Sunday 12 March 2017

Burrows 'Echos From The Valley' Part 2

"Balance - a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions" 

In this blog I'm accounting for a short afternoon session I managed to fit in down on Burrows. But first I'd like to explain what I feel about both balance and mindset, these two things play a huge part in both my angling and the way I try to live my life. For many of us out there, 'angling is life' ... try and bare with me on this one. 

It had been a good few weeks since my last session, my work had been all over the place and fishing, unfortunately had to take a back seat. Times like these are always frustrating especially when you know that the conditions are perfect. But from a "perspective" point of view, it can really work in my favour. My 'angling flame' has to stay burning bright for me to fish well. I've written a lot in the past about both perspective and mindset, I'm very conscious of both of these things because they pretty much dictate my existence. It's these two elements that exhaust me the most because they're forever changing and I'm forever wrestling with them. Over time I've come to understand that too much of one thing can end up having the reverse effect, even if it's something that you really enjoy. Trying your best to balance everything within your life 'as close to equal as you can' is something that I continue to try and master, it's far from easy. 

Equal Measure 

Nowadays very few people have a work/life balance, many are working all the hours under the sun, some in jobs they hate, just to survive. I feel that in UK society more than any other, we've got an 'equilibrium' crisis which I think is contributing to the current turmoil that we seem to be experiencing on a daily basis. Simply put many lives are out of balance and it's having a huge knock on effect, how the hell do we balance the scales? I don't think there's an answer to this question, in a life that's so critically out of balance, you've got to try and find your own stability in the best way you can. So ... what does this have to do with carp angling?, in my mind there's a very solid parallel, angling metaphors are stitched tightly within our everyday lives and only the 'angler' has the chance to see them.

If I have a block of free time and I'm out on the bank everyday, as the days pass I find it hard to maintain the focus that I feel I need to be fishing as effectively as I can. For me to get the best out of everything I need time away from it. Time away always allows the mind to file and process everything its been doing, so when you start again both your mindset and perspective are rested and fresh. I noticed this a lot with my drumming, I'd be on my kit everyday, rehearsing, playing shows and basically forcing the issue from noon until night, year in and year out. I thought that I was doing the right thing but it eventually became clear that I was totally overdoing it. I lost my perspective completely to the point where I was starting to think I was actually regressing, and it was this approach that led to my eventual burnout at 'the ripe old age of 36'. If I'd actually taken the time to step back for a while, I would of realised that I was doing just fine.

I know we're all different but it was through this experience that I learnt how I needed to approach things in the future, not just in my angling, but everything that I was doing. Balance is in everything around us and more importantly, within us. It doesn't take a great deal to tip the scales, it can come in many forms both physically and mentally. For example, take our ears, they're not just for hearing, the inner parts contain a fluid that keeps us centred, allows us to walk straight and basically function. It only takes a fraction of this fluid to move or leak into a different part of the ear, for us to suffer vertigo, feel dizzy and have a hard time even standing up. There are some that might be reading this who have experienced these symptoms, its hard to believe something so small can have such a big impact. 

Another example is both the brain and the stomach, so many carefully balanced vitamins, minerals and chemicals have to work in perfect unison for both to function correctly. It doesn't take much to throw them out and it can have real adverse effects on our system. We have a cosmos inside of us and when it's both balanced and managed correctly, we in turn feel so much better for it. Moving away from ourselves, take 'practice' for example, does it really make perfect? too a point I think it does, but I feel if you over do it, there's a risk that you will peak and slowly fall into the boundaries of 'stale'. This in turn can have a negative impact on your perspective and all of a sudden something you enjoy doing can feel more like a 'psychological operation' than a pleasure.  

In regards to 'mindset', I feel this runs parallel with balance. It's hard to think correctly if you're spending a vast majority of time doing something you dislike. I think the same goes for spending too much time doing something you love. The best example I can give of this is being in a hugely successful touring band. In bands, when you start out you're hungry and driven by the thought of succeeding and most will do whatever it takes to get to where they want to be. You rehearse religiously, work hard on writing songs, get out there and play as much as you can. If you're lucky enough to sign a major record deal and start to sell some records then what you truly love becomes your job. But there is a downside to this, what started off pretty harmless, as a group of mates meeting up having a laugh and writing tunes, suddenly turns into a different kind of beast.

All of a sudden you have to write music non stop and along with it, the tunes have to be good otherwise they wont get released. If you don't come up with the goods your 'dream' could wash away down the drain in a matter of months. In addition, add 18 - 20 months of touring in to that, most nights over different time zones, hammering out the same old 'fan favourites' night after night. All of a sudden things get strained and stagnant, you're not away from it long enough to have any balanced perspective on what you are doing. Maybe this thing you always thought you wanted isn't quite what you thought it would be. Many times I've heard people talk about having seen their favourite band saying "it was good, but they seemed to just be going through the motions". It's because most of the time they are, that's the mindset they tend to find themselves in.

Under The Firmament
So let us bring this all the way back to angling, starting with the basics. Nothing beats fishing with a balanced setup, when both your rod and reel are balanced, it makes everything feel so much more intuitive in terms of casting, accuracy and playing fish. On top of that, the lead size has to be balanced in comparison to the test curve of the rod. If you've got a powerful rod then a 3oz lead and above makes it far easier to compress the blank on the cast, this in turn helps us to reach those distant spots. Regarding rigs, using a 'critically balanced' presentation is imperative in certain angling situations. For your bait to float slowly and poetically onto to any low lying weed or debris, it has to be balanced perfectly. Too much putty and it could sink too quick, too little putty and you run the risk of the bait not sinking at all, staying suspended directly off the lead.     

Moving away from rigs and tackle and looking at results, I like a balanced catch rate, I wouldn't want to be catching all the time, in the same way that I wouldn't like to blank all the time either. This is why I fish lots of different waters, each with a varying level of difficulty. If I've had a great session on one of my productive waters, it then gives me some added fuel in the 'inspiration' tank to sit it out on one of my harder venues. A change of scenery changes my perspective and with each water that I fish, it shifts my viewpoint on the next. Now we move onto my final example, 'time'. I'm a short session angler, I moved away from 'long haul' fishing over a decade ago and I feel I've improved because of it. When I use to night-fish, I'd find after a few days with very little sleep, my mindset was all over the place which in turn effected my whole perspective.

I consider myself very lucky, I manage to get out on the bank more than most because of the way I earn my living. However I'm still very aware when I'm starting to over do it and I've learnt when I need to step away for a while. Don't get me wrong, I've often sat there on those warm sunny days, watching both the water and my rods thinking "I wish I could do this full time". But in all honesty I couldn't, I personally don't think it would make me a better angler. If anything, as mentioned before, it would probably end up having the reverse effect - because it's not a balanced existence. To conclude, it all really depends on the individual, but if we learn to master 'balance' in its many forms, we all might start to see a positive shift, not only in angling but in everything that we do. I hope what I've been trying to explain has made some kind of sense to you.
And now we move on with the session.......

Over the past few weeks it was as if the start of winter had been put on hold, we were experiencing a burst of milder weather and I wanted to maximise on it. I was really short on time but I was desperate to try and pop out for at least an afternoon. Looking through my diary the days were filled right up, however there was a small block of time that if I prepared properly, would see me by the water for an early afternoon session. It was to be the tale end of the following Wednesday that I planned to make my escape. Between now and then the approach was to get my head down, do what I had to do and prey to god nothing else came in that would blast my angling plans out the proverbial window. The days past fast, I was literally in a trance, counting down the minutes until I could get out and cast a much needed line.

Soon enough Wednesday arrived and after nailing my job in the morning, I was lake bound. I couldn't wait to unlock the gate that led me up to the car park down on the Paddlesworth complex. Once that gate is locked behind me, all the chaos from the outside world disperses. Arriving at the car park, I literally threw my kit onto my 'dilapidated' MK2 carp porter and headed down the path towards Burrows. As the lake unfolded itself perfectly in front of my eyes, it looked nothing short of stunning, I just couldn't wait to get set up and get fishing. I was so inspired because it had been such a long time since my last session. I had a feeling that anything could happen and even though I only had a few hours, if I played my cards right, I might just lay claim to a scaly prize.

The Valley Unfolding
I took a moment to take in the view, the trees stood rigid like an army of skeletons, the sky hung above, stretching into 'forever', and the water looked its usual 'mysterious' self. Just for a moment everything was released from the winters grip, surprisingly there was still some traces of green on the trees, I knew it was going to last long though. A very gentle breeze was blowing down towards the muddy double, this is the first swim that you come to. I usually avoid it because it gets hammered, because my session was short I thought 'what the hell', I might as well give it a go. The conditions felt very familiar to me and I knew they'd be a few fish ghosting around the far margins. The plan was to fish single hook baits close to the features, I wasn't going to overfeed, I wanted a quick bite. As usual nothing was going to be complicated, placement was the key. Both rigs were going to be semi-fixed bottom baits, the hook-links were combined from both 'trigga-link' & 'camfusion'. 

Trigga-Link/Camfusion Combi
My chosen bait was Caribbean, I have great confidence fishing these as singles. The selected spot for my left hand rod was nice and clean, it was going to be placed a few inches off of some overhanging foliage on the opposite margin. The right hand spot was dirty but I knew I could get away with fishing a bottom bait in it. My plan was to literally touch the overhanging trees on the cast, it runs surprisingly deep really close in. Because I was fishing both rods tight to the margins, where there could be a few possible snags, I was going to be fishing 2oz back-leads and super tight lines. I wanted to slow the carp down as much as possible on the take, plus this would really enhance the 'spring' like effect of the trigga-link. The second that alarm sounded, I was going to be on it like a gun shot.

View From The Swim
A few casts later saw me hitting my spots, both drops felt good, back leads were placed on both of my lines, I then proceeded to carefully wind-down until the tips of each rod started to bow round. I was set, the slightest movement on either rod would be detected with precision. I had four hours maximum ahead of me so the plan was to sit directly behind my rods, take in the sights and sounds, watch closely and do my best to become a 'human sponge'. I was desperate for a 'spiritual detox', life lately had been chaotic and the grind of the 'matrix' we live in had been bringing me down quite badly. There's nothing better to "balance" your thoughts than being by the water waiting for the unexpected.

After an hour or so everything became very still, I'd had a number of liners off of both rods. There were fish about for sure, but was a single hook bait enough to entice a bite, I sat on my hands feeling confident that it could. Due to the time of day I abstained from my usual coffee intake and opted for a proper cup of Yorkshire tea. I was being kept company by a small Robin that insisted on landing on both my rods and my boot. Every half hour or so I'd hear the shrill call of a Kingfisher, I'd spot its gleaming turquoise speeding inches away from the waters skin. The gulls were circling above me, screaming and occasionally landing where my baits had been cast. I felt they were watching and waiting to intercept any freebies that might come their way, today though, they were out of luck. Everything around me was a perfect portrait of bank-side life, now if I could only catch a carp, the portrait would be complete. 

My right rod bleeped, the tempo of my pulse increased, the bleep was followed by a jolt. Before I had time to think, the rod bent right round and both the bobbin and the drag were screaming, the take was pure violence. I was up and at it in a flash, applying the pressure fast and hard, the fish was pulling with real power tight underneath the marginal branches. My heart was in my mouth, the pressure was constant, I held ... and held some more. Suddenly things slackened off as it kited towards me at such a speed I could barely wind fast enough to reel in the slack. I had one angry carp on the end of my line and it felt like a good one. The panic was over, now it was just a case of getting it in the net, it was a good few minutes before I eventually saw what looked to be an incredible looking common. Yet again it looked like Burrows was going to unearth another one of its diamonds. 

After one hell of a spirited fight, the carp turned gently up on its side and waved the white flag. I slid the net under my prize and took a rather deep sigh of relief, what a result and what a fish. Gently unhooking her in the net and lifting her over into my cradle, I was literally blown away with its proportions. This carp was the perfect example of why, 9 years on, I still love Burrows as much as the day I first laid eyes on the place. You've got to go along way to find a water that holds so many quality conditioned carp. I've rarely been disappointed with any of the fish I've caught. I just hope everyone that fishes it, along with all the other waters up and down the country, keep giving the carp the respect that they deserve. 

A few photos were taken to preserve the memory and back home she went, looking at my watch I had very little time left so I decided I'd pack up on a high. My mission was successful and my portrait of the day was complete. It was great to get back out, even though it was a short trip, I felt like I'd soaked up everything I could and I was going to use this as inspiration to help get me through the 'real world' that was waiting for me on the other side of the car park gate. On the way home I felt the 'matrix' closing in around me, I instantly started to plan my next escape.