Days and Ways....

Margin crust worked well again at Hoveland today, although it was hard going. I could not fish my usual area, which was taken by two friendly-enough chaps fishing PVA bags and pellets/boilies etc...and doing rather well, - ten carp between them, actually. I fished the "top peg" - meaning the one near the fence and the lane, and where a large willow tree provides shelter for nervous carp. Indeed, most carp seem to stay well under its branches and shade. But I soon spotted signs of carp in a little mini-inlet, nearby, and I set up the rod rests chair etc, just as Walker advised, and settled back to await events. I didn't have to wait more than one hour before the crust went down and I was battling a powerful  9.5lbs common. Then it was a long wait for the next action...I took to stalking, presenting surface baits tight up against the branches of the willow; I tried freelining bottom baits to bubblers etc, but it was no use...Finally, I spotted a stray crust going down, right in the margins and just a short step along the bank from me. What happened next is best described as "improvised margin crust technique" - I lowered a crust where the carp had taken the free crust and then lay my rod along the slightly sloping bank, so that it was parallel to the water and the line was sloping from the tip ring, down that grassy slope, so that no line at all was on the surface - and this was vital...and it worked! Soon enough the crust was clooped down and I was attached to a very fast and angry common, just one ounce under 11lbs. I've always thought that special, brief moments are the true appeal of angling - and this occasion was certainly one of those. 

A technical consideration: I was using those new Nash "pinpoint" hooks, - barbless. They are designed to stay put, and they really do! I had to use forceps to remove each hook. I'm not quite sure, at present, whether this is a good thing or not so good. I like a firm hook hold - but perhaps not quite that solid. More thoughts on this later...

Richard Walker was an angling genius; but you have to follow his advice, often to the very letter, to realise how good he was. He was, in fact, a technical genius; - rarely have I followed his guidance to find myself disillusioned or disappointed, for the fact is, he had so much to say, concerning so many angling situations, no-one today is quite at his level. Yes, things and times do move on: but I had Richard Walker to thank for the two carp I caught today at the farm pond I call Hoveland Pool. In short, I used  margin crust technique: straight from the Walker hand book; I've used the method before, but always with 'tweaks' - a Shimano Baitrunner perhaps, to yield line, and so on. Today, I did not have the luxury -  just one of my old AKN 116's, designed by Kevin Nash, and a Mitchell 410a, and two rod rests...So why is Richard Walker a genuis? Well, he clearly offered advice because he'd been there, done that, as modern parlance has it. The carp today were inhabiting a pool that, because of the recent rains, was almost bursting its banks. In fact, most of the decent carp I saw were moving through floating grasses in the margins, and that is where I lowered my crust. I sat about six feet away from the margins and I allowed around ten to twelve inches of slack - just as Walker (way back in the 1950's) recommended - between the closed bail and the first rod ring. Now, and this returns me to the subject of Walker's genius: before I tried this, I assumed the line would fall back onto the surface, due to gravity, - but it does not.

Walker had the set-up absolutely right. The line falls ever so nicely from the rod top to the margin crust, and no line touches the surface; no line at all. Walker must have discovered  this by trial and error, and he was generous enough to share the technique.  This way, I was able to fool a nice common of 14lbs today, and another, rather more hard-fighting common, of  9lbs 9oz. So what? - you might say...Well, I think the result is signficant because I simply could not fool any surface carp while line was on the surface. Even more remarkable: a good angler fishing opposite, using hair-rigged dog biscuits with a modern "bolt machine" line controller, failed to fool any surface carp while I was there: although he did, I am pleased to say, catch three carp on ledgered boilies. This chap, Rob, was kind enough to take the picture you see.

So what am I saying? The point I think I'm making, about surface baits, is that margin crust - some sixty plus years on, is still an amazing method when conditions are right. I have no doubt, no doubt at all, that Richard Walker would have taken Hoveland apart - (again, to use modern parlance.) This speaks oceans for his influence and his still valid legacy.  

PS: Please excuse the pained expression on my face! Hoveland carp are the slimiest I know - and this one was particularly wiggly!  


When is it right to "go in" for a carp? The answer must be - always, proving the water isn't too deep - when the carp is tethered. Yesterday at Woodside I found myself stripping down to my undies and going in for a carp for only the second time in my life: while praying that the water would not be too cold, which it wasn't. I'd hooked a carp on the edge of an extensive bed of dead reeds, with another inlet 'just round the corner' as it were. Despite full lock, full bend and low stretch specialist surface line, the carp went round the corner into this other inlet as soon as it was hooked, with an impressive burst of speed. With my line going through the reeds, I was out of direct contact with the fish which, I could see, was near the top and tethered. I had no choice - pushing my way through trees, a little way along the bank, I made the water then tested the depths by using my landing net pole. About four feet out, in the middle of the reed bed, it was really shelving away: but luckily I could reach my line with my landing net pole and was able to draw the line to my hand. Finally, hand-lining, I was able to draw the fish to the net. It was all quite a pantomine - but looking back, despite the possible risks, I think it was the most enjoyable part of my day.

Woodside has extensive shoals of rudd, and they were literally drilling bottom baits into the mud yesterday. I caught four carp - each one off the top, and only by casting to visible carp - going for a take before the rudd could get to the bait - because the rudd were ravenous on the surface too! The best carp was the one I went in for. I thought it might go double, but it was long and rather lean - accounting for its speed - and weighed in at 9lbs 1oz. I was happy with that: having endured four miserable blanks in a row during the winter. It's nice to feel the rod bending again!

My wife, Heather, who gained her MA in Digital Media last year, has been experimenting with animation techniques based on pictures; and because she understands my obsession with all things Walker, she has kindly produced this moving image of the great man himself, speaking some of his words of wisdom, while he admires Clarissa at Redmire. And here's another example my wife's animation work - a rather creepy (admittedly) carping gnome, quoting himself - and given here to wish all readers an excellent and enjoyable carping year for 2018...

REVIEW: Historical Carp Waters. Chris Ball. The Little Egret Press.

CHRIS Ball and Kevin Clifford are without doubt the nation's most informed and insightful historians of carp fishing: so much so, it is unlikely their achievements will ever be surpassed. You can imagine my delight, then, when I heard of a new book by Chris, called "Historical Carp Waters"

 I ordered mine from The Little Egret Press in September, knowing it was a pre-order; but such was my anticipation, I could not help putting in one impatient phone call and one email to publisher Wayne Cryer. (Sorry Wayne!). So, was the wait worth it? You bet! The depth of Chris's research is simply breath-taking and the number of rare images is a delight. There's even a colour still from a unique film of Richard Walker in action - playing a Delafields' carp, as Fred J waits with the net.

Some chapters are more gripping than others: but this depends of course on one's personal interests and experience. The Beechmere chapter contains a marvellous account of a successful session in suitably stormy weather, and I found the Waggoners Wells section pretty relatable to the kind or carp fishing I actually do, or like to do.

Beyond this, the work raises many subtle questions about the nature of carp fishing itself. For instance, Chris says of Fletchers Pond: "It's now over 50 years since it produced its first 20lb carp and in my book there's not that many waters here in the UK that can boast that."

Elsewhere, Chris states that a 10lb carp in the 1950s was "nothing to be sneezed at", and he regularly stresses how rare 20lb carp were in British waters until relatively recent times.

All this points to one conclusion - that much of modern carp fishing, with its mega-catches and mega-carp, is an artificial, commercial entity and part of the nation's leisure industry. Put simply, the carp fishing of the past was a totally different challenge to the majority of modern day carp fishing. I think that much of the magic contained in the pages of Historical Carp Waters is pretty hard to find elsewhere, whether or not significant waters have survived into the present day.

However, it is not as though anglers have to fish well-stocked, recently created waters with carp that have been tipped in at eye-brow-raising weights. We all have a choice, after all.

What I find most endearing about Chris Ball - and Chris Yates too, as a matter of fact, is that they both understand the significance of the moment. A carp in the net for them is not a stepping stone to another challenge and a bigger fish, it is a time for reverie and reflection. There is a philosophy underlying what I shall call traditional or classical carp fishing, and it is the fact that the capture of any carp merely completes a picture that incorporates aspects such as the manner of the capture, the time and the place. When it all comes together, then the angler is most satisfied, I believe.

When, in early 2009, I decided to become a "semi-serious" carp angler, instead of the occasional and casual carp angler I'd been since the late 1970s, I confess that aspects of the modern scene simply bewildered me. However, I knew I had a choice. I decided to set myself an old-fashioned challenge - to catch an unknown 20lb common without the aid of a hair-rig, boilies, bolt rig etc. I don't think I realised how incredibly difficult this would be. If Chris's new book had been out there in 2009, the penny might have dropped somewhat sooner. Fishing without the hair rig, and so on, presents serious challenges, as it always did; and if you fish mainly farm ponds, you can't expect to catch so many large carp. At best, Mother Nature will make sure that any big fish in there will be the rare exception, not the rule. More often than not, you are fishing for one of two large carp and, if luck is smiling, and if your watercraft and approach is half-decent, you might even fool one.The results, in all probability, will not put you on the front cover of Carp World! In my case, the fact I don't drive and I have to rely on public transport, friends, family or my kind wife Heather (X) to get the pools I fish all adds to the challenge I have set myself: but it wasn't so different for the carp fishers of the 1950s. The lack of personal transport, more often than not,  was all part of the game. For many years, even Richard Walker did not own a car!

Now, almost nine years on, I've managed well over 1000 carp, consisting largely of high singles. My tally does include 50 doubles to 19lb 12oz, all without the hair, and, of course, the pursuit continues..!

I would not have it any other way.

Latest comments

05.11 | 13:44

I agree John - it's all about magic - and at first Redmire, Woldale etc were not 'fisheries' but waters that were the beaten track...

04.11 | 13:48


I hold the same philosophy as you.
Somehow I cannot bring myself to use hair-rig & fixed lead tactic. Having to strike still encapsulates the magic.

26.10 | 20:37

Nets in those days were not always so great!

24.10 | 22:22

I and a friend had aluminium nets both had bent arms mine by acarp his by a lawnmower strange world isn't it?