Bracken Lake
‘Can this lake’s carp rival Redmire’s’ was the banner headline blasting from the pages of Angling Times in early September 1957. The author of the piece was Albert Buckley (not the Albert Buckley of Mapperley fame), but another carp angler of note from Merstham, Surrey by the same name who was very active in carp fishing from the 1950s to the early 1980s.

Buckley wrote, “What are the possibilities of a new carp record in the near future, and can any lake challenge the supremacy of Redmire Pool? One of them is Bracken Lake in Sussex. I firmly believe that in the near future Bracken will produce carp as large, if not larger, than Redmire. The lake is situated in a deep valley. On three sides the steep banks are covered with tall firs, aromatic pines and an occasional copper beech. It is so well protected that only the warm south winds blowing up the valley can ripple its usually placid surface. From sunrise to sunset at least four-fifths of the lake’s surface sparkle under the sun.” The carp themselves originally appeared to have been stocked after the last war in the late 1940s.

The potential started to be realised at the start of the 1957 season for two carp of 20lb plus were reported from Bracken.

A personal visit
I was once lucky to walk around the fishery in the early 1970s with eminent angler and Bracken member John Nixon as my host. I remember the walk down the grassy slope, half way down the lake came into view and though the season was well under way not a soul was about. Indeed, it appeared to be a haven of peace and tranquillity. The water looked to be completely surrounded by trees, those on the east bank being particularly tall and dense. However, as we walked to the left the first swim we came to was on the west bank. It was from here that John banked in September 1957 a marvellous 20lb common. The July evening that John and I strolled around Bracken was calm with a warm sun and no cloud. The carp were evident in the north-west bay, long dark shapes lying at hap-hazard angles seemingly forming a criss-cross pattern in the water. We watched them for a while, every now and then a shiny bulk of shoulder revealed itself above the surface or maybe a part of the head of the fish would bob up making a perfectly formed circle of ripples that spread ever-widening taking several seconds to dissipate. Blimey, I thought, this place is fantastic.

Once we’d travelling along the north-west bay the water became increasingly shallow and as we entered the north-east bay extensive weed beds were evident. The place seemed alive with carp and it was here that John suddenly grabbed my arm. “Look, just there...” I did and magically a common carp of considerable proportions floated by. It was a cracker, small head with a pronounced bump to it’s shoulders and, ‘as long as you like’. “That’s well over twenty pounds,” John whispered in my ear.

Below: An iconic image from yesteryear - MkIV split-cane rod, Mitchell reel and a laminated cane carp landing net. John Nixon stuck fast into a 20lb common from Bracken Lake in September 1957.