WHEN Richard Walker posted his now famous letter to “BB”, in January 1947, its recipient would not have guessed that he was receiving
correspondence from England’s most accomplished carp catcher.
This said, in an age when Albert Buckley was still regarded as England’s greatest
ever carp fisherman, BB still thought highly enough of Walker’s letter to include it as one chapter, in "Confessions of a Carp Fisher".
as they say, is history; but it could have been all so different.
Little more than five years before Walker set the angling world alight with the capture
of “Clarissa” he was confessing to BB that his experience of double-figure fish was limited to just one, rather tiny pool which was located – conveniently enough - close to his home.
Walker, at the time, was a non-driver and his target, to all intents and purposes, had to be Bearton Pond, in Hitchin: a half acre puddle that still exists, and which is now very private.
However, it was a pool that gave at least one remarkable fisherman, Richard Walker, the confidence to develop techniques that would soon be the talk of the angling world.
And Walker invited BB down to fish it and achieve his long-standing ambition of landing a “double”: an ambition that BB was to achieve at long last, on the littered banks of Bearton
But the author of “Confessions of a Carp Fisher” must have wondered what he had got himself into, having already seen and appreciated
the lonely, isolated beauties of scenic waters like Beechmere.
In the Fifth British Carp Study Group Book, BB had some interesting things to say about his
first encounter with Walker.
He said: “I went to stay with him and we went out one night and there was a pond right in the middle of town, a dreadful
place, a deep pond full of old perambulators and things that people had pushed in...”
Walker’s first letter to BB is printed of course
in “Confessions of a Carp Fisher”, and in it Walker states clearly: “A carp pond where I fish is quite small; about an acre in extent...My experience of big carp is practically confined to this water. I have caught them elsewhere, but
usually accidentally and none over 8lbs.”
In fact, as the carp fishing historian Kevin Clifford points out, in “A History of Carp Fishing
Revisited”, Walker’s home water of Bearton Pond was and is little more than half an acre in extent. Walker had actually doubled its size in his letter to BB.
Against these somewhat startling facts, we must set this statement by Barrie Rickards that “before the formation of the CCC (Carp Catchers’ Club), before the 1950s, he (Walker) was an exceptional carp angler...”
(reference: Richard Walker, Biography of and Angling Legend, Medlar Press, 2007).
The two accounts seem very hard to reconcile, and it is hard to see how
Walker was able to rise so quickly to carp fishing prominence even by 1951, when he was yet to land a twenty pounder.
This was unlike a number of highly
successful pioneers, at Dagenham in particular, including Harry Grief.
But it was the sheer quantity of doubles landed by Walker that made him something
special, because his achievement was probably unparalleled at the time.
How many doubles had Walker caught by then?
If Walker had perished during World War Two, his record would still have been commendable, even unique for the period, and for many decades afterwards.
In his excellent book, “The Carp Godfather”, Peter Maskell writes: “By the time Dick was called up to work in radar research in 1939, he had a personal best carp of 16lb 8oz
and had taken a staggering 53 carp over 10lb from Bearton Pond...”
Other doubles would come from Temple Pool (Hexton Manor) and from Woldale, and
Walker would finally catch his first twenty, a common from Dagenham, in August 1952.
By the time Clarissa came to the net, Walker had caught well over seventy
doubles; but many of those, as we have seen, came from Bearton Pond, and most of those fell to floating crust in very weedy and difficult conditions.
there must have been many repeat captures in such a small pond, but his achievement is still considerable, and the hours he spent on the banks of Bearton Pond laid the foundations for modern carp fishing as we know it.