I caught my first ever carp on a piece of bread at Darenth lake in Kent in 1967 when I was 10 and my first carp over 20lbs at Moorlane in the winter of 1972 on a tiny piece of luncheon meat. I soon started using ‘special pastes’ moulded around the hook: my favourite ‘special’ was ground trout pellets with added PYM – that was a great bait!

As well as being mad on fishing as a kid, I started sword fencing when I was 11 and went on to win 5 British Senior Championships at Epee and compete for Great Britain at the Olympics in Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988. With training sessions most days, training camps and competitions, my time for fishing was really limited and my fishing has always been short sessions, grabbing a spare moment between training sessions, or escaping for just a few days. It’s still the same today and I mostly get out for one or two nights a week. I’ve learnt to adapt my fishing and my bait and bait application to get the best out of the short time available. Bait is very important to me and I pay a lot of attention to the bait I’m using with a preference for quality ‘food’ boilies. When it comes to rigs, I very much prefer the ‘simple is best’ approach but having said that, I pay a lot of attention to small details with my hook bait presentation and bait placement.

I love a challenge and the chance of a really special fish: I fished a year on Dinton Pastures in 2006/7 and was fortunate to catch the amazing Bruno at 52lb 4oz in January ’07. Over the last few years I’ve concentrated my winter fishing on the Thames chasing an elusive, really big barbel. Back in February 2019 I caught a truly dream fish and Thames record barbel of 20lb 12oz. I’ll be back on the Thames next winter but I’ve moved to Salisbury now and there are a couple of very challenging carp waters I’m looking at which will be an exciting new challenge. I know bites will be hard to come by but there are some special carp to chase.

I lived in Switzerland for two years from 1977 to 1979 to train with the Swiss fencing team. I worked for Nestlé in their research laboratory where I was involved in research essentially on sweeteners and taste enhancers: I learnt a lot about different ingredients and taste enhancers that can make a real improvement to a bait and especially how to combine ingredients to achieve balanced nutrition and how certain ingredients work synergistically, improving taste, as well as increasing attraction. They were valuable lessons that I have been able to put to good use when formulating my bait recipes.

I returned to England and trained for the next 5 years as a wooden boat builder at Peter Freebody’s boat yard at Hurley on Thames. Then in 1986 I decided to move abroad again, this time to live in Paris for a couple of years to train with the French Olympic Fencing team, following my dream of an Olympic medal – that’s another story!

I started my company Big Carp in 1992, concentrating on sales abroad and making the most of my French contacts and foreign language skills. Big Carp has established a great reputation for top quality bait over the years and I now have our bait manufactured and distributed in Europe by a French company. I also build custom made rods to order in a small workshop in a room at home.

I have been carp fishing now for over 50 years and I am still as mad about it as I was as a teenager. I am really excited to be a part of the Gardner Team and I hope to use my experience to help develop the brand in the UK and especially in France and Europe.

Fact File

Name: John Llewellyn
Location: Salisbury
Date of Birth: 7th August 1957
UK PBs: 52lb 4oz (Bruno from Dinton Pastures)
International PBs: Mirror 80lb 8oz. Common 63lb. Grass carp 57lb