ICONS | Bazil - King of the North Lake

Pick up most great carp books and you’re likely to find chapters written about the fishing that has taken place at Yateley. The North Lake is arguably the most historic venue in the area, having once held the extraordinary half-linear mirror known by a great deal of anglers and non-anglers alike as Bazil, King of the North.

At just under 11 acres in size the North Lake is a well-established and beautifully mature venue set in deepest Yateley, containing a sensational number of features both above and below the surface, making it a fantastically interesting place to angle. The staggering number of small islands dotted around the south side of the lake help to create an area of water where the fish are free from angling pressure and many anglers have compared the bottom of the lake to an egg box, with its various gravel humps and silty troughs.  

So how did Bazil come to live in Yateley North Lake? Sutton had suffered a drought in 1973 and as a result the carp were moved into some of the Yateley lakes, namely the North Lake and Car Park Lake, which each received six fish.

Once in its new home the young Bazil, unnamed and unknown at this point, grew very quickly over the years, which is testament to the rich environment the fish were living in. Two years after the move, the first angler to catch the mirror was Gary Pails (angling partner of Robin Dix) where it weighed 20lb 8oz. Help with the landing, weighing and photography was given by Len Arbery and Bill Quinlan, two anglers firmly embedded into the carp fishing history books. Interestingly Gary was the only angler to catch the great fish twice as in later years on the magical June 16th, 1984 he landed it once more at a weight of 44lb 8oz, 8oz heavier than former British record holder Richard Walker’s capture of Clarissa – a carp fishing milestone often referred to even in this present day.

In 1976 Kevin Clifford was to set foot on the venue as Redmire Pool had been suffering from the extremely hot weather and as a result the oxygen levels in the lake became a concern for all members on the syndicate. Keen to find another venue with the potential to produce a big carp, and keeping in contact with the likes of Len Arbery, there was talk of a large fish possibly being lost on tench tackle, so Kevin felt it was worth a go. Indeed it was, as he caught a big 30-pounder on his visit, whereupon he soon called Len to come and take the trophy shots.

What fish was it? It was this very same fish and in only three years of living in the lake its weight had absolutely sky rocketed! Only four years later the lake’s biggest mirror surpassed the magic 40lb barrier for the first time, having been caught by Chris Riddington in October 1980, who recorded a weight of 41lb 5oz.

Looking back on past captures of Bazil, Ritchie McDonald’s is without doubt the most iconic. Ritchie had intended to fish the historic Savay in 1984 for another season, although due to a cheque for £100 being lost in the post, he had to leave the syndicate much sooner than he had planned. Ritchie needed somewhere to fish, and while looking at an issue of Angler’s Mail in the cafe he was to feast his eyes on this most handsome of mirrors.

Adrian Tilbury had caught the enormous 43lb 4oz carp, the lake’s largest, while fishing for tench, catching it while using 6lb line and a size 12 hook. That photo was all the inspiration Ritchie needed and a plan was soon hatched to start fishing for the North Lake fish in the month of August that year.

Planning and preparation had begun to relentlessly pursue the Yateley North Lake fish, and Ritchie was famous for having caught multiple big carp by this stage. His intentions were to bait the lake with the help of others as well as concentrating on the carp’s favoured areas, having studied past captures of the big mirror, with the focus on a swim known as the Christmas Tree. On his first ever session he witnessed the landing of his target caught by Yateley regular Sam Fox, where it weighed a few ounces short of Adrian’s capture.

Fishing when he could, Ritchie managed to build a picture of the feeding habits of the carp in the North Lake and it goes without saying that in October 1984 he once again achieved his goal.

Initially a 40lb carp was high on his wishlist but he realised he had done much more than that. At a staggering weight of 45lb 12oz, Ritchie had caught the second-largest carp ever to have ever been caught in the country, on only his fourth session at the lake.

Not long after Ritchie’s capture the fish became known as Bazil, inspired by the main character of Fawlty Towers, Basil Fawlty (Bazil the Forty). The impact this capture had on carp fishing remains one of the most influential of all time and was the start of an obsession for many who wished to meet the King of the North. Anglers such as Nigel Sharp, Terry and Steve Pagulatos to name a few were inspired by Ritchie’s sensational capture and in the later years at Yateley there was an unwritten rule that you were to fish a chosen lake before tackling the next, which was a bigger challenge than the previous. The order followed by several anglers over the years was the Match Lake, Copse Lake, North Lake and finally the Car Park Lake.

Steve Pagulatos kindly supplied some fantastic words from his time fishing the North Lake, where he was to meet the icon himself on September 26th, 1998, weighing 46lb 2oz…

“Hard to know what to say really, I think many guys who caught her struggled to get focused after catching Bazil; back then it seemed the pinnacle of carp fishing and not much could replace that feeling.

“I vividly remember Ritchie’s capture some 14 years previous; I had just started carping at the time and was heavily influenced by the magical tales of Yateley, although it seemed (and was) well above my skill level at the time. Thoughts of packing it all in and returning to chub fishing on the rivers were prevalent. Luckily the Car Park Lake was next door and we always used to say your unofficial ticket to fish that lake was your capture of Bazil.

“I still have strong memories of her slipping out of the net with the weight of the weed; it was only at that point I realised what I had hooked, standing in chesties in the middle of the famous bay on a late September morning frantically ripping off the weed before she eventually got bundled into the net. That feeling of pure elation as you looked at the heavens and gave it the big ‘BAZIL’ shout! Magic times.”


It goes without saying that compiling information on one carp can be challenging but it was certainly necessary to highlight the life of one of the most special mirror carp in history. The process has been incredibly enjoyable and rewarding, but wouldn’t have been possible without an accurate information base and images supplied by the likes of Robin Dix, Len Arbery, Kevin Clifford, Ritchie McDonald, Nigel Sharp, Steve Pagulatos and Terry Hearn.