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Jack's Net
By Chris Ball

The spring conference of the Carp Society provided a wonderful opportunity for someone like me to meet old friends, including the anglers who had gathered for the Jack Hilton part of the proceedings. People I've talked to since the day said they thoroughly enjoyed the "Tribute to Jack Hilton" presentation, including some who had heard little of Jack before this day - their carp fishing having started in the last 15 years.
I'd been asked to bring Jack Hilton's landing net to form part of the backdrop for the on - stage interviews. This net, which by the way belongs to John Carver, having been given to him by Jack himself after he gave up the sport in 1975, has been here in my carp room the last couple of years , just on loan. Of course, I was delighted to take the net to the Dunstable event what I hadn't reckoned on was that some of the special guests had not seen this net for years, or in some cases had only a brief recollection of it.
So what was so special about this net. Well to start with it was mad of laminated cane, with a whole tonkin cane handle. It was manufactured around 1958 by the top specialist tackle maker of the time ,"B. James & Son" of Ealing. As mentioned in the column a few weeks ago, probably les than forty of these nets actually left the factory because of difficulties in manufacturing, and their relatively high price meant they were soon withdrawn.
However Jack Hilton along with pals, Bill Quinlan and Alex Lewis, purchased them (as did at least 37 others) Jack used this net when he first started carp fishing in 1958. His first carp success came the following year and he subsequently used the Jame's net for the next 15 years (after 1969 the arms were changed to larger versions due to the size of the Redmire carp! ) However the most important fact about this net is that Jack inscribed the weights (in Indian ink) of every carp he ever caught down the handle's lenght. It's totally fascinating, as the man's career in carp fishing can be seen almost at a glance. It shows that Jack Hilton served his apprenticeship at a water thatheld "wildnes" - catching them along with his brother in - law Kenny Ewington - singlefigure fish, the best weighing some 9lb. If you look down the handle you'll bump into two double figure carp (Jack's first), in the late - summer of 1960 at 16lb and 17-1/2lb these carp came on Jacks first visit to a very public water and one where the carp had a reputation as being difficult. The place was called Maylin's Pool these days known as Withy Pool - yet Jack had put two of inhabitants on the bank in a single night! He managed another double before the weather closed in for that year. After this the fishing took an upward turn as Jack moved to Kent and landed many a good fish from places like Brooklands and Spicers.
But it was in the fateful late - summer of 1966 that Jack bumped into Tom Mintram, which radically changed Jack's fishing. Tom controlled the fishing at small lily - infested pool in Gloucestershire named Ashlea Pool. It hel, according to Tom, monster carp. Jack went.. his first visit produced a personal best carp of 19lb (by the way Jack confirmed Ashlea held the biggest carp he'd ever laid his eye upon at the time). The following year Ashlea Pool held, understandably, Jack's attention, and shortly after the season started another 19 - pounder made its way into his net - then a little later, his first 20 - pounder.
This particular carp proved to be nearer 30lb than20lb, and at the time represented a huge fish at 28-3/4lb. But destiny had far more in store for Jack. In September 1968, he visited for eight days, carp angling's Mecca - Redmire Pool. Accompanied by angling friends Roger Smith, Graham Iggesden and Mike Mintram, Jack stepped up the carp ladder by a huge jump - he landed a 35lb mirror, From then on redmire had Jack by the throat so much so that he acquired the fishing rights to the pool the following year his quest for ever bigger carp ultimately led to him becoming the first man to land three carp over 30lb, and then the first to catch four, then five over that weight. It was with some inevitability that Jack finally cracked the 40lb mark.
This incredible escapade with carp, for Jack ended in 1975 when he spectacularly stopped fishing and became a Jehovah's Witness. As mentioned earlier, the whole of his carp fishing is depicted on the handle of his unique lading net.
So it was with some delight that I showed Jack's son Keith, the very net at the Dunstable show. I was also delighted to meet Mike againg the son of Tom Mintram, at the show both these sons of famous carp fishermen fish for carp - indeed Mintrams association with carp goes back a long way. He captured his first 20lb carp in June 1966 from the famous Ashlea Pool. By coincidence this little pool, as I mentioned earlier also gave Jack Hilton his first twenty.
However, another eminent angler was there at the Hilton tribute this being Pete Frost. Though never one to exclusively fish for carp, he nonetheless accounted for some huge carp early on. Was it really 36 years ago that he landed a massive 31lb mirror from a hitherto unknown carp water, Tiddenford Pit, in Bedfordshire. Just rub salt in the wound, a week later he landed another big carp, this time a near fully scaled mirror of 25lb. It was enough at the time, to make any hardened carp man weep including Jack Hilton. Indeed, had it not been for ill fortune Jack himself would have landed one of these big carp in 1964.
So although the tribute to Jack Hilton at the 1996 Carp Society showed him to be a great angler and an outstanding carp fisherman, he, just like you and I, had the odd disaster along the way.

By Chris Ball


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