The year before last I approached the water in a different way compared to how I had in the past. I stayed really active, moving, chopping and changing and basically trying to pick fish off as I went. This year I was going to approach it in a completely different way again. I was going to find an area that didn't receive a great deal of pressure throughout the year and target it, and continue to target it, in the hope that the carp would slowly identify the spot as an area that provides a regular food source. I was going to go against everything I'd previously written in regards to 'fishing modes' and the 'ruts' that we can find ourselves in.
Shift Your Viewpoint
But as we all know it just isn't that black & white, very rarely does a spot fish the same over a long period of time. To take the above example to the extreme, I actually knew a guy that, if his favorite swim was taken, instead of fishing somewhere else and exploring, he'd simply go home. That's one hell of a rut to be stuck in, you learn nothing by staying within your comfort zone. You have to be willing to step out of it as much as possible, I feel that's the only time we really learn anything new. For instance, that's why I could never feel satisfied just fishing waters with clear bottoms. If you learn how to fish over weed and silt etc. It expands you're understanding, so the chances of you being confronted with a situation you can't deal with minimizes greatly.
The second example of an 'angling rut' and one that I, again have been guilty of, is approaching all the waters I fish in exactly the same way. Simply put, I'd turn up, get my rigs out, scatter a bit of bait around and then just sit there waiting. The idea of moving or changing my presentation or approach very rarely entered my head. If by the end of the day I hadn't caught, I'd put it down to the fact that the fish weren't feeding. When in reality they probably were but I was just too 'locked into one way of thinking', that I didn't bother trying anything else. Obviously it's a different story these days and I can never leave a lake knowing that I hadn't done all I could to try and get a bite. All my waters fish differently, its taken a lot of time to suss them out, and to this day, I'm still trying to suss them out.
Back to the session ..
As stated earlier, my approach for this winter into Spring was going to throw the above paragraphs completely out the window. I was staying to one spot, I'd fish it in a mechanical way and stick with it through thick and thin. I sensed the approach would start off slow but with dedication and 'single bloody mindedness' it might just end up paying off. I'd go as far as saying that, even if I saw evidence of fish elsewhere on the water. I wouldn't move on them or be tempted to throw my 'master plan' out the window. I was really interested to see if, over time, I would start to see a pattern in the way the swim worked. I was going to keep a solid record of when the bites came, I knew that I'd be tempted to stray from this idea but I was going to try and see it through.
My Winter Swim 'Summer 2015'
The image above shows the area that I was going to target, it's a small marginal section that doesn't get a great deal of pressure. It sits quietly in between the popular 'go to spots'. Close in it's about 5.5ft with a relatively hard clay bottom, the plan was to get one bait to literally kiss the over hanging trees. The second bait would be placed about a rod length short of the margin, this put it in about 6.5ft of water. Both baits would be fished roughly a rod length apart. Because I know the carp move around in groups I wanted to keep my baiting fairly tight.
The red spot, 'in the image above' indicates the position of a sunken post, the swim that you can just about make out opposite never gets fished, there's a swim to the right out of shot that also never gets fished. It's cut off by a sunken tree, this pretty much cuts the whole spot off from any interference. I was going to keep well away from the post, having it in the vicinity though could work in my favor. I know from past experience that the carp bolt for it, and if 'in the carps wild mind' they've got a 'get out clause/snag' to race for. They might be a lot more willing to take my bait, I had more than enough distance to steer them away safely. To aid me in this theory I was going to be locked up and about an inch from my rods at all times.
A Subtle Approach
On the bait front, I was going to go with two sure winners, Banana Cream was going to be fished on the hair and a single Honey Nectar was going to be crushed in a tiny mesh bag and slipped onto the hook for the cast. Both baits had been soaked and left in their corresponding bait glugs for well over a month, they'd expanded slightly and were bursting with flavor. I wasn't going to use a great deal, I planned to fish 20 freebies exactly, these would be spread around the area. I wanted to try and draw any passing fish in, I didn't want to overfeed them, this time of the year you can kill your chances from the off if you're not careful. After each session I'd add a few handfuls, especially if I knew that I'd be coming back the following day.
As usual my rigs were going to be simple, I was using my usual inline semi-fixed lead setup, one hook-link was an 'Amnesia' combi and the other was a 'trigga-link' combi. The 'Amnesia' hook-link was the one that was going to be fished in the clearer, shallower water. I wanted it to be as inconspicuous as possible. I also think having a stiff filament connected to a soft braid gives the carp something slightly different to contend with. The other hook-link combining the 'trigga-link' with a standard braid is becoming a mainstay on both my bottom bait and pop up rigs. I can see by the takes that I've been getting over the recent months that the carp have a definite moment of confusion when they take the bait. I'm a huge fan of the trigga-link, it's a very unique material.
The Trigga-link Spring Effect
Those that regularly read my blogs will know that all the rigs that I tend to use are pretty straightforward, I don't get hung up on them. I've been asked why I don't seem to use the more modern ones like the 'D-rig' and 'Chod' etc. The honest truth is, I don't feel the need to, carp were being caught from all types of waters long before these rigs came about. If you're not careful I feel that, 'the rig', can become a major distraction, location and bait application are the main focus points for me, a straightforward rig in the right place will catch you carp, if you keep that thought at the forefront of your mind then everything starts to become a little less complicated. Find what works for you, master it, stick with it and don't get sucked into the latest fads.
Taking into account that all of the above was a plan that I'd been hatching for quite sometime. When the day of my first session came around I was more than eager to start putting the whole thing into practice. There's no point in having a master plan if you're not going to follow it through with 'black ops' type precision. The van was loaded in all of 3 seconds and I was 'high-tailing' down the motorway towards the Paddlesworth complex. I had a thousand and one thoughts spilling around my mind, the first, and of course the most important was 'coffee', I'd run out and the thought of being on the bank without it just wasn't worth contemplating. It was cold and if I wanted to survive out there, a hot cup of pure caffeine was of the utmost importance.
Stopping off and getting some supplies, 'including a fine ground Colombian blend', I was soon on the complex and making my way, with a precariously loaded carp-porter, around to the spot I was planning to target. There was no pleasure as I struggled to push the barrow through the soaking sludgy clay, my tyre, randomly sinking and grounding out when I least expected it. By the time I got to my swim I was sweating profusely and panting like a dog on heat - 'so much for my 'black ops' approach'. Finally at my swim I took a few minutes to de-sweat and catch my breath, the lake looked desolate but with clearer skies moving in over head, it felt good to be back. I've been down Burrows many times in these conditions and I knew in my guts that a bite was very much on the cards.
I was in no hurry to get set up, this was the start of a marathon not a sprint. Surveying the area I was planning to target, things became much clearer, I had a very definite picture in my mind of exactly how I was going to approach things. The first task was to clip up the distance on both rods and make a note of it, that would make life a lot easier on future sessions. After a few measured casts, feeling carefully for the drop, it worked out that the right rod would be clipped up at 12.5 rod lengths, with the left at 11.5. As mentioned before, both baits would be fished roughly one rod length away from each other, the 20 free offerings would be spread modestly around the area. Now all that I had left to do was make the penultimate casts, get the freebies in and sit back and let nature take its course.
View From The Swim
Lifting the first rod up over my head, both arms extended, I bid the first rig farewell as I jolted the butt section down towards my chest. The rig kissed the treeline, simultaneously hitting the clip .. perfect!. I replicated the precision with the second, the rig flew through the air, cut through the waters skin, shortly followed by the DONK!. Bobbins were set, freebies were deposited, now it was just a case of waiting, this was the start of a long process. Even if nothing happened today, it didn't matter, perseverance was the key. I sparked the kettle up and took a seat right next to my rods, everything was calm and I had the whole lake to myself.
There are days when I embrace 'the bleak', I love it and it inspires, however there are times when it gets on top of me and I feel strangely solemn. Today could go either way, I started to imagine what the banks were going to look like come the summer. Burrows in bloom, more than any other lake looks so special, the trees are draped in a thousand greens, the water goes bright emerald and time has a habit of becoming irrelevant. The seasons come and go and life on the bank dies, only to be reborn again, and whilst all this is happening. Deep underwater, the carp are existing perfectly within their own universe, completely unaware of our lives above the surface. They don't realize that thousands of strange 'air breathing' creatures are dedicating minutes, days, weeks and years of their lives pitched up on the banks above, hoping to catch just a fleeting glimpse of them.
Rolling Weather Fronts
The day ticked on by and even though there were no signs of carp, I still had a feeling something might just happen. At least five different skies moved on through over head, and come mid afternoon hope arrived in the shape of the sun, and with it a change of mood. I started to get a few knocks and liners, the kettle was on once again and a fraction of adrenaline started to move through my body. Mid to late afternoon is by far my favorite time, the fish are usually on the mooch and looking for an early evening meal. My eyes were fixed on the rod tips, occasionally I'd glance over at my spot. I was watching waiting and willing the buzzer to start screaming. It eventually did, and what a feeling it was, the right rod close in was the one to go.
I was on it fast and as expected the fish shot towards the post, having already sussed that this would be the case, I was in control from the off and I pacified the run in its tracks. It was putting up a right scrap, my 'Ballistas' were slowly converting the fight into poetry, I could feel every pull, tug and lunge. Once under the tip I was presented with a perfect looking common. It wasn't ready to give up just yet, as it proceeded to muddy the margin as it span around from left to right, literally fighting for its life. Eventually I managed to slip her into the net, it was a great feeling. First trip, first fish, my over anal planning wasn't all in vain after all.
Exactly What I Came For
It was exactly what I came for, it wasn't large, a mid double at most but I didn't care, it's one thing to have a plan but when it actually comes together it makes it all worthwhile. I was convinced that if I stuck with the spot and the approach, I might be able to pick off a few of the better fish, time will tell. I had a feeling that at this point in the season, the majority of the shoal fish would be patrolling the usual features and holding up in the obvious spots, but I wasn't after them, I was after the solitary loners. To look at, especially with no leaves on the trees, there was nothing special about the area I'd chosen, but that's what made it interesting. To find gold you've got to go looking for it, sometimes it's found in the most unassuming of places. There's never a sign saying "Dig Here".
I wrapped the rig to 12.5 rod lengths and back out it went, it landed nice and tight, tucked just under the bushes. I topped the swim up with another 10 baits, bobbins were set and I was once again perched within inches of my rods. Time was starting to get on now but I thought I'd sit it out, I wanted to see how the swim was going to play out. There might just be another bite in it for me, evening crept in and the light was starting to fade, both rods stayed silent. I decided to call it a day, I was happy, all the thoughts that I'd had during the session will no doubt ferment and by the time I come down again I'd feel more tuned in. It always takes me a few sessions to really feel in sync with both myself and the water.