Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Halcyon Pool

I arrived at Halcyon full of optimism on Friday afternoon; I had been invited by Brian to fish for a few days with him and our mutual friend, Shaun Harrison, was due to meet up with us on the following day and with him was something very special indeed. He mentioned that he’d seen the net owned by John Carver, the very same net that he used to scoop up the Bishop for Chris Yates on that historic day in June of 1980 when I was only 7 years old and had no thoughts of fishing at all. Shaun mentioned my interest to John and he kindly offered to lend it to him to bring on this trip so I could hold the Holy Grail myself.

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Prior to the trip Brian had been telling me just how beautiful the pool was, how amazing the fish were and how the fishing would suit my style being the perfect stalking water. After parking the car near a series of well-built huts Brian showed me around. There was the old social hut, the newly constructed one with spellbinding views of the pool complete with dining table and cooker, there was also a new boathouse which harboured the punt, the old boathouse was still present at the other end of the pool. The punt was handy and was mostly used for ferrying one’s kit across the pool to your swim as the paths were overgrown, narrow and wonderfully unspoilt.

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Zoom in (real dimensions: 799 x 530)Image

Before we set off for a view of the pool and its pitches, we spotted two nice carp moving through the weed and pads away from us just out from the new hut. We followed and ducked into the first pitch we came to on the south bank where we were given a wonderful view of two of Halcyon’s resident carp, one a mid-twenty and the other looked to be a mid-double. On we pressed along the path between the pool and the meadow, past two small, untouched islands and along a small channel known as The Harbour. At the end of this was the entrance to The Peninsula, a spit of land that stretched out to the islands with two swims along it and culminating in some very stalky looking gaps.

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The parts of the pool we’d seen thus far were very weedy with thick pads; the weed was the bottom covering candy floss type that isn’t very nice to fish into. The pads here reached the far side of the north or road bank and kind of split the pool in two sections, a weedy half and a deeper, less weedy side. Back out past the Peninsula entrance we was the last feature of the south bank, the Old Boathouse in the corner. It had delightfully fallen into disrepair and was left to its own devices. On the west bank the first pitch Brian showed me just across the bridge was The Morning Swim, named due to the sun trap it becomes early in the day.

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After this was The Hill, a pitch that was very central and commanded a large portion of water leading up to the pads. The wind was howling into this pitch. Next door was The Mangrove Swamp, a small swim that faced the road bank but looked an excellent little stalking swim with a few small sets of pads and deep margins. Around the corner and onto the road bank were two, small cut out day swims, the second of which was called The Sentence, the next and much larger swim was, quite obviously called, The Chapter. I liked the look of this pitch as it had the best of both worlds, deep margins, clear areas in front and pads to the left.

There were three more swims before we reached the east bank, we peered hopefully into each of them hoping to spot some more carp and were rewarded when we came to the second to last swim when we spotted, sunning themselves among the pads, around half a dozen good carp, one of which looked to be all of thirty pounds. I was quite positively chomping at the bit and couldn’t wait to try for them, but before I did we finished the tour and the two pitches on the east bank (East Bank Swim and Causeway) we decided to use as our base camp as they were near the huts and you could back your car right into them.

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These two pitches had pads and lots of weed present but very deep, clear margins I felt sure would be visited during the dark hours. My pitch, The East Bank Swim, was backed into once the tour was over and it was time to get down to the business of unloading the boot and setting up the stalking gear, and I knew just the spot to try first.

With a stepped up split cane carp rod and a Mitchell 300, net, mat and a tin loaf, I made my way round to the last spot we’d seen carp in the pads. It was only a few yards from the bank so I opted for my favourite free-lining, but I had to flick the bait underarm due to the lowness of the branches above me. Various sections of the pathway were coated in gravel, so I avoided giving away my presence by crunching it as I walked as is always the way when sneaking up on carp close to the bank.

By the time I got into position the sun that had enabled me to see the carp before had moved round and there was now a big shadow making spotting individual fish impossible. I could still see they were there however by the movement of the pads; I just couldn’t single out the largest fish. For a couple of hours I followed the movements with chunks of crust and one fish looked to be mopping up the fallen pieces but I failed to coax it into snaffling the one on the hook.

By tea time it was time to get back to camp, build the house and to start to think about tackling the night rods up. I baited the areas I‘d be dropping the rods onto and once everything was ready I rested the swim and popped next door for a natter with Brian. He was tackling his pitch with a totally different approach with his rods fishing out into the weed and my rods both ticked close in along the margins. After a mini social I returned to my pitch to get the rods in and settle down for the night.

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The evening was chilly; I climbed into the bag early due to all the excitement from the day, got myself warm and drifted off to the land of monsters before it had even got dark. The rods never moved and I woke at around four thirty am to a misty, cold morning. Thick fog made seeing across to the far bank difficult, but it felt so atmospheric and slightly haunting. I wound in the rods before breakfast, checked the spots and saw that the bait I’d introduced the night before was still there, which was slightly discouraging. However, I was looking forward to a day’s stalking, I just needed the mist to burn off and the sun to appear as it had done in previous days.

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Zoom in (real dimensions: 799 x 530)Image

Shaun arrived and together with Brian and their lovely carp dogs, Brook and Bracken, we conducted another tour of the pool and its amenities, all the while peering into the water looking for something to cast at. Unfortunately the sky remained dark and the only signs of fish we saw were out in the centre of the pool among the thickest pads. Shaun opted to set up in The Hill and took full advantage of the punt to ferry his gear across to his home for the next couple of nights. Once he had set everything up, calibrated his spots and baited the areas he’d be fishing, he returned to the hut to make us all a splendid chicken jalfrezi, complete with naan bread, poppadums and more than enough red wine.

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We had a brilliant social full of stories and banter and that night I was in the company of two fairly new but very good friends. Brook (Shaun’s Staffie) and Bracken (Brian’s Fluffhound) were so well behaved, and although I don’t usually care for dogs I was soon paying them lots of attention and thoroughly enjoyed them being with us. Before it got dark we left for our respective pitches and my first casts of the day were made along the margins. I didn’t feel any more confident but hoped Sunday would bring sunshine and finally some more stalking opportunities.

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It proved to be another chilly night and, once again, as soon as I started to feel the warmth from the sleeping bag I was fast asleep. I woke, quite delirious, at somewhere around one am to the sound of Shaun phoning me asking if I fancied taking some photos of a thirty pound carp. I wound my rods in, made my way around to his swim, which was tricky what with the narrow winding paths and my being still half asleep. The fish Shaun had captured was immense; it had given him a right run around and weighed a whopping 31lb 8oz, the fish turned out to be the second largest in the lake.

I was made up for Shaun, it was a lovely old carp, that fish would have been a new PB for me and my first thirty pound mirror. But I still had time to capture one, and if I did it would be on split cane, something I’d dreamt of for a long time. I congratulated Shaun and once the great fish was photographed and slipped back we shared a cuppa before I headed back to my pitch with renewed confidence.

Shaun had told me of some activity along the margin to his left, a very good looking corner, and suggested I take a look early in the morning so as soon as I woke at five forty five I wound in and made my way quietly to the spot, flicked two rods out and sat back with my tatty old copy of Casting at the Sun to keep me company whilst I awaited events and watched the lake and its inhabitants greet the new day.

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I’d only been there an hour when one of Shaun’s rods was away again. I wound the rods in and went round to help. I spirited battle ensued and a pretty, grey, scaly carp of 19lbs slipped into his net. The photos and congratulations were completed and the Kelly Kettle was brought into action once again. It was then I decided to move swims and to try the deeper, clearer end of the pool for my last night in the hope of getting in on the action. I noticed some activity in front of The Chapter on the road bank, some fizzing in various areas, and sat down to watch for a while and soon enough my mind was made up which pitch to drop into.

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It took several trips to get my things in the new swim, I could have moved it with the punt, but didn’t want to disturb the water too much. Once everything was set up I worked out where the rods would go, one in either margin and one out in front around thirty yards just before a weed bed started. I baited each spot and left the swim alone whilst conducting yet another tour of the pool looking for signs. It was a much brighter day, still not sunny, but warmer, and a few fish moved but too quickly for me to have a chance to stalk them.

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After some socialising and a splendid supper of fish and chips I returned to my swim, cast out the rods and settled in for the night. The night was still and quiet and I heard nothing move. The owls called out to each other and I remembered that during the day I’d seen the first kingfisher of the trip along with two oystercatchers. I woke close to six am and began to wonder why nobody had caught, it looked perfect and Brian had also moved onto The Peninsula opposite me so we were all now down this end of the pool.

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The take came on my middle rod at around six fifteen, a slow, progressive run which slowly took line from the Mitchell spool. I picked up the Mark IV, tightened the clutch and struck into something quite heavy. It was then the fish must have woken as after that I found myself back-winding like mad in an effort to keep up whatever it was I was attached to. Over to the right it powered and before it reached the weeping willow that reached into the water I somehow managed to turn it forcing it to follow the margin towards another willow and Shaun’s rods!

I somehow managed once again to avoid danger by turning the fish, which now swan back towards me and in line with where I’d originally hooked it, and it was there that it found a weed bed and got itself stuck fast. With constant pressure and pulling from a variety of angles it seemed to be moving again and started to come towards me for the first time, albeit very reluctantly with frequent, powerful runs which took more line off the old reel. With a big long carp wallowing in front of me I reached around for the net and remembered which net I had with me, The Bishop net! I dipped it into the water and over the cord came my prize almost as if it felt privileged to do so. I lifted the mesh around it just as Shaun arrived and straight away he peered into the net and congratulated me on a possible new PB.

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He went on to tell me that it was long, and old, but quite lean. It didn’t matter; I was just so pleased to have caught one. Shaun took charge, someone needed to, I was in bits. Brian helped him to zero the scales, set up the cameras and readied a pot of water by the side of the unhooking mat. Once everything was ready I lifted the mesh and hoisted her onto the mat, where Brian identified her as The Long Original. He patted me on the back for what was clearly now a new personal best and my first thirty on cane. She weighed 32lb 6oz and broke my old best by 2lbs. We measured her from nose to the fork of the tail, which was a massive 33 inches.

I was in dream land holding her up, she was heavy but I felt a sudden surge of energy and suddenly I felt I could hold her up all day. A dream come true it really was, not only to finally break my old, longstanding best, but to have done so with such wonderful company around me, folk who appreciated what it meant, true friends who felt every inch of elation with me. With the great old fish released back into the pool that pot of celebratory tea was prepared and enjoyed and countless times over the next hour or so we relived the battle again and again.

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Brian went on to catch a tench and left for work around breakfast time. I fished on until ten and started to pack my things away for the long journeys both back to the car, and home. Before I left I filled in the log book in the hut, and after one last pot of tea with Shaun we bid our farewells and I left the pool with the biggest smile I think I’ve ever made.

The trip was nothing short of epic. New, great friends were made, paradise was found and in the bottom of a very special net was a very special fish, one I will remember fondly for the rest of my days.

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  1. Awesome! There can be no better way to get a pb. I notice you got the scales out for this one though :o)

    How will you possibly top a trip like this one Stu?

  2. Thanks Dave...

    it was quite a moment, and I'm quite lucky Shaun had some scales with him, and very special scales too, but I'll let him tell his own story of them.

    Will this capture be bettered? I don't know....maybe someday on the banks of some far away forgotten paradise. Until then I'll keep remembering this one with pride.


  3. Well done Stu on the PB and the recollection which had me there all the way! A beautiful place, well described.

  4. Thanks Terry...

    It's not often one finds such an unspoilt paradise which not only has bags of history, but also a very bright future. The right people are looking after it so I have no doubt it will stay a haven for years. I do hope I get the chance to visit again sometime.


  5. It was a pleasure sharing bank space and to be part of that very special day. The story of the scales? Well, not quite sure I can stretch it to a full story with just the scales as a couple of lines tells that one really even if I use my writers licence and stretch it to a couple of paragraphs to say the same. But perhaps one day I will tell the story of a few of my bits and bobs. Quite a few of my tackle items have a story attached to them and as a collective...