Wednesday 10 June 2015

Burrows 'A Ghost In Winter, Released'

So we've finally arrived, the journey has been winter long, painful at times but diamonds were unearthed, glimmering bright in their winter colours. Some days were dull, others, pure electricity, bright and vivid. But now I'm finally starting to feel the warmth of the sun, the trees and shrubs around me are starting to reach for the skies and every so often the smell of a faint 'spring promise' brushes past my cheeks and nose. It appears the clamp of winter has finally started to loosen its grip, and, almost perfectly married to all these moments comes the closing to this series of blogs. 

'A Ghost In Winter, Released' is going to document my final two sessions before the spring. It's now time for the ghost to retreat, there is no place for such a lifeless entity when the world both below and above the water starts to live once more. Even though I love the isolation that winter angling can provide, I find the general feeling of the season, when off the bank, pretty hard to deal with. Thankfully this winter I worked a lot, and slotting my angling in between seemed to keep the gloom at bay.

The first session of this blog was at the tale-end of winter, it was a bright day with almost gale force winds, it was still very cold. The second session was a fair while later when we had a freakishly warm day, the temperature was up in the high teens. It created the impression that the spring had come early, it was almost like a false start, the sun was beating down and I was sitting on the bank in a t-shirt with my trousers rolled up. 

I found that these conditions began to change my thoughts about my angling, I started to think ahead to summer, I considered  adopting more of a 'summer approach' in regards to my baiting application. But I abstained from falling into that trap of prematurely piling it in, deciding to stick firmly to the approach I'd been applying over the previous months. The conditions were a real "Red Herring", and in the past I've read them wrong and blown the session before I'd even begun. 'Trigger Happy Hands On The Baiting Front', we've all done it. 

On my first session I arrived at the water for about 9:30am, surprisingly there were a fair few anglers up the top of the lake, they were all targeting the calmer water behind the wind. I decided to stay away from the pressure, opting to fish 'the spit' swim again. Due to the fierce chop on the water I felt pretty dam confident that fishing in the deeper depths with both my rods was the way to go. Both baits were going to be fished practically side by side. Fishing tight to the back leads would stop any dangers of severe tangling, if I was lucky enough to get a pick up.

In my mind I was trying to visualise what effect the wind might be having on the world below the surface. I started to see images of chaos, debris and bits flying all over the place, the undertow pushing and pulling backwards and forwards, very similar conditions to what I was having to deal with on dry land. I started to think, "If I was a carp seeking shelter from the storm" where would I hide? I would go deep, maybe try and find a trench or channel that would provide me with some kind of relief. After stitching these thoughts together, I had no doubt in my mind that I was fishing in the right place, and despite the conditions, I felt an overwhelming sense of assurance. 

View From The Swim
As you can see in the image above, I was fishing literally a few feet out from the rod tips, nowadays with so much focus on distance casting, the nearside margins are very much ignored. All these years later I'm still surprised just how close in carp can be caught, not just in the summer but through the winter as well. Fishing at the bottom of marginal drop offs has continually caught me carp from all different types of waters, it's going to be an approach that I will continue to focus on this coming season. 

My bait of choice for this session was 'Strawberry Mivvi', it's made up of a 60/40 sweet birdseed base mix and has a habit of producing a bite when things get tough. All the boilies, including my hook baits, had been soaking in water since the previous evening. This washed them out perfectly, I wanted all the baits to look like they'd been on the bottom of the lake for quite some time. Over the top I was going to scatter a few heaped handfuls of multi-mix pellets, these would break down after an hour of being in the water, hopefully leaving a light dusting of attraction.

Strawberry Mivvi Over A Scattering Of Pellet

My rig was a simple knotless knot bottom bait fished 'blow-back' style, it's super easy to tie and as simple as you can get. It's the exact same bottom bait rig that I've been using through this blog series, "for those of you that haven't read the earlier parts of this series, you will find details and images of the components used to make the rig". As we know, there are a good few variants in the way a simple bottom bait rig can be fished, the main point for me to make the presentation as effective as possible is the hair length. Over recent years I've experiment with this specific element and I've had the best hook holds when I use a longer than average hair.

So, both rigs were ready to go out, with one tidy underarm cast the rigs found themselves landing perfectly on the spots. Both back leads were gently slid down the lines and I tightened everything up, I wanted any slight occurrence to register. Once done, the brolly was up and the kettle was on, I knew that I was going to have to really wait this one out, deep down though, I still felt like I was in with a good chance. 

View From The Spit
The hours passed, I drank coffee, listened to the wind whistle and wrote poetry "which will be included in some of my future blogs". I practised being as quiet as possible, slowing my breath down and imagining myself both locked and contained within the environment around me. Winter by the water is a different world to any other time of the year, you simply can't imagine the warmth of summer, the prospect seemed like a world away. I tried to imagine the warmth from the sun on my face and started to recall some of the most amazing days I've had on the banks of Burrows with no shoes and socks on, paddling in the margins. These are memories I hope to renew once the summer comes round again, it's in these moments that I feel truly grounded and connected. 

When The Words Come, They Have To Be Written

It was late afternoon when I was alerted to my right hand rod, it gave off a single bleep. From where I was sitting I couldn't see anything out the ordinary, so I continued my day dreaming. Just for a second I thought I could see my right hand rod tip knocking, I tried to focus my eyes, I could see a small movement. I got up and as I approached the rod, the tip was very clearly bending, I scrambled and gently lifted into it. I could feel that I was connected to something, at first I thought it was a bream, there was no fight. 

I applied a little more pressure, still no fight, then all of a sudden a big common surfaced and on doing so, rocketed off, I was in a state of shock, I really wasn't expecting it at all, it looked like a really good fish and playing it on my small rods was a pretty nerve racking experience. The relief that came over me when I eventually netted her was immense, it was looking like I was going to finish the winter on a 20+ fish, it was so poetic, it appeared that the biggest diamond was waiting until last to reveal itself. Scales fell to 24IB 6oz, a truly magnificent creature and I felt honoured to be her witness.

24IB 6oz A Winter Diamond
After getting a few shots, I admired her one last time and then sent her on her way. It was the perfect way to bring winter to a close, looking back I feel that I'd really pulled out all the stops to try and make things happen for me. Focusing on one lake helped a great deal, it abled me to be a lot more systematic in my approach and ideas. As I've stated throughout this series, I didn't want to fish the water in an obvious way, I really wanted to try new things, focus on different spots and try to catch some of the better fish, I think as a whole it was a successful journey and I'm in full stride as spring approaches.

Final Session On Burrows 

Since my last session I'd been working flat out and a good few weeks had passed me by in a blink of an eye. Winter was gone and the world felt like a much better place. I started to think that the best way to bring this series to a close was to account for a session at a point when the lake was slowly resurrecting itself from its winter sleep. All my posts up to now have been somewhat cold and bleak in their presentation, however, this next session is going to be different.

The Ghost Has Gone
The depression that I was carrying way back at the beginning of this journey has momentarily evaporated, I have feelings of hope for the future and a great excitement for the new angling year ahead of me. The ghost I was in the winter has now departed, my heartbeat is revitalised and my thoughts are flowering like the newborn buds that surround me.

On the morning of the session I left the house at 6am, as I opened the front door I was met with a dry heat, the temperatures were going to reach the low 20s. I instantly had visions of sessions past, long hot days, warm evenings, and the smell of fish-meal boilies on my hands, it's so strange what your angling memory can recall by just a simple feeling. I was so excited, no more hunching under a brolly and cupping my hands around a hot mug of tea, today was going to be the start of the warmer weather. 

On arrival I took a slow walk around the water, I could see evidence of feeding fish almost straight away. There were marginal spots that were clouded up and carp where briefly showing all over the lake, it really was a different world compared to my last visit. Still opting to use my stalking rods I decided that I was going to margin fish underneath my rods tips and rotate between three different spots. It worked in winter so I was pretty convinced that it would work to good effect now.

A Very Different World 

My chosen bait for this session was the classic Bio Cp2 Amino, it  is a mixture of summer fruits with a lovely hint of fish-meal, because the water was warmer, it was the perfect choice. I wasn't going to go crazy on the baiting front but I was going to apply a fair amount more than what I had been using. When using fish-meals I find that they work very well over medium to large spreads and from the evidence I'd seen, the carp were certainly on the feed, I wanted to maximise on this.

Bio Cp2 Amino

I applied three handfuls of bait to three separate marginal areas that I liked the look of, all were very close in and would allow me to pretty much lower my hook-baits down in the water. This was going to be proper 'stealth' fishing, throughout the day I would continue to top each spot up with another handful, hoping to hold any fish that might of moved into the areas. 

Once again, this was going to be fished on my standard bottom bait rig, the lake bed is clean so this rig provides a presentation that's perfect, as usual, all rig components were constructed so the rigs 'concealment' matched the bottom I was fishing over. This was very important because all my spots were fairly shallow and the water was still clear, with the sun shining down it pretty much illuminated the bottom.

Simple Blow-Back

The first spot that I targeted was a margin where, on my walk around, I had seen that the bottom had been kicked up, the water was still very murky and as I sat very quietly, low to the water, I could make out a few fish still milling around. I carefully lowered my rigs in position and eased the rod tips in between some overhanging bushes, I stayed off the skyline and crept into a position that would allow me to grab the rod the second it went. 

As soon as the bobbins were set I was getting wild liners, there was no doubt that fish were literally a feet or so away from me. Within a few minutes the left rod was off, it was real "hit & hold" stuff, I kept the pressure on due to the snags that were in close proximity. I soon had the fish in the net, it was a small mirror and a very welcome visitor indeed. The size was irrelevant, the process of catching it was the key here, 'proper margin fishing, you just can't beat it'.

A Monster In Its Own Right
So the first spot had produced a bite already, it was now on to my second swim, once again I'd picked a marginal area, this time it was slightly deeper, between 5/6ft. I knew fish visited the spot because I'd caught from it before, I decided that I was going to sit it out until I got a bite, however long it took. During this time I would be priming spot three, which was the next swim up to my left. Before lowering my rigs in, I introduced five heaped handfuls of bait, spreading it evenly all around the area. This time I was fishing slack lines, I wanted to get indications as to when carp had moved into the swim. Again, because there were snags around me, I needed to be on the rods the second I got the bite.

View From The Second Swim
The heat was really starting to kick in now and the sun was shining directly onto the margin that I was targeting. I took my shoes off, stretched my toes and laid on my back, obscured by grass and bushes, I stared up at the sky, the clouds where moving so fast and as I laid there, I started to think about what it would be like if we could feel the world as it rotated, would we get dizzy? I pictured the human race slipping and sliding all over the place, desperately trying to maintain a balance. Could you imagine if the world was really flat? we'd have no oceans because they would've washed away, and we'd be able to walk up to the edge of the earth and look down into infinity. What would happen if we jumped off the edge? I'm guessing we'd just descend forever more.

Rod Spots
A few hours past, I was trickling small amounts of bait in every hour or so, this process continued for a good five hours, during this time it was surprising how much the weather had cooled down, hopefully this might help to get the fish searching. Convinced something was eventually going to come from it, I sat tight watching for any kind of indication to tell me that fish were in the proximity. 

Approaching the sixth hour, I got the sign that I was looking for, the left hand alarm gave out a series of bleeps, I sunk down slowly next to my rods and watched both the line and the rod tip. The line was gently fidgeting, pulling forward gracefully and then falling back. Along with this, the right hand rod started to do the same thing. It was pretty clear that a group of fish had moved in and were mopping up my bait.

My pulse started to beat so hard, my head was pounding and I could feel the nervous excitement starting to erupt through my body. Any second now I was sure I'd be in the grips of a 'close quarters' fight, and sure enough ... the left hand rod was away, and as it went I counted at least 6 vortexes, I was on it quick, side strain stopped the carp from diving into the snags, once she was in the open water I managed to calm myself down, my legs were shaking though, catching carp from under your nose is a magical experience. Once in the net, I was looking at a lovely plump mirror, scales fell to 16IB.

From Right Under My Nose 
Once I'd got a few photos, I sent her home, now it was on to my third spot. Once again, I'd be introducing bait continually throughout the day and I had a feeling if I was going to get a bite then it would come quickly. I shift my gear over, got everything in place, re-baited the rigs and, using an under arm cast, gently feathered both baits into position. I opted for back leads and I fished really tight to them, reason being that there was a set of reeds to my left and I really didn't want the fish bolting for them, I had to be on the rod quickly, if I was to fish slack lines, the few seconds prior to indication could cost me a fish.

View From The Third Swim
I settled in anticipation, perched low to the ground semi expecting some action quick, within 10 minutes the right hand rod screamed into life, with the tip bending right around, I lent into a very heavy lump. It was desperately trying to get in the reeds and snags down to the left, I kept the side strain on and finally turned the fish towards me. It was frantic, fast and very exhilarating, all the pieces of the days puzzle fitted so perfectly together, and compared to the previous sessions, today had been a wild ride. I eventually netted a lovely looking common, scales slid to 19IB.

A Quick Common
What a way to end the session and what a perfect way to end this blog series. Looking back through it all, it really has been one hell of a journey, not just finding the time to get out there on the bank but also recalling it and presenting it in a way that was honest, I really want people that read this to feel like they were there on the bank with me. 

I find to keep consistent with your catch rate throughout the year, you have to be prepared to move out of your comfort zone and stand firmly by your decisions. Any new ideas that you have regarding your angling and your approaches, stick with them, see them through and take all the positives away from each session, blanking or catching. No time is ever wasted on the bank, it's all experience gained, experience is something that can't be given to you, you've got to get out there and graft for it.     

Every lake you fish has a story to tell and it's the anglers choice if they choose to skim through the chapters or really take time to read the sentences, understand the nuances and fully immerse themselves in the tale that's being told. The story is forever changing, it's a book with no real end, just a series of new beginnings. For me, like a lot of the lakes I fish, Burrows is a special story, so much of it has been read, but there are plenty more chapters yet to be written, and I've got a feeling they're going to be the best yet.