Saturday 12 September 2015

Braxted Front Lake 'Navigating Rain Drops'

After so much mental focus being directed into zig fishing I thought it was about the right time to get my baits back on the bottom. My work has kept me away from the water a lot recently so any free time I've had I've been getting out as much as possible, rain or shine, nothing was going to stop me. To be honest I've felt pretty out of sync with my angling of late, I haven't yet found my groove. 

Sometimes I have such a hard time consolidating my thoughts, and it takes a good block of extensive fishing for me to tame the excitement of just being out behind the rods. If I'm buzzing too much about getting a session in I find myself going through the motions rather than adapting and considering the conditions on the day.

I've come to learn that front lake fishes its best when the weather is overcast and rainy, sun and heat really seems to put a nail in it. Upon opening my curtains on the day of the session my carp senses were through the roof, I knew I had to make the journey up to Braxted, the thought of pristine commons waiting to suck my bait in was a prospect I was willing to climb Everest for. This was going to be my first proper session of the season, I was up at 6am and out the house by 6:15am, determined to beat the "nightmare" traffic that the Blackwall tunnel so easily seems to produce. 

To my intense frustration it was already backed up, it never ceases to amaze me, with such a familiar sight in front of me I proceeded to do what I usually do in this situation, daydream about the day ahead, picturing the lake, my bait and the majestic carp that, "as I sit here in the bloody traffic", are drifting around on the lookout for some morning grub. I must admit the journey up to any of the Chelmsford waters can be a pain, especially if I'm doing it 2 - 3 times a week. This has got me considering a syndicate closer to home for next year, the time and the petrol money spent whizzing up and down the A12 really starts to add up.

Blackwall Tunnel 'The Misery Machine'

My cinematic thinking soon made the time pass, and before I knew it I was shooting up the motorway, a quick stop at the services was needed to stock up on vital edible items. The rest of the journey flew by and as I pulled into the lakes carp park, apart from a few other cars, it seemed pretty quiet, front lake was empty. 

It was pouring, I got out and had a walk around, getting totally soaked in the process. The wind was pushing nicely towards the car park so I pitched camp three swims up on the right side of the lake. When the conditions are like this I know that a few carp would be milling around the area of the water I was planning to target. 

The wind does seem to play a big part on where the carp will be, my confidence was sky high, these conditions were very familiar to me and I've always caught in them. I perched under my brolly, rigged up both rods and sat for a while whilst the kettle came to the boil. I was in no rush to cast out because the majority of the bites seem to come mid afternoon onwards. I wanted to just sit and soak it up, if I was lucky I might actually spot a fish or two.

As I sat watching the water, everything was racing, the trees were arcing in the direction of the wind and the sky looked like it could collapse on top of me at any given moment. I love these conditions and favour them so much over hot sunny days. There's something surreal about being perched under your brolly whilst natures chaos surrounds you, it provokes so many feelings that I can't even begin to write them down.

The Sky Is A Landfill 
After minor deliberation I decided to place my right rod directly opposite where the water shallows up towards the tree line, my left one was going to be placed on the semi steep slope that falls away at the car park end, it shelves down gradually to about 9ft. I always seem to manage to steal a bite from this spot if there are carp present and it's usually the first rod to go.

As usual bait was going to be kept to a minimum, everything was going to be pretty straightforward, bait up, one cast on both rods and then I was going to sit back quietly and wait. To me, through the months of fishing front lake, I really feel that any kind of disturbance has to be kept to a minimum, not only on arrival but also during the session.

Working on the basis that carp have acute senses, especially when it comes to vibration, one of the biggest weapons we all have as anglers is silence. What's the point in dressing head to toe in camo, "not that I ever do", trying to be stealth like if you're going to be heavy footed in your approach, it's a contradiction within itself.

I guess on some waters you can get away with being a little heavy handed, but here, more than any other lake I really try to morph into the surroundings. Many times I've quietly watched carp come so close in as I've kept low to the water, the moment I stand up and become visible on the sky line the fish spook. Witnessing carp patrolling a nose length away from me instantly shaped how I approached the lake, you really can get away with fishing so close in. Sometimes observing carp for an afternoon can be way more beneficial in the long run than actually fishing for them.

View From The Swim
Regarding both my rigs and bait presentation, I was going to be fishing my usual bottom baits on a 'blow-back', my chosen boilie was the ever faithful Raspberry Ripple. I have tweaked my bottom bait rig slightly, all my hook holds over the past months have been solid but a lot of the fish seemed to be hooked very close to the 'scissors'. 

As we know, hooking carp around the side sockets of their mouth can cause bad damage. I understand that sometimes there's no avoiding it because all carp feed differently, but I've put a few precautionary measures in place to try and avoid this from happening. 

The first and main change is the size of the 'silicone kicker', I've pretty much removed it opting now to use heat shrink silicone to solely protect the knot-less knot and tidy the finish of the rig up. I feel the kicker was contributing to the hook turning in such a way that it was nailing the 'scissors' rather than the bottom lip.

Shrinking The Kicker

Secondly I've positioned my rig ring further up the hook shank, literally millimetres, due to the pattern of the Fang X, doing this causes the hook point to sit at a slightly more aggressive angle. As we know, minor changes on rigs can make a big difference and I'm going to be interested to see if these tweaks help to produce safer hook-holds. 

In the image below you'll see the tweak of the rig ring changes the angle of the hook point slightly. As usual I've got a nice long hair, on its own it looks really long but when you put a big carps mouth in comparison to it, it's a perfect length. 

When using longer hairs I opt for longer hook links, this creates a nice balanced setup and every element of the rig has time to work correctly. A too shorter hook link with a long hair won't give the carp enough time to get the hook in its mouth before feeling resistance. 

Ring Further Up The Shank

Finally, being the 'hook-link addict' that I am, I'm currently using 'Ace Camo-Core' 15IB in weed green. I'm starting to lean towards semi-stiff hook links, this particular material has a weave that runs through it allowing its colouration to sit  obscured on the bottom so effectively. This is perfect for front lake because it's a very clean bottom.

Ace Camo-Core 15IB 

Back To The Session

The rods were out, both with single hook-baits on, I was confident in both of the rig positions so now it was just a case of waiting and watching. The wind was constant, the showers sporadic, I just sat tight underneath my brolly, eyes fixed on my rod tips. I watched as the rain drew maps on the water, I started trying to "navigate the raindrops" that were falling, maybe there was a message in them?

I noticed how sensitive the waters skin actually was, I started to wonder if the carp could feel it was raining, maybe it was transmitting some kind of morse code into their lateral line, convaying some kind of scrambled message. I had so many questions with very little answers... 

Then ... my left rod was away, crashing back down to earth I grabbed it and connected to a bullet train of sheer power, it was intense, the front lake commons really give it all they've got. I held on, cushioning the thrusts, giving line when needed, and getting well and truly soaked. Soon enough a gracious common was in the net, and what a beauty she was and to top it all, the hook hold was clean in the bottom lip, my anal tweaking worked. The clouds broke, the wind dropped and I had time to get an awesome shot of her.

Braxted Front Beauty
I've recently stopped weighing my fish, I don't want to demote such beautiful creatures to a number anymore, it detracts so much from the carp itself, they're all special. I can relate this viewpoint to age, I don't believe in 'human age', we simply live until we die, everything in between is a space I feel is there to fill with actions that allow us to develop the art of being human, I have no idea exactly what 'being human' means but I feel if you let your intuition guide you, you won't go far wrong. Just like angling, it's a journey and a process we have to go through, neither of which can be rushed.

Once she was back home I checked my rig, the boilie was still good and slightly washed out, a smooth cast got it straight back onto the spot, the bobbin was set and the wait was on. With the kettle bubbling away, I felt pretty dam happy I'd had yet another stunning fish. There hasn't been one carp that I've caught from front lake that's disappointed me, all of them are spotless and a reminder of why I battle the Blackwall tunnel and the journey to come and fish here.

The next few hours passed with no action, the showers continued, the wind dropped and the lake had an ominous feel about it, a bite could come at any moment, I could feel it. Come 4:30pm the sun came out and everything was calm, it was like a different day, I hovered over my rods and scanned the lake for any signs of fish. It was quiet, maybe all the carp were now on the bottom, all of them racing towards my lonesome boilie. 

Almost bang on 6pm my right rod ripped away, even though I was semi expecting it, it still made me jump. I was connected to another hard fighting fish, it powered along and my little 8.5ft margin creeper was creaking, its curve bent to its limit. Slowly but surely the carp was being tamed and after a great deal of heart stopping moments another common was in the net.

Last Knockings Never Lets Me Down
Once again the hook hold was clean, this carp was such a beauty and as I slipped her back I openly thanked her for allowing me to be blessed with her presence. What a fish and what a great session it had turned out to be, it continues to demonstrate that you don't have to pile the bait in to get the bites.  

Front lake never disappointments me and it goes to show that, whatever weather you have to deal with, you've got to get out there when you know it's the right time. It's all very well going fishing to get a tan but I'd much rather be getting soaked with the carp gracing my net than leaving on a blank with sunstroke. 


Wednesday 2 September 2015

Blunts Mere ' Adjustable Zig Obsession' Part 2

Carrying on from PART 1 this blog is going to be an account of my zig session up on Blunts Mere, it was the ideal venue to put my rig and my thoughts into practise. As I mentioned in my previous blog, I chose to go on a day when we had strong gale force winds and scattered showers. 

To give myself the best chance I needed to get out on the water when I knew the conditions were right. Those days you wake up with a session in mind and open your curtains to rain, wind and dreariness, it's all way too easy to give yourself a reason not to go and get out there, it's in these conditions that the fishing can be at its best.

Blunts is located in a valley but the lake itself is very high up, you've got to be prepared to take nature on the chin. On arrival at the water it was very clear that I was going to be beaten senseless but I knew if I could get into some zig caught carp, the fight was going to be worth it. 

Apart from the odd pleasure angler the lake was very quiet, I opted to fish one of the open water swims that gave me access to the main body of the lake. My plan was to draw the fish in using a sloppy spod mix, for this to work I needed an open water swim with no channels or detour routes for the carp to use to bypass my spot. 

A Gap In Clouds Gave Me Time To Sort Myself Out
First things first, I pinned my cradle and unhooking matt down with pegs, in the past I've learnt the hard way, it doesn't take much of a gust to make my monster cradle take off like a kite, I have, not so fond memories of chasing it over the odd farmers field or two on more than one occasion. 

Once camp was erected I rigged both my rods up with my adjustable zig - "explained in part one" - measured out 10 wraps with my yard sticks, put a PVA nugget over each hook and then cast both rods out. I've found the best way to cast any zig is to have a fairly long drop and apply a nice through motion to the cast. 

I then feather it down until I feel the "donk", doing this keeps everything streamline, the nugget on the hook will create a natural drag to the hook bait, thus keeping it nice and straight on its descent. The second I feel the "donk", I release the line from the clip, place the rod on the buzzers and very slowly start to release it, I don't let the line out too fast otherwise the bait could be dragged back through the water and snag behind the mainline. 

You'll know that the rig is functioning correctly because the line that's passing through your fingers will be tightening as the float works its way up to the surface. Once the nugget and float are visible, you then adjust to your desired depth. Because I have a 4ft hook link, winding down 4 1/2 foot will put my bait 1/2ft under the surface.

I wanted to be fishing both my baits at the exact same distance, my thinking behind this was, I planned to use the wind to my advantage, it was blowing from my left across to my right, my sloppy mix would be applied a few rod lengths to the left of both my baits. The direction of the current would then feed my slop through the layers of the water passing through where my baits were.

10 Wraps On The Yard Sticks
I decided to fish two different baits on both rods, my left rod would have the avid zig lite in yellow and black, topped off with a fake maggot. My right rod would have a brown cut down Bio Cp2 Amino pop up, also topped off with a fake maggot. Putting all my eggs in one basket and fishing the same bait on both rods wasn't really the way to go, I was interested to see if one bait got taken more than the other.

View From The Swim
Because the left rod was the closest to the slop entering the water, I fished my hook bait just 1/2ft under the surface. I visualised that by the time the loose feed gets near to where my right hand bait was, it would of started to fall deeper through the layers. I chose to fish the right hand hook bait 3ft under the surface, In my mind I now had every angle covered and it was just a case of keeping the feed going in, I wrapped my pocket rocket around my yard sticks at 10.5 wraps and then got my sloppy mix made up.

Both Hook Baits

I kept my slop really simple, using Starmers 'Halibut Marine' method blend, it's very potent with lots of bits and pieces in it, it's a lovely washed out grey colour that would marry with the waters dull tones perfectly. I didn't want anything too blatant, the last thing I wanted to do was spook the fish before they'd even had a chance to feed. I kept the consistency relatively thin and wet, I didn't want it sinking too fast.

Halibut Marine Method Mix

The Perfect Cloud

Everything was set and ready to go, I loaded my pocket rocket and started to apply my slop making sure each cast kissed the clip, I wanted to try to keep disturbance to a minimum. After a few minutes I'd found my rhythm and I intended to keep it up until I got my first bite. A short time passed before my right rod gave a single bleep, the rod tip was gently quivering. 

I lifted into it 'first fish on' and what a dam fine feeling it was. Blunts fish scrap really hard and after a modest battle I slipped my first zig caught carp of the session into the net. It was an immaculate common, a perfect reward for the painful thought process I'd gone through to try and make this style of fishing work for me.

A Common Caught 3ft Under The Surface
Once returned I wrapped the rod ten times around the sticks and got it back out to the same spot, the depth was set and I proceeded to feed the swim again. Just like before, I was going to keep feeding until the next fish came along. To be honest it really didn't take too long for the same rod to go off again, it gave one bleep and the rod tip fidgeted slightly. I gently lifted into it and the tip arched round, this felt like a slightly better one, kiting all over the place, I held on tight, soon enough there was another common being teased over my net mesh.

Another From 3ft Under The Surface

The orange colouring of its scales illuminated in the scattered sun, a few photos were taken and away she went. I repeated the process again, this time feeding the swim for a few minutes before casting my bait back out. I could see the slop in the water, morphing and expanding along with the wind, the approach was working like a treat. The hook bait was cast out, this time I set it at 4ft under the water, the other rod, I set a foot deeper, maybe it was up to high in the layers, hence why I hadn't had a bite on it yet. 

Once again I found my rhythm with the spod, it was becoming strangely therapeutic and with each cast that was gently feathered, hitting the clip perfectly, a real sense of satisfaction was washing over me. I've made my views pretty clear in the past about spodding being overused, I have nothing against it whatsoever, for me the situation has to lend itself to it. I was starting to get a sense that spodding over zigs might not work on waters that see a lot of spod action, it could have the reverse effect. I will put this theory into practise on future zig sessions.

The Gardner Pocket Rocket, Perfect For Crosswinds
By this point I knew that the swim was now engulfed in a fog of stinky Halibut Marine method mix, I was thinking that it was almost impossible for a passing carp to ignore it. The feed kept going in, time went by and both rods remained static, I stopped feeding and relied on the bait that was already in the water to continue working for me. 

I sat down and had a rest, sparked up a coffee and soaked up the somewhat bleak atmosphere that the lake was holding. The clouds were broken and scattered, the wind became tame, come late afternoon it was fairly calm. Due to the change in the conditions I decided to minimise the feed, I didn't have much wind to obscure the rocket hitting the water so I cut down to a couple of spods every thirty minutes or so. 

As I sat looking at my rod tips I could feel I was in the process of falling into one of my many "angling trances" but I was suddenly pulled back to reality when my left hand rod arched around, the tip was juddering violently. Leaning into the fish, it propelled sharply to my right, desperate for it not to wipe out my other rod, side strain of the highest order was applied. She turned, and to my relief bolted away from the other rods position. 

The fight was immense, once in the net I paused to admire yet another zig caught common, this fish was reminiscent of a torpedo in shape and another fine specimen. It was my first bite off of my left hand bait, it goes to show that repositioning it at a slightly deeper depth was the right thing to do.

First Bite On The Avid Zig Lite
Once released I got the rod back out with no time to waste, the afternoon was starting to tick by now, I carried on feeding the swim, half expecting to get another quick bite. Nothing materialised and it got to the point where I was starting to feel pretty weathered from all the casting in and out. The therapeutic sense I had for spodding a few hours ago had turned into 'teadium', I was nearing the bottom of the bucket so I thought I'd get the remaining slop into the swim and then knock it on the head.

For the remaining hour or so I finally had the chance to take a proper seat, the spod rod was now packed away, I sat gazing out over the water. I could still see signs of my mix colouring up a large area around both my hook baits. My attention shifted to my right hand rod tip, it was bowing slightly, then almost straight away the left rod tip was doing the same. I instantly thought that a carp had taken one bait and ploughed through the other rod. I had visions of extreme tangles in my mind, I lifted into the right rod to be met with a solid weight, the left rod was still going.

Double Take

As I started playing the first fish it became apparent that both rods had fish on, luckily I was using my 8.5ft margin creepers so holding both rods at the same time wasn't too much of a problem. The difficultly came when I tried reeling both in together, it was nothing short of chaos. 

I was juggling both rods around, desperately trying to keep the fish away from each other, not an easy task, with both being attached to zigs it was one hell of a challenge. God knows how I did it but I managed to land the first fish without too much of an issue. The second fish was giving me a proper fight, it felt heavy, tugging and diving all over the place. Eventually she tired and it was comfortably in the net. 

What a crazy way to end the session, I carefully unhooked them both, got a few trophy shots and returned them safely home. A double take produced two fine looking commons and I felt so bloody happy that I'd finally had the chance to eradicate my zig obsession, it was getting slightly out of hand.

First Of A Double Take
A Perfect Common To Close The Session
There's nothing quite like packing up when everything has gone according to plan. Zig fishing is something that I will be focusing on more in the future, I know there's still a lot I need to get my head around and I'm fully aware that it's not a "one size fits all" style of fishing. I genuinely don't think that all waters will respond, especially in regards to spodding over the top, on pressured waters I feel this could hinder me.

If you've stuck with me on these two zig fishing blogs, I'd like to thank you, there's been a lot of theory and descriptions, I wanted to explain it in a way that made it clear to understand and hopefully it's made sense to you. If you still doubt zig fishing as an approach, trust me, it works, but you've got to be prepared to commit, persevere and put the time in, if you do, the rewards will come, finally, if you choose to use the rig I've shown, and you catch, please do let me know.