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