Wednesday 3 August 2016

Braxted Front Lake 'Perfect Clarity'

I feel like I'm living a series of parallel lives at the moment, its summer 2016 and here I am about to recall a session from Autumn 2015. Lately I've been working like mad and trying to get out on the bank as much as possible. It's been a long time since I was able to sit down and get my writing head on, for me to write the best I can I need to do it when I get the urge. This blog is going to be accounting for a session that I did a good few weeks in to Autumn of last year. As I type these words I can literally feel the chill that was in the air and how cold and cleansing each deep breath felt as I inhaled the atmosphere that hung over Braxted front lake. 

I consider myself very fortunate, there are two aspects in my life that seem to etch themselves deeply into my memory banks. The first being music, I only need to hear something once for it to be lodged in my mind forever. My head, a vast majority of the time, is like a jukebox, obviously this is great in regards to playing drums, but it can be a real pain when you're wanting some peace. The second, my fishing sessions, I can literally remember each and every one of them, stretching as far back to when I was about 14. Sessions from years gone by pop in to my head at the most random of times. As I sit and write this now, I'm recalling a session from many moons back on a local club water where I caught one of my first carp on a Richworths Hawaiian pineapple boilie. It was a 3IB mirror and a fish that signalled a now life long obsession with the carp.

Usually when Autumn starts to arrive and the temperatures start to fall slightly, it can be a very productive time. This year was very different though, it stayed so mild for so long. I naturally thought that this would mean that the fish would be on the feed for a lot longer. It appeared though, that it actually had the reverse effect, I'd be nicking a few bites from everywhere I'd been going, things were looking promising. Then literally overnight I found all my waters practically shut down. It didn't matter where I went or how effectively I thought I was fishing, I just couldn't buy a bite. This strange spell lasted for a number of weeks, but being reckless in my attitude, I persevered none the less.

I was on my third week of the longest run of blanks I'd ever experienced, instead of questioning myself, I came to the very simple conclusion that the carp just weren't really up for it. From past experience I knew that the worst thing to do in these situations was to start to over analyse what you were doing. Instead I took the results on the chin and decided to ride the situation out. On the morning of my Braxted session I was up at dawn, I'll admit my confidence was waining but as I opened the door to load the van, things felt different. It suddenly felt like Autumn, the morning air was cold against my face and I experienced such a sense of clarity. Maybe today 'the worm was going to turn' and the carp would once again start gracing me with their presence.

One thing I've come to learn about myself is, when things get hard with fishing, it seems to fuel me even more to get out there and try and make something happen. It can feel like a real slog at times but when you do finally get a result, nothing beats that feeling. On the front page of my website I use the term "Bravery In Patience", what I mean by this is very simple, it's about having the confidence in your own ability to see things through, however long it might take, this goes for both on and off the bank. In a world where there's so many conflicting opinions and everybody everywhere is telling us how we should feel and what we should think. It gets very hard to connect with your own reality, my advice to you is, when you feel like life isn't working out, stick with it, do the right thing and be patient, do "the right thing" and you'll get the right result ... "that's my new angling mantra". 

Now Back To The Session

With the van now loaded the task ahead was very simple, floor it all the way to the lake, remove the immense amount of blanks from my mind and turn over a new leaf. I was convinced today was going to be the 'game changer', it's as if the previous weeks had been a dress rehearsal for Autumn, a false start. Now with that familiar Autumnal chill in the air, the rehearsals were now over, this session was the opening act. Pulling into the car park and glancing over the water, summers skin was clearly peeling away. The saturated colours of the warmer months were slowly turning in to dull pastel shades, some of the branches on the trees were looking brittle in places. Give it a few more weeks and it would be as if summer had never arrived.

Summers Skin Fading
I was eager to get the rods out but first opted for my usual lap of the lake, it looked pretty desolate, other than the fuss from the birdlife, there were no obvious signs of fish. Some dead leaves and debris had gathered down the car park end, it looked inviting so I decided to start down there. Today I was up for moving if the carp gave a sure sign that they were elsewhere. I was going to use my usual approach, minimal bait has always been the way to go on front lake. The only difference this time, I was going to fish one rod over very fine boilie crumb. Taking into account how slow it had been over the recent weeks, tweaking my approach just an inch, could be the key to success, I didn't want to overfeed the spots.

Trigga-link Combi Bottom Bait Rig
Before setting up I got the kettle out, starting off the session with my usual 'coffee ritual' always seems to bode well. My swim was now setup, the rods were rigged, now it was just a case of carefully picking my spots. My chosen bait was Caribbean, I have 100% confidence in it, especially this time of the year. My rigs were my usual 'semi-fixed inlines', the hook-links were combi rigs tied with 'trigga-link' and 'Atomic Bare-back'. To dull down the hook-link materials I used a few different coloured rig pens, as I've mentioned before, front lake has a very clean lake bed and I wanted my end tackle to morph into it. I didn't want anything that could spook the fish. It had been so long since my last bite, I was pulling out all the stops today.

Maximum Attraction, Minimal Food items

To the left of the swim there's a lovely hard slope that gradually shelves down to 10ft, I've had a lot of fish from this specific area in the past. I decided to place my rig half way down the slope, this put me in roughly 5ft of water. Before casting out I walked round with a bucket of boilie crumb and threw 5 modest handfuls in and around the area. A lovely graceful cast put my rig elegantly on the spot. Now onto my second rod, this was going to be fished directly opposite, there's a deep run that leads into the opposite lefthand corner. I was going to fish really tight to the margin line. Once again, I've had many good fish from this area and I always seem to visualise the carp making their way along this route when coming down into this end of the water. 

View From The Swim
With a swift 'whipping' motion the bait landed perfectly, I was taking this as a good omen, when my casts are both right first time, I can sit confidently knowing that everything is right. Now it was just up to the fish, would they take the bait? I kept my expectations realistic. The kettle was back on and I sat back with my eyes fixed firmly on both the water and my rod tips. A few hours passed, the wind started to push down towards me, everything looked perfect. As I sat and watched the world around the water exist in perfect balance, I started to think back to the past few weeks. As strange as it seems I couldn't remember what it felt like, in that very second, when the alarms are screaming and the reels are humming. When things are going well and you're managing to catch a few, it's all too easy to take it for granted.

A few more hours passed with nothing to show for my efforts, I decided I'd leave my right hand rod where it was and do a recast on the left. I reeled in, re-baited, chucked a few more handfuls of crumb on the spot and got the bait back out. This was when something very strange happened, as I put the rod on the rest and went to tighten up the bobbin, the line remained slack, as I was winding, the bobbin just kept dropping to the floor. I watched the tip, within seconds it suddenly arched round to the right and the clutch kicked in. Lifting into the rod, I could feel that I was connected to a hard fighting lump. The fish must've literally taken the bait on the drop. 

Slightly bewildered, I proceeded to battle with a carp that just wouldn't give in, it felt so dam good to finally be connected to 'nature' once again, it was a feeling I'd missed. The fish came closer and as it rolled a short distance out, the perfect image of a common carp burnt into my retinas. Not only was it a good fish, it already had it's lovely Autumn skin on, it looked perfect up against the washed out background of the lake. My heart was now racing and with a steady pressure I teased her closer and closer until she was engulfed by my net mesh. The run of blanks had finally come to an end, it was hard to explain just how good I felt. 

I let the fish rest before I sorted her out for a few quick pictures. As I stood looking down at her tucked comfortably in the net, I tried to understand what it was about this amazing creature that keeps all of us stitched to the banks, casting away our years. We're forever caught up in the chase, the hunt, I still can't quite work it out. For me, angling is an opportunity to try and understand what's below the surface, be it, the surface of the water, or the surface of yourself. We drag ourselves to the remotest of places and then we question, and try to connect with something that we actually have no direct connection with. I don't believe there's a definitive answer to this question. 

A long Time Coming
It's as if I had waited a lifetime for this bite and it felt like it was literally over in seconds. In carp angling more than any other thing, it really is amazing what a difference a day can make. A few photos were taken and I sent her on her way. I was more than happy with the result, I could feel that my obsession had been pacified, if only for a short time. Maybe the carp have finally started to wake up. If so, it was vital for me to get out over the next few weeks as much as I possibly could. On the drive home the sweet stench of carp slime filled the cabin of the van ... God! .. I've really missed that smell.