Back in the Day
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