Saturday, 18 April 2015

Burrows 'A Ghost In Winter' Part 3

It was a week or so before I managed to get back on the water again, work had kept me away, but during this time I'd been thinking a lot about how I wanted to approach my future sessions. Firstly I was done with "the muddy double" swim, I'd had a solid result but I felt that if I was going to stand a chance at catching some of the better fish, I was going to have to pick my spots wisely, I didn't want to retread old ground. 

"I'd like to point out before I start that I'm aware that some of you that read this may fish Burrows and think "what the hell is this guy on about, it's a runs water", and to a degree that is very true, if I wanted to load the far margin up with bait and sit on it, I'd have plenty, but I don't have a great deal of interest in approaching the water in this way. I'm searching for the diamonds, the bigger fish that haunt the place. I've had many productive sessions fishing it in a predictable manor, but this series of blogs is not about fish numbers, its about fish quality and exploring the water a great deal more than I have in the past" 

Part of my winter planning was to chop and change things around, I didn't want to play it safe, I wasn't going to learn anything if I carried on adopting the same approach. This went for both bait application and the spots I was choosing to target. You only gain a wider knowledge of what's in front of you by exploring all the options available. Some of my best results have come from the sessions when my intuition has completely overridden my literal thinking. You'd think that with all the years of fishing the lake, I'd know pretty much all there is to know, but I don't see it that way. There are so many variables within carp fishing, almost too many. I believe the carps behaviour changes constantly, especially on pressured waters or venues that don't have a closed season.

Theory Time - Please Bare With Me

"A pressured fish never has any time to really act naturally, there's always lines in the water, piles of bait set to create an ambush, and of course, angling activity on the bank. The older fish have seen everything there is to see, time and time again, and I believe that they constantly adapt and change their habits to survive, to feel safe, it's a natural instinct, not only in carp but in humans to. How many times do we hear that "X" fish hasn't visited the bank for "X" amount of months or even years? It isn't 'luck', I believe it's the sign of a creature that is so acutely in resonance with its own environment that it naturally  adapts and changes accordingly"

"I first started thinking about bigger carp in this way when I read Lee Jacksons book 'Just For The Record', 'The Quest For Two-Tone'. The aspect that really stood out to me was when he first started to fish Conningbrook. The carp were very visible and they had their habits, a fairly simple approach seemed to bank most of them. Once they'd been caught a few times, their habits changed, they didn't show in their usual spots, the majority of the time they didn't show at all, and as time went by they became harder and harder to catch. Was This Luck On The Carps Side? no I don't believe it was, I think they'd wised up and obviously adapted to their now, new environment, and proceeded to exist with far more caution than before. Even when it comes down to feeding, why is it certain fish can "get away with it" and others seem to get caught all the time. I don't believe it's a conscience thought on the fishes part, I think again, it just comes down to instinct and experience... I know this sounds crazy, I might be giving THE CARP way to much credit, but I find that if I think like this, you are keeping your mind open to every possibility, and in doing so you're more willing to grow and adapt as an angler." 

So, going back to my original point, I don't believe you can ever learn everything there is to know about any of the waters that you fish, especially when/if the carp are constantly shifting the goal posts, which I believe they do .. a lot, but, of course there's always going to be the odd exception to the rule.    

Mystery Returning
Back To The Session

On revision, nearly all my good fish have come from the channel that runs down the centre of the lake, it really doesn't get fished a great deal. In the deepest part, you're looking at about 9ft of water, all my bites have come from between 5.5ft and 7ft. I visualise the channel to bare resemblance to a valley surrounded by gradual fields that gently slope down either side. I was looking to place my baits on both sides of the channel, in roughly 6ft of water, too me this felt like a good depth to be fishing in. In my mind it was the perfect 'middle ground', especially if the carp were swimming in the mid-layers down the centre of the lake.

With all this in mind, come the day of the session, I was fired up to get down to the water as soon as possible. I arrived on the bank around 8:30am, I took a relaxed look around, there were no signs of fish anywhere so I proceeded with my plan. I headed to the centre of the lake, put the kettle on and got my rods sorted out, I didn't use any marker to find my exact spots, I could pretty much judge by the drop on both casts that I was in the 'ballpark' area. 

My chosen bait was Green Lipped Mussel, I know that this type of bait is favoured more for the warmer months but I've done very well on both this and other fish-meal based baits in the colder conditions. My bait application was going to be the complete opposite of last time, I was going to fish heavy, creating a nice spread of bait all around both zones. Whenever I use fishmeal & GLM baits despite the time of the year, I fish them heavy, it always seems to feel natural to apply them in this way. It's the milk protein baits that I have 100% confidence in using, when fishing with singles or minimal bait.

GLM & Multi-Mix Pellets

To create a little more attraction around my hook bait I was going to fish small PVA mesh bags. Each bag would contain crushed GLM boilies and mixed pellet, the pellets I favour are designed to breakdown fast, even in cold water. Along with the added attraction, this would also create a nice fleck of colour which I hoped would help to encourage a bite.

A Nice Tidy Package

Once both rods were in position I started to apply my bait, I spread it all around both spots, I wanted bait distributed over a fairly large area in different depths and, at least two handfuls were applied a good few meters away from both hook baits. My thinking behind this was to hopefully pull in any carp that might be mooching around on the bottom and at different depths, patrolling along the slope of the channel. Even though it was cold I had a gut feeling that I might be able to get a few fish competing. Again, I'd like to point out that all of these decisions were acted upon intuitively, I didn't want to entertain my conscience thought in any way. "It was a gamble - but I was willing to go with it" 

View From The Swim
As I placed the bobbins and finally took a seat, I was feeling pretty optimistic, the temperature felt slightly up compared to my last two sessions and it felt like it might just be enough to help produce a few more bites. And with this thought, my right-hand rod was off, I didn't even have a chance to get poetic, slightly stunned I leapt for the rod and I lent back into something that felt pretty dam heavy. The fight was short and before I knew it I was staring at my first carp of the session, it lounged in the landing net mesh, looking as perplexed as I was, "talk about a quick bite". Scales fell to 20IB.

As Clean As They Come
To be honest I was taken by surprise, my system didn't have time to compute the fact that I'd managed to bank a real good fish so quick. "Maybe some of my far fetched theories weren't so nuts after all". It's only as I sit here writing this, looking at the image of the carp above, do I realise what a truly awesome catch it was. It was yet again another example of why I've spent minutes, hours and many years, perched on the banks of Burrows. I truly did 'unearth a diamond' with this one.

Once she was returned I got the rod back out and baited up with another generous spread of boilies. My left rod was still perfectly perched, waiting for a passing fish, I just left it as it was, I knew it was primed for a bite. I finally had time to take a seat and soak in my surrounds, everything appeared very still, almost too silent, I could feel that the world around the lake was in hibernation, even though a few shrubs and trees still had some green leaves on them, you knew this was all so very temporary, they were simply the last survivors - "maybe I was to".

A single bleep off the right hand rod broke my day dreaming, a second bleep upped my heart rate, before I knew it, it was flying away again. Sliding down to my rod, I lunged and grabbed it, whatever was on the end was darting around all over the place, I could feel it shaking its head furiously, it surfaced, it was a mirror that looked none too pleased that she'd fallen for my ambush, eventually winning the battle, the mesh slid under a lovely mid double common, I didn't weight her, she was a monster in her own right.

Future King Of The Water
I love fish when they're wearing their winter skin, they always look so vibrant when the days are dull. On returning her I repeated the process, another large offering of boilies with the rig cast gently over the top. That spot was obviously working for me, still, the left hand rod was yet to go, I felt confident that it eventually would so once again I left it where is was. As I sat back down my mind started to wander once again, I decided to spark up another coffee and made a concerted effort not to get too tangled up in my thoughts. I watched the water, the clouds and the coots, you can always rely on the coots to put on some kind of performance, this helped the time pass fluidly.

White, No Sugar

A few hours past, all was quiet until out of nowhere the left rod took off, "took off" is an understatement, it was a ferocious take. I was on the rod fast, still the fish had taken so much line and was edging closer and closer to the far margin snags. I held on for dear life and the blank creaked as it bent double, it felt like a good fish. We had a wrestling match that seemed to last forever and I struggled for a while to really feel like I was in control of the situation. Eventually I won the battle and another good looking mirror slipped its way into the net mesh. Scales fell to 21IB 6oz, I was blown away.

A Winter Wanderer 
Once again the fish was perfect, not only does it go to show that trying something different can pay off, it's also a perfect display of the fact that Green Lipped Mussel base mixes can still get you bites in the colder weather. I usually have a 'default' way of thinking when winter comes, "surly it's the season for the sweet birdseed mixes and the ever reliable fruity milk proteins". This session was proving otherwise and I was going to take this all on board for future winters to come.

Both spots had produced and they'd produced very well, I'm glad that I was able to tame my obsessive mind enough to think clearly on how I wanted to approach the session. After this fish I was in two minds whether to pack up, I was obviously on a roll and when you're getting gifts from the gods, it's rude to turn your back on them. I decided that I was going to sit it out until after dark, I had an hour or so to wait, I felt like witnessing the closing of the day, one of the continuous highlights of my angling existence has been under the summer sun and below the winter moon, these are two polar opposites that fit so perfectly together.  

The day retreated and within a few minutes I was surrounded by the dark, the clouds became heavy so there was literally nothing for the retina to focus on. I sat tight with me eyes squinting in the direction of my rods, I was hoping the sound of my alarm screaming would provide me with navigation. All remained still, and it continued like this for a good hour before I saw a light in the darkness. My right hand bite alarm gave a small indication, the LED shone like a landing beacon and then stayed constant as the rod ripped off. 

I stumbled down to the rod, flicked the head-torch on and lent into the void, the clutch ticked, I was in to something and it felt pretty solid, it took line, it was heavy, the fight continued for a good few minutes before I eventually netted a really good looking common, there's something slightly sinister about playing a carp in the dark, I find it to be so much more sensory because you're going by what you're feeling rather than what you're seeing, once in the sling the scales sunk to 23IB.

23IB Common After The Dark
I was slightly stunned, three twenties in a session is good going, taking into consideration that they're not exactly in abundance in this water. This carp was an incredible way to close what can only be described an as amazing session. It goes to show that changing your approach over a series of short stints can really payoff, it always pays to experiment, "if you don't try, you'll never know"

It goes without saying that I was excited to get back down again, I'd already planned how I was going to approach the next few sessions, again, it was going to be different. I was planning on staying mobile and gently feeding a few different spots up, rotating between them. This was an approach I've always wanted to try on Burrows and it felt like the right time to do so. As I struggled with the barrow through the darkness and up the muddy path to the car park, I felt like the diamonds that I was so eager to unearth were slowly uncovering themselves. I look forward to continuing to prospect the water, if I'm lucky I might even land a bar of gold. I'd like to leave you with a poem I wrote whilst on the bank called 'Bridges Fall'.

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