Author's note; the piece you are about to read (or skip over) does not contain any of the following words or descriptive phrases - pukka, keeping it real, looking out across the pond, to say I was over the moon is an understatement, a rare visitor to the bank, tricky low-stocked venue, rock-hard venue, target venue, target fish, proper old English carp, a nice dark scaly one, and most words beginning with 'K'.
There are also no angling techniques described herein; no reversed chod aligners or spangled armadillo blow-back rigs. No 'edges' and no toy boats. Suffice to say all the fish caught were with a rod, some line and a hook. Baits were of the floating kind, unless otherwise stated, and not a thread of camouflage clothing was worn in the twenty years this story spans, apart from some pants I got cheap down the market.
Sometimes carp fishing makes me want to kill a man, or at the very least spank him with a wet weigh-sling. I once had 'words' with an angler on a busy day ticket water because he knowingly encroached on my floater fishing, his controller edging ever closer with each cast to the fish I'd spent a whole morning patiently feeding. A few weeks later it happened again, a different angler, same result - the tension belt tightening. Etiquette barely clings on in carp angling these days, everyone's too desperate to catch to consider others, and fishing this type of water will eventually destroy the soul if you let it; but look to the edge of places away from the numbers, away from the camo-clad clones and their egos - that's when other, intriguing worlds open up.
The Midlands has always been a wilderness for big carp, but in this centre of heavy industry and commerce, reaching out through the conurbations, there are jewels to be had if you know where and how to look. Cross-hatched waterways of rivers and canals; abandoned gravel workings; still working pits; nature reserves - man-made fissures on the landscape – places to let the dreams take hold, or the heart sink. We've fished them all over the years, me and Si (Hartop)-a great friendship forged on music and angling, and the need to discover new places. The 'Grass Is Greener' brother Si would say; the next momentous water just around the corner - no stone left unturned, as long as we could get there by bike. And as every angler knows any body of water has the smell of promise, at least at the start.
Inner city canals held a particular fascination, the memories backing-up like barges waiting in turn to climb a long flight of locks. Days spent hurtling down towpaths with a bag of bread and an old North Western lashed to the bike's crossbar, dodging the dog mess and the cider lovers. Those carp were a tough breed. Most were battle-scarred mirrors or ancient leathers - hard lives lived funneling through concrete tramways.
'Those carp were a tough breed. Most were battle-scarred mirrors or ancient leathers - hard lives lived funneling through concrete tramways'
The mid-nineties - the Coventry canal, through a small gap made in the trees a group of fish come in close, tails touching concrete, the hemp the irresistible draw, as it always is. The big leather, 'The Scar' is there, and feeding, but won't look at the meat on the bottom, just stirring up the area taking hemp and bits of meat suspended midwater. He’s not wily, just used to feeding at times when a hundred boats have churned the water to soup. As he swings in low and from the right a small sliver of meat slowly sinking finally has him rise to take it before it's travelled a foot, a brook trout sipping in a nymph, the curve of the rod silhouetted against the great Cathedral spires, the ratchet howling through the ring road catcall.
Then there was the flooded nature reserve in the shadow of the long-lamented Hams Hall, home to rare bitterns, and the much rarer 'Red', a fantastical mirror carp named for his deep cardinal flanks, first spotted by Si grubbing around a feeder stream outflow for the corn and hemp he'd put in. Not an ornamental but a true, unique mirror. Strategically positioned bird hides would give the game away here, prison guard towers set up for a binoculared sniper shot between the eyes. 'Red' went uncaught then, just too many twitchers to dodge to give the place a good go, but I bet he still rocks the water near the outflow even now, when the setting sun's mantle sets the flies to hatch, and that cardinal flank fires up the sky.
But it's not always the fish you remember. Once peddling back along the silent hedges, the bikes clanking, gears grinding homeward in a last breathless hell-for-leather push before the off- license closed, a splinter of water was mirrored back through the half-light of dusk. The copse that surrounded it looked easy to penetrate, although the imposing farmhouse a couple of hundred yards away looked... a bit close. Still, there were carp to be caught we figured, and plans were made. An early morning sortie revealed a tiny farm pond covered in dwarf lilies, fenced off and overhung by an ancient oak. Not long after we'd started fishing a strange, rasping, primal call was heard coming from behind the oak outside of the perimeter fence. Si and I looked at each other and laughed nervously. There's a scene in Jason and the Argonauts where Talos, that great bronze giant, walks into shot from behind a huge rock, scattering all mortals before it. As we watched, an enormous ram with gigantic blue testicles slowly lumbered into view from behind the oak screaming the scream of a thousand jackals! Here was the pool's protector no doubt, and he may as well have been guarding the Golden Fleece so seriously he took his job and the thing would bark his way round the fence, hoping to wake his master and give our game away. Maybe his reward was to be fed the bodies of the ne're do wells caught on the land? We didn't scatter but fished on, with eyes on old' big bollocks, and Si caught one, a nice common teased out from under the shade of the oak on floating crust, but the lasting image is of the wretched Death Ram, his huge blue woolly clappers hung so low they made furrows in the ground, and that rasping, hellish bark the only sound.
In '93, after virtually every blue dot on the Warwickshire landscape accessible by bike had been exhausted, news came through of another water; a strange place. The county has a great history of quarrying spanning centuries, rich seams of limestone and clays utilised to make cement. Some quarries had remained working but most had long closed, and were either land filled or left to flood, many becoming nature reserves and SSSI's. A non-fishing friend had mentioned a disused quarry set deep in the north of the county. He'd visited during the hot summer days when the local youths would use it to swim and dive in, and sometimes drown in - impossible depths and tap-clear water the death-trap lure. Great carp could be seen cruising around during the hot weather he said, so, go and have a look he said, it may be what you're looking for.
Sometimes a water is so impressive that it stops your world; and so unusual that on its first encounter everything you've ever learned about what a carp water should look like needs recalibrating. The old quarry was such a place. No lily-strewn scenics here, no sat-on-creel chocolate box sketches, just towering great spoil heaps 200ft high encroaching over seven acres of azure-coloured water. A moonscape where twisted iron meets the water's edge, and angry concrete foundations loom like beasts of prey; echoes from the past, a symphony in blue, and black, and grey.
'Sometimes a water is so impressive that it stops your world; and so unusual that on its first encounter everything you've ever learned about what a carp water should look like needs recalibrating'
First opened in the mid-nineteenth century extracting blue lias limestone and closed a hundred years later, in the forty years since the last kiln was fired down nature had barely begun to take it back. It was an open scar still, with accessible bank and old wooden fishing platforms on the north side stretching across to a huge cliff face on the South. The place felt dangerous, sinister even, and many quarrymen had lost their lives here. When the quarry was running at full pelt the place was so loud the workers were known as 'The Silent Ones' because they couldn't hear each other speak. When Si and I first saw it we were mesmerised, and also silent, but for different reasons - it was for fear we'd break the spell.
But to really impress a water needs its carp. So how did it all begin? The story goes that sometime around '70-71', on a baking hot summer's day a truck carrying a consignment of small Leney kings destined for another water out of the county broke down on the very road that skirted around the quarry. The driver walked into the nearby village to phone for back-up, then returned to wait. Sometimes in life a random event can change everything, and as the driver sweated out the afternoon it happened - the aerator failed. With the sun now arching high overhead those little bejewelled wonders started to gasp for air as the oxygen depleted, and some began to perish. The driver, with thoughts only to save the carp that were left made a decision that would be the bedrock for this story today - he released the remaining fish into the flooded quarry two fields away. A mix of heavily scaled mirrors and near leathers, numbers unknown, here they were left in peace for years, to grow into their bleak surroundings, a weird prison beyond the trees. The only human contact when an old boy's float-fished maggots intended for roach was snaffled, leaving a knocked over flask, a limp line and a pub story to fan the fires for months.
A late July morning '93, looking down from the cliff face towards the iron tower a few carp are cruising around, mid twenties perhaps, but it's hard to tell - the light is wrong, and the slight breeze ruffles and breaks up the shapes. Time slows as we watch . . . and the clock is about to stop. In an instant the light becomes right and through the veil the King appears. Quite who saw it first I don't recall, but you know when a sentence starts with "Fucking hell, look at that. . . ?" that Elvis has just entered the building. Three feet down, or five, difficult to tell when you're 20ft above the water, a huge, round-headed mirror hovers into view. Real big carp just have a 'look' about them when you see them in the water, and this thing was staggering - impossibly wide down its whole length and simply incredible. It didn't look real and it scared me. "I go for the peace and quiet" is an angler's stock response to the question of why we fish. Not me - I go to look monsters in the eye, feel my hands shake as I prepare to cast, and to have my heart ripped out of my chest.
'In an instant the light becomes right and through the veil the King appears'
We named him King Arthur, but we never saw it again that year, despite plenty of looking from probably the best fish-spotting vantage points in England! Other incredible fish were seen, some were caught, and some were lost. During the sixties the long derelict buildings and machinery had been dynamited and much of the dismantled ironwork was discarded back into the now, flooded pit. And from an angler's point this place was now The Pool of Unseen Snags. Some anglers have even had runs which stopped before they've reached the rod, the line hanging limp, cut off by mangled iron somewhere out in deeps.
We used simple names to describe the fish, aligned to how they looked; 'One Pec' a black-backed linear with one enormous pectoral fin and a massive tail. It nearly pulled Si's arm off one still summer morning when it sprung his margin-fished tutti trap. I can still see it now 15ft down, its body twisting against the tension in Si's fully compressed Sportex, and never giving up - the hardest fighting carp in Warwickshire. There was the 'White Mirror', a huge, pale, sparsely scaled breezeblock of a fish first spotted leaving its night-time feeding grounds on the underwater cliffs by the tower, its head covered in blue clay. Then there was 'Kink-Wrist', another of the 'sparsely scaled’s' with protruding eyes and a broken section towards his tail that made it swim with a pronounced waddle. A lover of floaters, but not a lover of floaters with hooks in them, he went uncaught in our time. I came close once. He was right in front of me, eyes bulging out his head two-rod lengths out and eating everything in his path. He didn't sense I was there; a gentle flick of the tiny controller and it splashed at my feet, the hook caught on a lone blackthorn branch behind me. Hexed again as a slow, juddery wake exited the scene as the 'Kink' waddled on . . . and into memory.
Three or four years after Arthur's first sighting the legend was very nearly made real. A friend, Carl, who'd only recently started fishing had asked to come along desperate to see this weird lake I’d spoken so often about. The day was warm and there were a few fish on top, with the odd one or two moving along the marginal shelf. I mooched about with the floaters up on the shallows and left Carl sat on the cliff float fishing corn down the edge. Every small stone on the bottom could be seen easily the water was that clear, every grain of corn visible. It was deadly still and there was something in the air. Around lunchtime I went to sit with Carl. As we sat and talked a fish came from open water through a gap in the bistort, up the marginal shelf and started feeding on the hemp and corn underneath his float. This same fish had been back and forth all morning, he said. It was a nice mirror, around 18-20lb, but a huge fish to him. Here was a good chance, so I wished him luck and left him to it. About an hour later Carl stumbled into my swim looking shocked. It transpired that not too long after I’d left his eyes were drawn away from the mirror still feeding below him to the gap in the bistort. Stippled light made it difficult to see properly at first but as his eyes adjusted a great bull-nosed head appeared and then the whole thing just kept coming, 12 inches across its back, 3ft long, and a broken row of scales down its linear line. He had to do a double-take. Carl was mesmerized; dazed. Was this real? It then sauntered up the shelf and sat right alongside the '18' and calmly started feeding. Easily twice as big, maybe much more. Both fish were down the shelf in slightly deeper water but were working up and getting closer to his float, and competition had set in.
'Stippled light made it difficult to see properly at first but as his eyes adjusted a great bull-nosed head appeared and then the whole thing just kept coming'
In an instant that great head was directly under his little orange-tipped waggler. It tilted down and the float trembled, and then gave a little bob. It had got his hook bait. Gills flaring, huge cavernous mouth working, tiny pin-prick bubbles kissed the surface as Arthur righted itself, then slowly backed off and turned along the shelf, as the float dragged down behind it. A strike met with nothing but a shaft of peacock quill behind the ear, the huge hulk of a fish descending slowly into the depths, and a hundred sleepless nights and thoughts to what might have been.
We never saw Arthur again. The rumour mill turned and has it that a few seasons after this encounter, in the early hours of an autumn night a man who ran a local water received a phone call asking if he wanted to buy a very big carp for his lake. He had it sacked up and weighed nearly 40lb, he said. It was Arthur. The great fish reduced to selfish commodity. Another man's dream taken away - a King without a throne.
'The great fish reduced to selfish commodity. Another man's dream taken away - a King without a throne'
Into the next millennium the place went through some changes. Si and myself had long moved on, Si to slay southern giants and me to the clear gravel pits of Oxford, but the old disused quarry was never far from our minds. During our time away a huge steel palisade fence was erected around the perimeter to keep the swimmers out. A water pump had been installed and had reduced the levels by half, also as a deterrent to the tombstoners, and now, with the extra sunlight reaching the bottom great seas of weed had sprung up over half the pool - new life reborn.
Si, Jake (Davoile), and Paul (Rhodes) all joined the controlling club, intrigued really as to what the pool now held, and although many of the old guard had long since died or were stolen before the fence went up, some had lived on. The Parrot, One Scale, around thirty of the original stock we guessed, and a new order had been established. Some small commons had been put in throughout the seventies and eighties, together with a few ornamentals that had outgrown their garden ponds. Even well into the 2000's stockings took place, the last when a binful of 1-3lbers went in. Most were never seen again, unable to penetrate the wall of pike. One big difference was that some of the commons had grown on. During Arthur's reign it was mainly mirrors and the biggest common we caught was around 15lb. One in particular was now easily twice that size.
It was good to be back, and was a joy to sit on top of the cliff and watch the flotillas moving down the centre of the pool; some of the old near leathers - skin like glass paper - carp that had taken on the appearance of their surroundings - abrasive, fins hard-edged, and swimming side by side with those wonderous Leney kings that remained. In line with many other deep pits, as soon as the winter was behind you, and with the sun came out and the air temperature in double figures, the carp would leave their much cooler sanctuary and seek out this extra warmth in the surface layers, inspecting anything floating that resembled food. Moths to a flame, and it was here the bigger fish could be singled out.
May '09; The sun-baked clay was warm to the touch. Down in the pit the temperature could be 10c higher than up on the cliffs. Conversely, at night it went deathly cold. The fish had been active on the shallows all day, and the 'big four', were taking their usual route along the sedge beds, through the emergent reed to follow the curve of the submerged concrete silo, then down to the end bay in the shade of the old loading tower. These were the same four mirrors that always swam together, on the shallows at least, and fed together. Today it was tadpoles. From high above they just looked like shadows in the water, or decaying weed, but when you got closer it became a writhing mass of carp food. The 'four' were all in the thick of this protein soup and were of equal size, but one fish stood out. Big scales on its shoulder merged into the most glorious linear plating, its colour the deepest chestnut and burnt umber. Its wrist and tail hung low in the water, giving it a distinctive lilt as it swam, and its head was as black as the tadpoles it was feeding on.
'Big scales on its shoulder merged into the most glorious linear plating, its colour the deepest chestnut and burnt umber. Its wrist and tail hung low in the water, giving it a distinctive lilt as it swam, and its head was as black as the tadpoles it was feeding on'
There is some video footage of this fish taken by Jake from the tower, one he called 'The Beast' due to, as Ted Hughes would say, its ‘malevolent’ eye. He wasn't fishing, just watching and filming; shot through a lens, pixelated frames move in time; shoals of small rudd peck at the bloated dog biscuits, a few small carp are taking, then a mid-twenty mirror starts carving wakes in the surface as it races from floater to floater. The footage stops, then picks up again and there, in grainy, muted colour is The Beast, right on the smaller mirror's tail and a foot further down. For five minutes the footage rolls on, the pair moving as one through and around the iron fortress. Fifty baits are eaten, but only by the underling- the eye of the Beast unmoving. We never saw it take a floater in daylight. Maybe it was a defence mechanism; maybe the cones in its eyes struggled to adjust to looking up into the harsh light to feed, but when the the dragonflies chasing down their prey ushered in the evening; when the air cooled to tempered steel, and the inky veil came down, the Devil would throw off his cloak. . . sometimes.
I'd tried drifting floaters down and over the big four all afternoon. The odd one was given a cursory look, but none were taken. They then left the tadpole beds and moved into the sea of weed sending up blue clouds as they foraged. As the light faded I'd moved back up from the shallows to where the pool narrowed and deepened - maybe I could intercept them on their way up to their night-time feeding grounds up at the deeps? A few floaters were still out there and were being carried on a slow drift, but apart from that all was still. Even the rudd had melted away. Big pike were still in the area picking off the remaining adult toads leaving the mating party late, so, for any small fish being active in the upper layers in the low-light spelt death in an instant.
It is often said that nothing gets the heart racing more than watching a big carp feeding on the top. True, and this tension is amplified tenfold when the fish appears out of nowhere, and is big, and black. It barely broke the surface at first, and was hard to see against the pale cliff face slowly merging into the gloom. But there it was and taking, it's long, dark form moving in and out of the bands of broken light reflected back off the wall. The cloak was off. There was around an hour of light left and here was a chance. It was taking the floaters in front of a huge weedbed 60 yards out, then, to the left another fish joined in. Never overthink a situation has always been my way - just let the rod go and intuition will do the rest. I was just about to cast when they simply stopped taking and disappeared. Had my scrambling around getting in position in given me away? In this huge echo chamber a handclap bounces through the valley for an eternity.
For ten minutes, nothing. I sat nervously tapping the reel-seat with my finger and thought it through. The big fish often favour small areas within areas to feed in, even on the surface, so I reasoned if it came back there was a percentage chance of it returning to its preferred dining spot in front of the weedbed. On occasion percentages will beat intuition hands down. I sent the bait out, the pale controller arrowing ghost-like through the gloom towards the wall drawing it in to the exact same spot it last took. Five more minutes passed. My eyes never left the floater, but I didn't see the take. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a dark shape slant in from the right; I felt it rise through the surface column as if in slow motion, then, with a loud, muffled gunshot sound the water erupted, the line whipped tight and a bow-wave a foot high exited the swim as it took off through the weedbed, boring ever deeper before coming to a halt. I tried everything to move it. Every angle, up the bank, along the bank, every slack-line lesson learned over years of extracting fish from situations such as these. Most weeded fish can be moved with patience but here I was at the point of hand lining, which is when you know the game is nearly up.
'I felt it rise through the surface column as if in slow motion, then, with a loud, muffled gunshot sound the water erupted'
Although I couldn't be certain which fish it was, deep-down I knew. And deep-down I knew pulling for a break was not how I wanted this to end. With the line wrapped round my fist, and right at breaking point, and just as the second gunshot crack of the day was about to ring out I slackened off and paused for breath. In chess, if the King is your last piece left your opponent has fifty moves to checkmate you before the game is declared a draw. One way or another a draw would not be the outcome here, but I still had a few moves left to win it. All along my bank for about 70 yards blackthorn and hawthorn trees were established, but nothing bigger than around 12ft high. By getting to the top of the bank I could just get clearance over these, once or twice having to jump with the rod to get it over until I finally reached the shallows over 120 yards away, where it opened out into sedge and Norfolk reed. Still checking the angle of the line I was now looking down the throat of the pool and was 90 degrees to the fish from my original position. I heaved and gave it the 'convincer' but still nothing moved. I then had to get in the water, and, passing the inlet moved up on to the rocky shoreline at the base of the cliff, an ankle-breaking exercise in broad daylight, but fraught with danger as the place became enveloped in grey. With boots filled with water and clay, I edged along until I was stood directly opposite the swim I had hooked the fish from. I remember picking out my rucksack eighty yards away on the ground in the half-light and thinking how surreal it all was, and how glad I was I'd remembered my landing net!
The line could now be seen entering the weedbed just twenty yards from me. I wound down again and before the rod hit its full compression it sprang back, juddered in my hands as I frantically reeled thinking the fish was gone, then the line drew tight again, this time twenty yards further along. It appeared I'd mis-judged the fish's initial run when first hooked - it had piled through the big weedbed, but then out the other side and along the wall. I moved to face it, pulled again and then the best feeling in the world at times like these was transmitted back through the rod - the feeling of a long-weeded fish finally coming free. The water here deepened to 10ft and slowly, as chunks of weed hit the surface a purple/black behemoth loomed back, twisting through the columns, the tiny white pop-up visible in its scissors. Then the second wave hit.
The fish got its bearings, righted itself and took off at speed along the margin towards the deeps, cutting an unbelievable bow wave up the pool. It was like the Severn bore. Down and away it went, the old C5 clutch hardly able to keep up, my left hand and arm shredded by thorns whilst trying to stay upright. When eventually the fish stopped, its head buried in another weedbed, I followed it for another forty ankle-jarring yards until I could go no further. An impenetrable line of bushes cut off the rocks here. The moves were running out. The fish was at the apex of where the pool curves round, an area littered with sunken danger, and with the tower in sight, and no more steps to take I held the rod parallel to the surface and pulled hard. It was solid at first, but then kicked free, and ever so slowly I started leading it back towards me. No 'dog on a lead' this, more a wolverine pulled by the tail. Periods of dead weight were interspersed with violent slashes of the rod as the fish pummeled into the claybed. For ten more minutes the battle was played out, huge sheets of bubbles sent up, and although it went on a few more runs, none were quite as supercharged as the first, and I eventually had the fish circling ten feet down a rod-length out.
Even though the light was nearly gone the water was so clear I could still see six feet down, and what I saw as the fish came up through the water nearly stopped my breathing. Yes, I was attached to the Beast, of that there was no doubt - it's scaling and sloping tail and wrist confirmed this, but following it around was another incredible looking linear, lighter in colour, and equal, if not bigger than the one on my line. The scene slowed to a crawl as the pale fish melted away and the net was pushed out. I don't remember much else, only the age-old mantra of 'please don't come off' said repeatedly in my head, a flurry of spray, and a sharp pain in my side as I crashed backwards onto the rocks. I sat there in the now dark, and exaled a victory cry to myself, and then through the valley. The Beast had arisen.
There were no other anglers around so I took half a dozen shots on the camera's self-timer, but I wanted to get the fish back, so it was all rushed and only one came out. That grainy photo, soft of focus, bleached with harsh flash with me, soaked through and in my socks - it's not the best, but clearly shows the Beast in all its indignant fury, in all its dark majesty. In the flesh it was an astonishing creature, and still is the most incredible looking carp I've ever caught. But no photo could ever transport me back to that late spring evening and to the beating I took. The night I danced with the Devil and handed him back his cloak.
'no photo could ever transport me back to that late spring evening and to the beating I took'
There's a postscript to this capture. Later on that summer I hooked another of the 'big four' on a floater right down in the shallows. After ploughing through every weedbed known to man it eventually buried deep in the sedge in the corner of the little bay in the shadow of the loading tower. It took me an age to wade out and unknit the line, but was confident that, with patience the fish would eventually be shown the net. I moved to where I thought the fish was lying and unpicked the line from a tangled root mass. The controller pinged out, and there, five feet behind it, and tethered round a lone reed stem sat a huge linear. I thought at first it was the Beast again, but it didn't look dark or angry enough. It looked very much like the fish that had shadowed it that spring night, the 'Crescent Scale Linear' perhaps, a fish on the missing list for years. I'll never know because as I eased the net out, it became agitated, started swaying its huge head from side to side and the hooklink simply gave up the ghost. Checkmate, in forty-nine moves.
Looking back to that first summer, Si and I were perched high on the cliff face looking out across the quarry. It was another sweltering day, as it always seemed to be back then. The fishing had gone quiet, so we sat and ate our sandwiches and laughed about stupid things as usual, and talked about all we loved, music and fishing mainly, and of the future. The future was always something we positively avoided, too much living to do in the moment to let that get in the way, but with university places the other end of the country secured for the autumn the question of where we'd be in twenty years time came up. Twenty years time? We had no idea, but could only hope that the journey was a fruitful one. And so it has proved. Two lives fulfilled in work (sort of) and play (beyond expectation); two lives carved out of and shaped by the remarkable characters of our fathers, and surrounded by great loves and great friends. The subject then turned to the fish and this place that held us in its grip. "Do you think we'll be back here when we're forty?", Si said. "Creeping round the shallows, still looking out for Arthur"? "I hope so, I really do - and it'll be fifty pounds by then", I replied, and we said no more - we just stared out across the moonscape into an eternal summer. But in that moment we were conscious of a great truth - that in angling, nothing lasts forever, nature is in constant flux, as are all our lives, and to hold, if only for a short time that feeling of awe and wonder in your hands, or to see through eyes a natural world more beautiful, more strange than any fiction - that's what keeps the raging fires burning, is a privilege and should be cherished. Si then flicked the remaining crust from his sandwich into the air, which span beyond the cliff and down, bounced off the wall, and landed with a splosh in the edge. Before the rudd hoards could gather like piranhas, from out of nowhere Kink Wrist came straight up, opened its satchel-mouth and tried to take the bread, but overshot its aim. With pontoon eyes nearly out of their sockets, it just hung vertical, pecs fanning frantically, with the crust now balanced on top of its head. Confused at where this easy meal had gone, Kink gave up and waddled off down the margin. Si and I just looked at each other, and pissed ourselves laughing.
'in that moment we were conscious of a great truth - that in angling, nothing lasts forever, nature is in constant flux, as are all our lives'
I recently stood in the very spot where we first watched Arthur over twenty years ago. As the new dawn faded into day a fox bark echoed through the quarry, then all was silent. I thought of my own angling life; the friendships; the great fish; the laughter. So much laughter. And as my eyes fixed on the water a huge rudd flashed gold through the upper layers and gently rolled on the surface. I smiled. Big rudd were abundant back in the day, but were never seen now, replaced by hoards of small ones - 'palmers' as Paul would say. Some thought the real big ones had gone forever, but mystery still finds a way it seems? And as the ripples subsided, I thought I saw movement, deep down. Then, for a second, a huge pale flank reflected back through the early morning haze as it turned, a broad head covered in blue earth; the White Mirror perhaps, leaving his night-time feeding grounds on the underwater cliffs near the tower - the new King returning to his iron throne, and wearing a crown of clay.