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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


05/06/2016 - The Secret Pool

My crucian carp was a mirror

For many years Kate and myself have been house sitting while the owners are off on cruises, adventure and sailing holidays, world travel or staying with other family members abroad, these house sitting can be from 2 weeks to 3 months. All we have to do is make sure the property is safe secure, perhaps look after the family pet and cut the grass. The fridge and freezer are left full of food, often there is a case or two of red and white wine. One of our first properties was a large 18th Century thatched cottage in Wiltshire, where its reputed Judge Jefferies known as the hanging judge lived for a while. We looked after this property on several occasions, it was only a few miles from where Bernard Venables MBE and his wife Eileen lived, so we often dined with the Venables or they with us. It was also close to the Rivers Kennet , Avon, Stour and various chalk streams. Other properties have been in the Wye Valley, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Devon, Yorkshire, Berkshire, Lancashire, also the Teifi valley in West Wales the Ouse valley in Sussex.Carp Tench Crucians and RoachRecently we were asked to house sit for a couple of weeks while the owners were away on a cruise, with nothing better to do as I'm not able to cast a fly at present due to a bad attack of shingles also having a relapse with my MS causing me having difficulty with walking, I thought at least it would be a change of scenery, we said yes. What made the . old cottage built in 1805 more interesting was the Secret Pool reached by going upstairs through the bed room then an airing/ironing cupboard to reach the water's edge, just a few feet from the door, it's a typical old estate pool around an acre in size, with plants such as Water lilies, Broad-leaved and Curled pondweed, a small area of Frogbite with some Canadian pond weed, it had that exciting look which had the heart beat rising with excitement. Like many estate pools the bottom had a covering of silt built up for more than a century, giving the water a muddy look except in the very shallow areas. The north bank had several areas of Rhododendron bushes over hanging the water where the carp liked to patrol, some willows with an ancient oak tree completed the peaceful scene that greeted my eyes. This estate water contained carp, tench roach and crucians, I've been told the crucians were probably the nicest fish I'd ever seen.



Cane Rods and Centre Pins



Having been told about the water I decided to take several cane rods, a Constable Forty Four for carp, Fred J Taylor for tench , I would use my Milwards Swimmaster or Sowerbutts pole for the crucians, I also packed several centre pin reels, float selection was easy, some porcupine quills from South Africa turned into pieces of art by Mark Sarul a craftsman from Leicestershire who had also made me some reed floats using Norfolk reed from the River Soar. Not only did the City win the Premier Championship they have a master craftsman who makes delightful floats. For bait I had some Lone Angler sausage sizzle dumbells for carp and tench, with small pieces of Lone Angler Ocean Pride paste for the crucians. No need for seat just a piece of sponge to sit on, also I didn't need a rod rest, I would hold the rod, a landing net with a 6 foot cane foot handle, once owned by my grandfather back in the 1920's completed the main tackle.




Day One and A Surprise



It was around 0800 hrs. when the dogs told me it was time for them to go outside, after a quick shower and cursing the shingles as I dug my nails into my scalp a bit too hard, having got dressed I fed the dogs then after a quick brew, I walked the dogs around the pool, The young dog running free as I could control her on the whistle, while the older dog like myself was finding it hard to walk, so we stumbled along together. After breakfast I sat down feeling quite exhausted and fell asleep for about an hour, Kate and myself had arranged to meet Colin Culley at a local restaurant around noon time. Our timing was spot on as Colin arrived in the car park as we arrived at the restaurant. Sadly with all the chatter from other guests and the music I did find it hard to hear Colin at times, even though I have hearing aids, it seems as we get older we get more problems. After a good lunch Colin had to leave for the long drive to Devises. Kate and I went back to the cottage, Kate was soon asleep in the chair while I read the paper. Then it was time to walk the dogs, looking outside I could see it was raining quite hard so got kitted out in my waterproofs, as we walked around the pool I scanned the water surface between a gap in the rhododendron bushes as I'd been told this was a good area for crucian carp. I went back to the cottage for a bag of Lone Angler cheese paste then spent ten minutes flicking in pin head size pieces of paste, after waking around the pool and letting the dog roam free in the grounds. I got back to the swim some thirty minutes later seeing a swirl in the water, I thought tench or crucians so flicked in more small bits of cheese paste. Despite the rain and feeling quite weary I decided to try and catch a crucian, Tackle was Milwards swimversa with a Strikeright Featherflo centrepin with 3lb breaking strain line, I used a small Norfolk reed cane float that started life on the banks of the river Soar in Leicestershire made for me by Mark Sarul I fished the float waggler style with just 1 number 4 shot about 6 inches from the size 16 barbless hook. After a brew and some biscuits I was ready to fish, creeping along the bank as quiet as possible then crawled up the bank and into my chosen spot, a moorhen was fussing around with 3 youngsters but wasn't bothered by me. I flicked in some more bits of cheese paste then estimated the depth around three feet but found it was nearer four feet. Baiting the hook with a bit of cheese paste the size of an AA shot, I cast out about six feet then sat holding the rod, fifteen minutes later the float slowly submerged as it did so I lifted the rod to set the hook, nothing so baited the hook then cast to the same spot, ten minutes later the float submerged I lifted the rod to find resistance as the rod hooped over the reel screamed like the proverbial scolded cat. "No crucian this" I said to myself as the fish took line off the reel with ease, eventually it slowed down I could then exert some pressure on the fish, by letting the fish take line when it wanted then slowly pulling on the line when the fish had stopped I found I could gain line. This went on for some ten minutes or more, at one time the line snagged on a rhododendron branch I thought "That's it". But no the branch broke then stayed tethered to the line, Every time the fish went off I thought "This is it", but no I slowly got line back eventually I had the fish rolling close to the net, sliding down the bank onto a concrete block I was able to pull the fish over the net, It was mine a lovely coloured mirror. Yes I had a good chunk of luck but I would also like to think some 70 plus years of angling helped me get that fish. After weighing the fish at 12lbs . Kate took a pic, we then watched the fish swim off to deeper water. I must admit at this stage I felt exhausted and decided I'd had enough for one day but I was a happy angler having not been able to cast a line since March through illness




The Secret Pool

L-R Constable Forty Four Milwards Swimmaster also landing net in background

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Martin James Fishing
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