What sort of man writes fiction books where the topic is fishing? What sort of man could imagine that a mercenary would relax between fighting wars by carp fishing? And who'd make this mercenary's life so 'interesting' by creating an arch enemy in the form of a Rottweiler called 'Spunker'?! I was about to find out.
I'd travelled down to Hawkhurst Fisheries, in Sussex, behind my mate Dave Barham of Advanced Carp Fishing and Total Sea Fishing. We both wanted to meet Mark Cunnington, author of The Syndicate and The Syndicate R.I.P. Pt II and we don't get to fish together all that often, so it was a good chance to kill two birds with one stone. Besides, this Cunnington bloke might be a bit of a weirdo and Dave's enormous, so that helped! When we pulled up in the car park, it was straight on the mobile to Mark. WE could only just get a signal, but it was enough to let him know that we'd arrived and he wound in his rods and came to see us.
Meeting Mark was a bit of a relief. He was normal. Well, normal as far as carp anglers go. He was wearing the obligatory tracksuit bottoms and trainers, but sadly lacking in the "major bait company T-shirt" department. We had a quick tour around the various lakes at Hawkhurst and met Tony, the owner. He seemed very amicable and wished us well, giving us a free reign over the various lakes. Mark had already reserved us three swims on the Main Lake and Dave and I unloaded and got straight into the fishing. Well, after we'd had a bumper breakfast from the on-site café, that is!!
Getting to know Mark was interesting. He's an active bloke who takes part in a lot of sports, choosing fishing more nowadays more than he used to, although he's still not what you'd call 'obsessive'. Being a self-employed plumber and, by the sounds of things, being quite respected in his chosen field of work, Mark gets to take the odd day here and there during the week and can fish as little as often as he likes. Being a family man with a young son, he is also just finding out about the joy of introducing new blood into the sport. I bet he's also learning the art of a short session, too, as children aren't usually cut out for long session fishing!
I don't know if we ever really got to the core of why he wrote The Syndicate, but I did find out that he has been into writing from an early age, so perhaps he was just keeping a childhood passion alive. Whatever, I'm glad he did, as I've enjoyed the first two books and have started to nag him to write more. I just wonder what his mind would come up with next…let's hope time will tell.
Mark took the brave step of publishing his own book which, to the uninitiated, means spending a lot of money and crossing your fingers for a long time until you (hopefully!) break even. Mark's fingers are uncrossed now and he's finding that nearly all of those who bought the first book are coming back for the second. If that isn't testament to his fine work, I don't know what is.
On Saturday, we had a look at the specimen lake. This lake contains a mixture of British and foreign carp, the latter going to enormous sizes (Blue carp). These fish sre quite hook-shy, but must be immensely strong judging by the photos displayed in the fishery offices. Imagine a 74lb torpedo on the end of your carp rod!
Over the course of the weekend, neither of us had any really big fish, the biggest probably only going about 14lb. This was a shame, especially as we knew that there are quite a few twenties in the main lake and we were catching smaller fishing fairly regularly. Personally, I was hoping to get stuck into the thirty that also resides in that particular lake. Just to rub it in, we'd really got the place sussed by Saturday afternoon and had quite a few fish between 3pm and 7pm. It was going to be a bumper night….until the fog came down and completely killed the fishing! One run all night! And then just to rub it in even more, we found out that somebody fishing the opposite bank had caught two twenties and a nineteen. Bah, Humbug!!
Before packing up on Sunday, we found a few fish that had congregated in a bay that was unfishable. Actually, we found quite a few fish and spent about an hour feeding them surface baits just to observe their behaviour. It was fascinating stuff and you often find that you learn more by watching fish than you do by trying to catch them.
It was time to say 'Goodbye' and Mark and I have agreed to fish again some time in the future. This time, they'll be less talking and more fishing. How many times have you said that to a friend?!!
Hawkhurst Fisheries are located in West Sussex and offer fish, food and comfort! The prices are as follows:
Main Lake £12 day session - £25 24 hours
Dove Lake £15 day session - £30 24 hours
Specimen Lake £20 day session - £30 24 hours
Including the trout, match and junior lakes, I believe that there are eleven lakes in all.
Give them a call on 01580 754420 and see for yourself what they have to offer for you. And if you see Mark, ask him to tell you about the wildfowl there. He's a bit of an expert.
Elton Murphy - October, 2000
Mark's books are available online at www.carpbooks.com