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Redmire Memories
Bill's Shift Part Two
By Pete Cranstoun

The Not So Serious Stuff
Certain evenings, as darkness fell, would find all three of us back at the vans discussing some of thdaily events over dinner. Not the banquets and roasts that were part of the Redmire scene in days gone by, just a primitive snack between bouts of intensive fishing. bill and I would indulge in a hot, selected, tinned - splosh substance; Jack would, at times, look after himself more, producing from the confines of his mini van, an upmarket vegetarian type meal - celery, crackers, cheese, radishes and all the trimmings, assuredly prompting the pleading words from Bill, "Dunno how often you can eat that rabbit food Hilty" and, in the nest breath, "Gonna save some for me and Pedro?" what ever quick witted reply jack made to safe guard his lunch wouldn't dampen Bill's 'jackal instincts'. I was to find, in due course, that the bouts of quiet foolery between the pair would be quite normal, especially at meal times. Jack, at times, giving in slightly to Bill's constant badgering, for to beat Bill in a war of words would be uncommon. instead, as Bill would say, "Hilty will get back at me in his writings."
unbeknown to me, jack was then writing the last chapter of his book 'Quest for Carp'. He was still writing for the weekly papers of course and Bill, after a bout of mickey taking with Jack would inform him, "i suppose this will go down on paper, me being portrayed as the village idiot and you the demigod as usual" and, with great laughter from Jack, a smiling bill would continue looking in my direction, pointing at jack and saying, "Keep the right side of 'im Pedro or he'll get you in his scriptures."
it was, of course, all a bit of fun at Bill's expense but Bill could always be relied upon to put himself in the firing line during the week, giving Jack stacks of ammunition to use, if required.
Strange how fishing brings together the most unlikely combination of characters. Jack was the stockily built, tough - as - they - come, ex-paratrooper but, for all his outward appearance, very well mannered and quietly spoken, with an almost gentlemanly air about him. Added to this, hte immovable Irish/Cockney waggery of Bill made for remarkable listening it was clear that the pair of them were the very best of friends and, between bouts of amusement, would just as easily snap into a more serious discussion regarding Redmire's larger inhabitants, bouncing ideas of one another.
I classed myself very fortunate to at Redmire with the pair of them and viewed their quiet light hearted banter more of a safety valve from the often long, intense concentration the pair put into their fishing and their open discussions left me in no doubt that I could but learn from their vast experience. to a point in time when jack would retire to his van for an unbroken night's sleep, leaving Bill and I to forage our way back to our respective swims in the ptich dark, to again do battle with those infamous Redmire eels.
The Big White Chief
Jack had acquired control of the fishing rights at Redmire, much against the tenant farmer's wishes. Although Eric the bailiff and the farm hands (with those ever hungry collies), were very pleasant and chatty to all of us who fished the pool, the tenant farmer certainly was not. he was in conflict with Jack and simply did not want us there. At times it showed!
It wouldn't be uncommon for the farmer to stop his landrover at the centre of the dam track, get out, grip the dam rail and leer up the pool for some minutes, probably in the hope of confrontation, only to slam the door and depart with some haste when none was forthcoming. He would often be seen keeping a watchful eye on the comings and goings from a distance. When he was about, Bill would often warn Jack in hushed tones, "here comes the Big White Chief again, Hilty!" on the dam would appear the Landrover and the whole episode would be repeated.
Jack, of course, knew how delicate the situation was and would often convey the rule book to Bill and myself, asking me, in turn, to convey the seriousness of the rules to Messrs. Pete, Dave and Alf on the Kent rota, with whom I would fish outside the boundaries of Redmire. The 'no swim clearing' rule as laid down by the Trustees, often got Bill fired up. Bill appeared in my swim just after dark one evening, rolling the old Rizla and complaining "jack this and that", probably about Jack not allowing Bill to cut the last twig. "Flippin' Hilty", Bill would rant, "thinks he runs the place" - which, of course, he did. so it was irregular that Jack let me cut a small opening by the corner of the dam. I asked if it could be done, as big fish used to frequent this corner but were seemingly unapproachable from the dam and a cast could not be made around the oaks. It could be fished off the overflow, but that meant standing in black smelly ooze and, come evening, being bitten unmercifully by midges and mosquitoes. Being near to the dam track and in the vision of the farmer, I figured Jack would not allow it, But he saw the reasoning as long as I made it small. I cut the swim at night and was just able to manoeuvre one rod and an underarm cast, but that was enough to see off the carp in that area for the rest of my stay. Canny creatures.
Redmire 1971
Bill Quinlan took a sabbatical from Redmire after the 1970 season to return in later years and that left a gap to fill on the rota. I put Bernie Cook's name forward to Jack as a possible candidate and Bernie, who hailed from the North Kent Specimen Group was chosen. Bernie slotted into Bill's place with Kenny Ewington and myself.
Jack would still affectionately regard it as Bill's rota and would generally find Jack fishing the pool at some during my stay, Jack overlapping the other rotas more, starting or ending midweek. his style of fishing change somewhat; he was then using Bill's eel - proof bait, sultanas, and tended to fish around the clock more, but was forever moving pitches after two or three days as the fish dictated. I have never seen gear moved from side of the pool to the other and set up so fast as Jack could, even carrying stuff in his teeth if it meant one trip.
If the 1970 season at the pool saw little or no weed, 71 was different. By August there were only a few weed - free areas. one would often find Jack fishing in the tiny pitch under the willow fronds. Here the willows hung into the water in a small semi - circle, shielding the sunlight, so preventing the weed growing, although all around the periphery of the willows the weed was dense. At certain times, on a bright day, the rays of light streaked through the willows, glistening the bottom sand and it was possible, through the clear water, to see everything that moved. It was almost like an aquarium (although a very empty one when I fished it!).
Jack would be waiting (in ambush) comfortably poised. One rod at his side, his eyes glued to the small patch of sand expecting a fish to appear at any time, alert and hopeful for the first movement of the silver paper attached to his line and the heart - stopping moments of it edging towards the butt ring. With the amount of time that Jack spent frequenting the willows, I often wondered if, at some time, he actually saw the monster common under there.
When he was thus fishing the spot, he used to rope the path and entrance off from a distant tree to safeguard any interference of interruptions. Hardly at time to have the common about to sample the bait, only for a head to appear around a tree, urging "Tea's ready, Jack!" no, we fully understood and were aware of Jack's seclusion and the rope was there to stop cattle that would sometimes break through the hedge and disrupt the fishing for some time.
Jack's Rod Of Iron
An incident in 1971 highlighted a very fusible situation. I believe it was a Sunday morning at the end of our rota. Jack had left early and Bernie Cook and I were the only ones fishing. I was set up in Keffords, half way along the West Bank and Bernie in the Willow Pitch next to the dam. it was hot and most of the fish were basking near the dam and directly in front of Bernie. Suddenly, there was noise and confusion; fish were roaring off everywhere, bow waving past me in keffords. I heard Bernie's voice and ran towards him, reasoning he had hooked a fish. I arived at the Willow Pitch in time to see Bernie, now on the dam, walking back towards me after escorting off the fishery two young boy's who had seemingly strayed onto private land and were apparently still intent on throwing stones at him, as they had at the carp. We thought no more about the incident but, on our return home, news had already reached Jack.
Unbeknown to Bernie and I, the two boys were the tenant farmer's (Big White Chief) sons and, according to him, they could throw their stones where they liked on his property. Bernie and I were quizzed by Jack. Jack could see a problem in as much as the rule stating 'at all times showing the farmer and his employees every consideration' may have been breached, and if the farmer pursued the insident further and the trustees leant on Jack, it was cause for concern. in a quiet discussion with Jack, Bernie was left in no doubt that his place on the rota could be in jeopardy.
Thankfully, Jack quietened things down with the trustees and the episode never materialised. To be honest, I couldn't see how Bernie could have handled the situation any differently, even if the identity of the boys was known, but if it were to happen again, the little darling should be left to throw their stones!
After this incident, the wording of the rules subsequently changed (to the farmer's benefit) to 'at all times showing the farmer and his friends every consideration'.
Bill Quinlan used to comment on Jack 'ruling it with a rod of iron'. I could well see Jack needed to after that. It affected Bernie, in as much as he never again fished near the dam area. This small incident prooved that we were all very much 'treading egg shells' at Redmire. This happened in 1971 over twenty five years ago. Those young, stone throwing lads probably now tenant the land.
Jack Hilton - Expert and Master
It doesn't need me to comment on how good an angler Jack Hilton was, not just in carp fishing, for his record for all the species he fished for speaks volumes. His ability to watch and study made him, in my eyes, an expert on fish behaviour. The times spent by Jack, not fishing, just watching the often strange behaviour those Redmire carp, was whollly evident.
On one occasion we viewed a small group of fish from a high vantage point. Jack stating that the smallest carp in the group would, at sme time, break away from the rest and feed close in under the very tree we were upon, as he had seen this group of fish before. sure enough, as Jack predicted, the very fish upended and fed close by. The fish was not of large proportions and in that context was viewed unworthy of a capture, but I am sure if it had been one of the larger fish, Jack's bait would have been ready to intercept it and Jack would have, I am doubly sure, kept the sightings much more to himself.
The Master
As with most successful anglers, Jack Hilton had his critics. An early picture, portraying Jack fishing Redmire with four rods, sparked an outcry. 'Saturation fishing' was the term used. As there were no restrictions on the number of rods one could use at Redmire, Jack could hardly have been in the wrong for wanting to use them. Indeed, in the 1970 season, with virtual open water and no weed, Jack would have had ample opporunity to use as many rods as he desired, Fanning lines all over the pool if he had wished, but that would not be the Jack I remembered. In fact, Greenbanks and the famous Willow Pitch, swims which could accommodate sufficient rods and access to span open water were never occupied by Jack on my visits. He preferred the tighter, more awkward swims to conceal himself and the need to be as close as possible to his quarry.
Roger Smith called Jack 'the master', I like to think the picture was taken for other reasons.. a Jack 'wind up' perhaps - the 'little white' erroneous misconceptions that appeared from time to time in Jack's writings to 'lead one off the scent'. The kidology, the armoury of the carp man at the time - and no doubt still with us to this day; the kidology of which Jack and Bill were certainly masters.
Tell me again of that secret food Jack caught carp on, that ball of paste with as many water snails as possible embedded in it. now that sounds like a long term bait ( eat your heart out Fred Wilton). or those little grey slugs and slithers of onion, not to mention those motor racing circuits they fished. One could go dizzy deciphering it all.
Jack Hilton - My Personal View
Jack Hilton was a hero of mine long before I met him; his early, no nonsense writings in the angling papers had seen to that and nothing the subsequent years when I fished in his company was to alter that view.
His impressive list of big coarse fish still remains envied. He was skillful to a remarkable degree but was not superman, held no magic wand and never tempted fate or believed in luck (a subject he himself would have strong feelings about), His targets being acquired by reconnaissance, careful scrutiny and dogged determination. Obstacles and problems he viewed from different angles and, above all, avoided making premature assessments to their resolution. I feel certain that a vast majority of 'old school' big fish anglers would have looked in his direction for some inspiration along the way.
Like the majority of big fish hunters Jack was, at times, alone in his fishing, enjoying the tranquillity of it all - and he liked it that way. Certainly, there may have been times at Redmire when he would have cause to be understandably moody, but this would have been disguised by his innate natural good manners and I suspect that no one, passed or pesent, could have fished that overgrown paradise with as much enthusiasm and alertness as he, or indeed Bill Quinlan, did in 1970.
Jack Hilton had hung his fishing rods long before his tragic and untimely death in August 1995, but the ever friendly on board Bill's shift remain vivid with me. The hot afternoon, perched with Bill in Ingham's climbing tree, watching that very dark, vertically feeding mirror carp was an example, puffing mud from its gills as its tail dimpled the surface in truly four feet of water.
The chilly morning wading out to join Jack on Bramble Island, waiting to net his first fish of the season and viewing a long battle royal. Jack Hilton v super middle weight common. Jack winning on points - just! All this after Jack and Bill had informed me that "Redmire carp don't fight"! They had to rewrite the carp rule book after that one.
Tom Mintram turning up for what would be his only stint on the season and showing us all how to do it with the 38lb mirror that Jack and I netted the wrong side of Bramble Island - Bill sulked all day! I never saw Jack happier. Possibly Jack viewed it as a payback day to Tom for all his help to him in the past.
Bill, of course, a little happier in the season. That eerie, silent, damp morning when not a bubble or a ripple was to been seen on the surface of the whole pool by the three of us. Bill crept into my swim to inform me, "I've just got my thirty pounder, Pete." bill had not yet weighed the mirror but was certain it was a personal best. Jack did the pictures, the mirror scaled 36lb 4oz and, with a common of 24lb 4oz taken a short time after, they made a most spectacular pair. The midday arrival of Jack, just in time to help with the netting of my first 20lb plus common and the cheery congratulations and back slapping that was all part of the man's supreme make - up. There were the downsides also. That fateful day Jack and I were both to capture Redmire carp, only to see them perish simultaneously. the immaculate common we buried beyond the dam; the sad look in Jack's eyes has he cradled that gem of a leather in the water, trying desperately for ages to force life through the gills. sadly, the fish never succumbed to Jack's nursing, the carp's final resting place would be a shallow grave on the west bank.
A sad not to end on perhaps but, as anyone who was fortunate enough to fish in his company will endorse, Jack was never far from that almost cheeky, grinning a smile aptly portrayed on those early photographs, lovingly cradling his first carp from Redmire, the 35lb 'Pinky'. That was true Jack Hilton, the king of the silver paper era.
Thanks for the memories!

 

 

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