I found myself reading Kevin Maddocks 'Carp Fever' for the 30th time and getting totally sucked into 'Carp County - Kent and the Evolution Of Carp Fishing'. Both of these books hark back to the 'wonder years' of carp angling and it became apparent, 'as I was getting lost among the pages', it's the distant past of our beloved sport that inspires me the most. I find this puts me in a weird place because, the now over-saturated and extreme commercialization of carp fishing has turned it into a very different beast, one that bares no resemblance to what it once was. You've got to be careful when it comes to 'nostalgia', you can look back through rose tinted glasses and convince yourself that things were so much better 'back in the day'. When in reality that isn't always the case, however I feel with carp fishing, the best days are very much behind us. I consider myself lucky because when I started at the beginning of the 90's, I feel that I experienced the tail end of the 'glory days' and those early years will stay with me forever.
Those Days Of MagicI understand 'progress' but like I've mentioned many times before, 'progress' doesn't always make things better. I know it depends on what specific field we're speaking of. Obviously 'progress' in both science and technology has been, and remains to be both unbelievable and invaluable. But in other areas it can tear the heart and soul clean out of the issue. For me elements of apparent 'progress' in carp angling amount to simple 'convenience'. The main aspect that really catches me about the 'pioneers' of the past was the sheer determination and focus to catch. Size didn't come into it, it was simply about getting the bites, if a monster came along in the process then that made it all the sweeter. But the true fundamental was learning the 'craft' of real angling and enjoying the whole experience and journey.
When you read the two books I've mentioned above, the enjoyment, the journey and the friendships made along the way were on par, if not more important than the fish they caught. Each element fueled the other, there were no distractions, marketing campaigns and a barrage of unnecessary products to pull you away from the essence of what you were doing. Reading about how excited these guys got landing singles and doubles is where the real honesty lies for me. The gear they used was basic, with a vast majority of it being homemade, the clothes they wore were standard, completely unfashionable and usually not up to the job. But none of that mattered, it was about the waters and the fish that lived within them.
Nowadays I think for many, this has got completely lost somewhere down the line. I'm personally having a hard time trying to find inspiration. So many waters are over fished and from what I'm seeing the carp are suffering for it - this is something that I will be touching on in a future blog. I've come to understand, for me to feel inspired about my own fishing, I have to keep my head well and truly out of the 'modern day', and quietly continue to try and walk my own path. Paying too much attention to the 'current carp circus' can really muddy my perspective. I find this leads me to stray away from the 'circuit/named fish waters', targeting places that may only contain a few larger fish.
But to be honest, I prefer it this way, not only does it make it special when you catch some of the larger residence. It minimizes the stupidity and contact that you can come across when a water is full of big carp and everyone is chasing them. In regards to the magic I once felt back when I first started, I do feel it's still possible to obtain. I just think you've got to put more effort in trying to find it. So, to all you guys and girls out there that love their fishing, who sometimes find themselves void of inspiration. I urge you to dip back into our angling past every now and again, I'm sure you'll find something that will connect with you and help to keep your flame burning bright.
Innovation - Not Imitation
In this blog I'd like to account for an afternoon session up on Cants mere, after my last trip being such a success. I was itching to get back with the hope I could trick a few more carp into taking my carefully positioned treat. After a quick job in the morning I headed up to the water for midday, the conditions were very different to last time. It was warm and bright with a very light breeze, this helped take the edge off the heat from the sun. I was scooting up the A12 with the windows of the van fully open, the further I got from the city, the sweeter the smell.
As I left London I was clearly inhaling the fumes from a thousand engines, you could see a giant cloud of smog looming over Canary Wharf. There were sirens, car horns and a general mood of frustration, this all slowly melted away when I hit the back roads just a few miles away from Cants. The air was clear, clean, with the occasional 'whiff' or horse manure, if I could blend the smell of 'carp slim' into the mix then it would almost be the perfect aroma. Finally arriving at the gates to Cants, I shuffled the padlock in my hands, opened it and proceeded to drive up the bumpy path to the car park. I was now in a 'secret world' only a few knew of, best of all, I was the only one on the whole complex.
Dumping everything on my 'ever deteriorating' MK11 carp porter, I made my way down to the banks of Cants, passing Blunts on the way, I couldn't help but stop and take a moment to observe the peace. I spotted a few dark shadows just under the surface of the water, I stood there transfixed until they slowly glided out of view. As the first part of Cants came into view, I could see a lovely gentle breeze pushing down towards the car park bank. I made my way around to swim 8, left my gear and then took a slow walk around the lake. Everything appeared to be quiet, I couldn't see any fish in the upper layers which was surprising considering the warmth and scum lines that were developing. I decided to keep it simple and approach the water exactly the same way as I did last time. Swim 8 gave me access to the two bars that ran down either side of the island, they produced for me before so I saw no reason why they wouldn't again.
I'm not usually so one dimensional but considering this was my second session on the place, I wanted to work my way in slowly. For those that may have missed my first session, you can view it here Cants Mere Part 1. My approach was going to be exactly the same as the previous trip, simple semi-fixed bottom bait rigs with a nice spread of boilie over each rod. My hook-link material was my ever faithful 'Trigga-Link' combined with 'Sufix' Camfusion. The hairs were long, fished on a 'blow-back'. As usual I'd opted to use my 5.3mm rig rings, these provide perfect separation and free movement of the bait. I'd run out of Pineapple CSL so I'd chosen to use the 'tiger-fish'. To finish the whole thing off I was going to use small mesh bags containing 'multi-mix' pellets with a sprinkle of hot chilli hemp ground bait. This would not only spice up my hook bait but also add a nice dash of color.
Mesh Bag Contents
A few measured casts with a lead and braided line saw me locate the bars super quick, both rods were clipped up and pinged out with no fuss, I then spread a fairly large amount of bait around both areas. I wanted enough out there to attract any carp that might be passing through, today there was no time for subtleties. Large beds of bait worked very well last time so I was hoping to mirror the success in the short time that I had. I may only be fishing to what amounted to 5 or so hours but I sensed the carp would be up for a fair bit of grub, everything in the 'ether' felt right. Bobbins were hung and the alarms were switched on, I was now officially 'angling' and it felt really good. It seemed like an age had past since I was last out and if there's one time in my life where I can clear my mind and align myself with the world, it's when I'm perched behind 'the carbon', watching, thinking and waiting.
The universe around the lake was buzzing with life, the trees were creaking, every branch was stretching towards the sun, the bees and insects were buzzing incessantly and the continuous politics from the geese and ducks were whipping up the waters surface to a foam. All these things might seem obvious for some but when you live in a void of continuous bodies and industrial clutter like London, you learn to look, listen and appreciate all the tiny little aspects you're so often starved of. I consider myself very lucky that, literally, just at the end of my road I'm straight onto the motorway, turning right is my escape route up to Chelmsford and turning left takes me right into the heart of 'Carp County' itself, Kent.
View From The SwimSitting back in my chair, it took all of three seconds for me to get locked into my usual ritual of watching both the water and my rod tips. My focus would move from the waters skin and then to the tip of the blank and back again. I started to get visions of those old 'cat' clocks with the eyes that moved back and forth, no wonder when I leave the water at the end of each session my vision is distorted as if everything appears to be rippling. The reason I do this is pretty straightforward. I don't want to miss anything and there's been so many times when my tips 'nudge' and 'knock' without registering on the alarms. Anything that signals to me that fish are about is valuable information. It turned out that I didn't have to be so acute in my observations because I started to get some major liners on my right hand rod almost straight away.
The Tips, The Water, And Back Again
Through the next 20 minutes or so the liners kept reoccurring and I had absolutely no doubt that fish were feeding on my freebies, I knew it was just a matter of time before my rod went off. I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the imminent chaos to occur, I knew I had to be on my rod quick because, for experience, the carp in Cants fire away like rockets. Sure enough the bite came, the rod melted off at such a pace that, even though I was expecting it, it still surprised me. I was on it fast, as expected the rod arced round and the clutch 'whizzed' and 'whirled', I let the fish run and take as much line as it wanted. The first minute or two I let the fish 'blow its initial load', then I started to tease it my way. Due to the deep margins, when it came in close it was powering downwards. There were a few tense moments involving the marginal snags but eventually I eased the fish over my net cords. It was a lovely looking mirror, long with a dark bronze coloration.
It was nice to catch a mirror considering they're pretty thin on the ground in most of the Chelmsford waters. It was clean all over and scale perfect, however it did have some mouth damage which was sad to see. I treated it with my Propolis and speedily got it back home. I'd like to use this time to express my concern about the increasing mouth damage that I'm coming across. It really does appear to be getting worse and to be totally honest its starting to get me down a lot. I understand that sometimes it's unavoidable, we all occasionally get dodgy hook holds and some hook-link materials have a tendency to cut more than others, but I don't think that the damage I'm seeing is purely down to that. I think its got more to do with some people having no real understanding of how to 'play' a fish correctly. I feel this is down to lack of education, the mags and DVDs may promote how to look after your catch whilst on the bank but few, if any, actually demonstrate how to 'play' a fish safely.
Nowadays with the mind control-fashion of 3.5 test curve rods, heavy lines, cluttered rigs - and instant anglers, it's no surprise that the fish are suffering for it. In my mind these types of rods are solely designed for distance and maybe solid bags, you can land all sizes of carp on a 2.5 - 2.75 - 3IB test curve rod with no bother. If anything you have more chance of landing it because the blank is far more forgiving so the chance of the hook 'tearing' out is minimized greatly. Not only that but the fight is far more pleasurable and instinctive because you can feel every tug and pull. The whole point of playing a fish is to tire it out, if this is done correctly then the whole procedure of unhooking, weighing and taking a few photos is made much easier. If the carp is tired it wont be flipping about, thus minimizing the chances of it getting damaged whilst out the water.
I find when a fish is ready for the net it will signal this by going up on its side, yanking, hurrying and rushing it in is not the way to do it. Remember that any damage or deformity that you inflict, the carp will have to live with for the rest of its life. Not only that but it spoils the whole 'catching' experience for the anglers out there that want to be seeking out well conditioned fish. I feel that, as anglers, when we catch a fish, the whole point of the procedure is to return it as if untouched. I think that all of us should keep this in mind and aspire to achieve it, when I have a session where all the fish have been returned to their home in the same condition they came out, then I feel I've not only achieved what I set out to do but it makes the whole experience far more fulfilling for, not only myself, but for others that will go on to catch those fish in the future.
Back To The Session
After a few quick photos I slipped her home and got the rod back out. I held off on putting anymore bait out, I only had a short time left so I didn't see the point. In true angling style, the time was running away from me and before I knew it, it was early evening. Half day sessions can be very frustrating because when you're just starting to get into it, it's time to pack up. I decided to wait it out until later, the chance of another fish was too tempting, even if it meant getting home late. It was a pleasure to watch the day play out and as the sun started to lower slightly, and the breeze evaporating to nothing. The atmosphere of the water completely changed and I had a very strong feeling that something magic could happen.
Closing The Day On Cants With Eric
Last knockings started to crawl towards me but I sat tight, I'd had a few 'bleeps' on my left rod but nothing came from them. Strangely, 15 or so minutes later, my right rod started to pull and knock, the bobbin would gently rise and drop again. I was now completely transfixed on both the water and my rod tip as if, in some strange way my intense concentration might magically make it go off. It just so happened that a few minutes later, it did. The alarm screamed and the rod tip bent tight round, the fish had bolted straight towards the snaggy channel to my right.
As I picked the rod up it was 'pile driving' towards the snags, I tightened up and gave as much side strain as I could. I quickly found the sweet spot on my clutch so, just as the rod was about to lock up, it would feed off just the right amount of line. As mentioned previously in this blog, no 'yanking' or 'heaving' took place, I didn't want to get this carp in to find that I'd cut its mouth up. Steady, sensible pressure was maintained until I managed to turn the fish towards me, it was a crazy fight and right down to the last second it gave everything it had. The fish revealed itself as it slowly went up on its side to signal defeat, it was a long dark common, easily in the low to mid 20IB bracket.
A Truly Incredible Carp
This was a serious fish and the photo above really doesn't do it justice, firstly and most importantly, the hook hold was nice and clean, it was super long, dark and each scale was perfectly positioned. The sheer power in the fight was nothing short of 'spectacular', last knockings delivered me with a prize that I'd never forget. I took a minute to admire it, got some shots and sent her back home - in exactly the same condition she came out. In my mind I'd accomplished exactly what I set out to do, I packed up slowly and as I made my way back to the van the sun was starting to fade, the heat of the day had ceased and the world was a few hours away from sleep. Driving back down the bumpy track to the gate, I shuffled the padlock once more, which gave me entry back into the apparent 'real world', a place I'm not so keen on. Locking the gate behind me, I had a vision that the time on both Blunts and Cants would simply stop and slip into some kind of strange cryogenic trance, and upon my return they'll wake and everything will spring back into life once again.