Saturday 27 May 2017

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 4

Over the past couple of weeks due to one thing or the other I hadn't managed to get out at all. Along with that, the weather had taken on a whole new form, the milder bright days of the past few months had gone. Each morning as I unwound the blinds I was greeted with a very different world, dark looming clouds and icy biting winds had implanted themselves in the 'everyday' and they weren't in a rush to leave. It's all too easy to hide away when the conditions are like this. However, it was not going to make me deviate from my plan, I needed to get out, I was going stir crazy. It's weird because I find that it's the normality of everyday life that gets to me the most. 

When I was active musically I felt removed from the 'normal'. Both your mind and your soul were consumed with creating something, most of the time it seemed to just create confusion and borderline madness, but that was fine for me, I embraced it fully and that became my 'normal'. I had this aching feeling that I was chasing after something, but deep down I had no idea what it was, somewhere inside, I knew the answer was hidden in between the heavy beat of a bass drum and a series of chords and melodies. Living that life felt very natural, it was an existence that I'd fine tuned as the years past. The '9-5' working day was an illness that I found myself always trying to shake off. This wasn't out of laziness, I've always worked hard, but I just couldn't help continually thinking .... surly there's more to life than this?.

Nothing is more confusing to me than the broken system that's forced upon us. I remember feeling this way from a very early age, I've spent a huge majority of my life trying to break through the 'matrix', ... I'm still trying. I think that's one of the major aspects that drew me to angling in the first place, and it still plays a huge part today. It's an ejector seat that can thrust you clean from the shackles of the 'malleable reality' that's continually being reshaped for us everyday of our lives. I truly believe that getting out there on the water is as close to 'actual reality' as we're going to get. It's the one place where outside influences can't eat away at our consciousness, it's a safe haven where we're not continually told how we should think and what we should feel.

I'm not necessarily talking about the packed circuit waters or commercial day tickets here, there's way too much contact on those types of venues. I'm talking about the quiet waters, solitary type venues buried deep in the heart of the countryside ignored by the crowds. Where, father and son, boy or girl, venture out with no preconceived ideas or expectations, all they have is a rod in hand and a head full of dreams - there's nothing like that feeling, we've all experienced it. I believe it's that first moment when you cast a float into 'your' virgin water for the very first time. That defining moment when the float gently bobs and sinks through the waters skin. Nothing quite compares to that feeling, that's what we've all got to try to remember and hold on to, that's reality.
Find Your Own Reality

So here I was, the day was dull, the sky collapsing, but I was on an adventure, off out to find my own little piece of 'reality'. Opening the front door to start 'the tackle packing ritual, I quickly received a side hook and a hefty upper cut from 'JACK FROST'. The season was really packing a punch, I was more than prepared to go 12 rounds though, my desire to catch a carp couldn't be tamed. Arriving at the gates of Paddlesworth, the trees were swaying and everything felt pretty unforgiving. All the preparation of my last session was going to come into play, I'd get the rods clipped up and out quick. The brolly would go up and I'd perch underneath, doing my best to obscure myself from the universe.  

As I walked around the top part of the lake I spotted what looked like a day shelter in the distance, and it looked close to my secret spot. Instead of struggling with the barrow, I ditched it in the 'muddy double swim' and took a wander. All my plans were dashed when I walked around the corner only to see an angler set up to the right of the swim I was planning to go in. My master-plan was going to have to get put on hold, there was no way I was going to setup next to him when the rest of the lake was empty. It was frustrating but maybe it was fate, I took a few moments to gather my thoughts. My target area wasn't going to move, it will be there waiting for me for next time. Because I'd left my barrow in the 'muddy double', I thought I may as well setup there.

I usually avoid this swim due to the constant pressure but the lake had been very quiet recently. I've found in the past that when you're forced to make a last minute change, sometimes it can end up being the best thing that could've happened. You haven't been overthinking anything, you just get on with it. I would take my planned baiting approach and simply transplant it into my new swim. Instead of aiming for the opposite margin, which is the 'go to' spot, I'd target the edges of what I call the bowl area. My left hand rod would be in the clear, my right-hand rod would be fished super tight to the marginal growth. The bottom is littered with debris so I was going to change the rig to a rotary system with a balanced pop up.

Looking at the image below you'll get a clearer idea of what I'm talking about. In my mind, I like to divide my waters up into sections or 'areas', I find that this allows me to think clearer about the 'said' lake as a whole. On that particular 
session 'pictured', I was fishing straight across, I didn't have any luck, to be honest I was more bothered about dodging flying branches, it was utter chaos being out in the storm - strangely I loved every minute of it. There's nothing quite like fishing for carp and fearing for your life all at the same time, it certainly adds a fresh spin on things.
The Muddy Double 'During The Storm Last Month' 2017

'Excuse the tangent I'm about to lead you on, it's all relevant'. 

In regards to my 'rotary/heli' setup, I was going to piece it together myself. I've never really been one to buy 'rig kits', it has been this way since day one, I know it might be hard for some new comers to the sport to believe, but when I started properly fishing for carp, there weren't any ready tied rigs or kits. You had to suss it all out yourself, I'm not ashamed to admit that I just couldn't get my head around any of it to start off with. Casting a rig without it tangling was something that literally drove me nuts. The other aspect that will probably sound crazy, I didn't understand the concept of the bolt rig. I had this firm belief that when a carp picked the bait up and felt resistance, it simply dropped it and swam off. We know now that some of the older wiser fish have a tendency to do this. But I was fishing local club waters, none of the carp were seasoned escape artists.

It goes without saying that when the penny finally dropped it really changed my fishing, I started to make rigs for all situations from random bits of end tackle, all of a sudden all these odds and ends on the shelves down my local tackle shop, began to make sense. Having started at it in this way, however annoying it was at the time, it gave me a complete understanding of rigs, when and why you use them and for what situation. The learning process can be so frustrating but it is of course necessary in everything we do - "don't let other people do the thinking for you". You'll see in the image below that the rig is straightforward, the key element for me is the the riser lead, it's so easy to cast and if you're landing in debris or low lying weed, it slips both in and out with no bother.

Helicopter Rig 'Right Hand Spot'

Back in the 'muddy double', now with both rods ready to go, I took a few measured casts, clipped up and got the baits exactly where I wanted them. Dipping my hand in the water, I was actually shocked at just how freezing it was, all of a sudden the prospect of landing a fish evaporated, I visualized all the carp in the lake sitting in a big group, not moving, practically hibernating. Being so wrapped up with at least five layers on, I genuinely couldn't feel just how cold it was. There was no turning back, so under the brolly I hid, the kettle was just starting to boil. Its steam trails looking like spectres as they gently floated out across the swim, it fitted the atmosphere perfectly.  

View From The Swim

I was slowly settling, knowing deep down that I was probably going to be looking at static rods all day, when to my utter surprise the left rod tore off at a crazy pace. I really didn't expect it, maybe it was an hallucination, lifting into the rod and feeling a very real force, there was no doubt that I had a carp on the end of my line. It kited out into the open water and pulled as hard as it could down towards the margin to my right. I knew exactly what it was planning to do, there's a rough gravel shelf that falls away fast. I knew it was going to try and take me across it to cut the line - how do I know this?. Because a few fish have done me on it in the past, I wasn't going to let that happen. 

Applying some serious side strain I manged to guide her out in front of me, I caught a glimpse of light brown, it was mirror and it looked like a really nice fish. As she came close in I let my rod tip do all the work, I was fishing with my Bruce Ashby Perimeter XPS today. Even though they're a heavier rod, they still have the lovely tip action that's synonymous with Mr Ashbys rod building. Very slowly she started to tire, the fight had definitely warmed me up and as I slipped the net under my first carp of the day. I felt a buzz of electricity jolt through my body, what a result, it looked like I'd picked the right swim. I know that in the 'muddy double', if you get one, there's usually a few more to come.

Warmth On A Freezing Day

Releasing the fish back into the water and watching her swim off was somewhat cathartic. Everything was crystal clear, I could see her gills gently expanding, the tail swaying with a fluid motion. Lots of little idiosyncrasies I usually miss when the waters are muddied up. Having felt like I'd embraced the moment fully, it was now time to clip back up and get the rod back out. The wraps were counted, a short sharp jolt was executed, the clip kissed .. DONK!. The rig was back in position, under the brolly I crawled, hands firmly in my pockets, I really couldn't feel my fingers at all.  Sitting looking out at the desolate and deserted land before me, I felt strangely optimistic.

Now with coffee in hand and 'e-cig' in the other, I proceeded to create vapor trials, long slow draws on my device allowed me to conjure up what looked like more 'specters' drifting in the space above the water. The cold air kept the vapor dense, gently shifting its shape. For a second or two it looked reminiscent of stallions cantering across a murky wasteland. I was determined to try and see the ghostly shape of Richard Walker executing the cast that changed carp fishing forever. Just as I thought he was making an appearance, my left rod was away. The bobbin smacked the blank at such force, it was a real wake up call. Leaning into the fish, I was met with a heavy weight, as the ghosts I created petered off into the ether. I was smack bang in reality wrestling with the wild. 

The fish was moving slowly, there was no shaking of the head, it was eerily calm, gliding from left to right. It came in pretty quick and then proceeded to wake up under the tip. I cushioned its lunges, it surfaced for a second, it was a common, and a good one at that. Draped in its winter skin, it was reluctant to reveal itself to me, I was growing inpatient, I wanted to feast my eyes on the prize. A few minutes passed, she came up on her side. I slide the net under, what I can only describe, as perfection. As she sat sulking in the net, I looked down in slight disbelief, this fish was perfect in every way. The scales were pristine, its fins, mouth, everything was perfect, I was blown away, and with the clouds now breaking overhead, this carp shone as the ultimate example as to why I love Burrows so much.

With the fish safely in the sling I slowly lowered her back into the water, upon doing so, a single kick saw her shoot like a torpedo back into the abyss, there was no hanging around, no fond farewell. I started to wonder where she was off to in such a hurry, maybe she was off to warn her friends to get the hell out of the area. Either way, I was very happy to get another bite, it was obvious they were feeding and I felt that there was a high chance of getting another one. The rod went straight back out, a few freebies followed, I was back under my brolly, waiting for the unexpected.

Clouds were moving fast overhead, they were accelerating, it was trying its best to brighten up, the claustrophobic murk of the morning had finally lifted, I was now met with overcast skies. Occasionally the suns rays would fire down and touch the water before being swallowed back up by a mass of cloud confusion. The wind was still beating down towards me, I was hoping a few fish might just be hitching a ride on the undercurrent. Over the next hour or so I was getting a few liners off of both rods, it was clear to me that I had fish in the vicinity. I was preying that at least one of them would find my bait.

Mid afternoon came, there was a single bleep on my left rod, the bobbin fidgeted, my bite alarm was spluttering, indicating possible chaos. There was a major drop back, then ... BANG!! I was away, on it like a shot, I lifted the rod, eased into its curve, the clutch ticked, instantly I knew I was into some big. It was solid, I held on, it kited to my left and just carried on going. I couldn't do a great deal with it so I just held fast, the heavy clouds above where getting thicker, the sun had gone, leaving me standing alone to deal with a prospective monster. It was nuts, my legs where shaking a little bit, very slowly, the carp started to let me in on the game. Closer and closer it came until I was looking at a series of flat spots and vortexes a few yards in front of me. In all of 3 seconds, I caught a glimpse, it was a mirror and it was big. 

All I had to do was tire it out, ease it over the mesh and I could finally lay eyes on my long awaited prize. The carp started to go up on its side, as I lowered the net in, it bolted, the 'NET FEAR' had given it a burst of energy. It was off again, so was my heart, it was literally in my mouth at this point. Side strain saw it coming back towards me, it surfaced, it went on its side, 'there was a fumble'. The mesh engulfed her ... job done!. Both my body and mind untangled, I let the relief wash over me, looking at the lump awaiting my attention down in the net, it was clear that I'd caught a beast. I decided I'd take the scales to it, to me it looked like a mid twenty, nowadays I only weigh fish if it's clear that they could be something special, 'size wise'. Scales were zeroed to the sling, tripod was up, scales fell to 25IB 5oz. I was blown away, I really didn't expect to catch a lump like this, to be honest I wasn't expecting to catch anything. 
25IB 5oz Of Cold Water Carp
Taking her back to the water, I held her upright until the 'kick of life' came, I made a point of watching her disappear completely. Time was starting to get on now, I was still good for another few hours. Clipping up, I got the rod back out, topped the swim up and put the kettle on, I needed some warmth, lubrication and some time to digest what had just happened. Today's results in such cold weather really throws the 'carp angling' rule book out the window. But at the same time, it was very inspiring. Fate had dealt me a winning hand, I was forced to fish in a different swim to the one that I'd intended. I'm positive that I wouldn't of had this kind of result if I was elsewhere on the water. It was clear the fish were down my end, and it shows that they will sometimes feed in freezing conditions if you can put a bait near to where they're holding up.

The day was crawling to a close now, I decided I'd start packing up the non-essentials. I always draw this process out in the hope a 'last knockings' bite might materialize. Almost everything was packed away, I reeled my right rod in and started to break it down. My back was turned, when all of a sudden the left rod fired into life, 'last knockings' had delivered a bonus fish. What a session this had turned out to be, the fight was spirited and full of minor drama, it put up a great account of itself. After a few tense moments I scooped my closing fish into the net, and what a fish it was, a unique looking mirror with high shoulders. It was the perfect carp to finish with, a proper looking character.

Bonus Fish 'Last Knockings'
What a day it had turned out to be, confusion in the skies, a fleeting sun and a good number of carp caught. It just goes to show how unpredictable angling can be, and you can never really know exactly what's going to happen. Maybe today was one of those flukes, or maybe it was the very simple case that the carp were pretty much grouped up within yards of where I'd chosen to cast. There are no definitive answers to any of these questions, I'm going to put it down to fate. Obviously when I next come down I'm going to be continuing with my initial plan, I really want to commit and follow it through. I have a very strong feeling that it's going to work, but, as stated before, I sense it's going to start off slow. Wheeling the barrow up the clay ridden path back to the car, I felt inspired, I was tired and very very cold. But the thought of getting back out as soon as possible was very much at the forefront of my mind.     

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Changing Times, Technology & Lack Of Etiquette

'Etiquette' - the customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group.

When I first came up with the idea of writing the 'Charlton Carper' blog the main aspect was to capture the essence and the reality of carp angling, there is no bullshit or 'slight of hand' in what I write, what you see is what you get. I always promised myself that there wouldn't be any form of negativity within my writing, but the subject I want to talk about is very much a reality, not only in carp angling, but in society as a whole, and it's negative. Before I continue, there's a chance that what I'm going to explain might rub some people up the wrong way, unfortunately that's just the way it is sometimes. I'm going to say it exactly how I see it, which, again, is what this blog is all about, so - where's Etiquette gone?

We live in troubled times and the state of our society is morphing and shifting into shapes that are very different to what they were decades ago. More than ever I sense that we really are living in a 'dog eat dog' world where the majority of people are happy to step on the necks of others to get to where they want to be. To a degree, I know its always been this way, but with the rise of technology and social media, it's amplified to colossal proportions. Social media has given a voice to many that don't have one of any significance in 'the real world', the negative voices always seem to be the ones that reach the furthest, this is where it gets dangerous. Our inner thoughts and feelings, good or bad, that use to be kept behind closed doors can be broadcast to the planet, in a moment of irrational thought, by a simple push of a button.

As humans we get given an incredible tool with 'the worldwide web', that if used correctly, can be such a beautiful thing. We have access to learning and knowledge that, 'a few decades ago', we could only really have dreamt of. But like all things humans are given, we rarely take it to dizzy new heights, we manage to take an incredible gift and drag it right down into the 'pond-life' region. I doubt that when Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the internet he thought that it would ever be used as a weapon in regards to both bullying, revenge porn and spreading ill feeling. In the same breath I doubt that Chad Hurley, when creating YouTube, thought 'happy-slapping' and other forms of hateful actions were going to be broadcast - simply for some 'low-life' to get as many hits as possible on his channel. It interests me to know exactly what it is in our DNA that leads certain people to do such things. 

For me the two examples above are on the same level as those incredibly sad and lonely individuals that start up Facebook groups among their bitter and twisted little mates. Solely to post pictures and belittle those who are just starting to get to grips with carp fishing. They're exactly the same sort of person that hides behind the word "banter" to basically get away with being a total prick. It doesn't take much to become a target, it can be as simple as the bait you use, not having the latest, extortionately priced tackle with matching Vass waders. Not fishing for a 'proper English carp', or simply holding a fish in a way that doesn't suit the experts - that are usually sitting on their computers 'and their high horse', at home having opinions about what everyone else is doing, instead of actually fishing themselves.

These types of actions can be far more damaging than you think, being mental health awareness week I feel it's fitting to touch on this point. Whilst you and your mates are sharing pictures of total strangers, posting them on facebook groups, systematically pulling them apart and having a real good laugh. You actually have no idea about 'said person' or what they could be going through. Lets face it, no one really knows or cares about mental illness because it doesn't effect them. But I assure you that if you or someone in your family suddenly gets effected by it. Your viewpoint would change over night, it doesn't take much to push people over the edge when they're in a fragile state. Next time you see it fit to lay into someone for no real reason, both on and off-line. Maybe you should consider this point. 

We all have to start somewhere and no one has the right to make anyone feel bad about what they're doing. In my mind the same 'lack of etiquette' used by some in the angling community online, carries seamlessly onto the banks. My last three sessions have been plagued with a stupidity that I try very hard to avoid. I won't bore you with the exact details but I will touch on the points a little later on. I grew up fishing in a time when a number of aspects ran parallel with each other. 1. the art of angling, 2. fish care 3. care and consideration for those I share the waters with. All these points are equally important but now-days number 3 is practically non-existent. I attribute this to the points I've made thus far. Times are changing, attitudes are changing and it's making its way onto the water. 

When Did Attitudes Change?

We live in a world of 'false idol worship', many are sucked into the celebrity illusion, they have no real self-belief so they put all their expectation in a 'tin god'. It seems that some want their five minutes of fame so badly, and they're going to try to get it any way they can. Be it X Factor, the voice, posting near naked photos of themselves to their 10.500 pervy followers on Instagram every 3 seconds, or aspiring to be the next carp angling star - 'whatever that means'. There was a time when genuine talent had to fight and rise to the surface, but nowadays, people want to short cut the graft in any way possible, and with this, mediocrity and the 'F**K everyone else' mindset has very much become the normal. Social media communication went from being a useful tool to keep in touch with family and friends, to being a facility to feed the ego with shameless self promotion and bile - don't get me wrong, for many it isn't, but for a certain demographic, it is. Out of all the above I think that the current carp angling scene and the way I see it heading, is the perfect example of all the above. 

I understand that many out there love their fishing, love the adventure, love the peace that comes with it, and quietly go about their business. I respect you for this, that's what it's all about. On the flip side though, I understand we have the arrogant, the elitist and those that will literally bend over, with 'vaseline in hand', for the chance to change their Facebook occupation to 'Consultant' or 'Field-Tester'. Again, if that's what floats your boat then fair play to you. But I personally think, this is where the problem lies, fishing isn't just about fishing anymore.

Gone are the days of just getting out there and soaking it up. It seems to be more of a contest between anglers themselves, it isn't 'you against the fish', it's you against the angler, against the fish'. It's the cliques, those that think they own the water, the snide stroke pullers. The backstabbing infantile mentality that big fish waters seem to breed, and of course, 'last but not least', the 'local hero's' walking around like the cock on the block, 'looking like human billboards, because they're with a tackle firm, or they're getting some free 'cake mix', from some bedroom bait company. All of a sudden they seem to think this gives them license to be 'Billy Big Bollocks'.

It was only last year one of the 'aforementioned' approached me when I was quietly daydreaming away. There I was fishing the shallows up on Braxted Reservoir, I was having a good session when out the blue this guy comes strolling over, who within about 30 seconds of meeting me had to throw in that he was a big player in a major tackle company, and he was only after the big common in back lake. Fair play to him and well done, but it didn't stop there. He then proceeded to give me a review of all the tackle I was using and how he'd be fishing if he was me. Ten or so minutes of him talking down to me about himself, he asked what I did for a living. When I proceeded to tell him what I do, his attitude quickly changed. Before I knew it, he was pretty much my best buddy and I got a certain invite to fish some very exclusive garden ponds for some pet fish. I'd like to add, I didn't except the invite.

This is only one example of many and might not appear relevant, but to me, this backs up the whole 'in it for myself' attitude. The only reason his tune changed was because he actually thought that he could benefit from knowing me. Solely because of the position I've managed to get myself in regarding my work. I don't look upon it as anything special and I certainly don't look upon myself as anything special, so why should he?. It's not quite the 'stepping on your neck' approach that I touched on before, more of a 'I'll climb on your back' and see where it gets me. Now lets take this 'back climbing' and put it in a fishing scenario. If you've got a guy that's clearly on the fish and he's fishing within the boundaries of his swim - what do you do?. 

Personally I'd leave him to it, he's there first and that's the way it is. I'd go and find another spot on the lake, get my baits out and get on with my day. But from what I've experienced of late, that isn't the case for some. What you shouldn't really do in this situation is set up next to him and cast your baits as close to his spots as possible. Equally it isn't really very good 'Etiquette' to then setup opposite him and proceed to cast or spod into, or on the edge of his water. For all you know, he got there at the crack of dawn and after a good few hours waiting patiently, he's finally got some fish on him. The last thing that guy is going to want is someone spooking the hell out of his water. Most of you reading this will understand my point, however if you're a "catch at any cost" type of person and you don't understand my point - maybe you should reread it until you do.

My second example and a very common one is, setting up opposite a carp angler when there's lots of free swims to choose from. I understand you've "paid your money and you can fish where you want", but from a 'consideration' point of view. Why setup directly opposite another angler if you don't have to?. I'm not talking about large waters here, I'm talking about you're standard size club water. We all know that 9 times out of 10, if possible, most carp anglers, 'me included', like to fish to the far margins. However when I grew up I was made aware that there's pretty much an unspoken code that, whenever the situation dictates and I can help it, I won't roll up and pitch camp opposite someone who's clearly fishing for carp. It's different if it's a pleasure angler, you can normally see their float, and if they're on the 'feeder', chances are they're only a short distance out. However I will still go around and ask 'how they're doing, and where they're fishing'. 

Fair play if you've got your heart set on fishing a lake and the only swim available is opposite someone else, then it's only right that the guy opposite, if he's fishing in the water that your swim dictates, should reel in and move his rigs. A nice friendly little chat can usually sort these types of scenarios out, however we know that this isn't always the case. I've witnessed some pretty bad altercations when some people aren't prepared to move anything, even though it's clear that they're fishing out of their swims zone into someone else's. I've never been on the receiving end myself because if I turn up to a rammed lake and only one swim is free, I will simply go elsewhere.

By now some of you may be thinking, "well if you dislike it all that much mate, why do it?". That answer is very simple, why should I stop doing something I love due to a rather large minority that clearly couldn't care less about anyone other than themselves. What I'm going to be doing in future is choosing carefully where, when and how I fish, in the hope that it will limit the chances of stupidity. In regards to my social media use, that will stop, the only thing I'll be sharing is links to future blogs. I've got nothing to prove and being hemmed in between incessant statuses telling me to #get on the going bait, is something I've never really felt comfortable with, in fact it's all rather mind numbing.

I could carry my point on but I feel I've said enough, if I was to touch on every example of selfish behavior, I'd be writing for a year. The aspects I've touched on are just a few of many. If what I'm trying to say hasn't been understood at this point, I fear that it never will be. To conclude, I've met, and continue to meet many good people when I'm out and about both on and off the bank who truly love their fishing. I understand that there are many anglers out there that are caring and considerate who understand completely what is and isn't exceptable behaviour. I'm not tarring everyone with the same brush. Maybe if there was more education then the penny might drop for the blissfully unaware.

Finally, I don't want to be writing a blog like this, maybe if tackle companies and the comics took some time to highlight what is and isn't exceptable. The problem might not be as bad, and overtime could become a thing of the past. But I can't see this happening anytime soon, they're too busy coming up with the next piece of overpriced garbage that we don't really need. Carp angling, like all styles of fishing is a beautiful pass time and all of us that do it are in it together. I feel with a little kind consideration, education and compassion for all those we share the waters with, it could be so much more enjoyable for everyone involved.