9th December 2017

This will be the simple ramblings of an old carp angler but I will attempt to base them around sensible reasoning and back them up with facts.
To start let me take you back a bit. Some years ago, around 2008/9, one of our customers caught a large common. He had to wade out to net the fish and then described how it beat him up out in the lake and how it was so big that he and his mate failed to get any photos. I openly admit that I didn’t believe a word of it and these were back in the days when a Moorlands forty was a massive fish and we were only just beginning to see the possibility of some of the mirrors making fifty pounds with the commons way behind.
In summer 2010 I spotted a large common, probably the largest I’d ever seen, cruising through the weed beds of the Southern Arm and let the anglers know what I’d seen. Nobody was interested in moving down there so I took the opportunity myself and, purely by luck, I hooked and eventually landed a big Common. Now I’m assuming that it was the one that I’d seen but I have no proof of that. However, at 51lbs 2oz, it was my first fifty plus Common and I named it “The Long Common”. Photos were done and back she went, not to be seen again until the drain down of 2011 when we purposely didn’t weigh her in order to keep some mystery. In hind sight I now wish we had.
She was caught again, once in 2013 and again in 2014 but both times were after spawning and, even though she was a mid fifty, she certainly didn’t look in her prime. I must add here that we also have some of the big mirrors which also only get caught once or twice each year.
Since then she has stayed under the radar so well that, earlier this year, we assumed that she had died and took her photo down. But, during the early summer, we rescued a Common from behind the fence which runs along the stock pond dam. I’m not going to bore you all with full details of that day as I’ve covered it in chapter 15 of “Living the Dream” but that fish was massive. Having rescued her very shortly after weighing our biggest commons known as “Pipesmoker” at 59lbs 2oz, “Andy’s” at 59lbs 15oz, plus the biggest mirrors, known as “Half Lin” at 74lbs 15oz and “Cut Tail” at 76lbs 15oz, I think I’m entitled to believe that I can recognize a big carp when I see one and I will put in writing that I honestly believe that she was, at least, equal to any of the above fish. Now I don’t know whether the rescued fish was The Long Common or whether she, like Andy’s, is a young fish which is flying through the ranks but, whichever, she is not a fish that we have seen banked recently.
Now comes the real reason for this ramble, why has she not been caught more frequently?
In my fifty plus years of carp angling I have heard several stories of mythical monster carp in various lakes. Most of these stories cannot be proven but I know of one lake which was fished by some very good anglers who all reported seeing this huge fish but which didn’t actually get caught but was eventually found dead so it did indeed exist.
I also spent a few years on Linear Fisheries Manor Farm lake and saw, on a few occasions, a very big common. Everything is relative and I would estimate it to have been around the forty pounds mark, which was huge during the mid nineties. On one occasion I was walking round the lake with a group of friends and we crept up on a large carp which was feeding in the margins along the road bank, at a time when the lake was in flood. In short, we expected to be able to recognize Popeye or Cut Tail but we were shocked to see that it was indeed a common which would have matched the aforementioned for size. I know several other known anglers also saw her on various occasions but, again, she was never banked.
Right, why?
I guess we will never really know but I have some theories and I will try to paint some of them here.
I used to hear lots of anglers asking how the Redmire carp grew so big without regular introduction of anglers baits. Whichever way you look at it, they certainly weren’t getting any HNV boilies between their introduction by Donald Lenny in 1934 and Dick Walker’s capture of Clarissa in 1952 so what did they grow on and why did The King and Queen never get caught? I’m going to leave you in suspenders for a bit while I jump forward to my own experiences.
Since buying Moorlands in 2002 we have carried out 6 drain downs and after each one we always see a major bloom of baby carp following the next year’s spawning. In brief the drain down messes up the predator balance and too many baby carp survive. It has always been obvious that, in amongst these fingerlings, which are all from the same sets of eggs, some were considerably bigger than others, to the point that some were twice the size of their siblings. On one occasion I watched one of the larger fry smash into the shoal and appear to grab and eat one of its neighbors. It had obviously turned canibal.
I netted a few small fish and hooked one of the small commons and flicked it out under a float. Within seconds I had hooked and swung in one of the slightly larger fish. I repeated this over and over and that proved to me that it was “natural” behavior. Now my brain began to whir and this following paragraph is my thoughts and beliefs.
In order to continue this through we have to keep an open mind and I’m sure there will still be more questions than answers at the end.
My first thought is that it is possible that the biggest fish from each batch are those that turn canibal first. The protein boost from eating fry will certainly give them a massive start in life and anyone who has bred puppies or kittens etc. knows that, in order to get the biggest/strongest specimen you need to give them the best start in life. Now let’s ask ourselves what happens if one or two of these carp get, virtually locked into this taste for fry? Could it mean that they continue to outgrow the rest of their companions and, if so, do they then move on to eating slightly larger fry? If that is also a possibility then does that explain why some fish rarely, or never, get caught. Let’s face it, there aren’t many people dead baiting on expensive carp syndicates but if they did ……………?
I honestly believe that the carp in Redmire feasted on the thousands of gudgeon that were also in there and this is the reason that they grew so big but also the reason for them being so hard to catch. I believe that the biggest fish in that magical pool had absolutely no reason to pick up anglers baits.
I also believe that some of our big fish (not just the big common) are caught so infrequently. It seems possible that some switch to boilies etc. as the weather warms in late winter and spring because the fry aren’t there in such numbers or that the carp metabolism is low and they almost choose to accept stationary, easily available, items of food rather than using energy to chase live food. It might even be that some simply have a taste for varying items of food. However, once the chemical signals from spawning get released these seem to trigger most of the fish to consume the eggs that they’ve just worked so hard to produce and some of the fish to switch back to fry feeding in earnest and this can last well into the summer. With some thought we could use this to our advantage and that doesn’t necessarily mean live or deadbaiting.
Ok, so now we are considering why some don’t get caught very often but could this also be the reason that some never get caught? Has our biggest Common (and the two biggest fish in Redmire) simply never switched from the early life-lesson of eating live fish?
As I said earlier, more questions than answers but it has certainly got me thinking about possible ways of attracting these very special creatures to my bait, plus, how can I make my hookbait just that bit different? I think that the fishmeal base is certainly the right way to go, the use of liquid feeds that stay in the lower layers of the lake are certainly an advantage and now it’s just the hookbait itself that needs some added boost, without overdoing the flavors. There are lots of options out there but I think I’ve laid out enough clues for now.
Let’s get thinking and be lucky.