Jumbo the carp

Si­mon res­ur­rects the story of a mon­ster carp from York­shire which set the grapevine alive in 1983

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Si­mon Crow

Si­mon res­ur­rects the story of a mon­ster carp from York­shire which set the grapevine alive in 1983

When you think about carp fish­ing in the 1980s, most an­glers im­me­di­ately re­call Red­mire Pool or the leg­endary gravel pits in and around the Colne Val­ley. This is the era when Hutchy and Yatesy made their names, and spe­cial carp like the Bishop and Basil were the talk of the banks. Big carp over 40lb were some­thing of a rar­ity, and a look back at the Top Ten carp lists from each year of­ten saw 30-pounders mak­ing the grade.

Cer­tainly in the early part of the decade, for­ties were few and far be­tween, be­fore Yate­ley, Long­field and the in­fa­mous Hert­ford­shire club wa­ter moved the bar to an­other level. Places like Sil­ver End Pit, Fen­e­mere, Snake Pit, and Stanstead Ab­botts also made their mark, but one venue which to this day is only men­tioned in hushed tones goes by the name of Sandholme Pool. You rarely see any ref­er­ence to this wa­ter in write ups by carp­ing his­to­ri­ans, yet in 1983 it pro­duced the sec­ond big­gest carp in the UK that year, a 40½lb mir­ror.

Un­less you were heav­ily in­volved with carp fish­ing in the 1980s, the chances are you will know very lit­tle about Sandholme Pool. Any knowl­edge of it may be dis­torted, or you may even be won­der­ing why it is never talked about in the same tone as the other wa­ters of the time. As some­one who’s worked next door to Sandholme for more than twenty years, I’ve delved into its his­tory on more than one oc­ca­sion. I’ve walked its banks and I’ve even caught a carp from there.

So what can be told about this lit­tle known venue? What’s its his­tory, and what about its most fa­mous in­hab­i­tant, Jumbo the carp?

At just un­der an acre in size, Sandholme Pool was cre­ated by Kevin Clif­ford, the well-known carp­ing his­to­rian and owner of Carp-talk. It lies very close to the M62 mo­tor­way in East York­shire and can be found at Kevin’s home where the Carp-talk, and now Carp­world of­fice is based. Orig­i­nally a very old brick­yard pond, it was land­scaped and en­larged by Kevin when he moved to the prop­erty in 1979 with his wife Gill.

At the time, he was an en­thu­si­as­tic an­gler work­ing as a fish­eries con­sul­tant. It didn’t take him long to have the pool thriv­ing with fish. Kevin told me: “It was a very rich pool in those days be­cause I en­sured it had reg­u­lar in­tro­duc­tions of or­ganic and in­or­ganic fer­tilis­ers. It was un­der­stocked with mostly roach, rudd and perch, with a few carp too. I can’t re­mem­ber how many carp I had in there, but there weren’t many. None of them were big when I stocked them. The largest grew to 25lb when it passed away in the late 1990s; a fish that came from Red­mire Pool as a fin­ger­ling. Jumbo was the only big fish I stocked, and that hap­pened in 1983, when it weighed 40¾lb.”

Look­ing at the pic­tures of Jumbo to­day, it is best de­scribed as a clas­sic English carp. With its thick set body, humpy back and big scales on both flanks, it is ev­ery­thing that a carp an­gler wants in their al­bum. It was a big fish too; get­ting caught over 40lb on three dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions. For York­shire it was a gi­gan­tic carp, es­pe­cially for the 1980s. Thirty years on it would make heads turn, so imag­ine its im­pact on the carp­ing scene at a time when York­shire had yet to pro­duce an au­then­tic thirty-pounder. In those days there was a reg­u­lar ar­ti­cle in Coarse An­gler magazine by Paul Thorpe which listed all of the 20lb carp caught from the county each year. News of Jumbo’s ex­is­tence set the grapevine on fire.

Kevin again: “In the 1980s, 20lb carp in York­shire were very big. There’d been a few re­ports of 30s get­ting caught from around the county, but ev­ery one of them had ques­tion marks. There

was noth­ing re­motely close to Jumbo’s size that was known about. In fact, Jumbo was a com­plete sur­prise when it turned up dur­ing a net­ting at the seven-acre 3&4 Pond at Bran­des­bur­ton. I’d heard re­ports of a big carp be­ing seen there but be­cause no-one ever caught it, I sim­ply dis­missed it. I’d been fish­ing the pits in the area since the early 1970s, mostly on the No.1 and No.2 Ponds. Although I al­ways made a point of look­ing around 3&4 Pond when­ever I vis­ited, I never saw a carp even on the hottest of days. Yet the re­ports con­tin­ued. Sev­eral ac­com­plished match an­glers whose opin­ions I re­spected told me they’d seen carp, and well­known carp an­gler Kevin Roberts also told me he’d seen a shoal of about a dozen fish. Per­haps four or five times a sea­son I had a night ses­sion there, and in 1978 I baited up un­suc­cess­fully with sweet­corn. A few other carp an­glers, in­clud­ing Dick Cald­well and Bob Good­i­son, had the odd trip but to no avail.”

Stock­ings of carp in the 1960s and 70s were a rar­ity, leav­ing an in­quis­i­tive an­gler like Kevin with many ques­tions about how and why they had been in­tro­duced to the pits at Bran­des­bur­ton. When he started fish­ing there in about 1970 he learnt that the ear­li­est stock­ings were thought to have been car­ried out around 1955, with trans­fers of these fish hap­pen­ing be­tween the wa­ters when the test­ing of her­bi­cide on No.2 Pond lead to a de­oxy­genated is­sue. He added: “Some large carp which were kept for or­na­men­tal pur­poses in a moat at Thorngum­bald had been re­moved to a lo­cal farm pond dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. The carp had bred and sev­eral hun­dred were net­ted out and in­tro­duced into the Coney­garth Ex­ten­sion, No.2 Pond and Fosse Hill Ponds in the Bran­des­bur­ton chain of pits. I al­ready knew about the Fosse Hill carp as I’d been fish­ing there with Mal­colm Roberts in 1970. I didn’t know about those in the 3-acre No.2 Pond un­til a chap called Stan Met­calfe – who net­ted the fish from the farm – told me where he’d put them. He also men­tioned he’d told Tag Barnes about them, who had been in­or­di­nately un­suc­cess­ful, fail­ing to even see a carp. In 1971, we baited heav­ily for these fish and, like Tag, we didn’t see a sign of a carp. Later

It took a while for the fish to set­tle down. For sev­eral days it toured the pool in an ag­i­tated man­ner be­fore even­tu­ally get­ting used to its new sur­round­ings

that sea­son, I learnt that the ad­join­ing pits, No.1 Pond and the No.3&4 Pond also con­tained carp. Bill Wat­son, a tackle maker from Hull, had seen sev­eral very large carp to per­haps 30lb in the No.1 Pond, while Colin Hyam men­tioned that he’d seen a carp of 14lb caught from 3&4 Pond in 1965. We then found out that in the late 1950s a Hull com­pany that man­u­fac­tured weed­killer had ap­proached the own­ers of No.2 Pond about test­ing a new aquatic her­bi­cide be­cause it had pro­lific weed growth. Ap­par­ently it was that suc­cess­ful it killed the weed and de­oxy­genated the Pond. It is as­sumed a well-mean­ing an­gler had found dis­tressed and dy­ing carp and trans­ferred them into No.1 Pond and 3&4 Pond.”

Look­ing at the ev­i­dence it ap­pears very likely that Jumbo was one of the fish moved from No.2 Pond to 3&4 Pond dur­ing the test­ing of the her­bi­cide. No-one knows if it was the 14-pounder caught in 1965 or if it re­mained un­caught un­til its dis­cov­ery in the net­ting of 1983. This came about when the Pond had been drained down by its own­ers with a view to re­work­ing it for fur­ther gravel ex­trac­tion. When the Bran­des­bur­ton pits were orig­i­nally dug, there came a point when it was more eco­nom­i­cal to start fresh ex­ca­va­tions. This con­tin­ued un­til new sources were at a pre­mium and it be­came more at­trac­tive to re­work the ex­ist­ing pits, lead­ing to a loss of an­gling and in some cases fish.

No less than eight large-scale fish res­cues were car­ried out by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the lessees and the fish­eries staff of the then East­ern Divi­sion of the York­shire Wa­ter Author­ity. Kevin was in charge of the net­ting op­er­a­tion. He said: “All that re­mained of the 3&4 Pond was a moon­scape of muddy pools, lit­tered with the skele­tal re­mains of wash­ing ma­chines, de­cay­ing prams and bikes, and en­crusted car tyres, the de­bris of a self-in­dul­gent so­ci­ety. The net­ting, un­der­taken by my­self, Alan Mullinger and Pat O’brian pro­duced a lot of qual­ity fish: sev­eral thou­sand roach to about 1½lb, sixty bream be­tween 6-7½lb, a few dozen small pike, a cou­ple of tench, and one carp. The carp weighed 40¾lb! We were ab­so­lutely as­tounded by its size. The fish was weighed im­me­di­ately on York­shire Wa­ter Author­ity scales, and wit­nessed by my­self, Alan (who was the Se­nior Fish­eries Of­fi­cer for the East­ern Divi­sion of YWA), his as­sis­tant Pat, and Chris Firth (also of YWA) who turned up just out of in­ter­est. The fish was taken to my home and re­tained in a large fi­bre­glass tank. I im­me­di­ately phoned sev­eral friends and ar­ranged for them to ar­rive to­gether. A cou­ple of hours later, the fish was care­fully lifted from the tank and reweighed on a dif­fer­ent set of scales in front of John Mor­rell, Kevin Roberts and Bob Good­i­son. I have sev­eral ponds on my land and the fish was then re­leased into one of my small hold­ing ponds (not

Sandholme Pool) un­til its fu­ture had been ar­ranged.”

The de­ci­sion to keep the fish on Kevin’s prop­erty came a short while later. The fish­ing on 3&4 Pond had been run by Hull & Dis­trict An­gling As­so­ci­a­tion, which at the time was a mainly match ori­en­tated club. Kevin had done a lot of fish­eries con­sul­tancy work for the As­so­ci­a­tion, net­ting and main­tain­ing their wa­ters, and was owed a sub­stan­tial amount of money. It was de­cided to set­tle this debt with the fish. He con­tin­ued: “The gravel com­pany wanted to get on with their work, which made it dif­fi­cult to or­gan­ise work­ing par­ties. I was a self­em­ployed fish­eries con­sul­tant in those days so it was down to me to sort things or the fish would be left to die. I had all of the equip­ment to do it, but lim­ited man­power. A cou­ple of times Alan Mullinger helped me when he had time off. Ken Bone was in charge at Hull & Dis­trict AA in those days, so I asked if I could keep the 40lb carp in ex­change for the money I was owed. He thought it was a great idea be­cause they didn’t want carp in those days, they just thought they were sav­ing them­selves a load of money. Once they agreed, I then trans­ferred the fish into Sandholme Pool where it was named Jumbo by my wife and lived out the rest of its life.”

It took a while for the fish to set­tle down. For sev­eral days it toured the pool in an ag­i­tated man­ner be­fore even­tu­ally get­ting used to its new sur­round­ings. Some­time later, the in­evitable hap­pened, when Kevin de­cided to have a fish for it, catch­ing it at a healthy 40½lb. He took some pic­tures which even­tu­ally ended up in the an­gling press, open­ing the next chap­ter in this amaz­ing fish’s life. Kevin again: “I told my mate Len Ar­bery that I’d caught it. We were very pally with Rich­worth at the time as we’d been us­ing their bait; in­clud­ing the new freezer bait Tutti-frutti. Once I told Len, he then told Clive Dei­drich of Rich­worth, who then asked for a pic­ture. I sent it through and the next minute it ap­peared in an ad­vert. I didn’t know this was go­ing to hap­pen, and that’s when all the talk­ing started and Sandholme got la­belled as a gar­den pond. I got slagged off for what I’d done, although it was all wa­ter off a duck’s back to me. It up­set a few peo­ple, in­clud­ing one or two per­sonal friends. I don’t prop­erly un­der­stand why as I didn’t en­ter into any com­pe­ti­tions or claim that its cap­ture was a mer­i­to­ri­ous an­gling feat.”

Jumbo was sub­se­quently caught on three other oc­ca­sions. Kevin re­caught the fish in July of 1984 when it weighed 40¼lb. Well-known York­shire carper Clive Gib­bins caught it in the same year when it weighed its heav­i­est of 43¼lb, the sixth big­gest carp caught in the UK that year. Its fi­nal cap­ture was in 1988 when Jon Cul­ley had it at 38lb 14oz, the eighth big­gest carp of the year. Other well-known an­glers had a go for it un­suc­cess­fully, in­clud­ing Len Ar­bery and Brian Cul­ley. Kevin again: “I didn’t get in­un­dated with many re­quests to fish for it, the few I had were from peo­ple I knew. I didn’t al­low many though, but it was fished for on oc­ca­sion. It was never caught again af­ter Jon had it in 1988, liv­ing for an­other seven years un­til it passed away in 1995, when it would have been around 40-years-old. My lad Micky grew up watch­ing the fish in his gar­den so he was in bits when it died. I re­mem­ber tak­ing his pic­ture next to the fish. It was a part of his child­hood so I de­cided to have it set up in a case a few years later. It now sits on the wall in my of­fice.”

In­deed Jumbo looks ab­so­lutely mag­nif­i­cent in its case. One can only imag­ine how it would have looked in the wa­ter, es­pe­cially when it was net­ted out of 3&4 Pond and re­homed. The stock­ing of large carp in the 1980s cer­tainly wasn’t un­heard of, but this hap­pened up in York­shire where 20lb carp were re­garded as big. Fa­mous wa­ters like Wool­pack Fish­ery, Cut­tle Mill, Waveney Val­ley, Long­field, Homers­field, Aqua­tels, Mid-northants Carp Fish­ery, all re­ceived big carp in­tro­duc­tions at the time. The leg­endary Ash­lea Pool in Glouces­ter­shire was even stocked with big carp of al­most 30lb from Hol­land, a stock­ing that Kevin him­self was present at. In time, these fish were an­gled for by some of the big­gest names in the sport and highly sought af­ter. To­day their cap­tures are glo­ri­fied by mod­ern day carp his­to­ri­ans, the same peo­ple who refuse to ac­cept for­eign im­ports and the ex­is­tence of Sandholme Pool. Quite why this is the case is hard to say as the two venues have many sim­i­lar­i­ties.

Sandholme isn’t much dif­fer­ent in size to Ash­lea. In the 1980s, the two wa­ters of­fered sim­i­lar an­gling ac­cess too; ex­clu­siv­ity to only a few, one be­ing ‘in­vite-only’ and the other a small syn­di­cate. With Jumbo be­ing an English thor­ough­bred, one would have thought that sta­tus alone would carry it through time. How­ever, some­times carp fish­ing is as puz­zling as catch­ing the fish them­selves.

Hope­fully this ar­ti­cle has re­minded a few of you about this for­got­ten story. As some­one who lives up in York­shire, I find it ab­so­lutely fas­ci­nat­ing that a fish could grow to such a size and re­main un­known. Imag­ine com­ing across it to­day, let alone in the 1980s when carp of that size were ex­tremely rare in the UK.

Re­gard­less of whether one agrees or dis­agrees with what be­came of Jumbo, there’s no deny­ing that it was an ab­so­lutely mag­nif­i­cent carp. It was the orig­i­nal gar­den pond fish, and for that rea­son alone, it de­serves its own place in carp fish­ing his­tory.

LEFT Look­ing out onto part of Bran­des­bur­ton 3&4 Pond

LEFT Sandholme Pool, as it looked back in the 1980s

LEFT Kevin Clif­ford with JUMBO ON THE first oc­ca­sion, weigh­ing 40½lb

ABOVE Jumbo at its heav­i­est ever weight of 43¼lb to Clive Gib­bins

ABOVE 1984, the sec­ond time Kevin had Jumbo

RIGHT Young Micky Clif­ford, pic­tured on the day Jumbo passed away

LEFT The Rich­worth ad­vert that spread news about the gi­ant carp. (Please note the ad­vert de­signer in­cor­rectly FLIPPED THE PHO­TO­GRAPH)

LEFT THE FOURTH AND FI­NAL time Jumbo was caught, pic­tured with JON CUL­LEY IN 1988

BE­LOW The carp now lives on the wall in Kevin’s of­fice

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