Saturday 2 December 2017

Cants Mere 'Find That Feeling'

Feeling 'an emotional state or reaction'

Emotion 'a strong feeling deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others'

Awareness 'knowledge or perception of a situation or fact'

How are you feeling? - there are times when I portray this as a trick question, it's complicated. It's only over the last couple of months I've come to realize that if I'd learnt to interpret certain feelings in more of a direct way, a lot of confusion could've been avoided. I've been doing a hell of a lot of thinking recently and along with that, I've found myself looking back through this blog, it's hard to believe that I've been writing it since the start of 2012. I've noticed that it's taken many different twists and turns and through the years its developed into more than just 'session' accounts. It goes without saying that it's fundamentally about angling, however, now having had the chance to look at it from a distance, it appears, that in equal measure, there's a series of reoccurring themes. 

Mainly, feelings, emotions and awareness. These three things are so very important, it's what makes us human, they're embedded in our frame work, safely housed in the limbic/oldest part of the brain so there's no getting away from them. It's these three things that can cause us the most trouble, and when you really think about it, we're given no real guidance on how to handle them. We're pushed into this world kicking and screaming, squashed and squeezed through a "one size fits all" educational prison. To suddenly find ourselves all grown up in an adult world, you've got to shut up, get in line and feed the system, an inherent system that really doesn't cater for individuals. If you are one, you're going to have a hard time. If you're not careful you can become so desensitize to your own feelings and emotions that you just aren't in touch with yourself anymore.           

 Life Is As Life Does

I understand that everyone responds differently to the world around them, many appear to sail through their lives completely content with their situation. They don't analyse or over think things, they just get on with 'the obvious', have a good time, and by doing this, they're content. On the flip-side though, there are those that struggle, over analyse and find life hard - there's no shame in this. I've been bogged down with both emotions and intense feelings as long as I can remember. However, I was fortunate because my outlet came through my drum playing, I first picked up a set of drumsticks when I was 6 years old. So by the time the dreaded, 'highly emotional' teenage years came about, I'd mastered how to express myself through my instrument, closely followed by writing both poetry and free verse

Through the years my angling also grew to become a major support mechanism. Living in this way allowed me to navigate myself through everyday life, 'still feeling as confused as hell', but I'd created a spiritual release to make it all the more bearable. Through time it became very apparent the importance of 'having your own voice', I don't mean this in a literal sense. I am talking more about self development and expression, you find your way of doing things and you develop and master them, you simply perfect being you. This includes everything that you choose to do, that's what makes you an individual and not a carbon copy. I just don't see the sense in being fragments of everyone else's views and opinions. For me this point is of equal relevance in both my angling and drum playing.
It's strange because I've never looked upon drums as an instrument or a 'time keeper', to me they were always more of a sounding board to communicate both my emotions and my feelings - very similar to this blog, it's not just about carp fishing, it's about everything you think and feel along the way. I've never looked upon angling as just going and trying to catch, it goes so much deeper than that, there's a series of elements that all amalgamate together into one, which makes my viewpoint on my own fishing far more 'panoramic' than black & white. The reoccurring theme always seems to go back to the feelings and 'emotions' that fishing tends to conjure up. It's a mystery as to why some get more effected by these things more than others. I think it's basically in our DNA, certain elements are in our 'general makeup', the secret is learning to except the way you are and deal with it accordingly - fine tune yourself. What does this have to do with carp angling? - bare with me.

Back when I was struggling to exist I'd regularly see a very unique lady called Helen, she approached psychotherapy in a very different way. We'd unpick the most tangled of my thoughts and piece them all back together again. One question she asked me, which to this day, is something I still can't really answer was - what do I feel when I'm holding a carp?. Obviously this question has so many levels, there isn't one definitive answer - I'd like you to think about this to. Years ago when I was just fishing local club waters and day tickets, it was all pretty basic. I'd feel a huge sense of excitement, I didn't really think about it any deeper than that, it was about the buzz of catching and just getting out there and doing it. 

I rarely thought about the merit of the capture or the style of venue, back then fishing anywhere with bigger fish in was the motivation. I think that you either stick with these sort of venues or you move on to a slightly purer challenge. It's only as the years have passed that the shape of both my fishing and what I want out of it has changed. Of course, I still get a huge amount of excitement every time I cast my rods out. But it now goes far deeper, it's definitely more about the merit of the capture. How much merit is based on what specific water I'm fishing at the time. I've said it many times before but I'd much rather have a nice double from a hard water than a 30 from a puddle.

Looking at it another way, catching a recently new stocked fish wouldn't conjure up the same feelings as an old one from, say, Boreham Mere. In the same breath, a fish from Boreham wouldn't communicate the same feelings to me as one from, say, Savay - an original or not. My feelings would change once more depending on the method that I caught it on. My first ever 20IB carp was caught on a 5IB line with floating crust. To this day, that fish still means more to me than bigger ones that I've caught off the bottom. Any fish I catch on a zig gives me a far greater sense of achievement than any that I catch on the deck. The list of feelings are endless and it's all down to the situation and the method of capture. So going back to the original question of "what I feel when I hold a carp". I literally feel everything, on a primal level, I feel their life in my hands, their fear, the kick as I release them, but above all I feel alive, more alive in that moment than I ever feel in my everyday life.

Cants 'The Heavens Opened'
This brings me onto my next session, after having a fair old result up on 'Braxted Res' I was feeling optimistic. All the sure signs for my next trip had pointed towards Braxted front lake, but, forever acting on impulse I decided to take a U-Turn and set my sights on Cants Mere. Cants has always been a grey area for me, it shares its space with Blunts and I'd never bothered to fish it because it was a water that had been left alone. It contained, literally thousands of small carp and I'm just not interested in fishing waters like that. Maybe with a float rod or swim feeder, but my head wasn't in that space. There had been a few whispers in the 'club grapevine' that the fishery management team had been working very hard on removing and restocking the fish. From my understanding the plan was to make it into a proper carp lake. I didn't know a great deal about it but, that alone started to fire up my imagination. I felt excited because I hadn't even laid my eyes on the place, so for me it was literally the start of something new.

Blunts & Cants
The first time I walked around the water I was surprised at just how large it was. I'd only ever seen its front half because that was the area most visible from Blunts. Initially I wasn't very keen on the layout of the swims. They were fine for pleasure fishing but I could visualize a lot of arguments if all the anglers were predominately fishing for carp. Many of the swims were bunched up, with some covering the same water as each other. I knew instantly that this wasn't going to be a place that I would choose to fish if it was busy - I can't be doing with stupidity. As I continued my walk up to the back end I started to feel a lot more inspired, there were lots of 'nooks and crannies' with an abundance of overhanging trees and tempting marginal features. My thoughts were already in overdrive, there were so many spots that could hold carp, I just didn't know where to start.

When the day of my first session came about I'd had time to digest the place and I was thinking a lot more clearly. The plan would be to walk the lake once and if I couldn't spot any carp activity, I'd go on intuition alone. The weather was perfect, it was warm and mild, the clouds were heavy and low, spitting out the occasional heavy shower. These conditions felt very familiar to me and I knew that the carp were going to be feeding, I had no doubt about it. Arriving at the gate, it was hammering it down, jumping out and shuffling the numbers of combination lock into place, I felt that I was unlocking the start of a new adventure. As I drove up the water logged pathway to the car park, it was empty, everything felt perfect and I couldn't wait to get the rods out. I waited for the rain to pass, loaded the barrow and hastily made my way to the waters edge. 

One lap of the lake revealed very little, I knew I didn't want to be dumping myself tight up either end, I wanted to target an area that I knew the carp would be moving through at some point during the day. I decided to fish peg 8, I had an island directly in front of me and to my right was a narrow channel. I looked upon this spot as a 'transit route' and thought I'd stand a good chance of intercepting any fish that might pass through. Before I set anything up I decided I'd have a lead about to suss out exactly what I was dealing with. One of my favorite aspects of carp angling is marker work, I love how sensory it is and it helps you to build a picture in your mind of whats hidden below the surface. I don't subscribe to the whole 'thrashing the water to a foam' terminology that seems to be the latest 'buzz term'. I believe learning to find features with a rod and line is an integral part of the art in angling, it can be done in a subtle way.

Learn & Understand
Firstly I wanted to suss out my right hand spot, I wasn't going to go tight to the island, this was far to obvious. If fish were going to pass in front of me I sensed it would be in the slightly deeper water. I cast the marker out past where I was planning to fish, I didn't get a distinctive 'DONK', it was a fair drop though. Feeding the line out slowly, the float cut through the waters skin at 7ft. I wound the float back down to the lead and proceeded to gently drag it along the bottom. I take my time with this, I want to try to feel everything. When I go through this procedure my left hand is on the blank and the rod tip is pointing to exactly where the lead and float are sitting. I then picture a 24 hour clock face, I wind down at 12 o'clock and pull the lead round to 9 o'clock. Then I feed the float back up through the layers to get the depth reading, this process is then repeated until I've covered the area. I'm wanting to get as much information as possible, I've never seen any sense in rushing this process, pulling the lead along slowly and in small increments gives me an acute sense of what's going on. I'm feeling for distinctive changes in the texture of the lake bed and any lumps and bumps that might be there.

Marker Float Movement 'Repeat'

I repeated the process 'explained above' a couple of times until I've found an area of interest. It became apparent that running down the point of the island was a hard bar, it had little to no weed on it. I did a few test casts, followed by a depth reading, there was very little change in the depth so it wasn't really raised. This was were my bait would go, I'd position my rig half way down the bar. The spot was perfect and I was positive that the carp would visit it when and if they move through the area. I went through exactly the same process for my left hand spot and found it to be the same kind of layout. The only difference, the left hand bar had low lying weed on it. My plan was to fish on top of the weed, quarter of the way down the bar. I now had a very clear image of the swim in my mind. Obviously you can never be 100% correct unless you can physically see it. But what I'd managed to find out was good enough for me.

View From The Swim
My chosen bait for the session was Pineapple CSL, now with the water temperatures rising I felt this was the perfect flavor to offer. Along with this I was going to fish small mesh bags with some 'low oil' multi-mix pellets in. I was going to bait up heavily with boilies, everything in the atmosphere and ether was telling that this was the way to go. As usual, my rigs were nothing fancy, I opted for my standard 'semi-fixed' inlines with relatively long hook links. Both would be bottom baits fished on the 'blow-back' with my favored 5.3mm rig rings. The weed on my left hand spot didn't bother me and I was pretty sure I could get away with fishing a bottom bait on top of it. I wrapped the marker, my right hand rod was 10 rod lengths, my left hand rod was just shy of 11. Both rods were rigged up, wrapped and cast out, a heavy 'DONK' came from my right rod, the left rods drop was slightly cushioned. I proceeded to spread a good helping of freebies around both spots, I didn't hold back. I wanted enough bait out there to pull any passing fish in.

Pineapple CSL

Multi-Mix Pellet 
Now with everything set I took a step back to take it all in, I felt 100% confident that I'd set the swim up correctly. The spots were perfect, the presentation was spot on and I knew what I was offering up for the carp was going to be hard for them to turn down. Above my head, moody skies were rolling in, I got the brolly up, packed all essentials underneath, took my seat and got the kettle on. I felt inspired, here I was alone on a new water and I had a feeling that anything could happen. I had no idea what could be swimming around below the surface, I felt like I was at the start of a new journey and as I sat staring out over the 'unfamiliar', I instantly knew that I was going to spend a fair amount of time on these banks. I'd connected to the place straightway, I think the fact that it was empty helped. I felt that there was a fresh, new future to be written and a past, to one day, be remembered, that started today, now, this very moment.

Eric On The Look Out
Staring out at the water in front me, tiny specks of drizzle were making tiny indents on the waters surface, the wind really picked up. Those tiny indents very quickly turned into bullet holes, they were pelting down like rapid gunfire. Someone had obviously cut the bowls of the heavens, I squeezed myself to the very back of my 'fibreshield' and watched as the world around me started flooding, a dense steam started to rise from the surface of the water. The rain was hitting my rods so hard that the alarms were randomly firing off. At this point Eric - 'my dog' had decided he'd had enough and proceeded to run and jump up on my lap, completely soaking me in the process. The conditions were madness but I was loving every minute of it, after a rather tense 15 minutes the chaos eased and we were back to a fine drizzle. I was now getting liners off both rods, it clearly wasn't the rain. Seconds later my left rod was away, the alarm was screaming and the rod tip was 'yelping' tight round to the left. 

I ran for it slightly stunned that a take had occurred so fast, picking the rod up, I was connected to a ferocious amount of power, I loosened the clutch off slightly and just let it run. It had been a very long time since I'd been met with such violence. To be honest, I couldn't do a great deal with it, I adjusted the drag and held on, doing the best I could to keep the fish under some kind of control. There were flat spots, boils and swirls as it ploughed from left to right and back again, I started to gain some ground, the minute the fish was at medium range it started darting left towards the overhanging trees and branches. There were a hell of a lot of 'get out clauses' close in, I started to feel minor panic, I really didn't want to be losing this one. Closer it came, surfacing for a second, it was a common, long, lean and golden, it looked to be a very good fish. I was literally holding my breath, every pull and tug put the fear of god up me, in an instant the net was out, I 'gracefully' lunged ..... RESULT!  

My First From Cants
This fish was a beauty, a proper powerhouse, clearly built for speed and guaranteed to creak the toughest of carbon. If this was an example of what could be hiding deep in the depths of Cants then I was feeling pretty dam inspired. It was very reminiscent in both shape and color to those I've caught over on Wick, all the Chelmsford waters contain some seriously good looking commons. I slipped her back, got the rod clipped up and flicked it back out, the dull thud on the drop told me I was back on the spot. I topped the swim up with 5 large handfuls of bait, it was clear by the quick bite that they were up for some proper grub. The rain came back, the heavy clouds hung low overhead, I was certain a few more bites were on the cards. I don't care about the rain or the wind, if I know the conditions are right I'll venture out in any weather. I remember years back there were a good number of occasions when I'd break the ice to get my baits in the water. When I've 'got to go fishing' there's nothing that is going to stop me.

It wasn't long before I started getting a few knocks off my right rod, I watched carefully, the bobbin would tweak, the tip would jolt. I knew that something was going to happen. I waited, watched then as if planned, the bobbin flew up striking the blank and, within seconds, all hell broke loose. The rod was literally pulled off the rest, I leapt into action immediately, I was connected, only this time it was dead weight. The sheer power that this fish was exerting was something else, it tore sharp and tight to my right. The communication from the fish to the blank was acute, I could feel everything. I applied more pressure, tightening the drag as I went, I managed to turn it back my way but it was clear the fish wasn't having any of it. It careered through the water in front me and proceeded to pull so hard to the left. Just like the fish before, it was trying to get under the marginal branches, I applied more pressure, the rod was literally locked up by this point. I was counting the seconds, more pressure was applied, finally I managed to turn its head, now under the rod tip, I waited it out, waiting for the fish to signal 'retreat'. Finally ready for the net, I slipped another beautiful common over the cords.

A Worthy Reward
It was clear that this carp was a good twenty, as I held it up for a few photos I paid close attention to what I was feeling, relief being the obvious thing, amazement that a creature such as this, deep within the depths, can hone in on my marble sized bait, but most of I felt honoured. Honoured that I could hold and witness such an amazing creation. It's back was wide, all its fins perfect and its scales were prehistoric, placing it in the sling and lowering it back into the water. I paid close attention to its gills, it took in a few large gulps and then just rested as if caught in some kind of trace. Its gills were now moving and expanding in a slow rhythmical motion, suddenly it jolted. I sensed its trance was now broken and within seconds it kicked and gently glided back into the murk, a single flick of its tail, and it was gone. The rod was wrapped back up and cast out, closely followed by 5 large handfuls of bait. Both spots were ready and primed, I slide back under the brolly, put the kettle on and went back to watching the water.

Seconds After The Rain
The rain came and gave everything another good soaking, the mix of damp and humidity made the air feel heavy, it's a very familiar feeling and from experience I know that I can always get away with baiting heavy, so for good measure, I introduced more bait to both spots. A few hours past, I'd had the odd knock, I'd seen a couple of carp show in between both of my rods. I knew it was just a matter of time before a another bite occurred, I didn't have to wait long. It was my left rod that was away, it was another aggressive take, the rod flew out the back rest and the reel slammed up against the alarm. I was on it within seconds but the fish had already careered off to the left. As I composed myself, something clearly didn't feel quite right, I tried tightening up but a strange weight was dragging the line down. Reeling in and trying desperately to properly connect, I spotted a stick that appeared to be sailing across the water. It suddenly became clear that the stick was connected to a bloody great branch.

This suddenly made the situation very awkward, I tried my best to make direct contact with the fish but it wasn't easy. It was steaming around super tight to the island, I could see and feel that it was another big carp. I was gaining ground slowly but with each sudden movement, the branch would rise and fall ominously, it became clear that it wasn't coming off so I'd have to try to ease it closer and then remove it by hand. I applied slow steady pressure, each time I connected directly with the fish the branch rose up, when I gave line it would sink and pull back down. I decided to approach it another way, I held the rod tip up high and started to walk backwards, I'd then reel in tight whilst lowering the rod and repeat. The carp was tiring and with each step back the branch was edging ever closer, after what seemed like 'forever', it was finally in touching distance, I grabbed it, fumbled around and managed to untangle it. Now free I kicked it well out the way, Eric saw the commotion and thought it was a game, he proceeded to grab the branch and tried to run off with, growling as he went.

Finally I had the fish in front of me, it still wasn't giving up though, it continually pulled tight to my left, trying to edge itself closer to the snags. I lowered the rod down under the water and applied as much pressure as I thought I could get away with. I was close, just a few seconds more, surly this brawl would soon be over. Finally, and very reluctantly it went up on its side, that was the signal I was waiting for. After what seemed like an eternity I finally lowered the net and claimed my prize. Pheeww !! after the 'branch debacle' I really felt like I deserved this one. Peering down, I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing, this was one very special looking fish. It was long, dark and as clean as they come, never before had I caught such a majestic looking common carp. There are moments within angling that you never forget and I was experiencing one of them right now. I decided not try to understand what I was feeling, my emotions were all over the place, the word 'bipolar' sprung to mind.  

A Fish I'll Always Remember
The rain came back overhead, I released the carp, clipped the rod up and got it back out. By this time I was well and truly soaked, my hair was a right mess, 'nothing new there', and with every step taken my boots made a 'squishing' sound. None of this bothered me though, I was relishing every moment. I took a seat and got the kettle on again, I'd earnt it after such an epic battle. It had been a crazy day, I'd made up my mind 100% that it was definitely worth putting some time in on Cants for the coming season. I sensed that once the word had got out about the quality of fish in the water, it would get rammed, my plan was to cash in before this happened. A few hours past by, the clouds remained heavy, spitting out the odd heavy shower. I was now in full day dreaming mode, however this didn't last long, my right rod tore off at a crazy pace. Everything happened simultaneously, the tip looped round, the bobbin slammed the blank and the clutch 'whirled', all this seemed to happen in a single second.

I picked the rod up and lent back, like all the previous carp, the power and speed was immense, I genuinely haven't come across such hard fighting fish before. It was powering around in front of me, twisting, turning and throwing itself everywhere. I held on for dear life, its as if I had a 'bucking bronco' on the end of my line. The fishes back cut through the water, it was long and dark, its fluidity reminiscent of a subsurface missile. Like all those that came before, it was desperate to get into the snags down to the left, I wasn't going to let that happen though. Side strain pacified its lunges and I soon had it a few yards away from me. It was now trying to get under the margin directly beneath my feet, I just let the rod do the work. The formidable action of my Bruce Ashby Lucifer soon tired it out, it came up on its side ready for netting, I made a smooth measured scoop, result, she was in. I found myself looking at yet another amazing common, this was really turning out to be a session to remember.

Another Cants Cannon
I popped her back and got the rod straight back out, closely followed by another 5 handfuls of bait. Time was starting to tick by now but I still had a feeling that there was another bite to be had. The late afternoon infused into early evening and everything had gone quite, I didn't spot any signs of carp in front me anymore. A few had jumped up towards the middle of the lake and this got me thinking that maybe they'd moved on. Thankfully the rain had stopped so I took the opportunity to pack away all the non essentials. I sat it out until last knockings with no action, I reluctantly started to break down my right hand rod, dragging the process out as long as possible. It was a good thing I did because the left rod sprung into life, it really took me by surprise. As I connected I knew this was yet another big fish, it wasn't going nuts, it just plodded around steadily, slowly taking line at a measured pace. Half way across a large flat spot appeared, followed by a flick of a huge tail. My legs started to shake, I knew, whatever was on the end of my line was special. Closer and closer she came, I lowered the net and sunk it, teasing the fish my way, I was now holding my breath again .... just a few more inches .... she was in! 

A Perfect Fish To Close The Session
What a way to the end the session, to be honest I was speechless, never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd catch this quality of fish. A huge amount of respect goes out to all the guys that work in the fishery management division in the club. They clearly know what they're doing and it's clear that Cants is now a water of the future, I believe it's going to produce some pretty special carp in the years to come. In regards to my session, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into to place. I think that taking a bit of time to understand exactly what's under the surface in front of me helped a great deal. When I step foot onto a new venue I can't just 'chuck for luck', of course, you can fluke some fish doing this but I'm not interested in flukes. I want to understand as much about the place as possible, in regards to marker work, this can be a huge advantage. I think the secret is to do it as covertly as possible, don't go chucking a float and lead about for hours. Define in your mind the areas you're interested in and try to get the information you need in a few casts.

I was pretty dam tired and totally wet through, I was looking forward to the drive home, it would be the perfect opportunity to dry off and let the days activities ferment in my head. Clambering back to the van with Eric in tow, my gear caked in mud, I felt very much alive. I realised that today's session was one that will live with me forever, another amazing angling memory will be filed away somewhere in my head with all the others. To be recalled upon in the years to come as a source of inspiration or discussion. I've said it many times before, angling allows you to create your own history, to perfect an alternate reality. In a world where everything is so instant, short lived and artificial this is very important. Those that fish live two different lives, the one their forced to live and the other that they 'choose' to live, that's the difference between us and the rest, we've always got a route out, an 'exit'. This is a very important thing to have, next time you're feeling beaten by the system and the monotony of the 'everyday'. Understand that when you get the chance to cast your rods out, you are released.