Back in the day

Chris again rum­mages through his store of epic carp tales, and the ‘pages’ this month fall open at the story of a mon­ster carp that ex­isted in the 1970s in a small se­cluded Kent lake, known as East Peck­ham

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Chris Ball

Chris again rum­mages through his store of epic carp tales, and the ‘pages’ this month fall open at the story of a mon­ster carp that ex­isted in the 1970s in a small se­cluded Kent lake, known as East Peck­ham

“Iwas afraid to breathe, afraid to blink. I was, I think, afraid of the fish!” Those words were writ­ten by the late Mike Har­ris when de­scrib­ing an en­counter with a carp of huge pro­por­tions he saw in 1974 at East Peck­ham Lake, in Kent. Mike, along with con­stant fish­ing com­pan­ion Bruce Ashby, had got to hear of this four-acre lake af­ter Mike met Steve Alldridge. Steve and his friend Henry Weeks had found a small lake, and had ap­proached the owner who lived in a big house at one end. They per­suaded him to al­low the two of them to fish. Things then moved on at pace and ul­ti­mately the lake was net­ted and as many of the small res­i­dent roach and bream as pos­si­ble were re­moved. It was then stocked with Don­ald Leney carp and also carp from Peter Caslett.

They grew and thrived and soon be­came big fish. The trou­ble was, only six peo­ple were al­lowed to fish and the chance to be­come a mem­ber seemed re­mote – af­ter all, who would give up the prospect to fish a place like this?

How­ever, when Mike and Bruce least ex­pected it, Steve Alldridge rang to say a cou­ple of places had be­come avail­able. Need­less to say, the fol­low­ing day, the pair were on the bank of East Peck­ham watch­ing great big carp bask­ing and cruis­ing – they thought it was par­adise. There seemed plenty of carp in the lake but be­sides a 19lb com­mon on the first visit, hooked by Bruce, it was a few weeks be­fore an­other was caught, again by Bruce. By the end of the first year Mike had caught none.

The fol­low­ing year and al­most to the day of them join­ing, Mike got one, a beauty of 27lb. The fol­low­ing day Mike caught a 25lb, a 22lb and an 18-pounder. From then on the pair caught with in­creas­ing fre­quency. In fact, the fol­low­ing year the duo landed 21 carp over 20lb, which caused quite a stir in the carp world. As time went by their best fish from East Peck­ham weighed 34lb and they thought mid-30s were as big as they could ex­pect. Then a phone call from Steve Alldridge rocked Mike and Bruce. Henry Weeks had caught a fish which he thought was over 40lb – re­mem­ber this was 1972. Henry was fish­ing on his own, caught the fish, but for some rea­son had no scales to weigh it. In one of the out­houses near the big house he found some rusty old Sal­ter scales and found the carp to be 40lb in weight. On Mike and Bruce’s next visit they checked th­ese old scales with their re­li­able ones and th­ese pulled round to 42lb at the point the old scales showed 40lb.

This carp was so much big­ger than any­thing that they caught or had seen. When they quizzed Steve Alldridge he in­formed them that at some stage a few fish big­ger than the gen­eral run of the orig­i­nal stock­ing had been placed in the wa­ter. This was great news, for nei­ther of them wanted to know the weight of the big­gest fish in any wa­ter – as Mike said, “I like to keep my dreams alive.” Two years later on a warm sunny Septem­ber day one such dream was so nearly re­alised...

Mike soon found three good fish cir­cling around on the top in a wind­ward cor­ner. How­ever, to his dis­may he found that in­stead of putting a bag each of floaters and sinkers in the car, both bags were sinkers. The only thing Mike had that would float, were some crusts off his sand­wiches. He baited with a small crust and crept care­fully round to where he had seen the carp. The first cast caught on some grass be­hind him and landed only 10ft out, but he de­cided to leave it there to see if a carp came across it. It soon drifted in to end up a cou­ple of feet from the bank. Just as he was about to re­cast, he thought he saw some­thing deep down, a kind of or­ange flash of colour. It then moved and Mike re­alised it was a carp’s mouth open­ing and clos­ing. It came higher and higher in the wa­ter – it was a gi­gan­tic carp, far big­ger than any­thing he’d seen be­fore. Then, with Mike still in shock, it moved to­wards the crust, opened its mouth and sipped it in. As he set the hook a huge erup­tion ex­ploded un­der his feet as the rod was slammed down... the reel screeched and the hook pulled out!

The fol­low­ing year, in Oc­to­ber, the same carp (al­most cer­tainly) was spot­ted by Mike and Bruce swim­ming just be­low the sur­face. As they watched Bruce said in a rather shaky voice: “That is enor­mous – it’s a mon­ster.”

Al­though Mike and Bruce were al­ways look­ing for this par­tic­u­lar fish on their vis­its, they never saw the leviathan again... ever.

Bruce Ashby stuck into an East Peck­ham carp

Mike Har­ris, with his best fish, a 34-pounder, from East Peck­ham

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