Rich Crimp was my friend, I guess thinking about it we only knew each other for 3 years or so, fished together around a dozen times and lived the best part of 70 miles apart, but you didn’t have to live in Rich’s pocket to be a good friend. Always available on the phone for a chinwag, perhaps you had something to get off your chest, perhaps just to chew the fat, whatever you needed, he was always there.
He had a way of making you feel at ease, perhaps he’d be telling you to stop being a silly bugger (or words to that description), he wasn’t one to mince his words, shot from the hip so to speak, but it was always sound advice, one of his traits I really miss. He was a great wordsmith too, his scribblings being enjoyed by everyone who took the time to read them, with each new posting being eagerly anticipated.
An excellent angler too was the Cap’n, a thinking angler who loved the Thames with a passion I’d never seen before. He knew his roots, and stood by them through thick and thin, seeking not to educate but to open the eyes of those who only saw the Thames as a once dirty river. They say all anglers have a book in them; well Richard’s would have been epic.
Barely a day goes by when I don’t think about Rich, I miss our chats on the phone, his humour, his stern words if needed, that kick up the arse when ‘Fannying’ around. Our jaunts to the Thames on board the good ship ‘Issak’ were memorable, each and every one of them. Our final trip to the Itchen in search of his first ever grayling, the way his eyes lit up when that wonderful fish was brought to his net, unforgettable.
This weekend many of Richard’s friends gathered at Yateley Sandhurst Lake to remember our departed friend. Everyone liked him you see, so much so that if we could have booked Lac Madine, with all of its 5,000 odd acres, I still think we could have filled it. But for the Carp-Forums lads it was Al Kirk who got the bit between his teeth, made the arrangements and gathered the troops.
Al’s organisational skills shined as before long the lake was booked, filled and paid for, with various donations ensuring there would be a substantial amount available for a very worthwhile cause. Jeff obtained a copy of my own book to be signed and auctioned at the event, a set of floats I made for Rich for our trip to Redmire (which he unfortunately never made) were also auctioned, but the creme of the crop was the wonderfully generous offer from our very own Wally who donated a week’s fishing plus travel at his splendid carp angling venue in France.
So, the time had come to set forth to Yateley, a journey which took me somewhat shy of an hour. Originally I’d asked if I might fish from one of the islands swims, due to my using tackle one would normally see in a museum, casting a long way isn’t something I practice on a regular basis. Al was there to greet me at the gate, the perfect host making sure we knew the do’s and don’ts as well as showing us on the map where others were fishing and which areas were vacant.
I set off to the second car park and stopped a few times along the way after bumping into friends old and new and chatting about this and that, Richard and the prospects for the weekend ahead; everyone was in good spirits. A cuppa with Mark and Christie, a tinny with Jeff and Steve, it was a delightful hour or so and really nice that the urgency of fishing was left behind. When eventually I did load the barrow with all my kit (far too much as per usual I might add), I set off for the islands, but was stopped in my tracks after seeing quite a sight down near the corner of peg 21.
21 and me have history, a few years back I was fishing across the lake, witnessed a carp leap out three times on the first evening and ventured round in the half-light with a rod. I managed to get a take quite quickly, but it fell off leaving me spitting feathers. However, it didn’t stop me breaking camp and barrowing all my stuff round in the dark, only to wind up fishless after the next two nights. This time, however, looked much better, with a dozen or so fish clearly visible on the surface just a short way out.
I had a quick chat with the nice lads in the Bailiff swims, just to make sure that my angling/stalking in the corner wouldn’t affect their own fishing, and proceeded to observe the fish from the cover of some bankside vegetation. It wasn’t until I looked down that I noticed two huge carp, easily thirties, feeding on the shelf just a metre from the bank below me. This coincided perfectly with a kingfisher landing on a branch not three feet from my position, of course I never had a camera in my hand. I waited for it to fly off, crept back to the path as quietly as possible and set up a float rod.
Back in position I started fishing with bread flake, squeezing it into flat shapes so that it wafted down through the water layers slowly and enticingly, which seemed to have the desired effect because three times I had carp swim over to the bread to check it out, but alas, none of them actually snaffled it. After ten minutes or so I swapped the bread for luncheon meat, and fished in on the deck over a bed of small pellets.
It didn’t take long for the carp to discover the pellets, some big fish too, all feeding on the spot with their tales waving and bubbles rising all around; how the float never buried I’ll never know, but it was exciting all the same. The carp drifted off momentarily, allowing me to gather myself, change the bait and recast with a slightly different angle, and that was when I spotted leviathan.
It drifted in from the left, from under the snags; it was huge, flat along the back cruising like an airship. I’d never seen an English forty in the water, but I’m pretty sure I have now, it was colossal. It slowed down above my hook-bait, stooped down for a look, then tilted back straight and with the gentlest flick of the tail cruised back out to join the others. My heart was trying very hard to escape my chest, it was quite a moment.
I fished on for a while longer but the fish seemed to have drifted out a little farther and, for the time being at least, stopped visiting the spot. With the net and rod back on the barrow I trudged on to the islands, threw a lead around a dozen or so times trying to fathom out exactly what was out there, but something was niggling me, I knew I had to revisit 21.
So, back off the island I dragged the kit, tipped my hat to those in the Bailiff swims and settled upon fishing 21 for the rest of the weekend. With everything up and built I flicked a rod across to the spot I saw the fish and walked round to introduce some loose feed onto the area by hand, I wanted to cause as little disturbance as possible, just in case they weren’t too far away.
Once I was settled and happy it was getting close to dusk, the bats had begun their journey into the night and the temperature started to dip some. Out in the lake seagulls tormented anyone who dared unzip their rod bag to fetch the throwing stick and a cormorant to my right did battle with a juvenile tench, winning the fiercely contested battle eventually. With dinner cooked and a pot of tea consumed it was time to kick back and listen to the rooks and jackdaws, the day was almost over.
I woke somewhere in the early hours, made a snack and then sat and tied a couple of rigs by candlelight. The baited rigs were placed on the table by my side and I blew out the candle and drifted back off to sleep. I was startled just before light by a rustling coming from the table, obviously a mouse attempting to run off with my baited rigs, a plan that almost worked too as there was only one on the table when I looked. I searched the area under the table and spotted a gap between the bivvy and groundsheet, the little blighter!
Outside I spotted a tiny frog and a mouse, but no rig. I was just stood there scratching my head looking in the direction of the rod when the silver foil indicator rose and the heron speaker buzzed. Just as the tip bent round and the first few clicks came from the Mitchell 300 I picked the rod up and struck into the fish, trying to steer it away from the snags and out into open water. Once the fish was clear of danger it pulled off a few yards of line during the first initial runs but eventually came begrudgingly towards me with its tail slapping the water angrily.
With the net held out as far as I could reach she slid over the cord and safely into the mesh. I lifted and peered inside, seeing in the twilight a smallish mirror with a lovely scale pattern. I rested the fish a while whilst I sorted everything, placing the net handle on a rod rest with a bank stick through the spreader to make everything doubly secure. I called along to Callum who came to my rescue and helped out with some wonderful photos. Only when the fish was out in the open did we realise just how gorgeous she was, marvellous dark flanks and large plated scales, one the Cap’n would have loved. The light wasn’t great so it was brilliant to have someone behind the camera who knew how best to use what there was.
Once the glorious fish was returned I repaid Callum’s efforts with a pot of tea. Shortly after we took a tour of the pool to say good morning to everyone and find out how they’d fared. As it turned out it was a fairly uneventful time fishing wise, with a couple of lost fish and one 23lb mirror to Pete. It was all by the by of course, the weekend wasn’t about the fishing; it was about a coming together in memory of our friend. It just so happened that it was at a venue that on its day can produce some tremendous fish. There were many PB’s swimming around in that lake let me tell you.
With all the good mornings and greetings done and the full circuit of the lake complete I headed back to my shelter for bacon and mushroom baps and to put the rod back out for a few hours. The gathering was set to start at tea time so the plan after breakfast was to relax, maybe even snooze some to generally be lazy for the afternoon. I checked the spot I was fishing too, which seemed devoid of fish, topped it up with some bait and got busy with the frying pan. Oh, and by the way, that missing rig was dangling from the table when in the light I happened to look properly.
The rain started whilst Callum and I were wrapping up our walk, but it wasn’t until after breakfast that it really started coming down, and we’re talking (in my best Forest Gump voice) 'Big Drop Rain'. Relentless just took on a whole new meaning, four hours the deluge lasted, and what a time to realise my groundsheet wasn’t tucked in properly, something I found out after my clothes and bags started to get soaked. Anyone outside would have rolled up, cursing was frequent, along with the door being opened, the tea towel being squeezed and the process would be repeated. Eventually I managed to establish some form of order, the groundsheet was dry, the bags could begin drying and I settled back for that long awaited snooze.
I woke, popped my head outside and smelt the rain but didn’t see it. Thankfully it had subsided, but only just, the sky was a mixture of dark clouds, not so dark clouds and blue patches. I wound the rod in, tiptoed round to introduce some more free bait on the spot and moodled up to the gathering area where things were already well underway. Pete was busy looking after steaming pots that smelt delicious, so I sat next to my new best friend.
A few tinnies were consumed, followed by the most wonderful beef bourguignon, celery sautéed in stock and new potatoes. And if that wasn’t enough, flash fried Atlantic prawns were up next, cooked in coconut, garlic and chilli served with lettuce, spring onions and a slice of lemon. It was gourmet bankside grub at its best and was utterly brilliant. After food came the auction, which saw the three items up for grabs raise well over £600 for Stoney and Friends. Before heading back to our respective pitches for the night, Pete dished out his famous Mocca Chocca’s, basically a hot chocolate/coffee drink with shed loads of brandy in it.
Back in my swim the light began to fade and the clear star filled sky meant a chilly one, so an extra layer was donned and after casting the rod I settled back for the night. The Mocca Chocca certainly had the desired effect, as soon enough I was sleeping like a baby. I woke just before first light to a cold but enchanting morn. The mist was very thick, the atmosphere incredible. The rod was still, although after creeping round to check I spotted bubbles rising near the baited patch.
I got back to the rod (only a handful of yards) as quickly, yet as quietly as possible. I hovered over the rod ready to strike, it just had to happen. I gave up after fifteen or so minutes and went in search of some dry kindling to make a pot of tea. It was bacon and mushrooms again for breakfast, which was enjoyed whilst watching the sun rise and the world awake. Somewhere around 9am I began breaking camp. When it came to winding the rod in I realised, much to my disappointment just why the rod hadn’t ripped off. The cast the evening previous had landed a foot or so short of the mark and wound up in thick weed.
Some shots as the day unfolded…
Before barrowing my gear back to the car, I took a stroll with Callum, one last look at the lake and a quick goodbye to the anglers who hadn’t yet left. With the car loaded I drove back along the road bank which was now practically devoid of anglers. I stopped for a quick natter with Al, thanking him for organising a splendid event and pointing out my excitement at next year’s bash.
A huge thank you goes out to Al for making this happen, to Wally for his wonderfully generous donation and to everyone else for helping make it a weekend that would have made Rich proud.