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15 May 2017
by Ian Chillcott
Should you leave a venue once you've caught the largest resident?
Our hard-nosed columnist Ian Chillcott has his say...

I am very tempted to change the title of the piece this month to: ‘Don’t Get Him Confused’. You see, during my carp fishing life I have walked the vast majority of its paths. During my Army days, when the time to carp fish was more limited than most can ever imagine, I just wanted to catch carp, and any carp would do. Size was irrelevant really, but of course, I would dream of and occasionally catch a bigger fish. And even back then, the term ‘bigger fish’ was a point of confusion for me. You see, I had tickets for lakes in the late 1980’s that gave me access to 20lbers and if I caught one above that weight then surely, in my world, I had landed a big carp, hadn’t I? Indeed, I come from an era where the capture of a carp, regardless of size, was an event that was spoken of in almost biblical terms. In essence then, when I decided that I wanted to be a dedicated carp angler, all I wanted to do was catch carp and as many of them as possible, to be honest.

As things started to change in my life, my wife’s incredible battle against cancer, overcoming the effects of two strokes, amongst other issues, and to a lesser extent my transformation from soldier to civilian, so did my fishing. In a huge twist of fate all the above meant I had a little more time to go fishing, sounds crazy I know, but the Army practically wrote me off from 1996 onwards and if Lynn was well enough then I went fishing. I was spending more time with people that fished for the biggest fish in the land, and I wanted a little bit of that.

he first thing to say at this point is just how few carp there were swimming around back then in excess of 40lbs, a figure that even to this day is the yardstick that most measure success by. My first real experience of a big carp water was the 1996 season on Horton Church Lake. Back then it was regarded as one of the hardest and best big fish waters in the land, and remarkably at the end of the first week of the season I landed the biggest fish in the lake. At 49lb 4oz, Jack blew my personal best away by a fair old margin, along with blowing my mind. The following day, as I packed up, I fully expected to be shown the red card, but as no one mentioned it I too decided not to ask the question. You see, there were other big carp in there and they were deemed just as special as the famous Jack.

As long as carp fishing makes us feel this way, who’s to judge?

The same thing seemed to be accepted on Wraysbury, which was my next adventure the following year, but even there the capture of Mary, the biggest carp in the land at the time, wasn’t a red card event either. Mary’s Mate, Cluster and a few others were prized just as much. It wasn’t until I arrived at Yateley in 2000 that I saw the animosity that can prevail with regards the re-capture of a big fish. The North, at the time, was home to Basil and as she was the biggest fish in the lake by far, everyone who caught her moved on immediately once they had made her acquaintance. The Car Park Lake was a different proposition though, and many thought that once you had landed Heather, you should be shown the door. The thing was, the other fish had grown too and become highly prized. I sat several times and wondered what was going on as I listened to blokes slaughtering each other because they had re-captured Heather whilst trying to catch one of the others. At the time I was disturbed by how many perceived the world of big carp fishing, but I must confess, over the years, I too have got angry at anglers who stay on a water where there is only one target fish, catching it over and over and robbing people of their chance to fulfill their dreams. Indeed, I have a ticket in my pocket for a water that has one very big fish in it and when I go to fish there, I will have to spend my time on the bank with many anglers who have caught it, some several times. What, I have to ask, is the point of that?

Conversely, I have another ticket in my pocket that gives me some of the best big carp fishing I have ever seen. For a fair few of the anglers it is the only water they have fished in many moons, some having angled there for over twenty years. The thing is, there are so many big fish in the lake it really doesn’t matter, my only concern is that the fishing for them cannot be much of a challenge anymore, doing the same thing and catching the same fish over and over again does nothing for me at all. But then, things have changed and so have people’s attitudes.

There are so many big carp in this country now that the proverbial showing of a red card has become almost obsolete. And, as I and many others have always written, carp fishing means different things to different people. What of the people who cannot travel or are limited for cash? Maybe the limitation on their lives means that they have to stay where they are and who would want to rob them of their chance to fish?

As much as carp fishing may mean different things to people, so are our thoughts on it all. I have lakes around me where in essence I learnt to carp fish and the carp have grown into veritable monsters, but I would never fish for them again, no matter how big they got. It most certainly wouldn’t make me a better angler and in all probability would bore me to death.
In saying that, my attitude has mellowed over the years and at the end of the day it is up to the individual what he does and how he does it. And as long as they leave the lake, river or canal with a smile on his or her face then who are we to judge? Only my opinion of course.

Sorry that I haven’t actually got “started” this month, but I do have a couple of issues that should liven things up considerably over the next couple of issues. Laters.

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