Back in the Day
Longfield and ‘The Lady’
Chris continues his series of shorts with the story of The Lady, a carp that started life in the water of Longfield but finished it, along with many other famous fish of the time, within the depths of Horton Church Lake following a controversial move in 1990...
An angling report from August 1968 told how a youngster had managed to land a whopping great 26½lb mirror carp from a lake near Staines, in Middlesex. This is a quote from that news report: “Schoolboy Jeremy Bond of Sunbury-on-thames, Middlesex, was determined to catch a big carp this year. With this object in mind, he fished a small lake at Staines every weekend since the season began. Result... one crucian carp. Then last week he switched his attentions to a bigger lake nearby and came up with a 26½lb mirror!”
Fifteen-year-old Jeremy used floating crust to tempt his carp, the smallest of a shoal of six he spotted near the surface. He told a reporter: “I cast the crust to them and the biggest fish nosed it and turned away, in the swirl that followed the smallest fish came up and took the crust.”
Amazingly, in 2010 at an angling show staged at Ardingly, in Sussex, I met this Jeremy Bond (now in his late 50s). He started talking to me about a place he fished before Tom Mintram and Bill Quinlan were around. It turned out, of course, to be Longfield. I’d vaguely remembered about the schoolboy news report and of how my friend Len Arbery had cottoned on to it and found out the lake’s location. When I asked about a picture, Jeremy told me he had one... I gave him my business card but sadly never heard from him. I’m still looking for this picture of Jeremy’s Longfield biggie.
However, there were two other people who had investigated Longfield and fished the place way before Arbery, Mintram and Quinlan, or even Jeremy. They were husband and wife Gerry and Carol Preston. The pair first fished at the venue as Hounslow AC members around 1960. At that time, they thought Longfield only had around a couple of dozen ‘wildies’ present that had been rescued from another lake which Hounslow AC leased. After catching a few of these ‘wildies’ Gerry and Carol left Longfield alone.
Jumping forward a few years, they returned to have a look again around 1963 after hearing that some mirror carp had been stocked. When Gerry and Carol were married in 1965 they bought their first house in Staines, with Longfield being barely ten minutes away. However, they only fished there occasionally. Nevertheless, they caught the occasional wildie, but rarely saw any sign of the elusive new arrivals. But later in 1965 Carol captured a fish that became known in later years as The Lady.
The pair had fished the previous day with float-fished maggots. Although fishless, Carol had seen a decent-sized mirror carp rolling in her swim and wanted to go back the next day after piling in more maggots. The following morning saw her float slide away and the battle started. In the weed-free swim, the carp continually went round and round in the deep water, and no frantic runs occurred, yet the fish refused for some time to come anywhere near the net. Almost 15-minutes went by before Gerry slipped his handmade, laminated-cane carp landing net under the fish. It was a good fish at the time and Carol’s largest carp – it weighed spot on 15lb.
Clearly some of the carp, both mirrors and commons, grew at a fast pace, for come 1969, Len Arbery, along with friend Dave Short, had found out where Jeremy Bond’s fish had been caught. Len wrote the following some years back: “We thought there were a number of fish over 30lb, and at least two commons that could break the record of Dick Walker’s 44-pounder.” This clearly indicates that there were other carp present from a much earlier stocking, fish that had remained unseen through the years, making Longfield a water to be reckoned with in an era when 30, let alone 40-pounders, were extremely thin on the ground.
When this author became interested in Longfield, in the mid-1980s, there were a number of very big known carp present. The ‘A-team’ consisted of Jack, the Koi, Heart Tail, Shoulders, the Parrot and the Lady. I saw all of these fish, bar the Lady, on the bank, but it was caught from time to time. However, one of Longfield’s most celebrated anglers, Ritchie Mcdonald, caught most of the big fish in Longfield except the Lady.
Ritchie’s chance finally came when all of Longfield’s stock were netted and moved to the nearby Horton Church Lake. In Ritchie’s initial year at Horton in 1991, one of the first runs he had was from the Lady at over 30lb – this finally gave him a full house!
Longfield during the drain-down. It eventually revealed a haphazard collection of mounds and troughs, some which had dangerous sharp ledges that stuck out. Most of those who saw the lake, at its lowest level, were completely dumbstruck
Carol Preston with her maggot caught 15lb mirror – the fish was destined for big things as time went by
Ritchie Mcdonald completed ‘The A-team’ with the capture of The Lady at over 30lb in 1991