Free your mind, the rest will follow...
Ah, that's better, back behind the keyboard telling my tales of catching fish and other such buffoonery. I've missed a few months due to ill health... I went temporarily insane, a sort of mid-life crisis panicking over impending maturity.
The thought of being a 'grown-up' scared the pants off me as I realised my youth was becoming a distant memory. All my churlish stories of scandal, fights and general debauchery had all occurred ten years since and for the past decade I had slowly been evolving into a normal person. Little things started coming to mind; I hadn't been sacked from work, had a court appearance, a one-night stand or even a parking ticket since I couldn't remember when!
I now had a television licence and an M.O.T certificate on the car. I no longer owned a motorbike, and worst of all - no one phoned me on Saturday nights to ask me where the party was at. Slowly but surely the old gang had all but gone; marriages, deaths and imprisonment had all taken their toll. I found myself tut-tutting at impudent youths swearing and spitting and singing loudly at stupid o'clock in the morning as they spewed (quite literally!) out of various pubs, clubs and other assorted dens of iniquity.
My mantle of hell-raiser extraordinaire had been exposed; the king is dead, long live the king...
No... Wait... The king was dying a bit... that was all. I still had what it takes to party all night. I could still pull the birds, I could drink all these young whippersnappers under the table and if anyone needed a pasting I hadn't forgotten how to throw a mean right hook; look out youth I'm coming back to reclaim you!
It was a bitter night in January as I togged myself up in my 'knock 'em dead' outfit, one quick check in the mirror then on with my coat and off to the nightclub.
I should have realised something was wrong as I stopped at the cash point machine and withdrew sufficient funds for the night's entertainment. I had money in the bank! Come to think of it, I had a flamin' bank account!! Before, the usual Saturday night ritual began with me having to beg, steal or borrow enough dosh just to get in the club and get a round in.
As I rounded the corner I saw the crowd queuing to get in, all the girls in micro skirts, all the boys in white tee shirts and none of them looking old enough to drink. I looked down at my sensible shoes and coat then turned for home. It was over...or should have been. I came in the door and shouted up the stairs to my teenage daughter to turn her music down. Bloody Eminem, it's not even proper music, just obscenities shouted to a back drop of computer generated noise. I smiled inwardly as I recalled my mother saying similar things about the Sex Pistols then I recoiled in horror as it dawned on me - I was my mother re-incarnated!!
Young Rodders.. Young 'lock up your daughters‚ wot you looking at' Rodders, was dying, powerless to stop, having his life blood slowly yet purposefully drained by father time.
This should have been 'it' but I was determined to fight the ageing process. I had been fighting against something all my life, full of angst, this angry young man battled with parents, teachers, the police and any other form of authority that dared to cramp my style or enjoyment; this was to be the final fracas.
It must be the frail male ego that drives us to confront the inevitable but it seems none of the more shallow amongst us can avoid giving it a go. (I know all of this appears to have little to do with angling but I'm getting to that bit...honest!)
Over the last six months I have undergone a complete metamorphism from caring father to utter traffic warden-like bastard, hurting those that love me most in a selfish quest to prove I've still got what it takes. There's no fool like an old fool. Luckily I have now come out the other side and save for being disgusted and ashamed at some of my antics I am now happier than I've ever been during my entire life.
Fishing for me has always been my salvation, my bit of space that gives me time to evaluate life and get my sort things out mentally. Sometimes, just trying to overcome the problems of catching a carp that seem unobtainable gives one enough breathing space from life's daily grind to recharge the batteries and set one's mind straight on other issues. This was my big mistake in my 'annus horriblus' - I stopped fishing! My problems seemed so great they dictated my whole life and when I got to the lake I could not think how to tie a knot let alone how to catch a fish. I wrote an earlier article "all fish are caught in the head" and not being one to say I told you so‚... I wont!
Forget miracle baits, state of the art rods and reels, invisible lines or complicated rigs, the real secret to successful angling is a correct mental approach.
Looking back over the years, all my purple patches came when I was in tune with my quarry, instinctively knowing where the fish would be and at what times. I would rarely have a run out of the blue. Carp are a creature of habit and your superior human intellect should give you the edge, as you have the power of reasoning over them. They do the things they do because they have to, driven by a survivalist instinct. We can capitalise on this because we fish for fun, our lives don't depend on it.
I am a great believer in all the old sayings because they have evolved over centuries of behavioural patterns repeating themselves. One in particular, 'familiarity breeds contempt' sits well with my pursuit of the golden scales.
Initially I have great respect for the ageing leviathans on a new pool as I dream of putting a few on the bank or setting a new lake record. But as I learn more about my target fish, study them, then eventually start overcoming them a new feeling of 'lambs to the slaughter' takes over me and the respect diminishes as I put them into the 'stupid fish' category again. Undoubtedly I would have caught more if I could satisfy myself by emptying lakes that I've sussed out, but once that has happened the fun goes and I have to move on and find a fresh challenge - to regain the respect.
During my exile in 'mid-life bewilderment land' I lost the ability to think like a fish. My tackle was the same, known bait and rigs were deployed but the captures and ultimately the confidence dried up; nothing was different but the mental approach.
Often I have gazed in amazement at people sitting in the wrong spot when the fish are having it away literally under their noses as they press on in ignorant bliss. I joined those that didn't have a clue about what was occurring under the water because my head was wedged securely up my own arse worrying about my next birthday instead of concentrating on what I'd do if I were a carp.
Rod Hutchinson wrote in one of his books that with the incredible diversity in all the different baits available, it was inconceivable that carp could like them all and the only common denominator was that with every carp ever caught the rig had involved a hook, thus this must have been what they were all after!!!
I know this was a tongue-in-cheek ploy to get us to think a little more laterally in our approaches to catching fish but the point I took from this was, yes, there are a thousand different ways to hook a carp and all work sometimes but if you can interpret why certain methods and baits work or not at dissimilar times then consistent results can be achieved. Constantly questioning yourself on why you have caught or why you have blanked are equally important. I know weather conditions play an important part in a fish's feeding pattern but don't accept it was too hot/cold or whatever. These lame excuses can all too readily be used to cover up the truth that you just didn't think hard enough about the situation.
They are there for the taking if you believe they are. Tell me of a book that doesn't recount tales of carp that have been spotted feeding under the ice or caught on floaters during a heat wave? Carp grow big because they eat a lot, simple.
There is no sure-fire method to catch a carp; a friend of mine caught a forty-pounder on a single grain of sweet corn fished directly on the hook, but he could fish this method 24/7 until he died (of boredom!) to repeat the feat. He got it right at the time and will get it right again because he changes his approach as the situation dictates. To write of the 'way to do it' is a joke; the answer is there between your ear-holes. Just ask yourself, "If I were a carp, what would I be doing?"