There is a pool etched into my childhood memories with such vivid beauty that I think it must have influenced how I see every bit of still water in adult life. How it became thus was down to that innate human desire to have what we can't get. You see this pool, or pond as it could be classed, was simply and very strictly off limits to the local kids where I grew up. So serious about this place being a no-go zone for possible young poachers such as myself were the club of pipe smoking, wicker basket sitting stalwarts, that they actually ring fenced it with boards seven feet high. All this left us bike riding monkeys with was the occasional stolen view through the knot holes in the wood, if you could balance long enough on the seat of your propped up BMX that was.
I remember pretty well the day I got that vivid view of my dream pool. Myself and a couple of equally fish mad friends Sean and Mark had ridden our mag wheeled steeds over to another pond now forgotten by time. On the way back one of our convoy breathlessly blurted out that he had heard from his brother, who'd heard from his mate's younger brother's uncle, that his next door neighbours kid had found a fallen down board round the back of the dream pool in the blackberry bushes. Well, hell, if the information was that accurate we had to go and see, so our little convoy veered off course jumping curbs, pulling wheelies and crossing gardens to get to the dream pool and our now assured new view.
When we arrived the wooden boundary as far as we could see was fully intact. So as inconspicuously as we could we skirted the fence all down the edge to the forest of brambles. Sure enough there was a gap in the thorny thicket! Our three bikes and fishing boxes were piled up near the entrance and we ventured further into the blackberry's. We couldn't believe our eyes when we finally found it... a large section of one of the seven foot high wooden panels had come loose and lay on the floor. This still left the top of the fence above our head height but well within our view if we got on each other's shoulders. First of all I leant against the wall and my friend Sean climbed up onto my shoulders via my cradled hand. 'Wow', was all he said again and again; that was enough to drive me and Mark insane down on the ground below. When he finally got down off my shoulders it was agreed that I would be next to get a look off his shoulders and duly I took my place peering into pure heaven.
I had only ever seen such places in fishing books in the library. The dark mirrored water was circled by massive lily pads dotted with yellow flowers and the whole place seemed fringed with high deep green rushes. The occasional wooden platform broke the reed line and from them emanated gaps in the pads where anglers could cast. All over the pool fish dimpled the surface and huge dark shapes could be seen drifting around out in the middle. I was too busy enjoying the amazing sight to hear the kerfuffle going on below. It turned out Marks patience waiting for his go had evaporated and he was pulling the fallen panel of wood out of the brambles to climb up. Sean was seemingly against this and with me atop his shoulders was attempting to stop him. In the end the two began tugging on opposite sides of the board, I was left hanging from the top whilst they kicked off below, then out of nowhere came "Oi...what you little buggers up to!" Hanging from the fence I looked round to see a man standing by the pool looking straight at me. My friends were half way down the gap in the bramble track before I even dropped to the floor. All three of us legged it to the bikes and threw our boxes over our backs and began pedaling as fast as we could down the track that lead away from the pool.
It was years before I ever ventured near it again and thinking about it now with adult rationality what could they had done to us for just looking over that fence? Worst case would of been a hiding off of our dads and we all had our fair share of those for much worse things. The pool though like me got older and as time passed and I looked away from fishing towards girls, the old fishing club dwindled away, the boards rotted and the pool got forgotten until a while ago that is...
Some people deride it but in my mind social media is very useful to anglers for all sorts of reasons. It was whilst flicking through Facebook that I saw an image on a friend's page that sent me right back to my childhood. It was the pool, it had to be! I didn't even bother to wipe my arse or get off the toilet before I sent a personal message to him and instantly he confirmed it was exactly where I thought and that it was a free for all down there. Turned out most of the land it sat had been developed in the property boom times but the pool had remained untouched after great crested newts were discovered in it. That was all I needed to hear and as soon as a chance came along, I was there.
Twenty eight years later the area surrounding the pool looked very different. The boards were gone and the boundaries were now edged by various trees and the like. It seemed the thicket of brambles had run rampant and a thorny crown now protected the pool. It didn't take me long to locate a human sized run where anglers had been accessing the water's edge. So with my rod and landing net pole held above my head I ventured in. A short walk punctuated by several thorn removing breaks later I stood looking over the water and what a sight it was. It was the same place as in my memories but it had gone bushy whilst forgotten. The banks were very heavily over grown, so much so that I thought it would take a group of like minded chaps weeks to cut them back, but happily two spots seemed to be quite well trodden. The first was right by at the end of the path in and the other was down a small track along the bank and this was where I went. Under the cover hanging hawthorns beside the path the occasional pair of scaffolding poles stuck out of the water where the old wooden platforms once stood, though the wood was long gone. I followed the track till I came to a small clearing edged in ivy. In front of the clearing there was a helpful hole in the now rampant lily pads someone had cleared and it was here in the clear water amongst the weeds that I would finally fulfil my childhood dreams.
In my dreams I had always thought of the waters of this pool as deep and mysterious and I suppose to the average twelve year old most water is deep and mysterious. To a middle aged man with polarized glasses things are a little less mysterious. The bottom had climbed up from its original depths I assume with nearly thirty years of silt deposits. There were fish though I could see from the off and judging by the fizzing coming up along the edge of the weed there were a few tench in here to be angled for. I kept it very simple, fishing a light float rig over a bit of ground bait with a grain of corn on the hook. With my swim prepared and float cast out I sat back to enjoy the morning.
In a world of big fish and big catches I think we anglers have grown pretty cynical. Fishing here like this, that baggage just fell away out of my mind. A bottle of happy shopper lemonade and a few sweetcorn sarnies and I would have been twelve all over again. From the moment that first bite came, to the moment where I dragged myself away, this was one of the most fulfilling angling experiences of my life.
The little pool of my dreams was stuffed with all kinds of fish. The tiny rudd attacked everything as it sank to the bottom, tench were obviously grubbing in and out of the forests of weed that filled every inch of the pool and three or four black backed old carp slid gently under the surface of the pool out in the middle. Those tiny rudd for all their effort could never drive me mad on a day like this and happily I swung one after another in again and again until finally I hooked something which made me work a bit harder, it bashed around the hole in the weed and turned out to be a perfect little wild born common carp who was already starting to go black in this clear water.
A few hundred more rudd later I found a bigger specimen, which for all intents and purposes could be used as the bench mark of what a perfect rudd should look like.
In my wildest dreams this experience couldn't have got any better, but it did! Towards the time when I had to away the rudd it seemed went into some kind of heat related torpor and shoaled up high in the water and stopped there ravenous ways. I feel sure a handful of maggots would have persuaded them otherwise, but this lull in their activity gave me opportunity to actually angle for one of those tench I so badly wanted. With the float now still, I waited patiently for any indication of a bite. Finally after the longest bit of inactivity all morning my float dipped away. At first the writhing golden flanks seemed to be that of yet another rudd, but I was quite wrong and it was in fact the most amazing finale of a fish. It was perfect little home grown crucian carp.
The one thing that stopped me crying with pure joy was this thought... If this forgotten old pool has got some pristine young baby crucian carp swimming around in it and it hasn't been stocked in probably thirty or more years, then it is possible that the pool of my childhood dreams might have some big old mummy and daddy crucians swimming round hidden by all those weeds and how stunning would one of those be...