Considering my friend Dax and I were teenage boys, getting up early to fish was never a chore. Dax’s mother was more than happy to get up and drive us to Shermanbury Place (a distance of about twenty-five miles from home) looking back I think she wanted to encourage more wholesome activities like fishing rather than the more troubling pursuits that sixteen year old boys were attracted to, best to say no more on this issue but fags, girls and booze was high on the agenda.
Setting off at dawn to fish is an experience that I will never tire of and I can remember this particular trip so well. This was my first real experience of fishing a specimen carp lake, the excitement and anticipation while been driven through the beautiful Sussex countryside has stayed with me to this day. Although I was now obsessed with carp fishing this had not fogged my appreciation for nature and its landscape and that particular morning was a classic misty summers dawn with a chill in the air, the sun was very low in the sky and shrouded in heavy mist, the tones were mid-greys and yellows as we sat in the car, smoking roll ups.
When we arrived I found the lake and surroundings to be a vision of perfection, the mist was still heavy and we soon found a spot where reedmace surrounded the whole end of the lake apart from two small breaks, perfect for us to set up and fish.
Before I tackled up I threw in a few handfuls of my new bait, strawberry flavoured boillies, even the sound of the boillies dropping into the water gave a new and satisfying scatter-gun sequence of plops, punctuating the stillness of the morning. I set two rods up, one with a boillie close in to the far side by the reeds and a second float rod just to my left baited with sweetcorn.
Looking beyond the reeds I could see the outline of a trimmed hedge with a gap and beyond that a manicured lawn that dissolved into the mist, it was ghostly but for now my attention was focused on the emerald-green water and the occasional knocking reed signifying life below. This was a different type of angling experience, enhanced by the knowledge that some very large carp were present and because the lake was relatively small they were not far away from my bait, it made the whole experience electric.
As the morning progressed the sun started to burn off the mist and in front of me past the reed bed and through a break in the hedge I could see the silhouette of Shermanbury Place, I was experiencing Arcadia emerging from the greys,whites and oranges of a summers morning.
Back in my swim there were more signals from the monster below but nothing was taking the corn or the strawberry temptations so by mid-morning we decided to explore the rest of the lake. Walking around I was surprised to see there were other anglers already set up, these carp anglers were not like the wheelbarrow pushing types we get today more focused on comfort than watercraft, these men of the 1980’s were quiet, discrete, loners and armed with a bare minimum of gear, the only indication of their presence was the occasion ‘bleep’ . I set up with just one rod now partnered with my only Optonic and kept low and quiet like the others, foolishly I felt holding a float rod did not seem the correct thing to do amongst these men of specimen carp.
By late-afternoon I was really not convinced anything was going to happen and our lift home was due at around five. While sitting on the dusty bank in my ripped faded old jeans I smoked and thought about this magical place, catching was not on the agenda today but something more important had happened, I had become entranced by large carp. As I moved small piles of dust around on the bank with my fingers creating patterns on the bank my Optonic burst into action, a run! Line spilled off the Mitchell 300 spool and ran through the rings making the monkey hit the rod as hell let loose. Looking up I could see line shooting through the water towards the opposite bank, then it stopped. My chance had gone.
Since that day I have never returned to Shermanbury Place and I don’t want to as it was my Arcadia. Since 1986 a lot has happened in carp fishing and this lake could have become ‘commercialised’. On a positive note I can’t find anything on the Internet about this place, perhaps it has gone back into private ownership to one lucky individual?