Sunday, 25th.November 2007
The Willow Pool, Faversham, Kent
I have in my possession an old wooden Nottingham ‘Star-Back’ reel which is getting on for 75-80 years old. My father used it – and taught me to fish with it, and his father used it to teach him in the years leading up to the Second World War. To say it has more than a sentimental value to me is an understatement.
For many years my father followed my carp-fishing career and once or twice even came with me – but unfortunately we were never able to catch a carp of which my father had the greatest esteem and respect for in those days. Carp to him (and virtually the rest of the angling world) were thought to be nigh-on impossible to catch up until the mid-nineteen fifties – early sixties or so. It was my dearest wish that one day I would be with him when he caught his first ever carp; sadly this was never to be before he died of lung cancer, two days after retiring from work..........
Every so often I pick up this reel and turn it in my hand. The feeling of knowing my father and my grandfather (whom I never knew) used it to enjoy some of the memorable moments of their lives is both satisfying as well as upsetting in that I was unable to share those moments with them. To have been with my father when he could have used it to catch his first carp would have filled me with utter joy.
I decided therefore that if neither of them could now fulfil this objective – then I would go and do it for them with the very reel that is the everlasting connection between all three of us.
Sunday – late morning
Keeping ‘gentleman’s hours’, I arrived late in the morning and set up in Peg 2, starting off with the pole with the intention of going onto the float-rod later. The weather during the week had been very cold with sharp frosts and temperatures hovering at, or below zero in the morning; fortunately, the Saturday was milder and I hoped the rise in temperature would bring the fish on the feed. I firmly believe that in even the harshest weather, fish will be caught from the Willow Pool – it is absolutely stuffed full of fish – far too many in fact, and I expect the club who control it will have to carry out a certain amount of ‘thinning-out’ to create a more ‘balanced’ environment. Although healthy, the fish seemed not to have grown at all since I last fished it almost exactly one year ago.
I started catching from the off. One cup of pellets were introduced via a ‘feeder-pot’ and a single pellet was fished on a size 18 Tubertini. The pellets I had ‘pumped’ the night before and left them in my bait-box covered with kitchen towel to stop them going soggy. This seemed to work well and a nice rubbery bait was the result.
Peculiarly, it was carp all the way, one after another, each fish burying the float in a most confident and satisfying manner. They were typical of the Willow Pool carp being all shapes and sizes, from little four-inch babies up to fish of a couple of pounds or so. I even had some ornamentals including this koi-like sample.
By mid-afternoon I’d had enough of this carp-fest ‘fix’ and put up the float outfit.
The rod was a John Wilson Avon (Quiver) rigged at thirteen feet, coupled with the old Wooden reel which was loaded with 5lbs. Bs Maxima. To this I tied a length of 0.1 mm. Preston Powerline using a four-turn water knot, a pole float was fixed waggler-style using a drennan ‘quick-change’ adaptor and a combination of no.8 shot and no.10 Stotz completed the rig.
The reel looks (and feels) like a right old warrior. Damaged at some point in its history, my father had attempted to repair it using some Duralumin on the back – a functional if unappealing replacement to the brass ‘starback’ which had obviously fallen foul of my father’s notorious clumsiness! The reel arbour rotated however – albeit noisily, the steel spindle I suspect having been straightened more than once in its life, but as I screwed it to the rod, I couldn’t help recalling the picture of my grandfather William fishing with it at the Hampton Court Longwater – somewhere around 1930 or so. It is an image which will (and does) remain with me always.
As I lobbed the single grain of corn a rod-length out and scattered a few grains around the float I imagined my father and granddad William getting as excited as I was............ I didn’t have long to wait. The little float buried, I struck and felt as if I’d hooked the bottom, and steadily the little reel began to revolve as the little carp sped off across the pool. Although the event was entirely unremarkable in its execution, and indeed is something emulated and repeated by millions of anglers up and down the country, the symbolism for me was both poignant and satisfying.
As I lay the fish on the grass, I secretly hoped that they were pleased that the little reel that we have all used in our time had at last landed the fish for which they held such regard. Certainly, carp are not valued as highly now as they were in my father’s and grandfather’s day – but a carp’s a carp as they say.
I feel chuffed to bits!........