I guess when some of us appear in the press, on social media or at slide shows and conferences on a regular basis it’s easy to think life is okay for us and nothing ever goes wrong… Well sadly that is not the real story and take it from me no matter how prolific and well known you are there are often just as many bad times as good times.
So for this festive blog I thought it would be a good idea to tell you what the reality of my 2015 was so that it hopefully puts yours into perspective. It can’t all go right all the time!
Off to a flier
I was off to a great start in 2015, earlier rather than late on my syndicate and even in February was starting to get amongst them on a water that is not noted for its cold water productivity.
Despite freezing cold conditions, sleet showers and ice caught I caught fairly regularly on my overnighters. These initial trips were not expected to produce, I was treating them as an exercise to get my head into gear as much as anything. It served to remind me was that whenever there is a bait out there you are in with a chance no matter how bad the weather or what past form says. Certainly a tick in the plus box and a great incentive to start early in 2016 and expect rather than hope for action.
Second obvious high point for me was the new Citruz pop up range. I got on them early and boy oh boy was that an edge. Having the ability to use a variety of pastel shades or bright fluoro colours allowed me to vary what I fished with and on a number of occasions I had multiple catches on short sessions.
What was interesting was that no single colour dominated overall but on each session one particular colour would stand out then on the next session it would be a different one. Some nights it was pink, some nights white and so on. Food for thought for 2016 and what it did teach me was to have an open mind and fish a variety of colours but be aware if a certain colour was trending that session and make the most of it, not expect it to be the same the next trip.
Up bright and early
Third big lesson was the effectiveness of the Riser Pellet and Slicker Floaters throughout the year NOT just in the warmer months. A number of my waters are deep and weedy and it was clear that the carp were spending a good amount of their time well up in the water. Twenty feet and thick weed made zigs a problem so I concentrated on surface baits and from February onwards I would always feed some floaters when I arrived and incredibly had them taking off the top in all weathers.
The big advantage was that it soon showed me where the carp were and even when the water looked "dead" surface baits would often reveal where I should be. Once I found them up in the water I would target that area with both surface and bottom tactics. This doubled my chances of action and multiple catches were the norm. Something to really take with me into 2016, and maybe you too. Try early floaters on your venues!
On your bike
Another big plus of 2015 was the sheer number of different waters I fished compared to my usual tactic of concentrating on one or maybe two. Getting on my pushbike and riding round my local area revealed three new waters and areas of the local canal holding carp. It made me think more, vary my tactics more and in all honesty stopped me slipping into a rut. I had carp from 12 waters in 2015 which is no mean feat for someone who works full time and has a life outside angling.
Social media gets a lot of stick from some carp anglers but in 2015 for me it was nothing but positive. It allows me to interact with anglers countrywide, in fact worldwide. In the olden days the only way I could help others was writing in magazines, giving slide shows and letter writing. I still get plenty of letters but the ability to respond via social media has made it easier and far quicker. From multi rigs to groundbaiting, DVD giveaways to personal appearances it has been a godsend and the sheer amount of thankyous from anglers benefitting has made it a big plus of 2015. Giving back is massively important to me and Facebook (Julian P Cundiff) and Twitter (@juliancundiff) has allowed me to do more efficiently than ever.
And of course 2015 wasn't just carp fishing as I got to spend more quality time with my Dad, got engaged to my lovely fiancee Roz, met KISS, Motley Crue and The Darkness and managed to lose over two stone biking round the local countryside on my Urban Banx adventures. Lots of lovely memories.
At the start of 2015 I was given a heads up by the guys at Nash that The Key was a little bit special. I'd already committed myself to the 4G Squid and although it caught me hundreds of carp I can't help but feel I missed a trick not getting on The Key.
As a friend of Simon Crow I know that he is no hype artist and when he tells me it has been the most effective bait he has used (and his results back that up) I know I made a mistake not getting on it. I thought The Key would be more suited to the big fish approach but the reality is that it’s suited to all waters. It seems to be one of those rare baits that carp actually search for and yours truly wasn't on it when he could have been - I won't make that mistake in 2016.
You won't fail to have noticed that the public sector has been hit hard by austerity cuts in 2015 and sadly that meant the Courts I work at were hit hard. Having to work all round North and West Yorkshire meant my overnighters were badly affected and a lot of my fishing had to be at weekends and short sessions before and after work rather than fishing all night. Very frustrating and it really hit my fishing hard.
One day at Northallerton and the next day in Bradford meant I couldn’t get into a routine which frankly did my nut in at times. I am by design a campaign angler grinding away at one or two waters and it works for me. At no stage in 2015 did I ever feel on top of any water I was fishing which made me more of an opportunist than I really wanted to be.
If that wasn't bad enough then the biggest kick in the teeth I hadwas from my beloved Church Lake, Kevin’s amazing water in Essex. Living over 200 miles awayand not wanting to take advantage of Kevin’s generosity I have not fished the water since 2012 when I had some amazing carp to just under 50 lb.
My first trip was postponed at short notice when the day before my trip Dad managed to total his car when coming back from a trip to Macclesfield. Thankfully he survived to tell the tale unlike his car which was written off. Trip two nearly got underway until I managed to almost slice my finger off the night before the trip. Not only did I sever a tendon but I managed to end up in hospital overnight. What a dipstick - I couldn’t even drive never mind wind a reel or cast a rod out!
Luckily trip three did take place and although conditions were poor with a cold north easterly wind at least I'd got there in one piece. With two other anglers present I set up in The Pylon swim and attempted to get my head round it all. I had one angler to my left and one to the right so the chances of moving were limited. A bit of leading around revealed a lot of weed in front of me with few clear spots. Two hours of leading revealed three clear areas no bigger than a dustbin lid. I decided to bait each area heavily with 4G mush and then sit back and wait.
Conditions were not good and it looked like I'd be scratching for takes so once in position they were not going to be moved. Two hours later the right hand rod was away, I got the fish under control and after ten minutes it was feet from my net. Down to my underwear, wade in to net it.....and it fell off....
Few losses in my life I remember but that one hurt, really hurt. Needless to say it was the only chance to any of us and that 200 mile trip home was a grueller.
The scourge of carp anglers far and wide struck a number of my local waters in 2015 – otters. They are a massive threat to all anglers and three of my waters did have problems. Two managed to resolve the issue but seeing fish I had once caught dead on the bank with their stomachs ripped open quite frankly sickened me. I could never imagine NOT fishing but if anything could make me give up it’s these things.
The final issue that I never got to grips with in 2015 was a rig to fish bottom baits with that I have the SAME confidence I have when fishing pop ups on my multi rig. On a number of occasions when I have had carp feeding hard on mush in shallow water I have had to change from pop ups to bottom baits to get takes but in all honesty I never feel as confident. Much will be to do with my confidence in the multi rig but that’s no excuse. With 2016 looming and The Key and Cultured Hookbaits being my choice I definitely need to get to grips with bottom bait rigs, and soon!
So there you have the ups and downs of 2015...Not a red letter year nor a disaster but what is important is that I have recognised my strengths and will fine tune them and also recognise when I have got things wrong and need to change things around. From experimenting with bottom bait rigs, to potentially changing my place of work to finding a water closer to work here’s hoping 2016 is even better for me. And you too!