I’m a fairly old bloke now and despite the drawbacks of being a codger, the years which have passed have provided me with knowledge and experience.
As with most people, the things which we notice having changed the most are those subjects we are most passionate about. My passion has always been fishing, and more specifically carp fishing. For those of you who have never fished or don’t even know what a carp is, I’m sorry, but I would like to recount my experiences with what has kept me active in my old age and continually analyzing the way the sport has developed.
When I started fishing after the war, there was no science to carp fishing. All you had to do was find a lake or a river with carp in it and cast out a lump of bread paste on a large hook and cross your fingers. But when the line began to move (the bread was usually freelined), my heart would always jump as you knew that a carp had picked up the bait and was moving off into the depths. With time, things have changed greatly, but I’ll get to that shortly.
With the capture of Clarissa by Dick Walker in the 60’s, people began to really value the fish as a worthy quarry and many books were written on the fish during the twentieth century. Later, methods and baits became more specialised and the development of the boilie and the hair rig changed the face of carp fishing massively.
But why is the fish so prized? Is it because of its size and strength? Compared to other fish it is not particularly attractive. It is not silvery and sleek like a salmon and I have shown pictures of my captures to non-fishing friends who have said “it looks like a pig”. Right. I mean beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say, but the carp is now considered the “queen of fish” and possesses its own charm for carp anglers. It may be true that it is a bottom feeder, and as recent information has shown, the carp is a detritus feeder and obtains nutrients from a wide range of different sources, including invertebrates, plants and even other fish. This, you would think, would make it easier to catch, but that is not always the case. And that brings me on to my next point.
Even as early as the 1980s, some carp began to be named and carp fishermen began to target specific fish in certain lakes. This sounds ridiculous, but it is a modern day reality. Some of these weigh forty or fifty pounds and I have been lucky enough to catch some of them. But when you stand back and look at what is happening to the sport, you realise that is has become almost a sickness. Anglers spend months in search of one fish and often without any real knowledge of the the biology or the nutritional requirements of the carp itself. And if they don’t catch that one fish that they’re after, they get depressed to a point of wanting to throw their rods in the water and go off to find an alternative hobby.
Carp fishing has become such a massive sport now, that many people have taken advantage of the situation to bring out a range of tackle of baits which is supposed to improve greatly the chances of the angler. But I would say that ninety-five percent of carp fisherman are not interested in what a bait really contains and are more than often convinced by the hype rather than any scientific evidence of what the fish prefers.
As an angling writer myself, I have heard and seen almost everything that has appeared over the last few decades related to the sport, and to tell you the truth, I have become disheartened by the way some fishing tackle and bait companies have exploited the lack of real information about carp biology, feeding and nutrition in order to increase the sales of their “wonderbait”. But this is the world we now live in. Also, I have been wondering for some time whether somebody would come up with a publication which would help anglers to dispel some myths regarding the fish. But who could write something like that?
To answer that question, we have to go back in time to when the Romans were the rulers of Europe. They were the first to cultivate carp and the wild fish began to be converted, both physically and economically, into the carp we now know. It was the implementation of carp farming which provided a great amount of knowledge regarding the fish’s environmental and nutritional requirements. Since then, the expansion of carp as a food fish and intensive production methods have allowed us to learn more about the species and there have been a great deal of scientific publications made available in different journals which explain such principals as attractants, feeding stumulators and the mechanism of feeding which involves different types of sucking and blowing in order to deal with different sizes and types of food.
Okay. But what have those to do with me, sitting by a lake, sipping from my cup of coffee and watching my rods in the hope of a run. The answer is EVERYTHING.