Monday 23 March 2015

Burrows 'A Ghost In Winter' Part 1

It's so hard for me to find the words to describe how much Burrows means to me. It was the first lake that I fished when I moved down to SE London and its played a vital role in fanning my angling flame over the past nine years or so. I've neglected its banks this year due to joining Chelmsford but I'd made up my mind a while back that I would focus on it from October onwards, it was to be my primary winter water. When the first frost appears it seems to have a habit of revealing some of its larger residence, I wanted to get in on the action before the temperatures became too hostile. It doesn't give up its bigger fish easily but through years of trial and error I have found a few 'cold water' spots that seem to be productive.

Out of every lake I've ever fished, the banks of Burrows really feels like going home, its water has kept me company through every season, lifted me up through the darker times, given me direction when I've felt completely lost, and allowed me to land some of the most incredible carp I've ever laid eyes on. I wouldn't say there's an abundance of monsters haunting its depths but it's a place where 'the process' is far more relevant than chasing the numbers. I find the longer you spend on a specific water, it's as if you evolve with it, you become an integral part of its passage. Repeat captures are like old friends revisiting, small single figured scamps are a representation of the lakes future, year by year the lake grows and you have the pleasure of growing with it.

'A Ghost In Winter' is going to be a mini blog series documenting my short but very rewarding winter journey on one of my favourite lakes. The title is so very fitting in more ways than one, this time of the year I feel more like I'm haunting the banks rather than fishing from them. More times than not, the lakes are deserted, everything is quiet, sometimes the clouds never break, the sun is obscured, or maybe not even in the sky at all. It's time to reflect on the past, try to think clearly about the future and soak up the magic that so many anglers miss out on, having packed their rods away until spring. 

Our angling journey never stops, whatever the world throws at us, we have our waters, our own special place where we go to feel something, 'whatever that might be', blanking or catching, none of it matters, it's a flickering light in a existence that can feel like a rather large void at times. And its a light that I find myself continually heading towards, like a moth, but instead of burning up when I reach it, I simply feel like I'm burning brighter.

Carrying on with the 'ghost' theme, whilst I sit and write this, my own personal 'void' seems bottomless, I am somewhat flooded with a feeling of despair, again, in the clutches of a reoccurring depression. This is something I don't ever feel ashamed to admit. Happiness has been gone for a while now and any sense of clarity is shrouded in a bleak fog. 

I've touched on my mental illness a fair few times in my writing and opening up this part of myself to the world is something that feels like the right thing to do. I'd like to think that me being truthful about my situation might help others that have similar problems, its important for people to understand that they're not alone. The Charlton Carper blog is about me, my life, and thoughts, both on and off the bank. It's not written to prove anything, or in hope I may one day get spotted by some major tackle firm. 

It's written out of an embedded desire to express my feelings fully. Knowing that people take the time to read it makes it all worthwhile, it's important for people to understand why I do this, maybe this is therapy within itself? I'm hoping that recalling my winter stint might just awaken my senses once again and lift the current murk that rests in front of my eyes. 

Burrows In The Summer Months

And So We Begin...

Burrows is hidden deep down in the Kent countryside surrounded by both woods and farmers fields, as an outsider you'd never know of its existence. In the summer the water is an amazing green colour, it sits so vibrantly within its surroundings, every time I walk from the car park down to the waters edge, it presents itself proudly, and I can't wait to get setup and start fishing. The excitement is here today as much as its ever been and as I retrace my memories over the years, some of the best times have been on its bank, watching the sunrise whilst the kettle is just starting to boil.

With its "other worldly" presence in the warmer months, comes a very different beast in winter, it harbours an "end of the world" feeling. Time changes from the second that you cast out, and the mind doesn't wander outside the waters perimeters, no other lake gives me such a sense of escapism. Being in a valley, the wind creates waves, the rain cascades down like bricks, and if you didn't know any better, it's as if the place was trying to beat you into submission. Many times I've felt beaten but not once have I given up. It's a water that's changed so much through the time that I've been fishing it, it's hard to read.

Sunset Over The Cages

On my first session I arrived at the water for 10am, it was very still, there wasn't much of a breeze and it was really cold, the clouds felt like they were pressing down on my shoulders. I opted to go in the first swim known as 'the muddy double'. In front of me I have the deep bowl end of the lake and the whole of the far margin to fish too. If there had been a cold wind pushing down this end, I would of chosen to fish a swim positioned in the middle of the lake, targeting the calmer water. 

When the breeze is warm and pushing down towards the muddy double, you can really hold the fish in the swim and end up having multiple catches. A cold wind can kill it outright and make the spot a complete 'dud'Through time I've become slightly dubious about targeting the far margins due to the amount of pressure they see during the season. But on this occasion, due to the time of the year, I was going to fish both rods in the slightly deeper water half way down the far marginal shelf. I would be fishing in about 6ft of water which was perfect.

The Muddy Double In Summer
I'd chosen to fish two 10 mil boilies on the hair with no free offerings at all. Bait really does get piled in to the zone I was targeting, but I wasn't planning on a bit hit, I wanted to try to pick off any unassuming carp that might visit the area during the day. Large beds of bait work very well on Burrows at the right time of year but for my first session I wanted to keep everything as sparse as possible. I feel that some carp, 'even though they're feeding', may spook off of a large baited area, especially if they're use to seeing this kind of presentation in certain locations. A simple small bait seemed to feel like the right way to go. I can experiment with other forms of bait application on my future sessions, today I wanted to keep it simple.

The image below shows a rough guide to the make up of the water in front of me. The bowl end is the deepest part of the lake, reaching depths of up to 17ft, the margins slowly slope down. To the left of the image there's a bottle neck with a deep channel that starts to develop up the centre of the water. Fishing in this channel has produced all of my best catches through the years. You will catch fish from all the margins but I find this is where the smaller carp seem to patrol. As we know, the lumps like to mope around in ones and twos, due to the middle of the lake being less pressured, I feel this is where the wiser carp choose to travel. More on this in later posts.

View From The Swim
My chosen bait for this session was Pineapple Cream, they're a milk protein blend, I really favour the milk protein base mixes in the colder months. Once again, the rig was simple, it was a standard semi-fixed bottom bait setup. Using a small screwdriver, I enlarged the leads plastic insert so the swivel would release under the tiniest of pressure. This was to ensure that the carp couldn't use the weight of the lead to shake the hook free. I'd scaled down the lead size to 1oz. 

Because the carp start to slow down considerably in winter, I wanted to decrease the bolt effect and try to hook the fish without it realising. Part of me feels a carp that's not up for a big feed, and now could be moving slightly slower than usual, is more liable to eject the bait than bolt with it. I try to remember that picking off single fish is different to catching competing fish, they're not so care free and have more time to get finicky with a bait. Once again, close attention to detail gives me the confidence in knowing that I'm doing everything I can to get a bite.

Enlarging The Lead Insert Slightly

Finished Rig

I was happy with the position of both my baits on the first cast, bobbins were placed and alarms were on, I sparked the kettle up and sat back for the long wait. I say 'long wait' because I know how this swim fishes at this time of the year, bites usually come just before dark. I wasn't going to recast, I was just going to wait it out. The skies above grew very murky, it was dull, the only vibrancy came from my solitary pot of 10 mil baits perched on the top of my tackle box. Any kind of breeze dispersed, the stillness and quiet was creepy, I could literally hear my pulse, mid morning melted into early afternoon with no signs of life anywhere on the lake.

Landscapes Of The Mind
I stared out into the abyss before me, I was trying to picture what might be happening underneath the surface. I started to imagine a lunar landscape with my two baits shining like landing beacons, maybe a few carp were in the process of landing on my spots... or maybe not. For all I knew, they're all gathered up the other end of the lake communicating with each other on where they were going to seek refuge for the winter. It's crazy what thoughts can pass through the mind when you are perched directly in front of uncertainty. Sometimes I wish my mind would be as baron as the landscapes that I place myself in whilst fishing.

Evening was closing in, light started to fade, all of a sudden I received one liner on my left hand rod. My heart murmured, I held both my breath and my hope. Was it going to go? I was willing it too, a minute or so passed and then it was off. YES !! I raced for the rod and lent into the fish, it felt heavy, I was buzzing, still in deep concentration over the situation, I let her run, cushioning the sudden thrusts. I was very slowly edging her my way, continued steady pressure allowed me to gain control, it circled underneath the rod tip, shortly followed by indicating to me she was ready for the net, sliding on her side, I slid the net under her. It was a good fish, spotless and hazarding a guess, not short of 20IB. Once in the sling, scales sunk bang on 20IB.

A Perfect Cold Water Common
What a fish, she was stunning and a perfect example of why my love for Burrows continues to burn. She didn't have a mark on her, she was dumpy but in perfect proportion. After a few photos, I carried her in the sling to the waters edge. I watched her as she gulped the water in through her mouth and out through her gills, she was slowly revitalising, and so was I. As she kicked with energy, I did as well, what a buzz and what a fish to open my winter journey with. 

As she slowly faded into her watery home there was part of me that wished I could follow her. I felt so optimistic about the coming weeks, I had lots of different spots in mind and I was planning on trying a few different baits, tweaking my approach and just looking to lose myself in the task ahead me. There are plenty of diamonds in Burrows and I'm going to do my very best to unearth them.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Braxted Front Lake 'These Leaves Are Boats'

Time on the bank has been very limited of late, angling has taken an unwanted back seat whilst I knuckle down and get on with my work. Being self-employed I've got to take it when it comes, even though I am always fully immersed in the job, angling still has a relevant living space inside my mind. I'm never far from it and it's amazing how many ideas can come to mind when you're not actively on the bank. I picture the waters I fish, think about interesting little spots that seem so photographic in my memories, when I visualise my bait I can smell it as if it's in my hands. To an outsider all these 'symptoms' might seem rather worrying but to me it's all part of being an angler, it's in the blood, I never fight it, I simply allow it to visit me anytime and any place.

As I sit typing these words I am looking out the window at a very different world, there's heavy frost on the cars, the sun is bright and low in the sky. I open my bedroom window to let some fresh air in, the bitterness cuts like a knife, but the prospect of being on the bank is a strong as ever. With all this in mind I want to take you back with me to about a week ago when I ventured up on to Braxted front lake for one last session. I say 'last' session because I'm wanting to start a stint on one of my favourite KAPS waters called Burrows. Now with the shorter days, driving an hour and a half each way to fish wasn't giving me what I felt was a sensible amount of time on the water, plus Burrows fishes very well this time of the year, the big girls seem to want to visit the bank. Burrows is like going home - more on that in my next set of blogs.

On the day of my session I got up and loaded the car whilst it was still dark, desperate to get through the Blackwall Tunnel before the traffic got crazy, I floored it all the way up to Braxted and arrived at the water for about 8am. The lake was empty, solemn looking, the water was like a mirror, the scars of Autumn were marking the waters surface, littered with coiled dead leaves, the gentle breeze was pushing them back and forth like miniature boats, each setting sail, uncertain of their destination, 'I know how they feel'. Winter was on its way and all the signs around me confirmed this, surprisingly enough the bushes surrounding my swim were still flourishing, it gave a strange contrast to what seemed like a washed out world. In true winter carping fashion, I sparked up the kettle and put a coffee on, whilst doing so I kept my eyes firmly on the water. 
Nothing was giving itself away, no bubbles, no fish activity, apart from the gulls flying above my head it was as if the place was in a deep sleep.

Mutiny On Silence
Seeing as I've done a fair few sessions on the water this season, I had a couple of areas that I'd previously mapped out so I was pretty clued up on the typography of the spots I was thinking of fishing. Running along the opposite margin are three gradual drop offs, I planned to put one bait in the shallow water and the other in the deep section. As usual I was going to be fishing singles and my bait of choice for this was Raspberry Ripple, in my experience this is such an instant bait and out of the many flavours I have in my armoury, this was the one that I knew might just wake a passing docile carp. 

Because front lake is so clean on the bottom I focus very hard on concealment, I want to use end tackle components that have the same shades and tones as the lake bed. Despite what some people think, I feel this can help to produce a bite when things get slow. I've said it before but I don't think the carp are necessarily spooked by visual things as much as they are by their sensory perception. If an area they move into doesn't feel right then I think they're more inclined to bolt. We've all been in that social situation where we feel threatened, not necessarily by things we are seeing more by an atmosphere, the best comparison I can make is being in the town centre on a Friday night when all the bars and clubs empty, you just feel something could kick off at any second.

I focus on my rigs immensely, I take great pride in each one that I tie up, I never over complicate anything but it's important that they're put together tidily and do the job that they are designed to do. I make sure that I'm happy with every single one before I even think of rigging it up. You can have all the gear in the world but if your rigs and most importantly your knots aren't up to speed, your efforts will be somewhat floored. I tend to steer away from generic leads, the tubing has to be translucent and the braid, 'whatever one I might choose' needs to sit well in both colour and tone, depending on what I'm fishing over. I believe all these little attentions to detail make up the bigger angling picture. Does it catch you more fish? - well, that's always open for debate.

Leads That Cater For Any Situation

Regarding my lead system and rig, I was planning on trying something that I'd been experimenting with for a while now. It came to mind when I started to focus on fishing singles. The basic idea was to try to create as much attraction as possible without actually using any bait. I started to focus on how I could up the chances of attracting a passing carp to my spot.

I was going to be fishing a bottom bait on a lead clip setup, this is a lead system that I rarely use but for this specific approach to work I had too. My lead of choice was Chris Knowlers 'POM' in 2 1/2oz. The 'POM' contains a grommet for a secondary swivel to be inserted into. I was going to remove the grommet and replace it with a cigarette filter. The filter has been glugged in flavouring, so in theory it's turned the 'POM' into an attractor lead. A few attractor lead ideas have come and gone through the years, I've always liked the idea but was never really sold on those that were available.

Carpy Chris POM
Remove The Grommet
Replace With A Cigarette Filter

Normal roll up filters fit nice and snug in the hole where the grommet is housed and they don't come out on the cast. The filters had been soaked in Raspberry Ripple glug and were dripping with attraction. When using this approach you really are catering to the carps senses, their ability to locate the smallest of items is something quite incredible and when fishing with minimal bait, I always keep this thought at the front of my mind, 'they will find it'. As we know, carping is all about confidence, if you feel confident in your approach then you're more inclined to sit on your hands and welcome patience.

View From The Swim 'Breaking Of The Dawn'
After a few measured casts I'd found my spots, the right rod had a short drop, the left rod had a slightly longer one. I had both drop offs covered. Back leads were placed, bobbins were on and it was now time to sit back, fire the kettle up and hope that what I was doing was enough to get a bite. A couple of hours passed, the feeling of dawn never really left and I was still lucky enough to have the place to myself, this alone was going to work to my advantage, the less disturbance coming from the bank the better. Like most lakes, it tends to switch off when there's a lot of lines in the water. 

One of the most ignored weapons in fishing is "the quiet", it's something that needs to be mastered, the carp aren't stupid and they know what an angler sounds like, I feel any slight detection of our presence can put them on high alert, I believe this makes them feed with a lot more caution. I've mentioned it before but 'as anglers' it's our job to literally morph into the environment around us, to become part of it, we must respect the fact that we're merely temporary visitors amongst those that inhabit the waters and the banks that surround us.

Tuned For Sensitivity

Three coffees in and a few more hours spent watching the water, I decided to have a recast of the left hand rod. I wanted to place it in slightly deeper water and a little further down to my left. I'm not exactly sure why I felt I needed to do this but I just went with it, each hunch you welcome sharpens your intuition just that little bit more. A poetically feathered cast landed perfectly, once again, the back lead was slid into position and the bobbin was resting once more. Just as I sat down, the rod was away, the cast must have landed very close to a feeding fish, it ripped off at crazy speed, I lunged to grab it, the blank bent right round and instantly I knew I was in to something special. The weight and the power was immense and was really enhanced due to the fact I was using my 2 1/2 IB test curve "Skorpios". 

My heart was pounding and my legs were shaking, I had to land this fish, if the world was to end in the next minute, I had to seal the deal. I cushioned the chaos and held on for dear life, choosing my time wisely, I increased the pressure and did my best to maintain some sort of control. It was heavy and steadily getting heavier, I'd love to say that I was enjoying it but I wasn't, I was so focused on netting whatever it was that had bolted with my bait and I really didn't want anything to occur that could jeopardise it. After what felt like a decade I started to gain some ground, the sheer terror I was feeling subsided and as the fish came closer I could see its ghost was starting to give up. As it surfaced, I caught a glimpse of a perfect looking common and it was big. I teased her towards the mesh, she went on her side and slid perfectly into the waiting net ..... HELL YES !!

Before unhooking her I let her rest, I had to sit down, relief washed over me and I could finally start breathing again. I didn't think the fish was going to go thirty but I suspected that it was going to be pretty dam close, scales were zeroed to the sling, I slipped her inside, scales tipped to 27IB 5oz, I was stunned. What an incredible carp, there wasn't a mark on her, I was slightly gob smacked, she was fin perfect, scale perfect and the mouth was so clean. That's the beauty of using lighter tackle, the pressure on the hook hold is so much more forgiving, it really does reduce the chances of tearing the mouth. It's really important to me that all the fish I catch go back in perfect condition, heaving and pulling during the fight causes stress to an already stressful situation. It's our responsibility to take great care, and respect any fish we catch. I repeat this point a lot but there are 'no rewards' for winching a fish in. When they gently go on to their side, that's their way of telling you that the shows over.

27IB 5oz Braxted Front Lake Common
After a few photos I got her safely back home, as I watched her slide away I experienced a strange 'spiritual release'. What other pass time can make you feel so many emotions all at once, the joy, excitement, fear, delirium .. the list goes on. My angling makes me feel alive and I will be casting lines until I evaporate off this planet, without a shadow of a doubt. My journey simply has no ending, with the pursuit of carp comes a limitless set of experiences.

I still had a few hours of daylight and I'd decided that I was going to stay until after dark, I got the rod back out. I put a new glugged filter into the lead, threaded another sly single on to the hair and cast over to the same spot. I thought I stood a good chance of another bite, there still might be a few fish milling about. Kettle was back on, as the tea slowly brewed the sun slowly faded over the trees in the distance. The temperature started to drop and soon I was surrounded by the dark, I could hear the A12 motorway in the distance, the world was racing whilst I perched still and silent behind my rods. It was such a strange isolation, my mind was replaying the battle that the big common had given me. It was such an honor to catch her and I felt so fortunate that she picked me to pay a visit.

The Fading Of The Day
There wasn't a great deal to look at in the now pitch black, the clouds obscured the stars. I sat tight waiting, 45 minutes after dark the same rod gave a couple of lonesome bleeps, I was now teetering on the edge of my chair. A minute or so later it was away, I flicked my head-torch on and grabbed the rod, this fish had a different feel about it, it was darting and tugging relentlessly, the fight was spirited and I eventually landed what looked like another perfect looking common. Hopelessly sliding around in the dark, I eventually got her in the sling. Scales fell to 16IB, it was a lovely fish and the perfect way to close an exhilarating and unexpected session. 

16IB Common, After Dark
After slipping her back I started the rather frustrating task of trying to pack my kit down in the dark. Finally getting to the car park I'd made the decision that this would be my last trip to Braxted for the season, Chelmsford have a closed season from mid March, which I fully support, all waters and the fish that dwell within them need a break from angling pressure. I have enjoyed every session that I've done on both the front lake and the reservoir, at some point in the future I will venture on to the back lake but I'm in no rush to make that move just yet. I still feel that front lake has a few more surprises for me. 

I had a feeling that the next season was going to be a good one and I will look forward to when I can step back on to the Braxted banks once more. I love everything about the place, the location, the surroundings and of course the fishing. As I mentioned at the start of this blog, my next set of entries will be a mini series down on the Burrows in Snodland, Kent, I did a good number of sessions shortly before the cold spell really set in and had some great results. For me Burrows is a very special water, for more than one reason, which I will soon explain. I will look forward to sharing my early winter sessions on the venue with you. I would like to close this entry with a poem, 'These Leaves Are Boats'.

Sunday 1 March 2015

Braxted Reservoir 'Enchanted, Looking Upwards'

So my Braxted stint continues, I haven't felt like fishing anywhere else for a while now. I'm still very much focused on the front lake, it conjures up such a strange anticipation, I really feel like I've sussed it out and I now understand that with the beauty of patience, the rewards do come. This blog however, is an account of a session I did up on the reservoir, I still felt there were a few more fish to be had, I had visions of big commons swimming around in my mind and I needed to tame them, I was obsessing.

The weather had changed drastically since my last visit, the sun was now obscured by overcast skies, it had been like this for quite sometime, the wind was violent with a noticeable chill and this was all added too by the clocks changing, this made the days feel somewhat tiresome. Come 4:15pm I am now witness to the most incredible sunsets and under the cover of darkness I'd spend an hour or two perched silently behind my rods, usually staring up at the sky, it's one hell of a view, being out of the city you can actually see every star, living in London you can forget the amazing sight that's there for you, simply by looking upwards. 

Even though summer hasn't long gone it's amazing how fast it becomes a distant memory. I find it hard to visualise the life that once inhabited the banks, now surrounded by shadows of former selves, it was pretty dam clear that 'the dead season' was well and truly upon us and I had a feeling it wasn't going anywhere fast.

Taking all the above into account I knew I now had to start thinking about approaching my fishing in a different way. Firstly my bait application had to be reviewed, I was going to cut back considerably, location was now the key, small packages of food, singles, washed out hook baits, staying mobile, my mind always spins when deciding exactly how I'm going to move forward from late Autumn through to winter. You have to change your mindset completely to change your results. 

It's easy to think that the carp are now "preparing for the big winter munch", it feels natural to carry on loading your spots up with loose feed, I personally don't think it's that black & white. There are so many elements to take into consideration, sometimes water temperatures alter slowly and the weather stays milder for longer, it goes without saying that perseverance during these times can really pay off. But other times when the temperature drops drastically over a few days, it can kill the waters outright. 

I experienced this not so long ago when the first frost suddenly appeared, a lot of my waters switched off over night, I did six sessions straight on six different waters, collectively I'd driven over 500 miles, I was rewarded with one bite for my efforts. That alone goes to show how fickle carp angling can be, but instead of waving a white flag in surrender, we have to stay defiant and try to charm this "carpy riddle", welcome its fickle nature and soldier on regardless. "Each Blank Brings You Closer To A Bite".

Sunset Beyond The Reservoir
I wanted to steer away from 'obvious' winter tactics, for instance, due to the sudden popularity of fluro coloured baits and how they're pushed in the angling press as a great winter tactic, especially when fished as singles. I naturally became very wary of them, to be honest, I've never actually incorporated this into my own fishing anyway. But you can pretty much guarantee that any method that's been publicised in a major way gets done to death on most waters. 

I decided to take this idea and turn it on its head, I was going to fish dark and dull coloured pop ups over a very light scattering of free offerings, a handful at most. I wanted something unassuming, not blatant, I wanted no visual attractor, the plan was to make the boilie do all the work, obviously having put it in the right place to begin with. 

Duller Colours, Brighter Possibilities 

On the morning of the session, I arrived at about 11:00am, it was one of those days where the sun was nowhere in sight, it felt like I was walking in to a scene straight out of "Wuthering Heights", it was dark, looming, bleak and being the only angler around I literally felt like the only person alive. Perfect!!

There wasn't a hope in hell of seeing any kind of fish activity so I headed straight for the centre of the lake. The margins are fairly deep in this specific area so I decided that I was going to fish only a short distance from my rod tips, it was a simple approach, there was no need to complicate things. As usual, being as quiet as possible and staying off the skyline was going to be the key to make this work in my favour.

View From The Swim 'Simplicity'
My chosen bait was the Bio Cp2 Amino, it consists of a blended summer fruit extract, combined with a green lip mussel base mix. They have a very unique smell and are still accounting for plenty of carp from all over Europe, its been a decade since their inception and they're still going strong. Every time I use the Bio CP2, I "cast with confidence"

I decided to go with a straightforward pop up presentation, scattering a few freebies moderately between my spots. If fish were passing and they were up for a feed I knew that this was enough to get them interested. Due to the make up of the lake bed, pop ups can be a deadly method. On the cast I feel for a 'soft drop', there's plenty of hard areas but I want to target the silty clay pockets, I feel when fishing a pop up, you can't really have a better presentation for this kind of bottom.

Feeling for the drop is such an important element to master, it's a crucial communication between you and the lake bed. The heavier lead the better, the more of the lead that hits the bottom, the more you'll going to be able to understand. I favour square/rectangle in-lines, 2 1/2oz minimum, feathering the cast gives you a solid signal. Remember, a massive part of angling is trying to communicate with what you can't physically see.

Make "The Drop" Count With The Right Lead
After a few subtle casts I found two spots that felt perfect to present my pop up over. Rigs were placed with little fuss and I proceeded to scatter half a handful of bait in a broad area around both my hook baits. One of the aspects I love about short range fishing is how accurate you can be with your baiting, there's nothing quite like getting both your rigs and freebies totally spot on. 

Being an avid user of pop ups I'd opted to fish them quite high off the bottom, you really can get away with doing this in the right situation, I think from a carps perspective looking down on the pop up, it doesn't really look much different to a bottom bait. I wouldn't recommend high pop ups over clean bottoms, I feel there's almost too much clarity for the fish to suss out that something isn't quite natural, the hook-bait popped up would stand out way to much, especially if all your 'bottom bait' freebies are in close quarters. 

Bio CP2 Amino

One point I always keep close to the front on my mind is the fact that carp feed differently over silt/soft clay, debris etc. Whilst they're feeding, particles and fragments are being kicked up and I feel the environment becomes murky thus making it easier for them to trip up on the hook-bait. The image below shows what the presentation looks like directly from above, it's fished exactly 3cm off the bottom. 

Another fine point that I think ups the chances of a take is "critically balancing" your bait. This can make a great difference in the example I have explained, if particles, food items etc are bouncing and flying around as the carp digs about, you want to make sure that your bait is mimicking that of its surroundings. If there's loads of debris flying about during intense feeding but your bait is perched tight on the bottom, this could be seen as danger and a take might not materialise. The more natural movement you can give your hook-bait, the better. 

Pop Up Presentation From Above

So.. the traps were set, the coffee was on and I finally had a chance to sit back and relax. The wind was still whistling and the skies remained dark, all in all it was a rather unwelcoming environment, but I sat tight intent on the fact that I'd done everything that I knew I could to get a bite. As I sat watching my rods, the obsessive visions of big commons slowly faded from my mind, soon they'd be a reality.

Half an hour in, my left hand rod tore away, I scrambled for it, the tip was bent tight around and the clutch was singing, I grabbed the rod, gently lent back and honoured the fight .. I was in .. and what a feeling it was. As the blank compressed the wind whistled through the eyes of the rod, it was singing a sick melody. 

With the brunt of the breeze in my face, slight drizzle and a hard fighting carp on the end of my line, never had the feeling of "taming the wild" been so relevant. I kept the pressure on, the fish was really giving me some stick, slowly she eased and a flat spot showed, breaking the waves that were chasing each other over the surface of the water. Not before too long a chunky common was resting in my net, scales fell to 18IB.

18IB Braxted Common On The Bio CP2 Amino
What an awesome display of common carp, long, lean and one hell of a fighter, the approached worked. I slipped her back, got the rod back out on the same spot, added a few freebies, set the bobbin and put another coffee on - "you gotta keep that caffeine coming". Time ticked by, the session felt rather laboured and I knew deep inside that the waters were now changing, things were going to be slower from this point on so I had to really start working for each bite.

Late afternoon came, a few liners were occurring on my right rod, I sat on edge expecting it to fire away, silence fell and then ... whhhoooosshhh .. it was off, I was on it like a shot, it kited sharp to my left and carried on peeling line off the spool, I let her go. Once she'd made her initial run, I was able to gain some ground, it was another good old scrap right up to the net, once safe within the mesh I was again presented with another perfect common, scales sunk to 16IB.

16IB Braxted Brute
Every fish I've had out the reservoir has been perfect, all with really clean mouths, character, each one full of energy, most being totally scale perfect. That's what carp angling is all about for me, good, clean and well looked after fish, size really is secondary. It's a gift to land any carp out of the reservoir. Before I started to get too sentimental, I slipped her home and got the rod back out, it was starting to get late, I thought I'd sit it out until after dark, a few more hours being beaten up by the weather was quite a welcoming thought. 

Time passed, I wasn't rewarded with anymore fish but I did have the front row seat to a mind-blowing sunset, as it faded over the horizon the breeze dropped, darkness settled around me and the clouds started to break apart. I was experiencing such a moment of clarity, just for a short time it felt as if nothing mattered anymore, other than 'right now', I felt myself aligning. 

The Plough

Both society and the world around us is not conducive to allowing any feeling of freedom, we're trapped in a rut, a system, surrounded by materialism, vanity and all things that are designed to pull us away from "who we are". Don't let this happen, find things that allow you to remember exactly what you're all about, for me it's my angling, writing and of course my drumming, what's yours?. Whatever it might be, keep it close, don't forget it, use it or go to it when you feel lost. 

I slowly got my tackle together and packed away, preparing myself for the back breaking walk to the car park, I took a moment to look up. Peering through the broken clouds were stars, the clearest I'd seen for quite sometime. As I looked closer I could see the constellation known as the plough, it was immense, perfectly placed directly above me. 

I'll leave you with a thought, most people spend all their lives looking so far forward into the future for answers, when most of the time 'the answer' they're looking for is right under their noses, here in the 'now'. Next time you're stuck for answers or seeking inspiration or you simply want to widen your perspective, wait until after dark, go outside and try looking up, you might just be surprised at what you could end up witnessing and feeling. 

Until next time ....