Saturday 16 April 2016

The Stock Pond 'The Time Thief'

A considerable amount of time had passed since my last session, I'd managed to get out on a few trips but they all resulted in a blank. The weather had been so hot and I'd found myself scratching to get a bite pretty much everywhere I went, add a lot of work into the equation, a fair chunk of summer had flown by in a instant. I managed a few fish out the Braxted reservoir but they were nothing to really write home about. I still had a lot going on off the bank but I did manage to steal an afternoon in between everything. I chose to make a trip back down the stock pond, I was inspired by my last session. 

Looking back over my previous years results, I had one hell of a season, for me, the current year so far had been pretty tough going. I certainly wasn't getting out as much as I would've liked and the heat we'd been experiencing, without a doubt, had slowed the fishing down. Putting all these minor points aside, I work on the basis that you just have to work with what's available to you and make the best of it. I find that when we get prolonged periods of heat, it might be nice to be out on the bank but it's not always best on the fishing front. I think there can be a huge misconception about summer angling, for those of us who fish through all the seasons, you do find yourself looking forward to the warmer weather.

As we know, when the heat comes the fish start feeding 'more' and they're usually very active, I think subconsciously we feel that we're going to start hauling the minute summer arrives. From past experience I know that it's not always the case. Spring can be a very productive period, but if the heat hits quickly and water temperatures rise fast. The carp can become very sluggish and before you know it they're thinking about spawning. At this point, feeding isn't high on their priorities, then we have a "post-spawning" period and depending on the lake you're fishing, it can take a while for the carp to start feeding properly again. 

In conclusion, for me, the best times to be out on the bank are spring, late summer right through Autumn, up until mid winter when the first ice freezes the waters. When I have my angling head well and truly screwed on I find, if I'm not careful, I'm constantly looking ahead to the changing of the season or the impending months. The expectation is always there, that if fishing has been slow, 'the carp are sure to kick off' any week now. Adopting this outlook, life can pass you by very quickly, each pivotal point of every year in my mind is angling related. The saying "don't forget to the smell the roses along the way" is very fitting to this mentality. I really have to master living in the now and appreciating time, time is not something to be wished away, it can either be your friend or a thief, it's all down to how you choose to use it.

On the day of the session I had a few things to do in the morning, the plan was to get to the water just after midday. The stock pond is usually pretty good for a bite come the late afternoon, I wasn't in a rush. If I could tempt just one fish then I'd be more than happy. Half day sessions can be quite refreshing, for my perspective to stay finely tuned I need to balance my time on the bank carefully. When I'm on shorter sessions I'm inclined to try a number of different things that I usually wouldn't go with on my long day trips. If I get results then I will carry whatever approach I'm using over into my full day sessions. 

For example I really learnt how to fish adjustable zigs on a series of half days. Once I'd learnt how to make the method work for me then it was a lot easier sitting behind my rods on a long session feeling confident in the approach. It's not about how much time you're out on the bank, it's about how that time is used, that's what counts. I found that when I use to fish consecutive nights, a few days in, I was so dam tired that I really wasn't fishing effectively, I expelled most of my energy on trying to stay awake. My angling is all about the 'mindset', to finish my point off, "the less time you have the more effort you put in to make something happen".

Upon arriving at the pond I was met with a deserted landscape, other than the horses, coots and geese, I was the only human about, the main lake was also empty. The weed was flourishing, it was way heavier than my previous trip. I took some time to have a mooch about, paying close attention to both the reed lines. When the banks are deserted, the carp love to get behind the reeds, you can usually see them ghosting in between the stems. I didn't see any signs of them close in so I decided to target the open water.

The wind was pushing hard down into the bottom corner, this is an interesting little area, you have a small set of reeds out in the open. A lot of weed always gets pushed down and collects along the edge of both the reeds and the margins. There's nearly always a few fish passing through, there's a small gravel bar that gently descends from the point of the reeds. I was going to be fishing both my baits on it, one rod was going to be a foot or so off the reeds, the other, a couple of rod lengths along. 

View From The Swim
In the image above I've marked up where the 'gravel run' is located, it's only a few feet deep. In the back ground you'll notice flat spots, this is weed. Down to the right of my swim is a corner which was thick with the stuff, I had a gut feeling that a few fish would be holding down amongst it. I was really going to have to sink my line because I didn't want the fish to detect it if/when they were passing through the channel in front of me. Just like last time, I'd given myself one cast on each rod, I didn't want anymore disturbance than necessary. 

Regarding my bait, today I was going to use a combination of fruity flavours, I wanted to have a proper fruit cocktail going on in the solid bags. On the hair was a cut down Pineapple CSL bottom bait, the crushed boilies consisted of 'Strawberry Mivvi', 'Raspberry Ripple' and 'Honey Nectar'. I liked the idea of mixing both a sweet birdseed and Milk Protein bait together, I was going for maximum attraction on this session. Because the lake was chocked I knew there was going to be a hell of a lot of "naturals" to compete with. I wanted something that a passing carp just couldn't ignore.

A Fruit Selection

My hook link was a short trigga-link combi, the lead was my usual 2.5oz flat pear inline. All of this was going to be tightly packed into a medium sized solid bag. Thinking back to most of my sessions on the stock pond, I've always caught on the old school flavours. Combining them all together made complete sense, also it was something a little different to what I'd tried before. If I could tempt a bite then it was an approach that I would put into practise on my other waters.

Visual Attraction

So, with both bags tied I very carefully made the casts, it was such a short distance that I was able to get them spot on. Even though it was only a short cast I feathered them down, each bag literally kissed the water with two quiet 'plops', I was happy. I had the afternoon and early evening ahead of me, I took a seat, sparked the kettle up and prepared for 'the wait'. The stock pond is a place I could easily sit by even if I didn't have my rods out, I've mentioned it before but its location is special. It's all flat lands and vacant plains that stretch down to the estuary, there's nothing quite like looking as far as possible into the horizon to help untangle the thoughts in your mind, 'I live my life in knots'.

Testing A Bag in The Margins

A few hours passed, I'd be watching the water carefully when all of a sudden a fish cut the surface down in the corner to my right. The bank I was on was very high so I kept low to the ground and went to take a closer look, it was very clear too me that there were two carp moving very slowly through the weed. I sat quietly whilst they poked about, they were rather clumsy in giving themselves away. I put this down to the fact that they hadn't detected my presence, once again, this highlights how important it is to keep bank-side disturbance to a minimum.

I suddenly felt really confident, if those fish were to move out the corner and come my way, they were sure to come across one of my traps. Also, working on the basis that there might be other carp in the area, I was positive that a bite was on the horizon. Sitting calmly was very difficult now, I was anticipating a bite, I was really on edge, any moment my prize could reveal itself. Polishing my third coffee off didn't really help calm the situation.

3rd Coffee 

I continued to watch the carp until the activity disappeared, they were there for a good half hour before moving off. The wind dropped and the cloud came over, it was now approaching early evening, time had passed so fast. My anticipation held out and when I received a 'liner' on both rods, it became clear that fish were now moving in front of me. Minutes after the liners my left rod bleeped a few times, the bobbin dropped a few inches, paused and then BANG!, it was away. The fish went powering off up the lake, I leapt on the rod with lightening speed but the fish had already ploughed through a submerged weed bed. 

I kept my panic to a minimum, the whole reason I was fishing with a leader was if a situation like this occurred. I kept the pressure on and just held it, you don't need to "rip in to them" in these sort of situations. Once I'd reached the maximum pressure that I was willing to use, I held it at that point. I could feel that I was slowly gaining some ground, the carp was starting to fidget, a minute or so passed and the game was back on, it was out, I was relieved but the war wasn't over yet.

I was now fishing on a tight clutch letting the rod do all the work, the fish attempted to bury me again but I managed to stop her, she was tiring, so was I. Very gently I was teasing her towards me, I caught a glimpse of a lovely dark mirror, it looked like a fair size fish. The net was lowered, teasing her a little bit more.. RESULT! she was safely in the net. I gave both me and the fish a few minutes to recover, it was nail biting stuff. Clearing the weed that she was buried in, I was met with the sight of a lovely old mirror carp, and what a carp she was. 

The Battle Was Won
I was over the moon with this fish and another prime example of what the stock pond has to offer, it always amazes me the stamp of fish that are lurking in such a small water. Another short successful session was now underneath my belt, from a 'perspective' point of view, I really do enjoy quick trips, especially if you manage to catch. With each carp I catch I seem to get an injection of enthusiasm, in that very moment of releasing the fish I experience a high that can't be replicated through any chemical drug.

I packed up slowly, once everything was on the barrow I decided to walk around the water one last time, the light was fading and the wind was calm. The distant lights over in Rochester were illuminating the horizon line, there was no one around, not a single soul. It was magic, what other pass time puts you in such amazing places, as I stood there, now in darkness, I found it so hard to believe that I was only 30 minutes away from the capital. Loading the van, I was once again 'city bound', on the journey home I was planning my next escape, time to get back up Wick mere.

A Different Kind Of Wilderness

Monday 4 April 2016

Micklem Mere 'Fishing For Mysteries' Part 4

A few weeks had passed since my last session, I had a lot of work to do, even though I wasn't physically on the bank my thoughts were. I go through stages where I really do find it hard to curb my obsession, it's hard to strike a balance between work, family and fishing. If I'm not careful my angling has a tendency to bleed into every aspect of my life, when the weathers warm I start getting the itch, I picture the waters in my mind and mill over the spots I'd like to be fishing. 

At certain times of the year I get flash backs to years gone by and the baits I was using at the time. I think back to when me and my friend would cobble all our pennies together, we'd go down to our local tackle shop and buy all the ingredients we needed to make Nash 'Sting Fishmeal'. We'd gone halves on a bait making kit, we use to stink our parents houses out on a regular basis knocking up kilos of the stuff. We'd be furiously rolling, deep in conversation, nattering about the secret carp that lived in our local club waters.

During the summer holidays we'd go fishing for a week at a time, our only connection with reality was when we use to take a trip to the tackle shop or supermarket to stock up on supplies. We use to spend most of our time on a lake called 'Holts', which is now known as 'Stream Valley Fisheries' down in Crowborough, East Sussex. It was on this water that I learnt how to fish, it was magic, located deep within a valley surrounded by trees, it was like another world. I remember fishing it a few years back and I literally got a lump in my throat thinking back to the amazing times I'd had down there. There was a small group of us that use to fish all the local lakes for the carp.

One of my fondest memories was when my mates Dad would occasionally bring down fish and chips and a couple of cans of beer, we'd put the cans in a bag in the margin to keep them cool, we'd secure the bag with a bank stick and as the sun started to fade we'd crack-em open and sit back watching the day end. It seems a shame that I'm not in touch with any of these 'old friends' anymore. But as we know, life happens and we all go our separate ways, I feel blessed to still be fishing and all these great memories will never fade. My angling journey has been so great and I will continue it until the end of my days.

'Holts' 1994'

The day of my Micklem session I woke up early to bright sun and a totally blue sky, summer was in full swing. Opening the window in my bedroom, the fresh morning air came seeping into the room, I took a deep breath and inhaled the new day, exhaling yesterdays remnants. It was a fine day to be alive, an even better day to get out and get fishing. Gone was the calm demeanour of my last few sessions, today I just couldn't get to the water fast enough. I wanted to witness the mere waking up, the bird life, the dew on the grass, everything, the sense of clarity that it all provides is something that I need to soak up. 

All these things might sound rather fruitless to the "non angler", but for me, all these elements are vitally stitched into my journey. My fishing has three separate elements, 'the environment', 'the process' and 'the capture'. All three married together is what makes my carp angling so important too me, it's what motivates me to get out there and get stuck in, it's all about experiencing the finer points in life that are so often lost. It's taking the core elements of what fishing is about, and if you keep them at the forefront of your mind, your enthusiasm is always primed and the flame never seems to flicker. With this outlook, never once have I felt burnt out.     
Micklem's Awake
I pulled into Micklems carp park as the sun was rising, there was dew on the ground, the atmosphere felt so fresh, the bird life on the water, as usual, was extremely active. I took a few minutes to load the barrow and then made my way down to the waters edge, I had the whole place to myself. Taking a seat on one of the handy little wooden benches, I decide I'd sit and watch the water for a while. Just being by the mere at that time in the morning was special, the only souls for miles around were just me and Eric 'my dog'. To be honest, I was so content within the moment that I didn't feel the need to get the rods out at all.

I could feel by the sun on my face that it was going to be a really hot day, I decided to head up towards the back bay area, hoofing it round with the barrow, I started to feel energised, all of a sudden getting the rods out was of top priority, I was excited. Today I'd left the spod rod at home, I was going to focus solely on solid bags, I wanted to keep the fishing nice and clean with as little disturbance as possible. Arriving at the swim the wind was pushing nicely into the back margin, this was where I was going to put one of my rods. 

Micklem Back Bay
The 'make up' of the back bay is very interesting, you've got shallow margins that suddenly fall away to depths in excess of 10ft, there are a few spots that go even deeper. I've found that there are sporadic patches of weed in places, hence why I opt for solid bags, I can sit confident knowing that the bait is well presented.

Thinking back to my previous sessions, I always see fish show in and around this area at varying times of the day. My plan was to fish one bait just off the overhanging bushes that lined the back margin and the other, quarter of the way down the marginal slope, in my mind I'd have two different depths covered. In regards to rigs and presentation, as mentioned before, nothing was going to be changed other than the deduction of the spod.

Solid Bag Mix

My solid bag was made up of both Salmon Marine and Multi-mix pellets, added to this was some Hot Chilli Hemp method mix, porridge oats and a generous 'gulp' of Almond Oil. My hook bait was a single grain of imitation corn topped off with half a 10mil Pineapple Cream match boilie, this combo had pretty much produced all my fish so I decided I'd stick with it. This was going to be fished on a short 'trigga-link' combi, the lead I was using was a 2.5oz gripper, this was going to be setup 'semi-fixed'. As usual, there's nothing complicated, for me the most important aspect is where the baits were going to be placed, it's all about the right location. Images of my rig can be seen here Micklem Mere Part One

Before making the bags up I performed a few measured casts feeling carefully for 'the drops', I wanted a short drop on my margin rod and a slightly longer one on the rod that was to be fished on the slope. My margin rod was clipped up at 13.5 wraps, this put me perfectly under the tree-line, the 'slope' rod was clipped up at the same distance, theoretically I was fishing both bags in line with each other, the only difference between them was the depth they were fishing at. Both bags were tied as close to perfection as possible, each cast landed exactly where I wanted it to, I was happy and finally fishing.

A Neat Bite

A few hours passed and the heat started to kick in, Micklem has a tendency to become a sun trap, even with the brolly up, it's hard to find relief. I took both my shoes and socks off, rolled my trousers up and paddled in the shallow margins. I love doing this on really warm days, it brings back memories of when I use to visit my nanny and grandad down in Littlehampton when me and my sister were kids. 

We spent so many summer days in the sea paddling about, when the tide was out we'd run for what seemed like miles to get to the water, the beaches were empty in them days. I started to sense that I was on my own little sentimental trip this session, what with my memories of fishing Holts. When I think back it makes me feel like I've been on this earth a lot longer than 39 years.

View From The Swim
For the first few hours or so I was getting solid indications that fish were in the swim. Periodically I was getting liners on both rods but as of yet nothing translated into a bite. I was convinced something was going to occur so I just sat tight, I was only going to recast when and if I got a bite. A couple more hours melted away and the sun really started to beat down, I'd spotted a few carp showing towards the back of the bay. There were a number of shows all over the lake. The carp had obviously become active, from past experience, if you haven't had any early bites, chances are some action will occur mid to late afternoon.

Eric Seeking Some Shade

The day was steadily passing, I was still getting the odd knock on both rods, I was surprised that I hadn't managed to even pick up a few small carp yet. I toyed with the idea of a recast but I genuinely didn't see the point, I was confident in my approach, I just had to stick it out. For all I knew some carp had clocked the bait but weren't up for a feed just yet, my hopes were now pinned on late afternoon. To be honest it was such a lovely day, just being on the banks of the mere was a gift within itself, fish or no fish, it's all part of the process.

The day had evaporated, before I knew it, it was now approaching 3 o'clock, I felt the magic hour was a whisker away, the wind dropped, the temperature dropped and a few patchy clouds moved in over head, it suddenly felt pretty dam special. Now with the water like a sheet of glass I tried to clock signs of feeding fish. The binoculars came out and I started to scan around the bay, carefully looking for streams of bubbles, anything that gave me an indication that fish were in the vicinity. Towards the back of the bay I spotted a few patches, there looked to be more than one fish having a poke about.

This got my blood pumping, "surely they were going to come across my bait". I sat pinned to my chair, I found myself holding my breath, urging one of my rods to go racing off. A single bleep shifted my attention onto my left hand rod tip, the tip nudged and then, BAM!! it was away like a train. Lifting into the fish, it felt pretty powerful, this certainly wasn't one of the many scamps, this felt special. I was using my light rods so every pull and tug was translating through the blank directly into my soul, "I love players rods". There was no hurrying it, I grabbed the net and walked just above knee height into the water. I was now well and truly connected to both the carp and the mere.

It was slowly edging towards me but I had to be patient, it topped just a few yards out and I was met with a fleeting fleck of bright orange. I was somewhat stunned and for a split second I was wondering what the hell I'd caught. The shock subsided and I suddenly remembered that there had been whispers about a couple of 'koi' that had been spotted during spawning. If so, it was very clear that I had one of them literally yards from the net. The buzz had now turned from excitement into panic - "I had to get this fish in". I increased the pressure, slowly guiding her my way, inches turned to millimetres, just a little further, as the net engulfed her, the relief and the joy washed over me in equal measure.

Micklem Gold ... Literally 

It was obvious that I'd unearthed one very special jewel, I have no doubt that there are more surprise residing under the meres surface. I know I repeat myself but this is what angling's all about for me, it's the not knowing, uncertainty can be a beautiful thing. Amongst the many small fish you tend to catch, there's sure to be a few surprises amongst them. That's one of the reasons why I've decided to put serious time into the place. I look upon it as a journey of discovery and with each fish caught a little piece of the meres story falls into place.

With a few shots taken, I got back in the water to set her free, it was a pleasure to watch her slowly drift off back into the abyss. No time was wasted in getting another bag tied and back out, if fish had moved in and were now actively feeding, I wanted to cash in on it. With the bobbin now set I took a seat and got the binoculars back out, there seemed to be some signs of feeding in the deeper water, more towards the middle of the bay. I felt there was still a good chance of another fish, in the meantime I sat immersed in the memory of my previous capture, what an incredible carp.

The next bite came pretty quick, this time on my right rod, it all happened so fast, it made me jump. Leaning into the fish, it had already bolted clear of the bay and was heading out into the main body of the mere. Again, this was a powerful carp, it was rocketing along, I adjusted the clutch tighter to try and pacify its momentum. This failed, it just kept on going, it was at this point my mind started fragmenting my thoughts, could this be a secret monster? I was dying to find out. I was now in the water again with the net by my side, the fish had clearly 'blown its load', it was now just a case of gently guiding her my way. Soon enough a lump of common carp was resting in the mesh.

Another Surprise
This common was a proper brute, its huge mouth was full of living natural food. I doubt very much it had been caught before, I was so pleased, two good fish in a day from Micklem was a right result. It goes to show that I didn't need to be spodding bait out to pull the carp in. It also demonstrates that with perseverance comes rewards, I've be very determined about catching some of the better fish and I feel I'm finally 'breaking through'. 

After returning it I slowly packed up and made the long walk back to the car park, everything was calm, me and Eric were still the only souls around. Looking back over the water as the sun started to fade, it looked very different, all of a sudden the idea of hidden monsters was more than just a rumour, it appeared that they were very real, I was already looking forward to getting back down and giving it another go. Locking the gate behind me and preparing for the long drive home, I thanked the mere for providing me with another day to remember.