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