Paul Monkman talks to big-carp specialist Myles Gibson.
Paul Monkman: When did the fishing bug first take hold for you?
Myles Gibson: I suppose from the age of around four or five. I was in a newsagent’s with my grandmother and spotted a fishing starter kit. You know, the ones with the bare essentials in: a couple of floats, a few different sized hooks, a couple of split shot, and a little booklet on how to work the lot. I got my dad to take me later that day for a few hours on a local farm pond where we used bits of bacon rind for bait set up on a float. Although we didn’t catch anything, I suppose I was hooked from then on and I just wanted to go fishing every chance I could get my dad to take me.
PM: When did you progress to fishing solely for carp?
MG: After I had spent a couple of years going with my dad and friends, fishing on the float and learning new methods such as feeder fishing with a swingtip or quivertip on heavily stocked local club ponds and canals, I started to fish a lake called Boundary Water Park. It was handy, as my mother passed it for work, so in the holidays and on Saturdays she would drop me off on the way through then pick me up when she finished. I used to just fish one rod with a feeder, using either worms, maggots or sweetcorn – I was after catching anything that swam really. One day, at the age of nine, I was fishing on one of the points on Boundary when I saw a huge common carp jump out. I had only ever seen a couple of carp on the bank and they had blown me away. I remember winding in, biting the small hook off, tying on a gold colour size 4 hook and threading on three or four grains of sweetcorn. I rammed the feeder full of corn and lobbed it out where the giant had jumped out. A short time later the rod whipped round and the reel started back winding – very different to anything I had ever experienced before. A few older lads helped me out and I soon had my first carp in the net. The fish looked huge and it was a common, definitely the one that I had seen jump out. The older lads weighed it in at 24lb 6oz and helped me out with the pictures. From that day I was just obsessed. All I wanted to do was be either trying to catch them, reading about them or talking about them – a new obsession had firmly taken hold.
PM: What sort of waters did you cut your teeth on when you first started carping, and where did you progress from there? I know Redesmere is somewhere you spent a lot of time…
MG: As well as fishing Boundary on and off for years, I also used to spend a lot of time fishing local farm ponds and flashes, mainly owned by local clubs and costing around £10 a year. My friends and I used to get all over the place trying to catch carp, getting our dads to take us and our mountains of tackle to places for the weekend.
A local park lake was good for the surface fishing. With many stunning commons over 20lb in there, they were really exciting times. It used to be quite funny, as floating baits were banned, so in a way it was a zig we were using, popping up the bread like a marker float. With just a couple of turns on the clutch, the bread would sit perfectly just beneath the surface. The park rangers still argued the point, though! I used to fish Winterley a fair bit as well, whether it was casting tight up to snags or close to the railings along the road. My mates and I enjoyed some really memorable sessions on there, both through action and socials. By the end of most seasons fishing those sorts of waters, my mates and I would end up with around five or six carp over 20lb each.
Then I was fishing on Boundary one day and got chatting to a man. After a while he was telling me all about Redesmere and showing me pictures of a few he had caught. I had only ever read about the ’Mere; it was the best of the best in my and many others’ eyes, the ultimate, and no place for a kid like myself at the time. The more we talked, the more I became obsessed with the place and the fish. For a while I just gathered old articles and pictures of the special old carp it homed: Single Scale, Snub, Ring Tail and the Pretty One to name but a few. Then I made the decision that I was joining Stoke Angling Club, which leased the ’Mere at the time, and on 16th June 2002 I was on for my very first session. I fell in love with the place, although I only caught one fish the first year. That one was a special one and I suppose the start of a drug-like buzz.
I fished the ’Mere pretty solidly every chance I could for years, seeing targets on the bank, then landing them for friends and eventually they’d turn up in my net. It was a special place to me, home to some of the oldest and most historic carp around, and some truly lifelong friends were made along the way.
PM: What did you learn from fishing such a tricky venue, and what success did you have?
MG: The main attraction to the ’Mere, apart from the fish, was that every bank is different, from fishing in shallow, weedy areas to open water, firmer silt areas. Also methods varied from fishing close in up against snags, blasting singles, fishing over bait at range, fishing stringers and moving around. It offered everything and, being faced with many different situations, I had to learn to adapt and think about my approach a lot more than I had to ever before. They were tricky to catch, as they had seen it all 10 times over, so fishing the ’Mere definitely taught me to be in a sense paranoid about rigs, hook sharpness, how things would look on the lake bed and almost trying to make everything like nobody is there. Everything had to be as good as it could possibly be; if it wasn’t 100% it must be redone. Not until I was on fish could I sit back, knowing in my mind that nothing could be improved and the rest was up to them; until then I couldn’t settle. I fished the ’Mere pretty much full on until 2008, during which time I managed to catch my first 30-pounder and just over 100 fish including a handful of the ones I really wanted. There’s still a few I have not caught, including a couple of the really rare ones, but I like the excuse to pop on now and again.
PM: When did you first start attracting attention from sponsors? What were your first deals?
MG: I had been using Mainline bait for a few years, as there were many lads using it on the ’Mere at the time. One of the lads had a word and gave me a number to call, and I managed to secure myself a field test deal. I started getting my bait for almost half the price it had been costing me in the shops, a huge help at the time as all I wanted to do with my spare time was fish. After a few of the better ones were under my belt, the chaps at Mainline asked me to do a feature for Carp-Talk and a short while later another one. After a couple of features, I exchanged a few emails with Ali Hamidi at Korda, as I had bumped into him a few times years earlier on Redesmere, and since then Korda has supplied me with the necessary bits and bobs I’ve needed.
PM: You are well known for your success on Linch Hill. When did you start fishing there, and what attracted you to the place?
MG: It was after I had caught both my target fish from a Midlands pit in the late summer of 2009 and I was stuck for somewhere to fish. A number of lads I knew had fished Stoneacre Lake in the past, so I made a few phone calls and was lucky enough to sort out a mid-season ticket. I had spent hours staring at pictures of the stunning carp it held. There were two that really stood out, though, the Lake’s two largest mirrors, Choco and Bitemark. Choco had been getting caught at over 50lb for a couple of years and Bitemark had been caught as big 48lb. So, with two unique, special monsters to go at, not to mention the rest of the Lake’s amazing looking stock, it was all going to be new fishing. With the boating side of it as well, I suppose it added to the buzz of the place and the new challenges it would throw my way.
PM: What sort of results did you have on Linch?
MG: I joined the Linch syndicate in the summer of 2009 and stayed a member until the end of 2012. All of my time from late March until late November was spent targeting the two huge mirrors in the big Stoneacre Lake. In total I managed to catch 57 fish from there including four of the Lake’s stunning mirrors over 40lb. Although I didn’t get my hands on either of the two big mirrors, I am pretty sure I managed to hook Choco a couple of times, but weed and a bit of misfortune meant that he never saw the folds of my net.
I also spent a bit of time throughout the winters on the other two lakes on the complex. They are much smaller and hold a good number of big fish, perfect for the colder months. Also the banks were really quiet at that time of year, so it was possible to get a bit of proper fishing done. Anyone who knows the place will know that an empty lake down there is a rare sight indeed! I managed a few fish on zigs and maggots on Willow over a few trips in the depths of winter, the biggest being a mirror of just over 31lb. Over on Christchurch I managed to catch five fish one February including the Perch and Box Commons, both over 40lb, along with a handful of others, a 39½lb common being the biggest during the odd trip on the zigs early spring.
PM: Did you finish your campaign on Linch feeling like you had caught everything you wanted?
MG: I suppose not. Although I had managed to catch my fair share of fish during my time spent fishing Stoneacre, it was the two big mirrors in there I dearly wanted to catch before moving on in pursuit of the new. During the transition from the complex going from syndicate to day ticket and a separate syndicate being formed on Stoneacre, plus a bit of misfortune, I missed out on a place the following season. I was gutted to say the least; two and a bit years on there and then suddenly it was over. The rules changed with the new syndicate, so you can now drop your rigs from the boat; before it was all casting to spots. The fishing has changed a lot, losing the advantage of being able to fish at range, as now anyone can lower a bait anywhere.
PM: Have you ever carp fished abroad? Is it something that interests you? If not, why not?
MG: Yes, I have fished over in France twice, but not in the last 10 years or so. The first time was with my dad for a week’s fishing. Although we both blanked, we had an amazing time and we did get to see some big carp get caught. The other time was with a late friend of mine and his dad along with a number of his friends. We booked a small, five-acre lake in the South of France for a week. I did well that week, catching the second most in the group with a total of 12 fish; nothing massive, the biggest being a 27lb common. A few friends and I keep talking about sorting out a social road trip, so that is something I definitely want to make time for.
PM: You seem to have concentrated on fishing venues closer to home in recent years, particularly a deep-water pit in Cheshire where you landed a 40lb-plus leather in double-quick time. What can you tell us about that campaign?
MG: The deep water pit is a place I had known about for a number of years. I was shown a picture of a leather carp weighing around 33lb along with a few of the other fish in there whilst fishing on Petty Pool years ago. I had made a few trips to the small lake over the years, just randomly popping down for a mooch now and again. A few years later and word spread that the leather had been caught at a huge 39lb. That turned a few heads of course and the place received more attention, but the demanding nature of the lake and its far-from-easy fishing kept the numbers down to the really keen or the crazy. The leather had not been caught for a good couple of years and, with nowhere else really getting my full attention, it was mission on! I decided I would get on there. I had a good idea of the area I wanted to target, as I had spent many hours walking and watching the fish. I made at least one trip to the lake each day over a couple of weeks just to try and get an idea on who was fishing where and on what days, and as soon as a plan was formed, the necessary ticket was purchased. I baited an area on the far margin that I found after having a good lead around, and kept the bait going in on a daily basis for a good 10 days or so. It was a really tight, tricky cast from the swim I had to fish the area from, but it was just possible after a few brambles were trimmed. I managed to catch my target, the big leather, on my second session fishing the area, and I was pretty sure I saw it show in the fading light the evening before I caught it. It was my fourth fish in as many nights – crazy how it goes sometimes. I could have easily spent years on the tricky deep pit, so a bit of good timing and luck with that I think.
PM: It must have been a fantastic buzz when that fish appeared in your net. Where does it rate amongst your best-ever captures?
MG: Yeah, it was a special moment all right. I was just amazed to have caught him so quickly. I had well-thought-out plans on both fishing and baiting well into the winter, and even into the following season, but there it was looking huge in the dim torchlight one early morning so soon into my campaign on there – crazy. I suppose I couldn’t really rate the capture as such, as they are all special in their own way, whether it be years of hard work or hundreds of miles walked. The feeling when the one you want is lying in the folds of your net is just unreal… I am honestly struggling to put it into words. Let’s just say that if you could bottle that feeling and sell it, you’d be a millionaire in no time.
PM: I know prebaiting paid a large part in your success. Do you consider yourself to be a bait or rig man, or a bit of both?
MG: I would like to think a bit of both really. I spend a lot of time thinking and playing around with rigs and hookbaits, making sure I am 100 per cent happy with what I am using on what lake bed and also what rigs in what baiting situation, etc. The same as the baiting really. Not every lake is easy to get away with baiting an area, as they are just far too busy. However, on those lakes that are quiet enough and where possible I do like to try and set up a few areas. Once I have sorted a few areas or spots around the lake that I am happy with then I do like to try and keep them seeing my bait regularly. Turning up to a big pit with few carp is far less daunting with a starting point like that. It’s just about giving them as many free meals as possible to keep them visiting areas. Then one day when it all comes right and it goes off on your spot, that’s what it’s about for me. Creating an area, gaining their confidence and their mistakes.
PM: Within the space of a year you went one better, landing Cheshire’s second-ever fifty, a 51lb 7oz common from a large mere. Tell us about the day of the capture and how you felt catching such a fish.
MG: That morning is one that will stay with me for life; no words can describe the feeling when I realised that one was in the net. That place faces you with an untold number of challenges and is by far the most demanding, both physical and mentally, but I loved every minute of it. The amount of walking and baiting was on another level – the whole challenge was on another level really. It really did take over my life, that carp! With it being so local, only 10 miles from my home, I was down there every day, sometimes up to three times a day, but it was a must. I dearly wanted to get my hands on that carp, the last of the original few huge commons that inhabited the mere, a special one indeed.
PM: What was the reception to the capture like amongst fellow anglers?
MG: Overwhelming really. Those that know the mere and what is involved to even catch a carp out of there, let alone the big girl, were buzzing for me. A good number of friends knew how much graft went into that capture, going weeks, even months at times, without a bite and a stupid amount of miles walked with nothing to show for my efforts. So when it eventually came right and I shared the news that I had caught her, it was a huge buzz all round with the phone going into meltdown with messages and calls to congratulate me on the capture.
PM: After the capture of the 50lb-plus common, you moved on to St Ives in Cambridgeshire. What happened there?
MG: A day or so after I had caught the common, I arranged to meet Gordon the following week down on the St Ives complex to sort out a ticket. I had seen pictures of a big, plump, old carp called Colin and listened to stories of the Shallow Pit from a good friend I met whilst fishing in Oxfordshire. It was always one I had liked the look of and the only carp I started to think about – I was getting all excited and punishing the few lads I knew who had previously fished the place! Fishing the mere was very restrictive really, as due to the nature of the place it was more baiting and waiting sort of fishing, so in a sense it was kind of a relief being able to fish again. Things came together rather quickly on there and I managed to catch Colin on my 15th night. I also managed to get amongst a few of the others during my time on there, catching a total of six and losing a couple. A few of the others were good ’uns too with a short linear that went by the name of Sponge Bob at just over 35lb and a long mirror known a Big Head at over 42lb.
PM: How did it feel to have caught so many big, significant fish in such a short period of time? You must have felt on top of your game.
MG: It was crazy really, but sometimes things just come together. It would have only taken a hook pull or a bit of bad luck and it could quite easily have taken years to get a chance again on those types of waters. Once again a bit of good timing and luck. Certainly a few lifelong happy memories were made that year.
PM: Where are you fishing now, and what fish are you targeting?
MG: I have managed to get back on the Stoneacre syndicate, so I will be spending what time I can on there trying to catch the few that eluded me, mainly the elusive Bitemark. I have also just secured a ticket for a big pit of near on 100 acres in the Cotswolds with a few lovely carp, some of which may have never been caught before as well. One in particular on my wish list is a real corker of a mirror, with a big frame and little tail last caught at just over 47lb, so a real monster.
PM: Are there any particular venues or fish you’ve got your eye on for the future?
MG: Yes, there are a number a waters around the country that may have a certain fish that takes my fancy, or a lake that has been stocked and is coming on well. There are a few lovely mirrors around the Cotswolds I have had my eye on for a number of years. They seem to be creeping up in weight steadily each season, so I will be sure to have a go for them one day.
PM: When you reach the end of your carp-fishing career, how do you want to be remembered?
MG: I suppose I would like to be remembered as an angler that took his own path, obsessed with spending time chasing his own dreams, and not giving up until those dreams became reality.
PM: Myles, many thanks for taking time to do this.