Saturday 28 May 2016

Burrows 'A Time To Reflect The Truth'

"From The Second We Are Born, Two Sides Are Drawn" Paul Warren 2016
Having been out on the bank a lot recently, 'taking into account it's now Spring 2016', a lot of anglers that seem to hibernate for the winter are once again venturing back out onto the banks. It's always a minor culture shock for me because on most of my waters through both late Autumn and Winter, rarely do you see another soul. It's usually at this time of the year when I start to reflect on things, it seems a natural thing to do. Everything is once again starting to bloom and grow around me and from time to time I wonder if I, myself, have grown a little to. For me the years seem to be racing by and most the time I feel like I'm living my life in a trance.  

With the warmer weather finally arriving and a new season imminent, I find the passive atmosphere that Winter fishing provides for me, disperses, and all of a sudden an undercurrent of competitiveness seems to rear its head. This is not in my imagination, it really just seems to be the way it is, I guess it happens in everything when a large amount of people are participating in the same thing. 
I've mentioned it a few times before, I'm not a competitive person, I don't go fishing to be 'the top rod' or try to catch all the 'biggest fish', too me that would be very dull. 

I understand that if you are taking part in a 'sport' then you have to ingest the hunger and perseverance to be the best you can be. For me though, angling isn't a sport, it's a hobby, competition just doesn't come into it. But with the way 'modern carp angling' appears to be going, a strange competitiveness seems to spill out onto the banks of most waters up and down the country. This to me is a real shame because it's all so very easy to be lumped in with this whole mentality.

I don't class myself as a 'modern carp angler', in the same way that I never classed myself as a 'modern drummer', actually I don't even class myself as a particularly good angler, I just get on with doing my own thing. Even in drumming there was a fairly large minority that tried to turn it into a sport. "Who can play the fastest roll""who can play the fastest double bass drum". I use to sit back and ask myself, what has any of that got to do with music? the answer was simple, .. nothing. 

From my point of view it's the same with angling, we've all met the guys who are sponsored by endless companies, tell you that everything you are doing is wrong, has had loads of 30's & 40's, can cast further than anyone else, and has 'apparently' had a vast majority of all the big fish in the waters you're fishing. Fair play if that's what "said angler" wants out of his own angling, but why broadcast it? it's not a competition, but to a fair few people that I meet out there, it seems it is. It's fair to say that I have nothing in common with these kind of 'anglers', we might be participating in the same thing, but that's as far as the comparisons go. 

Simply Existing
I understand we all do things for different reasons and each of us are entitled to take from it what we feel we require. But the minute I personally feel like I'm in some sort of competition or part of the 'rat race/carp race'. I have to devise a way of removing myself from it. I remember when I went to a drum clinic a few years back held by a drummer called Jimmy Chamberlin, he was a player I had great respect for, he was classed as a 'drummer of a generation', I can vouch for that, his playing communicated to me like no other.

The first thing he said when he came out on stage was "if you've come to see me play really fast press rolls and lighting speed blast beats, you've come to the wrong place". In that one sentence, he hit the nail right on the head. For him, it was about the drums and their place within music, there were no over-inflated opinions of his own ability, he's a very humble human. I related to his statement so much, it shot me right through the heart, it wasn't about his ego and it wasn't about 'his' talent.

It was about the drums as an instrument and their relevance within music as a whole. I can relate to his statement so much regarding both my life as a drummer and an angler, it hasn't been easy. I started focusing on my angling and my writing after my mental illness got the better of me. After a god awful fight to get to the point where I could function again, I realised that if you get to a stage in your life when you don't feel like you have a reason to live anymore, you've got to give yourself a reason. 

You've got to fight and hold onto to something that will pull you up from the abyss, people that have never experienced what I'm talking about won't understand what I'm saying, you can try, but until you've been there yourself, you will never truly get it. In this situation you either let it beat you, or you get the hell up and fight. It was 'touch and go' for me, but I chose to fight. My lifeline came in the shape of a carp, angling has been the only constant in my life that I've always loved. I grabbed it when I needed it and held onto it tight, it eventually pulled me home.

Unfortunately though, I'm left with some very difficult symptoms as a result of what I went through, it doesn't get easier but you learn to cope, one of my main coping strategies is this very blog. When things get tough I fish and then I write, this whole blog was born from a point in my life I never want to revisit. It isn't a tool to try and get a career in the angling industry and it certainly isn't a platform to "big myself up" onwhat it is, is my life line and the reason why I pull myself out of bed everyday and get on with what I've got to do

Taking into account everything I've said above, it might now make it pretty clear for people as to why I actually go fishing, and why I have very little patience with the back stabbing, bickering bollocks that seems to plague 'our' beloved pass time. I've been on the receiving end of some pretty nasty stuff, especially with the armchair anglers on social media that pass up being a twat as "banter". Like I've said before, think before you shoot your mouth off, you have no idea what people are going through.

To mirror the statement that Jimmy Chamberlin said, "if you've come here to see big carp after big carp, fancy tackle and rigs, and an example of me casting 200 yards onto a clear spot the size of an ashtray, you've come to the wrong place". For me, this blog is about having a voice in a world that likes to mute independent thinking, it's about the angling, the carp, the process and the journey, and maybe the odd monster along the way, it's really that simple. 

So With No Further Ado 

My alarm clock let wail at 5:30am and I was up and out the door within minutes, my destination was Burrows down in Snodland, Kent. I finally had the opportunity to get a long day session in and I just couldn't wait. It had been a while since I'd last taken a trip there and I was feeling inspired about getting back on its banks. Burrows is by far my favourite place to fish, mainly because of the stark, bleak landscape that surrounds me. It's situated deep within a valley, in the distance you can see scattered farm houses, fields and woods. I've whittled away endless hours on its banks for the past 10 years now and the prospect of fishing it still evokes a crazy amount of excitement.

Burrows In Bloom

A quick stop for fuel and supplies saw me 'high-tailing' it down the motorway at a barely legal speed. Rushing to the gates, unlocking the padlock, I was in overdrive, I felt like a junkie rushing to get my fix. Parking up and getting the barrow loaded, I calmed myself down and proceeded to take a very slow walk down to the water. Everything felt perfect, I instantly got 'flash-backs' of sessions gone by. I felt strangely sentimental as the branches were getting caught in my hair whilst I struggled along the uneven pathways, the quacking of the mallards was as loud as ever, and, above all, the smell, I smelt summer. It was one of those days when angling really felt like a gift.

There were a few anglers scattered about the lake so my options were limited, I decided I'd give the spot I targeted on my previous session another go. Taking into account that last time I'd had eight fish from it, I was hoping I could replicate the results. The other advantages of setting up in this swim was the fact I could get fishing quickly. I knew that 12.5 wraps put me perfectly on the spot. Before setting anything up I decided I was going to put a nice spread of bait out. I had the perfect bait for the job, Monster Squid, in the warm weather nothing beats the smell of fishmeal.

A Simple 'Blow-Back'

On a few of the waters I fish I know that at the right time of the year I can get away with putting a lot of bait out. Burrows is one of those waters, I know the fish tend to move around in groups and from experience I know that if you keep the bait going in. The carp tend to move in on it and if you play the cards right, you can pretty much keep them there. I want to get the carp competing, if you can make this happen then you can end up having a really productive day. After some serious throwing stick action I got both rods rigged up, wrapped and I was ready to go.

My rigs were both semi-fixed inlines, I was going to be fishing singles on the hair, no mesh bags or stringers. The hair was nice and long, I'm a big fan of long hairs, I think they produce very good hook holds. I always use a ring when I fish blow-back rigs, I personally think the rig performs better than if you are using a tiny piece of tubing in its place. Because the hair is long, before I cast out, I place a small piece of rig foam around the hook. This will ensure that the hair doesn't get tangled during flight.

View From The Swim
Both rods went out with ease and landed perfectly on the money, nothing beats a good cast. Back-leads were slide down both lines, the bobbins were set and I was now ready for the days proceeding to kick in. I felt super confident but I know all too well that you can't predict anything when it comes to Burrows. It has a great way of drawing you in and then kicking you in the nuts when you least expect it. Coffee was now on, I sat back and soaked everything up around me, it felt so good just being outdoors. To my surprise I was getting a few bleeps and liners from the off. It was clear that there were carp moving in front of me.

'Boom'... my right rod was away, line was tearing off the clutch, I pounced nearly falling headfirst into the water. First fish on, its initial run was momentous, steering her my way, she really woke up close in. After a short sharp moment of chaos, the landing net mesh engulfed the fight, first fish of the session was contained. Lifting the net out the water, I was greeted with a picture perfect example of a common carp, it was long and thin with a fair old paddle on it. I was very pleased, before unhooking the fish I left it in the net and got another three handfuls of bait straight out. If there were more carp there I wanted to keep them feeding.

A Classic Common On A Classic Bait
After a few quick photos I sent her home, I checked the sharpness of the hook, it wasn't doing it for me so a new hook-link was put on. The rod was wrapped and out it went, the second cast felt even more satisfying than the first. The bobbin was once again set and I was back in the wait, it's always a great feeling when you get a quick bite. Almost instantly I was getting indications of fish in the swim again, I sat back visualising the whole spot clouding up with silt and sediment as a shoal of carp were having a good root about on the bottom.

An hour or so passed, during this time I kept feeding the swim a few handfuls at a time. It really felt like the right thing to do, just like my previous 'Burrows' session, I was going for a 'big hit' and to maximize my chances, feeding 'little & often' was the right way to go. A little more bait had been applied, the left rod was the next one to go. Lifting into the fish I felt instantly that this was a little scamp, the take was erratic and I could feel it darting around and shaking its head like crazy. The fight was quick, fish number two was greeted with the net, it came in the shape of a lovely mirror.

Slate Grey
Once again, I checked the hook, it felt good for one more bite, the rod was wrapped and cast back out. I was on a roll, another few handfuls of bait were introduced, this time I spread it over a slightly larger area. I was thinking that if a good number of fish were out in front of me maybe I could draw more in. The more carp there were competing for the bait the better. The plan for the rest of the day was simple, if and when I get another fish I was going to stop introducing loose feed. I didn't want to fill them up, I wanted just enough food in the area to keep them poking about.

After a while of the rod being back out, the sun started to dish out some real heat, with the temperature rising all the liners slowly dried up. It was clear to me that the fish had temporarily vacated the spot. I had a feeling that it was going to do me a few more bites but I'd be looking towards mid to late afternoon. I decided I'd reel the rods in and go for a wander. If I saw evidence of carp now up in the layers I'd consider fishing zigs for a few hours. A good few of the anglers that had been fishing had now left so I pretty much had the place to myself. 

The Art Of Observation
I took a slow quiet wander around the lake periodically stopping and taking a seat, there weren't any clear signs of carp near the surface so I decided I'd ride the afternoon heat out and cast out just as it started to cool off. There are advantages to resting the swim, mainly it gets the lines out of the water, I was hoping that by the time my baits went out, a few fish would've moved back in. I whittled the hours away just 'hanging out', it was so peaceful and an ideal time to just let my mind wander. Soon enough the afternoon made its exit and I headed back to my swim to see if I could catch a few before I left. 

Rigged up and wrapped, both rods went back out, I didn't even have time to get my bobbin on the right-hand rod, it was practically away when the bait hit the water. The carp made a wild bid for freedom kiting tight to the right but I managed to pacify it just enough to start guiding it my way. Battle commenced and after a spirited fight, I teased another mirror carp over the landing net. There's nothing quite like a quick carp to get proceedings back underway. 

Taken On The Drop
The rod went back out, as explained before, no more bait was added, I knew there was enough attraction in the area to keep any fish grubbing about. The plan was to now maximise my chances before I called it a day, the days end was in sight so I was hoping that I could at least manage one last fish. There was a strange calm for about 40 minutes and then I started to receive liners off of both rods. Without a doubt, there was more than one fish now out in front of me. 

Sitting watching my rod tips I spotted a proper heavy jolt on the left tip and then it burst into life. The bobbin smacked the blank but the reel drag didn't kick in. The fish tore tight to the left, the rod was doing a great job of playing the fish before I'd even managed to pick it up. Lifting the rod, I was instantly connected to a crazy energy. The fish was tugging and darting all over the place. I loosened the drag, still staying in control, I let it tire itself out. Once it had 'blown its load' it really was the simple task of guiding it safely into the waiting net... Result!!

Fish Number 4 On The Monster Squid
Slipping the fish back I only had an hour or so left, I cast the same boilie back out, set the bobbin and started to pack away the non-essentials. I usually draw this process out for as long as I can, it was in the closing minutes that my right rod gave out a 'wail' and went rocketing off. Grabbing the rod, and having it arch around tight to the right, the fish had already made its way up the right side margin at a crazy speed. It never ceases to amaze me just how much ground a carp can cover in a matter of seconds. I held on, letting it tire itself out, before inching her closer and closer to the waiting net. She slid in with ease and I was lucky enough to close the session on a lovely looking common. 

A Closing Bite
It was the perfect way to bring the day to a close, it was a productive session. I think resting the swim for a few hours, without a doubt, had its benefits. Because I've fished Burrows so much you start to develop a sense and understanding of the way the fish behave and when they're most lightly to feed. I guess that's the advantage of focusing on one water. 

But to be honest I'm not the kind of person that would feel satisfied just sticking to one lake constantly. I do like to challenge myself and with each water you fish, your perspective is always changing. I find the more you can pull yourself away from your comfort zone, the more you learn and understand. I took a slow walk back to the car park, it was very quiet, once again, everything felt close to perfect. I had a heavy workload ahead of me, once done, I was sure that another water was going to come calling. Lets see where I end up. 

Until Next Time

Thursday 19 May 2016

Wick Mere 'A Royal View'

I hadn't really been in a rush to get back down to Wick, mainly because, with the woods closed, the going swims were pretty much on rotation 24/7. When I think back to the previous year doing 'days only' I literally drove myself insane trying to bank my first carp, I must of done at least 25 sessions before breaking through. It was really very simple in the end, you had to be on the fish to catch them and because the woods were closed, they grouped up in that area and pretty much stayed there. Two swims gave you access to where they were hauled up, when I managed to get into either of these swims, I caught. For those of you that keep up with my blogs, you'll know that it all came good in the end, but it was a very frustrating journey.

The Day Closing Over Wick 'Summer 2015'
There were some whispers that the woods would open up again once the water had drained so the trees could be felled. No one was certain exactly when this was going to happen, I felt that once the carps 'safe zone' had been taken away, it might start to push them back into actively patrolling the whole water again. Having spent so much time fishing elsewhere I suddenly had a 'calling' from Wick to get back on its banks. Instead of planning a long drawn out session I made the decision that I'd do a half day visit, sometimes a quick, short, sharp, shot does the trick.

One of the things that always gets me excited about Wick is the stamp of commons that it holds. They're dark, long and really hard fighting, actually, as I sit and write this, it's been reported that a 42IB common has recently graced someones net. It doesn't surprise me at all, the mere is fairly large and has so much weed and natural food for the carp to feed on. Give it another few years and I think it's going to hold a very large head of big fish. It's a water that I will always visit and I believe there are still a few surprises ghosting around in its depths.

A Memorable Wick Capture
On the day of the session it was humid and muggy, partially overcast with patchy drizzle. My carp senses were in overdrive, it felt so right for a bite and I couldn't wait to get the rods out. I had a feeling the 50 or so miles ahead of me were going to feel very long. My mind was stitching together so many different scenarios, I was really hoping that one of the 'going swims' would be available, if not I knew I'd be having to fish in 'no mans land'. It's a proper head-ache when the swim you're in is as dead as a dodo, but you can clearly see the carp partying in an area of water that you just can't reach. 

This can be a common experience on Wick, they're not afraid to show themselves, more times than not, they put on one hell of a display as they leap continuously out the water. I've counted up to 30 shows in the space of a few minutes, it's as if they're laughing at you. Times like these I have very little going through my mind other than, Carp-1 Paul-0. Today was going to be different though, I could feel it, and I was going to do my very best to get one of those lovely dark commons in my landing net mesh.

On arrival I was very surprised to be met with an empty car park, it was looking like I was going to have the whole of the mere to myself. The adrenaline kicked in, I proceeded to get the barrow loaded at an alarmingly high speed and headed down to the waters edge. I was afraid that my excitement was going to cloud my judgement so I took some time out and slowly walked the whole of the water. Everything looked so perfect, the clouds were moody, there was a light drizzle and the world around me appeared so vivid. Standing alone with only my dog Eric as company, I really felt like I was stood within a water-colour painting. 

As expected, the carp were putting on a show, a few leapt clean from the water just by the island. I counted four shows along the back end of the woodland bank. It was pretty clear where I needed to be, so I headed round to a swim that gave me access to both the woodland margin and the island. Once in the swim it suddenly hit me just how heavy the weed growth was, this was going to be really tricky, not just getting a bait in but also sinking my line properly without it getting embedded in all the surface weed.  

Swim Position

Before even contemplating getting a bait out I wanted to have a feel around the spots that I was planning to fish. I didn't want to dedicate a great deal of time to this, solely because I didn't have a great deal of time ahead of me. Also, if there were fish in the area I didn't want to be spooking them away. A couple of measured casts later I'd found a few spots where the weed wasn't too bad. Usually in these circumstances I'd fish a 'safe' helicopter system but this time around I opted for my 'pop up claw' rig.

Pop Up Claw Rig
The above rig can be fished on both a rotary system or a 'semi-fixed/running' lead arrangement. Today I was going to use a 'POM' lead setup, this is similar to the 'COG' but without all the 'bells & whistles', simply put, you have a secondary running swivel on your hook-link that connects to a grommet in the lead. The hook-link is a lot longer than usual and I find when fished in combination with a perfectly balanced bait, it presents itself perfectly over low lying debris and weed. 

Secondary Swivel Pressed Into Grommet

The advantage to this setup is simple, if you have to ditch the lead then you're able to do so. I don't endorse ditching leads at all, but on the occasions where it would be detrimental to the fish not to, then I'm all for it. Dropping the lead on every take just for the hell of it, in my mind, is bad angling practice. Due to the amount of weed in front of me I was going to need all the help I could get to land a fish safely. 

The actual claw of the rig is produced by simply steaming a curve into a full length of heat shrink tubing, how aggressive that curve is, is entirely up to you. The final element in my mind which makes this rig so effective is the micro swivel on the hook, this creates what I call "a safe 360" effect. Meaning that whatever direction the carp comes on to the bait from, it allows the hook to spin around and hopefully take hold. 

Micro Swivel In Place Of A Hair

The image below shows the finished presentation from above, if you can visualise the water being nice and murky with weed and debris fluttering around. From a 'carps eye view', it sits proud offering a tasty little treat that any passing fish would find hard to resist. It always takes me a little time to balance the bait perfectly, it's key to get the hook-bait to sink super slowly so it rests on whatever is on the lake bed, you don't want the bait burying itself and disappearing into a mass of debris. Finally this will be fished on a leader, again, I'm not a fan of them but with the amount of shelves and swan mussels that are in Wick, it has to be done.

A Carps Eye View

So, now with all the technical waffle out the way, it was time to get on with some fishing. With both rods rigged up it was now a case of getting them on the spots. The left rod was wrapped 13 times, this put me directly under some overhanging trees right at the start of the woodland bank. Due to the crazy weed out by the island, I found a clearer spot directly out in front of me, 10 wraps placed me perfectly on this. My bait of choice was Strawberry Mivvi, I decided I was going to put out two fairly large spreads. I wanted to try and attract some fish in, taking into account a fair number of freebies would fall into the weed.

View From The Swim
The rods were out, the bait was out and now it was time to sit back and take it all in. There's nothing quite like sitting back and putting your feet up when you're 100% confident in what you are doing. The coffee came out and so did the sun, here I was alone on the mere with a proper "Royal View" in front of me and one of those long dark commons that I always seem to dream of could be moments away from making its presence known.

Too my surprise the left rod flew into action whilst I was enjoying my coffee mid-gulp, I shot up spilling it all over me and lunged for the rod. The fish took off up the margin at crazy speed and managed to shoot headfirst into a lovely thick weed bed. I kept the pressure on, there was a slight jolt and as quick as it was on, it came off. I took the positive "there were fish in the swim". So I brushed myself down and got the rod back out, followed by three modest handfuls of bait. This time I was going to 'lock up', this would hopefully put the breaks on the take, giving me a better chance of avoiding the same thing from happening again. 

Eric Keeping An Eye On Things
The afternoon progressed and the carp activity increased, there were fish showing all along the woodland bank and around the island. My expectations were through the roof, I knew it was just a matter of time before I received a gift. As I sat clocking the activity around me a carp jumped within yards of my left hand rod, it looked like a good fish. I was willing it to find my bait, in preparation for what might occur, I hovered close to my rods, I really didn't want to lose another fish to the weed. Perched, striking hand at the ready pure poetry ensued. The rod arched round and it was away, I was on it like a shot. 

The carp tried to take the same route as the last one, immense side strain stopped it in its tracks. I kept the pressure on, the fish was giving me some serious stick but I held tight adjusting the clutch accordingly. Very slowly she was coming my way, weed was strung all up the line and I sensed that there was a fair clump attached to the end tackle. The rod was creaking, carefully I continued to guide her my way, quarter of the way out, the fish surfaced, I briefly witnessed a long dark back cut through the surface layers. The adrenalin kicked in, I had to land this fish.

The closer it came the thicker the weed, it was 'touch and go' but with steady and gentle pressure I managed to tease her over my net, what a relief!. Parting the abundance of canadian that engulfed everything, I was met with a beautiful dark common, a classic Wick mere specimen. I didn't bother weighing her but I guessed she wasn't far off 20IB. Size is irrelevant, it was once again the process of this capture that interested me. The presentation was right and so was the location, once again, a short, sharp session had produced the goods.

A Classic Wick Mere Common
The rest of the day retired itself to evening, no more bites came but I was more than happy with the result. I made my way back to the car as the sun was setting, the world felt somewhat perfect for the first time in a long while. Now I'd had my 'Wick Fix', my mind was already thinking about where I was going to head off to next. I was feeling that my next trip might be a little closer to home, it appeared that Burrows was now calling me back and it was a calling I wasn't going to pass up.