Old-school carping 195 - 60
Historian digs out his vintage carp tackle to take us through the decades.
JUST a mere generation ago, the country’s leading fishermen of the day considered the pursuit of carp a complete waste of time, as they were simply too wary and cunning to be caught. In the 1940s, even the editor of the leading angling journal of the day, The Fishing Gazette, advised anglers not to waste time carp fishing, as life was too short.
There were, of course, a small number of specialist anglers who did target carp on the small number of waters that contained them. The great Richard Walker is often credited with bringing carp fishing to the attention of British anglers, proving that they could be caught by design. He was catching them from a local Bedfordshire pool way back in the 1930s, and was later inspired by Denys WatkinsPitchford’s classic books The Fisherman’s Bedside Book and Confessions of a Carp Fisher.
The great angler and great writer formed a friendship, and they established The Carp Catcher’s Club. To qualify as a member, you needed to have caught a double-figure carp
(no mean feat), but through the members’ innovative approaches to carp fishing, the species gradually came to be seen as a fish worth pursuing.
The standard kit for your typical carp enthusiast of the 1950s was considerably less than the mountains of gear that we now take to the banks. This was an era when there was no commercially made carp fishing tackle whatsoever. Rods were stowed in leather-trimmed canvas rod holdalls, and kit would be taken to the bank in wicker baskets, which would double as your seat. Carp anglers used large salmon nets, but many wouldn’t hesitate to use a gaff! Richard Walker then designed a practical landing net that was light and collapsible, featuring laminated 30 in. cane arms and a sturdy, one-piece cane handle – the benchmark design for all specimen landing nets to come.
Suitable rods were needed to deal with powerful, hard-fighting carp. Quality split-cane rods, made for salmon spinning or pike fishing, were certainly powerful enough to stop hooked carp reaching the sanctuary of snags and weedbeds.
Richard Walker wanted something better, so he designed his own, and on his fourth attempt he got it just
Split-cane rods were replaced by fibreglass models (inset) in the mid-’60s.
The kit that anglers used to tackle carp in the ’50s and ’60s.