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Redmire Memories
Bill's Shift Part One
By Pete Cranstoun

In the 1960's a weekly angling paper (Anglers Mail), conveyed an artical on a page dedicated to the specimen hunting fraternity. It was headed 'In the swim with the Big Fish Men' and later, 'Big Fish in Perspective'. various well known and respected angling writers cont ributting information on their favourite species. All good stuff I remember! Jack Hilton, who hailed from the Hertfordshire/Chiltern Specimen Group was one of the angler contributting at the time and though his writing would capture my thoughts and enthusiasm for hours, I had read snippets written by the man before in the widely acclaimed 'Fishing' magazine, dealing with the capture of various large course fish, in particular roach, chub, and barbel, but I must confess it was the carp articles in the weeklies, particularly pertaining to Ashlea and Redmire, that struck a chord. One instinctively knew Jack Hilton was not so much after specimen size fish, but the truly giant fish those waters held,
Even days when Jack's rod were not in use, with his ever watchful eye he would talk you through happenings below the water surface, the bubbling and stirring of mud made by feeding carp and close quarter scrutiny of the fish them selves, their antics and lifestyle. In Jack's description, the successful carpture would be like a story unfolding, and as the large carp wallowed into his net it appeared as if you, the reader, were looking over his sholder, his writings were so alive.
His disappointments and failures were also apparent. jack seemed a serious angler indeed, a person who would go to great lengths to fulfil his personal desires - but one also detected a humorous side to the man. A classic 'In The Swim' would be 'That First Week At Redmire', which displayed a picture of Jack's fellow specimen group member, Roger Smith, looking from the dam at Redmire and in the text depicted Jack's sightings of a truly giant common carp.
At the time I was a member of the South East London Specimen Group, a hand full of very keen, primarily carp anglers, and we were quite successful as an outfit, having acquired more than a few twenty pound plus carp between us, but forever striving for better, centring our fishing mainly around the Kent area. I can safely say that we were all captivated by Jack's writings and the glorious pictures that accompanied them. They seemed far away from those, at times, grubby, windswept gravel pits we were accustomed to.
A certain name appeared regularly in Jack's articles. It was his good fishing companion, Bill Quinlan, whom I met in the winter floods of 69 whilst barbel fishing on the Hampshire Avon at Christ Church. We had both broken away from the winter carping to get our rods bent with a few flood water barbel and, by coincidence, shared the same digs for the weekend. It wasn't long before we were talking enthusiastically about carp. Ashlea carp, Kent carp, Billing carp, Redmire carp, any carp!
I was fortunate to meet Bill several times that winter, same venue, same digs and we became great friends. As the cold winter sundown approached, it would often find us fishing the same swim together and, between catching the barbel, we would whisper of big fish and Jack Hilton.
"Jack is at Ashlea this weekend, after those carp again. wanted me to go with him", said Bill. But Bill had declined.
Althogh I had not, at this time, met Jack Hilton, my thoughts strayed to the man. fishing alone without his usual companion, intent on catching the big carp in the clear waters of Ashlea Pool in the depths of winter and, at that time, not knowing if they could be caught. Jack, not being of tender years, it was obvious to me that he was made of very strong material indeed.
I don't know if the winter carp became hard that year, or the barbel to easy, but the weekend would find Bill and I back on the banks of the River Avon again. In quite conversatuion, Bill nonchalantly dropped a bomb shell.
"By the way, Pete, there is a place in the Redmire syndicate next year and I have mentioned to Jack that you maybe interested in joining: don't give me your answer yet, there are things to consider. Cost you fifty quid, plus the arduous travelling from London every three weeks. Got to make two weeks money last three. Then there are the carp, some flipping monster big things, if you fish hard; I mean on bubblers most mornings and evenings, chasing them, not any feeding times. I have worked it out Pete, one chance a week!"
By a stroke of good fortune, four members of the South Eats London Group, namely Dave Hayes, Peter Badley, Alf Engers and myself were to fish Redmire at the start of the 1970 season. Dave, Pete and Alf on the same rota, myself on what was termed Bill's rota, which consisted of Bill Quinlan and Tom Mintram. All rota's were sorted out one evening during the close season at Jack Hiltons house in Hertfordshire where he made us all, newcomers and old hands alike, very welcome.
Jack could fish any time he chose but was to stay on Bill's rota for the coming season, Jack making the journey to Redmire alone from his Hertfordshire home, Bill driving every third week from his North London home to liaise with me in South London before pointing the van on its prolonged westerly course. Good guy that he is, he dropped me at my very doorstep on the return trip (an act for which I will always be eternally greatful).

Introduction To Redmire
The date, June 14th 1970, a very hot and sunny afternoon. Bill's van eventually drew up under the shade of the trees. We had finally made it! the smart Mr Hilton how had greeted us at his house for the syndicate meeting was now a camouflaged Jack the carp man and had just clambered down frromt he climbing tree to greet us. With a cheery hand shake and hello, Jack couldn't hide his excitement. He had been at the lake most of the day and seen large carp, lots of them. wihtout stopping for a cuppa, Jack reckoned we should take an immediate look at the carp at the far side of the pool, before they departed. I followed Bill, stalking style, skirting the dam, through the fence and undergrowth and up the climbing tree, Jack bringing up the rear.
Out there, at varying depths, were the very things Jack had been writing about, seven carp, much bigger than I had seen before. Jack and Bill whispered between then about the lack of weed, sizes, commons, mirrors etc. Jack pointed over my sholder to a certain fish.
"Pete, see that light coloured mirror? thats the 35." (this was the first carp Jack had caught from the pool and was used as an excellent guide when compared to others in close proximity.) "what do you think of them?" I said nothing, just stared down, my eyes glued to the water. Picture the scene - one rooky carp angler who has perceived Redmire for a full three minutes, unable to take it all in, perched in this tree with a king of the carp world each side of me and seven blisteringly big carp underneath - and Jack asking me what I thought! baptism by fire would be apt!
Foot note on those seven fish
None appeared to below 30lb in weight. The 35 was probably mid range; certainly three fish were clearly larger and one fish, a mirror, equally as large as the 35, had a pronounced kink in its centre body as viewed from the tree. This was a body line characteristic of some Avon barbel and was to be seen that year, 1970, on numerous occasions by myself, Bill and Jack. We referred to it as the kinky tailed mirror! Although a much smaller fish of about eighteen pounds or so was to be caught, albeit with similar deformities, that particular fish wasn't, I believe, seen again in 1971 and was certainly never caught in later years in that condition.
Jack's Forward Planning
The virtual lack of surface weed and scum so apparent that year, ment that from the tree we could see carp far up the pool, so Bill and I crept our way to the shallows, stopping here and there. Jack disappeared to make Bill and I a very welcome brew. Along the way, Bill informed me of incidents that had happened at various pitches, homing to the spot where he had taken his 20lb Redmire mirror, still keeping an eye as we went right the way up through the Withy Beds to the very end swim on the west bank.
I noticed, in some small openings - in fact damn nigh all the openings - that there was a strategically erected, single front rod rest, all of the same keyhole frame type with dull red rubber covering, often referred to as 'Mickey Mouse ears' because of the shape and, I believe, marketed by Efgeeco, and obviously put there by Jack. Bill saw me taking more than an interest in the rod rests.
"allwims reserved for Hilty", said Bill, keeping a remarkably straight face. "but if you ask Jack nicely, he might let you fish one."
I was only slightly taken in by Bill's remark but on the way back to the vans, Bill's earlier words came flooding back.
"cost you fifty quid" (now that was real money in those days). Taking every third week off ment I would inevitably loose my job and if Bill wasn't joking, it would mean I couldn't fish anywhere! I can remember thinking, 'must have pulled the short straw for this rota!,' but these thoughts were all dispelled when confronting Jack.
"The rests? oh, for fish feeding in tight. No, Pete, fish wherever you like. If you want to use them, do so; if they get in your way, pull them out and leave them to one side."
Jack and Bill made me feel at home and part of the team. after tea, they showed me Greenbanks and beyond, stopping at the very swims where Jack had caught the 35lb mirror and lost the big common after virtually having the fish wallowing over the net two years previously. The latter they both talked of as if it had happened yesterday. Bill showed real emotion but there was no hint of bitterness or despair in Jack's face, just a smile. The same design rod rest were apparent again in most of the small openings on the east bank.
It transpired through the season that Jack always arrived ahead of Bill and I, and would plant all the rod rests on his arrival, collecting them up in the wee smalll hours before his departure. Approach and concealment were very high on Jack's priorities, knowing the Redmire carp had an uncanny knack of fading away from any pitch occupied by an angler.
Although the carp early morning, often close in, feeding was, at times, predictable, the areas of the lake they chose to feed in were not so and, bearing in mind that the fish scared easily, the front rests being already in postion ment one only needed a rod, seat and a single back rod rest, which could be pushed in well away from the waters edge. It was very much creepy - crawly stuff in those days. In fact, there were so many of Jack's rod rests around the pool, I mentioned to him that he must have 'cleaned out' the stock of most of the tackle shops around where he lived. Jack replied that that was exactly the case, and if I were to keep my eyes open for more of the same design in my own area, he would gladly reimburse the cost of purchase.
We had two days before the opening of the season on the 16th and it was a good time to get to know Jack - and Bill, for that matter - for I had never carp fished with either of them before. Afternoons went into nightfall talking of fishing at that enchanting pool.
Jack was very forward in his thinking and never, without provocation, did he bring his own past captures to light, those being, to him, yesterdays fish. But if persuaded he would light up one of his small Hamlet cigars, lick his lips and go into a complete no holds barred story, not missing any tiny, significant item of information contributing to the story if he thought it had any relevance to the ultimate capture.
Jack quietly talked of the distant past. Describing the short, often amusing encounters with the relatively small but fiery chalk pit wildies, on through the years, spending time beside carp waters the stamp of Junelins Pool or the mighty Tiddenfoot, on to recent times, camped by the side of Ashlea or Redmire in search of monster carp.
A proportionate amount of time was also spent on his searching out other species. He related the story of the massive river chub taken from dead water virtually at his feet, a fish of ever 7lb, he was to capture twice on his own styled carrot shaped bait. The fish was later to be captured by Jack's friend and fellow specimen group member, young Bob Buteux, emulating Jack's style, as was the shy biting, big twitcher barbel taken from a swim beneath the bush on the river tow path. Bill Quinlan was also to capture this barbel as a personal best in later years but it could be said that Jack was the path finder for both of these fish and caught both of them, without assistance of prior knowledge of there whereabouts, after a staggeringly short time in there pursuit.
Bill, of course, had fished in Jack's company for many years and was conversant with many of the stories, but I think he was still amazed at Jack's ability to describe precisely all the events in detail, quoting length and girth of fish, and, in some cases, ounces and grams.
Although a profound captor of big fish, 'Hilty', as Bill would call him, would never come across as the big 'I am' and always tried to bring some humour into his stories. Listening to Jack, it became clear to me that he liked to be as close as possible to the fish he was after - preferring, if possible, to study there habits before the capture was made.
Conversely, he was also sowhat sceptical of certain (claimed) passed captures, equally giving a sensibly reasoning as to why he doubted them. Jack was also a devout listener and demanded to hear my own repertoire of fishing stories from the past notwithstanding that we were talking quietly under the famous old oaks of Redmire, the evening stories of Kentish carp were rife. Jack and Bill shared the same passion for them in the not too distant past, Jack being particularly interested in Brooklands Lake, Dartford, where he had spent much of his time in earlier years, although later was to refer to Brooklands, in his book 'Quest for Carp', as Goodwood, for secrecy reasons.
A note Here
I think it was a bonus to Jack's integrity not to have named the water for he would have no desires to fish there ever again but would try to keep the location as secret as possible, knowing his circle of friends still kept in touch with the place. Carp fishing to Jack took pride of place but he had other interests, although tame by comparison, one being vintage and classic fast cars and the link between Brooklands/Goodwood would appear to be a 'spin-off', excuse the pun, from the named motor race circuits of earlier years.
Will It Handel It...?
Jack fished Redmire with tackle that was basically well balanced and neat. It constisted of his own designed honey glass through action rods, capable of casting very light terminal link ledger gear, but powerful in the lower sections to subdue carp of large dimensions, and the trusty Mitchell reel (in Jack's case the right handed type), A very strong size 4 or 6 low water salmon hook shortented andsoldered and then painstakingly worked upon to produce a very sharp, neat hook indeed with, in effect, two barbs, the second one to stop line slip at the shank. This was coupled with 12lb prestretched Platil stark line. I never saw him deviate from this set up during 70/71,
Althogh Jack was reasonably happy with this, he had reservations about its strenght to handle one individual fish which he had seen in the 69 season. A carp (I'm sure of) which alone was instrumental in bringing him back time after time. It was, of course, the big common. In Jack's words, "The four foot long common", which he aptly named 'It', but rarely spoke about.
Redmire Mornings - The Serious stuff!
just light enough to see the bubblers through the mist and the cast is made; the too swan shot link ledgered maggots or red worms landing lightly in the feeding area. the tension in your body makes you move very slowly as you adjust yourself in the chair. The atmosphere would be electric. One eye on the silver paper indicator laid in the grass and line frome rod tip to surface, the other transfixed on the water surface in front (noting the path of the bubblers) rather like the early morning tench fishermen. The atmosphere would intensify when, not thirty feet away, small clusters of bubbles worked over the surface above the hook bait.
at Redmire time seemed to accelerate. in no time at all it would be mid - morning and all traces of damp and mist long gone, but the silence and tension would continue untill the hot sun beamed down,scorching the lake and inevitably bringing the carp steadily one by one to the surface above the feeding area. some covered in mud over their backs and eyes, showing evidence of their gluttony; some adorned with lines of light coloured mud - in effect, looking like deep lacerations down their sides, leaving you unable to confirm whether they were mirrors or commons.
Almost a relief knowing that the carp had finished feeding and you could now breath more deeply again. Just watching them was a marvellous sight, lying still beneath the surface in a seemingly unconcerned mannor, but with every gentle wave of their pectoral fins the mud slowly vanishing to reveal perhaps a bronze, wid shouldered common as clean and glistening as a Mint new penny. Or one of those stunningly handsom linear mirrors that only Redmire could boast. Phew! I was nearly back in Inghams climbing tree!
Jack's Craft
Small things observed about Jack's handicraft, which went unnoticed at first. If the fish kept to their routine early feeding, then Jack would do the same thing most mornings: be up before day break (his alarm would ring in his van where he slept), a quick bowl of cornflakes, then out looking for bubblers. it would be a rare event indeed for Jack or Bill to miss the dawn feeding, regradless of weather conditions. the feeding fish dictated where they fished.
After finding the bubblers, Jack would watch for five minutes or so before casting, possibly waiting for them to converge on one area and the two or three swan shot weight making the only sound, for he would cup the bale arm with his hand to deaden the engagement. Then, no more casting; just quite.
Fascinating feeling, looking across the pool through the early monring mist, the glass like surface being dimpled only by the feeding carp giving away their whereabouts with the occasional burst of bubbles. The crouching figures of Bill and Jack, fishing different pitches, so alert as to what was happening in front of them, yet with a complete silence; a silence that lasted all morning and would repeat itself every day throughout the week. but somethimes, just sometimes there was that sudden, but almost slow motion, lift of the oily surface water in front, followed by a large bow wave rocketing away that heralded a hooked fish.
I had a misconception that Jack would be very hard when playing fish, a heave ho type, and it was certainly a view I possessed before seeing him in action. I suppose it was his Ashlea encounters, the heavy line and tactics I had read about. However, in the relatively weed - free waters of Redmire, Jack played fish bordering on the light side, remembering the hook pulls of previous wncounters perhaps, and never came near to useing the full potential of the tackle, at all times setting a loose clutch and useing finger pressure on the spool.
Bill Q used the same basic tackle but differed in that the clutch was tightened, the fish being played on the back wind of the reel; Bill left hand, and Jack right hand. They made the playing, or coaxing, of the fish more like an art.
A certain story comes to mind that typifies Jack's quick thinking. Jack was fishing Keffords in torrential rain. The rod and Mitchell reel were kept low to ground level with open bale arm as normal. In these wet conditions it was possible for the clutch to seize, due to splashed mud and earth entering between the spool and flyer. Jack was aware of this and when the run finally came, he picked up the rod but instead of engaging the pick - up to strike, knowing the spool maybe seized, he cupped his hand over the spool and struck into a fast moving fish, then for the fisrt mad rush checked the line from the open spool with thumb and forefinger, only to engage the bale arm when the fish had stopped its first run. The fish was duly landed, a leather carp around 24lb.

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