Ur­ban Banx – Un­der­wa­ter

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Alan Blair

If you ever get an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing in life, whether it is to jump out of an aero­plane, or race a car around a track, you should al­ways take those op­por­tu­ni­ties. Re­cently, one such op­por­tu­nity was pre­sented to Alan – would he like to learn to dive?

If you ever get an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing in life, whether it is to jump out of an aero­plane, or race a car around a track, you should al­ways take those op­por­tu­ni­ties. Re­cently, one such op­por­tu­nity was pre­sented to Alan – would he like to learn to dive?

“Hell yeah, of course I would! Whether we then made an un­der­wa­ter film or not from the ex­pe­ri­ence was ir­rel­e­vant, I was al­ways go­ing to take the op­por­tu­nity.”

Talk­ing specif­i­cally about Ur­ban Banx for a minute, I do be­lieve that Kevin, my­self and all the lads in the me­dia team go above and be­yond and try and do things our own way. Whether that is with prod­ucts like Scope, or just the ef­fort the lads put in to the qual­ity of the videos, or the mu­sic we use, we try and do things true to us. The first few episodes of Ur­ban Banx were great. The con­cept gath­ered mo­men­tum, they were de­vel­op­ing, and evolv­ing, each time. Get­ting longer, vis­it­ing more venues. How­ever, it cer­tainly felt to me that it was be­com­ing a bit ‘samey’. I would pick a lo­ca­tion, go to those venues and then de­ploy very sim­i­lar tac­tics each time. As much as no one has ever turned around to me and said “It’s a bit bor­ing Al, you should try and switch it up and do some­thing dif­fer­ent” – be­cause of the way I am and how the busi­ness is run, I’m al­ways think­ing about how we can push the bound­ary a bit fur­ther, how we can do some­thing dif­fer­ent. I didn’t want Ur­ban Banx to be­come stereo­typed as go­ing to a park lake with a choddy, and throw­ing some bread in the duck feed­ing area. It was be­com­ing all too fa­mil­iar for me and I was fear­ful that per­haps oth­ers watch­ing would think the same.

So we de­cided with this episode to still make it an UB, but with a spin re­lated to me learn­ing to dive. I had done it once be­fore when I was very young, in a swim­ming pool, but I can’t re­ally re­mem­ber much about it so it was still in ef­fect, all brand new to me. Peter and An­drew came all the way down to Nash and gave up their time to teach me. Af­ter a cou­ple of hours on safety and un­der­stand­ing the equip­ment, they started off by throw­ing me into Nashy’s swim­ming pool.

Straight away I felt right at home. I didn’t feel in­se­cure or un­safe at all. Hav­ing since spo­ken to a few peo­ple ap­par­ently it’s some­thing some peo­ple strug­gle with ini­tially, whether that’s reg­u­lat­ing their breath­ing or feel­ing claus­tro­pho­bic. It’s very un­nat­u­ral. Any­way, I im­me­di­ately em­braced it and loved ev­ery minute. That same day we also dived in Kevin’s new lake, which was tap-wa­ter clear. How­ever, it was Jan­uary and it was freez­ing cold. I didn’t last long – 10 min­utes at the most, but I had com­pleted my first lake dive.

An­drew and I then talked a lot more and de­cided that we could po­ten­tially tie th­ese two things to­gether – the div­ing and un­der­wa­ter film­ing. We dis­cussed a num­ber of dif­fer­ent venue op­tions and de­cided in the end to go to a venue that An­drew has dived many times. It is close to his home, and it’s some­what of an ur­ban jun­gle down there. I went down on my own and did two fur­ther days div­ing with An­drew and Peter. I ut­terly loved swim­ming around in the lake and look­ing at all the un­der­wa­ter struc­tures. I even bumped into some carp, and each time I was im­prov­ing, lis­ten­ing to their guid­ance. I had re­ally started to feel at home. A date was de­cided and Oli, Lewis and Dan came down and we de­cided we were go­ing to have a go at mak­ing some sort of un­der­wa­ter div­ing film.

Now Korda ab­so­lutely own the un­der­wa­ter film­ing. It would be im­pos­si­ble to come and repli­cate the in­cred­i­ble stuff that they have done over the years. At no point did we ever think “Let’s go and make a Nash ver­sion of Korda Un­der­wa­ter.” That’s not what we were try­ing to achieve. Know­ing some of the lads that work there, I know the in­vest­ment in time and re­sources that Danny has put into it. It’s as­tro­nom­i­cal! It cer­tainly wasn’t like rock­ing up at a lake, throw­ing a cou­ple of

cam­eras in the lake and hop­ing for the best. It’s a ma­jor drain on staff time, as well as the cost of the equip­ment. Film­ing eight parts re­quires mas­sive ef­fort and de­ter­mi­na­tion and they ab­so­lutely de­serve ev­ery credit. We just wanted to have a lit­tle play by com­par­i­son, and we are very lucky that Marc Voosen has his own per­sonal un­der­wa­ter cam­eras. Pulling a few re­sources to­gether – An­drew and Peter for the div­ing, Marc Voosen with the cam­eras – and the fact that we wanted to pro­duce a slightly dif­fer­ent Ur­ban Banx any­way, the pieces of the jig­saw started to fall to­gether. I’m for­ever the op­ti­mist, but deep down I knew we ran a huge risk of it not work­ing out on such a lim­ited time frame. Get­ting a bite in 48 hours would be hard enough in early spring, let alone in front of a cam­era. With two boats out on the wa­ter, and three of us un­der­neath it, div­ing and cre­at­ing all that dis­tur­bance, there was ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity that it wouldn’t work out and that when we did fi­nally put cam­eras down there, that we would sit for hours and hours with no carp in the area.

With­out go­ing into mega de­tail, as I hope you have all watched the film, there were a few high­lights for me. First of all what was down there. We can all chuck a marker float, or a bare lead out and have a feel around, but un­til you see it first­hand you can never truly ap­pre­ci­ate where th­ese carp live and what they have to do to sur­vive... For me that was ab­so­lutely fas­ci­nat­ing!

Hav­ing spent the last two years us­ing an un­der­wa­ter cam­era in my fish­ing any­way, I was al­ready pretty clued up on the un­der­wa­ter en­vi­ron­ment, but when you are ac­tu­ally swim­ming around in it your­self, find­ing areas that the carp have cleaned off, find­ing areas of silt where the bot­tom had been dug out and moulded by feed­ing carp, and ac­tu­ally bump­ing into them face to face – that was just in­cred­i­ble!

Then we went through the stress of po­si­tion­ing cam­eras down on those spots which looked most likely to have been fed on re­cently, which was hard graft. Things went wrong, cer­tain cam­eras didn’t work and the tech­nol­ogy wasn’t with­out its bugs. How­ever, much later than we planned, we had man­aged to po­si­tion three cam­eras with rigs in front of them, and a per­fectly ap­plied spread of bait around them. Bear­ing in mind this is all on day one, for us to set­tle down in the gazebo and flick on the screen and be sit­ting there for less than 15 min­utes be­fore the first carp ap­peared in front of cam­era, was an amaz­ing buzz. At that point I could fully ap­pre­ci­ate how it felt for the Korda lads, and just how ex­cit­ing it must have been for them to see the rig and the carp...

I do a lot of stalk­ing, low­er­ing rigs in the edge, etc. and so I know what the buzz is like when you have a hook­bait in po­si­tion and a fish ap­proach­ing it. It is for me, the pin­na­cle of an­gling. So to be do­ing it in this sce­nario, where we were all gath­ered around the screen, watch­ing, wait­ing for that mo­ment when a carp would po­ten­tially pick up the rig, was in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing. The day wore on and a num­ber of carp vis­ited the spots. There were a num­ber of close calls where fish came in and kissed the bait, but no proper pick-ups.

One of the spots had been com­pletely cleaned off by the rav­en­ous pop­u­la­tion of bream. It’s worth point­ing out here that there had been nu­mer­ous bream feed­ing there for hours but in this par­tic­u­lar in­stance I wasn’t get­ting picked up, which would have been a dis­as­ter. Just by us­ing a big hook and hook­bait, I avoided catch­ing one. If you fish with a 20mm bait on the hair you will still catch the odd bream, es­pe­cially where there are larger ones. You can’t to­tally avoid them. Dur­ing the night I had five on 15mm pop-ups fished in the silt where we didn’t have a cam­era – but for sure, it shows that the big­ger the bait you use, the less chance of be­ing plagued by them con­stantly.

What was equally as in­ter­est­ing on this spot,

was that we didn’t put a great deal of bait out – pri­mar­ily flaked boilie, with a few whole ones and a bit of hemp, and a lot of liq­uid Scopex Squid syrup and boilie dip. For at least four hours the bream ham­mered it, and even­tu­ally they drifted off. In their eyes it was done and there was no bait there. Peace de­scended and then about half an hour be­fore dark we watched carp come in on the spot and hap­pily feed. There was some­thing that still at­tracted them – maybe it was the residue of boilie dust be­tween the stones or as I per­son­ally be­lieve, the food-based parts of the liq­uids that had seeped into the lakebed. If I had fished straight boilie there the bream would have come in, cleared the spot and there would have been no at­trac­tion left what­so­ever. By putting in the dusty flake and, more im­por­tantly plenty of liq­uid, it left at­trac­tion on the spot which drew in the carp af­ter the bream had gone. That was in­ter­est­ing to me.

An­other in­ter­est­ing point that was played out within the video footage, was the im­por­tance of light lev­els and feed­ing times. You of­ten read about, or even ex­pe­ri­ence in your own an­gling, how the best time is at first or last light and this was ex­ag­ger­ated by hav­ing the un­der­wa­ter cam­eras down there. Dur­ing full light, yes the odd carp vis­ited, but they hardly fed. When the light lev­els started to drop they came in and de­stroyed the spots. That’s some­thing to take away for all of us, just how crit­i­cal it is to fish to the bite times. That will pretty much al­ways be the first hour of day­light and the last half hour into dusk.

To ac­tu­ally get a bite on cam­era was a huge high­light but we did ac­tu­ally nearly miss see­ing it at the time. We were out on the bank with­out mains power and were re­ly­ing on bat­ter­ies. Be­cause we were con­stantly flit­ting be­tween cam­eras on the screen, and pe­ri­od­i­cally chang­ing the bat­ter­ies for the screen, there were short pe­ri­ods when we couldn’t mon­i­tor the rigs. Dan was ac­tu­ally chang­ing the bat­ter­ies for that par­tic­u­lar mon­i­tor and by sheer chance clipped on the bat­tery and flicked on the screen to be greeted by the sight of a carp shak­ing its head with the hook bait hang­ing out of its mouth. I know he still buzzes about that to­day. It was a mas­sive high­light for him and in­deed all of us. So we got a bite on film. It’s a mo­ment I will never for­get. It may have been a mid-dou­ble com­mon, and I have caught thou­sands of those in my life­time, but the way it was caught and the huge team ef­fort that went into catch­ing

it and that mo­ment, will make it a fish that I will never for­get. We didn’t have weeks to pre­pare, and we weren’t go­ing to come back if it didn’t hap­pen – it was a one shot deal.

That is the same with all the stuff that I do, whether it be Eurobanx with Oli, or the Ur­ban Banx stuff. We have had com­ments in the past where peo­ple have said “That can’t be pos­si­ble. You can’t just turn up at a venue and in half an hour catch a fish like that!” We do. And in this case we turned up with a div­ing crew, film crew and boat sup­port, dis­turbed the lake im­mensely and still man­aged to get a bite in front of the cam­era – and that’s how it is! Be­lieve it or not, that’s what hap­pened. For all of us it was a mas­sive achieve­ment and it was some­thing very dif­fer­ent for me. It wasn’t real fish­ing, any­thing but! Give me two days to go fish­ing and I would have done it com­pletely dif­fer­ently, fish­ing much more dis­creetly and I’m sure I would have caught more. If I hadn’t been catch­ing then you can be sure that I would have packed up and moved to an­other area of the lake, or an­other venue al­to­gether, look­ing for other op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The video ex­ceeded 100,000 views just a week af­ter launch and it has had mixed re­sponses. Of course you can’t please all the peo­ple, all of the time. My dad tells me it’s the best he has ever watched, and he is of a to­tally dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tion. He’s un­sure about the ‘dum dum dum’ mu­sic, and tells me I run around too much! For me it wasn’t the great­est ad­ven­ture in the heart of a big city, but dif­fer­ent is good...

Luck­ily for me ev­ery­where you go there are park lakes and here was no dif­fer­ent, so for the sec­ond part of the film I vis­ited a park lake just a bar­row push away from Wal­row. I had a day to go and do a bit of my own type of fish­ing on this lovely park lake. Fish­ing off the bar­row I set about try­ing to find some fish. The first area I stopped at looked good. How­ever, I got sucked into the trap of it look­ing like where the fish should be rather than where they ac­tu­ally were. I had a cou­ple of big is­lands, com­plete with tasty look­ing over­hangs. There was a big tree down the mar­gin, and big reed beds. It looked like the per­fect place to start in the morn­ing, and there were a few fish there. There may have been a few in the area at the start but they quickly dis­persed, and as the sun came up I de­cided I needed to go and find them. I walked to the other end of the lake to the back of what was a strong wind. It was a bit calmer and I found carp up there in de­cent num­bers, prompt­ing me to pack up and move im­me­di­ately. It was mid-

morn­ing and the sun was blaz­ing. It felt warm, but it was show­ery, and we had a cou­ple of tor­ren­tial down­pours that drenched us all.

My first tac­tic was low­er­ing a cou­ple of chod­dies in the edge where I could see fish in the reeds, and this got me a bite very quickly from a typ­i­cal, ‘cricket bat’ park lake com­mon. Lovely!

The bak­ing sun soon had the fish up on top and I switched to zigs and knocked up a sloppy mix. It took a few at­tempts to work out what they pre­ferred – which was the hook­bait laid out on the sur­face, rather than just un­der, and I nicked two bites in quick suc­ces­sion. One was a small lin­ear, the other a beau­ti­ful scaly mir­ror, which is part of the rea­son I love th­ese parks. You just don’t know what you are go­ing to catch!

The rain fi­nally sub­sided and the sun re­ally came out, and I switched to floater tac­tics. The fish were quite finicky, and with the blus­tery wind blow­ing the bait all over the place it was quite hard to keep them con­cen­trated in one area. The carp ended up quite widely spread, feed­ing over a

strip of 100 yards. I de­cided to sim­plify things and try and fish close-in where I could reg­u­late the feed bet­ter, to try and stop the fish from feed­ing over such a wide area.

The bank­side cover was keep­ing the first 15 yards of mar­gin flat, but af­ter that there was quite a chop on the wa­ter fur­ther out. I fed bread in the slack wa­ter, keep­ing ev­ery­thing close, got some bet­ter fish feed­ing and by sight-fish­ing and pick­ing off the bet­ter fish, I ended up catch­ing two lovely com­mons on my favourite method, us­ing the bread bomb, to end the trip.

It’s al­ways nice to try some­thing new but if there had been no un­der­wa­ter cam­eras, then ul­ti­mately that is what I would end up do­ing out of choice... run­ning around an un­fa­mil­iar town or city, with a loaf of bread, a Sawn-off and a Bread Bomb. You just can’t beat it!

BE­LOW It was this big... That same day we also dived in Kevin’s new lake, which was tap-wa­ter clear. How­ever, it was Jan­uary and it was freez­ing cold. I didn’t last long – 10 min­utes at the most, but I had com­pleted my first lake dive

A sou­venir re­trieved from one of the un­der­wa­ter fea­tures, and like ev­ery­thing else down there, it was ab­so­lutely cov­ered in mus­sels ABOVE

ABOVE RIGS WERE SIM­PLE AND ef­fec­tive. Slip Ds with big baits to de­ter the BREAM POP­U­LA­TION

ABOVE Just a hand­ful of bait was placed by each rig. It con­sisted of whole and FLAKED BOILIE, GLUGGED IN THE MATCH­ING LIQ­UIDS, ALONG­SIDE A LIT­TLE HEMP

LEFT I used a white ‘top­per’ TO HELP THE HOOK­BAIT stand out on the LAKEBED

We laid on a proper spreadINSET


This com­mon, a mid-dou­ble, will be a mem­o­rable one. It was a job done! ABOVE

Right on dusk, we got the bite we so badly wanted BE­LOW

RIGHT Bailiff Lee, with a lovely com­mon from the lake

ABOVE The next des­ti­na­tion was a nearby park lake

LEFT I got the zigs out af­ter the fish ap­peared near the sur­face

LEFT Feed­ing them closer in, I got the Bread Bomb out

ABOVE An in­cred­i­ble mir­ror and one of the rea­sons I love park lakes so much

MID­DLE LEFT Af­ter a move, I was quickly in the thick of the ac­tion

LEFT I put some Spod cloud out into the swim to get the fish feed­ing and com­pet­ing with each other

TOP Nailed!

ABOVE An awe­some brace of com­mons to end a hec­tic day and a great trip

ABOVE Soon I was at­tached to a bet­ter-sized fish

RIGHT Time to go home

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