RBTraditional & Friendship

We climbed trees all around the lake, peering down into the watery home of our quarry, we watched some beauties gliding in and around the huge beds of lilies, but none were as big as the one that had emptied my soul earlier that day.

The grebes continued to dive and feed their young with what appeared to be an inexhaustible supply of fry. Their tireless efforts were met with almost incessant and impatient calling from the ever hungry chicks. It had been a day, spent in the company of one of natures’ finest and most beautiful hunters.

With the shadows growing ever longer, the haze of the day was replaced with a cool but welcome breeze. It was as if night was making her entrance, slowly and gracefully. The breeze would soon abate and the dappled light would give way to the shroud of darkness for yet another day.

I was contemplating how fortunate I had been in finding and then securing the permission to fish the lake, which could only be described as heavenly. The margins were fringed with reeds, lily beds adorned the main body of the water and the banks were abundant with ancient and splendid trees. Best of all, I hadn’t come into contact with another human being all day, I felt almost …..

The screech of cycle breaks shattered my thoughts…

”What yer fishin’ for mister?” said the fresh faced kid.

“tench!”

“Really?”

“Yeah!”

“Oh, it looks like yer fishin’ for carp”

At this point I thought my cover was blown, I imagined the hoarded masses of the local specimen fishing fraternity, invading en mass and depriving me of the secluded beauty and peace which I had enjoyed so very briefly. How could I avert the impending disaster? What would keep the kids mouth shut?

“Ok, young ‘un you’ve rumbled me. But if you want to catch some big fish then you’re going to have to keep quiet! If anyone else finds out that they’re in here it’ll ruin things,’

“How old are you?”

“Fourteen mister”

“Want to make fifteen, kid?!”

“Eh?”

“Sit down, let me explain a few things about life and angling…..

‘How do you like your tea…?”

I placed the blackened kettle back on the stove for the umpteenth time that day and as the flame gently licked the cool evening air, I explained the virtue of keeping things secret about the big carp that lived in the watery landscape spread before us.

As we sat cradling our hands around the warmth of the cups, the kid suddenly blurted “look teal!” My eyes were instantly drawn up toward the melting sunset and I gazed at the flock of small ducks in evening flight, as the continued to fill my ears with his observations of nature, a warm feeling came over me, I thought…. I like him.

“So what do they call you then young ‘un?”

“Ben, how about you?”

“Oh, sorry, I’m Rob. Well it’s good to meet you Ben. How come you know so much about the countryside?”

“I was born around here, and lived all of my life here.”  

“Wonderful!” I suddenly felt that I’d been transported back in time. I had too, grown up amongst the delights of the countryside and had learned to understand the fragility of its being. I had spent the happiest days of my life savouring the sights, sounds and smells, which continue to this day.

“Well Ben, I’d better start packing the tackle away, it’ll soon be dark and it’s a long stroll back to the Land Rover

“Let me give you a hand”

“Thanks boy, much appreciated, oh, and thanks for the chat, I think I’ve learned something

“How d’ya mean?”

“Oh. It doesn’t matter. Hey, how do fancy coming along next week?”

“Really?!”

“Yeah and bring your tackle, we’ll see if we can put one of those big old carp on the bank!”

Something had happened, I had wanted to share the experience of fishing the lake. But with a fourteen year old kid? Ah, but Ben was no ordinary kid. He was me, all of those years ago. He needed a bit of guidance as far as angling went and I had elected myself to be his mentor, or so I thought!

The gate creaked open, and I turned my face away from the warmth of the early morning sun, which was creeping its way up through the trees to catch the sight of a smiling Ben, marching along the track to the river, laden with tackle.

“How you doing?”

“Great, can’t wait to cast out”

“Hey, don’t go wishing your life away, always remember to stop and take in the beauty of the morning. “Race you down to the lake, Ha!!”

The result was a forgone conclusion…stamina over speed….

We slumped into the grass beside the lake and caught our breath before setting up for the day, which was to be a shared reed bed at the southerly end of the lake. The sun had burnt its way over the adjacent hills and the day had a; this is going to be hot feel about it. We would have around three hours fishing time in the morning before it became too hot for the fish to feed and then a longer period from late afternoon until dusk. During the heat we’d probably do a bit of exploring, therapy for the eyes and soul. Ben cast his bait out, the placid surface of the lake was shattered for the first time that morning as we set our pitch.

“Fancy another brew lad?”

“Yes, cheers Rob. Blimey you love tea, don’t you?”

“Liquid gold, sunshine, liquid gold’!

“And anyway it’s too early for the pub!”

We whiled away the hours sitting behind the rushes, discussing tactics for the capture of those crafty old fish. Ben listened intently to my theories and ideas, but not without contributing greatly with his own observations and thoughts. I felt like I was conversing with a man, not a youngster, this boy was a proper country boy….

The silver paper hit the butt of the rod, a carp had picked up my bait and was heading out into the lake, creating an impressive bough wave in its wake. A spray of water droplets, bits of weed, broken lily stems and other water borne debris pinged up above the surface as the line tightened to the fish and came up through the water layers. I leant into the pressure and the rod took on a familiar curve, the reel screamed out as the fish took more and more line. My heart was pounding, I was locked into battle with a truly wild fish…wild? It was absolutely furious! Crack! The line snapped, and in slow motion I watched the limp monofilament descend upon the lake surface. It was over, maybe it was never meant to be. My emotions were all over the place… not a word was spoken. I laid the rod down in the reeds and went for a walk, I needed to be alone, time to gather my thoughts…

“Well Ben I rather think that I could of made a better job of that!”

Or words to that effect were shared as I returned to the swim and mustered the enthusiasm to have another cast, to be honest I ached inside. That carp was probably the biggest fish I’d ever hooked at that point in my life’s journey.

By eleven O’clock the heat was not conducive to fishing and we reeled in, to await the arrival of the cooler evening air.

“Let’s go and do some fish spotting Rob.”

“Fair game, young ‘un.”  

We climbed trees all around the lake, peering down into the watery home of our quarry, we watched some beauties gliding in and around the huge beds of lilies, but none were as big as the one that had emptied my soul earlier that day.

“Rob, don’t move…look over there…under that willow, see them?”

I turned my head very slowly and peered through the branches of my temporary vantage point, gradually they came into my view, and there were three of them.

“Good God, they’re bloody huge!”  

“Yeah, I saw them there during the close season, they always appear together”

There were two mirror carp accompanied by a common. What a mesmerizing sight, as they drifted almost aimlessly around under the drooping fronds.

“Blimey, Ben. We must have been up this tree for an hour” I said.

“More tea?”

“Sounds like a good idea”.

“Mmmmm, lovely” I quipped as we sipped the refreshing brew under the shade of a giant copper beech and prepared our tackles for round two of the saga.

“I always suspected that this lake held some secrets young ‘un”

“Oh, I’ve seen more like those earlier”

“Tell me more dear boy, tell me more…”

Gentle laughter drifted across the lake as we shared and recalled our angling experiences. The evening drew closer and our spirits soared.

Upon my first cast the bait landed inch perfect to the lily bed where I had hooked the earlier fish. I suspected that the fish used this area as a sanctuary and thus would visit it as regularly as Kev my best friend and I would frequent the pub!

The swallows darted across the evening sky catching insects upon the wing, it always fascinates me how they can manoeuvre so swiftly without calamity or catastrophe.  

As the sun started to bow out for yet another day, bats replaced the indulgent superiority of the swallows and we watched and waited…and waited.

I heard the familiar awakening sound of a run, Ben was in. Almost casually I ambled over to where he stood, his rod doubled over as the fish fought desperately for its freedom. My words of encouragement were met with “I’m ok” as he concentrated on the task in hand. I left him to his moment and quietly waited with the net. His confidence was almost infectious, battles long since fought flashed through my mind, oh, what sweet memories!

I slid the net under the fish and tried to lift the glorious beast from the water to no avail, a further joint attempt secured the prize. As the photographs were taken I realised, just how privileged I was to share that moment with a young angler with his first big carp…..


Addendum: Ben is approaching his 40th birthday in May, our friendship has spanned a quarter of a century. He’s a fine angler and sporting gun and still very much the country boy who I met all those years ago….

Ben today with a most splendid barbel

All Writing & Images RBTraditional Kent Summer 2021

Barbel Picture copyright of young Ben.