Encounters with Mary

Big fish angler, Dave Ball, with the carp called Mary when it lived in Rayners Lake in the early 1980s

Big fish angler, Dave Ball, with the carp called Mary when it lived in Rayners Lake in the early 1980s

The majestic Mary, with captor, Derek Rance

The majestic Mary, with captor, Derek Rance

Over the years I’ve been fortunate to come close to, even to the point of touching, one of the most iconic big carp of this country, the much loved mirror that lived in Wraysbury No.1 – Mary.

The story of this twice-record carp is well documented, though perhaps newer carp anglers might not realise the fish was moved, along with a number of others (caught, incidentally, on rod and line), from the nearby Rayners Lake, to Wraysbury No.1, in the mid-80s. This was where the likes of the later well-known Wraysbury inhabitants named Mallin’s, Cluster and the Pug came from also. The biggest transferred carp of this limited number was a lengthy, well-proportioned and lightly-scaled mirror of around 26lb going by the name of Mary. At the time there was good reason for this act, as the carp stocks of Rayners were viewed as being under threat by virtue of the pit being possibly earmarked as a landfill site for fly ash – a form of waste produced by coal-fired power stations.

This 26-pounder grew like stink in the fertile waters of Wraysbury and in a few short years grew into a monster when Peter Springate landed this superb mirror in 1991 at 45lb 6oz.

When Wraysbury No.1 really got under my skin in the late-80s, I saw a number of big carp (well over 30lb) and just once in the close season of 1990/1 I spotted a real big ‘un at the entrance to what is called the Swimming Pool – a bay that lay in the south east corner of what was then a 100-acre plus lake. On reflection it may have been Mary, caught some months later by Peter Springate. I saw this carp quite plainly for 10-minutes or so as it moved around near the surface with others that looked to be twenty-pounders. It appeared so much bigger than its companions.

Maybe it was an entirely different carp, one that had been seen by others (whose judgement I trust) which at the time made them gasp. I’ll never know for sure. There is some compelling evidence of an uncaught, monster carp in Wraysbury seen by the likes of Colin Swaden, Peter Springate, Richard Skidmore and others in the past and it’s not hard to understand at all, as Wraysbury was a vast water that appears to have no actual written history as to carp stockings of the past (only rumours) other than, of course, the Rayners fish.

However, easily the most impressive encounter I had with this carp was the time the late Derek Rance caught the beastie. I was alerted to the fact by a call from Ruth Lockwood of Yateley Angling Centre, saying that Derek had phoned from the telephone box (long gone) near the off-licence on Welley Road, Wraysbury and that he was pitched up close to the NatWest Sailing Club on the North Lake. Could I go and photograph and witness the fish before the scrum of other anglers (and other media – I had my Carp-Talk reporter’s hat on at the time) arrived.

I hot-footed it to Wraysbury and soon found Derek sitting quietly by his bivvy, we greeted and he beckoned me over to his small boat which was pulled in to one side of his rods. The fish had been unhooked but not removed from the water and lay in Derek’s big landing net placed over the stern of the craft. I gingerly stepped into the boat and shuffled along to the rear, here I peered into the arms of the landing net, and there, but a few feet from my eyes lay this enormous 50lb+ black and brooding monster. It’s an image I’ll never forget, the sheer width across the back and the overall length were both so impressive.

Soon after, a couple of people arrived including Viv Shears and with the weighing complete I could get some photographs. Shortly after that, Yateley Angling Centre’s John Lockwood arrived. He and Derek were good mates through the shop and John, like all the others who had by now assembled, all gawked at this fabulous carp. I know it sounds daft, and I’ve said it before, but it just looked too big to reside in the UK!

In my mind, it was easily the most impressive view of that wonderful, former UK record carp.

Give us a kiss, Mary...!

Give us a kiss, Mary…!

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