Fishing is like life. Fishing gives you hope, reward, success and failure. It provides us with every emotional stimulus we could wish for. It is also a place for eternal youth and childlike dreams. In an angler's world there are many Christmases and birthdays, there is unbound excitement and joy that adulthood generally stifles and ....... we live in a world where monsters exist.
To an angler, a piece of water is just a bounty to enjoy where anything is possible. Well, it used to be. Nowadays, everybody is quick to tell you what the biggest fish is and when it was last caught. They even have names for them - groan! I hate that; arriving at a new venue and being told the size, shape and identifying features of all the 'top' fish and the scant regard given to the also-rans or 'stockies', a phrase used in the trout world where the fish are indeed 'stocked' for the anglers but which is creeping into carp and even barbel angling when fish are introduced to bolster dwindling stocks. All of our carp and barbel are stockies, some are just more settled in that others.
But occasionally, just every now and then, we are touched by the fleeting glimpse of something special. To spot a monster is one of the high points of angling, it is even, dare I say, sometimes better than catching a monster. I say that having never taken a fish of true monster proportions but I have seen them and I know that they can stir a passion and drive deep into the soul.
A couple of years ago I saw a gigantic chub in the river Wye, it was huge and well over the river's current best of about 7.12. That fish is always at the back of my mind when I fish but I know that due to the size of the river, the itinerant nature of some of its fish and the sheer cunning of an old chub, that to catch it would be little short of a miracle. Who knows? Maybe one day our paths will meet but just to know that it is in there is enough for now.
Last month, whilst in Spain and looking for a section of river to fish for barbel, a group of us stopped and had a peer into the depths near a dam. The sight that greeted us was amazing and has had a profound effect on me. There, beneath our feet in the shallow water of a concrete ledge swam carp, lots of carp. These were not ordinary carp, these were M&S carp!
Obviously gathering to spawn they mooched up and down oblivious of our presence and in full display in clear water. There were over a hundred fish, all bar one or two were commons and at least forty of them looked to be in excess of 40lbs in weight. It is a spectacle that I shall never forget and from the stream of expletives on either side of me, nor will the other five in the group. How big did they go? I am usually quite good at assessing fish size, if anything I tend to underestimate but not by far. We stood looking at numerous 50 and 60lb fish, they could not have been smaller and there amongst the were three fish that came into view every now and then and they were just colossal! If an 80lb fish came from there I would not be at all surprised, nor would I if a 90 was landed.
The 'little' fish with its head at the surface next to the shoe shaped flotsam was an upper double of about 18lb or so.
I returned from Spain to fish my carp lake where the record stands at about 25lbs. I love this water but I know that I shall spend limited time on it, I now have a deep inner need, a desire that must be satisfied. I need to catch a big carp.
My initial target is realistic at 30lbs and I will doubtless have to squeeze in, shoulder to shoulder with the mass of like minded carpers on some gravel pit somewhere to have a chance of achieving that. Or shall I? Having enjoyed the travel experience a few times I think that I am going to combine the two and seek out my monster abroad. Spain is a long drive and baggage restrictions mean that flying is impractical. To go on a guided trip is possible but that would be a hollow victory and from what I've seen of the regions 'top' guide, an arduous option. So it is to France that I intend to head. Drivable, good food, I can even order my own beer in the lingo, perfect. I shan't be going to the lakes either, I have an inkling for a great big river carp and when I was tidying up my spare room the other day I stumbled across a pile of maps from my French holidays, now tell me that isn't a sign.
Plans are being made.