Is It All About The Numbers?

Whilst I take nothing away from the obvious time and effort any angler has to devote in order to bring about the downfall of say Conningbrook’s legendary Two Tone, I can’t help but wonder if I’d rather bank an uncaught lump of half the weight than target a fish that a whole lake are gunning for based on size alone. If it was a new fish from a new water, fair play - but the same fish which has already done the record several times from the same water - to me, personally, that’s no big deal. We all know it’s in there, and we all know it’s still growing; so the law of averages dictates that the next person to bank it at the right time of year will more than likely be the new record holder… and so it goes.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the allure of going after a known big fish, but there would be fifty fish from other waters on my ‘dream list’ before I got around to targeting a record-fish. In fact, I don’t think I ever would, purely down to the fact that I’m not a numbers man – at the end of the day it’s the fish I’m after, not its potential weight.

The question for me is how much exposure should we afford each repeat capture of a record fish? To me, the most momentous and worthy capture of a record fish is always going to be the first time it comes out of a water at a record weight. For me, after that, each subsequent capture of that fish loses a little bit of the magic. I take nothing away from each individual captor’s achievement - a big fish is a big fish. However, after the first time a fish has been banked at a new record weight, surely any repeat capture is then a much easier affair for those potentially jumping on the band wagon afterwards? After all, they now know which lake they need to be fishing on for a start! And also, assuming they have a modicum of skill, then to a certain degree, is it not just a matter of time?

Before the first capture you will probably find only a handful of dedicated carp anglers who had done their homework knew of its potential, and there was not a shed-load of anglers camped out for it 24-7 (I’m not saying all those who have caught a record fish are like that, but I know plenty of ‘numbers’ merchants who are!). Let’s face it, how often do we remember the details of the second, third, or forth repeat capture of a record fish? I suppose it’s glory hunters I have a problem with. As soon as a new venue does the record, that’s it – they are straight over with rods in camping out for as long as it takes - where’s the skill in that?

Controversial, definitely, but I reckon we should only count the first capture of a record fish as a true record weight, with all future captures void. That would soon have them foxed; they would then have to get off their backsides to go and find the next potential record themselves! Also, it would take the pressure off the water. Let the true regulars who fished it prior to the record continue to enjoy their fishing in the same vein, not have to pull off because they can never get a swim again!

I suppose it comes down to what you would do in the same situation. If I banked a repeat capture record, I would be over the moon obviously, but there is no way I’d be submitting a claim to the BRFC. I’d just take a couple of pictures, slip her back into the water and enjoy the achievement with my friends.

My problem, I guess, is the amount of hype surrounding weights, the growing importance in which the angling media appear to attach to them, and the knock-on effect that this then has on newcomers into the sport. I like catching big fish just as much as the next man, or woman, but do I class a fish an ounce shy of twenty pounds as somehow being worse that one an ounce over? Of course not, but believe me, there are a growing number out there who do, and its becoming an alarming trend!

Many youngsters I meet on the bank somehow feel pressured into the numbers game and in doing so, miss out on so much that our great sport has to offer. Not to mention the fact that many may give up if they don’t have a thirty on their first outing.

I remember a discussion a while back where some younger anglers were studying pictures of fish I’d taken off a particular water and discussing the merits of each and which fish they would like to bank if given the opportunity. There’s one fish which many regulars had on their dream list, and its one which I’ve been lucky enough to have had a few times; a stunning scattered scaled Leney original mirror which, for a long time, hovered between 19lb 8oz and 19lb 14oz. It’s not just the fact that it’s a beautiful fish, more its character and history. The first time I took the fish I was amazed at its body size, I had to check the scales to double check its weight at 19lb 14oz, as to look at it you would have said it was fifteen or sixteen pounds maximum – lean but extremely solid and very powerful too! On showing some images to the fisheries manager some years ago he immediately recognised it as a fish he had taken at 14lb back in 1974, so not only was it a stunning little lump, it was likely a good few years older than I was! All this when added to its stunning looks makes for one very special fish, so I was amazed at the reaction it got when its name cropped up among this group of younger anglers. To cut a long story short, the opinion was that it was a very nice looking fish, but as it was not over twenty pounds they would rather not bother with it, preferring to have anything else in its place so long as it was over twenty pounds - I was gob smacked. Is this really where our sport is heading?

CarpA stunning fish that’s older than me – would you knock it just because its ounces shy of twenty-pounds?

And what of hijacking a water? Yes, as I’ve said, I like to fish waters with big fish in them, but I will happily catch whatever comes along whilst fishing there. There now seems to be an increasing trend of (so called) anglers jumping straight on a water as soon as a big fish is reported. The other year I was fishing a water where somebody, for whatever reason, decided to report a fake capture of a big fish (for our neck of the woods), which, within seven days saw the water mobbed out with Johnny-come-lately’s who had absolutely no idea of how to approach the place, and left it days later without so much as a bleep – their only success was in ruining the sport for the regulars.

The funny thing is, if they’d have bothered to do a bit of homework they would have discovered the water actually threw up a thirty some months before, but I guess it was easier for them to jump straight in on the back of somebody else’s hard work (or not in this case, as the fish was fictitious!) than it was to actually go out and do something for themselves.

It would seem that’s the big difference. You see for me, it’s the fact that I have done all the hard work for myself; everything from finding the water in the first place right through to the actual capture, and to be honest, its that which I’m most proud of, not the weight of the fish when banked. So when I’m tucked up in my retirement home faced with an endless stream of daytime TV, it will be the events leading up to the captures and the stories behind the fish themselves that I’ll be daydreaming about, never the numbers. Fishing should be about the journey itself as much as the actual result. If it’s numbers you want, try bingo!

It will be interesting to see how life pans out for the next record fish when it does finally get to take the crown from the now deceased Two-Tone, though I for one won’t be looking to go after it.

Julian Grattidge
January 2011