It’s hard to know where to begin with our next guest. Dave Lane is probably the most gifted carper of our time. A renowned author and angling journalist, He has a track record like no other when it comes to tracking down big carp. His knowledge of watercraft has led to some of the most iconic captures in UK carping history.
With many books to his name and tackle named after him, Dave and his faithful dog Paddy will continue to stay at the forefront of UK carping for many years to come, so over to Dave himself now for his interview…
Me: What was your first introduction to fishing?
DL: When I was about 6 I suppose, my dad used to take me and sit me on a bridge over the river mole, dangling a float somewhere near the water.
A while later I had a few lessons from an Auntie who was visiting from South Africa, but that was with a fly rod in a river that held no trout.
After that I used to go regularly with my dad and fish for perch and roach.
Me: How did you get bitten by the carp bug so to speak?
DL: I must have been aged about twelve I suppose when I hooked my first carp on a floating crust.
It was around two and a half pounds and a typical ‘wildie’ common, the sort that filled moist of the small lakes around the Sussex area where I lived. It was from a small lily infested lake in a housing estate a few miles from home.
After that I started going every week and most of the school holidays, night fishing was a big adventure for me back then and we used to have bonfires and cook all the sausages that we had brought along as bait. Free-lined sausage section was our favourite method but they seldom survived until the morning.
After this I just sort of progressed along the carp fishing path, I did fish for other species but carp were always my passion.
Me: By the time you were fishing places like Wraysbury and Horton, you were catching more big carp than anyone else, what were you doing different that made you so consistent?
DL: I often get asked this and I struggle to answer it without sounding patronising towards others but, that really is not the intention.
I am a firm believer that you get out of fishing whatever you want, or need, to make you happy but it is always relative to the effort you put into it.
If you are happy catching the odd fish and sitting next to a bivvy full of cold beer and barbeque equipment, never dreaming of moving swims during the session then that is great, you achieved what you set out to do and nobody can knock you for that.
Myself, I love to catch carp and I am never satisfied that I have caught enough therefore; I think the answer to this is that I try harder.
I move more often, I look for hours and hours before setting up and I never think that I am in the best spot, I always imagine there is something better just around the corner and this keeps me focused. Either that or I just have zero patience, a very short attention span, and an even lower tolerance for boredom; I seem to remember my school reports saying something similar.
Me: You have caught some of the most sought after fish in Carping such as Mary and the black mirror, what have been your own favourite catches?
DL: I have enjoyed them all in their own way but the big pit fish always excite me the most, particularly the odd ones, the rarely if ever caught fish.
Wraysbury had a few of these, not the biggest of the bunch but held in high esteem.
I fished a lake called the Fiords and Meadows where I rarely saw either another angler or indeed a fish! I eventually managed two bites in three consecutive spring seasons and they were both very special fish, the biggest of these I named ‘Black Jack’ and he was an incredible beast.
Obviously the ‘Black Mirror’ for the Mere will always hold a special place for me because I went through so much to catch him and he really was the ultimate big carp.
Me: You have fished all over the UK, what have been your favourite lakes?
DL: I loved my time on Sonning, especially the second year when I began exploring the further reaches at the back of the pit, wooded, hidden areas where you could stash your gear and build your own swims.
Wraysbury though, that was a special experience for me, cutting new paths and swims, building big bonfires from the cleared woods and then cooking jacket potatoes in the embers. I love all the Boy Scout type stuff and I love using a boat as well. Any big wild pit, where I can be left alone to do my own thing, these are the lakes I truly fall in love with.
Me: Is there any carp past or present you would most like to catch?
DL: There are a couple, although I am not a real follower of what fish are where and I seldom know very much about the big carp scene in general, I tend to focus on my own pursuits and never really have any plans beyond the next bite.
I have seen pictures of a fifty pound linear from the Peterborough area that I would dearly like to have the chance to fish for.
Me: What was carping in Africa experience like?
DL: Unbelievable really, it was not only the fishing, in fact that came a clear second to the environment.
One morning I went off to the back of the woods, behind my swim, in an attempt to find a phone signal, and I came face to face with a giraffe!
On the second lake I fished, way up in the mountains of the Limpopo region at Tzaneen, I had a close encounter with a pod of Hippo’s and, on my return; I wrote this in my journal for my next book.
The sunset that night had been spectacular, a huge glowing orb sinking into a sea of golden syrup that wrapped around you and filled your entire vision and, as it dropped below the mountains on the horizon, it was as if it had set alight the jungle beyond, the reflected glow lighting up the lakes surface. As darkness had finally taken a hold we’d all retired to the camp and feasted on meat, as usual, and now we were all relaxed and happy. Suddenly, even over the noise we were making, Steve piped up and told us to shush, as he’d heard something outside and as we listened my right hand alarm starting bleeping. “Bloody hell” I said to Steve “I knew you were good but that’s ridiculous” as I started to run to the rod, only to find that I was running on the spot as Steve had a firm hold of the back of my shirt. “I’d leave that a minute if I were you he said” just as the other two alarms also joined in unison in a cacophony of wailing electronics. “That’ll be those Hippos you’ve been going on about all week mate” he said with a grin.
Bloody hell, Hippos actually walking across the bottom of the lake through my lines, and I was only fishing about twenty five yards out so they were real close. We were all desperate to get closer and see if we could spot them as they came up for air so, all in a tight bunch, we sort of jogged down to my rods. I say ‘sort of’ because nobody actually wanted to be at the front so it was more like a revolving ball of people really with the leader suddenly realising his mistake and dropping to the back again. The rods stopped in sequence as we got there, either cut or dropped as the Hippos made their way around our peninsula towards Nicks swim. Suddenly we all heard one, a huge wet spray as he breached only a few yards out and then bang, all of Nick’s rods were away at once. Regardless of the damage they were doing to our traps this was the single most exciting thing that had ever happened to me on the bank, bar nothing, ever, and I followed them as far as I dared around the point until they disappeared of into the huge bay to our left and were lost in the inky black night, just the odd distant exhale of water and air to mark their departure.
Me: Where else in the world would you like to try that you have not?
DL: I really like the look of the fish in Belgium, they are just like the best of the British strains only larger. Also the carp scene is good over there with far more water per angler.
Me: If not a carper, what kind of fishing could you have seen yourself doing?
DL: I have fished for other species in the past. I have a personal best pike of 32lb, roach up to two and a half pounds (although I did catch a three pound ten ounce specimen but it was on a carp set up and, as such, I don’t regard it as a legitimate capture).
I used to fish a lot for tench and I still have the odd dabble, I don’t think there is anything quite like the sight of a red topped float surrounded by pin-prick bubbles on a misty calm morning.
I have also fished for sailfish in the South China Sea, blue water fish or game fish are massively exciting and the battles are unbelievable, I could definitely have gotten addicted to that, but I could never afford it of course.
Me: And finally Dave what are you plans for the rest of 2014?
DL: My plans have just changed, considerably, because I was fortunate enough to bank my target fish at the start of July in the shape of the Burghfield Common.
I had set aside the next couple of years to track down this elusive beast; who would have thought that, three months later, I’d once again be looking for a new venue?
I really loved fishing at Burghfield, I still do, but realistically I have achieved my goal and, I suppose, it is now time to move on.
It’s a strange feeling on a big pit that has one major target fish; you don’t always necessarily feel that you have finished with the lake itself after the capture of the fish.
What I mean by this is that there are bays and islands I have yet to fish, sections of lake that the fish have not used so far this year and, of course, there is still the autumn to come, probably the best time of the lot of a large gravel pit.
If I was to stay on there, to catch some of the remaining stock, the fear is that however unlikely, I may hook the big common again and this would take away the chance for one of the other anglers, some of which are close friends.
With a fish that often goes years without capture it is a hard enough job to bank, let alone if it has recently been caught and, even worse, if it has been caught by an angler who has already had the pleasure.
That’s the way we tend to look at it anyway, when you are done you are done, red carded we call it and, I suppose, it is sensible if unwritten rule amongst friends.
Me: Dave it has been a real pleasure having some of your time thanks
DL: No problem Paddy, anytime mate