Tale from Burnt Wood

The bicycle ride from Maidstone to Burnt Wood took some time, I would strap the two rods and rest together, accompanied with the landing net which I would then wrap around the whole ensemble and then tie the whole thing to the frame of the ten gear racer.  A small rucksack would be on my back and I would set off with sandwiches for the day.  Linton Hill was the biggest challenge, I used to pride myself on the fact that I could continue pedaling without intermission and it was always a relief to get to the top.  Marden and Pattenden were always closer but I preferred making the somewhat extended trip to Burnt Wood as I could almost always be guaranteed a beautiful scenic setting to myself.  I loved it most when the season turned and the leaves began to fall.  As I passed the bend in the road, turning the corner my heart would begin to quicken in the hope that there would be no cars visible.  I would push open the wooden fence and walk down the mud track.
When the place was left alone the Carp behaved very naturally, they would frequently crash, head and shoulder in the middle and patrol the margins just under the surface occasionally coming up to inspect floating leaves.  I had some tremendous catches there on particles, mostly maple flavoured black eye beans, I think the most runs I had in one day was eleven, having the line pulled from my fingers as I fixed the indicator.  Tremendous stuff for one fifteen year old aspiring Carp angler.  Floater cake took fish also and of course boiled baits.  At 15 years old I caught a mirror carp weighing twenty two pounds and eight ounces, the largest fish in there at that time.  The average size was between six and nine pounds.  A double was a good fish.  The big fish I caught on a Richworth Tutti Frutti boiled bait.
I plumbed the water that first year with a big float and a lead.  We had been told that the water was over fifty foot deep, that the divers couldn't reach the bottom when they tried to remove some of the snags and that visibility was so poor as it was so dark the deeper they went.  The story also of the huge four foot Pike they saw when diving causing them to rush to the surface.  All adding to the mystery of the lake in the woods.  In those early days there was no night fishing.  It could get very dark at night.........
There was the occasional Pike in there and I caught one at a little over ten pounds however, they were nothing compared to the size of the Perch in there.  I never did catch a truly big one but they were definitely in there almost I think to Marden Thorne standards at that time.  There was an elderly couple who used to arrive every Friday and fish the weekends and then travel back I think to Hastings or thereabouts. He caught a four pounder.  They would fish "match" style all of the waters and every evening they would retire to their camper van.  I think I saw them every weekend for about five years.  Suddenly they disappeared, I guessed one of them must have passed away and the other could no longer fish without their companion.  I never saw either one of them alone.
My first session there I used, I think, five pound line.  I fished sweetcorn on both rods right at the far end from the entrance.  I had three takes and lost all three in the snags.  I couldn't stop them and thought they were massive.  I changed to "Carp" rods and eleven pound line shortly thereafter.
My father was extremely successful with floater cake at this time.  I think in our first year on the waters  he caught some 50 or so Carp off the top.  Sit on the side of the lake, wait for the slurp and then walk around to where it came from, graphic detail then ensued to explain how the Carp appeared, nosed the bait, touched it numerous times, pushed it across the surface and then the strike.  He once played a fish from the other side for over 45 minutes, thinking it was the new unseen record, eventually bringing it in backwards.  The split cane rod had a great action to it.  My younger brother who would have been twelve at the time often came also.  He burst into tears once when he lost his first fish from a hook pull.  I can recall one week where the three of us fished every day arriving at one in the afternoon.  We had the whole place to ourselves for the whole week.  At that time the water seemed large to me.  Looking back on it now and having fished the Loughs of Ireland, the Canadian lakes and America's tidal rivers it seems so small in comparison.
What it has given me is some wonderful memories of early childhood fishing.  It really is such a beautiful place, one that the Club should always retain and with the passion shown recently by members I am not alone in my thinking.

By Neil Kent

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