This iconic angling book has been launched today and this provides the perfect opportunity to post my book-related blog. In a nutshell, the book content is contained succinctly within the title and has been written by carp Historian and author ‘Chris Ball’. This piece of writing has been discussed in closed circles for sometime now, and anybody closely involved within the carp fishing scene over the last 40+ years will know full well how hard this gentleman has worked to quietly compile some of the most important moments of our privileged pastime in pictorial form. Chris has diligently harvested an enormous historical portfolio, ranging from tackle items, pictures, artwork and important documents and letters from all the known carp fishing greats from past and present.
I have attached a small excerpt below from the man himself; this will provide you with a small glimmer of his incredible passion and an understanding of how this seed germinated as a young secondary schoolboy - magical reading indeed.
On the eve of the ‘Historical Carp Waters’ book being published, here is a little background on how and why I fell in love with all things carp. As a wide-eyed youngster just into my teens marked the start of collecting pictures and stories about carp. In 1959 I was thrilled to catch, by design, some carp on floating crust - long lean wildie-type commons of 2lb-3lb. Carp and fishing for them soon occupied my every thought and when a couple of years later I banked a 10lb 4oz mirror from The Tarn Pond at Cutt Mill, Surrey, everything went into overdrive - it’s never abated since. As a measure of how smitten I was with carp, during 1960 (my last full year at school) I embarked along with the rest of my class on a task to make a handy scrapbook which included, hessian covered front and back covers, marbled end papers and sporting around 20 blank pages ready for items of interest to be stuck in. Nearly every kid in my class had football players or racing cars, steam engines, etc. filling the pages. But me...? my scrapbook was full of carp reports from Angling Times during 1960. This scrapbook survives to this day and is one of my most cherished angling possessions.
From around 1970 onward I was lucky to meet and talk with the likes of great anglers such as Richard Walker, Peter Thomas, Maurice Ingham, ‘BB’, Bernard Venables, Fred J. Taylor, Dave Steuart, Jack Hilton, Bill Quinlan, Tom Mintram, Bruce Ashby, Mike Harris and many others which only served to heighten the grip carp fishing already had on me. To sit down face to face with these men and talk about their carp fishing experiences later fuelled the desire to write about these successes and of course obtain as many pictures as possible of their catches. I remember at the time people like Maurice Ingham telling me, “Why are you asking me these questions when you already know the answer?” I replied I simply wanted to hear from him personally the stories I’d only ever read of in books.
As can be imagined the amount of carp pictures and stories amassed in over 50-years of collecting is vast, the pictures alone run into many thousands with much of it these days scanned and safely stored away. I’ve joked now and then to people that if you were a prominent name in carp fishing during last half century then somewhere I’ll have a record of it.
‘Historical Carp Waters’ is due to be published shortly. For more information and how to order a copy, go to www.littleegretpress.com
The book contains over 100,000 words, 400 pages and hundreds of photos of which most are from Chris’ own albums and have not been published before. Twenty two different waters are covered within the pages ranging from Redmire to Yeoveney Pits, Ashley Pool to Withy Pool along with all the legends who have fished these waters - in a nutshell its a wealth of historical facts and captivating stories that are a real treat to be shared with the wider public.
This book will appeal to carp anglers new and old who possess a strong infinity to our past angling hero’s, combined with waters you may or may not know...but all containing the magic ingredient ‘History’, which offers insight into the foundations of our pastime. It is a lifetime of data collection that will never be repeated again, and for that alone it is essential reading that will take pride of place in your carp fishing library.
My role in all this was to hopefully add another dimension to the book with my Artwork. I have been blessed to be involved in this project and big thanks first of all to Wayne Cryer and the faith he had in me. Wayne is publishing the book through ‘The Little Egret Press’. Equally, I am indebted to Chris Ball, without which this project would never have been possible. From both a personal and working perspective, this year has been one of the most hectic I can recall, so my aim was to focus on a select number of drawings to make sure I could realistically reach the deadline. The main drawings are portraits of anglers who played a significant role within the book; some the angling world know and others not so mainstream, but arguably just as important in their own right.
The book has been dedicated to Donald Leney, a mighty figure who stocked most of the famous UK waters. This key point becomes evident as you read the book. His fish became known as the ‘Leney strain’, which initially came from Holland and were sold through his fish farm in Surrey around the 1920’s. The actual fish he stocked into Redmire Pool went on to break three British Records, the first being a local angler named Bob Richards in 1951 landing a 31lb 4oz mirror. The following year Richard Walkers’ Common of 44lb in September 1952, then to fall once again with another ‘Leney’ to Chris Yates who smashed the existing record in June 1980 with a mirror of 51lb 8oz. Most carp anglers still talk about waters that contain the Leney strain as one may discuss a rare pedigree, and rightly so, because that is what this strain of carp was and still is, if you're lucky enough to fish a water that still contains these rare jewels. Documented evidence proves some of these fish lived for an incredible 60+ years, which reminds me of the ancient Japanese Koi strains that can live for generations. To cast my eyes over Donald’s face before embarking on this drawing was both exciting and nerve racking. I knew the name so well but to see it for the first time offered me further insight into this mans life and passion. He has a working mans face, forged from harsh weather, grime and manual labour. This was clearly evident in his large, muscular hands that highlight sinew and strength - certainly not forged from flower arranging! His large broad nose possibly displayed signs of being exposed to the ‘Queensbury Rules’ in his younger years, but equally, I could also see a caring and quieter side to his character through various other photos. This is all very exciting stuff when you have a blank piece of paper in front of you. In my humble opinion, this particular drawing, alongside some of the other portrait work I have done for the book, is possibly some of my best work to date. I really wanted to capture the energy of each individual and project to the reader an ethereal ghost like figure that was returning to life, not just some photographic soulless replica.
Following Leney was the gifted naturalist, illustrator and author, and one of my favourite country writers ‘Denys James Watkins-Pitchford’, also known under the pseudonym of ‘BB’. The list of acclaims for this man is far too long to list. BB was awarded an MBE and the dozens of books he wrote for both adults and children is really just the tip of the iceberg. ‘Confessions Of A Carp Fisher’ is arguably one of the greats; alongside christening Redmire with its name he was also a wonderful artist. Most famous for his scraperboard book illustrations, he also produced some wonderful paintings. As a passionate naturalist, angler and artist, the powerful words that preface all his books really resonate with me.
“The wonder of the world
The beauty and the power.
The shapes of things,
Their colours, lights & shades
These I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts”
I could write a whole blog about this man alone, but to draw him was more than a privilege and I wonder if I had had the opportunity to meet him in person, whether he would have approved of my portrait?
Amongst the collection is a younger Richard Walker who we all know and love as one of the very first pioneers of carp fishing; actually, BB argued he was the first. Like BB, Walker was also a writer but he went on to becoming a household name when in Sept 1952 he broke the British carp record with a 44lb Redmire Pool Common that shook the angling world. Furthermore, he was also designing and producing groundbreaking fishing tackle items. These included the rod that he caught his record carp on, and then went on to breaking Chris Yates’ record using the very same rod at the very same Redmire pool.... uncanny indeed. I think the actual landing net also manufactured by Walker for landing this record carp now resides with Chris Ball...who you will see as you progress through the book is intrinsically tied to all those individuals named herein.
I was reluctant to draw Chris Yates, and not from a lack of interest, but I felt everything that could have been written about this man and his record had been done to the point of exhaustion. I really didn't want to go over old ground. He is the godfather; nothing I could write would match what has already been said of the man so I will let his name do the talking. When I had the opportunity to look at all the images for the book, this one of Yates taken in June 1980 holding his record mirror carp of 51lb 8oz stood out, but it was not so apparent at first. We have all seen the famous image a thousand times, but of all the shots in publication, the ones I could recall are of Chris looking square on at the camera with the punt directly behind him in the background. In the image Chris Ball provided, the slight difference was the fact ‘Yates’ was looking down the flank of the fish while fanning the caudal fin with his hand. I felt this added drama, which prompted me to go ahead and draw the image. I am so glad I did because it could arguably be the most iconic carp-fishing photo of our time?
A more unknown figure was Tom Mintram who at the time was the syndicate leader of Redmire; a man who had fondly taken Chris Yates under his wing. His face really captivated me with his down-turned puppy dog eyes and cheeks, I could smell the sweet tobacco smoke from his pipe drawing me back to my own grandfather and the recollection of happy bygone times.
I also managed a small sketch piece of Ritchie McDonald - one of the bad boys of angling in his hey day I hear. I have read a few articles of his adventures over the years, which I found very amusing indeed. The drawing in question is McDonald holding what was at the time the Ashley Pool record carp, it’s a very special water indeed and one that makes for exciting reading in the book.
The man himself had to be included, so a drawing of Mr. Ball holding what was a very personal and special carp indeed at the time for many reasons. Not only is the image the last in the collection, it was one I enjoyed very much and it required some time pressure otherwise it could have been a disaster if I hadn't completed it!
There are countless other angling greats that I would have loved to draw for the book, but I knew full well time was not on my side this year and maybe some of these other characters will have to wait for another day. All I know is the wealth of images that you will be about to view once the book is available will make your hair curl, real moments in time, frozen in black, white and colour, that trace the winding path of time from past to present. It is all in here and you will no doubt see a few faces looking much younger and fresher than you remember...enjoy.
Some of these drawings are now for sale, please remember you are purchasing the original works from the book and no other copies will be available. Most of the main subjects are professional mounted and framed on A3 paper. The drawings are oversized compared to standard book illustration because I wanted them to be stand-alone art pieces in their own right. They are serious works with the most prestigious provenance and set to be collection pieces in the near future.
Donald Leney Portrait: Largest drawing in the collection, Double mounted & Framed £499
Chris Yates Portrait: SOLD
Richard Walker Portrait: Double mounted & framed: SOLD
"BB" Portrait: Private Collection
Chris Ball Portrait: Private Collection
Tom Mintram Portrait: £299
Richie Mcdonald Portrait: £195
Chris Ball Hat:SOLD
If you require further images of the artwork mounted & framed please feel free to contact.