Wednesday 27 January 2016

Micklem Mere 'Fishing For Mysteries' Part 3

It's hard to believe that as I sit and write this blog another year has passed, it's now January 2016. After months of abnormally mild weather it appears winter has finally arrived. Outside my window looms blackened skies, and that 'dull' sense of 'January' is making the days drag. I find this time of the year especially hard, people start back to work after the Christmas break and the cogs of the system slowly start to turn once more. It's the monotony that gets me down, it always has, I like to thrive on unpredictability 

2015 had been a fairly productive year on the bank for me, but when I look through my note books it wasn't a touch on the previous year. Admittedly I had a lot more work so I didn't have a huge amount of time to fish. But in general my waters were very hit and miss, and during the summer especially, I was struggling to get any real consistency with my catch rate. I've still got a load of blogs from 2015 to complete, but, already I'm looking forward to the 'angling' year ahead of me.

For now, I'd like to take you way back to my third proper session on Micklem Mere, out of all my waters it's the 'unpredictability' that keeps me venturing back. My last session on Burrows was so satisfying, the buzzers were screaming and the carbon was creaking. I knew that this trip was going to be more subdued, but that's just the nature of the water. The priority was to continue to try and get steady bites, it's logic that if my results remained consistent then eventually the better carp would once again pay me a visit.

Between my 'blogged sessions' I took a trip to Micklem with my wife, and by adopting the same tactics as my previous trips, I managed another lovely double figured common. The fish was in immaculate condition and further confirmation that the myths about Micklem were in fact a reality. Once again it fell to a solid bag approach with slop fished over the top, I knew I was on to a winner with this tactic, but this time around I wanted to concentrate my bait into a tighter area, I was going to swap the slop for a dryer mix. 

There was still part of me that felt using the spod was going to lose its effectiveness, because Micklem isn't really heavily fished and spods aren't overused, the carp don't appear to be too bothered by them. I felt it was only a matter of time before they'd start to get spooked, I was going to play it by ear and pull it out of the equation when it felt like the right time to do so.

An 'Un-blogged' Common
The morning of the session was magic, I was out the door by 6:00am, the sky was an abyss of blue, not one cloud was present, the air was fresh and the world seemed quieter than usual. A quick stop at the garage for fuel and coffee was needed, then it was the simple task of flooring it all the way up the A12. I drove as responsibly as possible, trying not to the let the visions of big carp swimming in my mind cloud the speedometer.

The journey up to any of the Chelmsford waters can go two ways, I'm either nice and relaxed or I have a crazy sense of excitement that seems to make the drive last twice as long. On this specific day I just couldn't get to the water quick enough, off the A12, careering through the winding country roads, my head had already cast my baits out and I was sitting soaking up the sights and sounds of the mere, intently waiting for a rod to rip off. I collided with reality when I reached Micklems gate.

Hastily unlocking the padlock, I pulled into the car park semi expectant to see a number of cars already there. To my surprise it was empty, a huge sense of relief washed over me. The mere looked perfect, the morning sun was kissing the waters skin, there were rabbits darting in and out of the landscape, and the very familiar sound of the geese and bird life came calling to me like a twisted fanfare. As I made my way down to the waters edge, it felt like I'd been away for an eternity.

The Keepers Of The Water

It's amazing how isolated you can feel in such a large sprawling environment, it enhances such a sense of 'escapism'. Angling is the ultimate escape for me, it allows me to turn my back on the pieces of the world that I find suppressive. I've mentioned it before but when I cast my rigs out, all my anxieties are cast out with them, this frees up my mind to concentrate purely on my fishing. 

Once at the waters edge I was in no rush to get setup, I slowly walked around the perimeter of the mere, keeping my eyes on the water. It was going to be a warm day so ideally I didn't want to be targeting anything deeper than 7ft. Fish were showing towards the middle but I suspected that they were cruising in the upper layers, if I was to target them where they were showing, I'd be in at least 12ft of water.

A New Rising 
Fishing zigs did cross my mind but I felt if I was applying loose feed into the shallower water and the fish were in the mid to upper layers, I'd stand a much better chance at drawing them down. I continued walking, paying close attention to the back bay area, as stated before, the fish do tend to hold along the 'No Fishing' bank. 

I spotted a small group of carp milling around the mouth of the bay, they were huddled together just under the surface. This was evidence enough that fish were about, I decided I'd set up in the same swim as last time. My plan was to target the water that led into the mouth of the bay. If I could get a concentrated bed of bait out hopefully I could pick up a few as they moved in and out of the "safe zone". I thought about surface fishing but with the amount of birdlife around it just wasn't an option.

Lake Position  
On previous sessions I'd kept the bait going in all the time, today I was going to put ten initial spods out and leave it. I would recast my solid bags on a regular basis so a small amount of bait would be left in the swim after each cast. With all this in mind I rushed to get everything set up, then proceed to mix up my spod ammunition. 'Ingredients Below'

Spod Mix

My rigs were exactly the same as my previous sessions, the only difference being that I'd gone up a lead size, I was now opting to use a 3oz, 'semi-fixed' with short hook links. The lead I was using was a flat inline that I got "Carpy Chris Knowler" to make me. It has a super flat profile and slips into a solid bag perfectly.

The bait was a single grain of corn topped off with some yellow zig foam, the foam had been soaking in almond oil. This gave me a lovely buoyant bait that would sit temptingly among the contents of my solid bag. Once again it was all very simple, my main point of focus was making sure that both my bait application and my casts were spot on.

Flat Inline 3oz

Finished Presentation

In regards to tying up my solid bags, it really depends on the angling situation, if I'm fishing at short to medium range I don't worry too much about making them super tight and streamline. The shape of the lead I was using sits from top to bottom in a medium sized solid bag, this distributes the weight perfectly and I find I can get really good distance without worrying if the bags aerodynamic, 'like many things in carp angling, we all have our own little ways of doing things'. 

Lead Placement

End Result

Both rods were clipped up at 13.5 wraps, the spod rod was clipped up to 14 wraps. Both of my hook-baits were going to be fished about two meters apart from each other. I was going to do my best to keep the loose feed going in on the exact same spot, my bags would be fished either side of where the spod was landing, ..... well this was the plan. Ten spods went out closely followed by both bags, the casts were comfortable, they felt right, now I was finally fishing.

View From The Swim
I have to say that it was an utter pleasure being by the waters edge, there was a lovely warm breeze, heavy clouds were periodically covering the sky overhead, temporarily projecting a solemn atmosphere, then within moments they'd disperse and it would feel like summer again. It was a day of 'two halves', I sparked the kettle up and took a seat. 

A few coots had made a beeline for my spot and were diving away, I just left them to it, after all, it was me who was imposing in their front room. The least I could do was let them help themselves to a few mouthfuls of "the good stuff". In the distance I could see that the swans were heading my way, I'd already foreseen this and placed back leads directly underneath the rod tips, I'd learnt the hard way in the past.

Waiting For The Unknown To Unearth
A good few hours evaporated without any action, I was getting a few liners but nothing that translated into a full blown take. On Micklem it does seem that you either get into fish quickly or you're scratching for a bite. I stuck to my plan, no more spods were going to be put out, I would continue to recast my bags every hour or so and just be patient. I had a feeling that things might pick up come late afternoon. 

Another hour passed, I'd just done my second recast when all of a sudden my right rod gave out a few small bleeps. The bobbin had moved up and stopped, because there's a lot of small carp in the mere, you tend to get bites where a really small fish picks up the bait without taking the hook in, and they bolt off, if you didn't know any better you'd think it was bigger carp "getting away with it". On closer inspection though, I could see my rod tip knocking, the movement was very slight. 

I decided I'd lift into it, sure enough there was something on the end, I reeled it in very carefully. If it was a small carp I didn't want to damage it in any way. There was a faint tugging and as my lead appeared out the water so did a lovely little common, once again, I was really pleased, I value each and every carp that Micklem delivers to me.

A Glimpse Of The Future
Slipping her back I launched another solid bag out, this cast was feathered perfectly and as the line hit the clip, it felt very satisfying, "nothing beats a perfect cast". The bobbin was set and I was back in waiting game, I was surprised at how slow it was fishing, my mind was already questioning why this could be. Maybe the initial spods spooked the fish away? maybe I'd put too much bait in from the off? maybe there just wasn't any fish in front of me? I was thinking that they might just be holding in the upper layers. There weren't any definitive answers to these questions, again, that's the beauty of angling. 

Just as I was starting to resign myself to the fact that I'd got the approach all wrong, my left rod gave a few beeps and the tip started nodding. I suspected it was another scamp, just like before, I reeled in very carefully. Soon enough I was met with a lovely little mirror, its scale pattern was perfect. Looking at this fish I started to think again at what Micklem was going to be like with a good few years behind it, when all the smaller carp had grown on, I seriously believe it's going to be a pretty special water, all it already is.

A Picture Of Mini Perfection
I loaded up another solid bag and whacked it back out, the hours were now whittling away, the breeze had dropped right off, the mere was like a sheet of glass. Fish started to show in the back bay and very close to my baited area, it appeared I was approaching the 'magic hour', I honestly felt like something special could happen. It was at this point when I felt cemented to my chair, my eyes fixed firmly on the water, I was willing something to happen, anticipating chaos, it felt like time was accelerating all around me. 

Before I knew it late afternoon was now touching early evening, the carp were continuing to show, it was very obvious that they'd become active. What happened next was something that I will never forget, it was pure poetry. Four fish showed directly over my bait, they came up all together, it was reminiscent of a synchronised swimming manoeuvre, one fish out of the four looked like a lump. Within seconds of this happening both my rods were away, the right rod was obviously a small fish, the tip was knocking but the drag didn't kick in, I didn't think it was big enough to be able to shift the lead, however the left rod was ripping off at a crazy speed.

I left the right rod and lifted into the left, instantly I knew this was something special, the rod arced right round and the fish was stripping line like crazy. Conscious of the fact that whatever was on the end had probably not been hooked before, I loosened the clutch and let it run. I didn't want to cause any kind of mouth damage, 'if I was in the process of landing perfection, I wanted it going back in the same condition'. Slowly the fish started to tire, I was more than eager to witness her but I had to be patient. 

Very slowly she started to wain, the heavy pulling became less frequent and as she came my way I witnessed a very broad back and dorsal cutting through the water. I waded in to net her, otherwise she would of grounded out in the shallow water. As the net mesh engulfed her I knew I'd caught something very special, I let her rest out of respect. This fish encapsulated angling for me, before I'd laid eyes on her, she was part of a myth, something that may or may not have existed, it really was a perfect carp. Leaving her resting I reeled in the fish on my other rod, it was a tiny little mirror, a pound at most.

Another Micklem Secret
I waded into the water right up to my chest to set her free, it was a special moment, just for a second I became a part of her world, just as she'd become part of mine. That's one of the many beauties of carp angling, it's full of fleeting moments, many great memories that get filed away in the mind, eventually all these memories ferment and become 'nostalgia'. 

I slowly got my tackle together and as I made my way back to the car I felt so lucky, lucky to have angling in my life. It takes you to so many places both physically and mentally, you get to witness things that the masses will never experience, it's our own private world. Once again, another blank Micklem page had been written, the lines and paragraphs were continuing to come together, even more than before. I feel grateful to be part of its story, it's a story that I'm going to continue to write, there will be no ending. 

Micklem Mere Summer 2014  

Friday 1 January 2016

Burrows 'A Touch Of Synchronicity'

"Synchronicity is a concept first explained by psychiatrist Carl Jung, which holds that events are "meaningful coincidences"

Synchronicity in its many guises can be a beautiful thing, it's a moment in time where everything comes together, different elements seem to marry, thus creating the desired result. Through the years, to a certain degree, I've come to understand my own 'synchronicity', it's something that can't really be preplanned or negotiated, it's something that you very simply "allow".

Using my drums as an example, I slowly came to understand my own learning process, and as time went by the number 3 started to present itself in a very strange way, not only in my music but in my angling as well. When I was in the recording studio I would always get the take I wanted by the 3rd run through. When I played live it was always 3 songs in that I started to get "in the zone" and everything became effortless. When I would practice hand and foot technique I found that 3 blocks of twenty minute practice sessions seemed to be the most beneficial.

Recognise Your Own Synchronicity

Moving on to my angling, I've mentioned in past blog posts that there are times when I feel completely out of sync with my waters. This feeling always comes after a break, it takes me about 3 sessions to reconnect, things then seem to fall into place and I can read the water in front of me correctly. When finding my spots and clipping up to position the rigs perfectly, it takes me a good 3 casts to get it spot on. I change my hook-link after every 3 fish, these examples go on, none of it's a conscious decision, it's a natural occurrence. So taking this all into consideration ..... What number are you?

This brings me on to my first session of the summer down on the Burrows, it had been a long time since I'd last visited its banks. I had such a great winter on there and I was looking forward to checking back in. I planned the trip when I was very much 'in sync' with all of my waters. It was on this session that every element of my approach was perfect, simply put, I'd had a touch of "Synchronicity".

Unlocking the gates to the Paddlesworth complex always fills the pit of my stomach with nervous excitement, it's something I've done hundreds of times and this feeling never changes. I'm always in a hurry to get the gate locked behind me and get up to the carp park. Frantically loading my barrow, my mind was already running a sequence of events, the walk to the swim, getting my buzzers out, setting my rods up etc. I always do my best not to let the excitement cloud my judgement.

A Winter Memory 

As I made my way from the car park along the narrow paths, branches were brushing my face and brambles were clinging to my clothes. Everything was in full bloom and the bleak memories from winter that were etched so clear in my mind, were swiftly erased, I felt like a ghost back them, now, I felt very much alive. 

Burrows is such a unique looking place in the summer, the marginal areas are obscured by lots of overhanging trees, the water always seems to change to a lush green colour. The paths are obscured and overgrown, as you walk down them the water periodically reveals itself through holes in the bushes. 

Both the surroundings and the quality of the fish are in equal measure, that's the main reason why I love the place so much. I fish lakes for their location and atmosphere more than I do for their stock. I'm a sucker for waters that literally remove you from reality, every time I lock the gates of Paddlesworth behind me I mentally switch off from everything that isn't related to my angling.  

Burrows In Bloom
Making my way around the water, I was keeping a firm eye on any possible fish activity, most swims were free. I was tempted to go in the 'muddy double' but it gets so heavily fished, I passed on it. I decided to make my way further up, there was a lovely calm breeze moving from left to right. I clocked a marginal area with some prominent overhanging trees that I hadn't fished before, it looked very tempting, so I decided to target it.

My plan was to bait really heavy, I'd decided to use the Bio Cp2 Amino, when I use both "green Lip Mussel" or "fishmeal & Betaine" base mixes I always put a lot in. From past experience, I feel because these specific blends have so many natural ingredients and attractors in them, the carp can really get into a frenzy when feasting on them.

Visual Attraction

You'll see in the image above that I added two 10m imitation boilies in two different colours. In conjunction with this I was using both 12mil and 10mil baits, 4x 10mil boilies were put in a small mesh bag and nicked onto the hook for the cast. I really wanted to offer something a little different on this session, like I've said so many times in the past. To move forward you have to be thinking forward, this is a 'rule of thumb' for everything that I do in my life. 

Ready For The Cast

Before I even got my swim set up I applied the bait in abundance, I got into a good rhythm with the throwing stick and spread it all around both the far margin spots that I'd chosen to target. I concentrated on getting it really tight under the overhanging trees. I've fished Burrows enough to know that during the summer months the carp practically get under the bank, it still surprises me how close to the edges you can actually catch them.

My plan was to clip up so the rig literally kissed the branches on its descent, I wanted to fish fast so I had to have every element sorted in advance. Mesh bags were tied, my yards sticks were easy accessible, "no catching the line in surrounding trees and bushes". Two kilo of bait was put into a bucket of water so it was easier to be accurate with the throwing stick, dry baits just down fly out the stick as well. Once all 'anal' tasks were completed I wrapped my rods to 11.5 wraps and I was finally ready to go.

View From The Swim  
11.5 wraps put my rig perfectly under the bushes and trees, to make sure each cast was perfect, I stood directly in line with the front legs of my pod. Both rigs were placed with a perfect feathered cast, a few more handfuls of bait were put out for good measure, now it was the waiting game. 

It was hot so I took my shoes and socks off, rolled my trousers up and sat on the edge of the bank with my feet in the water. The silty clay felt soft and smooth on the soles of my feet, I felt strangely connected to my environment. I sat looking out over the water knowing that the fish were sure to move in on my bait and hopefully they were in the mood to scoff.

Skorpios 2 3/4 Test Curve

Twenty or so minutes in and I was starting to receive tiny little indications on both rods, both bobbins were fidgeting away. When I looked closely at the rod tips I could see them jolting so very slightly. The odd bleeps on my right rod suddenly turned into a 'one toner', the first fish was on and accelerating at crazy speed to the right of me. I had a very shallow margin so I decided that I would get in the water to land it - "I love landing carp whilst standing in the water"

The initial run was intense, letting my rod do the work, I just kept the pressure on. I was using my 'Skorpios' in 2 3/4, the blank was literally bending down to the butt, the communication between me and the fish was so acute. As it came closer I could see its broad back cutting the surface of the water, easing the net under her, my first carp of the session had been tamed. Before the unhooking and picture taking I launched another two handfuls of bait over the spots. 

A Broad Back Mirror
Once returned I clipped up to 11.5 wraps, hooked my pre-tied mesh bag on and got the rig 'bang on the money' first time. When you're going for a 'big hit' you've got to get into a solid rhythm, everything has to be as poetic as possible. The more "in rhythm" you are, the higher chance you have of getting the fish to compete, the more care free they are, the higher the chance of them tripping up on the hook-bait.

Once the swim had settled from the baiting up and recast, I started to get liners instantly, it was at this point that I knew it was going to be a manic session. All the big hits I've had down burrows always start with a quick fish and continuous indications that carp are present. Within minutes my right rod was away again.

Once again it kited tight to the right, I jumped in the water and a mighty battle commenced. This felt like a slightly better one, its initial run was immense, I stood strong waiting for the perfect moment to start guiding her my way. As she came closer I caught a glimpse of a plump little mirror, soon enough she was staring at me in the bottom of my net mesh. Again, before unhooking her I launched another couple of handfuls of bait into the swim.

Number Two Tamed
Before slipping her home I treated all minor abrasions with both "wound seal" and "propolis", you must always respect your waters and the carp that live within them. As anglers it's our duty to look after and nurture everything in our 'angling environment'.

Before I even managed to get the rod back out, my left one rocketed away, this fish shot to the left. Once again I got in the water, my feet were sinking in the silt, the bubbles from the air trapped within it shot up through my toes, my trousers were drenched, I felt strangely grounded. Another majestic battle resulted in a lovely mirror, the scales on its back were perfect.

Another One On The Bio Cp2 Amino
The session was coming together nicely, both rods were now out of the water, I once again clipped them up to 11.5 wraps and made the casts. By this point the rigs were 100% hitting the mark, I had to be right under the branches to get the bites. I got a few more handfuls of bait out and decided to make a coffee. It was now really quite hot but I always need a good dose of caffeine to keep my mind sharp.

Taking my position, sitting down by rods, feet in the water and the sun on my back, I felt very much in the moment. On summer days such as this there's always a big part of me that would love to slap on a pair of goggles and go swimming. Propel myself down into the depths and see first hand what's going on, I'm sure whats below the surface is very different to what we all picture in our heads. 

Below The Surface 'Real Mystery Must Remain Hidden'
On the flip-side though, I feel the carps world has to stay secret from us, just as life above the surface is a secret to them. It's the "not knowing" that keeps the mystery safe, not once have I felt inclined to watch any underwater footage of feeding fish, to me, it's just another example of technology taking the charm out of something. Deep in thought, I fell back to reality with the sight and sound of my right rod contorting in agony, I sprung up to grab it and jumped into the water to commence battle once again. 

This fish was stripping line like crazy, I was very simply holding on for dear life, gradually I gained ground, tweaking the clutch as I went, slowly, she was coming closer, a quick glimpse of a lovely grey mirror greeted me as she tried to make her final bid for freedom. Her effort was futile, and as my net mesh engulfed her, a sense of relief washed over me, 'what an incredible looking carp'.

A Lovely Grey Slab
Once again, prior to unhooking and releasing her I fired another 3 heaped handfuls of bait over both spots, it was obvious the carp were reacting really well to the amount of bait going in. The rod went back out and I took a seat 'on my chair', put another coffee on, sat back and continued to soak up the sights and sounds of everything around me.

The main heat of the day was starting to subside, now there was a small amount of cloud cover. A family of coots were getting away with stealing the odd freebie or two, seagulls were milling around waiting for me to pick up my throwing stick. They were masters at infiltrating my baits mid flight, mallards were discussing politics, every so often an agile kingfisher would cut the water at lightening speed. 

The action was both above and below the water, the theatre I was witnessing was suddenly cut short with the sound of my left hand rod wailing. The initial take fired forward at speed and then the fish seemed to take a major 'U-turn', it flew towards me so fast, I was reeling like a madman trying my best to pick up the slack. To my surprise it gave up its ghost with little bother, it's as if he wanted to join me on dry land.

Number 5 On The Bio Cp2 Amino
Once released I decided not to put anymore bait in, time was getting on, I had about an hour left. During this time most of the other anglers on the lake had departed, everything became calm and quiet. It now felt like the "magic hour" and I had a strange sense that if something special was going to happen then it would be now

I sat quietly with my eyes fixed firmly on my rod tips, I was willing a bite to happen, I slowly started to get my kit together, breaking down the none essentials, dragging the most simplest of tasks out in hope another fish would pay me a visit. 

It was in the closing minutes when my left rod sparked into life again, this carp, just like the previous one, bolted towards me and proceeded to go crazy underneath the rod tip. The second I slipped the net under her my other rod went. This take was savage and my reel was literally smoking. Leaning into this fish, I was met with solid visceral aggression.

First Of A Double Take
It was a dead weight, taking more and more line, I nursed the clutch, waiting for the perfect moment to increase the pressure. Very slowly I started to gain ground, the fish was powering around and I was giving as good as I was getting. As it came closer I could see what appeared to be a 'reasonably large' carp, with my heart in my mouth and my legs shaking, I preyed that I would land her. As the fish surrendered onto its side, the net was slipped gently under her .... RESULT !!!!

A Beast Of A Fish To Close The Session
I stood for a moment looking at both my nets, "two nets, two fish", what a way to end the session. From start to finish it had been chaos - whoever said that fishing was a lazy mans sport? I felt drained but the adrenaline I had coursing through my body was enough fuel to aid me on the awkward trudge back to the car park. 

I was sweaty, covered in fish slim and I stunk pretty bad, but it was all worth it. The only downside was when I got home I was going to have to wash my feet, cleaning silt a clay from between your toes and from under your toenails is an art within its self.