I don't really fish for carp anymore. I hook them from time to time; I had three in a row whilst looking for chub on the middle reaches of the Warks Avon, all safely landed powerful though they were in that strong deep current
, I cast crust to carp purposely a little time back and disaster struck then, and just a few days ago I lost a further two on light tackle intended for tench, or whatever else the lake held, because I had no clue at that time, and yesterday I fished the same spot and hooked another, this time on sturdier tackle more suited to the possibility of carp but still fine enough for tench, but the small hook pulled after a titanic first dash. These fish, and the lost fish especially, have put me in a quandary, have asked a question that I don't want to answer, and that is do I want to fish purposefully and knowingly for carp, ever again?
It's a long story, as everything with carp generally is. I was there when carp fishing as we know it today really started, and for me, when true carp angling really ended, and that was, for the historical record, when I was a teenager in the very early nineteen eighties, when the hair rig and then the bolt rig first appeared on the scene rendering the catching of carp of any size child's play. Before that time the carp was a regal fish worthy of its King Carp name, and, not only very hard to catch but equally hard to find, there being just a handful of waters in the entire country that contained a good head of large fish, and though many other waters did contain a few carp and some of them running well into double figures, they were impossibly difficult to locate being so few and far between and usually hooked by those going about the peaceable art of delicate float fishing and suddenly smashed in violent riot of thrashing water. Carp were revered above all other fish, their pursuit was a discipline requiring immense patience, much skill and huge dollops of luck. Putting even one on the bank was considered a vast achievement and anyone who could catch regularly was regarded as a hero.
Carp back then were the sacred cow of a new religion, but nowadays carp are the cash cow of commerce. They are no longer a fish measured by the pound, by an angler still shaking in his boots after the devastating tussle with this powerhouse of a fish, but are measured pound for pound, or more accurately, euro for kilo. Prices for carp rise in increments, weight bands that are nothing to do with the fishes size in of itself, but to do with the pulling power that heavier and heavier carp have upon anglers, so a small 'pasty' carp that is bought in as a stock fish, one that might grow up to be large, but might not, is actually priced about right for its food value, that is to say it is around about what a fishmonger would pay, but large carp are priced for their ability to pull cash from the pockets of those who would target them, and for whoever buys such monstrous carp and owns the water they are then introduced to, they represent a serious business investment and are therefore, costly.
Below are the current price bands for weighty carp; as we speak the exchange rate is roughly 1 euro for 88p, and a kilo is 2.2 pounds so double the weights and add a little bit for a rough guide, and then times by say a quid and minus a few quid from the total for an even rougher guide, or, just use a calculator if you want to know what your personal best is worth ~
8KG TO 9.99KG 15€ PER KG
10KG TO 11.99KG 17€ PER KG
12KG TO 13.99KG 23€ PER KG
14KG TO 15.99KG 40€ PER KG
16KG TO 17.99KG 50€ PER KG
18KG TO 19.99KG 65€ PER KG
20KG+ 85€ PER KG
So, a forty four pound carp, Dick Walkers once long standing British carp record in fact, will cost you 1700 euros, or 1500 of our British Pounds, and above that weight, well I'd guess all such fish are negotiable, heaven knows what Chris Yates' current British record would cost...
You now think I'm crazy for regarding that magnificent fish as the current record, well, I regard it thus and you cannot change my mind. For one thing it was the last big carp to be photographed properly, the fish held forward to the camera but on the ground, the best place and only safe place for a big fish out of water to be, and because of this both captive and captor are in harmonious relationship with each other, you can see quite plainly how big the fish really is by comparison with Mr Yates rakish frame. Importantly, Chris looks like an angler. He also looks thoroughly knackered!
This is not at all like the modern idea of a carp trophy shot where the fish is held aloft and toward the camera, a demonstration no doubt of the anglers physical prowess (his vanity) but a reckless stance with regards to the fish that puts its now unsupported spine and its internal organs under the forces of terrestrial gravity, a force that is quite neutral for such huge fish in the their natural environment, but one that out of water they are are simply not built to cope with. Hilariously, this stance is also one that makes a fool of the fisherman, ensuring that the picture suffers from extreme foreshortening and what we then have is his tiny head appearing to be a horrible excrescence emerging from the fishes back.
And then consider for a moment that when that historic fish was caught the effect upon all angling was stupendous, no-one talked about anything else for a year, it was unthinkable that a fish could be so very large, no-one saw it coming, everyone was knocked off their feet, it was a capture of such magnitude that it made Chris Yates into the most famous and highly regarded angler of all time, bar none. And he still is.
Break the carp record now and nobody even raises an eyebrow...
Yates' fish was caught on free-lined sweetcorn, a 'rig' so simple and direct that it isn't even a 'rig' at all, and a bait you buy in cans from Londis on the way to the lake, and the fish was stalked, the angler in a state of high anxiety, cast to, and hooked! What could be more perfect than that ?
One of the so-called British record carp snared after Yates' historic fish was caught on rubber sweetcorn, of all things, and this probably mounted upon some horribly complex fangle of a snare who's creation required sleepless nights and who's name will go down in the anals (sic) of fishing history, along with that of the fisherman who probably was fast asleep after the exhausting exertions of casting, when, all of a sudden his alarm clock went off. What could be much worse than that ?
I don't know. Nothing really...
What has carp fishing become? Why are all of our lakes, even the free lake that no-one cares for that I am fishing right now, stuffed to bursting with them, and more importantly why are they so expensive to buy, and so cheap a catch? I mean, catching a large carp nowadays is the smallest feat in all angling because any idiot can do it. I say this because all other species are comparatively hard by comparison and in the case of large wild roach for instance, who live and survive to grow old by their wits in rivers and canals, are incredibly difficult to find, let alone catch. And, any idiot certainly cannot do it, unless by dint of their idiot luck.
Now, why don't I just go to this secret free lake of mine and just chuck out whopper stopper gear, oik the carp from the reeds and flog them on to that commercial fishery owner who is by local legend reputed to have stolen the rest of the original stock? I could make a pot of money on the deal and I'm sure he'd be able to cram them in his puddles. But, I won't, because I wouldn't even consider such a thing, and because it is as if I have stumbled across a little old style carp anglers nirvana where the carp, who were obviously stocked at some point way back, are now all but wild fish, and that my friends is everything to me. They are virgins, they have not seen a hook in their long lives, they are not fished for by anybody in any seriousness because lore says they are not there, because they are over the road, even if the visible signs say they most certainly are not, and so as a consequence there are only a handful of fishable swims on a lake of four acres and even on a perfect sunday, when most anglers get out and about if they can, and the majority of them go 'across the road' after the very fish we are talking about, no one is fishing here...
And that could be just perfect. Because I have the whole place to myself, and that's really very nice indeed, or would be, if it weren't for the fact that to fish this lovely place means my having to fish as if I were fishing for carp, with suitably heavy duty gear, and just hope for my intended species of 'nuisance' to come along between times, because here it seems plain that I just can't go at such desirable species that do live here directly, certainly can't fish finely, and all because at some point someone made the 'error' of stocking the lake with too many of these hoovers of the still waters, the fine tackle smashing king carp. My problem is that I really love the lake, it contains too many carp but I still want to fish it, and delicately if possible, but it's really impossible, and so I have to decide, do I start fishing for the carp intentionally, or not?
Well, why would I?
They are incredibly powerful fish, and never caught fish like these ones in the secret lake fight for what they are certain is their lives. Carp can be very pretty, even handsome, especially when they are completely undamaged in scale and fin and these lot are likely to be just that. They are not yet dependent upon manufactured baits and so are relatively easy to hook on simple baits cast to the right places. They are not at all tackle shy having no idea what tackle is, so simple tactics can be employed for them, and, after hooking and losing three in a row, they are obviously hard to land so there is a challenge in it.
And, why would I not?
I can think, after some deliberation, of no good reason at all....