There are very few truly natural stillwaters in the UK; the great, brooding, lochs of Scotland or the vast watery expanses of the Lake District are the exception, not the rule, but when man gives nature a "helping hand" and then takes a step back, the artificially created can take on the appearance of the natural, and nature can reclaim for Arcadia what human hands have formed. Admittedly, some commercials, although not many, are beyond redemption (I once fished a "snake lake" where every peg had its own circular island at 9 metres, a convenient pole-fishing distance, from the bank, which viewed from above would have looked like croutons floating in a soup of muddy water), but, given time, most waters can mature and acquire a beauty of their own, as is certainly true of the small pond that I fished for the first time today, dotted with lilly pads, bordered by trees and with a backdrop of the patchwork quilt of fields that are a defining feature of England's "green and pleasant land."
I was joined by regular fishing companions Pete, Roger and Paul, and for me and Roger the day was to have a traditional theme, with split cane being wielded and vintage reels pressed into service. Pete's approach may have had a more contemporary feel to it, but that in no way diminishes his ability to appreciate the poetry of the place, and who are Roger and I to argue - Pete invariably catches more than us, our aesthetic sensibilities no match for his application and attention to detail. As for Paul, he recently turned 72, so there is a case to be made for he himself being classified as vintage, irrespective of the tackle he chooses to employ.
The weather (no English fishing report can be deemed complete without some meteorological reference) was mostly benign, the temperature mild, with alternate sunny spells and very light showers. Roger and I fished one corner of the small (probably just under an acre) pond, with Pete and Paul diagonally opposite us. My swim had an extensive pad of lilies to my left and clear water straight in front. A split cane carp rod and Mitchell 300 were pressed into service, and a boilie cast to the edge of the pads. Meanwhile, leaving the carp rod to "do it's own thing" (heresy of heresies: perched atop a modern bite alarm!), I plumbed the depth and flicked a tiny porcupine quill taking just four number 6 shot half a rod length out, with double red maggot on an 18 hook, 3 pound bottom and 4 pound mainline. Fish, although not prolific, were plentiful, and soon the four of us were catching fine quality roach, such as the one displayed below alongside the Rodrill Kite rod and Allcocks Record Breaker reel responsible for its downfall.
Roger was giving debuts to his newly acquired split cane float rod, which he paired with an also recently purchased vintage Intrepid fixed spool reel.
The roach were of a good average stamp, and tended to visit the bank in little bursts, three or four fish and then a period of inactivity, but in between times we were plagued by voracious but tiny little perch, beautifully marked but pitifully small, an example of which sits in my hand in the photo below.
I managed several quality roach, and posed for the occasional "grip and grin" as in these examples, but the enjoyment of the day comprised of far more than just the fish. The company was, as is a "given" with this crowd, excellent, the surroundings serene. The serenity of the lake's setting, and the view, along with the, mostly, compliant roach, were an antidote to the busyness of the last few months, and a pleasing "calm before the storm" as we prepare to move house and for me to begin a new role, no longer as a Parish vicar, but in a "Head Office" position working across the Anglican Diocese of Leicester.
After hours of silent inactivity, my bite alarm sounded and a carp powered off in determined fashion, I held the fish hard (possibly too hard), and several times turned it before it could reach the sanctuary of the pads, but after a couple of minutes of "rough and tumble" the line went horribly slack, and the cane's pleasing battle arc sprung straight as a result of the dreaded hook pull. It was to be the only chance offered to me by the carp. Paul (predictably) had more luck, landing a chunky little leather with lovely pale cream coloured flanks accentuated with hints of orange, which gave him a great fight on a light link leger and a bunch of maggots on a size 14 hook.
By the time of our mid afternoon pack up, we'd all caught plenty of roach, and were in that sanguine, relaxed frame of mind that a good fishing session in pleasing surroundings can induce. To complete a perfect (apart from the lost carp!) day, as we drove out of the car park the heavens opened, a proper deluvian deluge which required windscreen wipers be turned to full speed. "I reckon we timed that just right" remarked Pete, and no one disagreed.