Can Anyone Help Me To Find A Lake?

Not just any lake, the one I'm looking for is very special. You see, I used to fish there when I was a boy, and that was a long, long time ago. I haven't been back there for years and I've kind of forgotten where it is.

As a boy, I used to cycle to the lake with some of my friends. I remember that the lake was set among trees, and it was fringed with rushes. Actually, it was more of a large pond than a lake. Just lately, I've been thinking more and more of the times we spent there.

The days were long then, and the lake buzzed with life. Dragonflies, mayflies and kingfishers would keep us entertained during the long hours we spent there, waiting for a bite.

I don't recall that we caught too many fish. Just some small roach, perch and rudd, plus the odd gudgeon and, occasionally, a small crucian carp.

The highlight of my fishing career there was two half-pound roach, taken right at the water's edge, from a small gap in the choking pondweed. My excitement lasted for weeks!

'Sounds just like thousands of other small lakes across the country,' I hear you thinking. 'How am I expected to know if any of the lakes I know is the one you are looking for?' I can hear you asking.

Well, this lake had some very special and unique features. Firstly a carp. Not one of the small crucians, which we kids would catch from time to time, but a real giant of a fish. Over 300 years old we were told. This fish had never been caught, or even hooked, but people had seen it.

Sometimes, when I had cast my porcupine quill float, into a small gap in the weed, yards out from the bank, there would be a monstrous swell beneath the surface of the weed blanket. I just knew it was 'the' carp. After that , I'd sit perfectly still for hours, waiting for my float to dip. All the time daydreaming of having my picture in the angling papers, the hero of my fishing chums and my school friends.

Then there was the pike. Again, this was a real monster of a fish, but less canny than the carp. It had been hooked many times, but never landed. It was reputed to be well over 50lb, and had accounted for several dogs.

According to the stories, the owners of the dogs had been foolish enough to encourage them into the water by throwing sticks. A sudden swirl and a splash was the last they had seen of their playful pet. Legend had it that a full-grown Alsatian had been among the victims. This pike would not just take ducklings; whole adult swans would disappear into its jaws.

Whenever we saw a dog-owner walking toward the lake, or a mother allowing her toddler to paddle, we would rush along the bank to warn them. I sometimes wonder how many little kids' summers were spoiled because they weren't allowed to paddle in the lake after our warnings.

I was told that one person had tried fishing for it with 60lb sea-line and a shark trace. Various stories had it that the trace had been bitten through, the shark hook had straightened or, first the rod, then the line had parted during a fight that lasted over an hour, before the pike had made its inevitable escape.

As well as its monster inhabitants, the lake itself possessed some remarkable features. Out toward the middle, beyond casting distance was a hole. This hole was very, very deep. It was said that someone had once rowed out there and sounded the hole with a plummet, but their line had run out long before the bottom had been reached. Most of the lake was about three feet deep, but there was one place where the depth went down to over ten feet. We were told that this hole had been made when a German bomber had jettisoned its bomb load during the Second World War.

Now, you'll agree, there can't be many lakes like that. Someone must know where it is. Why is it important that I find this lake again? Well, apart from a sentimental longing to re-live the past of my boyhood, and to try for those silvery roach and golden rudd once more, I recently had a strangely disturbing dream. In the dream, I was a boy again, fishing the lake. A man came by and told me he belonged to an angling club, which had bought the rights to fish the lake. Us kids would all be allowed to join the club for free so that we could fish there, the same as before. He explained that the club wanted to encourage youngsters to take up fishing and that there would be free fishing lessons and junior competitions where we could win prizes of tackle. The club would build fishing platforms, and put in a path for wheelchairs. Then he dropped his bombshell. The lake was to be drained, deepened, cleared of the choking weed and re-stocked, mostly with lots of small carp.

My heart stopped. What about the 300-year-old giant carp, the monster pike, the bottomless pit? The man smiled, the lake would be netted and the existing fish stocked into another water, until the work was finished. He doubted that the lake contained any sizeable fish.

Somehow I knew that he was right, but that wasn't the point. The point was that, unlikely as it might be, it could all be true. If it was left alone, no one would know for sure that it wasn't.

Maybe, one day, one special day, you might catch a truly remarkable fish from the lake. No one knew for sure what was in there. That was why you spent hours and hours without a bite, and came back again and again. Maybe, one day, that one special day, it would be you who would hook that giant carp or monstrous pike.

If the lake was netted, drained and re-stocked, everyone would know exactly what was in there. The mystery and the magic would be gone forever. There would be no dream, no point in spending hours waiting for your float to dip, after you had seen that swirl in the weeds, if you absolutely knew that the fish that made it was 2 or 3lbs at most.

Something mysterious, passed down from one generation to another would be lost forever.

I wanted to explain all that to the man from the angling club, but in my dream, I was only nine years old and I couldn't find the words.

That's why I'm so desperate to find that lake.

Something must have caused that dream. Perhaps a lad of today did have a conversation with a man from an angling club. Perhaps we both share the same love of that mysterious water. Somehow his worry got mixed up in my dream. Perhaps I've glimpsed a future where there is no place for kids to fish mysterious waters and catch wild fish. A future where the wild lakes have all gone and only catch rates and revenues per water acre are important. A future where there are no deep pools and secret places for kids to dream.

I need to find that lake again, and to fish it just once more. To remember what it is like to fish untouched water, where no one knows for sure what might lurk beneath the surface weed. If I'm not already too late, maybe I can do something to preserve the magic and mystery of that special place.

Maybe there are many such lakes that need protecting from the people who want to 'improve' them. People who lack the imagination to understand that others would prefer to spend hours waiting to catch one wild fish, which may not even exist, rather than reel in 20 carp a session, stocked just so that they can be caught.

Maybe I'm just a romantic, whose time has passed by.

Anyway if you know where my lake is, please let me know - but if it's changed, don't bother, I couldn't bear to know that.

Tight lines,

Leon Roskilly