Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Micklem Mere 'Fishing For Mysteries' Part 5

Over the past couple of months with all my focus having been applied to one lake and one swim I decided to go 'off-piste' for a day. I literally felt like my thinking was coming to a stand still, I could feel my neural pathways short circuiting, I fancied a change. I decided to take a trip up to Micklem Mere because I hadn't fished the place for quite some time. To me, Micklem is/was a special water and a completely different prospect to all the other venues I have available to me. The 'Fishing For Mysteries' series is ongoing and will document all my sessions fishing on the mere, if you missed the first in the series it can be found by clicking this link Fishing For Mysteries Part 1. Writing about the water how it was way back in 2016 is something that still inspires me, hardly anyone fished it because nobody really knew what was in it. Fast forward to the current day in 2019, in my mind, the water is a shadow of its former self. Once word got out that there were some rather large carp getting caught, with the help of the digital disease called "social media", people started flocking down in numbers. Unfortunately its now started to become like every other water out there, far too busy, way too pressured and, to be expected, the once pristine beautiful fish are starting to suffer mouth damage. 

Utopia Banished
I've mentioned it before in so many other blogs but there's just no excuse for mouth damage, there's no excuse for any damage inflicted on any fish. I understand that we all get the odd dodgy hook hold but what I'm seeing goes far deeper than that. I'm genuinely running out of places to fish that contain clean carp, the amount of waters I've turned my back on due to this problem is mounting up. I put this down to a lack of education, tackle firms will piece together 5 hour DVD's designed to market new products. But won't take 10 minutes to explain the concept of the clutch, the test curve and the relation these two elements have in landing a fish safely. So ... going back to Micklem, here in the current day it has become a casualty of the carp fishing circus. Anyway, lets put all the above behind us and magically transport ourselves back to October 2016. The aim was to get up just before first light and zoom out of London and up into Essex at a 'questionable' speed to get to the water just as the world was waking up. This was successfully achieved and as I pulled up to the gate to punch in the combination that gives me access to 'the other world'. I was feeling pretty dam excited, it felt good to be fishing a different water.

There's always a slight apprehension as the car park comes into view, I was pleasantly surprised to find it empty. It was looking like I was going to have the whole place to myself. Looking down from where I parked my van, the mere rests sunken in the landscape surrounded by a thin covering of trees and bushes. It always looks perfect, loading the barrow and trundling down the field I could literally feel the world on the other side of the gate disappear. The closer I got to the water the more obsolete the 'real world' became, very few waters have this effect on me. The fact the place was totally deserted played a huge part. I can assure you, if spods were flying and bivy pegs were being hammered in the ground, I probably would of turned straight around and left. I wasn't in a huge rush to get setup so I decided to take a wander and see if any carp were going to give themselves away. Placed periodically around the bank side are wooden benches, they're positioned perfectly so you can take a stroll and then take a seat to watch the water. I made my way half way along the car park bank and took a seat. Below is a very rough map.

View From Above

The wind was pushing down into my face, it was warm and fresh, now with the sun peering over the distant trees, I knew it was going to end up being a nice bright day. I'm always reluctant to fish the swims on the car park bank during the warmer months, mainly because, no less than a rod length out, it drops down to 18/19ft. I usually like to focus my attention up the other end which has some of the shallowest parts. After minor observation I carried on walking round and up along the road bank, the sun was now rising fast, the morning was dawning and as the light of the new day started to spread across the mere, with it came a clear sense of new possibilities. I still hadn't spotted any fish so I continued up past the back bay and onward into the 'out of bounds' area. The out of bounds area is pretty much 'jungle warfare', there's no clear path so you just improvise. It's pretty much just marshland, the long grass cracks, crumples and squelches under foot. Perched within this part of the landscape is an old derelict shed, its wood is weathered, its hinges rusty and broken. I can only assume this is a leftover from when the mere was a trout fishery. Whatever it was it looks a little too 'Blair Witch' for my liking.  

View From The Last Swim On The Field Bank 'The Shallows'
Walking from the out of bounds area the lake suddenly comes back into view, the first swim you come to is what I call the shallows. This part of the water is quite interesting, to the left you have a lovely silt area that stretches out a fair distance in front of the treeline. The water directly in front is around knee height and you can literally walk out right up until the point of the trees on the right hand side, 'check the photo above'. From the point of the tree the back bay begins and the depth falls away to around 9/10ft. On those early mornings when the sun is warm and the wind is pushing up, the carp have a tendency to group together a short distance out. Carrying on down towards where I started, I was yet to see anything showing, with a few more minutes of deliberation I decided I'd fish on the front on the wind. It wasn't exactly blowing a gale but there was enough of a breeze to convince me that a few fish might just be milling around the area. 

The Perfect Morning 'No Breeze'
Now with the morning sun high in the sky any clouds that were hanging over head were burning away fast. The little breeze there was died, the swim I decided to fish is quarter of the way up the field bank. It has a lovely feature in the shape of a slope that, very gradually falls away to around 11/12ft. My plan was to fish half way down this slope with both rods positioned about a rods length apart. To start off with I wasn't going to bait particularly heavy, opting for 4 bait stringers with a small mesh bag of crushed boilie. Around this I'd scatter a handful of freebies, baiting heavy straight away didn't feel like the right way to go. Bait wise I was going to be sticking with the green lipped mussel, my rigs were going to be simple semi-fixed setups with short hook links. Those that have read my blogs for quite sometime now know that I like to keep my rigs as simple as possible. I see no sense in complicating things, the rigs I use today are pretty much the same ones I've been using for the past 29 years, give or take the odd tweak.

Bait Tools
In the image below you can see the shallow water that stretches out a few feet in front of my rod tips, it's easy to make out where the slope starts because the bottom literally disappears. When I first started fishing Micklem this was an area that I pretty much ignored, having done a lot more research between this specific session and the current day. I have a strong reason to believe that I'm fishing on the road that the trucks used to excavate the gravel. I remember finding the same sort of 'road' when I was fishing Chase back lake, I had a lot of fish off it. Old roads and pathways hidden under the water in gravel pits can end up being great features to target. When the carp are actively showing themselves then fishing to hidden features doesn't enter my head. I just want to make sure I'm putting my bait where the fish are, on those days when the visual side of things resemble a 'tumble weed' I find targeting underwater features can be the difference between a blank and a bite. 

Over time I've built a pretty solid picture in my mind of all the waters I fish, I go through the same process with every venue. As the years go by I try to build a complete map, this map stays in my head, this vision in my mind may not be 100% accurate but it's something to work with. During the winter I might take some time after a session to mark up specific areas of interest. Approaching the waters in this way gives me a chance to really think about the best places to put a bait. I know that many nowadays use deeper sonars to help them suss things out, for me though you still can't beat a marker rod, a bare lead or a lead and float. I get a far greater thrill feeling the lead banging and juddering when I'm over a hard spot rather than the idea of relying on a piece of technology that may or may not be accurate.
View From The Swim
Even though I wasn't fishing a great distance I still wanted to wrap both rods so I was hitting the exact same mark on each cast. It worked out 7 rod lengths to the spots I'd chosen, this put me in 7ft of water. The bottom was hard with lightly scattered weed, I opted for slow sinking and low lying pop ups, this was to ensure my hook baits didn't get obscured by any weed they might land in. There's patchy weed scattered all around Micklem, none of it's really a problem to present a rig in. So after a rather lazy start I finally got both my rods out, 7 rod lengths is a tricky distance to cast without getting a bit of 'bounce back', but I managed to cushion them perfectly with the help of my Bruce Ashby 'BALLISTAS'. The back leads were slipped on, the bobbins were set and a handful of bait was deployed over both rigs. It was now time to sit back, 'try to relax' and see what the day was going to produce. I was under no illusion, your typical Micklem session is normally packed with the small stuff. I like to refer to them as 'future kings', they come in the shape of perfect looking common carp and if you're lucky a mirror or two. If the heavens are smiling down on you, you might hook into one of the secret monsters that, very occasionally reveal themselves. It's this prospect that keeps me coming back.

The Faithful 'Stringer' - Underused Nowadays

It was literally a few minutes before the bobbin on my left rod whizzed to the top and smacked the blank. I knew instantly that it was one of the small fish, when one of the larger 'secrets' pick your bait up the clutch will whizz and the alarm will sing. I lifted the rod up gently, the tip was knocking and the scamp on the other end was whizzing around like a bottle rocket. I slowly reeled it in, carefully unhooked it and sent it straight back. I always try to be as careful as possible with the small carp, they're delicate and I don't want to be damaging them. We're wanting all these fish to grow up as pristine as possible. 

Future King One
As soon as I got the rod back the right one was away, just like the bite before, the bobbin shot up to the top and slapped the blank, however this fish managed to take a little bit of line. The additive 'whirl' of the clutch kicked in for about 5 seconds, I could feel that it was a slightly better fish, it was putting up a fair fight and as it came into view it was clear that this one was a pretty decent low double. I decided to unhook it in the net and send it straight home. 

Future King Two
I suddenly had a change of thought regarding my baiting approach, if I wanted to stand a chance of hooking one of the better ones I needed to attempt to draw as many carp into the swim as possible. In my mind, the more bait I put out the higher the chance I had of a potential monster coming along. I reeled both my rods in and ran up to the van to get hold of my pellets and method mix. I always keep a few 'auxiliary' bags in the fishing wagon. 

Multi-Mix Pellets With Beastie Ball Method Mix
I knocked up a quick recipe that consisted of multi-mix pellets and beastie ball ground bait, to this I added some salmon oil. This was all blended together to make a nice 'tacky' consistency that would sit well in a mini spomb. I was going to keep the swim topped up with the pellet and ground bait, sticking with the same minimal feeding approach with the boilies. The attraction within the recipe I'd just concocted was more than enough to keep a scent in the swim. The mini spomb was clipped up to 7.5 rod lengths, I introduced 10 little rockets of bait and then got both my rigs back out. I'd feed the swim as and when, the bulk of the bait would be reintroduced after each bite. 

A Subtle Missile Of Flavor
Now with my new baiting plan executed the bobbins were clipped on, the bite alarms were 'set to stun' and I was ready to go again. I started to get lots of little knocks and indications on both alarms straight away, within minutes my left rod fired off. The bobbin fumbled about and then tore up and smacked the blank, upon lifting the rod up I could barely feel anything on the other end. I wound in slowly and as the lead came into view I could see a small fish rolling around, just like all the previous bites, I unhooked it gently and sent it home.

Future King Three
This rod went back out I didn't even bother changing the hook bait, over the top of this I dispensed 5 mini spombs. I started thinking back to previous sessions and there seemed to be a pattern, the better fish had a habit of coming along towards late afternoon and early evening. Before I'd even managed to sit down my right rod was the next one to go, the bite was practically identical to the last. Carefully winding in, I was met with another perfect looking common, it was barely a couple of pound but it had lovely red fins, when/if this fish grows on to be a monster, it's going to end up looking pretty special. 

Future King Four
The fish was returned, the rig went back out followed by another 5 missiles of feed. Things started to slow down from this point, the sun was now beating down hard. The liners ceased and both alarms stayed silent. To be honest I wasn't too bothered, this was usual practice for Micklem, I decided that I'd introduce 5 mini spombs every 45 minutes or so throughout the day, I knew the carp would come back around, you just had to be patient. In the meantime it gave me a chance to put on 'the all important kettle' and soak up the sights and sounds. Because no one else had turned up I felt like I had my own private lake. Sitting there waiting for the kettle to boil, I was scanning the waters surface for any signs of fish. I started to think back to the first time I cast my lines into Micklems water, it appeared so vast and the prospect of catching any fish at all felt like an impossibility. But like every water I've fished, once you start to work it out it's as if the place shrinks.

The hours slowly started to pass me by, I sat transfixed on the water and the distant horizon. I was drifting in and out of a daydream. I started to think about the confusion and conflict that was going on in the 'other world' beyond the gate and over the horizon line. I sat motionless with not one care in my mind at all, which is rather a rare occurrence. I started to think about the minor culture shock I feel when I've spent a day on my own in the middle of nowhere, and then I drive back to London to resume my existence. The pace quickens and before you know it the stress relief the day had provided is quickly undone as you find yourself fighting through the unforgiving streets of the city. For now though, I needn't concern myself with 'the normal' or 'mundane', I was craving the abnormal, I wanted a creature from the deep to pay me a visit. Both contemplation and questions about the possibility of extraterrestrials running the world saw the remaining hours of the afternoon fly by.

Come 5pm the feeling around the mere changed, even though I hadn't seen any indication of carp anywhere near me, I knew I was 'back in business', a bite wasn't far off. With the late September sun quickly cooling off it wasn't long before a few fish started showing themselves, some jumped up towards the back bay and another couple towards the middle out in front of me. I took this as a good sign, I was willing one of my alarms to go screaming off. I added 5 mini missiles to top my swim up and sat poised on the edge of my chair. My right rod sprung into life literally seconds after I'd put the extra feed in. The bobbin flew to the top and stayed there, I picked the rod up and gently wound in slowly, I could feel it was another little carp, as it came into view it was literally a couple of pound at most. 

Future King Number 5
I slipped it back during which my left rod went off, the bite was literally identical to the one I just had. Lifting into this fish, it at least put a small bend in the rod, it was darting around all over the show fighting like a fish at least double the weight it ended up being. I netted a lovely long common that had a unique tinge of orange to its appearance. I got it back straight away and worked on getting both rods out as quickly as I could. Once the bobbins were set I topped the swim up with a few more spombs hoping that one of the mere's secrets was going to pay me a visit before I had to leave. 

Future King Number 6
After the two quick bites the action stalled, I was convinced it was all going to 'kick off' like it had so many times in the past round about this same sort of time. Micklem can be so bloody unpredictable, I was happy with the carp I'd had but I was certain that something special had to come along at some point. I sat tight, the September sun was dropping towards the horizon line and with it, a chill moved in that very much indicated that summer was well and truly on the way out. Looking at the time it was 18:30pm, I was going to give it until 19:00pm, any later than that and I was going to be getting home pretty late, I had to be up early for work so I didn't fancy rushing around when I got home. I was looking at the clock on my phone as if it was a countdown to the end of existence. Time was ticking by way too fast, I literally had 10 minutes left and then .... "BANG", my right rod was away only this time it was a proper take. The tip of the rod hooped round sharp to the right and both the clutch and alarm sung, these two sounds in unison was what I'd been wanting to hear.

Rushing to the rod and lifting into the mystery, the blank arched round and I was into the first proper fight of the day. 'Last knockings' had paid off, the carp bolted straight out into the open water diving down deep. I savored the moment, I'd waited long enough for it to happen. I started to gain ground and as the fish edged closer it was bolting from left to right, it put up one hell of fight. Now literally under the rod tip it was using the depth close in, keeping well out the way of netting distance, I was dying to get a glimpse, the bigger fish from Micklem are always special. Soon enough it was ready, a perfect looking common carp resigned itself to the net mesh. It was a classic looking Micklem fish, it had a lovely high back, a large clean mouth, perfect proportions and it looked completely untouched, the setting sun reflected perfectly off of its spotless scales. I wasn't interested in the weight, weight is something that means very little to me nowadays, it's just about getting out there and trying to suss the equation out.

The Secret

With the sun setting and the light fading I sent the fish back home, I watched as it morphed into nothing as the mere swallowed it whole. I had no head-torch with me so it was a pretty undignified pack down. I scrambled along the bank and back up the hill to the car park, I literally threw everything in the back of the van in one quick motion. Upon locking the back door, I turned to give the mere one last look, I could just about make it out. I reluctantly drove back to the gate, I knew the minute I opened it I'd find myself back in the 'real' world, a place that, as the years go by, I find I'm withdrawing from more and more, it's uninspiring, a hamster wheel of repetition, a place where the ego is given way to much importance, where style overrides any form of substance. Nowadays it's more about survival for me than anything else, I wish I could look upon everyday life in a more positive way but I can't. On the upside though it was looking like I was going to only have to put up with it for a few days because I'd find myself back down Burrows fishing the bottle-neck once again.

Micklem Sleeping

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 13

"This blog will be accounting for two separate sessions in the 'bottle-neck' swim on Burrows towards the end of summer in 2016".

First Session September 8th 2016

Since my last documented session I'd made two undocumented trips that resulted in blanks. One was completely uneventful, the second is going to be a session that will haunt me for a very long time, let me explain. I arrived at the water mid morning and got both my baits into the usual positions. For some reason I had this feeling that, at some point, I was going to land one of Burrows bigger carp from this area of the water. Why did I think this? - because the swim sees very little pressure, on the day of the occurrence I'd loaded both spots up with bait, even more so than I'd done before. The day was meandering along like normal until around mid afternoon, I got a blistering take on my right rod. As I lifted into this fish I knew instantly that I had something special on the end, it was a dead weight moving at such a pace. I knew I had to keep the pressure on because it was driving towards the sunken posts that were hidden in the water a little way up to my right hand side. I tightened the clutch as much as I thought I could get away with, the rod was locked on its 'maximum curve'. None of this made a blind bit of difference, the fish powered into the posts and ... PING! the line parted. All of the above happened in the space of about 45 seconds to a minute, when the line parted I felt complete and utter sickness leak through my body and take refuge in the pit of my stomach. I knew that I'd lost one of the "big" carp that, for all these years, had evaded my capture on this specific lake.

I know we all have that default setting inside of us that when we lose a fish it's always "the big one", "the monster". Only this time around I knew it was, it took me a good few weeks before the frustration subsided. I think I played the scenario out in my head thousands of times visualising what I should of done and how I could of prevented the fish from getting to the sunken posts. With this occurrence at the forefront of my mind I got back down to the waters edge the following day in the hope that, if I catch another fish, it might just take the sting out of the lost monster. Reviewing the times that the bites had been occurring I decided to head down to the water for midday and fish the afternoon into early evening. A pattern was starting to emerge, bites came mid afternoon, it appeared that the carp had a tendency to pass through the bottle neck later on in the day. My approach was going to be exactly the same as my previous trips, I wasn't going to be changing anything during this little "bottle-neck" stint other than the bait. Today I was back on the tiger-fish, the only slight modification from my last session was a brightly colored fake maggot, a little touch I'd included on my first trip, only today I was going to fish a different colour on each rod. Along with that a small PVA mesh bag with some crushed boilie and a stringer would be slipped onto the hook for the cast.

Colour Combination

Small Mesh Bag & Stringer

Having arrived at the water bang on midday both rods were out within half hour of arriving, due to my previous sessions, I knew exactly where I wanted to place both baits. Setting up and casting out was becoming quite mechanical, both rods went out perfectly and the cushioned 'DONKS' from both casts indicated that I was in the silt. The only hard sections where running central between me and where I'd cast both rods. I saw no sense in positioning both rods on the hard stuff, past captures have show that they clearly like to grub around in the silt. In regards to 'hard spots', I've never quite understood the obsession some people seem to have with them. Just because you find a hard area it doesn't necessarily mean it's a feeding spot. I believe a lot of the time it's got more to do with the fact that hard spots 'in the mind of many' are easy to present a rig on. This is obviously correct, personally, 'unless your fishing a gravel pit', if the silt, clay and weed isn't the nasty stinky stuff, I'd rather put my bait in it, or at least near it. Lots of naturals can be found in those three substances and where there's naturals, the carp aren't usually too far behind. Secondly if everyone is always fishing the hard areas, avoiding them 'could' produce more bites - it's all down to personal preference.

View From The Swim
With both rods and the bait having been deployed there was nothing left to do other than set up the rest of my swim and wait for some action. Sitting there looking over the water my mind kept on replaying the loss of the previous session. I know it sounds stupid but I felt that I'd blown my chance at hooking a 'potential monster' from this swim now. My instinct was telling me that I'd get one chance and one chance only, I'd made up my mind that I'd continue to fish these spots for the next month or so and then I'd head back up to some of my Chelmsford waters. The day ticked on by like any other, the same breeze pushed down through the swim and on towards the muddy double. I knew it was just a matter of time before the fish would follow. Periodically I'd fire a few fresh baits over both rods, I wanted to keep the bait going in. There was part of me that felt that I couldn't actually over feed this specific swim. My attitude towards the baiting was pretty 'Gung-Ho' but I knew that approaching it this way was going to get me results.

Everything remained motionless until around 3' o'clock, I started to get some indications on both of my rods. The bobbins start fidgeting and the alarms where spitting and crackling like encrypted morse-code. They were clearly trying to tell me something, if I was to hazard a guess they were saying, "Paul get into your strike position, a bite is imminent". I got my binoculars out and scanned around the area, I could see clear signs of feeding, mainly over the left hand rod. Just like last time, concentrated streams of bubbles were rising to the surface, when you looked closely you could see the clay/silt intertwined within them. My heart started pounding and as I sat perched on the edge of my seat, waiting, the patches of bubbles started to intensify, it was now very clear that a number of fish had moved in and they appeared to be hoovering up. My eyes were now firmly on the water, occasionally my attention was swayed as my bite alarms gave off a 'crackle and 'hum'.

Morse-Code & Smoke Signals

Second by second the feeding was clearly moving closer to my hook bait, there looked to be a fish literally on top of it. The bubbles inched closer and closer and then they stopped, time stood still and then 'BOOM', the left rod was away like lightning. The 'battle procedure' commenced, the rod hooped round and the clutch started ticking. The fish bolted at such a rate that all the silt and clay around my spot whipped itself up, the mix of the dark silt and emerald green of the water blended together to make a 'chocolate milkshake' like consistency. The fish was ploughing along the shallow margin, propelling itself down towards the muddy double. My line was seriously tight to the left, I had to try to pacify it quickly otherwise the line was going to be at such a tight angle it was going to come in contact with the tree branches down to my left. I tightened the clutch as much as I thought I could get away with, sunk the rod low in the water and applied the pressure. This seemed to work, very slowly, I managed to turn the fishes head, with each 'pull & wind' the carp edged closer. Once under the rod tip it used the deep margins, careering left and right around in a circle and back again. This 'last gasp' lasted for a few minutes before a solid scoop saw the fish engulfed in the net mesh.

This was a beautiful looking mirror, once again the left hand spot had produced, each fish from this specific swim had been unique in its own way. I'm not sure if this was just coincidence but there was a part of me that felt the swim was producing the better fish because they're not really use to being fished for much in this specific area. Looking at the time the bite came, it fell in-between 3:30pm & 4:30pm, that was in the same time frame as the last bite I had off of that rod a couple of sessions back. A few shots were taken, the fish was sent on its way and I got the rod back out for the remainder of the day. As expected, nothing else came along, the aim was to get back down as soon as possible, but it worked out, due to work commitments, it was going to be nearly a month before I could get back again.

Second Session October 5th 2016 

Over the past few weeks work had taken up most of my time to the point where fishing had become a distant memory, it worked out around a month later that I finally had a day to get my rods out. A lot had changed in that time, the remains of summer was now just simple fragments in yesterdays wind and the looming claw of Autumn was starting to scratch the surface of the landscape. Arriving at the water it all became very clear, the leaves were thinning and the familiar shades of brown and bronze were starting to show in the foliage. I do enjoy my Autumn fishing but more times than not I find myself struggling with my mood, some lakes can be inspiring to fish as the colder months move in. However, there are a few waters that I find depressing to be on, I have to choose wisely. When the clocks go back and the dark starts to creep in come 4pm, it feels like the nights last forever. Summer seems to fly by, Autumn and Winter seem to last an age. So with all this mind I sorted my rods out, finished setting up my swim and cast both baits into the 'colder' looking blue. Everything was exactly the same as last time, same rigs, same spots only this time around I was using Green Lipped Mussel as bait. A small mesh bag of crushed boilie was put on the hook for the cast along with a 3 bait stringer. 

Mesh Bag & 3 Bait Stringer

View From The Swim
Both rods went out perfectly, with the slight chill in the air and moody looking skies above. I decided to put my umbrella up, chuck all my kit underneath it, push the chair as far back as I could, spark the kettle up and observe the world from the safety of my shelter. There was a very light breeze on the water, other than that everything looked pretty ghostly. The atmosphere changed greatly as midday arrived, the sun started to poke through the clouds and the slight chill of the morning lifted. I was still reluctant to come out from underneath my brolly, just like all my last sessions, I wasn't expecting anything to happen until mid afternoon. Thinking about it I was putting my money on another bite between 3:30pm and 4:30pm. There definitely seemed to be a pattern emerging, the carp seemed to move through this section later on. That's one of the aspects that I like about fishing the same swim for a certain amount of time. If you stick to the same approach, after two or three sessions, there's a very high chance that you'll start to see a pattern emerging. I was seeing a very clear pattern within this swim, gone were days of wondering if I was going to get a bite, it was a question of 'when' - and to be honest I could pretty much predict when.

Waiting For A Blue Light

After a couple of hours staring at the water I felt like I was under some strange hypnosis, occasionally the odd bleep of a bite alarm would snap me back to reality. Only for a short while though, then, not before too long, I'd be staring into existence once more. It's a strange sort of concentration, I was getting a weird buzz from the copious amount of caffeine that was coursing through my veins. But the buzz was dulled by the remnants of prescription medication - 'downers' that were still haunting my system. All in all I was feeling rather strange, I guess it adds to the escapism that I seek in my angling, 'F**k' the real world, I can do without it. Give me slight disorientation and the prospect of a fish any day of the week. Come lunchtime the sun was bright and beaming down through the trees, the prospect of Autumn that came with the morning felt like a lifetime away. It was around 1:30pm that I decided to apply some more bait to both spots, I wanted everything primed and ready come the magic hour between 3:30pm & 4:30pm. 

Nearing 3pm I decided to get my binoculars out and start scanning the area, everything seemed pretty motionless. Just as 3:30pm approached, completely out the blue, a carp suddenly appeared on the landscape as it jumped clear of the water, literally over my right hand rod. It didn't just show once, it showed multiple times, it cut through the waters skin so smoothly, there was serious "THWACK" as it collided back into the water. I knew that a bite was imminent, there was no way it was going to miss my carefully placed offerings. Five or so minutes past, then ten, as I got my binoculars back out and focused carefully on my spot I could see the bottom was getting churned up. My heart was now in my mouth, checking the time, it was 3:45pm, we were officially within the magic hour, something surly had to happen. As the feeding bubbles intensified and moved closer to my hook bait, the fish surfaced again only this time it wasn't a jump. It looked to cut the surface sideways and then dive straight back down to continue kicking the bottom up. A few liners crackled through my micron DXRs and "BANG" the right rod was away.

View From The Swim Two
As I lent into the fish there was no doubt in my mind that the carp that showed itself was the one that took the hook bait. These poetic moments don't tend to happen a great deal but when they do it's like a strange alchemy of circumstances fuse themselves together. The fish had swam towards me at speed and was using the deep run down the center of the swim to its advantage. Clutches were ticking and rods were creaking, as the fish came in close and started circling it definitely appeared to be the carp that jumped, it was a pale looking common, short and dumpy with a fair bit of depth to it. A minor tussle under the rod tip soon saw it in the net. As I lifted the mesh up a very unique looking carp came into view, yet again this swim had produced another 'grade A' bite. This fish was very strange looking, it was rather short, stocky and circular with a very high back and small mouth. If anything it reminded me of a crucian, it never quite ceases to amaze me the variety of fish living in Burrows. I've fished the place for near on a decade and it still has a habit of surprising me.

The Odd Ball
After returning the fish and checking the time, now true to form, the bite had come exactly as expected. It appeared 3:30/4:30 was definitely the magic hour, I had no doubt. I got the rod back out even though I knew it was going to be uneventful, sure enough nothing else occurred. It didn't matter how early I got here or how late I stayed, it appeared that 9 times out of 10 this was a bite a day swim at most. I'd already decided on my next session that I'd get down for 2:30pm and make sure everything was set to cast out for 3pm sharp. I saw no sense in arriving at the crack of dawn to wait all day for the bite to come when I knew mid afternoon was when the 'transaction' would take place. Come 5pm the feeling of Autumn started to creep over the hills in the distance. The sun died and a chill embedded itself in the air, I decided to stay an hour or so after dark. It was hard to believe that winter was literally a matter of weeks away. I planned to get down for my 'micro-session' in about a weeks time. 

The Art Of Darkness

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 12

Five days had past since my last session, due to the result I'd had on my previous trip I was itching to get back down and pick up from where I'd left off. Waking on the morning of my trip I was met with bright sunbeams spearing themselves through a gap in my curtains. As I pulled the blinds up, those same sunbeams moulded into one giant 'asteroid' of light, it took my eyes a while to adjust. I was still half asleep, there's something strangely satisfying inhaling the air of a new day when you aren't fully awake. After shaking the cobwebs from my head and having to acquire the assistance of two rather large cups of coffee to wake up properly, I started to sort through my tackle. Everything was in good shape, fresh rigs had been tied, PVA nuggets had been replenished and I'd swapped my rods over from my 3IB Ballistas to my 3IB Mirage. The Mirage blank is what I'd call a true 'through action' rod, it's literally a spiritual experience playing fish on them. To go with that, the blank is a lovely chestnut color that has subtle green whipping down by the handle. When I'm fishing with these rods I'm not so much casting but sketching with my rig and bait onto the landscape in front of me. Having amassed a rather large collection of Bruce Ashby & Sportex rods, I find myself rotating what I'm using on a regular basis. Both Bruce Ashby & Tony Fordham rods are something special, each has its own unique action

Mirage 3IB Test Curve

I arrived at the water around 11am, making my way down the woodland path to the 'bottle neck' swim, I was semi apprehensive, I was hoping it was going to be vacant, sure enough it was. Deep down I knew it would be but I seem to have a habit of attracting 'sods law' when I least expect it. The swim looked great, the water was a lovely emerald color and there was an inviting chop coming down from the cages. I had visions of carp hitching a ride on the wind, sailing down the main body of water and then 'squeezing' single file through the bottle neck where they'd come across my bait. I was hoping that all this visualization was going to harvest a result. With my swim set up and my rods rigged and ready for the chuck, I made two measured casts. Both rods were going to be fished around the same areas as my previous trip. The placement was going to be the same, the rigs were also the same. The only thing different was the bait, instead of the tiger-fish I'd opted for 'garlic sausage'. The reason for the bait change was simple, I'd found a small bucket of garlic sausage that I didn't know I had. It's a killer bait and I thought I'd empty the whole bucket into the swim during this session.

The Perfect Day

As explained last time, piling the bait into this specific part of the water made complete sense to me. To attract the carp down to feed, there had to be a big enough spread making it literally impossible for a passing fish to not come across it. There are many occasions within my fishing where I operate on 'gut-feeling' alone, and this was definitely one of those occasions. I got my 'short range' throwing stick out and littered the whole swim with 'garlic sausage'. My confidence was sky high, the conditions looked spot on and I knew that the carp weren't going to pass up the bait, the 'garlic sausage' absolutely stinks. Both rods went out perfectly, there was nothing left to do other than set the rest of my swim up take a seat and watch the day play out. I was going to keep my eyes firmly on the water to see if I could spot any signs of fish feeding when/if they move in.

Bait Positioning
By the time the initial 'faffing around' had been done it was approaching 1pm, realistically I didn't expect anything to happen until a little later on. On my last session bites came relatively quick but that was because fish were clearly feeding in the area when I arrived. I sparked the stove up and got the kettle on, a nice strong cup of 'Colombians' best was concocted and thoroughly enjoyed whilst I sat surveying the swim. There was still a constant breeze pushing through and down towards the 'muddy double', I knew it was just a matter of time before a few fish would be passing through. I got my binoculars out and started scanning the swim meticulously, I was looking for any tell-tale signs that fish were starting to feast on my 'michelin star' offerings. After a good 10 minutes of anal observation it all appeared very quiet. 

Garlic Sausage

Over head the clouds flew through the sky at pace, periodically the warmth of the sun would beat down on my face. I had the whole lake to myself, for the first time in a long time I felt pretty balanced - this is no easy feat. As the afternoon slowly ticked on by I started to receive a few nudges and knocks off of both rods. It was clear that a few fish were obviously moving through, a vague feeling of excitement started to work its way through my body. Scanning the swim again with my binoculars, there still weren't any sure signs of fish action. The liners soon ceased, for good measure I decided to top up the swim with a few more fresh baits. Was I overfeeding? - no I don't believe I was, Burrows has always been a water that I've used a lot of bait on. If I'm fishing the obvious areas, close to the overhanging trees or tight to the margins. I don't tend to use as much because you can pretty much guarantee that carp are going to be patrolling these spots at some stage during the day. On spots that aren't so obvious, open water etc, I look upon creating a feature with the amount of bait I use. There are many waters that I fish where you couldn't get away with doing this, on Burrows I knew I could.

Spearing Sunbeams
The afternoon continued to pass and come 3 o'clock I really felt like something was about to occur. I started to receive liners on both my rods again, only this time they were accompanied by streams of bubbles, mainly over my left spot. Fish had moved in and it looked like they'd come in numbers, multiple patches of silt and bubbles starting breaking the surface. Seconds turned into hours, the left bobbin was fidgeting up and down. I was paranoid that the fish might spook off the line so I decided to slacken it right off. Judging by the positions of the bubbles the carp were mopping up the freebies and were only a short distance away from where I placed my hook bait. I sat with my eyes literally crawling down inside my binoculars, slowly and surely the bubbles edged closer and closer to where my hook bait was sitting, still nothing happened. Had they sussed the rig? Was the bait presented OK? - questions started leaking into my head. And then ...... bleeeeeeeeeeepp !!! the alarm screamed, the rod tip was bending beyond belief and the clutch whizzed. 

Lifting the rod up and turning the handle to engage the bait-runner, the rod arched round into a perfect curve. I balanced my attention between playing the fish and admiring the proper through-action that the 'Mirage' possesses. The carp was powering down using the depth of the water to its advantage, I let it take line when needed and pretty much let the rod do the rest of the work. As I slowly eased the fish closer the reflection of the sun on the water was near blinding, I couldn't see a thing. I slowly peeled some line off of the spool and precariously walked backwards to grab my polaroid glasses, they were just about in arms reach. I then reeled in the slack frantically and continued the task of trying to land the fish. Now with the glare off the water, as the fish came in close, I could clearly see it, the suns rays reflected off its scales. It was a beautiful looking mirror, it had a charcoal grey back, a white belly and scattered scale patterns. Once again it looked like Burrows was going to reward me with another unique looking fish. It slowly tired, slid up on its side and casually drifted across the waters surface into the net. 

A Fine Prize
Once in the net a huge amount of relief washed over me, it was now time to take a proper look at my prize. This was a beautiful carp, the combination of the grey and white, along with the scattered scales gave this fish a very unique look. This was, without a doubt, one of the best looking mirrors I'd caught out of Burrows. After a few quick photos I bid her farewell, I had a few hours left so I got the rod back out. I didn't go crazy with the bait, I applied a few handfuls, set the bobbin and took in the remains of the day. Nothing else occurred, I was happy though, I'd managed another fish from a section of the water that I'd struggled with so many times before. As the sun started to set I got all my gear together and made my way home. My mind was already thinking about my next session - "carp fishing, it's a beautiful obsession".   

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Burrows 'Echoes From The Valley' Part 11

These next set of blogs are going to be accounting for a series of sessions down on Burrows, it's these 'last' few sessions that will see me leave the water indefinitely. Part of me feels like it's a shame to walk away, I've fished the place for over a decade and it's the one place that I seem to have a special connection with. My reasons for pulling off are pretty simple really, firstly, I don't agree with what has been done with all the swims. The banks went from looking rough, ready and natural to suddenly having timber planks and wood chip thrown everywhere, not only that but the addition of a few extra pegs and their positioning has now created plenty of opportunity for stupidity in regards to anglers fishing on top of each other. Along with that, once a few 30's got caught and were plastered all over social media, anglers that usually didn't fish the place came flocking down. Finally, for the first time in ten years, me having two arguments in one week with two pricks who clearly didn't understand the concept of manors. I finally decided that it was best that I moved on and focused my attention elsewhere, when the carp circus comes knocking I've got to find the exit quick.

So let us turn the clock way back, the day of my session pretty much started out like any other. I arrived at the lake nice and early and decided to make my way round to where I'd had all my winter bites from. I was going to keep everything simple, pretty much just mimicking what I'd done all winter. Whilst I was slipping, sliding and wrestling with the barrow, I kept my eyes on the water, down past the muddy double and onward up the path. I came to a stand still to catch my breath opposite a swim that I call the 'bottleneck', this is an area of the water that I've never had much luck from. It use to be a 'hot spot' but over the years it seemed to dry up. Looking down in the edge there appeared to be several  patches of silt that had clearly been kicked up. The water had both the look and consistency of soup, milky looking bubbles still lingered on the surface. Carp had definitely been feeding there, after witnessing this, my plan instantly changed. I was working on the basis that if carp 'had' been there then there's a good chance they might still be in the area. I dipped into my bait bucket, showered the area with some 'tiger-fish', did an 'about-face' and made my way back up the path down through the woods and into the 'bottleneck' swim.
Swim Position 'Birds Eye View'

It was going to be a straight forward approach, I'd place both my baits a rod length or so either side of where I'd seen the silt patches. Any ounce of 'cool' I'd been exhibiting had very swiftly vacated my body, I was in a minor panic, mixed with a crazy excitement. If carp were still about I wanted to be getting my baits out as soon as possible. If today was to end in a fish I'd already made up my mind that over the next few weeks, in between my other sessions, the 'bottleneck' was the swim that I'd focus all my attention on. Just like my winter approach, I'd come down on a regular basis and put my baits on the same spots. With most of the other swims on the lake, you can pretty much guarantee that a lot of different bait will be going in and a lot of different anglers will be fishing all the obvious 'go-to' areas. Because this specific part of the water gets very little pressure, I knew that 9 times out of 10, when I'd come down to fish, this swim was going to be vacant. If I stuck to week days I could 'covertly' get on with my own thing, build the swim up and hopefully get some results. It was all dependent on how today was going to work out.

View From The Swim
Over the weeks that followed, I started to get a feel for the make up of the swim. There's a fair amount going on and I found it interesting. The marginal areas to the right hand side of my spot were surprisingly deep close in and then it gradually sloped down to 8ft, the bottom of the slope worked out to be just over half way across. I wanted to be positioning my bait no deeper than half way down the slope. I wasn't getting any real 'DONKS', it felt like a mix of silt & clay. Directly opposite me where the silt had been kicked up. It was about 3ft close in, about half a rods length out it fell away sharply to 5.5ft then gradually sloped down to 7-8ft. 

The left hand side of the swim fell away in 3 sections, it was relativity uniform close in and had a couple of sloping drop offs until it fell away to the deeper water. I wanted to be fishing the shallow sections of this area, it made no sense in targeting the deeper parts. From the communication I was getting every time the lead 'thumped' on the bottom. It appeared to be to same make up as the right hand spot, which was silt & clay. It's in these situations a deeper sonar would be an amazing tool to map the swim quickly but casting a bare lead about really helps to build up a mental picture. How accurate that picture is, it's hard to say but I feel better having something in mind to work with.

Tiger-Fish With A Fleck Of Color

Now with everything setup and ready to go I made one 'roughly judged' cast with each rod, both landed pretty much where I wanted them to. Having already chucked a couple of handfuls of bait in the swim from the other side, I opted to 'go relatively heavy' and scatter about half a kilo around the whole area. The reasoning behind this was 'instinct' more than anything else, feeling the temperature of the water and judging by the low clouds and atmosphere, I just knew in my gut that the conditions were right to bait heavy. Also from a 'passing thought point of view', I wanted enough bait out there to pull whatever fish might be ghosting around down onto my bait. If they didn't feed here on a regular basis I knew I had to keep the bait going in, with the hope that it would end up being an area that they got into the habit of visiting with the intention to feed. Obviously 'all the above' was wishful thinking but with a little bit of conviction and 'single bloody mindedness' it might just work out.

Long Hairs

Rig Talk

For the last 4 years or so I've been using an extra large rig ring on my blow back rigs. I've been asked a number of times why I do this, I'll explain. I personally think the more movement you give the hook bait the better the hooking potential. Through the years I've both read about and witnessed with my own eyes, carp picking up a hook bait and instead of bolting, sitting there blowing and sucking on the boilie trying to eject the hook. This was something I was told about many many years ago by Graham at Crowborough tackle. He explained that, on one specific local club water called 'Wirgol', the carp had a tendency not to bolt, instead they'd sit still sucking and blowing using the boilie as a tool to dislodge the hook.
To be honest I didn't really believe him and wrote it off as bollocks. This was until I had a very strange occurrence up Wirgol on a session not too long after the conversion. I can see it as clear as crystal in my mind. There I was sitting behind my motionless 'mixed matched' rods with my 45p orange bobbins clipped onto my lines. It was a really bright day, I was using a Richworths boilie called 'Meaty Mix' I can literally smell it as I type these words. I hadn't received one bleep which was hard to believe considering the pond was about an acre in size.

Towards mid afternoon I decided to reel in for a recast, as I picked up my right hand rod I was instantly met with a heavy weight. Whatever was on the end bolted off at pace, my old Sundridge rod was bent over double, not because it was a 'through action', because it was a 'shit action'. Anyway .... after a violent tussle I slipped my first ever fully scaled mirror over the net, weighing in at an awesome 13IB. At the time that was the biggest mirror I'd ever caught, the capture stayed in my mind for two reasons, firstly the size of the fish, secondly the fact that the carp had clearly picked the bait up and hadn't bolted. After what Graham told me I had no doubt in my mind that the fish was trying to ditch the hook, god knows how long it had actually been sitting there trying to do it. This was an experience and conversation that has stayed with me ever since, not all carp are the same but I think some are a lot smarter than what we give them credit for.

Large Rig Ring For More Free Movement

This is when the 5.3mm rig ring came into my mind, I wanted something that would stop the carp being able to use the hook bait to ditch the hook. I've found nearly 9 times out of 10, when you're using a large rig ring that can slide right up the shank and over the silicone kicker. The hair and boilie seem to tangle/lasso around the hook link, thus stopping the carp from being able to get the boilie back in its mouth. The bait basically tangles and stays well out the way. 'The white arrows on the image above shows the direction the bait has a tendency to travel when ejected'. I find this size ring combined with a long hair gives me really good hook holds. This is not in my imagination, I've genuinely seen a massive difference in the quality of the hook holds and I haven't lost a fish due to the hook coming out. Combined with a long hair, I have 100% confidence in this setup.

Back To The Session   

Bait of choice as mentioned before was the faithful 'Tiger-Fish', combined with that I was going to be fishing semi-fixed inlines with bottom baits. Attached to the hook on the cast would be a small mesh bag of crushed boilies, the hook bait would be topped off with an imitation orange maggot. The bait is of a dark tinge so adding a fleck of color might just help to entice a carp into picking it up. To finish off, my hook-links were made up of 'Nash Trigga-link' in 25IB combined with 'Kryston Silkworm' in 25IB. Many will know from past blogs that I love using the 'Trigga-link', I genuinely think it confuses the carp, you can tell by the bites you tend to get on it. You can literally see the confusion in the movement of the bobbin, not only that, if you're fishing for 'cute' fish that use the weight of the lead to try and ditch the hook. I think the 'spring' like quality of the 'Trigga-link' renders the whole 'head shake escape' useless. So now with both rods out I got my brolly up and set my swim out nice and tidy. Looking at the skies above I was definitely in for some rain, it was time to get the kettle on, sit back and hope that the fish that were in the area earlier weren't too far away.

Nice & Secluded In The 'Bottle Neck'
Why do I call this swim the bottleneck?. It's pretty simple really, this is the one part of the water that narrows. In my head Burrows is a lake of three sections, up the far end you have the cages. Then you have the main body of water which narrows through the bottleneck, opening back up at the 'bowl' end where the muddy double swim is located. You'd think that carp would be passing through the bottleneck all the time but, as mentioned before, the only bite I've ever had out the swim has been on a 7ft zig. Maybe they're moving through on a regular basis but they're mid-water, that would explain the zig bite. Also, lets not forget that I only fish days, maybe I would've had more of a result doing nights and longer stints. But as documented many times before, I can't stand camping, my night fishing days are very much behind me. I personally think that you put way more effort into what you're doing when you subtract night fishing out of the equation. I think it takes far more dedication focusing on just days, especially if you're going to be fishing consecutive sessions. I know there can be downsides to 'days only' but on each lake I fish I have to try to find a way to get a result in the time I have available to me.

Fish Feeding
Now with the steam from the kettle spluttering out the spout and the soft 'pitter patter' of the rain lightly hitting my umbrella, I sat quietly gazing out over the water. All the trees and branches were in full bloom, it felt like I was sitting in a strange 'hollow' within a lost woodland. The trees tower overhead and a small gap within the foliage gives you a partially obscured view of the water. As I sat staring out over my swim I started to see some activity, small streams of bubbles started to appear. At first I thought it might've been the mallards, but they were calm and hadn't made any commotion. I got my scope out and took a closer look, there was no doubt in my mind that carp had moved in and were very clearly kicking the bottom up. Now with my eyes fixed on the skin of the water, bubbles were hitting the surface in multiple spots, all the minor explosions were reminiscent of smoke signals. Coinciding with this, my right buzzer was signalling some movement, I sat transfixed, my heart was pounding in my chest, it was resonating in my head, boom .. boom .. boom ... booooom .... sccrreeeaammmm !!!!!. Before I could clock what was happening my right rod was away.

As the fish bolted off, multiple explosions could be seen, it was clear to me that the carp that had been feeding there in the early morning had come back. I lent into the fish, minor euphoria gripped my whole body, from all the years of fishing Burrows this was the first bite I'd had from this swim off the bottom. The fish bolted hard to the right, it was clearly heading for the sunken posts that 
ran up the the right side edge of the swim. You could just see the top of one poking out the water, this carp was firing on all cylinders to try and reach it. I had to put some serious pressure on to stop it, amid the battle I lowered my left rod off of the buzzer and sunk the tip so the line was well out the way. I continued to try and pacify the fish I had on, I'd managed to get it clear of the posts and I now had it 'comfortably' out in the open water in front of me. I started to relax a little, glancing down at my left rod still half sunken in the water, I saw the butt section jolt sharply to the left. Checking where both the fish and my line were, neither were anywhere near the rod. I had an awful feeling that I'd had a second take and I didn't have a second set of arms to land it.

Fish Number 1
I applied a little more pressure managing to get the first bite in the net, once it was safe in the mesh, I rushed to pick up my left rod and wound in the slack like a madman. I kept on winding until the line went tight, turning the reel and lifting the rod up high. It instantly pulled down to my right, I could feel a carp on the end but it had clearly bolted for the posts and succeeded in snagging itself around one of them. I couldn't believe it, I'd had a double take from a swim I couldn't buy a bite from in years. You could just about see the top of the post vibrating and pulsating as the fish was trying to flee. I kept the pressure on for a good few minutes, after which, I couldn't feel the carp anymore, looking at the post, it appeared motionless. I tighten right up, cupped the spool and walked back slowly, stopping for a few minutes as I went. The line was bow tight, pinging like a guitar string, suddenly everything gave way. I'd managed to bend the hook out and get all my terminal tackle back. I was obviously blown away with the fish waiting for me in the net. However having a second take and not being able to do anything about it left a sour taste in my mouth.

A 'Bottle-Neck' Beauty
Lifting the net slightly so the fish came into view, I was met with a beautiful chestnut colored mirror, this carp really was an amazing creature. A couple of photos were taken and I slipped her home, I had a feeling that all the commotion probably spooked whatever carp might have been in and around the area. However I wanted to witness the day 'play-out', this part of the water was new to me and I find simply sitting, watching and thinking about the swim can nurture new ideas for future sessions. Nothing else occurred but that didn't bother me, due to the result, I'd made up my mind that over the next couple of weeks I'd focus solely on this swim. I still didn't think it was an area that the carp fed in a great deal. I was going to approach it 'heavy-highhandedly, I'd 'fill it in', I didn't think a mouthful was going to cut it. If carp were passing through, which I believe they were, then enough bait had to be out there to attract them down. Before leaving I spread a good kilo and a half all around the swim with the plan to come back later in the week and give it another go. This little mission I'd set for myself was going to be a mini marathon, not a sprint.