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'.

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