A good few weeks had evaporated since my last successful session, I'd made a few trips out, unfortunately they all resulted in blanks. Flicking back through my incredibly creased and soggy, 'carp-data' notebook, there weren't any definitive patterns that I could see forming. Bites appeared to come sporadically, the blanks I'd recently endured were interesting though, that told me that the spot I was targeting wasn't an area that the carp visit on a daily basis. The one constant throughout was the weather, it had remained the same, give or take the odd rise or fall in temperature. This made it clear to me that the conditions didn't really have any bearing on if there were any fish present or not. I felt they were either going to be in and around the area or they weren't. My original plan was to persevere, targeting the same spot through thick and thin, and that's exactly what I was going to continue to do.
Going back to the subject of 'blanking', it can be a sore subject for some, I find it's to easy to take it as a negative. The only time you ever really learn anything is through your mistakes. Blanking isn't necessarily a 'mistake', it's simply part of the process and if you make sure you learn something from it, then it can end up being a valuable lesson. Blanks can force you to make minor adjustments that can end up paying off in the long run. You learn by watching, listening and doing, we go through a process with everything we do and 'in many ways' the end result isn't always the most valuable part of it. To me, the end result is determined by the process that you go through to get there. The learning comes from the journey, if you proceed to do the correct things, then you should get the desired result. Through time I've found that most things have the same process, it's just a different product at the end of it.
Lets take this right back to the obvious, you could be a master craftsman who is an artist with a mortarboard, you build a house from the ground up. You take your time, you're specialty is laying bricks, all in perfect symmetry, once built you finish the interior off to perfection, creating intricate and detailed patterns with tiles and mosaics. You install lovely wooden beams and staircases, beautiful bay windows that let the brightest of light into every room. Once finished you stand back and admire your handy work. The completed house now stands like a work of art, ready and waiting for a family to move in and call it home. After a number of viewings you start to notice a few things, a small crack in the plaster has developed on both the ceilings and the walls. Outside, on closer inspection you notice a few cracks in both the bricks and cement. Something is clearly wrong, how could anything be wrong with a house that looks so perfect?. That's simple, you didn't consider the foundations.
When you laid the houses foundations you didn't fully understand the process and all the elements that were involved in making them correctly. You had limited understanding in this area and you brushed over the finer details, through time the cracks grew, the walls split and eventually one side of the house fell down. It got to the point where the whole thing had to be demolished and started again from 'a strong foundation' up. It didn't matter how perfect and 'correct' the house looked on the surface, without the right understanding of the foundations, all of the thought and perfection you put into everything else meant nothing. The above example, for me, is a strong metaphor for life and how we live it. I've mentioned it before but there are so many metaphors in angling that run seamlessly into everyday life. Going all the way back to 'blanking', we would learn nothing if we all caught all of the time. When we go through a period when we can't seem to catch a carp, we need to understand why - and build on it.
This thought process stands when we're going through a stage where our catch rate is up and we can't seem to put a foot wrong, we also need to understand why this is. Focusing on both these points gives us a strong understanding of the 'whys' and 'hows' of, not only carp angling, but everything we do. I believe the consistent anglers out there that steadily put fish on the bank are the ones that have built their 'understanding' from the ground up and continue to work on it every time they get out on the bank. Their 'foundation' of experience is so solid and there's a complete affinity as to why this is, and it's obvious why they're getting the desired 'end result'. Stripping it right down to the bone, you can't just turn your hand to angling, buy all the gear, 'look the part' and then wonder why you aren't hauling 20's and 30's.
It just isn't that simple, these types of people have no experience to build a foundation on, experience is earned and it takes a long time and a hell of a lot of effort. Primarily you need to have the willingness to learn and listen, not instantly think that you know it all because you've watched Korda Masterclass 6. We live in an instant world where we can obtain the things we want by a touch of a button. We're living a life where tomorrow is just too long to wait, most want things 'NOW' and some feel that they're entitled to it. To a degree some in the angling industry have tapped into this, providing venues where large amounts of big fish to the acre provide us with the chance of catching a 30 or 40 without a huge amount of effort. These venues are all very well but do you learn as much from them as you do fishing an old mere containing wiley old 'double figured' carp - I don't think you do.
So let us go way, way back to the beginning ...
Next time you're going through a stage where nothing seems to be going right and you're 'drawing blanks', don't get annoyed about it. Realize that it's all part of a process, look into what you can do to change things and work on building both a strong foundation and an understanding. I've had to learn this and continue to work on it every time I cast my lines out, after nearly 28 years of chasing myths, I'm still learning, and will continue to do so. Secondly, don't put pressure on yourself in regards to the size of fish you catch. A lovely looking double from a hard water is worth so much, it shows that what you are doing is right. Consistency is the key, I know that with consistency eventually the bigger fish come, and when they do it's a real special surprise and an achievement - it's this that keeps all of us venturing back to the water time and time again.
The morning of the session arrived and I was up and out early, I was having extreme deja-vu, again, the weather was identical to my last few sessions. It's as if the season had fallen into some kind of trance. I'd been thinking a lot about my last few trips, the fact I hadn't caught had my brain on overdrive. Today I was going to pretty much stick with the same approach, only this time I was going to spread a little more bait further afield. Up to now I'd been keeping everything pretty tight, if I increased the area I was baiting up then surly I'd stand more of chance at attracting a passing carp or two. As mentioned in the start of this blog, in regards to 'learning from a blank'. What was the point of going back down to do exactly the same thing when both the past few sessions had been unproductive. Sometimes changing the smallest link in the chain can make all the difference.
Home On The LandscapeOnce at the water I went through the usual 'rigmarole' of getting the swim set up correctly, I'd upped one handful of bait to two, all freebies were meticulously squashed - it was a strangely therapeutic and satisfying feeling. All the boilies that had taken on the most glug squished between my fingers like over ripened grapes. Now with the sweet scent of both the Banana Cream & Honey Nectar emanating from my finger tips, I made the ceremonial journey around the lake, smelling my hands as I went. Arriving at my target area, I crouched down and peered into the murk, I couldn't see a thing. I could only hope that a carp or two may come and pay it a visit at some stage during the day. I put some of the bait in the usual area and then spread the rest further up the margin towards the sunken post. My thinking behind this was simple, if any fish move in and hold by the post, my bait trail might just lead them up to my carefully placed hook-baits.
Once back in the swim, rods were clipped up to 13 rod lengths, both hook baits were cut down, hairs were baited, both rods went out cleanly. Because I'd fished this swim so much now, I felt I was being very mechanical about things, in my head, all the sessions were slowly blending into one. It's ok for me to fish like this for a short period of time as an experiment, but there's no way I could do it for the long term. I've never got on with just fishing one lake, or just one or two swims. I like to get out and about and try to suss out a number of waters all at the same time. This keeps things fresh, and it always keeps you thinking. I find over time, once you've found a series of things that work for you on a variety of waters. You're never short of places to go and specific spots to target.
Target Area Extended
With both rods positioned it was now time for the inevitable 'wait', followed by 'as expected', the coffee ritual. I was going to hit it heavy today, three large scoops went into the cafetiere - if you're going to do it, do it properly. I sat impatiently waiting for the kettle to boil, I couldn't properly relax until I had a good dose of caffeine firing through my system. Sitting watching the water I felt like I was at a repeat viewing of a theater performance. Just like last time, the same trees stood wiry and the same clouds hung in the same sky. It was as if everything was just repeating itself over and over again. I started to think how strange it would be if in fact, it all simply stopped and came to a complete stand still the minute that I left. How weird would that be? if in fact everywhere you left simply paused and waited for your return to carry on. 'I suddenly had flash-backs to my parents old Betamax video'. Back in those days, being able to pause a video tape was a major technological advancement - pausing time might be asking to much!
The Wait 'Time Hypnosis'
It didn't take long for the action to happen, the bobbin on my right hand rod lifted very slowly up to the blank and stopped. The excitement flooded every inch of my body, I felt like I'd received a short, sharp adrenaline shot to the heart. Even though the clutch didn't kick in, I knew a fish was on. I gently lifted the rod and wound in the slack, I was greeted with a ferocious energy. The fish kited hard towards the post, steady force guided her back my way. Once in open water, I tinkered with the clutch accordingly, it was addictively ticking. Slowly tweaking it counter clockwise and back again, I felt like I was maneuvering a dial mechanism on a combination safe, desperately trying to find the right calculation to land the fish safely. Just when I though I was gaining ground, it would find a new lease of life, after a good 10 minutes I finally started to feel that I was winning, eventually I slipped the net under a pristine common. It was one hell of a battle and it looked to be one hell of a fish.
Its proportions were perfect, there wasn't a single scale missing, draped in its winter skin it was raw, pure 'nature' in the hands. After a few photos I gently eased her back home, within seconds she'd disappeared. I reeled my left hand rod in and decided to go and top the swim up with another few handfuls. Arriving at my spot I thought I'd do my customary 'peering into the murk', looking closely, I noticed a couple of streams of bubbles. They were very small, I continued to watch, they'd stop for a few minutes and then reappear having moved only a couple of inches. If there were a few fish down there I didn't want to be dumping bait right on their heads. So I decided to shuffle back quietly and make my way back to the swim. Now I had the conundrum of getting my baits back out without spooking any fish that 'might' be feeding.
New Bait Positions
Back in my swim there was some head scratching to be done, I had to get my rigs out in the most 'covert' way possible. I wasn't 100% sure if what I'd seen was feeding fish, however I was going to work on the basis that it was. The kettle went on and I delved into the cobweb ridden recesses of my mind to find an answer. After procrastinating for a minute or six, I cobbled a master plan together. I decided that I'd drop down from a 3oz lead to a 1.5oz, one rod would be fished short, the second, at least two rod lengths along the margin. Firstly, I was thinking that the smaller leads wouldn't make so much of an impact when they hit the water. Secondly, if in fact there were fish feeding, I wanted to place my hook-baits far enough away where I wouldn't spook them, but keep them close enough, that they still had a chance of coming across them. I opted to use 'brown weed' inlines, due to the material that they're made from, they're great for glugging in flavors and attractants. Anything to add pulling power to my hook bait was a bonus and this is a tactic I've used to great effect in the past.
Brown Weed Inline
The left hand rod was clipped to 13 rod lengths, the right hand rod was going to be a measured 'pub chuck'. Both leads were dunked in a sticky combination of both the Honey Nectar and Banana Cream glugs. Both casts were made, each landed where I wanted them to. Now it was time to sit back and hope my 'tactical' change was going to get me the result I wanted. All expectations of another quick bite soon vanished as I sat behind static rods for a vast majority of the day. I'd been staring intently at both the water and my rod tips, urging for something to happen. Watching the water with such focus was hypnotic, the gentle breeze was drawing and sketching shapes on its skin. Every so often it would change direction, the water has no defense against the wind, it simply does what it's told. Stretching, contorting and continually morphing into different versions of itself. When I looked away and fixed my eyes on something static, everything appeared to be bending at distorting.
Late afternoon arrived and I was starting to lose hope, being Friday, a few anglers started to show up carrying buckets. I didn't want to hang around to much longer, I knew that when leads, spods and bivy pegs started to fracture the silence, it was going to kill my chances completely. I started to pack up the essentials, reluctantly, I reeled my right hand rod in and proceeded to pack it down as slow as possible. All my hope was no pinned on 'last knocking', as I was just about to admit defeat, my left rod was off. I was almost in disbelief, sliding and tripping down to the rod, I grabbed it and was instantly connected to a 'hard fighting' invisible force. This was a heavy fish, it became apparent quickly, my ballista bent double, I swear I heard it scream out in agony as it did its upmost to cushion the chaos. I held on, the fishes initial run was extreme, metaphorically we were 'passing the parcel', I just hoped when the music stopped, I was the one holding the prize.
Very slowly the fish began to tire, closer it came, still trying, occasionally, to make one last dash for freedom. Only a short way out, the fish surfaced and wallowed under the surface, it looked to be a chunky light blue-ish mirror. Easing her my way, I lowered the net and made the lunge of a lifetime, in she went ... what a result!. I took a few seconds to realign my thoughts, peering down into the net it became apparent quickly that what I'd just landed was an old friend. It was a carp I had from this exact same swim back in the summer - what are the bloody odds?. I remember it because it was the largest carp of an 8 fish haul, she weighed about 24IB 5oz, it looked like she'd lost a little bit of weight and looked all the more healthy because of it. I recall she had a fair bit of mouth damage that I treated with propolis, it appeared it had all healed perfectly which was brilliant to see.
An Old Friend
It was the perfect way to end the session, the spot was really starting to produce now, what I'd set out to do at the beginning of winter was really coming together. I believe all the minor tweaks and changes I'd been making was certainly helping things along. I got all my gear together, chucked it on the barrow in an 'undignified' fashion, and made my escape. True to form, spods were starting to fly, bivy pegs were being tortured and someone already had a radio blaring. I feel so blessed that I can get to the water when the majority can't, some just don't understand that their actions, from the minute they turn up, play a huge part on how their session is going to turn out. I've mentioned it before, you have to become the water and mold yourself into the universe that surrounds it. You can't bring 'the modern world' into something so beautifully primitive, it spoils it.