Whilst I am offering thanks, I also want to doff my cap to another couple of people who offered support with this piece, one being Vinny (a fantastic writer) who runs his own blog ‘The Northwest Fisherman’, and is a gentleman to boot...check him out. Second is no other than Stu, aka The Sweetcorn Kid, who needs no introduction with his stunning writing and angling exploits - and the Can of Jolly Green is for you my friend!
Last but not least is Chris Turnbull, a gifted artist and writer with a phenomenal skill for gathering enthusiasts to work collectively and make angling a preserved sport for the future. He is a member of many angling associations and has spent a huge amount of effort forming the ACA (The Association Of Crucian Anglers) which has already in a short space of time started to form a plan that is helping this fish become established once again. Many clubs and individuals are now setting up fisheries with the sole intention based around this fish; what an achievement and success it will be for the future, well done Chris.
This collaboration has been an exciting opportunity, but as this chapter closes, so a new one opens and I am already looking forward to lots of new projects for 2016!
The final piece in this series is based on the lovely Crucian Carp, an endearingly shy fish that seems to thrive in waters that contain few mixed species; especially the King Carp, which is far to bold and dominates the Crucian, which subsequently suffers from its intense competition. In my experience, most farm ponds that hold a healthy stock of Crucians are relatively small in size and contain Rudd and perhaps a sprinkling of Tench, often with little else. The Rudd feeding in the upper layers tend not to impact the Crucians feeding strategy, so they live in perfect symbiosis. Their very nature is one of timidity; hence, they are also prone to predation from large pike and cormorants, and perhaps increasingly, otters too. Maybe that's why they favour those little overgrown farm ponds because cormorants are more suited to a large body of open water, leaving this shy chap to live life on his own peaceful terms.
On the contrary, if the habitat is suitable, he is a tough little bugger than can withstand some of the lowest oxygen levels of any known fish in the world. I have caught them on a park lake that was almost completely silted up with no more than 12" of water at its deepest point, leaving me to guess how they survived a cold winter when the lake froze solid.
They can also breed like rabbits which can become their downfall in a small pond because they end up stunted with so many small fish surviving, leaving little room for adults to continue growing.
My first encounter as a young lad was on such a pond; I remember vividly those shy bites on small pieces of bread flake that I could not connect with. I would fine the tackle down by reducing the mainline and hook size, along with a much slimmer float to minimise resistance...did it help, did it buggery. I started to align the float against shadows on the water cast from the overgrowing Alder trees around the pool, and on most occasions the float would drift ever-so slightly left or right without dipping a 1000th of a millimetre – strike…. and one of my fondest memories would we this little "bar of gold" spiralling round and around slowly corkscrewing to the surface from the dark depths of the pool, and the tell-tale rattling of the float against the shot on the mainline confirming it was a Crucian!
Some of the larger fish (no bigger than 12oz) from the pond would always give the impression of age, a dark tea stained back making way to a deep copper/gold flank like an old bronze statue. Combined with his delicate upturned mouth, it gave quite a ‘grumpy old man’ facial expression...but what a delight and fish to hold, nothing other than a big Rudd can shine like a Crucian Carp and a make young fish look like a freshly minted coin. With a buttery gold flank and orange coloured fins, nothing can brighten a dull day both in hue and spirit.
I have never landed a large one and it’s definitely top of my hit list. I knew of a water in Oxford that contained no more than 3 very old fish, along with massive Roach and Rudd which I was targeting. Those dinosaurs were the last remnants of stock that had managed to survive against all odds; however, they were no longer reproducing to kick-start the next generation. I managed to glimpse a pair that came into my swim while float fishing for Rudd, staying deep in the water with the Rudd taking casters on the drop. These fish slowly slid over the free offerings in 5 feet of gin-clear water, moving ever so slowly mouthing the odd caster, then evaporating before my eyes, that was the closest I ever came to hooking one, but a friend was lucky to have a chance later in the season with his old dark fish breaking the 4lb barrier! A true giant of the fish world.
I also came across a dead one in the margins of a beautiful old estate lake I used to fish, and to this day I would not like to hazard a guess at its size, all I will say is I have never, and probably will ever, see anything like it again.
This brings me to the Artwork which I have tried to amalgamate some of the elements I so lovingly relate to with this fish. I wanted to base the main image on a true old survivor, a fish that had seen the ebb and flow of many a season, and depict with a few missing scales and that aged dark oak barrel patina we all love. No other fish deserves a more traditional theme so I wanted the main drawing to look like an old taxidermy mount, a bold side view of the full flank displaying his beautiful contours and convex dorsal fin. That classic rounded stubby tail fully open...pausing in an upright position while mouthing his single grain of sweet corn like a spider monkey with a date.
I wanted the complementary drawings to finish more sketch-like and not as detailed, thereby offering a subtle suggestion of memories, fish lay in the fold of the landing net ready to be returned, my ever faithful ‘salter spring balance’ which composes the picture, and is the perfect size for comparison.....though crap for recording accurate weights, but I guess the weight is sometimes irrelevant. A can of Jolly Green Giant has always sat by my seat box when fishing for Crucian and I wanted to add a little modern twist to the traditional theme of the piece.
Andrew had made some stunning floats from old reed stem which had the most perfect pattern and coloration that reminded me of this fish. I asked if he could make me a float from the reed which looks absolutely perfect in its matching frame and bronze coloured mount edging.
I feel sad to finish this collection now, it has brought back many fond memories, which I hope others will somehow relate to, but for now, it’s time to put my pencil down, enjoy the festive cheer, then prepare for spring and the New Year ahead.
"The Crucian" is for sale priced at £450 and the overall size of the piece framed is:590 mm x 790mm
Enjoy the Christmas period, stay happy, healthy and look after the ones you hold dear.