Saturday 24 January 2015

Braxted Front Lake 'The Dying Embers Of Summer'

As I sit down to write this entry temperatures outside are about minus three, it's not great fishing weather but on the plus side it's giving me a chance to catch up with my session blogs. I am finally starting to get up to date, work has been so hectic, Christmas has been and gone and I'm feeling optimistic about the angling year ahead. With a new year comes new adventures and as usual I plan to be out on the bank as much as possible. Like a lot of you out there, spring can't come soon enough. When I have time I do plan to get a few winter sessions under my belt. 

With winter comes solitude and peace, the bank side is baron and it's the perfect time to consolidate your ideas and experiment. Marker work is also high up on the agenda, I want to seek out a few more interesting little spots and keep as connected as possible to all the waters that I fish. This blog entry is an account of a session I did at the end of summer on Braxted front lake. The sun was projecting a very different kind of heat, it was low in the sky and there was a very potent smell of Autumn in the air. This is such an inspiring time to be on the bank, witnessing and feeling the changes of the seasons is a gift that so many miss. Because it stayed so mild for so long the opportunity to land a few carp was still an obtainable desire. I knew that their inner instinct was telling them to feed up for the impending cooler months, we have to make the most of these times.

When I look back on 2014 I had some great sessions and considering it was my first year on the Chelmsford waters I felt like I'd made good head way. I'd built solid foundations that, without a doubt are going to put me in good stead for the coming season. I managed to catch fish from all the waters that I'd wanted to, this year was going to follow pretty much the same theme, to continue to try and understand all of my venues the best that I can. Again, I have no target fish and no real desire to catch 'big' carp, I just want to maintain the consistency that I'd managed to achieve. 

In regards to 'target fish', I don't have any either, any fish in the net is a gift in my eyes. If you can stay consistent then a special carp might just present itself. Reviewing my time on my good old Kingfisher waters, I've managed to keep them ticking over nicely and I am finally starting to find some form up on the Rugby. Every carp I've managed to catch from there has been an honor and it's the one water I feel I've really worked for every bite.

View From The Car Park Swim Back In The Summer
The one thing that keeps me so driven to fish the front lake is the fact it's really not clear exactly what's living in it. That feeling of unearthing the unknown is just an urge that's too hard to ignore, every time I cast out my mind races with the possibilities of what might pick my bait up. Nothing beats this feeling, it's a natural drug, a buzz, if you're a naturally inquisitive person and you just so happen to be a carp angler, then obsessive thoughts about fishing is something you just have to try and manage. Many a time when I'm not physically on the bank, my mind is, it's a beautiful obsession.

For my last Autumn session I arrived at the water for about 8:30am, I wanted to have time to think, set up and 'know' that everything I was doing was 100% on the money. As usual the lake was pretty much empty apart from a few pleasure anglers. There was a lovely light breeze pushing towards the car park, it looked right and felt bang on for a bite or two, my hopes were held high. I had a scout about before choosing my swim, as expected there were signs of tench feeding along the bottom of the near side marginal drop off. Shoals of bream where very clearly holding along the centre of the lake, their unmistakable feeding bubbles were as clear and defined as smoke signals. 

Again, I decided to target the far margins, it's riddled with reeds, drop offs and overhanging branches and I know the carp patrol them. Just like last time I was going to fish singles, my bait of choice was the ever faithful Honey Nectar. This time around I was going to fish a small 'boilie' size PVA mesh bag which basically contained boilie dust. I wanted to up the attraction just that little bit more. It's funny because since scaling right down on the amount of bait that I use "especially here on front lake", you find yourself casting with confidence, there's just something about it that makes perfect sense.

Small Balls Of Attraction

I know fishing singles can sometimes be hard to get your head around, it took me awhile to warm to the idea, I do think it's a great approach, especially on pressured waters. If you were to sit down and logically think about it, the nagging question of "How Is A Carp Going To Find A Marble Sized Ball On The Lake Bed"
may spring to mind, but this is easily answered. You have to let nature take its course, sit confidently knowing that you are fishing for a creature that has incredible senses. It's in the carps design to search out and feed on the smallest of items, be it bloodworm, hemp etc, they will find it and because a single can look unassuming, chances are they're going to take it. It's the same confidence you need when you cast a zig out for the first time. If the carp spots it and they're on the feed, there's a very high chance that it will take it, once again, it's all to do with your mind set, if you are in the right head-space you are more liable to get your rigs out and keep them there.

As usual my presentation was nothing complicated, I opted for two blow-back bottom baits with a nice long hair. My hook-link was Kryston Merlin treated with 'Drop-Em' putty, doing this adds a little weight to the material, this helps to keep it pinned to the bottom. In conjunction with this I coloured the hook-link with some rig pens, because the lake bed is so clear, concealing the rig components is paramount. I was fishing a slightly shorter hook link than normal with a small silicone kicker. Combined with this I set up a 2.5oz 'Carpy Chris' POM lead system, I find these seem to produce savage screamers on the take. In my mind the rig was perfectly balanced, a nice semi-fixed set up designed for the fish to feel the weight the second it mouthed the bait.

Hook-Link Treatment
In the image above you will see a free running swivel that moves up and down the hook-link. When setting up the POM system you simple push it into the grommet that's housed in the body of the lead. This is the simplest way of doing, once again, there's no need to over complicate anything. 

"One point I would like to make very clear is that now with the introduction of the Korda COG system, like the POM, this specific lead set-up is fashionably used to ditch the lead. I don't agree with this, in really heavy weed, maybe, or in a situation where the carp could be at risk, I agree that dropping the lead could aid safe landing, but I don't use the POM for this. I believe when some carp pick the bait up and shake their heads from side to side using the lead to try and ditch the hook, the secondary swivel cushions the impact and releases, giving them nothing to work with, which by this point you're already on your rod and their nailed". 

Swivel Pushed Into The Lead Grommet
When Chris sent me these leads I put them through some pretty extensive testing and I can genuinely say that I haven't experienced any problems with tangles. They cast very well, there's no shudder or shaking whilst in flight and if you get into the habit of feathering your cast you can sit confident knowing the presentation is correct.

The swim that I opted for controlled the body of water in the centre of the lake, I didn't want to limit myself to either end. Setting up central made perfect sense, it's what I call a "Passing Traffic" spot. If the carp are patrolling back and forth from each end I felt there's a much higher chance of them coming across my solitary single, in theory I'm targeting a spot/route that they will pass through. The problem I sometimes have with positioning myself up one end of a water is the fact that the carp might not necessarily be visiting the area on a regular basis, there's nowhere to pass through to, sometimes it's a case of "they're either there or their not".

View From The Swim
It took me a few casts to get the baits just right, there are three drop offs that run along the far margin, I try to get one bait at the bottom of the second one and the other in slightly deeper water. In the summer I've seen fish really close in, now with the temperatures dropping slightly, fishing directly under the overhanging trees just didn't feel right. Three casts later and the baits were in the magic position, you could feel on the drop of each lead that they were exactly where they needed to be. I applied back leads and tightened up so the bobbins were a fraction under the blank of the rod. I wanted any slight indication, 'how ever small' to register, I wanted to be on my rods the second a run took place.

Locked And Loaded
I finally had a chance to sit back, relax and get a strong coffee on the go, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil I kept my eyes locked on the water. The ripples from the wind were strangely addictive and my mind started to picture a possible monster slowly making its way towards my bait. I was mentally urging one of my buzzers to fire off, but I had to be patient, front lake doesn't work like that. It's best to let your mind wander until the silence is broken by the yelp! of your alarm. 

As expected, the hours passed me by, the rods remained silent but I was still strangely optimistic, it was one of those sessions where you just knew something was going to happen. The wind slowly dropped, the light dimmed slightly and I could hear the passing traffic from the distant motorways starting to echo over the tree-lines. It was now officially bite time, "The Magic Hour", there was a moment of total silence and then as if by clockwork, my right rod ripped away and I was on it like a shot. Time momentarily stopped, it was just me and the fish, nothing else mattered. 

It felt heavy, plodding around, my rod bent to breaking point and I just held tight adjusting the clutch, cushioning every lunge, still in control but being as careful as I could. It was a prolonged battle, I was gaining ground, when the carp came close it broke the surface, I was face to face with a hefty looking common and it looked like a good fish. Letting the rod tip do the work, it soon went up onto its side, it was time for me to land my prize. As the net engulfed the fish I could finally start breathing again. Scales sunk to 25IB exactly.

25IB Of Braxted Common Carp
What a fish, it was clean, perfectly proportioned and encapsulated everything that I love about my angling, it was almost a mystery that a creature as majestic as this could be lurking in such an unassuming water. When I set up for the session I knew I was doing the right thing and yet again a single bait had tripped up another of the front lake fish. After slipping her back and slowly packing my tackle away I took a moment to reflect. I couldn't wait to get back out again, I was already mentally planning my next session. I think there's still a few fish to be had because we haven't yet had our first frost. I would like to close this entry with a poem, I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a Marsh Harrier, it was vividly drifting above me in a gentle crosswind, it was strangely poetic.

Thursday 8 January 2015

The Water 'Perspectives, Which Ones & Why'

In this blog post I would like to cover what the water means to me, most people know who read my blogs, I fish lots of different lakes, all for different reasons. I must say that big carp waters have never been my motivation, what drives me is the urge to try and understand everywhere that I choose to fish. The waters that I choose to target are all different. Fishing in this way keeps you on your toes and I feel I'm learning so much more than if I just stuck to one or two similar venues.

The best comparison I can make is with my drumming, in my music collection I have records that I listen to for the musicianship, these records are dug out when I am searching for inspiration. Then I have records that I listen to for 'the song' and 'the vibe', something that gives me that magical buzz solely because of the melody's and chord structure. Taking in music this way gives you a very broad understanding of music as a whole. As a musician you have to open you mind to as many styles as possible, doing this gives you a lot more knowledge and understanding than just sticking to one genre or a handful of bands.

Still Life
Taking everything in the above paragraph into consideration, "The more kinds of waters the angler fishes, the greater understanding he has in fishing as a whole". Some of the waters I fish are solely for 'the vibe and atmosphere', others I fish for the challenge, others to get a bend in the rod and enjoy the sport. My favourite venues don't hold particularly massive fish but the condition of each one you catch is second to none. Any time I've stepped on to known 'big carp' waters, I find the atmosphere can feel somewhat strained and competitive, I don't fish to put myself in this sort of environment. The 'bounty hunter' approach where it's all about tipping the scales is a side of the sport that I find I have steer well clear of. I get far more of a buzz from being by a water that I love, watching the sun rise and set and immersing myself perfectly into my environment, a fish is a bonus.

Autumn Warning
The water is a mystery to me and I want it to stay that way, I don't watch any underwater footage of carp feeding, 'it seems to be a trend nowadays with all the DVD's'. Part of the art of angling is to find ways of understanding what's under the surface in an almost primitive and sensory way, it is hunting after all. The sensory side of carp angling is what connects us to the waters we fish. I get just as much excitement casting a marker float into the depths as I do a rig. Mapping the water out is a vital part of the puzzle, as we know, just because the water is flat on the surface, doesn't mean it's flat underneath it. 

I believe that water-craft is intuition in another form, as our watercraft becomes fine-tuned so does our intuition, and visa versa. Finding shortcuts with the use of technology can take us further and further away from what true angling is all about. I don't want to start a 'bait boat' war because in the right situation they can be useful. But how many short cuts are being made if this form of technology is being unnecessarily incorporated into your fishing. You wont master the cast, you'll lack feature finding skills and the ability to truly understand the waters you fish. I look upon the rod as an extension of yourself and you have to connect perfectly with it, there's no short cut to fine tuning your relationship with the water and the carp that swim within it. Why do some anglers catch more fish than others? I believe it's because they're well and truly in touch with their environment.

     Troubled Skies      
As the seasons pass the lakes change, if you're on the bank all year round then you are part of the metamorphosis, you witness and feel the change. The banks can be beautiful within the summer but come winter it's a completely different beast. It can be lonely at times and pretty dam uncomfortable, but as long as you are by the water, you stay connected. It's funny because when the changing of the seasons arrive, it always conjures up old memories of being on the bank. I step outside to go to work and the feeling in the air at different times of the year takes me back to when I've been chasing carp. It feels as if carp angling is so tightly stitched into my existence that I am never actually away from it, once an angler, always an angler. It's the same with the drums, the rhythm will never leave me.

The Edge Of The Afternoon
With how commercial our sport has become over recent years our relationship with the water, depending on how passionate about it you are, can get somewhat warped and in many ways, jaded. Some commercial day ticket fisheries have shifted the goal posts on what some of us may call achievements. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being a hypocrite here, if you go way back on my blog you will see I've accounted for sessions on a few day ticket waters, and I've enjoyed my time on them, all lakes have their time and place. But in recent years my feelings have changed drastically towards some. I know there are a lot of beautiful fisheries around, run by people that have a deep, burning passion for their fish and angling. I am not talking about those places, I'm talking more about the overstocked, over crowed puddles in the ground that may or may not contain carp from dubious sources, that to me look morbidly obese rather than big.

Silence In Summer
It's all to do with perspective, I'd like to add, like I have said so many times before, "if this is the kind of fishing you enjoy" then great, enjoyment is what it's all about and who the hell am I to say otherwise. But my point is, because catching a big fish has become so much more obtainable, it can warp peoples perspectives on their own experience and understanding of what catching a 'big' carp is all about. For me the word 'big' means so many things, for instance, a carp with character, perfectly proportioned, clean and a creature so resilient that it's lived to tell the tale. When you land a fish like that, it's as if you are landing its story.

You can't rush these things and trying to cut right to the chase is not always the best idea. I had to form many relationships with secluded little ponds and charming little club waters before I knew that I was ready to start fishing larger waters for bigger fish. It was like I was slowly building the foundations that I needed to move on, I didn't run before I could walk and even though I've got a good few years of angling behind me, there's still so much to learn, new connections to be made and so many more waters that are going to create great memories for years to come.

Days Ending
Now Going Back To My Original Point About Perspective

"I will try and explain this in the clearest way I can. And I will use social media as an example." 

You can be scrolling through your Facebook feed and you come across a picture of an awesome scaly old carp weighing in at 18IB, then just below it there is a picture of a big thirty. On the surface you instantly give the bigger fish more validation, it's big, it must have been harder to catch? and in doing this you are pretty much dismissing the 18IBer because it hasn't broken the 20+ mark. But 'maybe' if you knew the circumstances leading up to the capture of both fish, your perspective might change. 

The 18IBer could of been caught out of a huge low stocked pit which tests you to your limits, and the 30IBer could've been caught from a two acre lake rammed full of carp where the smallest is a mid-twenty. The smaller fish has been caught using a hell of a lot more experience and thinking, than just casting a solid bag out anywhere in a puddle. I'm not devaluing any ones capture in anyway, we all do this for different reasons, I'm just trying to demonstrate how perspectives can be changed. There's nothing like earning a bite, the hard graft makes the capture so much more rewarding, I believe you learn to value the fish in a deeper way. If you were catching a monster every cast, you'd lose all the respect and value that the 'long-slog' provides.

Having explained it in this way, it might now be clearer why my choice of waters are more than just the size of the fish that swim within them. If you have made it this far into this blog post, I'd like to thank you, I can ramble on, but this is why I write, this is my place to share my thoughts and feelings. You may or may not agree with some of the points that I have brought up within this entry, but one thing I am certain of, if you are visiting my blog, then both me and you have something very much in common, and that's a love for carp angling. And that's a pretty dam good thing to have, where ever your angling may take you, I want to wish you the best of luck on your journey.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Rugby 'Autumn Bronze, Time Stops'

Rugby is a water that calls to me, when I get up to go fishing I never know exactly where I am going to end up. All my waters start as passing thoughts and then the one that sticks is where I go. This way I haven't already decided what swim I am going to fish before I even get to the lake, as we know, this is a really bad way to do things. I find visiting waters in a spontaneous way makes for a far more productive session. You haven't preplanned things in your head so on arrival you are very open in taking time to try and read the water and conditions. 

I use to fall into the preplanned way of thinking very easily. Years ago before I'd even arrived at my chosen lake, my mind was already fishing it and there were times when it was so blatant that the fish were feeding in a different area from where I was totally intent on fishing. I have come across a lot of people that make this same mistake. For instance, if they've caught a good fish from a certain swim, they will fish 'said swim'  forever more and I've even seen people go back home if they can't get on 'their' swim, even if the rest of the lake is empty. It seems a shame because they're missing out on gaining knowledge and thinking on their feet. 

Some of my best sessions have been had by going against my initial feeling. The more open your mind is about the waters you fish, the more inclined you are to learn. Angling = Learning, learning is something that never stops, every single session from when I started fishing right up to the present day, I'm still learning.

I only visit Rugby when it feels like the right thing to do, if you've read my other blogs on the place, you will know that it's not an easy venue. Every time I'm about to cast my rods into its somewhat frustrating depths, I have to have the right mindset. If I can get a bite, I've done well, if I can get two, then I'm on a roll. My disadvantage is that I don't do nights, "not that I'd want to", but on a water such as Ruby it's an advantage. To catch on a day session I need to be totally on the ball. Over the last year or so I've found a few spots that give me a fair chance of getting a result. Rugby is probably one of the only waters where I do stick to the same approach each time I go.

It's also a water that has a very strange effect on me, it's not just about the fishing, it has such a sense of 'time, lost'. Whenever I'm on its banks I have no thought of the outside world, my time is different to that of the world around me, there is no other life past the tree lines that stand in its distance. Each time that I leave, it takes me a short while to get my head together. How many waters do that to you? as I've stated before, angling is about connections, connecting with the wild, yourself and everything that's encapsulated with being on the bank.

Time, Lost On The Rugby
The day I arrived I took a slow walk up and down the bank, the lake was empty so I had the pick of all the swims. There was a chill in the air with a light breeze pushing down towards the beach swim. When the wind is blowing in this direction and it isn't too cold, fishing face to the wind from the beach can be productive. I made my way back to the swim, got my coffee kit out, fired the kettle up and sat watching the water very closely. 

If you look hard the Rugby carp can be clumsy at giving away their location. I spotted some fizzing at about 25 yards, this was enough evidence for me. I wasn't going to plonk my baits directly on their heads, when I know fish are present down this end of the lake, at some stage during the day, they'll patrol fairly close in. I was going to fish both rods only a few yards out. A short cast puts me in excess of 10ft of water, as we know, the marginal drop offs are obvious patrol routes.

This time around I wanted to try a slightly different presentation, on all my previous sessions I've been religiously  using pop ups. Today I opted for bottom baits made up of two 10 mil pineapple cream boilies. In conjunction with this I would be using PVA mesh with a mixture of 10 mils and multi mix pellets, the boilies are ground down to dust. The weed is pretty bad but in the open water that stretches in front of the beach, it's really not that heavy, I thought I'd be able to get away with bottom baits, I was going to put a PVA nugget on the hook just for that added piece of mind. 

Pineapple Cream 10m Bottom Baits

Usually I fish over a modest spread of free offerings, this time around I was only going to stick with the bags. This was the approach I was going to be using on most my waters once the winter sets in. Today was a prime opportunity to get the wheels in motion regarding this approach. The pellets that I am using have a low oil content and a quick breakdown time, combined with the small ground-up boilie, it was very colourful, the plan was to create visual attraction as well as flavour. I felt the smaller hook baits might up my chances of nicking a bite.

A Small Bait Offering

Small Parcels Of Attraction

Prior to casting out I had a few test casts to see if I collected any weed on my rigs. Apart from a few strands, there was nothing that I thought would pose a problem. Both rigs were set in position, I tightened up to my back leads so both rod tips had a slight bend in them, any slight movement would register nicely. I wasn't going to do any recasts during the session, on Rugby once the traps are set, it really is a case of sitting on your hands.

I put another coffee on and tried to count how many shades of brown that the Autumn was slowly bringing with it. Out of all the waters that I fish, Rugby is the one that turns into a truly bleak and beautiful place come the winter. Even though its life has gone, if you're quiet enough, a faint pulse can be heard.

View From The Swim
As expected the day slowly progressed with little evidence of carp being down my end of the lake. Apart from the feeding bubbles I saw earlier, it was pretty baron. I didn't doubt my approach for a minute though, Ruby has a habit of weaving a tender trap that makes you start to question if you've got it right, if I was going to catch I knew that the take would come out of the blue and it could happen at any moment.

Mid afternoon arrived and with it came a few liners and a couple of small streams of bubbles over my right rod, my heart was already racing due to my caffeine intake, but with these small occurrences I was really buzzing. All of a sudden "BANG" the bobbin smacked the blank and the rod was away. Jumping right on it and gently leaning back, I was in to a hard fighting fish, my heart rate was now through the roof. The carp weaved around in open water, its speed was crazy, I stuck with it, edging her closer towards me. Underneath the rod tip, she gave her final dash for freedom, soon tiring I was looking at pure 'Rugby Bronze' staring at me from the landing net. Scales sunk to 21IB 5oz, I was very pleased.

21IB 5oz Of Rugby Bronze
As usual it was one hell of a carp, I have stated in the past, any fish from Rugby is a gift, all the fish I've been lucky enough to catch have been pristine, and that's what it's all about for me, quality over quantity, cleanliness over size. To me, this viewpoint encapsulates what carp angling should represent. I slipped her back, watching her slowly fade in to the depths is as much of a rush as the capture. 

"It's so important for us to have continued respect for the fish we catch and the lakes we visit. We must remember that we have invited ourselves into the carps world and the world of everything that inhabits the bank-side. We are merely a temporary visitor in their front room, behave in a way that you'd expect from anyone that comes into yours." 

The rest of the day trickled away and I felt like Rugby had shone a light on me once more. Changing my presentation didn't hinder my chance of getting a take and it goes to show that two small baits can still get you the bites, this is something that I'm going to explore further, especially in the heart of winter. All in all another solid session.

The Moment We All Wait For