In Search Of Royalty
Garry Carlton looks at how he successfully chased carp royalty, while remaining true to his word that it’s not all about the biggest fish in the land.
My time on the bank is, and always has been, very limited (the downside of working in a busy tackle shop). With this in mind, when choosing a venue, I have to be realistic. There is little point in targeting a 200 acre pit containing half a dozen fish, the chances are I would probably never see a carp, let alone catch one!
Everyone seems overly obsessed with size these days and “how big?” is the first thing most people ask when discussing fish stocks and targets. Don’t get me wrong, fishing for lumps is a real buzz for me as much as the next man, however, this is not the first thing I look at when choosing a venue. Size isn’t everything and fish don’t have to be huge to be special.
I don’t mind travelling, and most of my fishing over the last ten years has been done on a variety of waters in south Lincolnshire and the Nene valley. As I live in Sheffield, this usually means clocking up somewhere in the region of 160 to 200 miles on a round trip for a 24-hour session. Having said that, I must admit, this is probably as far afield as I can manage in the time frame available to me.
Two years ago I was lucky enough to be offered a ticket on a very beautiful and intimate lake known as BP. The moment I set eyes on the place I loved it. Made up of a series of bays, channels and arms it was a stalker’s paradise. There was an amazing atmosphere to BP, which made you feel as if you had stepped back in time and, along with a stock of very old Leney strain carp, this made the venue something very special indeed.
Most of the fish in BP are doubles and twenties with a handful of 30lb plus specimens present, but what amazing creatures they are. Jet black commons and beautiful scaly mirrors that are around 40-50 years old: very desirable targets in my opinion.
After digging a little deeper into the history of the venue it became apparent that a very elusive, old common resided there; a fish of around 50 years old which rarely visited the bank. This fish was known as The Kinky Back Common and, in my opinion, qualified as carp royalty, the Queen of the lake. My campaign on BP began in June 2014 and the lake was in full bloom looking even more beautiful than on my initial, reconnaissance trip in April. The first thing that struck me was how weedy the lake had become and fish could be seen basking in amongst the thick of it. I did manage one on my first visit, a very pretty, fully scaled mirror of around 10lb. and I was itching to get back ASAP.
My next visit was a success, landing three lovely commons of 14lb, 19lb and 21lb. I was over the moon and enjoying my fishing like never before, until my third trip, when disaster struck. On arrival I had a good look around and discovered two large fish basking in a dense weedbed in the central area of the lake. After flicking a light lead around the edges of the weed I discovered a lovely smooth area and dropped a baited rig on it along with a pouchful of freebies and sat back to await events.
As the day began to cool, the fish in the weedbed began to shuffle around and suddenly a great, black back appeared and headed towards the clear area where my trap lay waiting. Showers of bubbles broke the surface over my baited spot and all of a sudden the water erupted and the bobbin slammed against the rod to the tune of a screaming Delkim! I managed to steer the fish clear of the weed and after a brief, scary moment with a marginal snag had it wallowing under the rod tip. My eyes almost fell out of my head when I saw a huge common that looked upper thirties, possibly even 40-plus. I reached for the landing net but managed to snag the mesh in the bushes to my left. I yanked at the net and it came free at exactly the same moment as the hook pulled! I could have screamed (in fact I think I did), I had just lost what was clearly The Kinky Back Common!
I was lucky enough to land some amazing old fish that year but losing old Kinky gave me sleepless nights. I’d had my chance and blown it. Kinky remained uncaught for the rest of the year and, I later found out, had actually been uncaught for around nine years.
Back for more
2015 saw me back for more. Other than the elusive common there were a few more I dearly wanted to catch, including a stunning scaly mirror, known as The Big Fully. Incredibly I was lucky enough to land the big fully in April on my second trip of 2015. What a stunning old fish. Size really is irrelevant when they look like this. I was absolutely buzzing.
My mind kept returning to the previous year and I couldn’t stop thinking about my experience of losing Kinky, and one night when I was sitting at home tying a few rigs I received a phone call informing me that she had been caught by a new member, Dan Hadman, at 39¼lb. I was pleased for Dan, what an amazing fish, but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed that I’d missed out on what could have been.
A week or so after hearing of Dan’s capture of Kinky I made my way back down to BP for a 24-hour session, a little less enthusiastic than previously. Though there was still plenty of stunning fish to go at my dream was of catching Kinky, and it now seemed very unlikely if the last nine years of going uncaught was anything to go by.
On arrival I discovered I had the lake to myself. After a good look around I spotted a big fish roll in the central bay area right on top of a shallow plateau. That would do for me, and after a little leading around I found two nice smooth spots that ticked all the boxes. This was a pretty tight spot so I decided to stick with two rods instead of three.
By the time I had everything sorted and set up it was almost dusk, so after something to eat and a couple of hours sat by the rods I was ready for bed. The night passed without event, as did the following morning. I could see the odd fish drifting in and out of the weedbeds in front of me, so decided to stay put and see if anything transpired. I was sat drinking possibly the thirtieth cup of tea of the day, when without warning, the right-hand rod hooped round and was almost torn out of the rest!
I lifted into the fish and all hell broke loose as it went tanking off down the lake ripping line from a tight clutch. Somehow I managed to turn it and it kited out in front of me and surfaced over the shallow plateau. It looked huge!
I started gaining line and pumped the fish back towards me when it suddenly went solid ten yards out. I was shaking like a leaf while trying to keep steady pressure on the weeded beastie. After a few minutes I felt it kick and start moving again. A big ball of weed surfaced and I bundled the lot into the net. Reaching down to part the weed revealed the flank of a large, dark common.
I became quite emotional when I realised what I had in front of me. There she was, her royal highness, The Kinky Back Common. After evading capture for nine years, she came out twice within a fortnight. Even more incredibly, I landed her again three months later before normal service was resumed and she went back into hiding. I also had repeat captures of other fish including The Big Fully, and repeat captures mean that it’s time to move on in my book.So what next? Well, after seeing photos of Greg Myles with some old Yorkshire warriors I decided to pursue a ticket for Tyram. It’s a long time since I’ve fished this close to home and I must admit, I’m really looking forward to my time on there, especially as I’ve stuck true to form and caught on one of my first sessions. I’m never in a rush to catch all the fish in my target water. I like to do things in my own time and enjoy the ride. After all, when you’ve had ‘em all you have to find somewhere new and start all over again.