If you met Wayne Barratt away from the bank, you wouldn’t know he was a carp angler, let alone imagine some of the carp he’s caught…
Wayne Barratt leads two very distinct lives. During the week he’s a businessman with a busy family life… on the surface things seem normal. Most weekends though, he can be found in relentless pursuit of big carp. The two lives rarely intersect, but why does he keep them separate, and just how has he managed to bank some of the UK’s most-wanted fishing just two nights per week? We went in search of answers to those questions and more, from one of the most underexposed big carp men in the UK. We met on the gnarly banks of an extra-quiet syndicate water in the South East… you know, one of those waters where someone has to die for a ticket to become available. He’d bagged himself a rare winter ticket and we settled into his tight swim to discuss his angling life over a brew.
Rich: Can you describe yourself
as an angler?
Rich: Okay, then what makes you tick?
Wayne: “I like the outdoors, I like the countryside and mainly I like being by the water. My job’s outside, I don’t mind what the weather’s doing, it’s all part of it really, part of nature.”
Rich: Is fishing an escape for you?
Wayne: “Definitely. I like quiet places and fishing is more like hunting for me.”
Rich: Do you like fishing because you’re antisocial, or because you want a break from a busy building site?
Wayne: “Bit of both really. I like being sociable sometimes, but the majority of the time, if I’m fishing, I like to get on it by myself and do my own thing.”
Rich: How would you describe the sort of fishing that you like doing?
Wayne: “What fires me is seeing a picture of a fish and trying to target that one fish. Most of the time the lower the stock the better for me, because I’ve got a better chance, when I get that bite, of it being the fish I’m after. I have been on lakes where there’s plenty of fish, which is okay, I’m happy for a couple of months, but then I’ve got to get out of there.”
Rich: When did you develop that view on fishing, because most people are happy just getting bites?
Wayne: “From the age of around 10 I reckon, when me and my Dad fished Old Bury Hill regularly. However, it wasn’t until a few years later, when I was driving, that my horizons expanded. I got a ticket for a lake near Shepperton, called Sheepwalk, which had one big fish in it, a Leney. I didn’t care if I blanked all year, I just wanted that fish. In the end, I caught the fish after 11 nights.”
Rich: Just to backtrack a little, did you see it as a step up, or were
you confident that you’d catch it?
Wayne: “A bit of both. I thought in my head, ‘I’m just going to fish it until I catch it’. A friend, Ben, had caught it a few years prior to that and I knew that I was going to have it at some point, you’ve just got to be in the mindset that you’re going to have it at some point. I started walking, looking and baiting, and realised that it was just like any other lake I’d fished really, there just weren’t as many fish in there and I just wanted that one.”
Rich: Was the capture of that fish, Split Tail, the first time that you’d caught a target and did that affirm that you could do it?
Wayne: “Yeah, from that point it was like, I could go anywhere and do that, that’s what gives me the buzz.”
Rich: Some people might not have made that leap so quickly, taking that capture as proof that you could go anywhere and catch them, but you did. Is that because you have an inner confidence?
Wayne: “I suppose so. I am confident with my angling, especially after having success at a young age.”
Rich: Although it was a difficult first challenge, it can’t have felt that difficult if you had it so quickly?
Wayne: “I had a thirty-pound common on my first night! I’d walked the lake for a few months and the last time I’d been there I’d flicked my marker out in a channel in between some islands, just a little underarm flick, and thought to myself, ‘If I see fish in this channel, that’s the spot’. I don’t know why, I just get these feelings in my head. Sure enough, I turned up that weekend and saw two fish in the channel. There were only 25-30 carp in the lake and I saw these two fish, which were only sunbathing, but I thought, ‘I’m going to fish that spot’. I had that 31lb common the first night, so I knew that they weren’t uncatchable. It was the first lake that I got away from people and did my own thing. It just fired me up for the lakes that I’ve fished since… no fish is uncatchable.”
Rich: Has that always applied, have you been stumped anywhere?
Wayne: “Not to this point! Not yet.”
Rich: How do you go about choosing the lakes that you fish? How did you choose Sheepwalk?
Wayne: “I bumped into a friend of mine fishing a Farnham water, a guy that I hadn’t seen for a few years. He lived around that area and he mentioned that lake to me. He said, “If you want peace and quiet, this is the lake for you.” I packed up and drove straight there.”
Rich: You’re quite impulsive as an angler then? Once you’ve got something in your head you’ve got to go and fish the lake?
Wayne: “Yeah, as soon as possible (laughing).”
Rich: Does that help you as an angler? Does it mean you just do things without over thinking them?
Wayne: “Yes, in a fishing sense. If I’m sitting somewhere, it doesn’t matter if I’ve baited it for three months and I see a fish elsewhere, I’m normally gone, straight away. I don’t have the time to sit there and hope they come to me, if I see something I’ll move. As long as I’m not interfering with another angler, I’m gone. It doesn’t matter if I’ve got to move three times in a day, or in the middle of the night, I’ll do it.”
Rich: Do you find the whole targeting fish thing stressful, especially when there are other anglers about?
Wayne: “Yes, I do like to keep in-tune with the lake – I like to get down after work in the week for instance. I’ve basically got it in my mind that if I’m baiting up and someone’s in that swim, as long as I don’t know them, then that’s fine and I’ve always got another plan.”
Rich: You didn’t quite answer the question! You’ve got your own business and a family, but you’re probably thinking about the lake more than you should…
Rich: …Is it stressful to you when you’re not there and you have this tunnel vision?
Wayne: “Obviously, when I’m working away I’m thinking that I want to be at the lake but I’ve always felt that work comes first as I’ve got to pay the bills and the mortgage. I’ve never been like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to go in tomorrow, I need to be down at the lake’. My fishing is a hobby, which is why I do my weekends really; I rarely fish midweek.”
Rich: You’re confident enough, and you’re in a position in life that you can say confidently that you could catch any carp on weekends?
Wayne: “Yep. Well, I have to. I’ve got no choice. Obviously, I’d love to fish Sunday and Monday nights, rather than a Friday and Saturday, because I think that lakes do change on that Sunday afternoon/Monday morning. Being a bricklayer I get rained-off a lot and when that happens I will go straight to a lake, walking, baiting or boating if it’s allowed. I could turn up on a Monday and see 15 fish show, and I’d have fished all weekend, only packing up on the Sunday having seen one. Lakes definitely change in the early part of the week.”
Rich: And that’s not frustrating to you?
Wayne: “It is, but I don’t let it affect my work. I have three daughters and a wife and I’ve had them from an early age; I was 17, and as soon as I got my wife pregnant I had to pull my finger out.”
Rich: Even though you’re now the boss, you don’t give yourself a Sunday night/Monday though?
Wayne: “Never. I would love to, but it’s awkward. I’m in such a routine that I have to work Monday to Friday every week.”
Rich: In your head, that’s the best way to provide for the family?
Wayne: “Exactly, if I took every Monday off as well, that would make my weekends three days and I’d probably feel quite guilty really.”
Rich: How do they cope with you not being around of a weekend?
Wayne: “I fish most weekends, but obviously there are weekends that we do family things. Luckily enough, I’ve got daughters so I don’t have to take them to football of a weekend. They’re cheerleaders, so all my running about is done, luckily, during the week.”
Rich: Do they understand what you do? Do you ever get the impression that they think, ‘What are you even doing Dad?’
Wayne: “They are a bit like that, yeah! I turn up on a Sunday quite a lot and they say, “You caught nothing again?” You could ask my wife what lake I’m fishing on and she wouldn’t have a clue!”
Rich: You’re back and you’re into family mode? Fishing doesn’t even cross the threshold?
Wayne: “Not at all – if I’ve caught my target I might say to the missus, this is it, this is what I was after, but that’s literally it, family man as soon as I’m home.”
Rich: If I were to come through the front door, would there be any evidence that you were an angler?
Wayne: “You would probably see my rod holdall, simply because I’ve got no space for anything. My wife’s put one picture up, of a fish I caught. I don’t know why, I came home from fishing one day and she asked, “Do you notice anything different about the living room?” I said, “No, it’s still a mess!” and yeah, she’d put a photo up.”
Rich: How did she choose it?
Wayne: “I don’t know really. It’s the Chertsey Mirror, and I think it might be because she asked me one day where I was fishing and I said, “Chertsey” and she would know Chertsey, whereas if I mentioned this place, she wouldn’t know.”
Rich: So if you fell in during the winter and there was no-one here…
Wayne: “… She’d have no idea!”
Rich: So, you’d rather keep your fishing private and locked away from the business and family?
Wayne: “Yeah, I mean I come across a lot of anglers in the building trade and we talk about fishing, but we don’t really go into depth about how I go about my fishing.”
Rich: Are you
quite a solitary angler really?
Wayne: “Most of the time, yes. I try not to get too involved with the social scene.”
Rich: For some people that’s a big part of it.
Wayne: “My business partner loves a social. He’d rather go fishing with someone than sit there on his own.”
Rich: Do you ever fish with him?
Wayne: “Yes, we fished on the Island Lake this year, but, not once have we fished next-door to one another.”
Rich: That’s probably more because of you than him?
Wayne: “Yes, probably because of me, I mean, he’d love that but I like to do my own thing and if I think the fish are elsewhere, then I’ll go.”
Rich: It seems to me that you’re always looking towards efficiency and making the best use of your time, but initially you said that you like being outdoors, so there must be a romantic element to it?
Wayne: “Yeah, I mean, I love getting up early morning to see the sun rise and see the mist on the lake.”
Rich: Why is that important to you, do you think?
Wayne: “Erm, because that’s when most of the fish show, and I don’t want to miss anything (laughing)! You get people leaving for work at dawn, but driving down the motorway isn’t the same as being at a lake at dawn and watching the mist.”
Rich: It’s a special moment, isn’t it?
I do like to get up
an hour before dawn, religiously when I’m fishing.”
Rich: Even on a Sunday morning, when there’s no time left?
Wayne: “Yeah, yeah, I’ll still set that alarm. It gives me information for the next trip. If I see something, I can concentrate on that area on my midweek recces. If that’s an area that I haven’t been baiting, then that’s a buzz in itself – a bit like fishing a new lake.”
Rich: What would you say that your biggest strengths are as an angler?
Wayne: “Motivation. I’m here when I can be and I’ll put myself out to bait and get here in between too. I’ll get these glow lights from the Pound Shop, Cellotape them to my marker, walk to my swim, flick the marker out, go back to the van to get the dinghy, life jacket and bait and that’s the case every Tuesday night all through the winter.”
Rich: Would you say that baiting is important to you?
Wayne: “Yes, I don’t get the long hours to bore fish out as such; I can’t sit there and wait for them to come to me so pre-baiting is a big edge. My bait can be working while I’m working on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”
Rich: Is that generally boilies that you put in?
Wayne: “Yeah, through the winter months it’s more boilies, Urban’s Nutcracker. I do tend to use hemp and groats and a little bit of cut maize, but I don’t go too mad. I won’t fish over the hemp, I just use it
to keep something out there because they can mop up
ten kilos of boilies in ten minutes.”
Rich: Does that mean you’re often faced with a raft of tufties when you turn up on a Friday?
“As soon as that happens in the winter, I’ll move because that spot’s done. I’ve never had a bite once the tufties move in on me. Normally I’ll have a good hit of fish before the tufties move in on me. I’ve done too many winters when the bait is only going down tufties throats. In the summer, it doesn’t matter too much to me, but in the winter, as soon as those tufties move in, I’ll move from that area.”
Rich: How do you keep your motivation during the long dark hours of winter?
Wayne: “Well, the last few winters have been really good to me, so I haven’t had to put up with blanking, which is nice. I just love sitting there, even if it is dark. I’m not one that has to bring an iPad so I can watch YouTube; I’m not really into all that. I’m frightened that I’m going to miss something. When it gets dark I might have a little wander into another swim and sit there for half an hour; it’s no different to daylight!”
Rich: Does that mean that you’re often shattered on a Sunday when you get home?
Wayne: “Yes, I’ll admit that I can be a bit moody if I haven’t had enough sleep and I think that’s why my daughters ask, “Have you not caught anything again?” because I’m just tired. My wife will say, “How can you be tired, you’ve been sitting down all weekend?” but that’s far from
the truth really!”
Rich: I can see in your bivvy that you’ve got some structural drawings, does that mean that you can’t always leave work alone?
Wayne: “Normally I can switch off during the weekend, and my business partner is the same; he’s often on the bank somewhere too.”
Rich: Does your mind switch back to the week ahead on a Sunday, or can you shut it out for a while longer?
Wayne: “As soon as I get home I’m thinking about work for the week ahead. But fishing doesn’t ever really leave my head, because there’s normally something to go on.”
Rich: You mentioned off the record that you’ve read the odd magazine, and you’re aware of the carp scene more generally, yet you’ve never pursued publicity in any way, is there a reason for that?
Wayne: “No, no reason really. I wasn’t really into social media, it took me while, and it was my business partner that set-up my Instagram account (@wayne.barratt) and to be honest, from that point I got noticed a little bit really. But in all those years it never crossed my mind. If I caught the biggest fish in this lake now, packed up and went into the car park to my van and there were three or four other anglers, I wouldn’t even tell them what I’d just caught.”
Rich: Why do you do it then? Is it the photos? Reliving it with mates, because it certainly isn’t reliving it with the rest of us!
Wayne: “I think it’s just for myself. I don’t really shout about anything I catch.”
Rich: Do you enjoy telling the stories, perhaps to your business partner?
Wayne: “To like-minded people, yes. To the guy that wants to catch ten fish in a weekend probably isn’t going to be too interested in how I’ve gone about catching; he’d probably think I’m mad. I’ve got a few friends who are good anglers and
fish like I do, we’re
on the same wave-length so I’ll certainly talk to them.”
Rich: Which is
your favourite bit
of a capture?
Wayne: “My favourite bit would be unzipping the weigh sling. The photos are a blur, but when you lift it onto the mat and you unzip it. That first ten seconds after you unzip that sling; that’s what gives me the buzz.”