Saturday 2 December 2017

Cants Mere 'Find That Feeling'

Feeling 'an emotional state or reaction'

Emotion 'a strong feeling deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others'

Awareness 'knowledge or perception of a situation or fact'

How are you feeling? - there are times when I portray this as a trick question, it's complicated. It's only over the last couple of months I've come to realize that if I'd learnt to interpret certain feelings in more of a direct way, a lot of confusion could've been avoided. I've been doing a hell of a lot of thinking recently and along with that, I've found myself looking back through this blog, it's hard to believe that I've been writing it since the start of 2012. I've noticed that it's taken many different twists and turns and through the years its developed into more than just 'session' accounts. It goes without saying that it's fundamentally about angling, however, now having had the chance to look at it from a distance, it appears, that in equal measure, there's a series of reoccurring themes. 

Mainly, feelings, emotions and awareness. These three things are so very important, it's what makes us human, they're embedded in our frame work, safely housed in the limbic/oldest part of the brain so there's no getting away from them. It's these three things that can cause us the most trouble, and when you really think about it, we're given no real guidance on how to handle them. We're pushed into this world kicking and screaming, squashed and squeezed through a "one size fits all" educational prison. To suddenly find ourselves all grown up in an adult world, you've got to shut up, get in line and feed the system, an inherent system that really doesn't cater for individuals. If you are one, you're going to have a hard time. If you're not careful you can become so desensitize to your own feelings and emotions that you just aren't in touch with yourself anymore.           

 Life Is As Life Does

I understand that everyone responds differently to the world around them, many appear to sail through their lives completely content with their situation. They don't analyse or over think things, they just get on with 'the obvious', have a good time, and by doing this, they're content. On the flip-side though, there are those that struggle, over analyse and find life hard - there's no shame in this. I've been bogged down with both emotions and intense feelings as long as I can remember. However, I was fortunate because my outlet came through my drum playing, I first picked up a set of drumsticks when I was 6 years old. So by the time the dreaded, 'highly emotional' teenage years came about, I'd mastered how to express myself through my instrument, closely followed by writing both poetry and free verse

Through the years my angling also grew to become a major support mechanism. Living in this way allowed me to navigate myself through everyday life, 'still feeling as confused as hell', but I'd created a spiritual release to make it all the more bearable. Through time it became very apparent the importance of 'having your own voice', I don't mean this in a literal sense. I am talking more about self development and expression, you find your way of doing things and you develop and master them, you simply perfect being you. This includes everything that you choose to do, that's what makes you an individual and not a carbon copy. I just don't see the sense in being fragments of everyone else's views and opinions. For me this point is of equal relevance in both my angling and drum playing.
It's strange because I've never looked upon drums as an instrument or a 'time keeper', to me they were always more of a sounding board to communicate both my emotions and my feelings - very similar to this blog, it's not just about carp fishing, it's about everything you think and feel along the way. I've never looked upon angling as just going and trying to catch, it goes so much deeper than that, there's a series of elements that all amalgamate together into one, which makes my viewpoint on my own fishing far more 'panoramic' than black & white. The reoccurring theme always seems to go back to the feelings and 'emotions' that fishing tends to conjure up. It's a mystery as to why some get more effected by these things more than others. I think it's basically in our DNA, certain elements are in our 'general makeup', the secret is learning to except the way you are and deal with it accordingly - fine tune yourself. What does this have to do with carp angling? - bare with me.

Back when I was struggling to exist I'd regularly see a very unique lady called Helen, she approached psychotherapy in a very different way. We'd unpick the most tangled of my thoughts and piece them all back together again. One question she asked me, which to this day, is something I still can't really answer was - what do I feel when I'm holding a carp?. Obviously this question has so many levels, there isn't one definitive answer - I'd like you to think about this to. Years ago when I was just fishing local club waters and day tickets, it was all pretty basic. I'd feel a huge sense of excitement, I didn't really think about it any deeper than that, it was about the buzz of catching and just getting out there and doing it. 

I rarely thought about the merit of the capture or the style of venue, back then fishing anywhere with bigger fish in was the motivation. I think that you either stick with these sort of venues or you move on to a slightly purer challenge. It's only as the years have passed that the shape of both my fishing and what I want out of it has changed. Of course, I still get a huge amount of excitement every time I cast my rods out. But it now goes far deeper, it's definitely more about the merit of the capture. How much merit is based on what specific water I'm fishing at the time. I've said it many times before but I'd much rather have a nice double from a hard water than a 30 from a puddle.

Looking at it another way, catching a recently new stocked fish wouldn't conjure up the same feelings as an old one from, say, Boreham Mere. In the same breath, a fish from Boreham wouldn't communicate the same feelings to me as one from, say, Savay - an original or not. My feelings would change once more depending on the method that I caught it on. My first ever 20IB carp was caught on a 5IB line with floating crust. To this day, that fish still means more to me than bigger ones that I've caught off the bottom. Any fish I catch on a zig gives me a far greater sense of achievement than any that I catch on the deck. The list of feelings are endless and it's all down to the situation and the method of capture. So going back to the original question of "what I feel when I hold a carp". I literally feel everything, on a primal level, I feel their life in my hands, their fear, the kick as I release them, but above all I feel alive, more alive in that moment than I ever feel in my everyday life.

Cants 'The Heavens Opened'
This brings me onto my next session, after having a fair old result up on 'Braxted Res' I was feeling optimistic. All the sure signs for my next trip had pointed towards Braxted front lake, but, forever acting on impulse I decided to take a U-Turn and set my sights on Cants Mere. Cants has always been a grey area for me, it shares its space with Blunts and I'd never bothered to fish it because it was a water that had been left alone. It contained, literally thousands of small carp and I'm just not interested in fishing waters like that. Maybe with a float rod or swim feeder, but my head wasn't in that space. There had been a few whispers in the 'club grapevine' that the fishery management team had been working very hard on removing and restocking the fish. From my understanding the plan was to make it into a proper carp lake. I didn't know a great deal about it but, that alone started to fire up my imagination. I felt excited because I hadn't even laid my eyes on the place, so for me it was literally the start of something new.

Blunts & Cants
The first time I walked around the water I was surprised at just how large it was. I'd only ever seen its front half because that was the area most visible from Blunts. Initially I wasn't very keen on the layout of the swims. They were fine for pleasure fishing but I could visualize a lot of arguments if all the anglers were predominately fishing for carp. Many of the swims were bunched up, with some covering the same water as each other. I knew instantly that this wasn't going to be a place that I would choose to fish if it was busy - I can't be doing with stupidity. As I continued my walk up to the back end I started to feel a lot more inspired, there were lots of 'nooks and crannies' with an abundance of overhanging trees and tempting marginal features. My thoughts were already in overdrive, there were so many spots that could hold carp, I just didn't know where to start.

When the day of my first session came about I'd had time to digest the place and I was thinking a lot more clearly. The plan would be to walk the lake once and if I couldn't spot any carp activity, I'd go on intuition alone. The weather was perfect, it was warm and mild, the clouds were heavy and low, spitting out the occasional heavy shower. These conditions felt very familiar to me and I knew that the carp were going to be feeding, I had no doubt about it. Arriving at the gate, it was hammering it down, jumping out and shuffling the numbers of combination lock into place, I felt that I was unlocking the start of a new adventure. As I drove up the water logged pathway to the car park, it was empty, everything felt perfect and I couldn't wait to get the rods out. I waited for the rain to pass, loaded the barrow and hastily made my way to the waters edge. 

One lap of the lake revealed very little, I knew I didn't want to be dumping myself tight up either end, I wanted to target an area that I knew the carp would be moving through at some point during the day. I decided to fish peg 8, I had an island directly in front of me and to my right was a narrow channel. I looked upon this spot as a 'transit route' and thought I'd stand a good chance of intercepting any fish that might pass through. Before I set anything up I decided I'd have a lead about to suss out exactly what I was dealing with. One of my favorite aspects of carp angling is marker work, I love how sensory it is and it helps you to build a picture in your mind of whats hidden below the surface. I don't subscribe to the whole 'thrashing the water to a foam' terminology that seems to be the latest 'buzz term'. I believe learning to find features with a rod and line is an integral part of the art in angling, it can be done in a subtle way.

Learn & Understand
Firstly I wanted to suss out my right hand spot, I wasn't going to go tight to the island, this was far to obvious. If fish were going to pass in front of me I sensed it would be in the slightly deeper water. I cast the marker out past where I was planning to fish, I didn't get a distinctive 'DONK', it was a fair drop though. Feeding the line out slowly, the float cut through the waters skin at 7ft. I wound the float back down to the lead and proceeded to gently drag it along the bottom. I take my time with this, I want to try to feel everything. When I go through this procedure my left hand is on the blank and the rod tip is pointing to exactly where the lead and float are sitting. I then picture a 24 hour clock face, I wind down at 12 o'clock and pull the lead round to 9 o'clock. Then I feed the float back up through the layers to get the depth reading, this process is then repeated until I've covered the area. I'm wanting to get as much information as possible, I've never seen any sense in rushing this process, pulling the lead along slowly and in small increments gives me an acute sense of what's going on. I'm feeling for distinctive changes in the texture of the lake bed and any lumps and bumps that might be there.

Marker Float Movement 'Repeat'

I repeated the process 'explained above' a couple of times until I've found an area of interest. It became apparent that running down the point of the island was a hard bar, it had little to no weed on it. I did a few test casts, followed by a depth reading, there was very little change in the depth so it wasn't really raised. This was were my bait would go, I'd position my rig half way down the bar. The spot was perfect and I was positive that the carp would visit it when and if they move through the area. I went through exactly the same process for my left hand spot and found it to be the same kind of layout. The only difference, the left hand bar had low lying weed on it. My plan was to fish on top of the weed, quarter of the way down the bar. I now had a very clear image of the swim in my mind. Obviously you can never be 100% correct unless you can physically see it. But what I'd managed to find out was good enough for me.

View From The Swim
My chosen bait for the session was Pineapple CSL, now with the water temperatures rising I felt this was the perfect flavor to offer. Along with this I was going to fish small mesh bags with some 'low oil' multi-mix pellets in. I was going to bait up heavily with boilies, everything in the atmosphere and ether was telling that this was the way to go. As usual, my rigs were nothing fancy, I opted for my standard 'semi-fixed' inlines with relatively long hook links. Both would be bottom baits fished on the 'blow-back' with my favored 5.3mm rig rings. The weed on my left hand spot didn't bother me and I was pretty sure I could get away with fishing a bottom bait on top of it. I wrapped the marker, my right hand rod was 10 rod lengths, my left hand rod was just shy of 11. Both rods were rigged up, wrapped and cast out, a heavy 'DONK' came from my right rod, the left rods drop was slightly cushioned. I proceeded to spread a good helping of freebies around both spots, I didn't hold back. I wanted enough bait out there to pull any passing fish in.

Pineapple CSL

Multi-Mix Pellet 
Now with everything set I took a step back to take it all in, I felt 100% confident that I'd set the swim up correctly. The spots were perfect, the presentation was spot on and I knew what I was offering up for the carp was going to be hard for them to turn down. Above my head, moody skies were rolling in, I got the brolly up, packed all essentials underneath, took my seat and got the kettle on. I felt inspired, here I was alone on a new water and I had a feeling that anything could happen. I had no idea what could be swimming around below the surface, I felt like I was at the start of a new journey and as I sat staring out over the 'unfamiliar', I instantly knew that I was going to spend a fair amount of time on these banks. I'd connected to the place straightway, I think the fact that it was empty helped. I felt that there was a fresh, new future to be written and a past, to one day, be remembered, that started today, now, this very moment.

Eric On The Look Out
Staring out at the water in front me, tiny specks of drizzle were making tiny indents on the waters surface, the wind really picked up. Those tiny indents very quickly turned into bullet holes, they were pelting down like rapid gunfire. Someone had obviously cut the bowls of the heavens, I squeezed myself to the very back of my 'fibreshield' and watched as the world around me started flooding, a dense steam started to rise from the surface of the water. The rain was hitting my rods so hard that the alarms were randomly firing off. At this point Eric - 'my dog' had decided he'd had enough and proceeded to run and jump up on my lap, completely soaking me in the process. The conditions were madness but I was loving every minute of it, after a rather tense 15 minutes the chaos eased and we were back to a fine drizzle. I was now getting liners off both rods, it clearly wasn't the rain. Seconds later my left rod was away, the alarm was screaming and the rod tip was 'yelping' tight round to the left. 

I ran for it slightly stunned that a take had occurred so fast, picking the rod up, I was connected to a ferocious amount of power, I loosened the clutch off slightly and just let it run. It had been a very long time since I'd been met with such violence. To be honest, I couldn't do a great deal with it, I adjusted the drag and held on, doing the best I could to keep the fish under some kind of control. There were flat spots, boils and swirls as it ploughed from left to right and back again, I started to gain some ground, the minute the fish was at medium range it started darting left towards the overhanging trees and branches. There were a hell of a lot of 'get out clauses' close in, I started to feel minor panic, I really didn't want to be losing this one. Closer it came, surfacing for a second, it was a common, long, lean and golden, it looked to be a very good fish. I was literally holding my breath, every pull and tug put the fear of god up me, in an instant the net was out, I 'gracefully' lunged ..... RESULT!  

My First From Cants
This fish was a beauty, a proper powerhouse, clearly built for speed and guaranteed to creak the toughest of carbon. If this was an example of what could be hiding deep in the depths of Cants then I was feeling pretty dam inspired. It was very reminiscent in both shape and color to those I've caught over on Wick, all the Chelmsford waters contain some seriously good looking commons. I slipped her back, got the rod clipped up and flicked it back out, the dull thud on the drop told me I was back on the spot. I topped the swim up with 5 large handfuls of bait, it was clear by the quick bite that they were up for some proper grub. The rain came back, the heavy clouds hung low overhead, I was certain a few more bites were on the cards. I don't care about the rain or the wind, if I know the conditions are right I'll venture out in any weather. I remember years back there were a good number of occasions when I'd break the ice to get my baits in the water. When I've 'got to go fishing' there's nothing that is going to stop me.

It wasn't long before I started getting a few knocks off my right rod, I watched carefully, the bobbin would tweak, the tip would jolt. I knew that something was going to happen. I waited, watched then as if planned, the bobbin flew up striking the blank and, within seconds, all hell broke loose. The rod was literally pulled off the rest, I leapt into action immediately, I was connected, only this time it was dead weight. The sheer power that this fish was exerting was something else, it tore sharp and tight to my right. The communication from the fish to the blank was acute, I could feel everything. I applied more pressure, tightening the drag as I went, I managed to turn it back my way but it was clear the fish wasn't having any of it. It careered through the water in front me and proceeded to pull so hard to the left. Just like the fish before, it was trying to get under the marginal branches, I applied more pressure, the rod was literally locked up by this point. I was counting the seconds, more pressure was applied, finally I managed to turn its head, now under the rod tip, I waited it out, waiting for the fish to signal 'retreat'. Finally ready for the net, I slipped another beautiful common over the cords.

A Worthy Reward
It was clear that this carp was a good twenty, as I held it up for a few photos I paid close attention to what I was feeling, relief being the obvious thing, amazement that a creature such as this, deep within the depths, can hone in on my marble sized bait, but most of I felt honoured. Honoured that I could hold and witness such an amazing creation. It's back was wide, all its fins perfect and its scales were prehistoric, placing it in the sling and lowering it back into the water. I paid close attention to its gills, it took in a few large gulps and then just rested as if caught in some kind of trace. Its gills were now moving and expanding in a slow rhythmical motion, suddenly it jolted. I sensed its trance was now broken and within seconds it kicked and gently glided back into the murk, a single flick of its tail, and it was gone. The rod was wrapped back up and cast out, closely followed by 5 large handfuls of bait. Both spots were ready and primed, I slide back under the brolly, put the kettle on and went back to watching the water.

Seconds After The Rain
The rain came and gave everything another good soaking, the mix of damp and humidity made the air feel heavy, it's a very familiar feeling and from experience I know that I can always get away with baiting heavy, so for good measure, I introduced more bait to both spots. A few hours past, I'd had the odd knock, I'd seen a couple of carp show in between both of my rods. I knew it was just a matter of time before a another bite occurred, I didn't have to wait long. It was my left rod that was away, it was another aggressive take, the rod flew out the back rest and the reel slammed up against the alarm. I was on it within seconds but the fish had already careered off to the left. As I composed myself, something clearly didn't feel quite right, I tried tightening up but a strange weight was dragging the line down. Reeling in and trying desperately to properly connect, I spotted a stick that appeared to be sailing across the water. It suddenly became clear that the stick was connected to a bloody great branch.

This suddenly made the situation very awkward, I tried my best to make direct contact with the fish but it wasn't easy. It was steaming around super tight to the island, I could see and feel that it was another big carp. I was gaining ground slowly but with each sudden movement, the branch would rise and fall ominously, it became clear that it wasn't coming off so I'd have to try to ease it closer and then remove it by hand. I applied slow steady pressure, each time I connected directly with the fish the branch rose up, when I gave line it would sink and pull back down. I decided to approach it another way, I held the rod tip up high and started to walk backwards, I'd then reel in tight whilst lowering the rod and repeat. The carp was tiring and with each step back the branch was edging ever closer, after what seemed like 'forever', it was finally in touching distance, I grabbed it, fumbled around and managed to untangle it. Now free I kicked it well out the way, Eric saw the commotion and thought it was a game, he proceeded to grab the branch and tried to run off with, growling as he went.

Finally I had the fish in front of me, it still wasn't giving up though, it continually pulled tight to my left, trying to edge itself closer to the snags. I lowered the rod down under the water and applied as much pressure as I thought I could get away with. I was close, just a few seconds more, surly this brawl would soon be over. Finally, and very reluctantly it went up on its side, that was the signal I was waiting for. After what seemed like an eternity I finally lowered the net and claimed my prize. Pheeww !! after the 'branch debacle' I really felt like I deserved this one. Peering down, I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing, this was one very special looking fish. It was long, dark and as clean as they come, never before had I caught such a majestic looking common carp. There are moments within angling that you never forget and I was experiencing one of them right now. I decided not try to understand what I was feeling, my emotions were all over the place, the word 'bipolar' sprung to mind.  

A Fish I'll Always Remember
The rain came back overhead, I released the carp, clipped the rod up and got it back out. By this time I was well and truly soaked, my hair was a right mess, 'nothing new there', and with every step taken my boots made a 'squishing' sound. None of this bothered me though, I was relishing every moment. I took a seat and got the kettle on again, I'd earnt it after such an epic battle. It had been a crazy day, I'd made up my mind 100% that it was definitely worth putting some time in on Cants for the coming season. I sensed that once the word had got out about the quality of fish in the water, it would get rammed, my plan was to cash in before this happened. A few hours past by, the clouds remained heavy, spitting out the odd heavy shower. I was now in full day dreaming mode, however this didn't last long, my right rod tore off at a crazy pace. Everything happened simultaneously, the tip looped round, the bobbin slammed the blank and the clutch 'whirled', all this seemed to happen in a single second.

I picked the rod up and lent back, like all the previous carp, the power and speed was immense, I genuinely haven't come across such hard fighting fish before. It was powering around in front of me, twisting, turning and throwing itself everywhere. I held on for dear life, its as if I had a 'bucking bronco' on the end of my line. The fishes back cut through the water, it was long and dark, its fluidity reminiscent of a subsurface missile. Like all those that came before, it was desperate to get into the snags down to the left, I wasn't going to let that happen though. Side strain pacified its lunges and I soon had it a few yards away from me. It was now trying to get under the margin directly beneath my feet, I just let the rod do the work. The formidable action of my Bruce Ashby Lucifer soon tired it out, it came up on its side ready for netting, I made a smooth measured scoop, result, she was in. I found myself looking at yet another amazing common, this was really turning out to be a session to remember.

Another Cants Cannon
I popped her back and got the rod straight back out, closely followed by another 5 handfuls of bait. Time was starting to tick by now but I still had a feeling that there was another bite to be had. The late afternoon infused into early evening and everything had gone quite, I didn't spot any signs of carp in front me anymore. A few had jumped up towards the middle of the lake and this got me thinking that maybe they'd moved on. Thankfully the rain had stopped so I took the opportunity to pack away all the non essentials. I sat it out until last knockings with no action, I reluctantly started to break down my right hand rod, dragging the process out as long as possible. It was a good thing I did because the left rod sprung into life, it really took me by surprise. As I connected I knew this was yet another big fish, it wasn't going nuts, it just plodded around steadily, slowly taking line at a measured pace. Half way across a large flat spot appeared, followed by a flick of a huge tail. My legs started to shake, I knew, whatever was on the end of my line was special. Closer and closer she came, I lowered the net and sunk it, teasing the fish my way, I was now holding my breath again .... just a few more inches .... she was in! 

A Perfect Fish To Close The Session
What a way to the end the session, to be honest I was speechless, never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd catch this quality of fish. A huge amount of respect goes out to all the guys that work in the fishery management division in the club. They clearly know what they're doing and it's clear that Cants is now a water of the future, I believe it's going to produce some pretty special carp in the years to come. In regards to my session, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into to place. I think that taking a bit of time to understand exactly what's under the surface in front of me helped a great deal. When I step foot onto a new venue I can't just 'chuck for luck', of course, you can fluke some fish doing this but I'm not interested in flukes. I want to understand as much about the place as possible, in regards to marker work, this can be a huge advantage. I think the secret is to do it as covertly as possible, don't go chucking a float and lead about for hours. Define in your mind the areas you're interested in and try to get the information you need in a few casts.

I was pretty dam tired and totally wet through, I was looking forward to the drive home, it would be the perfect opportunity to dry off and let the days activities ferment in my head. Clambering back to the van with Eric in tow, my gear caked in mud, I felt very much alive. I realised that today's session was one that will live with me forever, another amazing angling memory will be filed away somewhere in my head with all the others. To be recalled upon in the years to come as a source of inspiration or discussion. I've said it many times before, angling allows you to create your own history, to perfect an alternate reality. In a world where everything is so instant, short lived and artificial this is very important. Those that fish live two different lives, the one their forced to live and the other that they 'choose' to live, that's the difference between us and the rest, we've always got a route out, an 'exit'. This is a very important thing to have, next time you're feeling beaten by the system and the monotony of the 'everyday'. Understand that when you get the chance to cast your rods out, you are released.    

Saturday 11 November 2017

Braxted Reservoir 'Fixed Zig Fishing"

There was only a month or so to wait until my Chelmsford waters were set to open. The club has a great system in place, those that participate in an out of season work party get to fish from May 1st. This gives you a month of relatively quiet fishing before the club officially opens come the 15th June. I always choose to go and work down on Micklem Mere, in my mind, it's a water with a great future ahead of it and being part of it now, in its infancy, gives me a huge sense of purpose. As morbid as it may sound, when I'm long gone and the anglers of tomorrow are perched on its banks, fragments of me will be ingrained within its soil. There have been many times when I'm on my waters and I find myself thinking of all of those that have come before me, so many waters hold just as many ghosts as they do fish. I sometimes wonder what stories the swims contain, what discussions they've overheard and, of course, what monsters they've witnessed. As generations of anglers come and go, each leaving a fraction of themselves on all the waters they choose to fish, the one true constant, the real history, is within the carp themselves.

'New Swim' Work In Progress 'Micklem Mere'
History to me can mean so many things, especially when it comes to angling, it wasn't so long ago when I took a 'non-fishing' trip back to the water that I basically grew up fishing on, it was strangely emotional. Even though a huge amount of time had passed it still held the same feelings. I almost had a lump in my throat as I walked around remembering the amazing times I'd had. I stood looking at all the swims, some of which, a good few decades ago, me and my friends use to pitch up in for days. They hadn't changed, nothing had really changed, only the faces. The lake was now occupied by a whole new set of anglers, none of which would truly know of the beautiful 'history' that's embedded directly beneath their feet. As I stood soaking up 'the once familiar', watching as those fishing cast their lines out into my past. I had no doubt that they were making their own memories that, one day, they'll look back on with great affection. There are many aspects of my 'history' that I choose to forget, to keep buried, but my angling past is something I choose to dip into every so often. Like most things in life, over time, there are elements that become irrelevant. But I don't find this to be the case with fishing, everything that has come before makes both the waters and the fish what they are today - and so the cycle continues. 

I was up and out early on the day of the session, having been chained to the banks of Burrows for so long, it felt refreshing to be heading out to a new destination. I opened my front door to a very different world, gone were the icy bitter winds and the dark foreboding skies. I was now met with a mild warmth, clear blue horizons and a series of sure signs that spring was well and truly on its way. It wouldn't be long before I craved the smell of fish-meals and GLM base-mixes, both Spring and Summer just wouldn't be the same without them. Today I'd chosen to visit Braxted reservoir, it's not an overly hard water and I felt it was the perfect place to kick off my new season. Making the long journey up the A102, through the Dartford tunnel and up onto the A12, surprisingly, was a ritual I'd missed. Time always seems to fly by because my expectations on the pending session are playing out in my head. It's only once I've stopped at Boreham services, with my journey nearly complete, do I feel the excitement take hold, I can't seem to get to the water quick enough. Closer and closer I got, off the A12 I turned, I'd have to snake through a few country lanes before a quick ride along an old farm track would see me safely into the complex car park.

With my gear now loaded on the Barrow, it was only the back breaking walk up to the reservoir itself that stood in my way. This might sound pretty straightforward but the walk takes you through a large farm yard and then up a hill that gets progressively steeper the higher up you get. Just when you think you're getting to the end, it progresses further and gets even steeper still. It has to be seen to be believed and I know its been the 'downfall' of many an angler throughout the years. I've always made this crazy agreement with myself that I wouldn't stop once, however painful it got, I'd always try to do it in one go. I'm proud to say I've always managed it, although I do have at least 20 minutes of vertigo when I finally reach its summit. So ... here I was, my beloved water now within touching distance, but I still had the final hill to go. I was puffing and panting, each limb in my body burning, just a few more meters .... phew !!!! I'd made it. Now with a strange nausea and dizziness, I feasted my eyes on 'the res', it looked perfect. There was a strange haze that shrouded the landscape, all the trees and bushes were displaying a 'new born green', and coupled with that, a lovely warm light breeze was carrying itself down towards the dam wall. 

The Summit
Once my 'discombobulation' eased off it became apparent very quickly that the carp were up in the layers. They were all over the place, some with their backs out, others just below the surface. I was going to approach this in the most direct way possible, opting to fish fixed zigs exactly where the majority of the fish were. I wasn't going to mess about trying to suss the 'exact' depth out, I feel you can get way too preoccupied with this. It was simple, I would fish one zig at 8ft and the other at 9ft, the maximum depth, where the fish were holding was about 12ft/13ft. I was working on the basis that the carp were going to be at all different depths. One thing was very clear though, they certainly weren't anywhere near the bottom, so fishing on the deck was totally out of the question. I got everything setup quickly but precision was needed to get the zigs just right. To do this I use a tape measure and a single bivvy peg. The bivvy peg goes through the center of my hook link spool and I simply measure out the desired length.

Precision Measurements

My favored hook-link for zig fishing is 'Rig Marole Specialist Mono' in 10IB, it has a fairly low diameter and doesn't kink or twist. I find dedicated zig lines to be troublesome, they have a habit of twisting and knotting up after a few casts. In combination with this I use a size 8 'Nash Fang Twister' hook, my bait is then tied on 'knot-less knot' style with a very small piece of rig tube to create a 'blow-back' effect. I understand there are a few products on the market to make zig fishing easier, Fox Zig Aligners etc, but I don't have a great deal of interest in using them. I like to make all my rigs from scratch with my own chosen components. Bait wise, I don't use a food source, I opt for relatively small colorful pieces of foam, the 'Avid Zig Lites' are perfect. These are usually topped off with an imitation maggot, I'm going for curiosity bites, something small and colorful seems to work for me. Finally I use the lightest lead I feel I can get away with, I favor 1.5oz riser fished on a lead clip.

Small & Bright

I understand that fishing zigs is still rather perplexing for some out there, my advice to you is simple, it's all about 'mindset'. Understand that carp are designed to locate the smallest of items and microorganisms anywhere in their environment, they're masters of their realm. If they can pinpoint blood-worm and other food in the murky depths, buried deep within the silt and weed. They sure as hell can hone in on an item suspended in the layers, sometimes they need some encouragement, for instance, spodding soup to draw them in. But if you can actively see them dancing on, or near the surface in front of you, then a single suspended bait is more than enough to tempt a bite. Through the years I've come to understand that zigs don't necessarily work on every water, however, if the venue has a relatively high stock where the fish have to compete for the food, they can be highly effective. It's just a process of trial and error, dedicate a sensible amount of time to them, then you can draw your own conclusion - for those conclusions to come, you have to stick with it. 

The Riser 

Now with both my zigs meticulously tied it was just a case of getting them out, with a nice tight cast, my left rod went directly into the middle where the majority of the carp seemed to be holding. It didn't seem to spook them, this is the reason I love riser leads so much, due to their shape they covertly 'clip' into the water with very little disturbance. I dropped my right rod short, there appeared to be a few bigger carp straying away from the main crowd, again, the cast didn't seem to disturb them. When zig fishing I like to keep my line fairly tight, I wound in the slack until both rod tips were bowing over, bobbins were hung. Finally my first session of the new season was officially underway and it felt pretty dam good. It's hard to believe that only a few months ago I was sitting shivering down on the banks of Burrows, barely being able to feel both my feet and hands. As much as I enjoyed it, it was a bloody endurance test.         

View From The Swim
The first bite came quickly, my left rod was the first to go, there I was just about to descend into 'full daydreaming mode', when the bobbin slowly lifted up to the blank and stopped. I proceeded to gently lift the rod up and make contact with my first Chelmsford carp of the year, a spirited like scrap resumed. The fish didn't feel particularly big but I was just happy to get the bite. Mid battle a lovely chocolate colored common briefly peered its head through the waters skin, I swear we made eye contact. It came close, turned on its side and seemed to welcome the net mesh without any final bid for freedom. It was a lovely little carp, spotless and perfect looking in every way. The quick result told me that my approach was spot on, I could now sit confidently knowing that I could be up for a few more bites. A few snaps were taken, the carp was sent home and the zig was straight back out. The cast was crisp, the riser clipped back through the surface of the water, I waited for the drop .... DONK!. The bobbin was hung and I was back to 'pre-day dreaming mode'. 

The First On A 9ft Zig
Zigs make for a welcome break compared to fishing on the bottom, I don't have to faff around with changing boilies, dropping and losing boilie stops, or tying bags up. I simply check the hook, push the little piece of rig tubing back up, 'so the blow-back effect is primed', pop a nugget on and fire it back out. I find it very engaging, as demonstrated, if you're on some fish you can usually get a very quick result. So now with the kettle on I sat back and watched the carp, they were in constant motion. It was such a refreshing sight having spent the Winter staring for hours at a water that was content on giving absolutely nothing away. The fish seemed utterly care free, topping, twisting and circling around from one direction to the other. I knew it was just a matter of time before another bite occurred, both zigs were placed perfectly. My eyes kept focusing on, what appeared to be, a couple of rather large carp that were out on their own. They were moving slowly and far more cautiously, surveying their environment in far greater detail.

My intent observation was abruptly banished when my right rod sprung into action, it ripped off so violently, the tip was pulsating sharp to the right, the drag was buzzing. Lifting into the fish I instantly knew I was connected to something special, it was heavy, really heavy. I let it take as much line as it wanted, I wasn't going to rush this one. After the initial run, it slowed, I was steadily easing it back towards me but it seemed determined to stay very close to the margin down to my right. There were a number of low lying branches and snags, I had no doubt that it was going to do its best to dive into them. When obstructions are about it's amazing the extra power the fish seem to acquire. This made me nervous, considering it was on a 9ft hook-link, that was a lot of exposed line to get severed. Keeping the rod low and adopting some serious side strain I managed to keep the fish away from danger, it was now in touching distance. I lowered the net, eased and teased, it  suddenly surfaced, it was one hell of a common, easily a good twenty. Closer and closer she came, I was preying that the 'net fear' wouldn't kick in, I really didn't want it racing off again, I wanted to 'complete this transaction' in an orderly fashion. All was calm, up on the side she went, with my heart now in my mouth I slipped the net under, what looked to be, the largest fish I've landed on a zig.
Largest Zig Capture
I was totally blown away, it's amazing to think that a carp of this size would take such a tiny piece of foam. When you truly analyze it, you are suspending a minuscule fragment in a vast underwater universe, you'd think it would remain lost forever. But this just isn't the case, it reinforces just how incredible the carps senses really are. After a few photos I took great pleasure in watching her swim back home, I checked the hook, it was good to go, a nugget was slipped on and the cast was made. It appeared a large number of fish had now vacated the area, there were still a few milling about but the numbers had dwindled. I still felt confident in fishing the zigs though, I just didn't see the point in even considering going onto the bottom. For the next few hours everything seemed to go quite. The conditions remained the same but it was clear most the fish had moved on. I decided I'd just sit it out, sit on my hands and see what late afternoon would bring.

Time continued to tick by, a couple of coffees and a few teas later I was still waiting. Late afternoon came, the air turned cooler and with it, the fish started showing. They were still down my end but appeared to be really spread out, they were leaping and jumping like crazy, many were now showing along the dam wall. Looking carefully, after each leap, streams of bubbles would kick up off the bottom. Maybe they'd started feeding on the deck?, I had a decision to make, do I stick it out up in the layers or do I get down on the deck. I couldn't make my mind up, I can be utterly indecisive with decisions like this. I was twiddling my thumbs, wrestling with the conundrum that stood before me when, out of nowhere, my left rod was away. It appeared the stalling and indecisiveness had made the decision for me. The fish had taken the bait and shot towards me at lightening speed, I was reeling in the slack like a madman. The fight resumed under the rod tip, it was 'pure pleasure', my 3IB Ballistas have such a lovely tip action, the rod literally does all the work for you. All you have to do is stand back and soak up the communication between the blank and the fish. Each tug and pull travels along the carbon, in through my arm, across my rib cage and straight to the heart. The fish slipped into the net with little fuss, I instantly recognized it, it was a unique looking mirror I'd had off the bottom a year or so ago. It was great to see that it was still in prime condition, if memory serves me well, it was about 17IB.

An Old Friend
Reacquainting yourself with a previous capture can be enlightening, especially when you see that the fish is doing well. It makes it so apparent that the fish we catch don't just cease to exist the minute that we release them. The carp I catch are never 'out of sight, out of mind', they go on and continue to live and function both in my mind and in the water simultaneously, that's why we must always take the upmost care of them. When I sit and fish on any of my waters I often wonder where my past captures are hiding. This thought goes back to the very beginning of this blog, in regards to history. I feel that every fish we catch, we become part of it, an element of its past, and when they go on and continue to live through the years, sometimes outliving those that fish for them. They gather and contain a rich tapestry of everything that has come before them. It might seem a rather profound way of looking at something that many describe in a derogatory way, such as 'mud-pigs', but I feel they deserve much more respect than that. 

This fish signaled the end of the session, I'd had a great day, I sensed that the 60 odd miles home wouldn't feel very long, it's never a drag when I've had a good day. Packing up and giving 'the res' one last look, it felt great to be back. I know it's beneficial for the waters to have a closed season but I really do miss fishing them. Down the hill I rolled and on through the farm yard, the smell of cow dung hit me as I went, strangely it's a smell I'd missed. Now back at the van with the gear loaded, I peered through the trees at front lake, it looked perfect. Last season I hadn't put a great deal of time in on the place. As I stood there watching, a few carp leapt clear of the water up the far end by the buoy. They looked to be good fish, I felt a feeling brewing in my gut, traveling at pace up through my heart and into my head. It was obsession taking hold, the carp I'd caught today had pacified it briefly but it now appeared that front lake had kicked it straight off again. Within seconds I was already itching to cast my lines out into its water, I was hatching a plan. Carp Fishing - there just ain't no cure!       

Saturday 23 September 2017

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 9

As I sit writing this it's hard to believe that we've only got a few months of 2017 left to go. The older I get the faster life seems to accelerate, taking into consideration that I'm still writing up my Winter 2015 sessions. I've got a hell of a long way to go to get to where I am now. Writing about the distant past is a strange thing, especially when it comes to angling, I know that since 2015, my viewpoint and thoughts have changed drastically. I feel like I'm living two lives, the angler I was then and the angler I am now. Many people get in touch asking how I manage to remember my sessions in such detail. It's pretty simple really, I have a very tattered old notebook that I use to scribble in, parts of what I write are in great detail, others are sentences and bullet points that conjure up certain emotions, feeling and memories. If you add all the photos and images that I capture along the way, I end up having a crystal clear recollection of the time, the session and what I was both thinking and feeling.

On the day of my escape I was up at 6am, stumbling out the front door, the sun was yet to fully rise. I packed my tackle as fast as I could and got the hell out of the city. I had limited time before the 'gridlock' would do its best to keep me contained. Snaking through the roads of SE7, motionless bodies stood like statues at bus stops, all waiting for the large, red double-decker hearses to arrive and take them to their resting place. The lights of the pedestrian crossings where flickering ominously, the liquid color of red, amber and green looked somewhat psychedelic in the half-light. Closer and closer I got to the motorway, my own personal 'yellow-brick road' that would see me out of this god forsaken place. London is the city I hate to love, many a time I've detested its unforgivingness. However I realize I'd be lost without it, the stark difference between its brutality and that of the peace I find by the water, is a 'polar opposite' that I need to have in my life.

Finally on 'the road to oz', it certainly wasn't the tin man or Dorothy that I had on my mind. It was the carp, if I could get a few more fish under my belt, then I'd happily tap my green ruby 'Skeetex' boots together, and get myself back to Kansas/London. I was cruising at a steady speed, with the sun now rising, the sky was lighting up with the embers of a new day. I was at the complex in no time, with the barrow now loaded I walked through the morning mist making my way round to my own 'resting place'. The morning dew on both the grass and branches looked like tears yet to weep. Arriving at my swim, I took a moment to take it all in, it's as if the world had 'flatlined' and the only pulse to be heard was mine. There's nothing quite like an 'anglers dawn', it's something very few witness and experience. Being up at sunrise and on the water early evokes a strange sense of isolation, this is a feeling I fully embrace. 

I got on top of everything fast, my swim was built, the rods were clipped up, now I just had to get some bait in. Because of the success from last time I was going to stick with extending my baited area a little further. I was now going to be using 4 large handfuls of squashed boilies instead of two. I wanted a thin layer of bait to cover at least 4 rod lengths either side of where I was planning to put my hook baits. It was commonsense that spreading the freebies further afield was going to up my chances. The priority was to make sure it was spread lightly and evenly, I didn't want to risk the possibility of over feeding. I made the long walk round to deposit all free offerings, along the sodden pathways and up through the cages I walked. The sun was still low, I had a sense that the lake was beginning to open its eyes. I increased my pace, I'd love to get a morning bite, having not been down this early before. I was intrigued to see if any fish were going to visit the spot earlier in the day.

Subtle Color

Peering through the overgrown bushes that shielded my secret spot, I stared intently into the water, it looked ghostly. I very carefully, spread all my freebies along both the margins to the left and right of where I was planning to put my rigs. I watched as each bait 'plopped' through the waters skin and started to 'flutter' out of sight. I legged it back around to my swim and got both rods out quickly and accurately. For some reason, when the casts hit the clip, it felt far more satisfying than usual, with back-leads on and bobbins hung. I welcomed the wait, sparking the stove up, everything was silent, the only noise, that of my kettle, occasionally creaking as it began to contort and expand from the heat. The air was sharp, the world was clear, as the steam from the boiling water drew smoke signals on the 'canvas' that lay before me, I felt pretty dam rich, I was existing perfectly within the moment. The lake was rising from slumber and I was ready, watching, like an apex predator ready to strike.

The peace of the morning started to fracture with the sound of coots and mallards, there appeared to be some kind of dispute going on with both parties. My mind began to wander, I started to wonder what it would be like to have wings, I certainly wouldn't be hanging around on some freezing stretch of liquid. I'd take every opportunity I could to soar high up above the ground, determined to reach dizzy highs, to push further and fly faster. I'd be chained to no one, my home would be where ever I chose to rest my head. However, I couldn't help but think that if men were to really have wings, it would probably end up being a catastrophe. The skies would be forever occupied, they'd be collisions, people randomly falling back down to earth 'drunk', and, knowing the human race, it would be used for no good. Wars would be fought differently, they'd be no control or jurisdiction on who can go where and why. It would be chaos, it's bad enough already. 

Hitching A Ride On The 3 o'clock Wind
My thoughts were pulled down instantly from above the clouds when my left rod rocketed off at speed, the screaming alarm made me jump out of my skin. I lifted my Ballista up, 'as if I was raising the Olympic flame', battle commenced. The fish bolted so fast off to the left, at a speed that would of made 'Usain Bolt' look like a loser. I held on, connected to the wild, trying my best to pacify the possible beast I had covertly outsmarted. I was patient, only giving line when I had to, slowly I gained ground, a minor tussle occurred close in, I lowered the net, a cluster of scales got engulfed in the mesh .... first fish ... result!. Peering down and lifting the net up slightly, I was witness to an incredible looking mirror, the scales were lovely, complimenting its winter skin perfectly. A few snaps were taken, goodbyes were said and the rod went straight back out.

A Morning Visitor 
Taking into account that the fish came off my left rod, I decided that I'd wait before applying anymore bait. I knew my right rod was still primed and ready for a bite, if I was lucky enough to get a fish off of it, then I'd go and top the swim up. As mid morning came about the clouds broke and some very needed sunshine started beaming down. The slight warmth on my face was a nice relief, the landscape lite up in washed out pastille colors. A couple of hours past with no action, a few liners occurred but nothing came from them. A few more hours crept on by before my right rod flew into action. Connecting with the fish, I instantly knew it was a better one than the first. As expected, it bolted towards the post, side strain teased it away. Now out in the open water, it lumped around slowly, it wasn't taking much line but the slow plodding was constant. Now at short range, a fully armored common carp kissed the surface of the water. Once witnessed, poisonous adrenaline seeped from my stomach up through every orifice of my body.

There were a few tense moments when it came close in, a few early 'panic lunges' saw the fish fire off down the shallow margin to my right. It was a battle of wits, there were more than enough marginal obstructions for the carp to do a 'hoodini' on me. Eventually I manged to entice her into the waiting net mesh, I was both relived and ecstatic in equal measure. Staring down at my prize, I'd bagged myself a lovely common, it was long, lean and had a dark jet grey tinge on its back and shoulders. Holding it up with the suns sporadic rays firing off its scales was an awesome feeling. I'd manged two fish and I still had plenty of time left, if I could manage a few more then it would be a session to remember. Gently easing the fish into the water, I watched as it rejuvenated itself in the sanctuary of my sling. I gently placed both hands either side to steady her, I was waiting for 'the kick'. That message that every carp we catch gives us, that everything is ok, it's an acknowledgment that 'maybe' it has forgiven us, understanding that 'us anglers' are a breed that mean no harm. We just want to have a fleeting chance at witnessing them up close and in the flesh.

Fully Armored
I watched as she drifted away, I was on a roll so I wasted no time in getting round and topping the swim back up. It was obvious to me that carp were in and around the area today, I wasn't doing anything particularly different to my last sessions. It goes to show that if you're on or near fish, and they're feeding, you can catch them, sometimes it really is as simple as that. Back in my swim with both rods out, I readjusted a few things. Firstly I was now going to be fishing a super tight line on my right hand rod and I was going to lock it up. I'd still be using a back lead but I wanted to try to pacify the initial bite, giving me a few extra seconds to steer the fish away from the post. Secondly - and something I do all the time, is change the position of both my camera and cradle, when the sun goes in front of the camera 'so it's behind me when I take a picture' both me and the carp come out as shadows. It sounds bizarre but I always move or rotate the camera so the main light source is in front of me. - it doesn't get more anal than that !

Lunch time came and went, the clouds crawled back overhead, and the chill started to cut once more. My rods had remained static since my last fish, not one liner had occurred, maybe the fish had moved on?, or maybe they'd had their lunch and were going to have a bite to eat come dinner time. Either way, I was going to sit it out, the swim was primed and ready, the kettle was back on, I was now back to watching the water and trying not to let my imagination run away with me. I started thinking back to the start of this Winter stint, I'd stuck to the plan and hadn't deviated. As expected, it had started off relatively slow, but with perseverance, there was no doubt that the number of fish I was catching had increased. As mentioned before, sticking to the same plan and swim is fine for a while but I know I'd get bored if it was an approach I adopted on a regular basis.
I sat in a trance like state, my eyes would shift from watching the water to focusing firmly on both my rod tips and bobbins. The universe around was irrelevant, I was waiting for that 'magic moment' when the peace, solitude and silence is irradiated by the sound of a screaming alarm. It could happen at any moment, in my head I started counting down from 10 to 0. Wondering what number the run would come on, eventually it ended up going on 6, the left rod was away. After an initial run the fish came towards me fast, I was reeling in the slack like a madman. In true 'Burrows Carp' style, it woke up close in, I stood there letting my rod tip do the work, due to the rods I use, the tip action is second to none, watching and feeling the tip compressing and contorting is a rather profound experience. As the carp went up on its side I knew the show was over, I'd been rewarded with yet another lovely plump looking mirror. It was deep bodied with a long tail section, I had a feeling that it had all the trademarks of a potential future king.

A Potential Future King
A few snaps were taken and back she went, the rod went straight back out, just like before, the right rod was still primed for a bite so I held off on topping the swim back up. The afternoon was well and truly on its way now. The day had flown by, it's that strange 'time hypnosis' that only happens when carp fishing, there's never enough time. We wait on the moments, the minutes and the seconds for that next bite to occur, and before you know it, 12 hours have evaporated in a time frame that feels like 10 minutes. I was sitting there trying to suss out how I could slow time down, if only for an hour or two. It turned out that I didn't have to, the right hand rod  bleeped, fidgeted and then fired off, the tip was 'yanked' aggressively round to the right, due to it being locked up, my buzz bars were doing their best not to collapse under the strain. 

I lunged and lent into a ball of energy that was clearly careering towards the post. I held on tight, doing my very best to turn the fish out into the open water, reeling frantically I steered her clear. She continued to power off sharp to the right, the rush was immense, the chill that had implanted itself in my body was soon melted by the sheer adrenaline rush I was getting. The battle continued and when I eventually gained some ground, it was clear the fish wasn't prepared to give itself up easily. Now wallowing in open water, the powerful pulls from before dispersed, teasing her slowly my way, the white flag was waved as the fish retired herself up on to its side and cruised over the waiting net .... result!. I was met with the sight of a beautiful grey colored common carp, everything about it was perfect looking, I felt honored to of caught her, her slate grey appearance compliment the landscape perfectly. 

The Grey
This fish signaled the end of the session, and unexpectedly the end of my winter stint down on Burrows. It worked out that my work would take up most of my days up until springs arrival. It was now time to move on, my Chelmsford waters would open back up in the next few months, so my focus would be on them. Looking back through all of my winter sessions, I was really happy with the result. I'd stuck to my plan, persevered, and managed to catch some lovely looking fish. It had worked out well sticking to both the same swim and the same spot, it was a stark difference to how I had approached the water the previous Winter. I packed up slowly and by the time I loaded the barrow, the light was fading behind the 'dead wiry trees', everything was in hibernation. I knew that when I'd next pay Burrows a visit, everything would've woken, the banks would be breeding new life and the world both around and within the water would be very different. Pushing the barrow around the muddy path back up to the van, I gave the water one last salute and thanked it for keeping me company over the past few months.