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History of Hilton Quest Carp Rods

My late farther Jack Hilton had fished for a while as a child enjoying the local rivers and ponds, catching Roach to three quarters of a pound and the odd jack to four pound which was something to talk about for weeks after. Jack gave up fishing at the age of fifteen in frustration having not achieved as much as he had hoped for. However in 1958 my dad returned to fishing, this started out as purely just for relaxation to take him away from the pressures of work at the time, although this soon changed. As with many other carp anglers of the day his choice of rods were a home built cane 10ft MK1V Avon and a MKlV carp rod, these being brought in kit form from B James & Son. My dad even paid out around twelve pounds to buy a brand new purpose made carp landing net built to Richard Walker’s design, this was also made by B James & Son. Jack enjoyed using both of these rods for carp fishing for around four years; the Avon was also well used a on the rivers. Jack kept and used his landing net for many years until he eventually packed-up fishing in 1975.

The intense efforts and dedication that my dad put in to his angling became so great during his quest to catch many large and different species of fish that he developed his own unique angling skills. These he put into practice with great efficiency, resulting in some of the more memorable captures of his time. These skills included many of the teaching’s that were so genuinely offered at the time by the likes of Maurice Ingham and Richard Walker, through their highly detailed books along with Richard’s articles that appeared in the angling weekly’s. My dad also communicated with Richard by letter to further passify his addiction for yet more angling knowledge. He also managed to bend Richard’s ear with some pretty intense conversations at fishing meetings amongst other places. Jack became nothing short of fanatical in his approach to fishing right down to the finest detail, to him there were know limits to which he would not go in order to catch the largest and finest specimens such was the dedication and passion that he had towards his quarry.

My dad’s involvement with the Herts Chiltern Specimen Group was of immense help to him as it brought together quite a few keen and like minded people such as Bill Keal, Roy Wicks, Kenny Ewington, Roger Smith, Alec Lewis, Dave Hugill, Pete Frost, Alan Brown, Dave Cheshire, Bill Quinlan, Bob Buteux and Frank Guttfield. These anglers became great friends over the years; they were to help one another solve numerous different angling problems along the way sometimes by pooling many different ideas on tackle and tactics. They seemed to share in each others triumphs and failures, but most importantly of all they enjoyed their friendships along with the angling so much.

In the early 1960s Jack moved on to using glass fibre rods. These light blanks along with all of the other materials needed to build them were brought from Dons of Edmonton. This tackle shop was then and still is today an extremely interesting and good shop, the owner Mr Don Mc B Neish has over many years built up a wealth of experience along with a vast knowledge of fishing rods and general tackle, which he uses with great ease to help solve many angler’s problems.

The first Hilton rod, which was specifically designed and developed by my dad for his carp fishing was the ‘Ten-Ten’. The need for this rod came about as a result of the following events.

It was in early July of 1966; while Jack was walking towards a swim loaded up with fishing gear to set up for a week-end’s fishing with Roger and Bill at Fred Spicer’s lake in Surrey. While walking past another angler’s brolly Jack suddenly heard the words “You the geezer who’s never caught a twenty?” Jack stopped dead in his tracks as a shiver passed down through his spine, he looked over to the brolly with piercing eyes “Your Jack Hilton aren’t you?” the voice went on. While eyeing the brolly very suspiciously by this stage, the hairs on my dads neck were straightened, in a sharp growl he answered “Yeah, I’m Jack Hilton,” and then a face peered from beneath this brolly and replied “Then you’ll have to come and fish our lake” the character then fully emerged himself from his brolly and as he stood up, dad asked “Got some big `uns then, have you?” “Up to fifty, wouldn’t say bigger though,” was the reply. This angler was of course Tom Mintram and his lake was Ashlea Pool.
The result of this meeting was that Dad, Roger and Bill fished at Ashlea pool for the first time with Tom and his son Mike during September of that summer.

Upon their first arrival at the pool, the thing that struck Jack and the others most of all was how small and overgrown it looked. Being less than an acre in extent, the pool was almost entirely covered in water lilies and ‘cabbages` reached from the bed to just beneath the surface, and if that wasn’t enough the shallows also had intertwining ribbon weed and bullrushes from almost bank to bank. Another thing that struck Jack, Roger and Bill during this trip was just how big some of these Carp that they had spotted really were, for up until now these three could have only dreamed of pursuing such fish. It was also during this first trip that Tom after noticing the looks on their face’s invited Jack, Roger and Bill to join his syndicate there,

Jack now put his thoughts in to what was needed in the way of tackle to fish this densely weeded little pool with its large inhabitants on a more regular basis. Hooks and Lines were a big problem but so were the soft light glass fibre rods.
Jack found all that he needed in another very good tackle shop called Alan Brown’s, this was based in Hitchin. Over the following winter while fishing for Pike, my dad was able to find a reliable the line, this was 23&1/2lb Platil Stark. The Hooks that he settled for were the larger size 2 of the low water salmon hook pattern that he had used previously. To make these hooks suitable for carp fishing Jack had to cut the shank down, this also removed the loop eye. A solder blob was then attached on to the end of the shank and filed in to shape forming a line stop which suited the Domhoff knot that Jack favoured; this knot having been shown to him by Alan Vare.

Having sorted out reliable lines and hooks, my dad was now able to think with confidence about the type of rods that would be needed to use at this little pool. Along with Alan Brown’s full co-operation, it was decided that the requirements of these rods were that they would be able to effortlessly cast light baits such as free-lined crust or lobworm, but to also have enough reserve power to use the 23lb line to its full potential. My dad and Alan then decided to build an eleven foot rod instead of the usual length of ten feet that was the norm back then. Alan found a suitable one piece glass fibre blank, total length was ten feet ten inches.
The first rod was extended to twelve feet in length by inserting a duralumin tube in to the butt section under the corks. The blank was then cut to two sections, Alan then removed around two inches from the middle of the blank, this improved the overall action of the blank, but the length proved to be overwhelming resulting in an extremely sloppy action, a complete failure. Alan then decided to cut around six inches off the bottom of the top joint and replacing the male ferrule, he then cut around six inches off the duralumin extension and fitting additional corks forming a 7/8 diameter 26&1/4inch full length handle which was fitted with alloy reel bands. In effect he had only removed around six inches from the middle of the rod. Jack and Alan found that this had stiffened the lower to middle parts of the rod thus giving more power while leaving the tip flexible for delicate casting; this would make full use of the new hooks and lines. The brass ferrule used was a reinforced splint end, suction type. Being that the blank was a bright straw colour Jack painted his rods a dark brown, and then fitted a set of Cromex course rings using a medium size butt ring set at only nine inches above the cork handle. Then the complete rod was finished with varnish. The close setting of the butt ring to the handle was so that the silver paper bite indicator could be hung off the ground with the reel pick-up open; this allowed a finer and clearer indication of ‘twitch’ bites. It was purely coincidence that the actual finished length of this rod ended up back at ten feet ten inches with a test curve of slightly less than 2lb; l would say nearer 1&3/4lb.

When Jack returned to Ashlea pool for the 1967 season, he was fully confident in his tackle preparations. His great efforts were rewarded by catching a 19lb 2oz mirror, and a little later in the season this was followed by the capture of his first 20lb carp. This was a beautiful mirror of 28lb12oz; my dad caught both of these fish at Ashlea using his new Hilton purpose built Ten-Ten carp rods. In September of that year he used the same rods at Redmire Pool and caught his first thirty, this was ‘Pinky’ weighing an amazing 35lb This was the sixth largest carp ever caught at the time and the heaviest carp caught that season, not a bad tally for the first of the new Hilton carp rod’s.

This rod is one of Jack’s own Ten-Ten’s that he built himself for fishing at Ashlea Pool back in late 1966 in preparation for the 1967 season.

After my dad had first fished at Redmire in September 1967 and then secured the lease on the pool in early 1968. He new straight away that he wanted to develop a slightly lighter and more sensitive Carp rod that would be suited to a less densely weeded lake than Ashlea Pool.
Again he turned to Alan Brown and the pair of them thought long and hard about which blank would be suitable. Then Don Mc B Neish advised the whereabouts’ of some blanks that he thought may be of use, made by D.A.M of Germany. Alan and Jack soon found the location of this supplier which was beneath the railway arches at King’s Cross. They had a good look at these blanks and decided to buy the rest of the stock from this supplier, as there were around seventy blanks left. The length of this new blank was ten feet ten inches; this was then worked out and cut for an eleven feet rod, having three inches removed from the middle section. This was to stiffen up the blank which improved the performance of the rod overall with a test curve of around 1&1/2lb. A major noticeable difference with this rod was the use of the newly developed type of hollow glass fibre spigot. This would form a more flexible middle joint replacing the usual solid and somewhat heavier brass ferrule. This meant that there would be less obstruction to the rod’s action both during casting and while playing a fish. The additional length needed to make the rod eleven feet was made up in the same way as the Ten-Ten; a duralumin tube was inserted in to the butt section under the corks. 13/16 diameter cork was then used to form a full length 26inch handle which was fitted with the latest type John Roberts reel bands. Later production rods had the diameter of there cork handles increased to 7/8inch. This was the first production rod to use these lightweight John Roberts reel fittings, so l have been told. Chromex course rings were then fitted with black whippings throughout. These rings started with a large butt ring set down near to the handle, again for use with the silver paper as with the Ten-Ten. The colour of this blank was unstable, being a pale yellow colour to start with and turning to a dark honey colour over time while being exposed to the sun light.

A little later D.A.M ceased making blanks, so Sportex with advice from Alan Brown copied the D.A.M blank as near as possible and Alan used these new blanks for the production of the Hilton Carp rod. After production of the honey coloured blanks had finished, Alan used brown blanks and then a little later red blanks all being made by Sportex. Years later when Sportex finally stopped producing these blanks Alan managed to have some blanks made by Conoflex. These blanks were black in colour and had seymo lined rings fitted. My dad was very impressed with my pair of these rods as he found for the very first time that the actions of each rod matched each other, as back in the old days this was not the case every blank was different due to the manufacturing techniques used back then.

These Hilton carp rods were produced from the late 1960’s and were still available until around the late 1980’s. During this time Alan and his good friend John Hutchinson went in to partnership and formed a company called Alan Brown Rod Developments Ltd. Together they built and sold these rods to Alan’s tackle shop in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. These rods were exported to Holland, Belgium and Germany and Alan thought that around one thousand rods were built during this time; Alan also told me that the price of a Hilton rod back in the late 1960’s was around thirteen pounds. John later told me that the price for a completed rod during the early 1980s was £36.00, while the kit price was £27.00 and the retail price of the blank only was £15.75.

Today we are pleased to introduce our latest generation of the only genuine new Hilton carp rods available in the world. These new rods are being hand built in England by John Hutchinson using the latest and finest quality English made honey coloured blanks. We have worked very carefully during the design stages also studying my dads own original rods. This has enabled us to incorporate many of the finer details, along with some of the old characteristics of these rods of which we have blended into our new designs, helping to make this generation of Hilton carp rods direct descendant’s of the originals.


In total we have seven new and exciting Hilton Carp rods on offer within our new range. The carp rods are all listed below with further details set out individually within our rod section.
Quest Ten-Ten Carp, test curve 13/4lb, length 10feet 10inches
Quest Tribute Carp, test curve 11/2lb, length 11feet (was the Jack Hilton Carp rod)
Quest Hilti, test curve 2lb, length 6feet
Quest Carp, test curve 2lb, length 11feet
Quest Carp, test curve 21/2lb, length 12feet
Quest Carp, test curve 3lb. length 12feet
Quest Carp, test curve 31/2lb, length 13feet

These rods are all numbered, accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and are available exclusively from Hilton Angling.


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