and sat back in anticipation. Was it going to be third time lucky?

View From The Swim
To what I can only describe as utter shock, things happened quickly, the left hand rod was away, at first I thought it was probably a bream. The idea of hooking a Boreham chunk so quickly was almost impossible to process. I lent into the fish and the rod arced round, this was no bream and as the clutch started ticking it was clear that there was something pretty tasty on the other end. Cushioning the lunges, I was making good headway and the fish started cruising my way, once under the rod tip it really woke up, I was dying to get a glimpse of the monster that saw it fit to take my single offering, but it stayed down in the water. Just as it was starting to tire and come to the surface ...... ping!! the hook came out, I couldn't believe it, I can't remember the last time I lost a fish to a hook pull. 

I was gutted, I started thinking that fishing a bottom bait might not be the answer. It only takes a small bit of debris masking the hook to effect how efficiently it nails the carp. I proceeded to rig the rod up with a pop up, whilst doing this the right rod gave a few bleeps and shot into life. I scrambled for it, I couldn't believe I had another chance of landing another Boreham carp. This fish was roaring around and I held on for dear life, slowing edging her towards me. It surfaced a little way out and I caught a glimpse of a long common, my pulse was racing and I was determined to get this one in the net. Before I knew it, it was ready to give up the ghost, once in the net the relief was overwhelming. Scales sunk to 24IB exactly, what a bloody result and what a fish it was.

24IB Of Boreham Gold
I felt myself very fortunate that I had another shot at landing a fish and to be honest it took the sting out of losing the previous one. I don't think it was coincidence that the pop up nailed her, it was a solid hook hold, I think in certain spots the hook of a bottom bait can be compromised by debris. In the future I will only fish a bottom bait rig when I know I'm fishing over the hard stuff. My theory about fishing singles might just be right and if I focus hard enough I might be able to slowly pick the fish off. However tempted I might be in future sessions to load the swims up with bait, I must abstain and stick to my original plan. 

One More Coffee And Then Home
The rest of the day remained silent, I think I'd timed it just right, the fish were obviously moving through the area, getting two takes tells me that they probably move around in groups, this is something I shall bare in mind for the future. Next time I might try fishing both rods closer together, time will tell and I am sure my perspective will change a good few times before I feel settled with the place. Either way it was a positive start to a journey that is going to be very testing. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Wick Mere 'Karmic Rewards'

My last session on Wick was a while ago now, I was eager to get back but I knew that if I couldn't get the toilet swim or the back swim by the woods, I'd be wasting my time, during the day at least, Wick is pretty much a two swim lake. My thoughts had become very obsessive about the place and having a little time away from it felt like the sensible thing to do. I am not sure what it is specifically about Wick that took hold of me, I can't recall any other water that has caught my imagination so much. I know the challenge is something that appeals greatly but the rumours of long dark commons was something I just couldn't let go of. On this specific day I had originally set out to do a session on Boreham Mere but when I arrived at the water it was full of anglers and I didn't see much point in squeezing on. I thought I'd shoot down to Wick on the off chance that one of my favoured swims might be available, if not I'd shoot over to Braxted.

As I pulled up to the front gate I was met with an empty car park, my heart started racing, today might be the day I finally got to fish the water the way that I wanted to, if the theory of EFFORT=REWARD is correct and karma is kind to me, then I am due for one hell of a payout. As I drove down the long and bumpy track I could see that the toilet swim was free .. result!! I wasted no time and got all my gear out, dropped the van back up in the car park and legged it back down to get sorted. The time was 12:30 am and I was planning to leave at 6:00 pm, I didn't have a huge amount of time but I felt confident that I could get a result.

The weather was perfect, it was sunny, overcast and the wind was violent, almost gale force. I love conditions like these, it's so exhilarating being on the bank, it blows all your cobwebs away and you feel well and truly alive. The wind was blowing directly into my face so it was a good job that I wasn't going for a long chuck. This specific swim controls a lot of water, out in front of you are a few scattered weed beds and some gravely areas. To the right you have the mouth of the bay that I was planning to target.

To hit my spot my plan was to wade out and set my rods up in the water, doing this would give me the angle that I needed to get up in to the small bay by the woods, this zone of the lake is pretty much untouched and I knew that the fish held up there, I'd seen so much evidence of it on previous sessions. Fishing from the bank didn't allow you to get anywhere near where I was planning to put my baits. The whole of the woodland bank has been shut off, it's been like this for along time now and I knew the carp were fully aware of this.


I waded out up to chest level, my rods were set up on storm poles so they were nice and high. The cast was a little tricky but perfectly doable. It's a strange sensation wading out to fish, you feel so connected, like being plugged directly in to 'the source' of nature, completely immersed in your environment, it can really change your perspective on things. Being by the water is one thing but actually being in it is a different experience all together.

High On The Sticks

My chosen bait for this session was Honey Nectar, its caught for me so well this season, I was planning to really pile it in, if the fish were milling about the bay area I wanted to keep them there and get them competing for food, the more competitive they get, the higher chance you have of them tripping up on the hook bait. In regards to rigs, as usual I was going to keep it simple, I was going to fish a slow sinking pop up, I decided to fish leaders on both rods to protect my line from the weed and the swan mussels. From past experience I know that the carp are expert escape artists and I don't want to be losing any of the fish that I hook.

Honey Nectar Pop Ups

Starmer have been working on a new 'Ultra Buoyant' pop up that I've been helping to development. I've been putting them through their paces with positive results, close attention has been paid to making sure they look identical to the matching bottom bait of the same flavor. They've managed to get it spot on and side by side you'd be pressed to tell them apart.

Bottom Bait vs Pop Up

I've been experimenting with a presentation where I make the bait hover slightly off the bottom. It's been working very well for me over thin weed and debris. It's a bit of a fiddle to set it up but it's an approach that I am becoming very confident in using. It consists of hollowing out the pop up and replacing it with zig foam, this makes the bait 'super' buoyant, thus making manipulating it a lot easier. As well as performing minor surgery  on a boilie it also requires just the right amount of tungsten putty to counter balance both the hook and bait. When carp are actively feeding on your spot I have no doubt that the disturbance causes your loose feed to rise and fall in the water. The ultimate goal with this presentation is to make the hook bait act as natural as possible, rising and falling with the rest of the free offerings.

Hollow Out The Pop Up

Gently Ease The Foam Into The Hole Made

Before casting anything out I decided to load the swim up with at least two kilo of bait, I spread it all over my chosen zone. I left it a good half hour before casting anything out. I gave myself one feathered cast on each rod to keep the disturbance to a minimum. I had a gut feeling that the action was going to be pretty instant so my weigh sling, scales, tripod and carp care products were all set up prior to casting out.

View From The Swim
Baits were placed and I stood solid by my rods, the wind was really beating on me and the water was almost pushing up over my chest waders. Within five minutes my right rod shot off, I was on it straight away and proceeded to try and tame what felt like a wild beast on the end of my line. I could see I was in to a long dark common, she fought hard until the end and was pretty dam reluctant to get in the net. Scrambling back to dry land I could see it was a pretty good fish, once in the sling, scales fell to 18IB, what a beauty she was.

A Dark Wick Beast
After I slipped her back I put another 100 or so baits back in the zone and got the rod cleanly out, no fuss, first cast. I stood in anticipation, I really felt like I was doing everything right. Twenty minutes or so later the same rod was off again, this felt like a better fish, taking line slowly, it felt solid as it lunged around, I was using my lighter rods for this session, the blank was pretty much bent double. Slowly she started to tire, I caught a glimpse of another dark common, it looked like a good twenty for sure, easing the net out and teasing her over I knew I'd caught a beauty, scales fell to 24IB 5oz, she was an incredible creature.

24IB Pure Beauty
This fish blew my mind, it was perfect in every way and it was a real pleasure to watch her slowly swim off, it's these poignant angling moments that people that don't fish will never understand. For me the release is as much of a buzz as a capture, as they swim away and fade slowly into the depths you can only wonder where they might be heading.

"Try To Bare With Me On The Paragraphs Below, I Will Try To Explain The Best I Can"

After a moment of quiet reflection I got a fresh bait rigged up and cast it right back on the spot. Again, I topped the swim up with more bait, I wanted to keep it going in. What happened next was a moment of pure madness, thirty minutes passed, my left rod was off again shortly followed by the right, it was a double take and I didn't know what the hell to do, I grabbed my left rod letting the right one run, at one point I was trying to frantically play both fish at the same time, it was actually working in some goofy way. 

The left rod felt like it had the better fish on it, I placed the right rod on the rests having tightened the clutch up, this approach seemed to work. It bought me enough time to land the first fish which was placed in the cradle, I filled it right up with water so the carp was comfortable. I grabbed the right rod and netted the fish, it looked about 13IB, I slipped her straight back and went to take care of the other carp bathing in my cradle. Obviously having time to rest, it was full of energy, a minor fish slapping occurred, I got soaked and hit in the face by its tail, it was worth it though, scales sunk to 20IB.

Another Dark Common
I slipped her back, with both rods now out the water, I was eager to get them both back as fast as possible. Before the cast I changed hook-links so the hooks themselves were nice and fresh. One thing I'd noticed, with each fish landed, there was a lot of weed on both the rig and leader. It confirmed that my ultra balanced bait presentation was working a treat. In the image below you will notice that the tungsten putty is sitting a couple of millimetres off the bottom, readying the hook to catch hold easily. 

Hovering Bait Presentation

Things slowed up for a while, I landed a small single figured common that I returned straight away, the mouth was in a sorry state. I don't like seeing this, it's completely avoidable, I have a strong belief that if you have to use your Klinic, then you've done it wrong. Of course damage can occur, sometimes it's unavoidable but the mouth damage I have come across in the past is unforgivable really. We have to respect our fish, look after them, play them and handle them with care. That's the first rule of angling for me.

The afternoon evaporated, I had about an hour left, during 'last knockings' my left rod was away, I was on it like a shot, the rod bent double and it felt like I was connected to another special fish, the fight was immense, the fish weeded me up a few times but with gentle, steady pressure I managed to get her out. It wasn't long before I had another bar of black gold in my net, scales fell to 24IB. I was buzzing, the sort of commons I was obsessing about do exist and I have been lucky enough to have a few of them grace my net. After a few photos I slipped her back and watched her slowly glide into the murky abyss.

A Perfect Fish To Close The Day
What a session it had been, it exceeded all expectation and has, without a doubt quenched my thirst for the venue. I knew what I had to do to get a result and I believe Karma had rewarded me for the long run of blanks that I'd gone through. I don't mind blanking, it's part of the process, as long as I am learning along the way. Constant observation is the key, without it I wouldn't of been able to gauge what I'd have to do to get a result. Observation is hard to master, to me it's an important element included in your overall watercraft. I am done on Wick for awhile now, next stop Boreham Mere.