Saturday 15 October 2016

Braxted Reservoir 'The Ether Switch'

What's the ether switch?

This is a term I use to describe any period of time, however long or short, where the fish are very clearly feeding, something in the universe switches on, and so do the carp. Over the years I've tied myself in knots trying to figure out the "whys" and the "why nots" of carp fishing, and to this day I'm still not really any closer to sussing them out. I work on the basis that there are so many variables that you just have to guide yourself using your past experiences and intuition. 'Intuition' to the majority of people is describe as your 'gut feeling'. 

In buddhism the stomach is looked upon as the second brain so the term 'gut feeling' makes perfect sense to me. I think some of us run into problems within our own angling when we think that there's a master key that can be used to make the whole process simple. But most will know that there isn't one, there is no magic rig or bait or 'secret' that will suddenly make it happen for you, it's a long and winding process of learning.

I've come to a very simple conclusion that I always try to keep in the forefront of my mind. "Every time I step onto the water I try and create a situation that will give me the best chance of catching". Sometimes I get it right, other times I really get it wrong, but that's what angling is. You can help to improve your chances by taking time out to study your water, feature find, suss the patrol routes, pre-bait etc. But there's still no guarantee that the carp will 'play the game', and for me, that's the beauty of it and that is, of course, why we keep going back to the waters again and again. 

I've always been of the understanding that all waters fish differently, but it's only recently that I've concluded that swims also fish differently, it took a while for the penny to drop. The 'epiphany' moment came when I decided to focus on a swim that I'd never really done very well from. The spot is situated within a bottleneck, it's very clearly a transit route from one section of the water to the other. 

It's a no-brainer that the carp move through it all day, but for the life of me, I could never get a bite. I was fishing singles with a handful of bait over each rod, I stuck with it, changed a few things, but it never produced. Then I started to think that it's a section of the water that they may not really be used to feeding in. I wanted to change this, so I baited the whole area heavily, I wanted to attract their attention, each session I started to spread about 3 kilo all over the spot. Since doing this I've landed 5 fish and they've all been lovely carp, I made the swim work for me. 

But, again, this baiting application isn't needed on a lot of the other swims, a mouthful is usually enough. I think this is because these specific spots are where the carp look to feed and patrol on a regular basis. I can relate this to your regular "pub lunch", if you've found a pub or a restaurant that you know does good food, you like where it's situated, and you feel comfortable in its environment. You will travel to eat and drink there on a fairly regular basis, it almost becomes part of your routine. The journey to your 'chosen establishment' will probably involve you passing other really good places to eat, but you pass on by to go to the one you really like. In my mind, this is how I look upon the carps 'feeding spots' and 'transit routes'.    

Taking all the points from the above paragraphs into account, it demonstrates how many variables there are, what works in one spot may not work in another, and what works effective on one day might be completely ineffective on another. It's very easy to see how carp angling can, and does, drive some people to obsessive insanity, I know I'm definitely half way there, and I know some people reading this right now are past the point of no return, it's a beautiful game ! 

On the day of my trip to Braxted the weather outside was bleak, there was a very fine drizzle that was starting to turn to sleet. Stepping out side and inhaling, you could literally feel the cold clawing up the lining of your lungs. When the conditions are like this I always know that I'm going to be in for a good day. I think the prolonged chill signals to the carp that winter is well on the way, which in turn makes them feed. My plan was to head up to Braxted reservoir, I sensed a 'big hit' was on the cards. How did I know this? I had a very strong gut feeling, and through time, I've learnt never to ignore it.

Already, summer felt like a life time away and now the clocks had changed, I was getting up in the dark and leaving the water in the pitch black. Recent days had resembled 'twilight' from the minute I opened my eyes in the morning until I shut them again to go to bed. This time of the year is by far my favourite time to be out on the bank. When you're lucky enough to catch one, they come cutting through the water, draped in their winter skin and it can bring an amazing fleck of colour to what, are usually very dull days. 

The Shallows In The Summer
Arriving in the car park and making my way up to the waters edge, I was met with a deserted, wind swept portrait. Something you'd expect in a Charlotte Bronte poem. It was a lonely sight with very little sign of life, but I knew that below the surface there were some scaly secrets just waiting to be caught. Scanning the lake, there were no obvious signs of fish so I decided to head up to the shallows. This was going to put me on the back of the wind, because the water is fairly shallow I thought that it might be slightly warmer than the deep sections nearer the dam wall.

What is big hit fishing? For me, it's how you set your swim up, it's to do with bait placement and bait application. When I fish for a bite at a time, I'm focusing on mouthfuls and minimal food items put in the right place. When I'm fishing for a 'big hit' I fish both rods close together and spread a generous volume of bait in a relatively large area. The approach doesn't work on all waters, if I'm fish a lake with a large stock and I know the carp move around in groups, then I know I stand a good chance of having multiple takes. I want a group of fish to move in and start competing for the bait, if it's done correctly you can end up having a crazy session. 

My chosen bait was the classic Honey Nectar, this is, without a doubt, my favourite boilie. My rigs were going to be slightly different this time around, instead of my usual semi-fixed setup. I was going to be fishing a 'shocker rig', this would give the carp an extra few seconds before they would feel any resistance. Using this arrangement, fished in combination with a 'combi' hook-link using the 'trigga-link'. I felt I was presenting something a little different. Below is an image of the the lead setup, for this to be safe, you have to set it up on tubing, "NOT DIRECTLY ONTO THE LINE". You have to make sure that every component will pull away under the minimum of pressure.

Shocker Rig Setup

After a couple of measured casts, I found the area I was going to target, it was in about 5ft of water, the lake bed consisted of soft silt and clay. I planned to bait heavy in between my visual markers on the far bank - "see image below". My plan was to put about 2 kilo out and then keep topping the swim up with a few handfuls every 20 minutes. Rigs were out, the 'throwing stick' had served its purpose well, now it was time to tuck myself underneath my brolly, put the kettle on and wait for my master plan to come to fruition .... hopefully.

View From The Swim
Liners, bleeps and nudges started to occur almost immediately, my heart was already starting to race, I'm not sure if this was from excitement or the dangerously potent coffee I had just inhaled. Below the surface, I started to visualise every carp in the lake barging each other out the way and brawling over my sweet Honey offerings. It was within minutes that my righthand rod tore away, I jumped up, slid down the muddy bank and I was in to my first carp of the trip. It bolted hard to the right and carried on going, my clutch was tight, it was peeling line of the spool, I let it run and held firm until I had my chance to gain some ground. After its initial thrust, I guided her my way, a few hard pulls, lunges, and a final bid for freedom, soon saw my landing net mesh engulf her. Lifting the net up, my eyes feasted on what I can only describe, as a perfect common carp.

First Fish Of An Anticipated Big Hit
What an incredible first bite, the carp was immaculate, both fin and scale perfect, releasing her back home. I fired a few more handfuls of bait in and got the rod straight back out. If that was to be the only carp I caught today, I'd be more than happy. Scrambling back up to the brolly, thin sleet started to fall, the wind picked up, it was one of those days where everything felt like it was in hibernation. It was such a stark contrast to only a few months ago, time really does fly by nowadays, so fast in-fact, that the last few years have been a blur.

The rig had only been out 20 minutes or so before I got clear indication through the alarms that fish were out in front of me. Sparking the kettle up again and starting the very meticulous process of spooning just the right amount of coffee into my cafetiere, I was rudely interrupted by the same rod firing off. I leapt on it like an 'apex predator' ready for the strike, lifting the rod up, the fish shot tight to the right. Just as I was starting to find my feet with the situation, my left rod was also away. It appeared the chaos I'd been anticipating was in full flow.

Leaning down, I flicked the bait runner off and hoped that the rod on the pod with a 'semi-tight' clutch, would be enough to pacify the fish whilst I landed the one that was already on. The fight resumed, I was determined not to let panic take over. My rod was now creaking, fully arced round to the right, side strain helped to gently tease the carp towards me. The fight now felt like it was lasting forever, with every minute passing, the fish on the other line could do a 'hoodini' on me and disappear into the, 'what could've been' chapters of my angling history. Eventually she was in 'scooping' distance, closer she came, inching towards my net, I lunged forward, she was in, and it looked like another good common.

First Of Double Take
Lifting the left rod up, I was ecstatic to feel that the carp was still on. I think she'd run herself out fighting against both the test curve and clutch of the rod. It's times like these I can thank both the snag ears and tight butt grips, the rod had held firm on the rest, which in turn aided me in landing the first fish. Minimal force saw her heading towards the net, and as I teased her over the mesh, a flame ignited inside of me. It was all coming together perfectly and it appeared my approach was working well. Before dealing with either fish, I got a good spread of bait back out, if the carp were there then I wanted to keep them feeding.

The Second Prize From The Double Take
Both fish were sent home safely, I changed my hook links, threaded fresh bait on the hair and then cast both rigs gracefully into the murk. Bobbins were set and I was ready and waiting again, just like before, liners were instantaneous and I was prepared for another quick bite. Just as I was about to make my way up to the sanctuary of my trusty brolly, the left rod tore into life and I was in once more. This fish powered off like a steam train, I just held on for the ride, I was going to let it "blow its load" before I attempted to tame her. The initial run was long, the wind picked right up to gale force, the world around the reservoir suddenly felt rather ominous. He I was taming a beast, 'smack bang' in the middle of nowhere on my own, and I was poised with rod in hand in what felt like the eye of a storm.

Fighting both the fish and the conditions, I was gaining ground, a vortex appeared as the fish hit the surface just a short way out. I caught a glimpse of another bright looking common. Its tail cut the surface like a scalpel before powering off back into the depths. My Bruce Ashby Skorpios were cushioning every lunge and pull so poetically, they're such a pleasure to use. Slowly increasing the pressure I guided the fish in close and finally netted my long awaited prize. It was another 'jewel' of a common carp, what a session this was turning out to be.

A Burst Of Colour On A Dull Day
With the fish returned I decided not to put anymore bait out, time was starting to accelerate and the light was starting to fade. If I wanted to maximise on my time left, I didn't want to be over baiting the swim, I knew there was still enough food out there to keep them interested. Everything fell quiet, the wind dropped, the drizzle subsided, a single bleep on my right hand rod caught my attention. On closer inspection I could see my rod tip quivering, a few more bleeps indicated that something was on the end. I lifted the rod, for a minute I thought I'd hooked into a bream, but when the rod buckled over, it was clear that something slightly larger was on the end. 

Just like all the fish before, it was kiting around like crazy, this one felt like the angriest carp of the session. It bolted straight towards me, I was reeling like crazy to pick up the slack. After some 'heart in the mouth' moments, the fish gave in and I was looking, at yet, another awesome common. That made it five in a row, I couldn't quite believe how the session was turning out. My whole 'big hit' approach was working exactly the way I'd hoped it would.

A Bite At Dusk

Darkness was now setting in, instead of packing up I thought I'd stay for another hour or so. The red-light setting on my trusty little head torch would only be switched on if I got anymore action. Perched on my seat in the pitch black, I could hear the distant sound of traffic, the masses where making their way home after another hard days work. I, if only for a short while, was out of the system, I had 'no wolf at my door', no boss breathing down my neck. I was on the hunt, one more carp landed under the moonlight would be the perfect end to an unforgettable day. 

Suddenly, from out the darkness, the blue LED from my alarm lit up like a beacon and the clutch started buzzing. Stumbling through the void, I clawed at my rod whilst frantically trying to switch on my head torch. The carbon creaked and I was connected, my senses were heightened due to the fact I couldn't see a great deal. The fight was brief and as the fish retired itself to the net. I welcomed my first mirror of the session and one of only a handful I'd caught out of the Reservoir.

A Rare Mirror To Close The Day
It was the perfect way to end a perfect day, starting the rather tedious process of packing up in the dark, I really felt like I'd got everything absolutely spot on. Not only was it a great days fishing, but being out on my own whilst the season was edging closer to winter was inspiring enough. Finally arriving back in the car park and loading the van, it was a relief to be back in the warm and on the move. I sensed that the journey home was going to be a breeze, recalling the session and all the amazing fish I'd had was more than enough to keep my mind occupied.