Saturday 12 March 2016

Braxted Front Lake 'Carved In Oak'

I woke up from the most incredible angling dream, I can still remember it as if it were real. This has been something that has always interested me, some dreams we remember forever with amazing clarity, others are instantly erased shortly after waking. I hate to think how many carp are left swimming around through my 'neural pathways'. I think many carp anglers may suffer from this, maybe thats why we whittle away our days trying to make these dreams into a reality. 

I read a book by Robert Bruce called 'Astral Dynamics', and he explains his theory on this subject, we all have something called a "Shadow Memory", this functions when we sleep, it has the capability, shortly before waking, of "downloading" all that we've experienced during sleep into the physical\conscious brain. Simply put, the dreams that we remember have been fully downloaded into our conscious mind, all the ones we forget, which is usually a vast majority of them, basically had their "spiritual USB cable" removed before they could be fully downloaded. It makes perfect sense when you think about it, it's just like saving information from your computer onto an external hard drive, pull the cable out before its complete and then it's corrupt. 

You do find that you'll remember parts of your dreams for a few minutes, maybe you'll get the odd flash back, but they soon evaporate, lost in the mind forever. Moving this into an angling situation it's all very reminiscent of that 'possible' catch of a lifetime that ditches the hook at the last minute. You've seen it, felt it and very much lived the experience, only for it to evaporate in front of your eyes, you stand helpless watching as your dream drifts back into the murky depths. You wanted to hold it and touch it, but it just wasn't in your reach. Will we ever experience that feeling again? Some of us make sure they do by pursuing their dream constantly until it's been fulfilled, this can be a draining experience that can very easily turn into obsession.   

The Human Computer

In my dream I was on the banks of Braxted front lake, there was no wind, I don't recall there being any sky either, the landscape ended at the tree line. The water was crystal clear, I was watching a big long common carp feeding very cautiously tight in the margin, practically inches from where I was standing. Very slowly it was working its way over a small patch of silt, I watched as it was gently sucking and blowing, picking away very carefully at what it wanted to eat and ejecting the rest. It was so engaged, like a fine tuned machine.

The precision and care it took was so focused, as I stood watching, I started to wonder how the hell we ever manage to catch any carp at all. They're masters of their own environment, maybe it's just luck, or maybe they allow us to catch them, just to give us the impression that we have a fighting chance of understanding their inner workings. Before I even got close to answering these questions and trying to catch the fish, I woke up. You can imagine how happy I was when I opened my eyes to the real world and had a trip up to Braxted planned.

So, with my dream at the forefront of my mind, I got up, threw breakfast down my neck, inhaled a couple of coffees and then set sail on my usual journey up the A12. It was cloudy, warm and drizzling heavily, perfect for a bite. Having taken a break from fishing the place for a while I had a new found enthusiasm, that's the advantage of fishing a number of lakes at the same time. With every water that I visit, my perspective is continually changing and my enthusiasm is always primed.  

The journey flew by in no time and before I knew it I was pulling into the car park, peering through the trees, front lake looked rather sombre in its mood. The complex was quiet with only a few anglers pitched up on back lake, the rain was relentless. I decided to take it on the chin and walk very slowly around the perimeter of the water. The wind was pushing down towards the car park end, after a short while procrastinating I opted to fish on the front of the wind just a few meters up from the car park. I've always done well from this section of water and to be fair, the far end up by the buoy looked completely dead. The only thing that was missing was a tumble weed.  

For those of you who may not of read my previous Braxted blogs, the conditions today were perfect. The lake tends to go into limbo when it's hot, it seems to pull the fish into the upper layers. I have tried both zigs and surface fishing on these occasions but I'm yet to get a result. I do find though, that if the day has been especially warm, it always looks pretty good for a bite from 4pm onwards. But I would rather fish when I know the conditions are right, rain, wind, snow, Tsunami, if the fish are feeding I will make sure I'm on the bank, none of it bothers me. Some of my fondest angling memories have been when I've been perched under my brolly holding on for dear life as nature, once again demonstrates, that she is fully in charge of our planet.

First Things First

I really wanted to "get it right" today, setting my brolly up and getting my brew kit out, I sat back for another caffeine fix and started to think. Coffee is like engine oil for me, it gets my neural transmitters firing on all cylinders, it's amazing what comes to mind when a 'caffeine high' kicks in. I hatched a plan a few weeks back on how I wanted to fish this session. I know I can get bites on single hook baits and mouthfuls, this time around I wanted to try something different. I was going to fish solid bags with bottom baits on short hook-links.

I didn't want anything blatant though, nothing that stood out like a sore thumb. I was going to compact the bags with really fine boilie crumb, I wanted the bait to blend in with the colour of the lake bed as much as possible. There are three baits that I use that would fit perfectly, Coconut Fish, Pineapple CSL and Halibut & Coconut, I opted for the Pineapple CSL. This is a bait that I've always felt confident in, but since the "Chase Lakes" era, it had fallen by the wayside for me. I'd never tried it on front lake before so I was looking forward to seeing if a few of the majestic commons that were hidden below the surface, maybe inches away from where I was standing, were going to be up for something new. 

Pineapple CSL

Sitting under the brolly looking out at the water, I went through my usual visualisation process. To my left I had a tree lined margin that slowly dropped down to 10ft, opposite I had a lovely deep run that leads to a quiet sheltered corner. There were enough 'fish holding' features in front of me, I knew that there was a high chance of a few carp visiting them at some stage during the day. The rain eased up so I used the opportunity to get set up, there's nothing worse than trying to work with solid bags when it's raining.

As explained before, I was planning to grind the boilies down into very small fragments and compact them into the solid bag as tight as possible. I opted to use small sized bags, in theory I was still fishing a 'mouthful' but there was a hell of a lot more attraction. The only solid item in the bag would be my hook-bait which I'd decided to cut right down. Taking the outer skin off made it blend into the crumb perfectly.

Grind Them Up

I was using a short 'trigga-link' combi fished as a 'blow-back' with a 1.5oz ball lead. In my eyes, this was a really tidy looking setup that would conceal itself perfectly within the bag. Because I was using a light lead I was going to fish my clutch tight on the take. This would help to pull the hook home as the carp bolts off, again, nothing was complicated, there's just a few minor touches that help to make it all work accordingly.

A Short Combi Rig & Cut Down Bait

I made a measured cast on both rods, I had a few chucks until I got the "drop" I wanted and then clipped up. On the left hand rod I was feeling for a fairly short drop. I wanted to be half way down the slope, on my right hand rod I wanted the drop to be slightly longer, the marginal shelf is really steep and I wanted to place my bait towards the bottom. Taking into consideration how many carp I've had from this area, I was convinced that it was a regular patrol route, if fish are about I find any bait put there tends to get picked up.

Ready For The Cast

It slowly started spitting with rain again so with two delicately feathered casts, both rods were out and I was confident. Settling in for 'the big wait' I felt quietly optimistic, it felt great being back on front lake again and I was pleased to be fishing it in a slightly different way. Many of you have probably gathered by now that I like to mix things up, I'd rather have a series of different options on all the waters that I fish, rather than be locked into one way of doing things. As mentioned in my last blog, if I settle for "one size fits all" I really don't feel like I'm fishing well. 

View From The Swim
As I sat looking out over the water, I started to think about life, it's a dangerous topic that I tend to find myself milling over an awful lot. Times are changing fast, technology is slowly embedding itself into everything around us. Is it possible to live a life offline anymore?. We now have a tool at the tips of our fingers that provides a platform to practically live and create an alternate reality. I can't help thinking that in years to come this is going to prove to be a real problem, it already is. 

The internet in its many forms can be a useful tool, especially if you use it for what it was originally designed for, which is 'information'. I feel the problems occur when you try to use it to compensate for all the aspects of your life that you don't have 'offline'You can't live an existence that you're unable to touch or physically/spiritually feel, you can't feel love staring at a JPEG of someone you've never met. The worrying thing though, in the wrong hands the internet and social media can be a weapon, love might not translate from your online activity but hate does. The amount of hate I've witnessed online is not only disgraceful but a problem that continues to multiply, hence why I now limit my internet usage.

I might sound like a hypocrite with what I'm saying, the fact that I'm using technology right now, as you read these words. But the one thing I promised myself when I started this blog, was, it's going to be real, direct from the heart, and I hope through the masses of wires and microchips that able me to be on your computer screen this very second, it translates in a way that communicates with you. That's what it's all about for me, life is a series of connections, be it physical or emotional, we grow as humans by connecting and trying to understanding the world that's around us, the only reality is your own, in the here and the now.

Back To The Session

Having now tied myself in emotional knots, I was pulled back down to earth instantly. My right hand rod raced off, the bite alarm was screaming and the spool was rotating at a crazy speed. Grabbing the rod and leaning into the fish, the front drag clicked in and proceeded to sing. The fish was a dead weight and I had to let it blow its load on its initial run before even attempting to put the brakes on, its power was somewhat overwhelming on my light rods. The adrenalin gave me a serious head rush and my legs were shaking, any take I get from front lake seems to have this effect on me. I think it's because most of the carp that inhabit it are real lumps.

A few minutes in I started to gain some control of the situation, I kept the pressure on and adjusted the clutch accordingly, the tip action in my rod was cushioning the carps lunges. I could feel every movement, it was amazing, very slowly the fish started to tire and as it came close I witnessed the back of a very large common, it looked special. I kept the net out of sight and very patiently waited, 'whilst holding on for dear life', for the fish to drift on its side. She soon did and I gently eased the net under her ... result!

 Carved In Oak
When I witnessed this fish I was lost for words, sometimes silence says it all, its coloration was reminiscent of polished oak and its proportions were perfect. Even better still, because my rods are so forgiving there wasn't any evidence of the carp having been hooked. For me that's what proper angling is about, we seek to catch these amazing creatures, we witness them, hold them and it's our job to take care of them whilst they're in our presence. The closer to 'untouched' that they stay, shows we've done our job well.

On returning the fish to the water, I took a few moments to take it all in, slowly collecting my thoughts I dunked my rig and lead in a bag of ground-bait, I find this soaks up any water. It's a real pain when you're just finishing tying a solid bag and it starts to melt because the end tackle is still wet. Clipping the rod back up I cast the bag out hitting pretty much the same spot. The bite had come pretty quick so I was hopeful of another fish, I didn't want to get greedy though. The carp I just caught was more than enough, anything else was a bonus.

Settling back under my brolly, the rain started again, it was chucking it down. My swim was becoming severely water logged, I was on a sinking ship and everything was starting to get engulfed in clay. My feet weighed at least two pounds more than when I arrived because everything was sticking to them like glue. Undeterred, I put the kettle on and sat back to welcome the wait. 

Clay Feet

Hours started to pass and as morning bled into afternoon I started to pin my hope on a bite later on in the day. I was confident in my rig placement so I continued to sit and watch the water. Even though all remained quiet I was really confident, the wind had now dropped and the atmosphere around the lake had become so still, I felt like I was sitting in a watercolor painting. Time continued and before I knew it 4 o'clock had come and gone. It was around 6pm when I got a single bleep off my left hand rod, all my attention was now firmly on the rod tip. A few seconds later it gave off another bleep, I witnessed the tip nudge round slightly. 

Within moments the rod was away, it was a proper heavy take, both the clutch and alarm sung in unison, it was strangely poetic. As I lent into the fish it took a major u-turn and headed straight towards me. I was reeling like a madman trying to pick up the slack, eventually I did and the rod bowed over, I was "in the game", the carbon creaked, the clutch was ticking and once again my bloody legs were shaking. The fish came in close and circled continuously making use of the deep margins. I couldn't do a great deal with it so I just let it tire itself out, after a fine battle a perfect looking common revealed itself from the murk, in the net she went. Looking closely I'd had this fish before, I was more than pleased to meet her again.

An Old Friend
As expected, the fish was perfect and yet another example of why I make the journey up to fish these waters. After a few shots I slipped her home, maybe I'd meet her again at some point in the future, time will tell. I thought I'd get the rod back out for the last hour or so, it appeared luck was on my side. Clipping up and casting back out, I slowly started to pack away all none essentials, it had been a great session. I was pretty tired, wet and caked in clay but it was all worth it. The remaining hour passed with no action, reeling the rods in and packing my kit on to the barrow, I thanked front lake for, once again, being good to me, I can't wait to get back on its banks.