Fishing Lines: Britain's elusive king of the carp had the measure of all his rivals

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The Independent Online

The British carp record is 65lb 14oz. This particular fish has been caught so often that people who fish Conningbrook Lake, near Ashford in Kent,have nicknamed it Two Tone. These days, it's rare to catch a carp over 30lb that doesn'thave a name.

Still, the record holder lives pretty well. Anglers pay hundreds of pounds a year to cast a bait to Two Tone. They tempt it with high-protein food far better than the stuff they feed themselves. In return, it gets a little bit tubbier (it now has the girth of Hattie Jacques), so each time it is caught the record edges up an ounce or two more.

Most carp fishers see nothing odd in this. Angling for British carp these days is all about targeting "known" fish. And there is some logic in the argument that if you're paying £500 or more to fish a water, you want to know that it contains supersize fish. But there are no surprises any more.

Yet once upon a time, a small lake on the Welsh borders set the fishing world on fire by producing carp of undreamt size. In 1951, it beat the British record, not by an ounce or two, but by nearly 5lb.

A year later, that 31lb 4oz record was eclipsed by a44-pounder. In 1980, Bernithan Lake once again rewrote the record books with a 51lb 8oz carp, an extraordinary feat for a water of little more than two acres. And it was not until 1995, when carp fishing for fun had become a concept as outdated as collecting butterflies, that the lake, better known as Redmire Pool, lost its title.

Traditionalists see hard-eyed men spending weeks on the bank, surrounded by electronic aids that do everything but weigh the fish, and pine for those golden days. But notmany know that Redmirecould still have held the recordif its biggest resident had ever been caught.

Chris Yates, who set the record in 1980, saw a huge fish that he christened The King. He has always hesitated to guess its weight, because he felt he would be ridiculed. But a few privileged others spotted that particular carp. One was Eddie Price, a Gloucester farmer, who took a photograph of it. He spent all afternoon trying to catch it. He could see clearly, and estimated that it was at least 4ft.

So what would such a fish weigh? Well, the world record carp of 88lb 6oz, caught in France earlier this year, was exactly 4ft long.

During its golden years, Redmire fishing was limited toa small syndicate. Price was one of the lucky ones to fish there, and once caught a carp of40lb 3oz. He kept a meticulous diary between 1956 and 1962. That diary is now being printed as a book*.

I don't know the contents, but I'm told that it contains his famous picture of the Redmire monster (perhaps the start of all the chummy naming of fishes) and the story of how he tried to catch it.

If he had done so, the mad, mad world of carp fishing might be a very different place.

'The Fishing Diaries of Eddie Price' is published in a limited edition of 500 and costs £40 including postage. It's available from: Martin Mumby, Woodview, The Buckholt, Monmouth, NP25 5RY, or email: fishthebait@yahoo.co.uk

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