Tuesday 16 February 2016

The Stock Pond 'Hidden In Plain Sight'

How many aspects in our everyday existence simply go unnoticed or unrecognised, without knowing it there's a danger that some of us could be living in a conscience trance. We leave school and slip into a system that, in my opinion, isn't really conducive to any form of real freedom or expression. We get stuck in ruts, worn out trying to scratch a living, and if we don't make a concerted effort to keep both our body and our mind in shape, we quite simply become a passenger of our own shrinking universe. It's as if we become 'automatic', eat, sleep, work, repeat, there's a danger that our whole perspective on life stops growing and expanding, maybe that's the definition of someone that's "stuck in their ways"

For me the monotony of the 'everyday' is like an anaesthetic on my brain, there isn't a day that goes by when I don't think that "there's got to be more to life than this"Feeling this way doesn't mean that you don't appreciate everything that you've got, it's more the fact that some of us refuse to except that the "mundane" is as interesting as it all gets. 

Taking the above paragraphs into account, I've spoken many times in previous blogs about "fishing modes", these are periods of time when we can find ourselves just "going through the motions". It's very easy to adopt a "one size fits all" viewpoint. Putting it in the clearest way possible, we load the car, get to the water, get the bait in, cast your rods out, bivvy up, job done. And this is a procedure that, if we're not careful, is mimicked with every session, on every water. Without knowing it, we're in a rut, we're not really considering the individual angling situation that's in front of us. 

Imagine "going through the motions" all your life, right up until retirement age, only to look back on your existence to realise you've been asleep for most it and you made no effort to wake yourself up. For perspectives to grow and expand you have to be willing to learn and learning is something that should never stop. 
This brings me to the questions, what are we missing?, how many of the answers are hidden in plain sight? and how many times do we let others do the thinking for us? 

The Devil Makes Work For Idle Minds

Carp angling, more than any other activity lends itself to independent thinking, we are free to do exactly as we see fit. Like everything, there's a few fundamentals, but once you've got the basics down, the world is very much your oyster. From the bait you use to the tackle you choose, the rigs and the waters you fish, it's your own personal journey and no one is entitled to stand in the way. 

Due to the rise of social media many people do try and put a dampener on your journey, it seems to be a part of human DNA to ridicule those of us who stray from "the norm". I have to admit that this is the side of both life and modern carp angling that really gets me down. My advice to everyone out there who actually has a mind of their own, is to take no notice of the mindless clones, let them run around chasing their tails, whilst you quietly walk your own path with your head held high and your eyes and mind wide open.

This now brings me on to a little unassuming water that's situated down in the Isle Of Grain called The Stock Pond. I've done a few blogs on it in the past but recently I got a crazy urge to reconnect with the place. It's situated in a farmers field right next to a public footpath, you share its banks with horses, an army of coots and a shed load of geese. To look at it, it looks nothing more than a puddle that the horses drink from, and that's how its been described by some of the self appointed "carp fishing elite" that are members of the club. But to be honest, they couldn't be more wrong, "Never Judge A Book By Its Cover" and "Never Judge A Lake By Its Size"

Sunset On The Pond
I've spent many a day fishing the 'stockie' and the amount that I've learnt from this small little pool is nothing short of astonishing. It's not easy fishing, it never has been and it's common to hear of 12 - 24 hour blanks. It contains some incredible looking fish, they're old, very moody and not easy to catch, they've seen it all. Very simply put, it's a pot of gold "hidden in plain sight". Many anglers don't entertain the idea of fishing somewhere so small, they have a preconceived idea that it's just "not proper fishing", that's a view I don't share, thinking about it, What actually is proper fishing?  

Stealth is needed to stand any chance of landing one of its temperamental residence and if one other person is fishing when I arrive, I will go somewhere else. I stand by my belief that pressured carp are so acutely in tune with their environment that it doesn't take a great deal to put them on high alert, which in turn can switch them off. You get one cast, anymore than that and I feel you've hindered your chances. Bizarrely though, I have caught well from casting singles at showing fish, on some lakes this doesn't seem to work but on the stock pond it's an easy gamble.

You might be thinking, surely that would spook the fish? but my thinking behind this is simple. Let me use a 'pick-pocket' as an example, they nearly always strike during a distraction, when their target is pre-occupied. When a fish jumps clear of the water this action alone will temporarily shift its awareness. If you can get your bait as close to the "show" as fast as possible, I doubt very much the cast will spook it, in simple terms, you're picking its pocket. Only, instead of taking something from it, you're offering up a bite to eat in spitting distance of where it is.

Troubled Skies
Because the water is so open and only a few miles away from the Rochester estuary, the weather can go to extremes. In the summer its a proper heat trap, there's no cover and you can find yourself burning up. In both the wind and the rain, it can be brutal, it's surrounded by flat lands so the sheer power of nature beats you to a pulp. In the early morning the sun rises over the far horizon, you can usually feel when a new wind is on its way, equally the sunsets are a sight to be seen. After dark the lights can be seen shining over in Rochester and on cloudless nights you can see every constellation. Without a doubt it's one of my favourite locations to fish.

29IB Stock Pond Surprise

I've gone around the houses to the point where I was tying myself in knots on how to approach the place, but finally narrowed it down to the simplest approach possible, single pop ups. I've never caught over big beds of bait, the minute I switched to singles, the game changed. The challenge was the weed, the pond gets seriously weedy and at certain times of the year it's pretty much unfishable. I personally have no problem when it comes to weed, I know that some people run a mile, if you don't learn how to tackle it you can find yourself very limited to the places you can fish. 

You're doing yourself out of a huge part of the adventure if you only fish waters that you feel safe on, to understand the bigger picture in anything in life you have to step outside your comfort zone. There's nothing quite like landing a carp with weed strung up your line and all over the fish and the rig. It's proof enough that you got your presentation correct and you deserve the reward thats seconds away from your net mesh. It was good that I was feeling so victorious over weed because when I turned up to the water on the day of my session, it was literally covered from top to bottom. 

I arrived on the bank for about 10:30am, I wasn't really in a rush to get fishing, my plan for the short term was to do two or three relaxed short sessions. Unlocking the padlock to the pond and squeezing my barrow through the exceptionally narrow gate felt good, its as if I'd never left. As expected, the horses came to greet me, they were the very same horses that have kept me company on and off over the past 8 years or so, they're old friends now. The army of coots where all huddled together on dry land and, as expected the geese started to make a right racket as I carefully skirt around the edge of where they were gathered.   

There was a light chop on the water and as I stood their scanning my eyes across the pond, I noticed loads of flat spots. These were weed beds, there were loads of them. Knowing I only had one cast on each rod, I was going to aim for the channels in between the weed. The more the breeze picked up, the visibility of the channels became more defined. As usual there weren't any real signs of fish so I opted to target a section of the water that I've caught from in the past.

"It's now going to get technical so please bear with me" 

There are a few different rigs that I use in these situations, today I was going to fish a short running helicopter system. Because the weed was so dense I was going to set it up on a leader, to make the whole presentation safe, I was replacing the 'back bead' of the helicopter rig with PVA tape. I was using a 1.5oz 'riser lead', these have a very flat profile and slip in and out of weed a great deal easier than any other lead shape.

Nash Cling On 40IB 

It goes without saying that any rig that you use has to be as safe as possible, no rig is 100% safe but you must take all the necessary precautions into account. If for some reason you get snapped up, all the components must release leaving only the hook-link in the carps mouth. You don't want a situation where a carp is left trailing a lead, leader, or even worst, 'leadcore'. As we know, fish safety is of top priority and I suggest if you're unsure of how to construct a rig safely, you take some time to research and find out exactly what you need to do. With all the DVD's and magazines out there, there's more than enough information on the subject. If you don't fish safely then you really shouldn't be fishing at all, I know that sounds harsh but it's true.

The Riser 1.5oz

Personally, I've never used leadcore and don't plan to do so, and to be totally honest I don't like using leaders either, but there are situations where you have to. Due to the nature of the weed in the stock pond, to stand a chance of landing a fish, I needed something that was really abrasion resistant, I chose the Nash Cling On leader in 40IB, I spliced them to 1.5 meters. Ditching the back bead of the rig would make it possible, that if I got snapped up, the fish would be able to pull the hook-link away from the rest of the tackle. If I was to keep the top bead and weed got caught behind it, it would obstruct the beads movement and prevent it from being able to pull free from the leader. Below is an image of my standard 'short running' helicopter setup.

My Standard Helicopter Rig

To hold my PVA tape in place I slide the middle section of an Avid flying chod bead onto my line or leader. This holds the PVA tape perfectly in place for the cast and due to it's 'tapered' quality, you can slide it up and down to set it at your required length. You'll see in the image below what I'm talking about, it's a nice little touch that's never failed me.

Avid Flying Chod Bead 'Tapered Gripper'

The hook-link was a 'Mantis' & 'Super-nova' combi fished with a single 'critically balanced' pop up, I find this combination to be very effective when presenting a bait over both weed and heavy silt. I've mentioned it before but I'm just not into the chod, its never appealed to me and as we know, fish were being caught from weedy waters long before it became known by the masses. I have about 5 rigs I use that pretty much cover any fishing situation, and I wouldn't class any of them as particularly 'modern' or 'fancy' but I know they're all effective when used in the right circumstances.

Mantis & Super-Nova Combi

Again, once you understand the few fundamentals of carp rigs, it's really just a case of experimenting and finding things that work for you. For newcomers to the sport I understand that it can be so confusing, it doesn't need to be though. I find tackle companies are trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to rig evolution but they're all just a variation of a theme, and are usually designed to sell as many end tackle components as possible. Find what works for you, master it, stick with it, find the fish and you will catch them.

Finished Presentation 
Back To The Session

Both rigs were set up, my chosen bait was Pineapple CSL, I made a measured cast with both rods, aiming for the channels. Both rigs gracefully fell in between the weed beds, I was finally fishing. There's no real set time on the stockie as to when the fish seem to feed, I've caught them on and off through all parts of the day. With bobbins set and the alarms switched on I now had the time to soak up an environment that I'd sorely missed. It's only when I was sitting there waiting for the kettle to boil, did I realise, just how much I loved the place.

View From The Swim
In the image above the wind had eased off so you can't make out the weed beds, they were basically scattered all over the place. I positioned both rods where it didn't seem to be as dense. Either way, I felt 100% confident in my presentation, the rig I've explained pretty much presents itself over anything, within reason. Preparing for my first injection of caffeine for the day, I started to think about some of my previous captures.

The 29IB mirror I had was one hell of a surprise and the fact that it was caught on a very brief afternoon trip made it a pretty special capture. I've had a fish known as "The Grey", the clues in the name, it's an incredible mid twenty mirror which is a lovely vivid grey colour. I caught this fish after dark, on my 1.5 test curve barbel rod, it was such a humbling experience. I was really wanting to catch her again during the daylight hours. I was desperate to get a shot of her that captured just how majestic she really is. These were two defining angling moments for me and to think that these fish are still dwelling in such a small 'microcosm' of water is what makes them all the more intriguing. 

A Single Pineapple CSL Pop Up

A few hours past me by, the world around the stock pond was existing perfectly, but it was as if time on the water had stopped completely. There were no signs of fish anywhere, no liners, nothing to indicate anything was going to happen any time soon. This, however, is a common feeling, the place has a habit of spitting out a prize when you least expect it. I sat tight, downed a few more coffees and sucked on my e-cigarette, the combination of caffeine, nicotine and prescription medication tripped me out, I embraced the feeling, anything that pacifies the sense of reality is always welcome. 

Time accelerated so I started to pin my hopes on late afternoon, it felt right for a bite, I could feel it in my bones, so I extended my patience and sat confidently knowing that something was going to happen, I welcomed the wait. Late afternoon was approaching and just when I was starting to consider that a blank was on the cards. A clue revealed itself from the water. A few meters off my righthand rod, a carp jumped, it launched itself a good few feet above the surface. Even though it happened within a matter of seconds I could see every detail, it's eyes, gills and underbelly. 

Show Location
I wasted no time and reeled my right rig in frantically, as fast as I could. There was a hell of a lot of weed where it landed so I made my rig "long running". Basically I slide the back stop further up the leader, tied the PVA tape on it, placed a PVA nugget on to mask the hook, and out it went. I cast it as close to where the carp showed as possible. This was going to be a true test of the presentation, deep down I knew that it was going to be 'sitting pretty', I'd done enough tests on this particular rig to last a life time.

The bobbin was set, the alarm was on and all my attention was fixed on the rod tip. All of a sudden everything felt very serious, I waited it out, the water had presented me with a gift and I'd acted on it straightaway. Time now stopped, both on the water and on the bank, it's amazing what 'expectation' can do to you, and the environment around you. It must have only been 20 minutes before the rod tip shot round and the alarm started yelping, I was in. I grabbed the rod at lightening speed, I was going to have to be careful, there was enough weed out there for the fish to bury itself.

And that's exactly what it did, straightaway, everything went solid, I didn't panic, I just kept the pressure constant, gently increasing it and then releasing it slightly. A minute or so passed and I felt something give, my heart sunk thinking it had come off, but the rod arched back around and the clutch came into play .. result !! the fish was still on, slowly and steady, I teased her towards me. Managing to keep her head up, she was unable to bury herself anymore, she did her best to try, but to no avail. Closer and closer she came until she was in arms reach, I spotted my chance, quickly slipping the net under her, she was in .... the relief was immense.

It felt pretty dam special to catch this carp after being away from the water for so long, "and what a carp she was", a perfect example of a 'Stock Pond' mirror. She was a right lump, dark, moody and had obviously been through a few wars in her time, but that's what it's all about. With each carp you catch you also capture their history, and on it's release you then become part of it. I felt honoured to now be part of hers. I did contemplate a recast but I felt happy with the result, as mentioned before, I was going to give the pond a few fleeting visits before heading back up to Braxted.

A Brute Of A Mirror

The stock pond is a perfect example of how easy it is to overlook things, usually because you have a preconceived idea about something. Sometimes the idea doesn't necessarily sprout from your own mind, it's from someone else's. The amount of fish I would of done myself out of if I'd listened to the opinions of others in regards to the 'stockie', would've been a great shame. My advice to you is simple, "if it feels right for you, then do it", and I'll repeat my main point "Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover" and "Don't Judge A Lake On Its Size".