Martin Bowler's incredible unknown UK 59lb carp

Our columnist Martin Bowler recounts the capture of a true monster caught recently...

"An overnight frost and a forecast north-easterly wasn’t the best of starts. But as the breeze sent ripples across the pit there was a touch of west to the wind.  

Such seemingly insignificant events can make all the difference, and I knew when there was no reddening of my cheeks on the windward bank that the carp would follow and stay with it. Cloud built, too, shielding the surface from the sun and switching the fish on to feed.  

In early May such windows of opportunity can be short, so time was of the essence. Out of the truck came three rods, their matching E-S-P reels full to the spool lip with 18lb Syncro XT.  

I’d be using a sinking leader with a lead-clip system and a 4oz weight.  Two rigs were simple bottom bait set-ups consisting of coated braid and size 5 Gripper, but the third was a new pop-up arrangement for me. 

I wasn’t totally convinced by the cult following for the Ronnie Rig, so who better to comment on it than its inventor? The secretive angler ‘Ronnie’ is an old friend of mine, so I’d called him a few days earlier to jokingly tell him that I thought all the scaffolding hanging off his hook was rubbish. 

I was surprised to be told that he didn’t use the quick link ring swivel element! Instead, there’s a section of non-slip braid, shrink tubing and two granny knots to a size 11 Uni Link swivel. Deliberate misinformation or a faulty angling grapevine? No matter, I now had the facts from the horse’s mouth.  

Intrigued, I tied up the rig with a size 4 E-S-P Cryogen Curve Shanx hook coupled with a 16mm Sticky Signature squid pop-up. I could see the benefits of this set-up, with the hook hovering in the water waiting to prick a carp.

So, my newly-christened ‘Real Ronnie’ rig was cast 15 yards out from the far corner of the pit, to settle nicely over a mixture of clay and silt. The other two rods were farther out, on harder gravel areas. All three then had 100 Krill boilies scattered over the top. 

The last element of my preparation was to clip on my lucky yellow bobbins and then enjoy the wait.

Sand martins fresh from Africa circled and swooped in front of me, waiting for an insect hatch while all the time keeping an eye out for the hobby. This small falcon was on the hunt, hoping to strike with its talons.  

In the lee of the island to my right, the surface was broken by carp. Thickset mirrors these, with breeze-block bodies, short wrists and tails shaped like love hearts.

The lightly-scaled fish were mainly grey across their oh-so-wide backs, shading into portly cream-coloured bellies with the odd blush of yellow.  

Leeches still clung to their flanks and fins, a sure sign that the carp were only just starting to move across the relatively shallow pit with any purpose. 

 Energy was being expended, and this meant they had to eat.

The scent of krill spread through the water by the undertow must have been difficult to ignore and, sure enough, a group of carp arrived in the corner to investigate. 

A fish the size of a baby hippo had the biggest appetite to satisfy, and was first to spot the cherry on the cake. Amid the duller Krill, the pink pop-up rested gently on top of shallow silt. A fist-sized mouth sucked it in and the Curve Shanx followed, primed to strike. 

As the hook passed the bottom lip, the point spun and pulled down into the carp’s mouth.  

The fish was too naïve to react in any other way than to shake its head and charge off. 

The first I knew of events was when the rod-tip bent over, the bobbin bounced against the butt and the clutch wailed. I was making a phone call at the time, but that went by the board as I shouted: “I’m in, I have to go!” 

Mobile forgotten, I lifted into the greatest carp fishing episode of my life. At first the beast decided to take line off me, then it opted to release the pressure by charging towards my bank. Even with a fast-retrieve reel and winding as fast as I could I struggled to maintain tension, praying the hook would hold.  

Five yards out, the fish veered sharply right. I knew what was about to come, and quickly checked the drag before bracing myself for the fish’s run up the channel between island and bank.  

Keeping the tension on was no longer an issue, stopping a hook-pull was, and whether or not the fish would make the bar that spread out from the far end of the island like a claw was in the lap of the angling gods. 

It nearly made it, too, exploding under the canopy of a willow, but I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that lactic acid would now be slowing the carp down.

Applying side strain, I at last began to gain ground. The mirror was now moving to the margins in the hope of snagging a branch. I could see only one that broke the surface and continued to draw my quarry towards it, unaware of the true peril beneath the surface. There, that single branch turned into a mass of them, each one ready to reach out and grab the line. Too late I felt it grate against the snag. 

Ninety nine times out of a hundred, that would have been it, but the carp simply rolled round the obstruction then, very close now, breached like a baby whale. Even then the enormity of the situation didn’t dawn on me.  

As I reached out with the net, the carp’s head touched the spreader block while the tail had to be juggled in over the cord – a big fish for sure, but still not colossal in my mind. I prepared the mat, scales and sling in an incredibly cool manner for me, before trying to lift the carp from the water.

Blimey! That was heavy! Only when I went to read the 54lb scales and failed did I snap out of my reverie – they had bottomed out! Oh my god, it was time to call my good mate Phil, who had been with me on the pit countless times over the past two years. 

I handed him a set of 200lb scales I keep in the truck for sharks, and asked him to read out the number. “Fifty nine pounds,” he said with a huge smile. This was an off-the-radar, unnamed carp of colossal proportions. 

Reality then kicked in and I began to shake as adrenaline coursed through my veins. “How bloody big?” I kept on asking myself, clearly unprepared for such a moment. Angling dreams do come true, that’s for sure".