ICONS | Linch Hill

Surrounding the city of Oxford are a large number of waters that are home to some of the most desirable fish in the British Isles, seeing anglers travel far and wide in search of their scaly residents. West of the city centre is where you will find Linear Fisheries and situated close by is Linch Hill Fishery. If you carry on going further west you will find the historic Horseshoe Lake and the legendary Cotswold Water Park.

The Linch Hill complex however, is a classic, well established set of lakes with the largest of the three lovingly known as Stoneacres. Getting on for 50 acres in size and once home to one of a select number of 50lb carp in the country, Stoneacres holds a healthy number of carp that are true blue Oxfordshire giants. This is also true of Linch Hill’s neighbouring Christchurch Lake and Willow Lake.

Once again, gravel extraction is to be thanked for in the formation of some of our most famous waters in Britain and it is through the removal of rich gravel deposits in the area that Linch Hill was to receive some of its original carp. Another stocking in the 1990s saw Christchurch, Stoneacres and Willow receiving an introduction from the Horseshoe complex, where the majority of which were less than 10lb in size, averaging between 6 and 7lb.

Horseshoe Lake, aptly named because of its shape, is famous for its long scaly carp, where numerous of the old guard were linear and fully scaled beauties. Those that were stocked into Linch Hill were to later flourish and became extremely sought after. For several years the complex was only available to fish on a syndicate ticket, and to the surprise of many both Willow and Stoneacres were the two lakes to head for. Even more surprisingly is that these two lakes were trout waters, where Willow once held the rainbow trout record at a monstrous 21lb. Eventually, as carp fishing grew exponentially, cyprinids became the main focus for the complex, thereby resulting in the creation of the Linch Hill syndicate with tickets costing a mere £35!

The famous Christchurch was once two lakes, with a smaller pond situated at the southern end, although the two waters were eventually turned into one resulting in a lake of approximately nine acres in size. While Christchurch was not of interest to many initially, in later years this particular water was famed for some of the most iconic carp in the south of the country. It was in 2013, April 1st to be precise, when Christchurch and Willow opened up as a day ticket waters.

One of the most famous carp to have ever been targeted and caught from Linch Hill was Christchurch Lake’s Petals. This was good for reason and not simply because it was the largest fish in the lake for a number of years. Threatening to break 50lb in later years Petals was extremely recognisable from its unique scaling pattern, particularly around its belly. It also had a really deep body with huge shoulders, and captors would often mention how it was a tricky fish to hold for the camera!

While Petals was understandably high on the target list for anglers fishing Christchurch, catching this particular fish was a bonus as there were so many more impressive carp living the in the lake. Although too many to mention, there were numbers of 20lb, 30lb and the odd 40lb fish at the time Petals was alive. Lee Collings, who was very familiar with the complex, managed to land Petals as part of a two fish catch at 48lb, setting a new lake record in 2001. Ian Poole broke his personal best in 2001 with Petals at a huge 46lb 14oz, as did hid friend Jon Finch the following year at an impressive 45lb 9oz. Both Ian and Jon paired together for the British Carp Angling Championships in 2008 to win the event, the seventh pair to do so!

In 2001 Ian Poole set a new personal best with Petals.

The Hamster was one of 27 fish Lee Birch caught on overdepth zigs.

Once Petals died, it was clear that there were other fish in the lake looking to take the crown and one of these fish was a fish known as the Hamster. Sparsely scaled in comparison to Petals, the Hamster was easily identifiable for its hamster like cheeks and small mouth. Much like its former resident this fish was to threaten the 50lb mark, regularly breaking 45lb and into the high forties.

The current stock of Christchurch lake is truly mouth-watering, with an approximated 150 residents. There are estimated to be almost 20 carp over 40lb and over 50 weighing over 30lb, testament to the breed of carp and quality bait being introduced annually. As of last year (April 2020) Christchurch was to close its doors as a day ticket water and return as a syndicate as the complex was sold to a private individual.

The “king of the pond” in Christchurch is a fish known as Scar, one of the older residents and the current lake record fish. Daniel Smith was to find Scar sulking in his landing net dating back almost seven years ago in November 2014 when the great fish weighed a magnificent 49lb, its largest weight ever!

Seven years after breaking the lake record, Scar is still the biggest fish in the lake.

Willow Lake may have never held the numbers of big fish or size of fish comparable to Christchurch, although the quality of carp was and is still very much apparent. As previously mentioned Willow was one of the favoured venues of the complex in its infancy, one reason being that it held one of the biggest fish on the complex. This heavily scaled mirror named Blackspot went on to break 30lb in Willow after being moved from a lake known as Browns situated close by. Local angler Paul Harris landed the impressive specimen in 1984 for an impressive 22lb where in 1997 another landed the fish at 31lb. Displaying a distinctive black spot on its tail and a quirky scaling pattern, anglers realised at one point in time that this specimen was getting caught far too regularly and was therefore losing condition. This prompted the decision for the fish to be moved to a pond next to Christchurch, which is the same pond that was knocked through to make the lake what it is today. Willow was also a lake that anglers would drop on to should Christchurch be too busy to fish and it is here where people would discover what was to be swimming in the depths. The largest fish in Willow for many years was a glorious mirror known as the Half Lin.

The Big Common was-once the lake record fish for Willow.

Much like the other lakes on the complex, Willow also held specimen sized fish including tench, bream and most impressive of all were the roach. It is clear that many anglers fishing for carp had accidently helped the various species in the lake grow to unimaginable sizes with several roach breaking 3lb in weight to a reported 4lb!

Stoneacres, on the other hand, is where the largest carp on the complex have lived for many years. Being a beautiful big pit and with a relatively low stock, the lake’s resident carp have the freedom to move away from pressure whenever they so please. Throughout history these large bodies of water, rich in natural food, with the very best water quality have produced some of the largest carp in the country. Choco was a carp that turned many heads, often described as a cross between the mighty Black Mirror and Mary. Upon looking at the photos of this iconic carp this comparison is wholeheartedly justified! Jet black on its shoulders and back transitioning into rich brown coloration around its belly, this fish had very little fat on its body. So many of our biggest and best carp to have ever been landed have been male fish and Choco was no different.

Dating back to  October 16th, 2008, Choco was to become an Oxford record at a massive 52lb 8oz caught by Rob Gillespie. Ed Betteridge also had his meeting with the late great fish in 2010 after fishing a total of 188 night sessions on the water and catching the vast majority of the stock along the way! Much like the events of Christchurch, when Petals died Choco was also to see its fellow residents pile on the pounds following its passing.

Rob Gillespie set a new Oxford carp record in 2008 with Choco.

While Choco was the first 50lb carp to have been caught from Stoneacres and indeed the complex, another mirror known as Bite Mark was lurking in the shadows to become the second, topping at a weight of 51lb 6oz in 2018. In 2002 venue regular Ian Poole was to catch this fish for himself weighing 36lb 6oz, showing that this prized carp had grown steadily over the years.

Just like the appreciation of artwork, favourite fish are very much subjective to an individual. However, one of the oldest fish in Stoneacres and still alive today is a carp the anglers call the Number 9 Bus or The Bus. A unique name for sure but ever so fitting for such a glorious heavily plated scaly carp. Although it is hard to prove, this particular specimen is very reminiscent of the old Horseshoe strain of fish and long may it live!

It is evident from this side why this fish was given the name Bite Mark.

The Bus from Stoneacres is arguably one of the best fish living in Linch Hill.

The Linch Hill complex has played a significant part in carp fishing, demonstrating the quality of carp that can be found in day ticket venues with a quality breed of carp. Specific methods and techniques have been developed and fine-tuned on all three lakes to outwit some of the UK’s most pressured fish. At times the Linch Hill fish could be extremely pressured, but is there any surprise? Not at all. Carp farmers dotted around Britain are now fully aware more than ever that anglers will search high and low to find lakes filled with a plentiful supply of unique fish.

While a good number of our most historic waters were stocked with fish without a solid plan, there is now room for fishery managers to plan carefully for the future. With the sale of the Linch Complex completing last year, there are exciting times ahead to see what will become of the fishery in the future, as well as new and upcoming fisheries.

Only two nights was required for Baz Lloyd to catch the largest in Stoneacres!