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".