The Military Mirror
I had been working for a little local engineering firm in Folkestone for a couple of years, the job was mainly a workshop based job but it did include a lot of site work as well. I had done a lot of projects for Pfizers, The Channel Tunnel, Heathrow, Local Council, that kind of thing. Not anything massive, in fact we were the ones who would do the little jobs the bigger firms didn’t want. We regularly visited various site around the Shepway area and Kent was now becoming a familiar place for me. I had been a member of Mid Kent Fisheries for about a year, fishing Chilham once a month for about four days at a time, and I was doing ok, regular fish and I really enjoyed being on the banks of Chilham, it was just one of those waters that clicked and got under my skin. I had a couple of friends scattered around locally who fished for carp, one was a regular on Chilham, a couple were fishing the Gravel Pit in Hythe and one was doing his rounds on the local canal, called the Royal Military Canal. Now I new the Royal Military Canal because I had been fishing a little stretch of the canal called bombers hole in Giggers Green for Pike. I had spent the previous winter chasing a twenty which never came along but I had, had a few decent Pike out of there. I had heard rumours of two carp the went over the thirty pound mark, but were often seen and fished for not far from the town centre of Hythe. You know what its like with rumours, you just take it all with a pinch of salt until you get reliable word. I had always vowed for some time to try and find out about these fish but never got round to it, as I was really happy fishing Chilham. Later on that year I received a phone call off a friend who had witnessed a, for what he called it, massive fish swim right past his rods. Bigger than anything he had seen in the canal before, but knowing him at the time it was probably no bigger than a low twenty. Now don’t get me wrong a low twenty is a great stonking fish for a canal, but Chilham threw these up on a regular basis, there was no way I was going to fish the canal for a low twenty when I had the chance of catching a forty out of Chilham, especially after just renewing my ticket for the place, I just wanted to concentrate all of my efforts in what I was doing for now and anything else wasn’t even a consideration for the immediate future.
About a month later I was sent on a job to repair a weedbarge for the local council. Now the weedbarge was a boat the council used to clean up the litter and weed out of the canal. It looked a venomous thing with two foot pointed spikes at the front, ready to scoop anything up that maybe laying in or floating around. I was told to drive to Twiss Road in Hythe to the boating house to carry out a couple of repairs and then report back to the office.
Now just on the other side of the Twiss Road Bridge was this stretch of the canal.
This is where the local council used to host a yearly event called the Venetian Fete. The banks would be lined with hundreds of people all watching these little creations drifting by.
One year i even helped create one of these little floats, i can't remember what charity it was for, but it was a good excuse for everybody, including kids to have a bit of fun.
It was a really nice warm day if my memory serves me right, the window was down on the van and I was thinking of all things carpy and couldn’t wait to get back on the bank that was coming up in a week or so. The boating house was right on the banks of the Royal Military Canal. There were two big sheds, one housed a few lawn mowers and a few bits and pieces and the other housed the weedbarge. In front of this shed was a concrete ramp heading down into the canal and a little platform to the left, that the guys obviously used to get in and out of the weedbarge. Before I even walked into the shed I had a quick look at the canal, it seemed to widen out in front of the sheds and there were over hanging tree’s straight out in front, and to the left was the Twiss Road bridge that went over the canal, but just to the right of the bridge I noticed a water inlet pipe. I remember thinking this looks carpy, gave it a little smile and turned round and just got on with my job and did all the necessaries and got the weedbarge fully functional again. I started to pack all of the tools into the van and took another look over the water. One of the guys in the shed came out and said, “looks nice dun it” I replied “yeah very nice” “are you a fisherman then” he asked “yeah for all my sins” I replied. I had met this guy a couple of times in the workshop before for other working reasons, so we did sort of know each other. “can anyone fish here fella” I said, he replied with “no” and pointed at the big sign on the entrance gates that I had missed. “thats a shame i’d quite like to fish this spot” by this time the other guy had also came out for a chat, he was a keen fisherman as it turns out, not for carp but for the smaller silvers. “there’s a few fish in this stretch” he said “i’ve fished it quite a lot”, “seen some big fish in here too” my ears pricked up “oh yeah” I said, “yeah I was here last week and saw a really big carp swim by” “well over twenty pounds I would guess” now I was listening. “We’re allowed to fish here because we work here, but it is private property” he said. “why do you want to give it a go then” he said, “yeah i’d like to” I said, “well I suppose because we know you it wouldn’t hurt, just don’t tell anyone” he said with a crafty smile. Now I was flattered with the offer but like I said before I was concentrating all of my efforts on Chilham, but it was only fives minutes from my house and I could get down to do some regular baiting on the way to the tackle shop every Friday.
I used to go down every week after work and have a coffee with Den in the tackle shop, we had built up quite a good relationship over the years. Den couldn’t drive and had never been fishing, but he owned the tackle shop and used to run a taxi rank at night, I still chuckle to myself about that today. I had to pass the boating house every time I went to see Den so It wouldn’t take five minutes to drop in some bait every week.
I decided to trickle in a little bait every Friday night, but I would park up on the Twiss Road bridge and bait up from there. Looking over the bridge gave me a good look at this water inlet that caught my attention the first time I looked at the swim. I knew this would be a good holding point for the fish, especially in the summer. Now I had intended to maybe drop on the swim for a couple of hours on the odd Friday evening and maybe do the odd Sunday when I wasn’t at Chilham.
I had already planned in my head where I was going to position myself in the swim, just on the right hand side of the concrete ramp was a little patch of grass, reeds about three feet tall lined the bank and I was well hidden behind a bush on my right. The cast to the water pipe would be a bit tricky but I had to fish that spot, and decided to put the left hand rod just out in front, in the middle of the canal. Bit lazy I know but fish were seen on a regular basis passing through at this point.
The baiting was an easy option, loads of hempseed to get the fish grubbing around with some chopped Activ8 boilies thrown in for good measure. I spent the next six weeks just baiting the pipe spot, and I had done a couple of Friday evening session’s with a couple of fish to low doubles, mainly from the left hand rod out in the middle of the canal. I lost a big one on the second session and it felt a decent size to, but I wasn’t taking the fishing to seriously, it was just somewhere local to go and spend a couple of hours. Chilham came round again and I was off for a four day session, and due to return Monday evening, but that week I planned to put in some bait on the Wednesday and Friday and fish it on the Sunday. Well the Wednesday came round and I was off baiting up again, round the pipe, and I couldn’t believe I was getting excited about fishing the canal. Friday came round and I had intended to bait the swim again ready for Sunday but I ended up having a massive argument with my missus at the time, which saw me storming out of the house with most of my fishing gear in tow. I had no intention of fishing that evening, but I had the gear and I needed a few hours on the bank. So I just set up in the same spot as before, got the rods out, sat back and took in the silence. Now this swim as I have said before, had reeds in front and bushes to the right of me, so I could remain out of sight. The rod to the pipe was a bit of a tricky cast, in the position I was in, but with a gentle under arm flick the rig landed spot on, first time. The left hand rod was a much easier cast, just bang out straight into the middle of the canal. I had always been a fan of using the odd shape of boilie that you sometimes get in a kilo bag, after all I was presenting chopped boilies, and this was a tactic I had readily employed on Chilham to some success. I sat back, rolled a fag and enjoyed my much needed coffee, sometimes its just nice to be on the bank, irrespective of what might come along. I new I couldn't be there any more than a couple of hours because I wasn't a member. Billy the bailiff had reminded me a few times he didn't want to catch me night fishing, not that I ever did, well.....not in plain view anyway. One hour later my right hand rod screamed off , I quickly struck into the rod, felt the fish on the end, and bump it was off. I was absolutely gutted, this was the first run I had, had off this spot and there was no way I would get another one now. Despite that I did recast to the pipe spot, I didn’t have much confidence, but I was hopeful for the left hand rod going. I waited, the evening was getting darker and I was contemplating going home and sorting things out with the missus. Another half an hour I thought and ill go. Then all of a sudden the right hand rod ripped off again, shocked as anything I nearly tripped over the rods and into the canal in all the excitement but I got to the rod in time and struck, only to be greeted with what I can only describe as a freight train on the other end. I knew it was big right from the start, I had felt this pressure before, at this very point you all know what goes through your mind. Could this be the high twenty many have talked about or could I be completely wrong. This fish battled on and on, at one point it went right under the bridge to the other side and I thought I had lost it. But hard firm pressure soon persuaded the fish to come my way. By this point the tip of my left hand rod was lowered right into the water, I didn’t want anything to spoil this fish coming in, I was standing on the ramp at the waters edge, my knee’s were trembling, my heart was pounding and my arm was killing me. Soon enough I saw this immense fish lump out straight in front of me, I had the net in position, I had all the room in the world. I just needed to calm down and take my time. Rod held high, net held low and the fish very slowly came towards me, I couldn’t quite see the fish as it was now getting dark. I could just see the outline of a big pale mirror, slowly it came until finally the fish slid over my net. Just as I netted the fish a friend had seen the commotion from the bridge and had come round for a look. “jesus Gaz what have you got there?” he said, “a nice fish” I replied. “How big” he said “im not sure I haven’t really seen it yet” I replied. With the fish in the net I set about getting everything ready for a weighing while my mate held the net in the water for me. I went over to the net and lifted, “Jesus christ its heavy” I said, I got the fish down onto the mat and into the way sling. Could this possibly be a thirty I thought, no im not that lucky. I lifted the scales, the needle went round to 30…..31….32…..and settled onto 33lb 2oz’s. “Oh my god” I said “its a thirty”. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I had, had the second biggest known fish in the Royal Military Canal.
My Mate took a few snaps of me and the fish and congratulated me on my luck. He didn’t see what all the fuss was about being a non angler but he was impressed such fish resided in the canal. I was so happy and to think I shouldn’t of even been there till Sunday. That night I went home and didn’t make up with the missus, I didn’t care. Nothing was going to take that big smile off my face that weekend.
The Friday after I was back in Dens on my weekly coffee trip, and had told him of my capture, he asked me if he could put the picture up on the back wall behind the counter with all of the other picture's he had accumulated over the years, and of course I obliged.
Now Billy and Den were good friends and Billy used to run the tackle shop from time to time when Den was away, so Billy had seen this photo and had noticed that the picture was taken in the darker hours of the day. He did collar me about it, on my next trip to the shop, and I did reassure him, with a smile on my face, I was actually packing up when the rod screamed off.