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.

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