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04 May 2016
by Ian Chillcott
Ian Chillcott's top 10 greatest captures
Having caught some of the most historic and prestigious carp in the country, where do the likes of Jack, Charlies Mate and Single rank in his top ten?

1. Horton: The Missing Mirror

I would love to have gone back earlier than this capture, but my life is not as ordered as it used to be in my military days. Therefore, I’m buggered if I can find any of the pictures! So we’ll begin in June 1996, and the start of the season at Horton Church Lake. I had become friends with Keith Jenkins, Dave Lane, Phil Thompson and a few other Horton worthies over the previous few years, and it was their tales of monsters that kept me sane whilst I was away doing the Army thing. Eventually though, I got a ticket for Horton, at last I had a chance to make my dreams a reality. I could never have imagined just how things would turn out and it is living proof that dreams do come true.

Whilst I was constantly thinking of the monsters that inhabited the lake, all I really wanted to do was catch one from there… any one! After spending my first session socialising (cough, cough!), I returned on the 6th of June determined to kick my angling into high gear. Eventually I settled into a swim in Weedy Bay, and I found some fish in a small clearing in the margin to my right. I baited the spot, but didn’t fish it. I would do that in the morning when I could get Jenkins to tell me when the coast was clear.

At first light the mission began, and with Keith up a tree he told me when the fish had backed off. I lowered the rig, but didn’t even get a chance to sit down before the rod was away. The battle was nervy, but eventually I slipped a lovely looking mirror into my net. At 20lb 12oz it was thought to be a fish called Polly. To be honest it didn’t matter, I had landed a Horton carp!

Some ten years later I discovered exactly what that fish represented, and also that it was actually called the Missing Mirror. It had survived without capture through many years in its Longfield home, being angled for by some of the country’s finest, until he was netted and moved to Horton in 1990. Six years later I became the first angler to ever catch him, and in my world, captures simply don’t come greater than that!

2. Horton: Jack the Net Ripper

No list of my greatest captures would be complete without this famous old warrior being mentioned, and funnily enough it follows directly on from the moment I slipped the Missing Mirror back to his Church Pool home. Buoyed by my success, Keith and I decided to head off for some stalking. It was a nice day and we could see fish all over the place soaking up the sun. We arrived in the Plateau Swim occupied by Sir Pete Springate, who just happened to mention that he was leaving around lunch time. I booked the swim and we headed off, it was great to see some of the historic fish I would be fishing for, and unbelievably had two close encounters with the biggest fish in the lake, Jack.

Soon enough I was moving my gear into the new swim, and as Sir Pete headed to the lodge, Dave and Phil arrived from Wraysbury. The fish had arrived in droves, and as I contemplated what to do, the plateau was covered in carp. As quickly as my shaking hands would allow, I had a nine-foot hooklink out in the lake with two Mixers supporting my size ten hook on the surface. About 20 minutes later I noticed a small swirl in the area of the bait, but wasn’t sure if something had happened or not. The tightening of the line and a single bleep were all the encouragement I needed to lift into a fish.

As the fight raged so people started to come into the swim to look. Cool as you like I played the fish in, that was until it rolled and there for all to see was Jack, and I turned into a quivering wreck. Jenkins lifted the mesh around it and she was mine… all 49lb 4oz of her! A truly great capture, and a fish to whom I owe so much. RIP old girl.

3. Wraysbury: Mallins

Some time before I even fished for them, I had created a wonderful triumvirate in my mind of fish that I most wanted to catch. Not the biggest fish in the world, but three that really meant something to me. The first one I fished for lived in Wraysbury One, and the following spring, after the capture of Jack and few more of his mates, I started fishing there.

It really is the most daunting of places when you look at it from a fishing point of view; I was truly petrified when I looked at it for the first time anyway! Mary was alive in those days, but I had decided that Mallins was the one for me. We had been fishing lots of particles along with a new fruity boilie at Horton and I could see no reason to change a thing on the big pond. The only thing I could think of was to use more of it, and so once I had enough buckets, the games began.

The first couple of trips were an education, and my boat handling skills improved dramatically. I turned up one day to find the air temperature above 20 degrees and thought the fish may venture into the North Lake, and hopefully all the way down to the Bus Stop swim that I was in. It looked good to me anyway, and with a couple of traps set in the margins I slept the whole night through. At first light I found Mary all on her own in the corner of my bit of lake and after messing up my chance to catch her, I returned to my swim and set out with a couple of rods and three large buckets of bait to an area I had seen other fish in.

The lakebed didn’t look that good, but my pop-up hookbaits looked the nuts just above the thin weed. They looked even better when they were surrounded by the contents of my buckets! The night was quiet, but at around six in the morning one of the rods howled for my attention. The battle was protracted and fraught, but eventually a large and very familiar mirror rolled into my net. It was Mallins at 38lb 8oz and I cannot even begin to tell you how happy I was about that!

4. Wraysbury: Rosie

The capture of Mallins was all I could really expect from Wraysbury. My time was limited with all my army commitments, but whenever I could get away for a weekend I was there. It was summer now and the fishing had stagnated all around the lake, it was becoming harder and harder to even find the fish. You will understand my excitement therefore when, on my second lap of the lake on a hot and sticky Friday, I spotted a big fish boom out 100yds or so from the end of Bryant’s Point. I boated over and set-up camp. The visibility on the lake was non-existent so the boat wasn’t really that much use. My marker found a clear bar at about 120yds and with two hookbaits nestling around it, I set out in the boat to deposit another ton of bait.

Keith was there on the Friday night and although uneventful, we had a great laugh. Reg Bampton arrived on the Saturday and set-up in the swim Keith had vacated. Come Sunday morning nothing had happened or been seen, so Reg and I started looking in the large bay to our right, and as we talked one of my rods went into meltdown mode. Weed and all manner of things contrived to make the carp’s journey to my net a fraught one, but at long last Reg was able to scoop up my prize.
We had no idea who she was, but I decided that she should spend her days with the name Rosie. It was a Wraysbury carp and that was all that really mattered, and she weighed 22lb 10oz.

It was an awful long time before we found out all about this fish, about 14 years to be exact. Many speculated but no one knew for sure, not until we discovered that she had first been captured by Sir Pete some 16 years before I landed her. I believe she was caught once more before she ended up in my landing net in 1997. How great a capture is that?

5. The Car Park Lake: Single Scale

In June 2000 I left the Army. It was a massive shock to my system and it is hard to comprehend how daunting it all was. That said, you’ve just got to get on with it and to that end I decided, now that I had a bit more time, that I would fish The Car Park Lake at Yateley. Heather was the obvious target because she was so big and a true English leather but it was Single Scale that truly floated my boat because he was the second of my triumvirate. And so it was, that Mr. Chillcott turned up for the draw on the 1st of June, as single-minded as ever and ready for action.

The lake was packed from the get-go and all I could think was that everyone was just plonking their rigs on the same spots as everyone else. I didn’t want to wait for the wheel of fortune to stop on my name and began to be a bit more proactive. The Back Bay interested me most, and for a week or so I started to spread a little bait on two spots. Everyone seemed to be ignoring the area, so I continued baiting until the temptation simply got too much. I turned up for an overnighter, moved into the bay and angled from an area that to this day is known as Chilly’s Crack (oooer!). One rod to the left and the other to the right. Both rods were baited with pellets, boilies and a scattering of casters and I settled down to wait.

At four in the morning I landed my first visitor which turned out to be the Dustbin at 40lb 4oz. I was off the mark and buzzing! 36hrs later I returned to find no one had moved into the bay, and once again set my traps. Same as before, around four in the morning, the right-hand rod signalled a fast take. Lifting the rod made little difference to the fish and it just kept on going. There must have been a dozen weedbeds between me and the fish when it stopped which meant I had to bring it all the way back… no easy task I can tell you! But bring it back I did and a large mirror along with a ton of weed eventually rolled into my net.

With all the weed I had no idea which one it was, until one of the lads said those immortal words, “It’s Single Scale”. Oh lordy! She turned the scales round to 43lb 12oz and the second of my triumvirate was crossed off the list. I would have to wait awhile for the one, but it was well worth it in the end.

6. Horton: Shoulders

The totally avoidable and unnecessary deaths at Horton in 1997 obviously affected where I would be fishing for awhile. I didn’t know how what had happened at Horton would affect the remaining fish, I just wanted to leave them alone to get over any effects the deaths may have had on the remaining stock. They deserved that respect but didn’t get it, unfortunately. That said, there was one fish that still swam in its waters that I simply had to catch, he had occupied my thoughts totally during my limited time in the 1996/97 season. He went by the name of Shoulders and was the last on my list of the dynamic threesome that I so desperately desired.

The first thing that struck me when I returned in 2003 was how easy the lake was, there were carp being caught all over the place. It was totally different from the pre-death era, and still is. That said, it was where he lived, so that is where I would have to angle. The problem wasn’t getting bites, they were easy to come by, but singling out the one fish I wanted was going to be difficult.

Along the way I made the acquaintance of the Parrot, The Thorpe Park Common, Black Tail and many other of the sought after residents. During my second season back on the lake, all the fish seemed to be getting caught on floaters, something I was sure the mighty Shoulders would never fall for. How wrong was I? I believe he ended coming out four or five times on a floater that year!

I had returned to Horton after the winter and started to catch almost straightaway. On my third session on the lake that year I was due to do a magazine feature but I was concentrating on my fishing rather than the feature. That said, on the second morning we were just doing the pictures of the very rig that I was using, when one of the rods ripped off. From the get go I knew it was a big fish, but it wasn’t until it rolled about ten yards out that I knew which one it was. Shoulders plodded around for a while longer as my knees knocked themselves senseless, but eventually he lay in my net. 43lb 15oz of incredible carp. And the last of the great three I had set out to catch. Great in every respect.

7. Frimley: Charlie's Mate

I come from the West Country, and as small boy I never knew carp existed. I didn’t know of a single water that held one, but I frequently gawped at a picture of my hero with his 44lb common carp from Redmire in 1952. Richard Walker had guided my fishing for years and as such became something of a mentor, although he obviously never knew it, all I could ever think about was catching a common that was comparable to his record. I could never have imagined that I would ever do such a thing or that it would take half a lifetime to achieve. All I needed to do was find the fish that I really wanted to catch, and that happened one day when I picked up a copy of the Anglers Mail. There on the cover was my old mucker Colin Davidson with a remarkable looking common of around 35lb. Right there and then I decided that I wanted to land that carp more than any other, all I needed to do now was catch it… now that was easier said than done.

I had my Frimley ticket in my pocket and started to fish there, but only during the winters. If I was going to catch him I wanted him at his best possible weight, of course. As a carp angling magazine diarist it was a perfect water to fish, because of the amount of good fish I was catching. The sport was spectacular, and basically, the more bait I put in, the more I caught. I was loving it, but where was Charlie’s Mate? I had to wait until the end of the third winter to find out, and it just happened to be the first weekend when the spring ticket holders could fish it.

It was going to be busy but remarkably I moved into my intended swim early one Saturday morning. Quickly the hookbaits and free offerings were in position and remarkably one of the rods was away two hours later. It was big, that much I knew and when it rolled just beyond the net I knew Charlie’s Mate was mine. It is so hard to find words that describe the realisation of a young boy’s dreams but there I was holding a common of 44lb 4oz. And it really doesn’t come any better than that!

8. Ashmead: Single Scale

Having landed the carp of my dreams in the form of Charlie’s Mate, I was totally unsure of what I wanted to do next. I’ll be brutally honest and thought that I may as well give up carp fishing, because I had achieved all I ever longed for. That said, I did look around and ask myself what I really wanted. I have never been interested in what the record carp is, but I cannot deny that certain captures have spurred me on and given me inspiration. And the only capture that came to mind was Chris Yates’s 1980 capture of the Bishop, from Redmire. That was it then; all I wanted now was to catch a mirror carp comparable to Chris’s fish. I just needed to find a carp I really wanted to catch, one that meant something to me and not one that everyone else was fishing for, and catching.

The way in which I acquired my Ashmead ticket is an interesting story in itself, as is the capture of the biggest carp in the lake. Space restricts what I can say here, but those in the know will understand the lengths I went to, to get where I wanted to go. I received my ticket in November 2008 and immediately began fishing there. I started catching from the off too but my overriding memory of that time was the mud. Thick gloopy stuff that stopped me using a barrow, a problem because my fishing eventually revolved around the furthest swim from the car park. At the time it was the worst winter we had experienced in a hundred years but because I made my eyes bleed in looking, I eventually found a spot that the big girl liked to visit and feed. I baited it as often as I could, and unbeknown to all, very often when I wasn’t even fishing at the lake. The 240 mile round trip to bait up with 100 boilies was a ball buster, but in the end, justifiable.

I arrived a day after the lake had thawed on the 26 January 2009 and headed straight for my baited area. Most pleasing of all was the sight of a couple of carp mooching around. I waded out my rod to the spot and settled down to wait. I even rang Lynn that evening and said, “If I get a bite I know which fish it will be.” I was that confident.

At around half one in the morning I received a single bleep and I was on the rod in a nano second. The fight was spectacular in this shallow, confined area of the lake, but patience paid off and an enormous mirror came to rest in my net. It was Single, of that there was little doubt, and at 53lb 12oz he crossed off the last really important milestone in my carp fishing life. Long live Ashmead and Single, great capture, great lake.

9. Unknown Estate Lake: Unknown Mirror

I make no apology for not naming this lake, but it is truly one of the most special places I have ever been, let alone fished. It nestles in middle England and situated in the shadows of a marvellous old mansion. A friend of mine who served his time with 1Para, Mark, had been on at me for years about coming up to fish there and because of his constant nagging, I eventually gave in. I was blown away when I saw it, and equally excited about the fact that very little was known about the fish that swam in it. In carp fishing terms this is just about as good as it gets. Not being driven by the need to massage an ego with the size of the carp I catch, I decided I would fish here exclusively for a while.

My first attempt at fishing it consisted of about five sessions before life and its inevitable spanners decided to throw one into the works. I would have to be near to home for some time and the Estate Lake was put on the back burner. I had caught some fantastic fish from there, and to be honest, for those two years away the carp were never far from my mind. With things improving at home, I eventually loaded my car and headed off to the Estate early one spring morning. Mark wasn’t around, but said he would join me for a bit of a social once he was home from work. I set-up near an island and there the hookbaits stayed until early morning when I was standing rather sleepily with a very bent rod in my hands.

The fish got stuck in some overhanging island branches which entailed the use of the boat, and once the two of us were on board, off we went. What followed would have done a Carry On film justice, but eventually I had bundled an obviously good mirror into my net. It wasn’t until we were on the bank that we could see how special my prize was. As far as we knew the 37lb 2oz mirror was totally unknown, and therefore I hope you can see why he had to be on the cover of my book, Light My Fire, because he had done just that!

10. Chalk Farm: The Unknown Mirror

During my service in the Army, the time I had for fishing was woefully limited. It wasn’t a case of, “Can I go this week or this month”, very often it was “will I be able to do any fishing this year!” The one place that always saved my sanity, and to be honest taught me so much about carp fishing was an Aldershot garrison lake called Chalk Farm. I had held a ticket for it for many years and for much of the time I lived minutes away in married quarters.

Over the years I became very familiar with all the marvellously scaly residents of the lake. They were, and still are, the most stunning fish I have ever had the pleasure to fish for. I spent a lot of my time baiting up and watching the fish feed, and whilst I did so I would always spot a fish that looked remarkably different to all of his mates. He behaved differently too, because I never once saw him feed on any bait that I put in. I had probably seen everyone’s pictures who fished there, and along with my knowledge and captures from there, I was totally convinced he had never been caught.

I arrived at the lake in the spring of 2000, and rather sadly I set-up. Sad because I knew that this would be the last time I would ever fish there. I had caught all the fish and it would have been terrible of me to keep fishing it once I left the Army in a month or so. I caught a lot of fish on that session, it was as if the lake was saying its goodbyes to me.

On the morning of the third day at around five I received a savage take, and battle was joined. On and on we fought, but eventually the fish was in the folds of my net. As I gazed down a rather large lump appeared in my throat, and I am sure my eyes glazed just a little. There was the very fish that I had seen for so many years, yet had never been caught. He weighed 29lb, and that truly is an immaterial fact. Chalk Farm had saved the very best till last, and I quickly reeled in the other rod. My time was complete, and of all the fish I have ever landed, no matter how big, this will always be my greatest capture!

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