Saturday, 23 March 2019

Braxted Reservoir Part Two 'Escaping The Trance'

The sun was high in the sky and there wasn't a cloud in sight, it was a good day. I had a chance to escape the system/trance for a short while, I'd made the decision to head up to Braxted reservoir, it's a water I like to fish when I don't want to fry my brain thinking too deeply about trying to get a bite. When I first joined CAA the reservoir was a water that I'd get really excited about. It contained a lot of 20's with a large stock of upper doubles. You could always guarantee that you where going to have a great day. Unfortunately in recent years I've found 'the res' has become a shadow of its former self, it's now overrun with hundreds of small carp and they've really effected the biomass of the water. Because the club don't own the fish they can't manage the stock like they did so brilliantly on Cants mere. This blog is from summer 2016, it was around this time that I started to see the waters deterioration. 

After a few more visits during 2016 & 2017, come 2018, I'd pulled off the place all together. As I sit writing this, I haven't fished the reservoir for well over a year, and to be honest I don't plan to fish it again, which is a real shame. But putting all that aside, it feels good to revisit the 'res' having not fished it for so long. A week or so before this session I'd taken a trip down to Burrows for literally a few hours. The session was so short that it wasn't really worth writing about, it was a lovely warm evening and I just felt that I had to cast a line. It was an 'off the cuff' decision that produced an 'off the cuff' common, it was a beautiful carp caught close to a sunken tree. It proves that sometimes it pays off to just go to the water, keep everything as simple as possible and see what happens, overthinking and over planning isn't always the way to go - I was very pleased with this capture.

Short Trip Success
On the morning of my session I felt lazy, I didn't see the point in rushing, the 'res' is good for a bite at most times during the day. To keep my head clear and avoid the possibility of 'thought pollution' I kept both the television and radio off, my wife had gone to work so I opted to eat my breakfast in silence thinking about the day ahead. The windows of both my front room and bedroom where wide open, the sun was beaming in, the net curtains were swaying as the breeze flew through my front window then exiting out the back. In the distance I could hear the sounds of the city, there were sirens, a constant hum of traffic and the occasional rumble as the train trundled along the track that's situated just a short distance away. I love mornings like this, especially when I can get 'the hell outta dodge'. Once the van was loaded I eased my way through the roads of SE7 and down onto the Woolwich road. The traffic was awful and as I looked into the distance I could see that the Woolwich road flyover was jammed right up. 

Living in London, this is the price I have to pay for not getting up at the crack of dawn, from feeling so relaxed I now started to feel wound up. Sitting in a static jam with a thousand exhaust pipes spitting poison, it was clear I needed to get out of the city before it got the better of me. As I looked at all the cars and all the people in these cars staring lifeless ahead of them, I couldn't help but think they were all in the trance that I'd spoken of in my last blog. So here I was desperately trying to escape the system, trapped motionless with a lung full of poison, as me and hundreds of others sat contained in our 'four wheeled' prison cells. I had no choice but to just sit there, silently wishing that those around me would just evaporate. After a very slow crawl I eventually found myself engulfed by the tubular hell that is the Blackwall tunnel, I can't put into words just how much I detest this 'eyesore'.

The Rat Race
Going northbound through the tunnel never feels quite right, I'm heading towards the city and everything gets really claustrophobic. The buildings tend to swallow the sky and everyone is fighting their way through the streets. Coming back southbound has a completely different feel about it, it's as if I'm escaping. Living on the outskirts of the capital is the perfect place to be, you generally don't feel trapped, everything appears more spread out and I have an exit route to the waters literally at the end of my road. Exiting the tunnel and now moving at pace, London was soon a speck in the rear view mirror. I opened the windows of the van and let the warm fresh air blast all the cobwebs of the city out of my ears. The journey flew by and as I turned off the A12 and on to the final stretch to Braxted, I was feeling excited. Pulling into the car park it was practically empty. Taking a quick wander, there were a couple of guys on back lake, front lake was empty.

The Walk Of Doom

Once my barrow was loaded I took a moment to prepare myself for the killer walk up to the reservoir. There's no easy way of doing it, it's a long hike, mostly up hill and just when you think you're getting to the top. You turn a corner and the hill gets progressively steeper, it's at the top of this final slope that the prize awaits and the dam wall end of the 'res' comes into view. As I stood at the peak of the hill I was hit by a lovely warm breeze that was firing down from the shallows, I took a few very deep breaths, I really needed them after the crippling walk. The res is surrounded by farmers fields so the wind can really pick up, when it's warm the carp have a tendency to get on the front of it. I didn't bother walking the water before setting up, I decided to be 'predictable' and fish tight to the dam wall over a heavy spread of bait. It's not brain surgery extracting the carp from the 'res', keeping it simple was the way to go. My bait of choice for this session was the 'tiger-fish', I'd been doing really well on it. Before even setting my rods up I put out about half a kilo making sure I spread it all over the area that I was planning to put my baits. Today was going to be pure boilie fishing.

View From The Swim
Regarding my rigs, I fancied a change, I'd been using my semi-fixed setup for so long. It works fine and I'm 100% confident in it, I just felt like using something different. I decided to revert back to the good old running rig. I feel this specific setup is so underused nowadays, I'd always done well on it. I can't help but wonder if some of the fish living in the more pressured waters are starting to get use to 'bolt-style' setups. I think this is something I'm going to explore over the coming months, when you think about a fishes instinctive reaction to bolt upon feeling resistance. How long does it take for a carp to go against its instincts and simply eject the bait upon feeling the weight. When I first started carp fishing I used the running rig exclusively. In past blogs I've made it no secret that initially I just couldn't get my head around the concept of a bolt rig. I was totally convinced that upon feeling the lead the fish simply dropped the bait and buggered off. Personally I believe this happens more than we think, are those single bleeps really just line bites or has a carp just ejected us, I guess this is something we'll never truly know. In the meantime I think a running setup is something I'll be moving over to.

A Simple Running Rig
With both rods now rigged up I was ready for the casts, I wasn't going to bother clipping up. The area that I'd baited was large, I felt that I didn't really have to worry about being super accurate. I knew that when the fish move in they're 'sure as hell' going to find my hook bait, they have a tendency to be in groups and they seem to feed heavy. Both casts were executed, both rigs plopped into the water and a soft "DONK" was felt as each came to land on the bottom. The make up of the bottom near the dam wall is mostly soft clay and silt, I love this specific area because you can literally see the carp moving in and feeding. You can almost predict when the bites are going to occur, you'll get a mass of 'fizzing' and then all hell breaks loose. Now with both baits in position I proceeded to put out another large helping of tiger-fish. I must admit, I've got to be careful because I find myself getting strangely addicted to using the throwing stick. I get a real sense of satisfaction listening to the sound the boilies make as they whizz out the end of the tube. To aid accuracy I like to give them a dip in lake water, they tend to exit the stick better than when they're dry.

Give-em A Soak

With the rods out and the bobbins clipped onto the lines, I got my swim organized and took a much needed seat. Looking through my scope I could already see some fizzing coming up in several areas where I'd put the bait in. My left hand rod which was positioned slightly further along the dam wall was bleeping and knocking. Within a matter of minutes it was away, I was on it fast and as I lent into the fish it bolted hard up towards some low lying branches. I could tell that this was a good carp, it was heavy, before I even managed to gain proper control, it had bolted under the branches. Everything went solid, as fast as the fish was on, it was gone, leaving me with a sick taste in my mouth. The rig was now very clearly stuck, I suspected there was probably a "get out clause" underneath the branches that the carp use to ditch many an angler. I cupped the spool and very slowly walked backwards keeping the pressure solid and consistent. Further and further back I walked, the mono was literally as tight as a 'military style' tripwire. I kept walking backwards, then ..... 'ping', the rig was free and as I retrieved it, thankfully I'd managed to bend the hook out leaving zero tackle in the water. 

Red Arrow Points To "Get Out Clause"
In my mind this was a false start so, after taking a long deep breath, I tied on a fresh hook-link and propelled the rig back out. Give or take a few inches, it pretty much landed in the same position. I now knew where the fish were going to head if that rod went off again, I decided to lock the clutch right up, I didn't want to be giving an inch. I put some more bait out, concentrating on spreading it right up to the spot the carp had ditched me. With the throwing stick still in hand, my right rod tore away. This fish bolted sharp to the right and headed straight towards the corner. I applied some serious side-strain to pacify its initial run. After an early explosion of energy the fish came in pretty easy. I had a feeling this carp must visit the bank a lot, it literally waved the white flag and jumped in the landing net. I felt slightly underwhelmed, it was a nice surprise to see a mirror engulfed in the mesh, considering most of the carp in the 'res' are commons. Unfortunately it was pretty beaten up, I took a few quick shots, applied some "propolis" to some of its old battle scars and quickly slipped it back.
A Weathered Looking Mirror
I got the rig back out followed by another helping of bait, during all this I'd been receiving liners on my other rod. There were definitely carp in my swim, it hadn't taken them long to move in at all. I reckon due to the wind direction there were fish milling around the area before I'd even turned up. With both rods back out I took a seat and continued to peer through my scope, I could see fizzing all over the place, it wasn't long before both alarms and bobbins were fidgeting like crazy. It was my left rod that was the next to go, the bobbin shot to the top and the rod started to get dragged off the rest. I was on it before 'panic mode' kicked in, the fish shot up fast towards the "get out clause", I managed to steer it away easily, this fish clearly wasn't as large as the 'escape artist' that had imitated 'Houdini' earlier on. It kited right out into the deeper water directly in front of me, I just let it run and slowly eased it towards me. I was enjoying this fight, the fish was frantic but it was a very pleasurable experience, thanks to my "3IB Ballistas". After a spirited tussle I slipped the net under a little silvery common.

Bite Number Two
Before taking a few photos I fired another couple of handfuls of bait into the swim. My other rod was bleeping and knocking so I slipped the carp back quickly just in case it went off, I didn't want to be juggling fish. I got the rod back out, hung the bobbin and sat there peering through my scope. There were clear signs of fish in the area, from a distance the swim looked pretty lifeless. It shows the importance of having a scope or binoculars of some type. I've got into the habit of using 'magnification' most of the time, it's amazing what you can see if you really look, there have been times when I was going to reel in and reposition my rigs, when on closer inspection with a scope, you could clearly see that there were carp in the vicinity. So there I was sitting on the edge of my seat peering through my 'magnification', both rods where crackling with liners. It was tense stuff, I knew a bite was imminent, sure enough my right rod screamed off. Picking it up I suspected this was one of the smaller carp, there was no pull and it was zigzagging all over the place, it wasn't taking any line, I even loosened the clutch just to hear the addictive 'ticking', it came in close and literally jumped into the net. It was another 'weathered' looking fish. For some reason, with each bite that came I was feeling more and more uninspired.

A Uninspiring Third Bite
I slipped the fish back fed the swim some more and got the rig back out. I don't know exactly what it was but I was starting to feel somewhat deflated. This was very odd for me, it was lovely being out on such a warm and bright day but the overall feeling of the 'res' and the fish I was catching appeared to be putting a dampener on proceedings. Even though the session was suppose to be a laid back affair. I couldn't help but think that I now wanted far more out of my fishing than waters like the reservoir provide. I wasn't enjoying catching these carp, it had nothing to do with the size of them, it was the condition that was getting me down. I think the carp in the 'res' are so pressured and many of them have been caught loads of times before, add the amount of small carp living in the water to the equation, and it all just feels a bit crap. The magic I felt when I first fished the place had clearly vanished. Whilst I sat contemplating the situation, my left rod tore off. Just like the bite before, it was shooting from left to right but it wasn't taking any line. Only when it was under the rod tip did it wake up, as it surfaced I caught a glimpse of another nondescript common. As I lowered the net it made a last ditch attempt to escape but was soon engulfed in the mesh.
More Of The Same  
Slipping the fish back I decided to reel my other rod in and stop fishing for awhile, I suspected that a large-ish shoal of smaller carp might be sitting on my bait. The plan was to let them clear me out and hopefully they'd move off, then later I'd cast a couple of singles back out and see if I could tempt a better fish. The large carp always seem to come later on in the day. It was 3:30pm now so the plan was to cast out at 5pm, I put the kettle on, brewed a coffee and decided to go for a walk around the water. I made my way up towards the shallows, looking out over all the fields, there wasn't any sign of another human anywhere, I had the whole place to myself. Just for a second I wondered what it would feel like to own my own lake, it's always been a dream of mine, being all alone with only the water as company, I imagined that both the reservoir and the fields that surround it were mine. I think it would feel pretty special to own your own secret water, you could hand pick the carp and give them a good home, I wouldn't fish it. I'd leave them alone to grow up and have a peaceful life. I imagine time spent watching both the fish and the water mature would be a very cathartic experience. There would be no restraint or control, nature would simply take its course.

Amid The Fields

As I reached the shallows I half expected to see loads of fish milling around, it was surprisingly quiet, I spotted a couple but nothing to really write home about. Sipping my coffee whilst the odd twig cracked underfoot, I felt better just existing by the water than actually having my rods out. Now on the opposite bank from where I'd set up, my swim looked a mile away and the dam wall looked huge. It's amazing how the perspective of both the swims and the water can change depending on where you're standing. I made my way down the bank and onto the stretch of the dam wall, all the branches were overgrown and obstructing the path. I clambered through until my swim was in view, with the mini expedition over I daydreamed and watched the water right up until 5pm. Then both rigs, each with a single hook bait, got launched back into the swim. Now with the bobbins hung and a newly found enthusiasm, I sat static staring across the water. 

The early evening is by-far my favorite time, activity on the water tends to increase and the 'magic-hour', more times than not, tends to produce a take or two. It was dead on 6pm when my left rod ripped away, this was a violent bite, I immediately it was a better fish. As I lent into it my 'Ballista' arched right over, I swear I heard the blank give off a 'yelp'. With the clutch humming, the carp made its way across the open water at a serious pace. This was the first bite of the day that I felt excited about it was pile-driving, left, right and center, I was embroiled in a real battle. With the sun slowly lowering, I was still totally alone with the water to myself, standing connected to a mystery that was minutes away from coming into view. As the carp came in closer, it surfaced, it was a long looking common with a lovely grey back and white belly. Catching a quick glimpse, I was eager to get it in the net, closer and closer it came, it was now in spitting distance of the landing net. After one last run around I was soon netting a beauty of common carp.

A Perfect Fish To End The Day
Once the fish was safe in the cradle I took time to admire it, there was one slightly damaged scale that I treated. Apart from that it was spotless and a solid reminded of why I use to love the 'res' so much. I know that between the hoarders of tiny carp that now inhabit the place, there's always going to be a few secrets swimming around somewhere. I decided not to cast out again, instead I reeled both rods in and slowly packed away. With the sun lower in the sky than it was an hour ago, I took one last look at the 'res', the mallards were fighting and the coots were skipping along the waters skin. I trundled down the hill and onward through the farm yard, the scent of cow poo hit me as I past the the cattle buildings. It had been a strange day, it was only towards the end that I started to feel inspired. I just genuinely feel like I've grown out of the place, it would be November when I'd revisit the res for my next session. In the meantime, in the short-term, I'm going to be heading back down Burrows for a series of sessions where I concentrate all my efforts on a section of the water that I call the 'bottle-neck'.

The journey home was easy, I flew down the A12 at a leisurely pace, I was driving towards the sun, minute by minute it slowly fell below the horizon line. As I edged closer and closer to London I could feel the traffic getting heavier, I could feel the system closing down around me. To avoid the 'thought pollution' I kept the radio off, once home I didn't switch the television on. Between now and the next session I was going to do my best to avoid the 'psychological ball & chain' the media like to put on our thought process. But I knew it was going to be tough, it just a matter of time before both 'the trance' & 'the hypnotists' would do their best to muddy the waters, to continue to divide all of us. I was counting the days till I could, once again, make my escape and leave our engineered reality behind. It turned out I'd be back out within the fortnight, I look forward to sharing the next set of sessions with you. It's and interesting section of water that I focused on with some equally interesting results.     
"When you get the time, cast your lines and break the trance". 

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