I nearly always write technical pieces, the ‘how to’ type articles. However, this time I thought I’d write about a quick over night session I did recently and the recapture of one of the South West’s favourite carp some two decades after my first encounter with it.
The carp in question is known as The Big Fully Scaled, which has been a target for many carp anglers from the South West and further afield. I made my acquaintance with this carp in the early 1990’s at College reservoir. I think the College fish were stocked in 1978, how old they were when stocked I don’t know, possibly as old as me and I turned up in 1976! College was a stones throw from my parents house and I used to walk across a couple of fields with all my kit to get to the lake as a school boy. It held so much intrigue and mystery.
I remember it being December and cold, 1992 I think. I’d seen a fish show off the South East point, so I whacked a single hook bait out and literally minutes later landed a beautiful, dark, classic fully scaled mirror. She went 22lb on the scales, and with it being the early 90’s this was a large carp for the time. The next occasion, I caught her off the dam wall at College, literally right by the overflow and she weighted in at 21lb. I would guess this was around the mid 90’s now and this carp had shown up in a couple of other anglers nets and soon became known as the Big Fully Scaled. Around 1997/8 I was fishing the north bay at College, when I was lucky enough to catch her once again. I remember the wind hacking into the bay and I caught the fish as I was packing up. This time she was obviously doing well and had increased weight to 27lb.
2000 (I believe) was to be the last year College was open as a fishery. South West Lakes Trust decided in all their wisdom to close the lake down, with real reasons still unknown! All the carp needed to be caught by rod and line and moved to the nearby Argal Reservoir. It was a monumental task as College held approximately 250 carp in 38 acres, which was lagged in weed beds and contained two big islands. Between all of us we managed to move 70 odd fish, most of which were caught and moved by two anglers. Argal opened to coarse angling in 2000 and saw further stockings of College fish in subsequent years, possibly another 50 in total. I don’t know who caught and moved our beloved Big Fully but she found her way into Argal.
At first I didn’t want to fish Argal due to being so angry that College had closed. Anglers such as Ken Townley still can’t bring themselves to fish Argal all these years on, such are their feelings about the way in which College was dealt with! Anyway, after several months I needed to go fishing for some ‘proper’ carp. I had been messing around here and there, but I missed a big reservoir and the lure of those carp was too great.
Over the next few years The Big Fully Scaled hit 30lb, and on one occasion it did 35lb plus. I had virtually stopped carping from 2003-2005 as I had joined the police force and was away training for what seemed like an eternity. In June 2005 I renewed my ticket for Argal. Even though I had caught The Big Fully from College several times I began to try and target the fish from Argal. The thought of that big carp being held up for a photo, in all its splendour at 30lb plus fired me up. Plus there were other fish to target in the lake. I decided to fish Argal over the late Autumn, winter and spring up to spawning time. I fished as hard as I could and in Autumn 2008 I found myself in one of the meadow swims on a Friday afternoon. I had a nice South West wind pushing along in front and I placed a bait along the margin on a hard gravel slope. Within half an hour I was into my first of the session on the margin rod and I could see the fish charging up the margin through the clear water in front of me. I could see it was the fully. Eventually I slid the net under her, knowing full well she was going to be 30lb plus. I was absolutely elated, the fish was looking great in its autumn colours and this time the scales recorded a weight of over 32lb.
After this capture I fished Argal less and less, preferring to travel 400 mile round trips to Horseshoe and Linear. I was lucky enough to catch Birthmark from Linear, another iconic carp. I also found a new mate in Cash Farnan and started to fish his water in the same area, again catching the target carp from the lake making all the expense, time and effort worth it. Every now and again I would sneak back to Argal and was fortunate enough to catch the largest resident, the Silver Common.
With no plans for 2012 I went back to Argal more regularly, just fishing for any carp that swam my way and it was on a quick over night that the Big Fully Scaled and I were to meet again. Twenty years on from the first time she graced my net.
I was in-between shifts and was planning a quick over night session. It was touch and go whether I’d go fishing at all, but I eventually got to the lake at 7.30pm. I had done a little homework while out walking the dog over previous days and I already knew where the fish were. Thankfully the one and only swim I wanted was free.
I wanted to use Cell bottom baits, the carp had eaten loads of Cell over the previous months and were well on the bait. I tied up three identical hook links comprising of 25lb Gardner Sly Skin. This is certainly the best coated hook link I’ve found for fishing over shallow silt. This was knotless knotted to a size 6 Covert Incizor hook with a small piece of 0.5mm Covert Silicone on the shank and a shrink tube kicker off the eye of the hook to aid turning, a great rig for bottom baits. I tied the links off with an overhand loop knot making them around 7 inches long and then attached them to Gardner Covert Lead Clips incorporating Kwik Lok swivels. After a leadcore ban on Argal, I used Covert Sinking Rig Tube out the back of the Lead Clip, which I fleck up with a black marker pen. 2.5oz Ranger Chod leads were attached, also aiding camouflage and confidence. Nature doesn’t have straight lines, so I think the more I do to break up straight lines the better, unless I’m using Mirage Fluorocarbon straight through as this is invisible, or near as dam it. Cell dumbell’s were attached along with slivers of my homemade pineapple pop-ups just to add a visual element to the hook bait.
Gardner Sly Skin. This is certainly the best coated hook link I've found for fishing over shallow silt.” alt=”I tied up three identical hook links comprising of 25lb Gardner Sly Skin. This is certainly the best coated hook link I've found for fishing over shallow silt.” width=”776″ height=”517″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-13497″ />
The rigs were cast in an area with all three no more than 25 yards apart and I then set about adding a kilo of mixed Cell and New Grange boilies spread over the rods. I had a few liners during the night and at 6.30am the right hand rod was away. After a short battle I had a real old warrior in the net, a mirror of 17lb. The rod was recast with a further helping of free bait. In no time at all the same rod was away again, just as I was doing some self takes of the 17. This time a common was nicely nestled in the folds of the net and this one tipped the scales at 25lb 10oz. I was enjoying myself to say the least! Next the left hander dropped back slightly and then roared off. A small fully scaled was on the other end, around 10-12lb. Getting action like this on Argal is rare given it’s 65 acres and 20 feet deep with a stock of around 150.
The best was yet to come and at 11am the right hand rod ripped for a third time and after another great fight, I saw the distinctive shape of the head and shoulders show and I thought to myself “That’s the Big Fully!”. It was 20 years after the first time I landed this stunning fish, and there it was in my net again. After successfully spawning the fish weighed 28lb 4oz, but that was immaterial. I took some self takes, treated the hook hold with Medic Plus and returned her as soon as possible, none the worse for her latest experience. It was an overnighter to remember and this iconic carp from the South West of England will remain a target for anglers, hopefully for a good time to come. I barrowed my gear back to the van a very happy carp angler, in my mind still reliving all that history.