As a keen contributor and viewer of in the early 2000s, I wrote an article entitled, as I remember, ‘Putting the Record Straight’. It was my attempt to right the wrongs perpetrated by the Carp Society against the late Martin Gay who in 1989 caught on the simplest of methods a common carp weighing an estimated 52lbs but reported at 48lbs. This latter weight was chosen by Martin, a close friend, as one which would more readily be accepted by a cynical carp world. His fish had taken a brand new set of 50lb scales to the limit so that was its minimum weight and Martin felt there were at least another two pounds to go; but claiming exactly ‘50lb’ would, Martin felt, be seen as a little too ‘convenient’ so he stuck with the more ‘believable’ figure of 48lbs.

But that wasn’t good enough for one or more of the frustrated, green-eyed monsters in the Carp Society who denounced Martin’s contention that the fish was caught from an English water; they insisted it had come from Martin’s holiday destination of British Columbia and that the doctored photographs had ‘hidden’ a back-drop of the Rockies!

They stuck-with and unashamedly propagated this ‘explanation’ for 25 years, embedding their ‘truth’ in the carping world until 2014 when I became editor of Fishing Magic and set about putting them right with help from another of Martin’s old friends, Eddie Benham.

Together, we made the Carp Society’s ‘Steering Committee’ chairman look quite foolish and even compelled him to come up with an entirely different theory! The big common was NOT, apparently, caught from a lake in British Columbia but from the warm water outlet of a power-station on Lake Ontario – 2,000 miles from the Rockies!

This new and unequivocal ‘explanation’ was forced from him after Eddie and I revealed that no fewer than 13 of Martin’s fellow club members – including myself – had seen the original photographs and that the blanked-out backgrounds had shown nothing more than yellowing scrubland, a few bushes and a section of diamond fencing! Each of those members supplied us with a statement to this effect, crushing completely The Chairman’s bombastically-delivered theory about British Columbia…so now it was Lennox Power Station, Ontario, and a series of carefully concocted stories designed to substantiate his ridiculous claims. And ridiculous they were! We were even shown a photograph of the swim with an explanation of how Martin would have parked his car close enough to nip back for a bit of personal grooming before having his pictures taken! Every desperate attempt at being taken seriously was thwarted, largely by Eddie who had kept details and records showing Martin’s whereabouts as Chairman of the Moor Hall & Belhus Angling Society. Eddie even commissioned reports from a renowned botanist who refuted ‘The Chairman’s claim that the plants shown in the pictures did not grow in this country; furthermore, Eddie garnered reports from esteemed geologists who stated quite baldly that the stones and pebbles at Martin’s feet could not possibly be found on the shores of Lake Ontario! I have to say, I was – and still am – utterly amazed that a number of FM Forum contributors continued to express their doubts in the face of my and Eddie’s veritable cornucopia of solid evidence and our insistence that Martin simply would not have told blatant lies to those he and his wife regularly dined and socialized with.

At the time of this debacle, only a very few individuals knew of the venue’s location – and that is still the case. Now that Professor Barrie Rickards is dead, only Martin’s wife and five of Martin’s friends / associates know where it is – and three of us fish it.

It was actually me who showed Martin the water a few years before his historic captures were made so, yes! I do think he should have confided in me back in ’89! But he didn’t and it took a very long time for my suspicions as to its whereabouts to come good.

Here on the Welsh border (and despite Redmire being just an hour away) good carp fishing is at a premium; it’s all chub, barbel, pike and salmon (if we’re lucky) so being able to pursue a different species on a water, said by Martin back in ’89 to hold fish of 60lbs, is rather exhilarating! Identifying swims and features described by the man who broke Dick Walker’s record is part of the fun and I can confirm his description of the water’s nature. It can – like he said – be seen from the road but nowadays it is overseen by state-of-the-art surveillance equipment: sad but necessary if it is to remain unexploited as Martin wished. I have seen many dozens of different fish – commons and mirrors – but nothing (as yet) approaching 50lb. Most are mid-doubles / low twenties though my fishing-buddie has had a thirty (a mirror) and a 23lb common. To date, my best common is 15lb, all fish caught on good old sweet-corn a la Gay.

From Coarse Angler Magazine 1989

My latest session took in two days and nights and for most of this time the water was worryingly dead…not a movement and not a bite; but then came the rain and stirred them into action. In the last twelve or so hours, I took an incredibly hard-fighting, scale-perfect common of 13.8 and three double figure mirrors to 16lb; I’d have had a fifth – a ten pound common – if I hadn’t left my rod for my pal to oversee while I took a leak.

21lb 8oz 2019

I’ve had fourteen fish this year and my pal, eight, I think; the best a 23lb common to his rod. Martin, too, had lots of fish of this size but they were punctuated by a good few 20lbers and five 30lbers plus The Big One: are the monsters still there? It’s my belief that the fish may have been so successful that the average size has dropped with the greater demand on the lake’s natural larder; there are tench present plus the usual cyprinids, but ultimately I have no idea!

I’d always had an idea of the water’s whereabouts since that day in ’89 when Martin knocked on my door with a folder of photographs under his arm but I dismissed it on the assumption that he’d return the favour I’d done in showing him the water in the first place! Even so, I could never have been sure enough to swear on oath in a court of law. Now that I know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, my mind boggles at the level of jealousy capable of fabricating such a damaging, outlandish and utterly baseless fairy story about a well-known and respected angler who bucked the trend and caught a whacker on simple gear and two grains of corn. 


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