When The Fat Lady, a 61lb 6oz mirror carp, died late last month, found floating like a fishy Ophelia on the surface of St Ives Lagoon, Cambridgeshire, many anglers felt distinctly gutted. The Fat Lady had taken over the mantel of carp fisher’s carp from Two Tone, who by the time of his death last year had swelled to his greatest recorded weight, 67lb 14oz.
They were only the latest in a long line of scaly brobdingnagians that otherwise sane men and women have devoted 50-hour weeks and many years of their lives to nabbing. Carp are the most intelligent of fish, and their capture demands skill, strategy and seduction, as well as a tolerant partner.
Oh, and decent camping equipment, since most carp fishing is done at night when the fish is more easily tricked. Some anglers have been known to camp out for weeks on end when on the trail of a particular leviathan. So be warned: carp fishing can become a passion.
And a potentially expensive one, if love cools rapidly. Obsession with these big fish drives a £4 billion-a-year angling industry based on tackle and gizmos, often specialist stuff that novices will neither need nor know how to get the best out of. So it’s best to leave the £250 rod until you’ve got the bug and the skills.
In search of them, you might want to visit Carp Fishing Tackle Online, which has lots of start-up advice and tips. For meticulous and clear beginners’ instructions on everything from making your own rigs to tying knots, go to the lovely Master Blanker. For a glimpse of what life as an obsessive carp fisher can offer, try the advanced carp form on Toasteds, where topics range from bankside cuisine to carp pigs, as well as a couple of naughty sections.
Where to fish
Carp Lakes has links to specific lakes, and for £2.99 will email you maps marked with useful information.
Redmire Pool is practically the cradle of the game, as it was here in 1952 that legendary angler Richard Walker caught the first of the big ones, Clarissa. (A weekend here in summer costs £110 per person.)
Burghfield Lake, near Reading, contains The Burghfield Common, one of the largest, genuine, British common carp in the country. Big carp gain around 2lb a year and this chap, still growing, was last caught at 57lb 8oz.
St Ives Lagoon in Cambridgeshire, may have lost The Fat Lady, now buried at a spot named Fatty’s Point in her honour, but it remains home to The Black Pig (currently floating around the 43lb+ mark). Like the Manchester United football team, St Ives has some promising youngsters, in the form of Dumpys, Bobs, Robs, The Terminator and Eight Ball.
But if you want to fish for the real carpy colossus, you must cross the Channel. Le Graviers in Dijon is the home of Scar, who weighed in at 99lb when caught last year and is strongly tipped to break the never-before-reached 100lb barrier. France’s wine industry may have been overtaken by its rivals in the southern hemisphere but for carp it leads the world.