“This wheel’s on fire, Rolling down the road. Best notify my next of kin, This wheel shall explode.” Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity – 1967
Chilly continues with his carp fishing adventures that bring meaning to his life and is the medicine that helps him on the road to complete recovery
Iwas totally on fire! There can be no other way to describe how I was feeling at the time, and, as luck would have it, things were going to get like an inferno as the weeks went on. It was so hard for me not to overdo things, I just wanted to go fishing as much as I could, but my body wasn’t about to allow it. I had never realised just what my condition could mean, having bust 32 bones in my body over the years and recovered quickly from them all, I thought this would be the same. Think again, Chillcott! There was also the fact that I still couldn’t drive, and the rather shoddy way you are treated by the DVLA only added to the frustration. I have said it before, but I was truly concerned about the danger I could potentially be to others on the roads, so I didn’t push things maybe as hard as I should. However, when the DVLA decision making takes up to six weeks about each individual subject at a time, I could only think that it would be the following year when I finally got the nod... if at all!
I wanted to get Lynn out of the bungalow and back to see the horses – just taking her somewhere that could take her mind off the last few months. You see, there are some things in life that are so much more important than angling, and Lynn tops the list by a billion miles. In saying that, I cannot deny how fishing at Willow Park had reminded me of the essence of life, the freedom, and the joy. All I needed to do now was grab a little more of it.
My last visit to Willow just happened to coincide with a telephone call from a mate of mine, Tony Cadd, who happened to be sitting by another lake not more than a mile from me and my rods. For reasons I won’t get into here, the situation at Hollybush Lakes had been sorted out after nearly being ruined by a previous employee. The situation with the previous regime had been hugely depressing, because Hollybush has a massive place in my heart. It’s where I learnt almost all I will ever need to know about carp fishing, and enjoyed the magical environment so much. For years it had been tumbling out of control, not because of who owned the place, but because of one person that told people he did. He just ran it for the owner, and very badly too. Tony told me what was about to happen to the lakes, and how he saw the future. It was like music to my ears, and very quickly I decided that my next trip would be to my old stomping ground from the 1980s... Hollybush, here I come!
It may surprise a few of you, but I was a little wary of going there, initially. You see, although all of the fish bar one have died from my time there in the late-80s and early-90s, and having tried to help (foolishly I might add) the previous manager by catching a great many of the new fish, I wasn’t so keen to catch a few of the fish I had caught before. Not being able to drive of course puts a bit of an edge on proceedings, and at the end of the day, I just felt it would be nice to sit and reminisce for a few weeks until the DVLA got their finger out and allowed me back burning rubber once again. The first thing to sort out, however, was a lift to the lake, and because of the huge amount of generosity shown by others, I was able to solve this very quickly indeed. A mate of mine Tim Ashwell, who lives nearby and was one of the first members on the new syndicate at Hollybush, came to my rescue and said he would be outside my place at around 6am the following Tuesday morning. The next few days were spent in preparation. Preparation that was done to take my excited mind off the adventure, rather than doing things because they needed to be done. But then, what the hell’s the point in going fishing in the first place if it doesn’t make you feel that way?
The fishery consists of three lakes, and although they had been given some strange names in the recent past, the new management wanted to revert back to what they had been known as for decades. Pit 3 is a day-ticket fishery, which are available from Hampshire Tackle in Aldershot. The syndicate members can fish it, but have exclusive access to Pit 1 & 2 (one lake) and Pit 5. The latter is a lake that has probably the greatest place in my heart as far as carp fishing goes, and I will probably never fish it again. I just want to have those early memories in my mind, and whatever happens there today will never have the impact they had on me way back then.
There is another lake on the complex, Pit 4, one that has always been shrouded in mystery. In 1974 it produced the biggest carp in the country at 38½lb, and in the process attracted many of the legendary Redmire syndicate to her banks. This lake isn’t open yet, but hopefully one day. Anyway, that’s the way it was and how it is now – all I wanted to do was some fishing and angle not only for the carp, but for the incredible atmosphere the place has always created for me.
Tim arrived bang on time, and for the first time in nine months, I kissed Lynn goodbye as she fell back to sleep. It was a huge moment for me, something that took me another step towards normality. On arrival some five minutes later we unloaded the barrow, and after putting the rods on top, I set off for a look-see. Three things had been on my mind – finding the smallest of semi-clear spots in the weed, baiting them heartily, and a fully scaled carp I had caught a few years before. Why I thought of that fish was obvious, but, of course,
I had no wish to catch it again. It’s funny how things turn out, isn’t it?
After several laps of Pit 1 & 2, I eventually settled on the one area I had seen a little activity. Whether it was carp I’m not sure, but sometimes you have to react to the slightest of indications. Tony Cadd popped round and told me about a large clear area to my left, and as usual I ignored everything. This was my mission, and anything I did would be the only thing I could blame if I failed... Some things will never change! Several casts to the right later, and I had found just what I wanted – a small strip of clear silt at around 40 yards, surrounded by weed. I couldn’t have dreamt up a better area, and in short order I had two short, stiff link pop-ups nestling in it, about four yards apart. All that was left to do was feed the carp, and eventually 3kg of Hybrid in 10mm and 15mm came to rest around them. A third rod was positioned some 10 metres to the left of that, and once again was followed by a scattering of the same boilie concoction. Traps set, kettle on and all that was left to do was keep my eyes on the water in case a move was in order. It was standard operating procedure for me, what wasn’t so ‘standard’ were events which started to unfold about 2.30 in the afternoon.
Around midday I had received quite a few big, lazy line bites, and in between gusts of wind had spotted several small patches of bubbles over the baited areas. Just to jolly them up a little, and of course to go against all that is written about how frightening spods can be (?), I let the two rod spot have another kilo of boilies. Much against the general consensus, one of those rods ripped from the clip around two-thirty. Thankfully I was all on my own, and as the battle commenced I couldn’t help but smile, this for me is what carp fishing is all about. We argued for some time until eventually the angry carp rolled into my outstretched net. Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. There lay the fully scaled I had thought of earlier, and at 25lb 10oz she looked as majestic as ever! My friend Stu Dawes did the pictures for me, and it was wonderful that the new manager, Tony, came for a look-see too. As I said before, catching the same fish all the time is not what I like to do, but all things considered, I found it hard to wipe the grin from my face. Indeed, I didn’t get the chance. An hour later, I was gazing once again at the bubbles over the baited area, when one of the rods howled for attention. They had received another kilo after the first bite, and it obviously hadn’t taken them long to come back. Again the fight was a prolonged and tense affair, but once I had got it moving from the weed it didn’t take much to get the common into my net. She was long and broad for sure, but I could have no idea she would become my ‘new life’ PB at 27lb 10oz! It kind of made me sad for a moment; I never wanted a fish to overshadow the 26lb I had landed from Willow Park. However, that memory will remain forever, just as it should do.
I had several more fish that session, although it made me feel rather unwell. I was still reeling in for a while on the second night, just to get some uninterrupted sleep; it seemed to be the only thing to do. That said, all I could think of was getting back the following week. Unfortunately, again through my condition, I couldn’t go, but as I started to feel better, my friend Tony Smeets asked if I could join him on the lake that Friday. Of course, I told him weekends were easy, and it would be my pleasure. I hadn’t fished socially for a very long time, and the whole 24 hours was
spent putting the world to rights and generally having a great time. As it happens, the only fish caught that weekend was a 21lb common, which somehow ended up in my net. Who said it was tough on Saturdays and Sundays? It was just the pick me up I needed, after I said my goodbyes to Tony, and I was already thinking of coming back on the following Tuesday... Things were just about to get even better.
I wanted to fish a different area of the lake this time around, so after Tim had once again very kindly dropped me off in the car park, I set off for a look around. It was a couple of hours later that I spotted some fish, and after watching them for a while, I got my gear into the swim. I was looking once again for the smallest of holes in the weed, and as long as I could present a hookbait in it I was happy. An hour later two rods were nestled in a hole, and spending their time with 2kg of Hybrid, introduced via the spod. I was sipping from my second brew a couple of hours later when one of the rods heaved over. It was a dour fight as the weed played a huge part, but after much huffing and puffing I got a very old and handsome mid-20 mirror onto the unhooking mat. It was almost an emotional moment again for me, but most of all, the tackle and tactics were working.
After the introduction of some more bait, of course, I was soon playing another fish in a very similar way. Yet another old mid-20 warrior posed with me for a picture, but the session wasn’t over yet. Two upper doubles in the night just added to the excitement, but it wasn’t until very early the next morning that things started to kick off again. It was 5am when I landed another old 20lb mirror, and literally moments after recasting the same rod was away again! Even the weed couldn’t stop this one, but I won in the end and a very handsome 27lb 2oz mirror made the session complete... Or so I thought. I had just returned it when one of the other rods joined in the fun. No matter how big carp get, they will never mean as much to me as a carp that looks like that one. At a little over 20lb it is called the Woodcarving, and it’s very obvious why. A great end to a great session, but life was just about to change once again. Even though the whole situation had made me incredibly emotional at times, quite rightfully, a letter in the post when I got home had me reaching for the box of tissues. The DVLA had finally granted me permission to drive once again, and the letter contained my driving licence. I just couldn’t stop looking at it, and this was indeed a huge step back toward normality.
All I could think of was driving Lynn around, going places and watching her smile. We got my American truck on the road, and we both roared with laughter as she started first time, and the big old V8 shook the windows of the cars we passed. It was magical, but obviously my thoughts soon turned to driving myself to a lake for the first time in eight months – something, if I’m honest, I never believed I would ever do again. It would never be as emotional as driving Lindie around, but it came a close second the following Monday morning when I set off for Hollybush, all on my own. Lynn saw me off at the door, and as worried as she was, you could see the excitement on her face, too. As moments go, there could never have been a more special person to share that with. I pulled up at the fishery gate and let myself in, drifting slowly round to the car park. I can never explain how I
felt, but all too soon there were carp to find... So off I went, in search of the next phase of my journey.
Again, I wanted to fish a different area, and the fish soon told me where that should be. Two rods were fished as usual on a large baited area, in relatively shallow water, towards the margins of a massive point which separates the two different parts of the lake. No one could fish that part of the peninsula from any other angle, so it was a safe bet. The other rod was fished in the open water, and to be honest, was baited with the same amount of Hybrid boilies as the other two. Purely in angling terms, it was the happiest day of my life, but I could never have realised how good it was going to get! The first bite came later that morning, and resulted in a stunning mid-double mirror. I left it in the net for a while and rang Lynn to tell her of my success. Eventually she asked me what time I had landed the fish, and I told her I hooked it at about five to eleven and landed it at five past. She then told me I was playing a carp at exactly the same time the Duchess of Cambridge was giving birth to the fifth heir to the throne! A few days later he was named Louis, and for ever more that is the name this carp will go by. A remarkable start, and it kept getting better and better. By the time I settled down that evening I had landed a further three carp, a couple of low twenties and a feisty 19lb common. The night was busy with three doubles continuing to keep my fires burning. By the morning however, I was shattered, and I fretted about making myself ill. To that end I reeled in for a while and got some serious sleep. I reset the traps a few hours later, and immediately lost two carp in the weed. I baited again heavily, and it didn’t take too long for the carp to respond. A cracking 26½-pounder had me smiling again before long, and the 21lb 4oz that followed it soon after did exactly the same. The problem was I was ill, and I had to reel in again that evening, but not before baiting the spots and setting the alarm clock for an hour before dawn.
Within minutes of being woken, the rods were back out and fishing, and around half an hour after that I got a bite, and the cracking 21lb mirror lead me a merry dance. It was great to get a bite so quickly, and to be honest I thought it was all over, as I was going to pack up a couple of hours later. The carp had other ideas and about six o’clock I was playing an absolute animal. We argued for
what seemed an age, but eventually patience and a large slice of luck saw me drawing the fish into my net. It looked utterly stunning as it lay quietly in the folds of the mesh, and when it span the wheel of fortune round to 29lb 12oz I could feel the tears well up in my eyes. A ‘new world’ PB from a trip that it often seemed impossible for me to ever do again, and made all the better when my buddy Stu Dawes and his brilliant young brother Cameron arrived to do the pictures. Sometimes it’s all about the company you keep, and to hold up such a special fish with those guys was the icing on the cake.
I had two more carp before I left, and as I drove back out of the gate that old smile of complete happiness was once again etched across my face. I had done what I wanted and I was on my way home to my wife – what more could I ever wish for from life? The list would probably take me another article to inform the world of all the wonderful people who had helped me to the situation I found myself in at that very moment. I assured myself as I drove away from the water, that I would spend the rest of my life thanking them for helping me get back the simple things in life that mean everything. All that was left to do was burn some rubber; I had to get home and start that big yellow American truck up, and get Lindie and I back out into the world we thought we would never see again together.
Take care of you and yours. Chilly.
A ‘new world’ PB from a trip that it often seemed impossible for me to ever do again
BELOW Ironically, I had been thinking of her for ages
TOP LEFT The new life PB had risen to 27lb 10oz
ABOVE This 27lb 2oz mirror made the session complete
BELOW LEFT As the sun set I had to reel in for a while, I wasn’t feeling well again
ABOVE LEFT I set off on the next phase of my journey
BELOW RIGHT It was something I believed I would never do again
ABOVE RIGHT I baited heavily again, and didn’t have long to wait
BOTTOM At 29¾lb she had helped me navigate another bend on the winding road to recovery
BELOW RIGHT I had achieved all that I wanted to
BELOW LEFT It was a very royal occasion!