Set in the heart of Kent’s garden of England lays many a Stately home and a castle or two. I was invited to go and have a dabble at a castle fairly close to home; Chiddingstone Castle in fact. I’ve never visited Chiddingstone Castle before, although I’ve cycled through the village and it’s a really beautiful English village. If you do live in the area the village is well worth a look and the pub looks pretty fab too!
Within the grounds lies a stunning little estate lake. In typical estate lake fashion there was an abundance of water lilies and the whole lake was lined with ancient oaks and an assortment of other towering trees of varying hues. It really was beautiful and what a delightful spot to while away a few hours. The castle looked splendid and offered an impressive backdrop to the lovely lake and grounds which are open to the public. The lake is available on a day ticket at £10 which is for two rods, not that you’ll need two to be honest.
On arrival I found Buzz Peacock set up and fishing away. He’d had a couple of perch and rudd. I opted to try above him in a clear patch surrounded by lilies. However on plumbing the depth I found only around 2 feet of water. I decided to wander down the lake testing the depth as I went. As I approached the lower end I found 5-6 feet of water and spotted several carp cruising around on the surface or just under it.
The lake holds wild carp, roach, rudd, perch and bream. I believe it used to hold the British record bream at one time? Anyway I decided to move down and Buzz joined me. I baited up an area around 2 rod lengths out with Lone Angler’s groundbait with added maggots, casters and corn. Soon fish were bubbling up in the swim and at one point there were so many bubbles bursting on the surface I was convinced Jacques Cousteau was scuba diving in my swim! I’d set up a simple waggler with a size 14 hook to nylon and fished 4lb mainline. I had a selection of baits; sweetcorn, maggots, casters, bread and some hooker pellets. The idea was to keep feeding all afternoon to hold the fish in the swim. It worked a treat, there were fish constantly bubbling in the swim.
The fishing should have been quite hectic going by the activity in the swim, however I was distracted by the surface activity going on around me. I’d thrown a few pieces of bread out and they were disappearing with a swirl and a gulp. Each piece would be sucked in almost immediately by the carp. I’ve fished for wild carp on an estate lake that a company I used to work for owned. They had a couple of other smaller ponds as well as the main lake and they were all full of stunning wild carp. The one bait that always sorted out the better specimens was a piece of floating crust or a large piece of floating flake. I caught literally hundreds of long, lean and dark wildies up to 8lbs from these lakes. An 8lb fish really is a tremendous specimen. I was told it had produced a 10lb fish but I never saw one that big myself.
So I had to set up an Avon rod and a reel loaded with 4lb mainline straight through to a size 8 hook. What a simple and exciting way to catch these beautiful fish. A large piece of soft flake is folded over the hook, dunked in the lake and flicked out to where the fish are feeding. In fact the fish seemed to be feeding everywhere by now. It didn’t take long before a torpedo like wildie honed in on the bread and the line whizzed across the surface as the fish powered off with the bread. A good solid strike and the reel’s clutch was screaming! I like to keep the clutch on the loose side; mainly because these fish power off so hard and also if you are using a lighter setup it will prevent any unforeseen breakages.
So the action continued like this all afternoon until I packed up at around 6pm. Throughout the day thunder and lightning storms had passed overhead. The thunder reverberated around us and I saw one tremendous lightening bolt heading earth bound which really lit up the dark skies around us. The rain was almost biblical at one point but then we were treated to a mixture of sunshine and clouds throughout the day. We had a spell of heavy rain for around an hour mid afternoon but then it eased off and the sun came out and illuminated the lake in a splendour of colours. What a place to spend an afternoon.
By the end of the day I’d taken at least a dozen wildies to close to 6lbs, roach, rudd and one nice bream. I alternated between the float rod and the Avon but in all honesty couldn’t resist picking off the carp with the floating bread. It’s such an exciting way to fish and just really good, simple fun.
Then came the highlight of the day; an incredible rumble of engines in the sky suggested something special was approaching and oh boy were we in for a treat. A Spitfire appeared and the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines were unmistakable. However what followed was unprecedented in my lifetime anyway; not one but two Lancaster Bombers rumbled past followed by a Hurricane fighter. I watched spellbound as they flew past and felt a surge of pride for those that served in them during the war. I don’t celebrate war and what it costs but I do find it very humbling knowing that so many brave men and women fought selflessly for our freedom. I knew an amazingly humble, gentle man who was a navigator during WWII and who flew well over 30 missions. He was a DFC and a gentleman. I just feel so indebted to these people.
What a great way to end a fabulous days fishing in such a beautiful, unspoilt spot.