I blame Jack Hilton. It was his fault entirely that I became obsessed with carp, and this
was a while before I managed to catch one.
There was a copy of “Quest for Carp” in the local library, a first edition
copy and, in those more honest times, no one ever thought to steal it. My brother David and I must have taken that book out ten or fifteen times, until we knew it by heart.
I can still picture those amazing black and white images, taken by Bill Quinlan, of those marvellous Ashlea and Redmire fish; and I remember wondering if I would ever get the chance to fish for a carp myself
– any carp. It seemed there were no carp at all on the outskirts of the still industrial Black Country. This, however, was to soon change.
was a stretch of canal, by the glassworks, and rumours soon began to spread that this stretch actually held carp. I went to look, with a few school friends: and we saw carp! At first the pound seemed to contain only commons, and they were not large –
perhaps no more than four or five pounds at best. Still, to our young eyes, they were enormous. There was something intimidating about the way they would sweep by, past the rushes and through the factory shadows. “They look like a fleet of bombers,”
said a friend, and I knew exactly what he meant.
It was commonly accepted that these carp were uncatchable. Grown men,
experienced anglers, had tried for them repeatedly, and they had all failed. This didn’t stop us trying, and I began to suspect that it might be possible to land one after all.
My first attempt involved ledgering worms against the rushes. I didn’t actually have a ledger, and so I used an old plummet. My rod was a hand-me- down, solid glass spinning rod and my reel, an
Intrepid Black Prince. I fished with a friend, into the evening. Just as the light turned dusky, the tip of my spinning rod whipped round. I could see the line pulling tight across the surface and moving right. I struck, and failed to set the big hook. For
all I know, the culprit might have been an eel or a big roach; but we both said “carp” and believed it.
year later, I was better prepared and, on an early summer morning, I could see my quarry and enjoyed a heart-stopping hour. By then, a Shakespeare Carp International had arrived as a Christmas present. The reel choice, however, was still a problem; and so
I borrowed a very free-running little Daiwa reel from my brother. The line was 10lbs and I had a plan. How could I fail?
I’d noticed that the carp, which now included mirrors, into double figures, seem to cruise around in mid-water; and so I decided to anchor bread crust in mid-water. This was, of course, a zig rig – but it was also 1978, and I
was certain that I was being both daring and original. Of course, I didn’t know that a zig rig of sorts had been illustrated in “Confessions”, long before I was born!
Anyway, I made up a link ledger with a very small swivel and two “BB” shots. The small swivel was stopped by another “BB”, and I set the hook length
so that a hunk of crust would anchor in mid-water. Through a process of trial and error, I found the ideal size of crust – one that would sink slowly under the weight of the link ledger. In short, my primitive rig was “critically balanced”,
although that phrase would have meant nothing to me then.
I sat it out towards the bottom lock, where I had seen carp the day before
– and the carp cruised in, holding to mid-water!
To my astonishment, the first carp that approached my anchored crust took it.
I was a common, of about 5lbs. The line was pulling tight towards the lock. The water was gin clear and I could even see the bread between its lips...
And that was the problem – I had three of four “runs” like this, including from a chunky mirror that must have weighed between ten and 13lbs, but the carp were only holding the bait between their lips. I felt only one on the strike,
and then only briefly. Perhaps they were uncatchable, after all? However, I left for Sunday lunch with a deep sense of achievement, because I had almost managed to fool those carp, - hadn’t I?
In fact, there
were to be other similar chances on other days, - and all missed opportunities. Those carp seem to be living charmed lives!
However, that same year, I managed to catch a few small stocked carp from a rural canal – my first carp; and a few years on I actually caught a glass cone carp, - something I have written about on this site.
It weighed 7.25lbs – a medium-sized one, I think: but to my knowledge it was the only one that was ever landed from the pound.
It was weighed by the glass factory manager who had been watching me from the bridge and, when my rod hooped over, could hardly believe his eyes.
Carp were difficult, in those so distant days...
In fact, there was no real secret to my modest success. I had found four or five carp by the rushes. They were close to the surface and I got them taking free offerings of floating crust. There was a slight drizzle too, breaking up the outline of my
line across the surface, perhaps.
The take, when it came, was confident and unmissable; and for once I did not miss...