Weeks had past since my last trip, during this time my thoughts about how I wanted to fish the next few months had firmly rooted. I was walking around like a man obsessed, I wanted to cast out so badly, I had trigger happy hands. Any slight sound that was similar to a bite alarm had me on high alert, I swear I ended up striking my phone at least twice when it rang. When the opportunity to get out came around, I was like a kid in a candy store. All the preparation had been done, fresh rigs had been tied, rods and reels had been cleaned meticulously, and both my baits had been soaked up to the eye balls in glug. The sweet aroma of both the Banana Cream & Honey Nectar had been flooding my flat with smells that instantly reminded me of the past. In the summer fish-meals give me flash backs, in Autumn and Winter, Milk Proteins remind me of the cold nights I spent in my bivvy years ago, out in all weathers, pacifying this new obsession that I'd found in carp fishing, and angling as a whole.
I have such fond memories of 'the boilie', I'd spend hours on end in my local tackle shop smelling all these bags of 'strange little marble sized' carp sweets. The colors, the packaging, and the way all the different flavors would hit you as you walked in. Those were great times and I have to say that when Crowborough tackle finally closed its doors. It left a gaping hole in a lot of our 'local' lives. As I sit and type these words I can almost taste Richworths 'Hawaiian Pineapple', Starmers 'Garlic Mint', Nutrabaits 'Cream Cajouser' and, of course, the formidable Tropicanna Gold by Kevin Maddocks - along with many more. I remember rolling my own baits on a Solar sweet birdseed base-mix, The Quench, Wild Strawberry and The Caramel were the first flavors that I used, they all caught me a lot of fish. My baits weren't formulated very well, they were odd shapes and had a tendency to split, but they worked. We've all got to start somewhere when it comes to bait and it played a memorable part in my carp fishing history. Along with the baits I used, I flash back to the places I once fished.
Rod Hutchison Apotheosis 'Two Man'
Before I past my driving test I was pretty much a prisoner of the town I grew up in, "in more ways than one". I was very lucky though, because in and around Crowborough, East Sussex, there were a lot of waters in close proximity to each other. At times my parents would drop me off, other times I'd struggle with the little tackle I had, peddling like crazy on my bike. Determined to get my 'fishing fix' before the sun went down. It was a race against time, a race to catch up on all the fishing I'd missed, having not discovered it earlier in my life. My world was the water, the roads that took me to them, and of course the mythical fish that were residing in their depths. Once I left school I continued playing drums by night to earn my living and spent most of my days down by the waters edge waiting and anticipation.
Once driving, a whole new world opened up for me and that's when the night fishing took hold. I saved my pennies to purchase my first Bivvy, the Rod Hutchison Apotheosis, '2 man'. This was terrible compared to todays standards but it kept me and my mates safe and dry whilst we slept under the stars. There were around 9 of us that were fishing all the same waters at the same time. We ended up fishing together a lot, all the Crowborough Angling Club lakes became our second homes. Tanyards, Pippingford Park, Bunny Lane, the list went on, and if we weren't fishing together, we nearly always bumped into each other whilst traveling between waters. I have memories of endless summers pitched up on the bank, cook outs, beer that was kept in bags resting in the margins to keep them cool, and hour long conversations about the big mirrors and commons we'd all seen but never caught.
Locked In Time
All these memories will never be forgotten and each one of them has become a cross-thread that runs through me, and has contributed to making me the angler I am today. Nowadays, when I find myself losing sight of things due to how commercial carp fishing has now become. I take a moment to reflect and look back, it doesn't take me long to feel inspired again. I do often wonder what my old fishing companions are doing now. Did they carry on fishing? Do they find themselves thinking back to those times? I get the feeling that maybe I was the only one that continued the journey. Circumstances change, people change and the older we get, life and the mundane of the 'everyday' has a tendency to take over. There have been periods in my life where my angling was almost lost, destine to die a slow death in the clutches of 'responsibility'. But there was no way I was going to let that happen, there was far too much to lose. There are still so many waters yet to explore, countless secrets yet to be unearthed, and of course many memories yet to be written. The great thing now, is that I can share them in a 'digital' form with all those who choose to read them.
So with a head full of memories and a gut wrenching calling to get the rods out, I packed the van and headed off down Burrows to continue with my master plan. It was one of those cold bright winter days where everything had needle point clarity. The blue skies above appeared panoramic and each breath I took felt like my lungs were being cleansed of all the poisons that I 'unknowingly' inhale due to living in the city. My last session had been a very successful one, considering I had to change my plan at the final moment. However, today I really wanted to get back on track and start to properly target my secret spot.
Driving 'full-pelt' down the motorway, my mind was racing, the journey flew by and as I pulled up into the clubs car park, it was deserted ... result? I loaded my barrow quickly and made my way down the path towards the water. It was looking perfect, stumbling through the mud and clay, I got to my 'self made swim' and proceeded to get everything setup with precision. The rods were already rigged up so I wrapped them to 12.5 rod lengths, slipped the baits onto both hairs and made the measured casts. I wanted to get them both 'spot on' straightaway, the plan was to keep any disturbance to a minimum. Stealth fishing was the key, today I was going to continue to really try and master 'silence', Winter is the perfect time of the year to practice this with the banks being so quiet.
The Skeleton Of Trees
I have a firm belief that when carp don't know they're being fished for, they have a tendency to act in more of a natural way. Through the years I've seen so many examples on lots of different waters to back this belief up, I'll use the main lake at Hoo as my reference point. I'm currently putting a block of time in on this water and I'm having good results, I'm fishing it during the week when it's empty, only short afternoon sessions. The lake is very pressured and most weekends it will be rammed with anglers, you've got the spods flying, endless casting and lines suspended through the water at all angles. Occasionally on Sundays, I go down to Hoo to fish 'a relatively ignored' water called 'The Cut', I have to walk past main lake to get to it. More times than I can remember I've talked to anglers that have been down there for 12 hours, sometimes more, and they haven't had a fish. Along with that, they haven't even had a liner, let alone seen any jump.
I usually finish my sessions on 'The Cut' late evening, by this time all the weekend anglers have gone home. The water is once again empty and it's peaceful and quiet, I'll always stop for about half hour to watch. I nearly always see carp activity, vortexes, flat spots and more times than not, fish jumping. I believe that when lots of leads start hitting that water the carp retreat to the reeds and don't really venture out until they feel it's safe to do so. All the sessions I've done recently on main lake - 'which will be written up in the months to come', have been successful because, I 'very quietly' make my way onto the water and wait until the fish give their location away. Once I've spotted where they are I'll fish for them, I'll make one cast and then sit back, watch, wait and remain as quiet as possible. It really has been as straightforward as that, mastering 'silence' is a skill and it's there for everyone to practice, I believe it can be the difference between blanking and catching.
Back To The Session
Both baits kissed the clips perfectly, I was more than happy with where they landed. Freebies were then deposited tightly around the area, bobbins were hung, the alarms switched on, now it was time to engage in the most important bank-side activity of all ... getting the coffee on. Sitting back with the kettle creaking, the only sound, my Coleman gas cylinder battling desperately to bring my first brew to the boil. It, all of a sudden struck me just how still the environment was, the waters surface was like a sheet of glass, no bird-life was active, not one single branch was twitching on the trees around me. It was as if I'd unknowingly installed myself into a 'still-life' portrait, stranger still, I suddenly had this foreboding feeling of just how minuscule I was in the scheme of things. Inside our heads both our world and who we share it with seem so large, but the truth is, us as humans are barely a 'pinprick' on the surface of the universe - I really need to stop my thoughts running away from me!
Now with the steam from the kettle fogging the crystal clear landscape, I poured the boiling water onto my 'Colombians' finest. The sweet aroma of a thousand and one coffee beans infused itself into the air around me. Now it was the waiting game, sitting still and watching the water closely, there were no signs of carp anywhere. This is when you really have to stay confident in your approach, thinking back to some of the previous winters, I've learned that bites literally come out of the blue. There can be no indication whatsoever that the fish are in your vicinity. As the hours past, the temperature felt as if it was dropping. To try and warm myself up, I visualized the banks in bloom, in the height of the summer when the water is a deep emerald green and you can paddle in the margins barefoot, those times felt like a world away.
A Different World
As the fish tired, its back cut the waters skin, I was met with big plated scales that instantly reflected off the sun. It was very clear that I'd managed to catch yet another one of Burrows special secrets, 'it's the water that just keeps on giving'. It was a big heavy plated mirror that encapsulated what I can only describe as 'perfection'. I gently slipped the mesh under her and took a huge sigh of relief, peering down into the net, I couldn't quite believe what I was looking at. This had to be one of the best looking mirrors that I'd ever managed to catch, its winter skin morphed into the colors of the landscape perfectly, each scale, literally shimmering under the low winter sun.
Perfectly PlatedAfter a few photos and a salute farewell, I found myself feeling both honored and inspired, that's one of the many beauties of carp angling, you never know what could happen at any given moment. From a lake that looked as desolate as you could get, one of the more unique residence decided to reveal itself. As time has gone by, I've learned to appreciate every single fish that I catch, if it's big then that's a bonus. If it's small then I know I've made contact with a future king, kings that will eventually grow on to be the next generations myths. I just hope that, not only the carp, but all species of fish are always given the respect that they deserve.
With the sun starting to yawn over the horizon and with temperatures dropping, I decided to call it a day, I had to be up early for work so staying after dark wasn't an option. I was more than happy with the result, these winter sessions are a marathon, not a sprint, they're going to be a long, slow process. As originally stated at the very start of this series of blogs. I'm anticipating that if I keep the bait going in, stick to both the spot and the approach, my catch rate could well improve, we'll have to wait and see.