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.           

Wednesday 8 May 2019

TF Gear Force 8 Rapid Day Shelter Review

"As in all my reviews I'd like to start by stating that I'm in no way connected to Total fishing gear. This is an independent write up that I hope might help you out if you've been thinking about purchasing the Force 8 Rapid Day Shelter"

Many of you that read my blogs will be aware that I'm not a follower of fashion, simply put, I buy things that I like not what I'm told I should like. Nowadays I feel carp fishing is very much 'fashion led' and I get the feeling that many newcomers to the sport are more bothered about what they look like when they're out on the bank, as opposed to understanding and applying their minds to the art of angling as a whole. The longer I'm in this game, '29 years and counting' the more I've come to understand that all the 'extras' that come with carp fishing, the tackle, the bait, the rigs etc are nothing more than distractions. It's the mind of the angler that puts fish on the bank not what bivvy one should choose or big pit reel one might prefer. There's far too much snobbery when it comes to 'brands'. I'm finding some of the major companies are relying on past reputation, many now churning out overpriced tat. I find the less popular brands are the ones producing reliable and reasonably priced gear, this is because many of them still have something to prove.

Moving on to the review, my 'Korum fibre-shield' had finally given up the ghost after many years of reliable service. Korum had discontinued it so I started scanning the internet for day shelters. If I'm not remaining mobile during a session I nearly always like to use some form of shelter, rain or shine, being nestled underneath something adds to the escapism and sanctuary that angling provides for me. Even though I only do day sessions, once I've arrived at the water it always feels nice to setup camp for the day, get my swim tidy and house all relevant items under cover. When I started to think about what I actually wanted from a shelter there were four main points. It had to be lightweight, built well and simple to setup and take down. I stumbled upon the "TF Gear Force 8 Rapid Day Shelter" when I was fishing with my friend Danny. It was a warm bright day and the wind was nuts, Danny disappeared for a few moments and suddenly reappeared again with what looked to be a small lightweight piece of material. With a quick "check this out", he performed some 'hocus-pocus' and within moments we had a home over our heads. I was pretty much sold straight away and I'd made the decision that when I needed a new 'portable fishing home' I'd be looking closer at the force 8.

The Force 8 In Action 
Before I continue I'd like to point out that I'm under no illusion that TF Gear aren't exactly what you'd call a 'trendy/cool' company. I think I'd go as far in saying that they haven't exactly got a great reputation in regards to some of their product lines and I know many out their wouldn't be seen dead using any of their gear. But none of that bothers me in the slightest, I've got to say that I own their trail-blazer barrow, chair, stove and some of their luggage range and for build quality and performance it's without a doubt the best I've owned by a mile. Before I continue I'd like to add that this review is for the 'force 8 rapid' day shelter, this is an updated version of the original 'force 8' that they produced a good few years back. So first impressions, the shelter itself is £59.99 and you get a lot for your money. It's neatly housed within a 'tie-top' bag with a handy shoulder strap. The point I like about this is the fact that the bag is a lot larger than the actual shelter. This means that you don't have to be messing around after a session trying to pack it super tight, you literally roll it up and slide it home. 

Over Sized Carry Bag & Shoulder Strap
The shelter in its rolled up form takes up about as much room as a standard brolly but it's much lighter. Removing it from the bag, it's nicely clipped up tight with a supporting strap, when you get it out you'll notice a mechanism attached to one end, this is the top of the shelter. It's this mechanism that you're going to use to erect it, it's a tidy little design and once you get the hang of it, nothing could be simpler. In the picture below the white arrow is pointing to the mechanism, it's here where all the magic happens.

The Mechanism Situated At The Top Of The Shelter
"I have images below demonstrating what I'm about to describe in this paragraph". To set the shelter up you lift it off the ground 'mechanism first', making sure that all the legs/stems are laying down on the floor. Then you're going to pull the protruding bar downwards 'number 1 in the image below' and clip it onto the long black bar 'number 2 in the image below', bar number 2 creates the shelters peak. From reading up online, some people find this a little tricky, from my understanding, this is because they don't apply enough force to the 'number 1' bar. My advice to you is, don't hold back, nothing is going to break. Pull it down hard and clip it in - job done !.

Clip Bar 1 to Bar 2 - Use Force
Finished Position

Once the main bar has been clipped into place the shelter should've taken shape, the next thing to do is to push the central shaft 'letter A in the image below' into the central part of the mechanism 'letter B in the image below'. Upon doing this you'll hear a "CLICK", once this has been done slide the two small rods forward 'letter C in the image below', this locks everything into place and will ensure the central shaft doesn't come out.

Click Central Shaft Into Place
The above paragraphs make it sound like a drawn out process but the whole procedure literally takes a matter of seconds. The main thing is having the confidence to pull and clip the bars together. Once you've got this down the shelter pretty much puts itself up. Below is a time-lapse video of both the setup and pack down.

Setup & Pack Down

So now we've covered the art of setting it up lets get down to the nitty-gritty. First off, it's made with a very lightweight material, I've fished with it in heavy rain and sunshine and I can confirm that it dries really fast without holding any moisture. All of the stitching is heavy duty especially around the four main pegging points. In regards to the pegs, you do get a bag with the shelter but they're of a very low quality and I'd advise you to replace them. I don't quite understand why TFG would create such a handy product only to supply substandard accessories. You can buy good quality pegs from most tackle shops. Moving on to the shape, to some people it may not look 'carpy' enough to be seen sitting under. Firstly 'carpy' is a stupid word, secondly I actually really like the shape and from an aesthetic point of view it hasn't looked out of place anywhere that I've taken it. The extended peak is a nice touch, it makes the overall appearance quite streamline, not only that, it helps to keep the rain out. Due the the sharp angle on each side of the peak, the water doesn't have anywhere to gather. It simply glides off and splashes to the floor a foot or so away from the front of the shelter, it doesn't drip inward.

Solid Pegging Points
When I was researching the product one of the main gripes I kept coming across was how wobbly and bendy the shelter can be in blustery winds. Due to its shape and design it isn't going to be as stable as a brolly and I've been getting a bit of 'wobble', especially in 'heavy weather'. However this can be partially solved, This next point is important, it's all to do with how you peg it down. When pegging your four main points, make sure you're pulling the shelter tight. Along with these main pegging points you get secondary support cords, you have one on each side and two located on the back. To ensure the shelter holds ground well in strong winds it's vital that you use all of the pegging points available. When the pegging down has been done correctly it should be nice and stable, you will still get a little bit of movement if the wind is strong but that can't really be helped. One down side that, again I find strange, there isn't a primary pegging point located on the back panel, this doesn't make a great deal of sense to me.

Side Pegging Cord
 Back Pegging Cords, No Primary Pegging Point
Moving on to the overall size, there's a surprising amount of room once you're inside. From the outside it genuinely doesn't look like it takes up a particularly large foot print. I've managed to fit it in all of my chosen swims so far and some have been pretty tight. You have plenty of head room and even on a relatively high chair you don't feel cramped. Me and my mate have spent a good few sessions in it hiding from both the wind and the rain, it doesn't feel like there's a lack of room. I would say it's perfect if you're fishing on your own and you want to fit your barrow and other items of tackle underneath to keep it all dry and out of the rain. This is where I think a shelter like the force 8 weighs in slightly over a brolly. As much as I loved my fibre-sheild I always felt I was hunching down, even when sitting and, apart from my seat and maybe my large tackle bag, you really couldn't fit a great deal under it at all.

Force 8 Dimensions
A couple of nice little touches regarding the inside of the shelter, you've got a sewn in plastic ring in the center of the ceiling which you could hang a torch or small light from and you have two sewn in pockets on either side. I've found these useful to keep a catapult, phone, sounder box etc in. Another nice touch is the option to open the back panel, this can be used to improve airflow on hot days or come in handy if you're pole fishing and it's tipping it down outside.

Optional Air Vent
Focusing on the force 8's negative points, firstly as mentioned before, you're going to need to replace the pegs provided, they're really not great. In regards to the design, one aspect that bothers me is the fact that the side panels don't go all the way down to the floor. There's a small gap of a few inches, this is particularly annoying if you've got a cold wind because you tend to get a bit of a draft firing in underneath. From a design point of view I really don't understand why they didn't make sure it went nice and snug all the way to the ground. Not only does the gap prove a drafty annoyance but when it rains some of the water tends to run down the sides and come in underneath creating wet spots, again if the shelter went all the way to the floor this wouldn't happen. One other point, 'mentioned before', is the lack of a main pegging point on the back panel, you have two extra pegging cords but no main pegging point.

In regards to the overall stability of the force 8, if pegged down properly it is stable but it's not solid, I do find that I get a lot more 'wobble' and movement compared to my old brolly, but this is to be expected because of the shape and the height. It's hard to say at this stage how it will fair in proper gale force winds and rain. I personally think it's suited more to less brutal conditions, like spring showers and moderate winds. I can see myself using it as a shelter to get some shade on a hot day, also because it's so quick to setup and take down it would be perfect on a pit or a river if you're going to be roving around. One last thing that I personally thought would of made a great addition would've been a couple of velcro straps to be able to clip your rods into whilst re-baiting or changing rigs. That's something that my fibre-shield had and I thought they were a really nice touch. All in all none of these gripes are particularly huge, if anything it's just me being a little pedantic. But as in all of my reviews I like to give an honest and rounded opinion.

Onsite With The Force 8
So to sum up, despite the odd gripe I actually really like my force 8 shelter, it's super light and super easy to put up and take down. I just really like the idea of having a home from home that you can put up in seconds. As mentioned before, I love the 'escapism' part of my angling and being tucked under a shelter enhances that feeling for me. If you're thinking about the force 8 as an option, you're not exactly buying a super luxurious engineered bit of kit, it's a little 'rough & ready' and it has its weaknesses. But gear is to use and abuse and for the money you can't really go wrong and you ain't going to feel too bad abusing it. I think it's pretty obvious that if you're a self-confessed tackle tart and follow both leading fashions and brands then a shelter like this isn't going to be anywhere near your radar. However if you're the type of angler that doesn't care for fashions and you just want a good reliable bit of kit that doesn't break the bank, then the TFG Force 8 rapid day shelter might be worth looking into. It's a piece of kit that I've already used loads and I'm really happy that I decided to purchase one.

Rating 7/10 

Ideal Application - Protection From Moderate Winds, Rain & Hot Sun