Norfolk Carp Waters

Norfolk Carp Waters

Norfolk carp waters - John HannentZak with Kingfisher’s ‘Zak’s fish’ at 41 lbs 14ozsEver since the tales of Walker and company’s results at Redmire gripped anglers’ imagination and heralded the birth of ‘modern’ carp fishing, Norfolk carping has grown in its own inimitable fashion.While we can’t boast the density of waters around the M25 and the surrounding areas, we don’t have to suffer the motorways! Quality fishing in the region has always been available to those that made the effort.And sure enough, while carp fishing was still a quiet, secretive sport, East Anglia began to father its own carp anglers, specifically targeting the previously uncatchable ‘King Carp’, and developing their own methods of doing so.

One such angler was Lenny Bunn, who should never be overlooked in the history of Norfolk carp fishing.

Still fishing today, Lenny and his close friends, such as Dick Weale, developed their own devious methods to outwit their quarry on local waters and beyond (they took their techniques, with some success, to the hallowed ground of Redmire). These methods were used to huge success on our early gravel pits, like the ever-productive Waveney Valley, The Railway Lake, Clearwater and Taverham Carp Lake (now the enigmatic ‘No3’) amongst others

Lenny’s name is synonymous with his baits. In carp fishing’s formative years, he was at the forefront of high-protein food baits, and many of these concepts are still utilised today.To the common angler, his zenith was the release of the now legendary ‘Black Magic’ high-protein paste. Little did he realise then the huge, international business his ideas were at the root of. The cement mixer, as employed by Lenny to mix ingredients, has gone on to be a very important part of carp fishing!

Waveney Valley was perhaps the most influential water in the region around this time, because it was purposely stocked with ‘King’ carp. It was the draw of a water containing a substantial stock of growing carp that saw anglers from around the country travel to sample the fantastic fishing for big carp, culminating in Pete Stacey taking the then Norfolk record with a fish of 31lb 12oz in ‘74, a colossal fish on a national scale.

This melting pot of anglers and ideas soon fathered its own very talented anglers. Pete Regan’s catches from Waveney became discussed in hushed tones, as he started to develop some of the bait concepts and presentation methods that tore the place apart (and others since). In fact, Pete was probably one of the first anglers to discover the hair rig. He reeled one in that Kevin Maddocks or Lenny Middleton had cracked off, doubtlessly trying to reach the famous ‘Big Oak’ on D Lake (a moderate cast with today’s tackle!) While the rig opened up a whole new world to carp anglers nationwide (and perhaps is the one development that has turned carping into such big business), Pete tucked it in his tackle box to look at later. He was catching as many as them anyway

As mentioned, several other waters in the region established themselves as a hunting ground for the tank-suited angler, such as: The Railway Lake, Lenwade - Eric, the thirty pound leather featured in the previous issue of Norfolk Angler was the main target here, along with his partners in crime; Joyce, a mid twenty common and Stan, a 20lb mirror; big, big fish for the era. These fish were the main target amongst their smaller brethren. Anyone who was anyone in the area (and beyond: Rod Hutchinson was a frequent visitor) wet a line here, dreaming of Eric. Though the great fish made few mistakes, Ken Norton’s capture became one of the stories that fuelled the fire of local carp angling.The leather weighed 32lb 8oz in 1977.The pit still holds carp today, and still proves as tricky. Booton Clay Pit - ‘The Graveyard’ as it was known, held its own small stock of wary carp, which hit the headlines in 1972 with the capture of a 31lbs 4oz mirror. This fish was misreported in the Eastern Evening News as a 35-pounder, alongside its true weight. The newspaper asked whether Booton could beat Dick Walker’s record! Besides that, two thirties in a week added somewhat to Booton’s infamy.The fish was later to become known as ‘The Rhino’, and still swims there today, albeit at a reduced weight. Perhaps the only Booton original remaining?

The logistics of Booton’s invariable snag fishing meant this beautiful little pit never belied its true potential.While the Rhino broke the 30lb barrier, larger fish were seen and lost. It’s interesting to note that Booton’s Rhino,The Railway’s Eric and Taverham No3’s ‘The Long’ (and many others) were all part of a stocking of carp in the region from 1962, and there’s a striking similarity between them, and others. In fact, many of the Wensum gravel pits benefited from this introduction. While it has been said these fish were of Leney origin, I believe they hailed from Dutch fish farms.While this is where Leney himself picked many of his carp, they were not brought by the man himself.

Selection of the images published in the original Norfolk Angler article. Click any image to load the Gallery.

Taverham Carp Lake (No.3) - Indeed, in the early seventies, ‘Taverham Carp Lake’, or the infamous ‘No3’ was gaining a name as a specimen carp water, along with its sister lake,‘Clearwater’. In fact, the waters held several 20lb plus fish in this era, a feat which few other lakes could attain. While some of these fish petered out, some prospered and No.3 grew in the hearts of local specimen hunters

Through its previous mantle as one of Norfolk’s premier tench waters,No.3 continued to produce 30 ponders. Nelson (which latterly became known as ‘The Short’),‘Strawberry’ and ‘The Long’ all peaked at over 30lbs, with other fish coming close.While the water sadly only holds between 6 or 7 carp now, it is home to one of Norfolk's most famous fish, ‘Single Scale’, which achieved its highest weight of 42lb to Matthew Gosling, who has gone on to amass a enviable list of big carp from the region, alongside Dan Leoney, another of No 3’s proteges who has caught most of what’s fallen before him

Like Booton, No.3 is another water that, perhaps, has never revealed all its secrets. Many a reputable angler has seen fish which didn’t match what’s been seen on the bank. Indeed, only recently I’ve seen a picture of a large fish from the early ’80s which substantiates the rumour of the much vaunted ‘Black Fish’. Although these fish are now, without doubt, ghosts. Sadly,The Long has gone on the missing list this year, and one of the lake’s mid-twenty commons has fallen victim to otters. How many more fish have we got to lose to these predators in the region?

Towards the end of this early era, other venues were being whispered about behind canvas, indicative of the impending growth of carp fishing. These waters included Geen’s Pit, a small syndicate water containing a mirror that attained mid thirties, made famous in Bailey and Page’s Carp, the Quest for a Queen; Leisure Sport’s Ringland Days Lake, the home of ‘the big six’, five large mirrors and a common, including Lumpy (only ever caught the once at a shade under 30 and estimated at 40lbs plus on its demise), Jumbo and Big Head.The latter of which still lives today at high twenties, sadly not where it should be! The Boat House Lake, an idyllic setting with carp boasting Leney heritage that achieved massive weights prior to their demise due to otter predation. Even little Gimmingham in North Norfolk was producing 30s. Known for a thirty pound common, it was probably little known that it produced the stunning 36 (inset) to John Hall

Rackheath Springs and Bedingham also provided quality carp fishing throughout the early years, and continue to do so. Rackheath Springs especially delivered many an angler to carp fishing with its fantastic fishing for what were mainly doubles. Big fish then, and still should be seen as such.

The Broads
Did you know that in the dim and distant past, Hickling Broad was stocked with fingerling carp, along with the Trinity Broads? Dick Walker himself labelled the stocking as ‘a waste of carp’ in his Angling Times column. But what could lurk in the Broads system? The Trinity Group has produced carp in the past and monsters have reportedly been seen. Plus, the odd ‘freak’ capture has fallen to bream anglers throughout the Rivers Thurne, Bure,Ant and Chet.While any large, lost fish is invariably labelled a ‘poike’, who knows what snaps an angler’s line?

Indeed, the Rivers Wensum and Yare have benefited from flooding many times over the years, most notably when the now defunct Fish Farm at Hellesdon flooded in the seventies. This introduction of carp soon spread throughout the system. While they remain scarce, they have become an attainable target, most notably from the Wensum, particularly early season in New Mills Yard. While the fishing is not for the faint hearted, these carp really hit the headlines following Stuart Moir’s capture of a 31lb mirror, through the railings on June 16th 1985. And the fish’s pedigree can be seen with Jason Bowles’ recent capture of a stunning 33lb 8oz linear from New Mills

These fish,however, are subject to all and sundry who fish for them.They escape the protection offered by ‘maintained’ waters and, while many do care for their quarry, sadly they can be mishandled and ill-treated on already rough terrain by the inexperienced. And they’re open to predation by fish thieves, both for the pot and for stocking; and I ask you to be vigilant in the domain of these, perhaps one of Norfolk’s noblest ‘quirks’

Carp fishing for all
As carp fishing has flourished, so have the local day-ticket fisheries to support it
Taverham Mills, behind closed doors for many years, is now producing the carp it has always promised,While the big fish, supposedly in the water before Clive Diedrich (of Richworth fame) took on the water in the ’80s, never made themselves apparent,‘The Mills’ has established itself as a prime day-ticket water in the hands of Anglian Water. It’s waters like this, Swangey, Taswood, Bure Valley (where are you now?), Camelot and Cobbleacre that have proved or are proving themselves as some of the region’s finest waters; both in producing specimen carp to the day-ticket angler and breeding new carp anglers on their ever-competitive banks

Also, other syndicates that have prospered and still prosper now are Bedingham, Boultons, Norwich Union, Broome. And more besides; keep your ear to the ground and you’ll find them

Who would have thought, 20 years ago, that you’d have a realistic chance of catching a forty-pound carp, in Norfolk, from a day ticket or open-to-all syndicate venue? Testament to how carp angling has grown, nationally and internationally.

Cause for concern
Worryingly, the increased demand for specimen carp has seen the introduction of foreign fish into the region. While the majority of these fish have been certified, some surely have not. Whether disease and parasites have been brought in with any of these fish, only time will tell. And sadly, if it should be the case, flooding and fish (and indeed net) transfers will have spread any potential threat to our stocks

While fish have always been imported from abroad, financial gain will always ensure that corners are cut with all but the most responsible of fishery owners, but at what cost? Norfolk Explodes
While Norfolk had a clutch of waters containing carp, and stocked carp waters, it had fallen behind the Home Counties and other Southern areas in terms of size and quantity. It did however, fight back

Ketteringham Hall (The Lotus Lake) was ‘discovered’ by Chris Richardson. Chris, who had enjoyed considerable success on waters such as Taswood and Waveney Valley was lucky enough to be working as a builder at the Team Lotus headquarters in Ketteringham. Chris, as keen today as he was then, like any angler would, looked at the beautiful, small syndicate lake in the grounds.And what did he discover? Carp. Large carp! The story has already been written, but Chris secured himself permission to fish the pool and set about fishing and baiting. He caught almost straight away, and the fish soon capitalised on bait and started to put on the pounds. Sadly, mismanagement and stocking put an abrupt end to the halcyon period in Norfolk carp fishing. While the lake never did produce a forty, several fish were heading that way at its demise, topped by Paul Sexton’s biggest fish of 39lbs 12ozs. Though fished by few, the water’s loss was a body blow for Norfolk carp angling

Around this period, Kingfisher Lake in Lyng had fallen from the hands of a trout syndicate and had been stocked with carp to complement the already healthy stock of indigenous species.These carp waxed fat in the rich, weedy environment of the lake. While the stock fish weren’t huge, they’d learned to feed hard to survive. And in the rich, weedy environment of Kingfisher (which was already known for producing specimen bream and gargantuan pike) they still fed hard. In a matter of a few years a lot of the fish were attaining weights of over thirty pounds . and bigger!

Soon Norfolk had its own super-water producing fish well in excess of forty pounds, topped by Dave Moore’s Norfolk record of 47lbs 6ozs in 2001. Sadly, several of these fish achieved massive weights due to spawn retention, and their lives were short. Years of reproductive dormancy in their previous home had probably led to their reproductive organs giving up on them, and the fresh demands of their new environment proved too much for them

While several of Kingfisher’s gargantuans perished, the water’s lush depths still maintained a huge stock (by Norfolk standards) of specimen carp, and the water remains one of our premier waters today, still producing fish in excess of forty pounds

The Future
In the current local carp fishing climate, no-one can overlook Bawburgh Lakes. Their history has been well documented within these pages, so I won’t re-visit it, but since the waters were taken over, have matured and prospered into fine fisheries, for all species, not carp alone

No waters are without their ‘signature’ fish.The Complex as a whole drew attention with Ken Norton’s capture of a 37.8 mirror in the year 2000, which has gone on to be known as ‘Ken’s Fish’, now a regular at over 40lbs. Lodge itself is home of the awesome ‘Fully’ at over 40lbs and ‘The Linear’, fast approaching (or over) the magical weight. All of these fish are backed up by a terrific supply of back-up fish (not to belittle them), with fast growing twenties and thirties certainly no surprise. Also, Bawburgh Lake is home of a very healthy stock of carp, with maybe a surprise or two; and Colney 2, a delightful, typically small Norfolk water, has even produced fish to mid thirties. Even Seamon’s Lake has done some healthy twenties. Plus, NACA has recently acquired some stock fish from Dinton Pastures. These potential of these fish is already legendary, truly another mouth-watering prospect for the area in the long-term

While Bawburgh Lakes have provided, and continue to provide, fishing that registers on a national scale, there are many other waters that provide fantastic fishing, many of which I’ve listed previously.Others include:Worthing, the home of some fantastic, growing mirrors; The Nunnery, home of several whackers; Three Bridges Farm (formerly ‘Baker’s’); Lenwade Common Lakes, which have already produced fish to over 40lbs; The U.E.A. Broad, home of ‘Arnie’ and some other superb fish; Broome and other waters, perhaps containing fewer, but ‘pot-of-gold’ fish

The future of Norfolk carp angling and its waters is certainly going to be interesting.While the invariable financial demands of carp fishing will continue to pull a tide of anglers one way, there are enough fisheries and fishermen to ensure that the integrity of true carp fishing, tank suits and all, will remain strong in the region.And long may it continue.?

Footnote: While not all waters have been named, either out of respect (or disrespect) of the owners and anglers, or the fact I’ve overlooked you, I’m sorry, I’ve had to be brief.While pages won’t allow for an in-depth look at all the waters mentioned, and not mentioned, I’ve tried to place each water where it’s borne most prominence on the local ‘scene’. And thanks to all who helped, you know who you are.