Back in the Day

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Chris Ball

The mas­ter carp his­to­rian rum­mages through his old pho­to­graphs and scrap­books and kicks off a new se­ries by tak­ing a look at Dar­ren Ward’s cap­ture of the le­gendary and much-loved Mary

Alit­tle over 20 years ago, long-time carp an­gler Dar­ren ‘Tet­ley’ Ward came face to face with what had be­come an an­gling ob­ses­sion – a huge mir­ror that lived in Wrays­bury No 1. Dar­ren de­vel­oped the big carp bug from way back and tar­get­ing larger spec­i­mens had paid div­i­dends at many wa­ters, both home and abroad, in­clud­ing Hor­ton Church Lake where Dar­ren had the rare dis­tinc­tion of hav­ing a beau­ti­ful large com­mon (Tet­ley’s) named af­ter him. Also it’s a lit­tle known fact that dur­ing 1997 Dar­ren be­came the first man in Bri­tain to catch a 50lb-plus carp from both home and abroad.

In the 1990s, Wrays­bury’s rep­u­ta­tion as one of the ultimate chal­lenges in UK carp fish­ing drew a small num­ber of top carp an­glers to its banks to pur­sue what was thought at the time to be just 14 carp in well over 100-acres of wa­ter. It was a daunt­ing task, deemed by the vast ma­jor­ity of the carp world as just too dif­fi­cult a propo­si­tion. Against this back­drop, many thought it most fit­ting that a new Bri­tish Record carp of 55lb 13oz, with the af­fec­tion­ate name of Mary, had come from this iconic wa­ter in Novem­ber 1996.

The scene of Dar­ren’s tri­umph was a large in­let in the south­east cor­ner of Wrays­bury 1, known as Bryant’s Bay. Cer­tainly it was an area Wrays­bury’s roam­ing carp would visit now and again, with the odd cap­ture be­ing recorded over the years.

Dar­ren had been at the fish­ery since mid-morn­ing and was soon on a tour of the lake. Af­ter a num­ber of hours and sweat­ing ‘buck­ets’ from the trek, he found him­self at the back of Bryant’s Bay. Here, in one cor­ner, he climbed a tree and soon spied half a dozen of the highly-prized Wrays­bury carp, holed up in a snaggy area. How­ever, he wasn’t the only one to spot these carp as an­other an­gler was qui­etly stalk­ing them, but to no avail. With the sun starting to set be­hind the trees on the point of Bryant’s Bay within a short while the snaggy area was in shade and with that the carp moved... to­wards the spot where Dar­ren had his small con­cealed pitch.

“I was all alone in this 15acre bay with the big­gest carp in the coun­try only yards away” – Dar­ren Ward

Feel­ing lady luck might play her hand, he sat tense and ex­pec­tant. Then a buzzer was shriek­ing, with line rapidly dis­ap­pear­ing off one of the spools. He picked up the rod, fran­ti­cally tight­en­ing the clutch, try­ing to gain some con­trol. With that the rod just flat­tened and the clutch went into over­drive. The sub­se­quent ac­tion could only be de­scribed as a fight-and-a-half with, at one stage, the fish tak­ing over 100 yards of line while try­ing to exit Bryant’s Bay. Fi­nally, it boiled on the sur­face at the mouth of the bay and Dar­ren breathed a sigh of re­lief as grad­u­ally he gained some line.

By now a small gath­er­ing of well-wish­ing an­glers were by his side; all he could do was try and keep his com­po­sure – not easy when a mas­sive mir­ror was clearly seen by all on the end of his line. Though still mak­ing huge swirls, the fish was tir­ing now and it started to wal­low on the sur­face close in – and then, in a flurry of spray, it tri­umphantly went into the wait­ing net.

With arms raised high in the air Dar­ren let out a huge bat­tle cry. What a mo­ment, what a fight. Dar­ren had caught the Queen of the lake, the mas­sive mir­ror known as Mary.

It was some two hours later when friends and his fa­ther gath­ered round to wit­ness the weigh­ing. The weight was care­fully checked and recorded at 55½lb – it would be the equal largest re­ported carp of 1997.

Un­til its demise, the great Mary had grown in Wrays­bury from the first recorded cap­ture by Dave Cump­stone in 1988 at 28lb 12oz, to be­come a Bri­tish record carp twice – to Terry Hearn in 1997 at 55lb 13oz and then Kevin Cum­mins with a top weight of 56lb 6oz in September 1998.

I was for­tu­nate to wit­ness Mary on the bank a num­ber of times dur­ing the 1990s in­clud­ing when it broke the record at 56lb 6oz and though it may seem a slightly odd thing to say, to me the fish just looked too big to be a Bri­tish carp, such was the majesty of the beast.

BOT­TOM LEFT Dar­ren Ward re­leases the huge Wrays­bury carp known as Mary LEFT The lake drew the great and the good. I took this pic­ture around a week be­fore Dar­ren caught Mary – left to right, Phil Jack­son, Dar­ren Ward, Wayne Dunn and Damian Clarke

Just a tiny part of the vast­ness of Wrays­bury No. 1, as it looked like 20 years ago BE­LOW

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