Saturday, 27 December 2014

Braxted Reservoir 'Shallow Water Success'

It had been a while since I last paid Braxted reservoir a visit and now with the weather starting to cool down, a session in the shallows was definitely on the cards. This was a zone of the water that I was yet to explore and during my previous trips I'd witnessed a lot of fish activity showing up that end of the lake. The weather was very different compared to my last reservoir session. Gone was the burning sun and empty skies, I was now met with over cast clouds looming down upon me and the sun was pretty much obscured, it felt like Autumn was well and truly taking hold, it was only just T-shirt weather, these conditions usually make for really good fishing. 

The carp are starting to sense the change and the autumn/winter feeding spell was no doubt imminent. As anglers, it's our time to maximise on what nature does to our quarry. Some of my best fishing memories have been from Autumn onwards, the bank side slowly becomes less vibrant and I know that when the temperatures start to really drop, the waters will be near deserted and more times than not I'll have the lakes to myself. This creates the prime environment to really get stuck into how I want to approach the waters.

A big part of angling for me is escapism, there aren't many situations in life where you can feel like the only person alive. When the frosts hit and the days grow shorter, the waters take on a very different form. Fishing in the pitch black at 5:00pm is nothing short of exhilarating, it's just you, the lake and the yearning for your bite alarms to sound. Sometimes in the distance you can hear the cars from the surrounding motorways hum, the rest of the world is racing around whilst you sit there quietly in the dark with visions of big carp floating around your mind. It's as if the world, if only for a short time has become a bearable place to exist.  

The day I arrived at the Reservoir there were a lot of people on the first section of the water so the pressure was concentrated towards the dam wall and the centre of the lake. This was perfect because no one was up the shallow end and I started to get a sense that a fair few carp could be hiding away from the pressure. The fish aren't stupid and they do have a very acute sense regarding angling activity. I have mentioned it before but I don't think carp are as spooked as much by something visual as they are from something audible. The noise from the bank side is the ultimate fish repellent, hammering of bivvy pegs being the biggest culprit. I find that you can use other peoples inability to be quiet to your advantage.

Sunset On The Reservoir
Before I set any of my tackle up I sat very quietly and watched the water. I could see patches of fizzing and there was the odd carp topping over in the opposite corner, if I played my cards right I could be in for a quick result. Casting to showing fish has put me in good stead as of late, it doesn't work on all waters but I had a feeling it might just work here, the Reservoir has an awesome head of fish so there's an awful lot of competition going on below the surface.

As I watched closer I could see silt had been kicked up where fish had obviously been feeding. My location was spot on, the bottom of the res is fairly uniform, along the dam wall you have a nice silt bed about two rod lengths wide, then it drops down on to the hard clay, towards the middle of the lake it's pretty solid with clay and gravel mixed in to one another. From everything I was witnessing it was pretty clear that there was a load of silt out in front of me. This made perfect sense considering the shallows are surrounded by tall over hanging trees, through the years the leaves drop and ferment on the bottom of the lake bed. 

Regarding my presentation, I was going to stick to bottom baits, one rod was going to be fished over a large bed of Garlic Sausage and Bloodworm & Tuna combined, the other, a small bag of 4 Raspberry Ripple boilies, including the hook bait, 5 baits in total will be fishing. Applying two presentations will allow me to gauge what's working the best, large beds of bait have worked really well in the past but I was interested to see how a 'mouthful' offering was going to work, especially because the weather was now cooling down, I needed to start to adjust accordingly.

My lead system was slightly different this time around, I was using a 3oz flat pear inline. These are leads that I got 'Carpy Chris' to knock me up, they're reminiscent of the old coffin leads that were popular back in the 80's. Despite their shape they actually cast really well and enter the water with a tidy little clipping noise. In the images below you'll see how I set it up. 

Setting Up The Flat Pear

Step One
Step Two

The lead system is now semi-fixed, you attach your tail rubber and tubing to the back end of the lead, then you're ready to go. I have had great success with this tidy little setup and I find most takes are real 'one toners'. The carp really hits the full weight of the lead on the take. Paired up with this I use my ever faithful 'trigga-link combi' hook length, the trigga-link works so well with heavier leads. The complete rig isn't really complicated it just has a few subtle little components that make it different to the standard bottom bait bolt rig and I believe they all aid positive hook holds, which in turn leads to more fish in the net.

Trigga-Link Combi Rig
I was very conscience of the fact that there were still carp feeding out in front of me, the baiting up hadn't spooked them, if anything, they were already feeding on what I'd put out. I knew I had to get both rods out first cast. My right rod was loaded with my mesh bag and cast over to the back corner where I saw carp showing. My left rod was cast into the middle of my baited area. On landing, I noticed a few vortex's show, so I'd spooked a few. I had a feeling it wouldn't be too long before they returned.

View From The Swim
Both rods were spot on, back leads where placed and bobbins tight, I sat back in anticipation, I knew I was going to get some action. It took about thirty minutes before I saw evidence of fish back in the swim and it looked like they were on the feed, big time. My left rod was the first one to go, this was from my baited area, as the carp sucked the bait in and bolted I saw loads of fish bolt away, it appeared a lot had moved into have a feed. It was a spirited fight and I was soon looking at a lovely mid double common in my net. 

Mid Double Common Off My Baited Zone
Once she was back I loaded the swim right up with bait again and got the rig smack bang in the middle of the loose feed. I had a feeling that this spot would be slow going, as the fish move in and the bait is picked up, the take would no doubt spook the whole area and it would obviously take time for the carp to make their way back. If I kept my baiting consistent I saw no reason why it wouldn't keep producing.

Forty five minutes passed and I was getting a few knocks on my right rod, the bait had been sitting unassuming over in the quiet back corner. When I looked closer I could see some minor eruptions going on very close to my spot. Without a doubt, there was something digging around, surly it had to find my bait. Within minutes of this thought the rod looped round and shot off like a bullet train. I scrambled, grabbed and lent back, the rod arced round and I was in to what felt like a very heavy fish. 

The fight was intense and after a few minutes I really hadn't gained much ground with the situation. I held on for dear life and my heart was in my mouth as the fish shook its head furiously. This is when the 'trigga-link' comes in to play, it cushions all of the sharp movements due to it's 'spring-like' quality. After what felt like a decade, I finally slipped the net under a awesome big common. Scales sunk to 25IB, I was blown away.

25IB Common Caught On 'The Mouthful' Approach 
My mind was slightly blown for a while, the carps proportions and shape were perfect, maybe fishing small bags was now the way to go, the amount of good sized carp I have caught on minimal bait has been slowly climbing over recent sessions. I made up another mess bag with four baits in it and got it back out in the same area. I also added another three handfuls on to my large baited spot. Within minutes of doing this that rod tore into life, again loads of carp bolted from the area, I applied steady pressure and got her in quick, as expected she woke up underneath the rod tip, a minor battle commenced before I managed to net her. Scales fell to 17IB, this was a good demonstration that the baited spot was also working well.

17IB Common On The Garlic Sausage

Again, this was such a clean and perfect looking carp, it's an honour to catch fish like this and 'they deserve our up most respect', as do all the fish we catch, ... including Bream. 

It was the same procedure as before, I loaded the swim right back up with bait, spreading it a little further this time. After this things fell quiet for a while, I expected it, the last fish spooked the whole zone. I had a chance to make a real strong coffee and have a little look about my swim through my binoculars. 

I could see more fish activity over in the back corner, there were a couple of flat spots and some silt being kicked up. Something was having a munch and I really wanted to catch it. It was during this period of the day that it started to cloud over and a bit of a chill was in the air. I had a minute or two when I was getting a few single bleeps periodically off my right rod. It soon roared off, along with a big explosion from the back corner.

As I lent in to the fish, it was racing towards me, most of the fight was underneath the rod tip, it stayed down for along time, as it surfaced I was met with the sight of another good looking common. Soon she was resting on her side and I gently slipped the net under her, scales fell to 22IB.

22IB On The Raspberry Ripple
I found it interesting that the better fish had both come off the small bag presentation. I didn't know if this was just coincidence but it started to make me think even more about my bait application. Sometimes I think it's just too dam obvious to turn up to the water and fill it in with a shed load of bait. The occasions that I do this, there's part of me that feels like I'm 'not really fishing', I think there's a lot more art involved in finding interesting little spots and placing a bag or a single on them. 

The rig went straight back out, again on the same spot, I didn't introduce anymore bait over my other rod. Time was ticking by and the session was coming to an end, there was enough bait out to possibly entice one more bite. The signs of feeding subsided and it generally started to feel like a ghost town, I felt a lot of the carp had moved off. I still held on to hope and as I was in the process of getting my tackle together for pack down, out the blue, my left rod arced round and my ATT let off an almighty YELP!!, once again I was in to another had fighting fish, it put up a real battle which had me using a hell of a lot of side strain to steer it away from the marginal snags. Ironically she literally jumped into my landing net. Scales sank to 16IB, it was a lovely proportioned fish, yet again.

A Common To Close The Day
What an awesome fish to end the day with, it had been another successful session on the Reservoir and the shallows were certainly worth paying a visit. I am not sure how productive they'd be once the frost sets in, but it's an area of the water that I will be considering, especially when the majority of the angling pressure is towards the dam wall. 

Again, Little Is More

Once again it's left me with a few question marks regarding bait application. Reviewing the sessions I've had over the recent months, all the better fish seem to be coming off a small amount of bait, sometimes singles. This really interests me and I am thinking that the 'minimal' bait approach is something that I will explore further. As we know, different waters respond differently when it comes to bait presentation and flavour etc. There's still part of me that thinks one bait in the right place is still more effective than 5 kilos in an area that's rarely visited by feeding fish. I never feel like I'm fishing to my full potential when I pile the feed in, I feel like I am relying on my bait to do all the work for me, instead of using watercraft and careful consideration of placement.

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