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