Saturday 23 May 2015

Burrows 'A Ghost In Winter' Part 5

So my escapades continue and my obsession is compounding with every day that goes by, work has been hectic but it seems however busy I am I just can't shake the desire to be out on the bank. I work in music so I spend a lot of my time flying around the country, the one thing that makes the hours pass is my continued analysis about my angling and thoughts about the waters and the possible tackle items I may want to purchase in the future. Add both bait and blogging into all the above and my mind is just full of fish. The symptoms of bank side withdrawals really seem to kick in when I pass any stretch of water that rests so temptingly along side the motorways. I look at them with wonder, visualising where I'd fish, picturing secret monsters elusively avoiding capture.

So after a few weeks that felt more like a millennia, I was able to get myself back on the banks of Burrows and I was more than fired up to get the carbon contorting and hopefully unearth one or two more diamonds. Since my last visit things had changed a lot, I was now having to get my winter layers on, the cold was penetrating right down to the bone, winter was clamping down on everything in a pretty big way. Defiant, I had to keep on going, there was no turning back, from the very start of this winter stint, I'd made up my mind that I had to see it right through to the bitter end. As long as the coffee was flowing and I kept busy on the bank, I felt I could ride it all out with minimal discomfort.

This was the session that I was going to be putting my new approach into practise, my tackle was stripped right back, 12ft rods were now 8.5ft, rod support was now a single tripod and the carp care kit was a protective chub cradle and unhooking mat. It wasn't about the luxuries anymore. Today I wanted to stay as active on the bank as possible, introducing minimal bait on up to four different spots and slowly rotate between them. I'd been thinking hard about this method and I couldn't get any real rest until an ample amount of time was dedicated to it. If all goes well I decided that it would be an approach that I would incorporate into my general fishing throughout the year. 

Towards the end of last season I was starting to sense a 'predictability' in my approach to some of the waters that I'd been fishing. During these periods I feel that I am simply going through the motions rather than really thinking about the task at hand. Incorporating a mobile approach into the armoury was something that I felt I needed to keep me on my toes. I believe that different waters all respond to different things and I always like to dedicate a solid amount of time trying to find out exactly what these things are. 

Rotating Spots 'A Summer Shot To Warm This Blog Up'
That's why I've never got on with the idea of turning up to every venue, spodding out kilos of bait, casting to it and proceeding to sit there for 72 hours waiting for the fish to eventually find it - "this doesn't feel like fishing to me". Only doing day sessions I need to maximise my time and really focus on the finer points, baiting approaches and location being the two most important aspects. "A single bait in the right place pays far more dividends than 10 kilo in the wrong place".

So, with all the above fresh in my mind it was now time to put my thoughts into practise. Just like my last session, I arrived at the lake for noon, it was a cold overcast day with the odd break in the clouds, this allowed the sun to momentarily appear, giving a slight rest bite to the bitter air. I'd decided to target the far side margin opposite the muddy double swim. This time though, I was going to be fishing literally a few yards out from the rod tips. Because I was using minimal bait it was going to be so much easier if all I had to do was throw it by hand a few yards in front of me. Also I'd be lowering the bait in, not casting it, the whole point was to fish without any kind of disturbance. Priming more than one spot and very carefully lowering it in made total and utter sense to me.  

Scaled Down Tackle For Staying Mobile
The swim I'd chosen was one of my favourites, it very rarely gets fished, it's obscured by trees and overhanging branches. There's a long row of steps gently descending down, once at the bottom you have the whole bowl end to explore. Today the lake was empty, if there had been people over the other side in the muddy double, I would've fished elsewhere. My plan was to fish the margins either side of me, it shelves down deep close in and I had a gut feeling that a few carp might be ghosting around.

One thing that I always take in to consideration when fishing close in under the trees is debris on the bottom. It's common sense that through the years leaves and branches would've fallen into the water and slowly broken down. I was planning to fish just on the edge of the debris with a small scattering of bait. One of my rigs of choice for tackling moderately littered lake beds is the 'Withy Pool' rig, it's an effective presentation that I've caught plenty of fish on. I fish it on both a semi-fixed lead setup, or rotary style. With chods and stiff hinged rigs taking precedent now days the humble 'Withy' seems to have sunken into obscurity. 

View From The Steps

My bait of choice today was the ever faithful Tutti Frutti, you just can't go wrong with this flavour, over the top I was going to apply a handful of mixed pellet and some broken up Caribbean boilies. The free offerings amounted to about two handfuls, this was more than enough to attract a passing carp, I really didn't want to over do it. Before casting out, this baiting mixture was added to four more marginal spots, the plan was to fish for an hour and then move, I was going to repeat this process, rotating between each spot, hoping I could steal a bite or two.

Regarding my rig, its construction is very simple, I was using Rig Marole 'Skinful' with the coating stripped back just under the silicone that creates the 'Withy' curve. This ables more free movement, and on a feathered cast naturally pushes the hook-bait away from the lead. On the coated part of the braid, I rub in some tungsten putty, this is to ensure that the hook-link would be nicely pinned down to the bottom. I created the curve by steaming heat shrink tubing around a narrow glass, doing the curve yourself allows you the option on how aggressive you want it. On the hook is a small 'stopper', not only does this give a 'blow back' effect, by changing its position, changes the angle of the hook in relation to the bait, again, I make the angle as aggressive as possible. 

Thread The Bait On To The Micro Swivel

Finished Presentation

I always critically balance my pop up rigs, the main reason for this is because I want to slow down the descent of the boilie and, secondly counter act the weight of the hook, the rig needs to comfortably come to rest upon any debris that might be on the spot. Finally I use a micro swivel to attached the bait, this allows the hook to spin 360 degrees making it a very sensitive presentation.    
When I cast out I always put a PVA nugget around the hook and compress it, this will delay the descent of the bait allowing the lead to settle, once the PVA nugget has dissolved, the bait will gently flutter down, combine this with the 'critically balanced' element and you can sit confident knowing that you're fishing effectively, when tackling, light weed, leaves etc, your presentation can really play on your mind, especially if no bites are materialising. 

All these small little touches add up to make a reliable 'bigger picture'. I've been accused in the past of thinking about rig mechanics way too much, but I believe you have to really focus on this aspect of your angling, it's the last few inches that can make or break your sessions. As I've said many times before, nothing has to be complicated, just reliable, functional and suitable for the situation that rests in front of you.

On With The Session

Taking everything above into consideration, I lowered both my rods on to my first two spots, applied my freebies and perched myself on the steps, the kettle was soon boiling, the simple joy of cupping my hands around a nice warm mug of coffee was looking to be a fine moment. The day was dull but beautifully vivid, I was surrounded by pastel colours, the water mirrored its surroundings, I just sat in silence with my attention firmly focused towards my rod tips. 

There was an excitement running through me, I was eager to see if my new roaming approach was going to bring rewards. I'd set an alarm on my phone for an hours time, then I would move to spot two. I would continue this process until it was time to leave. I really didn't have to wait very long for a bite, thirty minutes in and my left rod ripped away, I was somewhat surprised and as I grabbed it I was hit by a huge sense of achievement, all the little pieces of the puzzle that I had been stitching together in my mind instantly came to fruition. 

The fish was fighting hard and really put my little margin creepers through their paces. The rod handled the fish beautifully and before I knew it I was eyeing up an incredible looking mirror carp, without a doubt the best looking fish I'd ever caught from Burrows, the water never ceases to amaze me, it can have a habit of throwing up some real surprises. 

That's the great thing about having a good few years of a lake behind you, it takes you on a journey and with each fish caught, your picture expands, gains colour and you see it in its 'many forms'. That's why I think that solely targeting big carp can leave you with a hollow impression of a water.

Through the years I've met so many people that "only want to catch the big fish", and then move on. This outlook seems a shame too me, you never really get any insight into any of the lakes that you choose to fish. I think 'fishing for numbers' can leave you with a very simple 'blue print' of a lake, and you can miss out on acquainting yourself with some of the more unique character fish that could be hidden in the shadows.

Beauty In Its Wildest Form 
After the capture I upped sticks and moved to my second baited spot, it was pretty clear that there were a few fish down my end of the lake. On Burrows, if carp are present, you can pretty much guarantee a bite within the first 45 minutes of casting out. Making my way down to the second swim, I made sure that I was as silent as possible, if a few fish were milling around, I didn't want to spook them. This approach was all about stealth, trying to steal a bite from right underneath your nose.

View From The Second Swim
As you can see in the image above, I wasn't fishing very far out at all. There's a steep slope that shelves down to around 9ft, just as it starts to slope up you hit rock and gravel, landing on this transmits a solid "DONK" through the blank of the rod. If you can get your bait on the bottom of the shelf, you're definitely upping your chances of a pick up, and as I felt for the drop, I could feel that I'd landed on the hard stuff. Due to the bottom that I was now fishing over, I changed both rigs to bottom baits, still opting for the ever faithful Tutti-Futti.

I was hoping that a few fish had already moved in and cleaned my sparse free offerings up, with this in mind, I put a light scattering of pellet over both baits, gently set the rods and took a rather uncomfortable seat in the undergrowth. Again, twenty or so minutes in and my right hand rod tore away, scrambling down the bank to grab it, I very nearly ended up falling face first into the water. The fight was frantic and I really had to hold on hard to stop the fish from getting in the sunken snags either side of me. A few minutes of lunacy passed before I ended up netting my second fish, it came in the shape of a perfect looking common carp, scales sunk to a smattering under 17IB.

A Short Range Common
The approach was working well and as I moved to my third spot I felt pretty dam confident I could steal another bite. I repeated the process, shifted my gear and very quietly positioned my rods, applied a handful of pellet, and again, hunched awkwardly down in the undergrowth. Time was gaining some momentum now and as the day evaporated into mid-afternoon, I sparked the kettle up. 

It was starting to get colder, the wind was picking up and things felt desolate. I sat it out for just over an hour with no luck, so I got my things together and proceeded to my fourth and final spot. The plan was to stay until after dark, being one that's always on the search for isolation, the prospect of the sun setting, leaving me shrouded in darkness was a vision that I just couldn't pass up.   

View From The Fourth Swim
Again, the process was repeated, baits were placed and a small amount of pellet was added. Had any carp moved in during the day? my mind was racing, without a doubt, fishing in this way keeps your excitement/expectation levels sky high. You really get a sense that "anything could happen" and the fact you're staying mobile really makes you feel like you're working the water, instead of just sitting and waiting, hoping that a fish might come your way. 

The sun started to set, the sky looked electric, both light and dark blues engulfed the world overhead, the remainder of the sun lit the horizon up like gold. It's a these times I really get a sense of just how microscopic we as humans are, within ourselves, our worlds and in our minds, it's as if we are infinite, but on the surface of the earth, we are simple pin pricks in existence, microdots. Firmly anchored to the planet, I sat in darkness hoping that one more fish might just be on the cards.

A bleep from my right hand rod pulled me back from my trance, another small bleep upped my heart rate, there was a tiny light from one of my bite alarms now showing me the way, shortly followed by a screaming frequency... Fish On ! leaning into it, I could feel it was heavy, it plodded and pulled, I guided it gradually towards me, cushioning the lunges as it went. As I got her in close I switched my head-torch on, giving my eyes a few seconds to adjust, a big common suddenly came into focus. As she slid onto her side in front of me, the landing net mesh engulfed her thick frame. Scales fell to 23IB.

A Common After Dark
What a result, this session had been one hell of a journey, I started at the bottom of the bowl end of the lake and finished at the bottle neck. The approached worked better than what I thought it would, on top of this, it really felt like I'd earned every fish, and I know that if I'd stayed static on a spot all day, I wouldn't have had this result. As I stated in the first part of this blog series, "the less active the fish become, the more active you have to be". 

As I packed up and made my way to the car I once again felt really optimistic about my future sessions, I started to think of all the different waters that I could try this approach on. Little did I know it, but it would be a long time before I could get back down Burrows again. Through the coming weeks my work was to accelerate and I simply didn't have anytime to fish. 

The next part of 'A Ghost In Winter' will be the final chapter, I've really enjoyed recalling all my sessions, and looking back I had a pretty dam productive winter. Fishing all year is extremely important to me, I always find that I learn so much and your perspective continually shifts and grows. Everything you've learnt can then be applied when the warmer months take over. An anglers journey never ends, it's constant and, for me, that's my main motivation, never to stop, to keep going, there is no such thing as 'The End', it's just a continuous set of new beginnings.