Sunday 6 November 2016

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 1

Echoes From The Valley is going to be an ongoing series of blogs accounting for all my future sessions on Burrows. It's a water that I find myself returning to time and time again. Regular visitors to this blog will be aware that its pretty much a 'main stay' among all of my writing. It's the one water that I feel so connected to, its location, along with the quality of fish it contains makes it a perfect escape. Through the years I've told many tales about the place, its always got a story to tell. 

Some who fish the Paddlesworth complex down in Snodland might describe it as a runs water, a few years back it might have been, and depending on how you fish it, it could well still be for some. For me though, it's not about the number of fish I catch, it's about trying to suss out how to pick off the solitary lumps that tend to ghost around in-between the shoal fish. During summers passed I've spent hours watching large dark shadows move around in ones and twos. It's those fish I'm desperate to meet, I may well of met some of them already, but I just can't help thinking there's still a special few I'm yet to greet. 

If you can manage to tempt one, they're very special, the commons come in all shapes and sizes and some of the mirrors are so unique, it still amazes me the surprises it manages to reveal. To put it into perspective, the Pollard, the main big fish water is literally yards away, it has a heavy head of 20's, 30's and at least one 40. But I have no real interest in fishing it, I'm sure at some stage in the future I will and that will then become one of my new stories. At the moment though, unearthing what Burrows is still hiding is my main focus. 

I've said it so many times before, a water is like an unwritten story, it has a beginning, middle and an end, the end comes when we choose to write it. Sometimes we'll rewrite whats already been written, 'pitching ourselves up again on a venue we long left behind' but I'm in no rush to move on, I like to write the story of my waters slowly, accurately, carefully stitching the paragraphs together, understanding what's being hidden between the lines, and familiarising myself with all the characters. In regards to Burrows, I'm not even half way through the book. 

Summertime In The Valley

I think when you move onto a water with the single mission of catching "the biggest fish" and then moving on. It's as if you're writing the last page of a story that has no beginning or middle. Nowadays I find that there's way too much focus on "size", and it's not just in angling. We now live in a world where big is best, success is measured by the size of your house, the price of your car, how many 'likes' and 'followers' you have on 'anti' social media. This bares no resemblance of reality to me. My reality is watching the sun rise over the water, witnessing a carp leap from its world into ours just for a second, and most importantly, continuing to be who I truly am despite what life throws at me. 

This blog is going to account for an afternoon session I managed to tuck in between work. I have to admit the 120 mile round trip to fish my Chelmsford waters is something I can't always bring myself to do. Especially when the traffic is really heavy, there are times when it feels like a days work rather than a relaxing fishing trip. My last session up at Braxted was such a success, it felt right to check back in down Burrows, if only for a short session. It's usually this time of the year that the better fish start to surrender themselves.

Winter was now well and truly on its way and over the last couple of weeks the chill had really started to lower the water temperatures. I knew that the carp would be on the feed and I was eager to get out fishing. My work had been really full on, but I made it a priority to carry my tackle with me, on the off chance that I could sneak a few hours in. Having finished everything I had to do, by early afternoon I was racing down the A2, I stopped at the garage to stock up on a few supplies and use the van as a temporary changing room. I was so excited to be getting the rods out, during the remaining journey I managed to pack away my 'working' head and firmly engage my angling mind. 

Autumn Waking In The Valley
It's all about the 'mindset', thinking the right way can make or a break a session, I had no fixed ideas or expectations. I was going to get to the water, gauge the situation and then take it from there. Arriving at the complex and taking the drive up 'the green mile' to the car park, I was surprised to see the place deserted. One of the many beauties of fishing this time of the year is the fact a lot of people start to hang their rods up. You now become one of a few anglers that stick with it, come rain, shine, snow and ice, the same familiar cars will always be parked up. 

I can't imagine hanging my rods up, winter on the waters can be a productive time, I do however change my approach, opting to stay mobile. The 12ft rods now go down to 8.5ft and all the essential items stay firmly on the barrow, 'sitting it out', becomes a passing thought. Now with the water to yourself the world can feel like your oyster, staying active, priming little spots and moving on any shows that might occur. This trip would be the last static session before I would become the traveller. Upping sticks and going to search for my carp rather than waiting for them to come to me.

Wheeling my barrow down the ever bumpy pathway, I walked straight into a living portrait, the water and the woodland surrounding me was drenched in golden and rustic yellows and browns. It was like I was superimposing myself into a still life painting, flurries of leaves were falling, there was a chill in the air, it felt so dam right for a bite. The wind was pushing down towards me, I usually stay clear of the pressured swims but 'the muddy double' looked like the place to pitch up. Instead of targeting the 'obvious spots' I thought I'd fish both rods down in the dirt. There's a lovely deep margin spot that I've always favoured over 'the obvious'.

View From The Swim 

For this spot to work you have to get really close to the over hanging branches. The deep run I'm wanting to hit is directly under them, a few measured casts later and I was clipped up and ready to place my bait. It was important that I hit the clip and feathered the rig perfectly, anything less than this and I wouldn't be able to sit comfortably knowing that I was fishing effectively. Nothing beats that feeling when you hit your spot 'bang-on'.

My bait for today was going to be something a little different, I wasn't going to put anything out there. I only had a few hours and I wanted to maximise on my chances, I was going to combine both the Honey Nectar and the White Chocolate together. A few weeks back whilst out on a job I had my first crunchy chocolate bar for quite some time. It got me thinking about bait combinations, what carp could resist a 'Honey Chocolate' treat? To give the white chocolate just a little bit more kick, I'd soaked it in tangerine fish flavour. 

Honey Nectar & White Chocolate

I rate citrus flavours when the waters get cold, the plan was to fish a single on the hair and have a nice little mouthful in a mesh bag containing a combination of both boilies crushed up. It smelt so good and the fleck of both the white and the orange was sure to catch the eye of a passing carp. I find if I can blend two baits together that not only smell good but visually look inviting, I feel I've got all bases covered. I'm really not into generic mainstream 'buzz baits'. I want to try and offer the fish something a little different.

A Tasty Little Package

Both rods went out with little fuss, I was more than confident something was going to occur. The air was now biting and the wind was pushing gently towards my spots. It was already 3pm and I knew if I was going to get a fish, it would be in the next hour. I took a seat, put the kettle on and sat back to watch the almost silent theatre that was playing out around me. The low winter sun made it feel like the sky was closing in, every leaf on every tree looked as if it was clinging on for dear life before finally falling. Their journey was going to be short, some would be lucky enough to come to rest on the soil, prolonging their life for just a little while longer. Many would perish below the depths like forgotten carcasses, soon to rot down and become the future silt I would attempt to present a rig in.

The cycle of life and existence has always intrigued me, not just human life but almost every living, and un-living object we see. It's surreal when you really think about it, we're all just temporary passages on this spinning globe. We live, we wear out and eventually we're all buried beneath its earth, we go from inhabiting, procreating and trying to scratch a life on its surface, only to end up prisoners below its ground, 6ft down. Everything has a shelf-life, but I'm determined to try to live and fish well past my alleged 'sell by date'

There I was deep in thought, contemplating my own fate when suddenly I felt very much alive as my right hand rod ripped into action. The globe was still spinning, my heart was very much beating and I was battling a creature from the deep. The fight felt good, the carp was clearly not happy with its decision to pick up the tasty treat I had offered. Closer and closer it came, a fleck of grey haunted the flat spot as it cut the surface. The net was primed, ready for the scoop, any moment now ... RESULT!

My Prize Awaits
Looking down at the slate grey mirror in my net as my marble size bait rested hanging from it's mouth. I felt like I'd uncovered another one of Burrows jewels, just for a few hours I'd delved into the wild and won. The spot once again produced and my sweet little bait combination had worked perfectly. Over the next few months it was going to be something that I would experiment with. I wanted to stick to the old school flavours, fiddle like a crazy scientist to see if I could create a few more unique smelling mouthfuls.

Slate Grey
After saluting the fish 'farewell' I decided to get my gear together and head home. The spot is usually good for one bite and to be honest my 'carping obsession' had been quenched for at least the next 24 hours. The 'Echos From The Valley' series is going to be full of sessions, some short, some long, maybe just a few hours. But it's going to be a continuos story that I'm really going to enjoy sharing with you. There's nothing like truly connecting with a water, a place you go to get away when you're worn out with the system, or seeking a proper escape, a stretch of openness that you always leave feeling just that little bit better. Have you found a place like this? if not maybe you should start your search.

Saturday 15 October 2016

Braxted Reservoir 'The Ether Switch'

What's the ether switch?

This is a term I use to describe any period of time, however long or short, where the fish are very clearly feeding, something in the universe switches on, and so do the carp. Over the years I've tied myself in knots trying to figure out the "whys" and the "why nots" of carp fishing, and to this day I'm still not really any closer to sussing them out. I work on the basis that there are so many variables that you just have to guide yourself using your past experiences and intuition. 'Intuition' to the majority of people is describe as your 'gut feeling'. 

In buddhism the stomach is looked upon as the second brain so the term 'gut feeling' makes perfect sense to me. I think some of us run into problems within our own angling when we think that there's a master key that can be used to make the whole process simple. But most will know that there isn't one, there is no magic rig or bait or 'secret' that will suddenly make it happen for you, it's a long and winding process of learning.

I've come to a very simple conclusion that I always try to keep in the forefront of my mind. "Every time I step onto the water I try and create a situation that will give me the best chance of catching". Sometimes I get it right, other times I really get it wrong, but that's what angling is. You can help to improve your chances by taking time out to study your water, feature find, suss the patrol routes, pre-bait etc. But there's still no guarantee that the carp will 'play the game', and for me, that's the beauty of it and that is, of course, why we keep going back to the waters again and again. 

I've always been of the understanding that all waters fish differently, but it's only recently that I've concluded that swims also fish differently, it took a while for the penny to drop. The 'epiphany' moment came when I decided to focus on a swim that I'd never really done very well from. The spot is situated within a bottleneck, it's very clearly a transit route from one section of the water to the other. 

It's a no-brainer that the carp move through it all day, but for the life of me, I could never get a bite. I was fishing singles with a handful of bait over each rod, I stuck with it, changed a few things, but it never produced. Then I started to think that it's a section of the water that they may not really be used to feeding in. I wanted to change this, so I baited the whole area heavily, I wanted to attract their attention, each session I started to spread about 3 kilo all over the spot. Since doing this I've landed 5 fish and they've all been lovely carp, I made the swim work for me. 

But, again, this baiting application isn't needed on a lot of the other swims, a mouthful is usually enough. I think this is because these specific spots are where the carp look to feed and patrol on a regular basis. I can relate this to your regular "pub lunch", if you've found a pub or a restaurant that you know does good food, you like where it's situated, and you feel comfortable in its environment. You will travel to eat and drink there on a fairly regular basis, it almost becomes part of your routine. The journey to your 'chosen establishment' will probably involve you passing other really good places to eat, but you pass on by to go to the one you really like. In my mind, this is how I look upon the carps 'feeding spots' and 'transit routes'.    

Taking all the points from the above paragraphs into account, it demonstrates how many variables there are, what works in one spot may not work in another, and what works effective on one day might be completely ineffective on another. It's very easy to see how carp angling can, and does, drive some people to obsessive insanity, I know I'm definitely half way there, and I know some people reading this right now are past the point of no return, it's a beautiful game ! 

On the day of my trip to Braxted the weather outside was bleak, there was a very fine drizzle that was starting to turn to sleet. Stepping out side and inhaling, you could literally feel the cold clawing up the lining of your lungs. When the conditions are like this I always know that I'm going to be in for a good day. I think the prolonged chill signals to the carp that winter is well on the way, which in turn makes them feed. My plan was to head up to Braxted reservoir, I sensed a 'big hit' was on the cards. How did I know this? I had a very strong gut feeling, and through time, I've learnt never to ignore it.

Already, summer felt like a life time away and now the clocks had changed, I was getting up in the dark and leaving the water in the pitch black. Recent days had resembled 'twilight' from the minute I opened my eyes in the morning until I shut them again to go to bed. This time of the year is by far my favourite time to be out on the bank. When you're lucky enough to catch one, they come cutting through the water, draped in their winter skin and it can bring an amazing fleck of colour to what, are usually very dull days. 

The Shallows In The Summer
Arriving in the car park and making my way up to the waters edge, I was met with a deserted, wind swept portrait. Something you'd expect in a Charlotte Bronte poem. It was a lonely sight with very little sign of life, but I knew that below the surface there were some scaly secrets just waiting to be caught. Scanning the lake, there were no obvious signs of fish so I decided to head up to the shallows. This was going to put me on the back of the wind, because the water is fairly shallow I thought that it might be slightly warmer than the deep sections nearer the dam wall.

What is big hit fishing? For me, it's how you set your swim up, it's to do with bait placement and bait application. When I fish for a bite at a time, I'm focusing on mouthfuls and minimal food items put in the right place. When I'm fishing for a 'big hit' I fish both rods close together and spread a generous volume of bait in a relatively large area. The approach doesn't work on all waters, if I'm fish a lake with a large stock and I know the carp move around in groups, then I know I stand a good chance of having multiple takes. I want a group of fish to move in and start competing for the bait, if it's done correctly you can end up having a crazy session. 

My chosen bait was the classic Honey Nectar, this is, without a doubt, my favourite boilie. My rigs were going to be slightly different this time around, instead of my usual semi-fixed setup. I was going to be fishing a 'shocker rig', this would give the carp an extra few seconds before they would feel any resistance. Using this arrangement, fished in combination with a 'combi' hook-link using the 'trigga-link'. I felt I was presenting something a little different. Below is an image of the the lead setup, for this to be safe, you have to set it up on tubing, "NOT DIRECTLY ONTO THE LINE". You have to make sure that every component will pull away under the minimum of pressure.

Shocker Rig Setup

After a couple of measured casts, I found the area I was going to target, it was in about 5ft of water, the lake bed consisted of soft silt and clay. I planned to bait heavy in between my visual markers on the far bank - "see image below". My plan was to put about 2 kilo out and then keep topping the swim up with a few handfuls every 20 minutes. Rigs were out, the 'throwing stick' had served its purpose well, now it was time to tuck myself underneath my brolly, put the kettle on and wait for my master plan to come to fruition .... hopefully.

View From The Swim
Liners, bleeps and nudges started to occur almost immediately, my heart was already starting to race, I'm not sure if this was from excitement or the dangerously potent coffee I had just inhaled. Below the surface, I started to visualise every carp in the lake barging each other out the way and brawling over my sweet Honey offerings. It was within minutes that my righthand rod tore away, I jumped up, slid down the muddy bank and I was in to my first carp of the trip. It bolted hard to the right and carried on going, my clutch was tight, it was peeling line of the spool, I let it run and held firm until I had my chance to gain some ground. After its initial thrust, I guided her my way, a few hard pulls, lunges, and a final bid for freedom, soon saw my landing net mesh engulf her. Lifting the net up, my eyes feasted on what I can only describe, as a perfect common carp.

First Fish Of An Anticipated Big Hit
What an incredible first bite, the carp was immaculate, both fin and scale perfect, releasing her back home. I fired a few more handfuls of bait in and got the rod straight back out. If that was to be the only carp I caught today, I'd be more than happy. Scrambling back up to the brolly, thin sleet started to fall, the wind picked up, it was one of those days where everything felt like it was in hibernation. It was such a stark contrast to only a few months ago, time really does fly by nowadays, so fast in-fact, that the last few years have been a blur.

The rig had only been out 20 minutes or so before I got clear indication through the alarms that fish were out in front of me. Sparking the kettle up again and starting the very meticulous process of spooning just the right amount of coffee into my cafetiere, I was rudely interrupted by the same rod firing off. I leapt on it like an 'apex predator' ready for the strike, lifting the rod up, the fish shot tight to the right. Just as I was starting to find my feet with the situation, my left rod was also away. It appeared the chaos I'd been anticipating was in full flow.

Leaning down, I flicked the bait runner off and hoped that the rod on the pod with a 'semi-tight' clutch, would be enough to pacify the fish whilst I landed the one that was already on. The fight resumed, I was determined not to let panic take over. My rod was now creaking, fully arced round to the right, side strain helped to gently tease the carp towards me. The fight now felt like it was lasting forever, with every minute passing, the fish on the other line could do a 'hoodini' on me and disappear into the, 'what could've been' chapters of my angling history. Eventually she was in 'scooping' distance, closer she came, inching towards my net, I lunged forward, she was in, and it looked like another good common.

First Of Double Take
Lifting the left rod up, I was ecstatic to feel that the carp was still on. I think she'd run herself out fighting against both the test curve and clutch of the rod. It's times like these I can thank both the snag ears and tight butt grips, the rod had held firm on the rest, which in turn aided me in landing the first fish. Minimal force saw her heading towards the net, and as I teased her over the mesh, a flame ignited inside of me. It was all coming together perfectly and it appeared my approach was working well. Before dealing with either fish, I got a good spread of bait back out, if the carp were there then I wanted to keep them feeding.

The Second Prize From The Double Take
Both fish were sent home safely, I changed my hook links, threaded fresh bait on the hair and then cast both rigs gracefully into the murk. Bobbins were set and I was ready and waiting again, just like before, liners were instantaneous and I was prepared for another quick bite. Just as I was about to make my way up to the sanctuary of my trusty brolly, the left rod tore into life and I was in once more. This fish powered off like a steam train, I just held on for the ride, I was going to let it "blow its load" before I attempted to tame her. The initial run was long, the wind picked right up to gale force, the world around the reservoir suddenly felt rather ominous. He I was taming a beast, 'smack bang' in the middle of nowhere on my own, and I was poised with rod in hand in what felt like the eye of a storm.

Fighting both the fish and the conditions, I was gaining ground, a vortex appeared as the fish hit the surface just a short way out. I caught a glimpse of another bright looking common. Its tail cut the surface like a scalpel before powering off back into the depths. My Bruce Ashby Skorpios were cushioning every lunge and pull so poetically, they're such a pleasure to use. Slowly increasing the pressure I guided the fish in close and finally netted my long awaited prize. It was another 'jewel' of a common carp, what a session this was turning out to be.

A Burst Of Colour On A Dull Day
With the fish returned I decided not to put anymore bait out, time was starting to accelerate and the light was starting to fade. If I wanted to maximise on my time left, I didn't want to be over baiting the swim, I knew there was still enough food out there to keep them interested. Everything fell quiet, the wind dropped, the drizzle subsided, a single bleep on my right hand rod caught my attention. On closer inspection I could see my rod tip quivering, a few more bleeps indicated that something was on the end. I lifted the rod, for a minute I thought I'd hooked into a bream, but when the rod buckled over, it was clear that something slightly larger was on the end. 

Just like all the fish before, it was kiting around like crazy, this one felt like the angriest carp of the session. It bolted straight towards me, I was reeling like crazy to pick up the slack. After some 'heart in the mouth' moments, the fish gave in and I was looking, at yet, another awesome common. That made it five in a row, I couldn't quite believe how the session was turning out. My whole 'big hit' approach was working exactly the way I'd hoped it would.

A Bite At Dusk

Darkness was now setting in, instead of packing up I thought I'd stay for another hour or so. The red-light setting on my trusty little head torch would only be switched on if I got anymore action. Perched on my seat in the pitch black, I could hear the distant sound of traffic, the masses where making their way home after another hard days work. I, if only for a short while, was out of the system, I had 'no wolf at my door', no boss breathing down my neck. I was on the hunt, one more carp landed under the moonlight would be the perfect end to an unforgettable day. 

Suddenly, from out the darkness, the blue LED from my alarm lit up like a beacon and the clutch started buzzing. Stumbling through the void, I clawed at my rod whilst frantically trying to switch on my head torch. The carbon creaked and I was connected, my senses were heightened due to the fact I couldn't see a great deal. The fight was brief and as the fish retired itself to the net. I welcomed my first mirror of the session and one of only a handful I'd caught out of the Reservoir.

A Rare Mirror To Close The Day
It was the perfect way to end a perfect day, starting the rather tedious process of packing up in the dark, I really felt like I'd got everything absolutely spot on. Not only was it a great days fishing, but being out on my own whilst the season was edging closer to winter was inspiring enough. Finally arriving back in the car park and loading the van, it was a relief to be back in the warm and on the move. I sensed that the journey home was going to be a breeze, recalling the session and all the amazing fish I'd had was more than enough to keep my mind occupied.


Monday 26 September 2016

Blunts Mere 'Creaking Timber'

Waking up from a deep and sweaty sleep, I stumbled from the bedroom to the kitchen, still in a half comatose state, I opened the kitchen blinds. The wind was howling, the sky looked like it was about to fracture and the rain was beating on the glass. I hadn't planned to go fishing today but the weather was 'spot on' and I just couldn't pass the opportunity up. I've always said that I try to get out when I know the fish will be feeding, whatever the weather. Shaking the cobwebs from my head and inhaling breakfast at an alarming rate, the tackle was soon lined up in the hallway and I was ready to go. Having spent so much of my life either in a state of despair, or too hung over to motivate myself. I seem to now have an urge to start my day within minutes of being conscious, be it work or fishing, I don't want to waste a second of my life anymore.

However, I do find that the medication that I'm on, if you're not careful, can drag you right down to the point where staring at a wall can feel like a fulfilling alternative to doing anything productive. It's unfortunately a lesser of two evils, you have to find a way of dealing with it. For me, the prospect of a days fishing seems to obliterate the somewhat lethargic side effects I tend to experience, add catching a few carp into the equation and it really seems to sort me out. Just as I was about to close the front door behind me, I heard a faint voice coming from the bedroom. It was my wife reminding me, "don't forget you're taking Eric today", I'd obviously forgotten about this, my mind was in a fog, obsessing about big long commons. 

Some waters on the Chelmsford ticket don't allow dogs so my plan to fish Braxted 'was out the window', I decided my new destination would be Blunts Mere, I hadn't fished it for a very long time, I knew I wasn't going to break any records, but it's a great venue where you can pretty much guarantee a bite or two. The rain was hammering it down so hard and the wind was literally pushing the rain drops sideways, my gear was soaked by the time I'd even managed to load the van. It's these kind of days I love the most, I knew the fish would be feeding and the water would most probably be deserted. The idea of being battered and bruised by the elements for the day was a surprisingly inspiring prospect. 

The journey up was somewhat treacherous, the van was being blown all over the place, the windscreen wipers didn't move fast enough to clear the water away. I started to think that I'm either 'super dedicated' or just 'plain bloody stupid', either way, I was getting my rods out and that's really all that mattered. I've mentioned in many of my previous blogs how important it is for me to experience angling in its many guises. Some of the most exhilarating feelings I've ever experienced have been when I'm playing a fish in a heavy downpour. Or simply standing by the waters edge as the wind and rain howl through one ear and out the other. The landscape is harsh, you feel strangely isolated, you're alert, understanding that beneath the chaos on the surface, a carp could choose to take your bait at any moment.  

Cants Mere 'The Heavens Opened'

The further away from home that I got the lighter the rain became, it went from tsunami conditions to a sparse drizzle. Arriving at the gate, the wind was calm and the air was fresh, crawling up the gravel path, the stones grated together underneath the tyres of the van. I was met with an empty car park, it felt perfect, I decided I'd go for a wander, the lake felt lonely, dormant as if it had literally paused in time. I chose to target the back bay, this is an area that has loads of features, I sensed a few carp could be ghosting around under the over hanging branches that hung precariously over the margins. I wasted no time in getting the rods out, there was a gap in the rain, this would allow me to get everything sorted before the heavens opened once again.

View From The Swim

The approach was simple, I'd bait up really tight to all the snags and scatter a few baits around both rods in the open water. I was hoping that I could attract any carp that might be sitting snug in the sanctuary of the branches. I was going to 'bait heavy', it always works well for me around this time of the year. Regarding my bait, I'd chosen to use Banana Cream, come both Autumn and Winter I favour the Milk Protein and sweet birdseed blends. I got a good scattering out and within minutes I could see that fish were already scratching about.

On Blunts in the past, I'd experienced some really odd indications, the bobbin would react in a way that gave me the impression that some carp were getting away with it. I know it's classed as a fairly easy water but its residents are fished for an awful lot, I have no doubt that some of them know how to deal with rigs. Today I was going to try a slightly different setup, I was going to stick with bottom baits but they would be fished on a 'Fox Illusion/Silkworm Combi'. The illusion is practically invisible once in the water and it's lovely and rigid, with the Silkworm being so supple, the combination of them both creates a really effective 'hinge'.

Fox Illusion - Silkworm Combi Rig

With both rods rigged and the rain starting to fall, I got the rods out comfortably, fired a few more baits in and quickly ducked under the brolly. The rain fell like never before and the wind went from a breeze to an almighty gust within seconds. A proper chop had developed on the water, this however didn't obscure the very obvious signs of fish feeding on my bait. It all came together very quickly and I was anticipating that a bite was on the cards. Even though I was huddled tight underneath the brolly, gripping like crazy to both storm-poles, I managed to awkwardly position myself, ready to jump on the rods at the slightest indication.

The left rod was the first to go, it ripped off at speed, I gently lent back into it and as the rod arced over I could feel the carp darting around like crazy. It felt good to be into a fish so quick, the wind had blown the rain clouds clear and 'mid-fight' the rain stopped. As the fish came in close it broke the surface layers, I caught a glimpse of a perfect looking common. It was a really spirited fight and by the time I slipped it over my landing net mesh it had given a great account of itself. I unhooked her in the net and cast the same boilie out straight away.

An Early Visitor
Once returned I loaded the swim back up with bait, cast the rod slightly closer to the branches, set the bobbin and got my first coffee of the day on the go. Ominous clouds started to hang over head once more, the sky darkened and the rain came, this time more violent than before. Colours were falling all around me, squadrons of old oak leaves were drifting onto the skin of the water and instantly setting sail like miniature long ships. Others where getting caught in, what I can only describe as thermals, rising and falling gracefully as if they were desperately trying not to crash land into the water. It's on days like these where it's so easy to be inspired, if anything, catching a fish is secondary.

As I sat there with my nice hot mug of coffee cupped within my hands, scanning the water carefully, I could make out patches of bubbles coming up all over my baited area. This is always a familiar sight on Blunts, and the strange things is, on more than one occasion your rods will stay silent. I was hoping the little tweak to my rig might just catch them out. Time went by, the weather was deteriorating, the breeze was now gail force again, the trees were contorting and the 'timber was creaking'. All I could do was hang on to everything around me and wait for the carp to 'play ball'.

Eric Carp Spotting 

Come late afternoon the light started to go very quickly, there was what I can only describe as a "Blair Witch" feel to things. Before I knew it my only vision was that of the head-torch secured on my head. As I stared into it's very weak beam I couldn't see anything, the foreground had totally disappeared. The trees just behind me were now literally swaying from the root up, occasionally something would snap and fall to the ground. It did cross my mind that a bloody great branch could fall crippling both me and my brolly at any moment 

Suddenly, through the chaos, my righthand rod gave out a few bleeps and then it was away, staggering through the darkness I lunged, lifted into the abyss that stood before me and held on for dear life. The fish felt heavy, almost like an anchor that was stopping me from being blown away, it was nuts, I applied the pressure, the wind raced through the rods rings, creating a strange 'dischord whistle', mid-fight my lefthand rod also tore away. It was utter chaos, here I was alone in the darkness, caught in a void, and I had a double take. I managed to tighten up the clutch on the left rod and hoped that the rod left sat on the pod would do the work for me until I could pick it up. 

I battled with the first fish, it was really giving me trouble, I couldn't rush it, a slight panic kicked in. Closer and closer she came but she was having none of it, the net mesh was in the water waiting but it was as if the fish was a mile away. I briefly glanced at my other rod, the tip was pulled right round to the left, pulsating with every tug from the carp on the other end. The first fish was finally starting to tire, it came close in, I lunged forward with the net ... result! 

I lifted into the other rod preying that the carp hadn't found one of the many snags, side strain confirmed this wasn't the case. I applied heavy pressure, the rod arced right round to my left, the carp had managed to bully its way down the narrow channel to the left of me. I held on hard and tried to tease her back my way, it was 'touch & go' for a minute or two but I was making head way. Soon she was back under my rod tip, literally beneath my feet, grabbing the second landing net, I went for "the scoop" and won .... both fish landed, god knows how I'd managed it.

Double Take

Glancing down in both the nets, I was met with golden armour like scales, they were both good looking commons and fairly large by Blunts standards. It was totally pitch black around me, I tried to get, what I thought would be a good few shots before returning them home, I really couldn't see anything, the flash from the camera nearly burnt my retinas out. The sheer craziness of what had just happened was yet to sink in, who said catching fish was relaxing?

Bite Number 1
Bite Number 2
With both fish safely back the mission was simple, get packed up and get the hell out of there before a tree fell on me. I was scrambling around in the dark, packing down my pod, frantically rolling up my cradle and bagging it up. Everything was eventually thrown on the barrow, I legged it back to the van with Eric in tow. Once behind the wheel I started the engine up and turned the headlights on. I sat there for a minute or two, it felt surreal, the wind was whistling around the cabin of the van, the van itself gently rocked with every heavy gust. 

I was surrounded by darkness, I started to think that I could very easily be the only person alive right now, I hadn't seen a soul all day. It had been a crazy session and it reminded me why I love fishing in Autumn so much, and why it's so important for me to get out there and get stuck in whatever the weather might throw at me. The journey home was peaceful and the closer I got to London, the calmer the winds became, I was already planning my next trip, I was sensing a 'big hit', Braxted reservoir was going to be my next port of call.     

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Braxted Front Lake 'Perfect Clarity'

I feel like I'm living a series of parallel lives at the moment, its summer 2016 and here I am about to recall a session from Autumn 2015. Lately I've been working like mad and trying to get out on the bank as much as possible. It's been a long time since I was able to sit down and get my writing head on, for me to write the best I can I need to do it when I get the urge. This blog is going to be accounting for a session that I did a good few weeks in to Autumn of last year. As I type these words I can literally feel the chill that was in the air and how cold and cleansing each deep breath felt as I inhaled the atmosphere that hung over Braxted front lake. 

I consider myself very fortunate, there are two aspects in my life that seem to etch themselves deeply into my memory banks. The first being music, I only need to hear something once for it to be lodged in my mind forever. My head, a vast majority of the time, is like a jukebox, obviously this is great in regards to playing drums, but it can be a real pain when you're wanting some peace. The second, my fishing sessions, I can literally remember each and every one of them, stretching as far back to when I was about 14. Sessions from years gone by pop in to my head at the most random of times. As I sit and write this now, I'm recalling a session from many moons back on a local club water where I caught one of my first carp on a Richworths Hawaiian pineapple boilie. It was a 3IB mirror and a fish that signalled a now life long obsession with the carp.

Usually when Autumn starts to arrive and the temperatures start to fall slightly, it can be a very productive time. This year was very different though, it stayed so mild for so long. I naturally thought that this would mean that the fish would be on the feed for a lot longer. It appeared though, that it actually had the reverse effect, I'd be nicking a few bites from everywhere I'd been going, things were looking promising. Then literally overnight I found all my waters practically shut down. It didn't matter where I went or how effectively I thought I was fishing, I just couldn't buy a bite. This strange spell lasted for a number of weeks, but being reckless in my attitude, I persevered none the less.

I was on my third week of the longest run of blanks I'd ever experienced, instead of questioning myself, I came to the very simple conclusion that the carp just weren't really up for it. From past experience I knew that the worst thing to do in these situations was to start to over analyse what you were doing. Instead I took the results on the chin and decided to ride the situation out. On the morning of my Braxted session I was up at dawn, I'll admit my confidence was waining but as I opened the door to load the van, things felt different. It suddenly felt like Autumn, the morning air was cold against my face and I experienced such a sense of clarity. Maybe today 'the worm was going to turn' and the carp would once again start gracing me with their presence.

One thing I've come to learn about myself is, when things get hard with fishing, it seems to fuel me even more to get out there and try and make something happen. It can feel like a real slog at times but when you do finally get a result, nothing beats that feeling. On the front page of my website I use the term "Bravery In Patience", what I mean by this is very simple, it's about having the confidence in your own ability to see things through, however long it might take, this goes for both on and off the bank. In a world where there's so many conflicting opinions and everybody everywhere is telling us how we should feel and what we should think. It gets very hard to connect with your own reality, my advice to you is, when you feel like life isn't working out, stick with it, do the right thing and be patient, do "the right thing" and you'll get the right result ... "that's my new angling mantra". 

Now Back To The Session

With the van now loaded the task ahead was very simple, floor it all the way to the lake, remove the immense amount of blanks from my mind and turn over a new leaf. I was convinced today was going to be the 'game changer', it's as if the previous weeks had been a dress rehearsal for Autumn, a false start. Now with that familiar Autumnal chill in the air, the rehearsals were now over, this session was the opening act. Pulling into the car park and glancing over the water, summers skin was clearly peeling away. The saturated colours of the warmer months were slowly turning in to dull pastel shades, some of the branches on the trees were looking brittle in places. Give it a few more weeks and it would be as if summer had never arrived.

Summers Skin Fading
I was eager to get the rods out but first opted for my usual lap of the lake, it looked pretty desolate, other than the fuss from the birdlife, there were no obvious signs of fish. Some dead leaves and debris had gathered down the car park end, it looked inviting so I decided to start down there. Today I was up for moving if the carp gave a sure sign that they were elsewhere. I was going to use my usual approach, minimal bait has always been the way to go on front lake. The only difference this time, I was going to fish one rod over very fine boilie crumb. Taking into account how slow it had been over the recent weeks, tweaking my approach just an inch, could be the key to success, I didn't want to overfeed the spots.

Trigga-link Combi Bottom Bait Rig
Before setting up I got the kettle out, starting off the session with my usual 'coffee ritual' always seems to bode well. My swim was now setup, the rods were rigged, now it was just a case of carefully picking my spots. My chosen bait was Caribbean, I have 100% confidence in it, especially this time of the year. My rigs were my usual 'semi-fixed inlines', the hook-links were combi rigs tied with 'trigga-link' and 'Atomic Bare-back'. To dull down the hook-link materials I used a few different coloured rig pens, as I've mentioned before, front lake has a very clean lake bed and I wanted my end tackle to morph into it. I didn't want anything that could spook the fish. It had been so long since my last bite, I was pulling out all the stops today.

Maximum Attraction, Minimal Food items

To the left of the swim there's a lovely hard slope that gradually shelves down to 10ft, I've had a lot of fish from this specific area in the past. I decided to place my rig half way down the slope, this put me in roughly 5ft of water. Before casting out I walked round with a bucket of boilie crumb and threw 5 modest handfuls in and around the area. A lovely graceful cast put my rig elegantly on the spot. Now onto my second rod, this was going to be fished directly opposite, there's a deep run that leads into the opposite lefthand corner. I was going to fish really tight to the margin line. Once again, I've had many good fish from this area and I always seem to visualise the carp making their way along this route when coming down into this end of the water. 

View From The Swim
With a swift 'whipping' motion the bait landed perfectly, I was taking this as a good omen, when my casts are both right first time, I can sit confidently knowing that everything is right. Now it was just up to the fish, would they take the bait? I kept my expectations realistic. The kettle was back on and I sat back with my eyes fixed firmly on both the water and my rod tips. A few hours passed, the wind started to push down towards me, everything looked perfect. As I sat and watched the world around the water exist in perfect balance, I started to think back to the past few weeks. As strange as it seems I couldn't remember what it felt like, in that very second, when the alarms are screaming and the reels are humming. When things are going well and you're managing to catch a few, it's all too easy to take it for granted.

A few more hours passed with nothing to show for my efforts, I decided I'd leave my right hand rod where it was and do a recast on the left. I reeled in, re-baited, chucked a few more handfuls of crumb on the spot and got the bait back out. This was when something very strange happened, as I put the rod on the rest and went to tighten up the bobbin, the line remained slack, as I was winding, the bobbin just kept dropping to the floor. I watched the tip, within seconds it suddenly arched round to the right and the clutch kicked in. Lifting into the rod, I could feel that I was connected to a hard fighting lump. The fish must've literally taken the bait on the drop. 

Slightly bewildered, I proceeded to battle with a carp that just wouldn't give in, it felt so dam good to finally be connected to 'nature' once again, it was a feeling I'd missed. The fish came closer and as it rolled a short distance out, the perfect image of a common carp burnt into my retinas. Not only was it a good fish, it already had it's lovely Autumn skin on, it looked perfect up against the washed out background of the lake. My heart was now racing and with a steady pressure I teased her closer and closer until she was engulfed by my net mesh. The run of blanks had finally come to an end, it was hard to explain just how good I felt. 

I let the fish rest before I sorted her out for a few quick pictures. As I stood looking down at her tucked comfortably in the net, I tried to understand what it was about this amazing creature that keeps all of us stitched to the banks, casting away our years. We're forever caught up in the chase, the hunt, I still can't quite work it out. For me, angling is an opportunity to try and understand what's below the surface, be it, the surface of the water, or the surface of yourself. We drag ourselves to the remotest of places and then we question, and try to connect with something that we actually have no direct connection with. I don't believe there's a definitive answer to this question. 

A long Time Coming
It's as if I had waited a lifetime for this bite and it felt like it was literally over in seconds. In carp angling more than any other thing, it really is amazing what a difference a day can make. A few photos were taken and I sent her on her way. I was more than happy with the result, I could feel that my obsession had been pacified, if only for a short time. Maybe the carp have finally started to wake up. If so, it was vital for me to get out over the next few weeks as much as I possibly could. On the drive home the sweet stench of carp slime filled the cabin of the van ... God! .. I've really missed that smell.