Carp Life by Mike Willmott

As a seasoned specimen carp angler, I find that to ‘improve one’s game’ not only do you have to spend as many hours on the bank as possible, whether fishing or not, but also keep on top of all new literature published with regard to the pursuit of our quarry.

In recent years however, the latter has been rather thin on the ground. By that I mean ‘quality’ reading material; the stuff that gets you thinking of new ideas, new initiatives, new ways around problems, and furthermore, gives information on breathtaking captures that dreams are made of – thus making you get off your backside to go and do some!

Thank goodness then, for Carp Life!

In fact, my first thought on finishing each and every chapter of the book, was how I would be able to do the book justice when writing my review!

As the title suggests, the book follows Mike’s progress from his early years, fishing the River Thames at Hurley beside his father’s caravan, to more recent times fishing some of the most awe-inspiring carp waters, both at home and abroad.

The chapter covering Mike’s time on Ashlea makes for riveting reading • real heart in your mouth stuff, as he comes, quite literally, face-to-face with some magical fish. This combined with truly stunning images and sketches, really made me feel as if I were right there beside him in the thick of the action • if only!

As for Frampton, where do I start? A water that so many know so little about due to past publicity limitations. Happily, the book has several chapters devoted to this wonderful water, following Mike’s early conquests taking the water’s first 40lb carp, before going on to bank most of the water’s prized possessions over the next few years, including for me, two very special fish indeed; ‘Spot’ and ‘The Leopard’.

I think the interview with John Leadbeater; the ‘father’ of Frampton, is an inspired touch. This details the water’s most interesting history, the first attempts at stocking, followed by the introduction of the Dinkelsbuhler carp – and their subsequent growth rates!

Other chapters cover Mike’s many exploits abroad. With the boom in ‘commercial’ continental venues over the last few years, it was a real breath of fresh air to read about Mike’s adventures. Real ‘pioneering’ stuff as Mike traveled further and further afield to find untouched and un-spoilt waters that offer the chance of unknown monsters.

As you would imagine, not all goes according to plan, and again, Mike’s writing style makes you feel as if you are there beside him experiencing all the highs and lows that continental fishing can undoubtedly bring.

Throughout the book Mike details not just the stories relating to some fantastic carp captures, but also the tactics and the mindset that led to such captures. For me this is most important, for it allows the reader to take regular ‘snippets’ of valuable information, which can then be applied to one’s own fishing experiences.

In addition to the above, the chapter on bait is both interesting and highly informative. I discovered a great deal in relation to bait formulation and bait application, that until reading this book, I’ve been unable to find elsewhere • a real benefit to those who find the subject of bait as interesting as the fishing itself!

The book also contains three guest chapters; Jon McAllister, Simon Lavin, and Jim Lightfoot, covering exploits at Wraysbury, Horton, and Withy Pool, respectively. All excellent pieces of work in their own right, and they only serve to add weight to the overall quality of the publication.

The penultimate chapter covers Mike’s time spent on a ‘secret’ English water, and were it not for the pictures of some truly stunning fish, you could be forgiven for thinking it a piece of fiction. A water that remains untouched by anglers and contains huge uncaught carp • It had me foaming at the mouth!

The final chapter covers Mike’s time on Park Lake, a fifty-six acre water containing some magnificent specimens. What struck me reading this chapter, is what can be achieved through teamwork. Constant communication twinned with a dedicated baiting campaign leading to the ultimate downfall of the lakes largest inhabitants.

I really enjoyed reading about the constant battles of Mike and his long-standing fishing partner Phil Marsh, as they strived to overcome problems fishing in what can only be described as a ‘hostile’ environment. Dedication, determination and true-grit • by far the strongest tools in the carp anglers armory!

An appealing factor throughout the book is Mike’s view that the ‘journey’ is perhaps more important than the end goal itself. A viewpoint with which I wholeheartedly agree; the highs, the lows, the friendships made along the way • it’s what makes this crazy pursuit of ours worthwhile!

All in all, a fantastic piece of work, and having read it cover-to-cover in less than twenty-four hours, you could say it had me engrossed..!!

It serves as testament to what can be achieved if you really put your mind to it. What makes the book even more appealing, is the fact that Mike handled every facet of its production in-house. Having worked in publishing myself, I can honestly say that this is a major achievement in it’s own right, and the result is an exceptional piece of work that will take pride of place on my bookshelf for many years to come.

Highly recommended.

Available now from Essential Products;

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