ICONS | The Fat Lady

What makes a carp special to you? Your opinion will almost certainly be different to the next man and that is the beauty of carp fishing. Every carp is different, each fish has a unique scaling pattern and is distinguishable from the next. Of course, this is applicable to common carp too, although the details are more subtle.

In the UK we have been blessed to have the opportunity to fish for some of the best carp to have ever lived. With effort and foresight or sometimes by mistake, many of us can still angle for some very special carp. The Fat Lady was one such mirror carp that was easily recognisable, especially as her popularity grew over the years having broken the 50lb barrier.

This special carp is certainly an icon, she certainly wasn’t just another big mirror carp that specimen hunters would readily disregard. Anglers would travel from around the country in hope of putting this fish in their photo album. She often displayed the most beautiful shades of greys in many catch photos, in fact many would refer to her as the Grey Lady rather than her unfortunate title. It was a rotund carp for sure but certainly not out of proportion, her length and width made sure of that.

The Fat Lady lived in the Lagoon lake in the St Ives Fishery for many years, until her unfortunate demise in the summer of 2011. The Cambridgeshire complex is managed by Gordon Howes and is a popular destination for specimen anglers, with nine lakes in the portfolio boasting enormous bream, eels, pike and tench. The Lagoon is approximately 30 acres in size.

Although the Fat Lady is no more, the most famous carp on the complex at present is Colin. This superb mirror carp regularly weighs over 50lb and is similar to the Fat Lady in several ways. Colin is lightly scaled, has big leather-like flanks, often shows its weight well throughout the year and is a very sought after target fish. With the River Ouse running alongside the nine lakes this particular complex really is a piece of angling heaven.

At the turn of the millennium in the month of February an important moment in carp fishing history was marked as a weekly publication reported the capture of the Fat Lady from the previous year. This was not standard practice but because of the significance of the catch it was only right to report that angler Paul Rudd had caught a 42lb 12oz mirror carp. In 1994 the Fat Lady had escaped from St Ives into the River Ouse due to flooding. People were now aware of this fish because of her ever-increasing size, although she continued to live in the river for the following five years, breaking 40lb. She became the largest fish to have been caught from the Great Ouse until she was returned to the fishery in 1999.

Although unknown to the masses, Paul’s capture turned out to be the third reported capture. A number of years later this very carp was to become extremely popular following its numerous appearances in publications thereafter. Those keen-eyed anglers who paid careful attention at the time recognised that this fish was growing at a steady rate and quickly became one of the largest mirror carp in Britain. The likes of Two Tone from Conningbrook, the Black Mirror from the Mere, the Eye from Sonning and the Jockey from Pingewood were among some of the biggest carp living in the early 2000s following the death of the iconic Mary (from Wraysbury) in August 2001. The big-carp scene was ever growing and interest was rocketing in these true once-in-a-lifetime fish.