I don’t know about you but I love the history part of carp fishing. My favourite articles in magazines or chapters in books are when an angler documents a particular waters’ past history and its prized stock. Anyone who’s been lucky enough to flick through Chris Balls “carp history” album will know where I’m coming from.
Around 10 years ago I was becoming increasingly negative with the carp scene at that time and in December 2007 I took the decision to concentrate on other species and hang up the old carp rods. You may think after what I have just wrote, why am I doing a carp fishing article? Well a Christmas present I got that year made me look at things differently and made me realise that by choosing the right waters and fishing for the type of fish I wanted to catch with a realistic chance of doing so could re-ignite my passion for carp fishing. You can thank (or blame!) Mickey Gray for that because it was his book “A Merry Ole Dance” that inspired me again and i’m very much looking forward to reading his new book now out.
He fishes for pleasure but still has the old school principles with regards history fish and heritage waters as well as those waters to pioneer on. All proper carping in my book and many of those fantastic Yateley Match Lake fish in his first book reside in my album as well, so I could really relate to some of his stories. His first book did for me what Rod Hutchinson’s book “The Carp Strikes Back” did for me in the eighties and Rob Maylins book “Tiger Bay” did for me in the nineties. The old saying “catch em on your own terms” was never more apt .Sod the rat race, head for the waters you can get out of carp fishing what you want. I stated above what some of those things are for me but a little peace and quiet, as much natural surroundings as possible and proper carp (let’s not get started on that debate I’m so bored with the argument now) and as few of the idiots that our sport attracts now as possible (don’t want much do I!).
If you’re interested, this is my heritage. Read on.
It all started for me in the late seventies. My village has a stream running at the bottom of the local playing fields and it used to be full of the usual minnows and sticklebacks as well as bullheads we used to catch by turning over stones and catching them in our hands. I suppose that was when the fishing bug bit and it wasn’t long before I was crazily tying string to a cane with a bent pin for a hook (never did catch anything on that surprise surprise!). My parents must have felt sorry for me because one day they presented me with one of those all in one fishing kits you could get back then which consisted of a little rod and reel with a few bits and pieces for end tackle. One of the things they always put into these kits was a spinner and it was spinning that I first used to really enjoy. Now my dad had done a bit of fishing in his youth and he worked for ARC, the big gravel company. This meant he could take me over to the pits they had on their site and we used to go spinning for the Perch which were in these pits and also for the Pike if we were lucky enough to latch on to one of them. It’s funny but most of my early fishing memories are of spinning and then piking with sprats in the winter time. After that I progressed to fishing the Thames and caught loads of small silver fish and Gudgeon (remember bronze maggots!). I must admit that I was never that successful on the river (perhaps it was the 8lb line and size 12 hook!). I moved onto catching chub on the river evenlode and I was a bit more successful with those. The best method me and my mates found was to lower a piece of floating crust from off a bridge on the river evenlode and let it drift downstream until a chub took it. Now obviously you were never going to be able to land one from up on the bridge but we had a cunning plan! One of us would go down to the waters edge by the bridge when one was hooked with a landing and land them for the lucky captor. I remember trying this method out off the toll bridge over the river Thames at Eynsham and hooking a massive Chub only for the lockkeeper to spot us and come running up the path so we had to scarper! The other excellent method after the chub was to trot cheese or luncheon under a self cocking float down in the current. After that for some strange reason I really wanted to catch a Bream (can you believe that today!) Most of my mates had caught one from the Thames by this point but I just couldn’t seem to catch one. I even caught a Tench from a small tributary off the Thames which none of us had caught before. I remember us all staring at it in amazement. I even biked home to get a camera! To catch a Bream I decided to join what was then a very famous gravel pit close enough from where I lived that I could reach on my bike. This gravel pit was Marlborough Pool. Most of you reading this will probably not have heard of it but in the early eighties it was fairly well known as a carp water. It was actually the water along with Darenth in Kent I believe, that the hair rig was tested by Lenny Middleton and Kevin Maddocks. Now that’s real heritage! Kevin also documented his findings on Marlborough pool in the late seventies in his book “carp fever” which was released in 1982 I believe.
The very same year I am now talking about as my start on Marlborough. I met Lenny Middleton there that year and remember getting him to sign my “carp fever” book. I’m jumping ahead of my self slightly here though because as I mentioned I actually joined Marlborough to try and catch a Bream! Luckily I caught my Bream fairly quickly in that summer of 1982 and as if often the way with these things I actually went on to catch a second one the same day I caught the first. I was soon to see things on Marlborough though which would change my fishing career for ever. Carp. I saw them leaping for the first time, I saw them cruising for the first time and I saw carp anglers with there strange “brolly camps” and multiple rod set ups. I just had to have some of this. The most striking memory I have of those days though is of the carp “clooping” under and around the lily pads that Marlborough had. This was how I had my first encounter with carp. I know I lost at least the first couple I hooked on floating crust by the pads; it could have been more than that. There were only two swims you could fish to the pads from and one was very tight. The fishing method was simplicity itself, you would bait up with matchbox sized pieces of crust, thrown as close as possible to the Pads and wait. Now inevitably some of the pieces of crust would fall on top of the Pads but this didn’t seem to deter the carp. Soon they would be “clooping” and the pads would rock as they tried to slurp down every last tasty morsel they could find under the safety of the Pads and every now and again one would pluck up the courage to come out from under the Pads and take the floating bread. You had to try and cast your free lined crust as close as possible to the Pads and also try and target an area that a carp was seen to be working under. It was incredibly exciting fishing and it was mid-July before I finally caught my first ever carp. I caught it from about a rod length out by the closest set of pads on the whole lake. I remember it well, I was lucky in that almost as soon as I had arrived and put my gear down, this fish was showing right in edge and looked up for a crust. I literally was able to plonk a piece of crust virtually on her head and she turned and took it! It was a pretty unspectacular fight and I soon had a 10 and a half pound carp in my net! I was overjoyed to have caught one but little did I know it was to be three months before I was to land another one!
First Marlborough pool carp 10lb 8oz
I can’t remember all the details from that summer, perhaps the weather wasn’t that good for surface fishing but I gradually over the next year progressed to carp rods and ledgering with luncheon meat and also cat or dog food before I discovered boilies (side hooked at first!) and finally the hair rig. They were fantastic days and taught me many things in my fledgling carp fishing career. My dad got into the carp fishing as well and we met many new friends some of whom I’m still in contact with today. People like Mark Anderson, Dave Mills and Stuart Ewins who used to come down from the Luton/Dunstable area. Mick Piotrowski from Thame. Lee Harraway who was another lad from my village but a year younger. Lee’s still carp fishing today, Mark was but is now heavily into Barbel fishing. I’ve lost touch with Dave, Stuart and Mick. Mick would take me up to Waveney Valley one time, although it was August bank holiday and was absolutely packed. One guy though both me and my dad became friends with was a chap who was to have the most influence on my early carp fishing days other than my dad. His name was Simon Taylor and he was really helpful. Before I had a car he used to come and pick me up when we were fishing over at Horseshoe Lake in Lechlade which we used to fish a bit when we wanted a different water from Marlborough. Around that time another good friendship was made with another local lad the same age as Lee, Stuart Roper. These days Stuart still fishes although not exclusively for carp and he’s a bailiff on the linear site.
Part two coming soon Big thanks to Paul Harris