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The day the British record came for Mike Wilkinson

Lymm AC has a wide and varied history, some of the stories and lore that go with the club are what makes the club so special. It’s not all about waters and fish, it’s about members recollections of certain special moments, whether it be a sight, sound or indeed that fish that comes once in a lifetime.

I hope to bring you a new instalment from the vast library in Lymm Angling Clubs forum regularly, if you do have a story you would like to share, please Contact Us.

This weeks instalment is a true Record Breaker, over to Mike Wilkinson

The Day The Record Came ~ an account of my pursuit of a golden dream.

By the year 2000 Lymmvale had long been known for its vast shoals of golden orfe, although by now there were just 5 well known monster specimens remaining. These fish were ageing and very “cute”; requiring some dedication to bank them. The British record at the turn of the new millennium stood at 7lb 14oz, an orfe known simply as “The Big Girl”, this fish had held the record on several occasions and was the largest of the remaining orfe, the only other fish close at the time was unimaginatively called “Son of Record”, this fish had been caught up to 7lb by the same point in time.

Now by this time in my specimen angling career I’d always been happy to catch any big fish, I’d never really been one to target a certain known fish, but the “The Big Girl” had always been a thorn in my side, on dozens and dozens of occasions I’d have this fish in my swim but couldn’t for the life of me catch it, I’d even lost her at the net on one occasion in 1999. I had no trouble catching the other 4 orfe, often banking those when I was fishing for chub. Knowing that time was running out because these orfe were getting old I made it a personal goal of mine for the year 2000 to finally bank this elusive specimen, whether it be a new Record or not.

Fishing the spraying maggot technique things had started picking up by February and odd tench were being banked, then believe or not the first orfe to put in appearance was the “The Big Girl” at a new record weight of 7lb 15oz, caught by a guest of a regular member; unbelievable, I was beginning to think it was never meant to be. The weeks passed and the other orfe occasionally put in an appearance, I’d banked the second largest orfe at 7lb 2oz and another of just under 6lb by the time we moved in to March and then “The Big Girl” put in another appearance at 8lb 1oz, caught by venue regular, good mate and well known specimen angler Kev Shore. Kev had always said to me “your time will come, you’ll probably catch it at its biggest weight!”, at this present moment in time I doubted his words, but it was good to know he had faith in me.

Again the weeks passed and April came, the tench were now very active and vastly out numbering the orfe, so things were getting harder still. One Saturday in early April I was just walking round the Vale and came to another venue regular Norman Agnew, he had a smug look on his face, he didn’t take long to announce he’d caught “The Big Girl” at 8lb 4oz and set another new record, I congratulated him but knew that would probably put paid to catching her for another couple of weeks. Over the weekend I mulled over my tactics for catching this fish, you see whilst spraying maggots she would always turn up in your swim for a while, but she was very nomadic, she would often move off and return later on, well I decided to stick with the winning tactics but be more mobile, years of experience of these orfe had taught me that they had a particular path they followed each and every day making only minor detours.

Lymmvale circa 1996

So it was around 10am on the fateful day, I arrived to find only the orfe king himself; Phil Corley fishing, so things were looking up, there were plenty of swims to go at even though Phil was sat in the prime spot. Modified tactics in mind, I set up the minimum of gear by the hut and started to walk down the west bank, Polaroids on and just carrying the bare necessities. After walking just yards I spotted “The Big Girl” basking in the sun with numerous carp, I got down on the closest swim and began spraying maggots every 30 seconds or so, inevitably she started feeding on them, along with several carp. I didn’t wait too long before casting, then it was a case of spray more maggots, twitch the bait and so on, on twitching the bait for the fourth or fifth time it was met with resistance, my heart pounded, could it be?, well the large swirl and the bow wave of a large fish steaming off at a rate of knots answered that, I’d hooked a large carp and spooked everything in the swim in the process, regardless to say the carp won the day.

After that I gathered my gear and went back to the top of the bank to search for her again, I couldn’t see her so went and had a chat with Phil, he’d had a couple of nice chub and an orfe at 5lb+. I told him about all the carp up in the corner by the hut and after a while he moved up there to do some floater fishing for them, I dropped in the swim he vacated, it was the best swim after all and I figured it was a good starting point again being half way down the west bank. After an hour of fishing it was now gone 1pm and I’d had just a couple of tench, so I reeled in and went to search for her again, I found her, but unfortunately for me she was back where I started and feeding on floaters right in front of Phil. If anyone was going to catch her it was going to be him, but judging by the expletives that were coming from him, things weren’t going to plan, then from the top of the bank I saw her take his hook bait, but he missed the take and spooked her, from where I was I saw her swim off towards the opposite end of the lake. Phil left not long after, leaving me on my own, bliss; Lymmvale to my self on pleasant sunny day in mid-April, you wouldn’t get that today.

Happy Days

I had a brew at the hut and went off in search again, finally finding her moping around the old trout cages in the far corner, judging the swim next to it too tight, I settled in the next one and fished across on an angle, spraying maggots for a good 30 minutes before eventually drawing her in to feed, after a further 30 or 40 minutes of feeding and sharp bobs on the float; a sure indicator that orfe are in the swim, I twitched the bait once more and the line went tight, lifting in to the fish I met with solid resistance and some heavy head banging, a typical orfe fight, could it be at long last?, I hadn’t seen any other orfe in the swim. I hooked this fish quite deep so patience was the key, eventually an orfes’ back broke the surface and it was “The Big Girl”, I can’t explain how much my heart was pounding at this point especially given the savage head banging these fish do in an obvious attempt to shift the hook out. As she neared the net she made one last dive for freedom, as I drew her back towards the net my stepdad John had just arrived and was on hand for the netting, which made things a little easier. John held her in the net to recover whilst I got the weighing equipment ready, we then lifted her out and placed her in the sling, after the size 22 hook and dropped out in the net; the margin between success and disaster was so small. Tentatively I lifted the scales, as the needle passed the 8lb mark, how much further would it go? Eventually it settled between 8lb 5oz and 8lb 6oz, either way pending my scales being checked I had broken the record set just days earlier, only just, by 1oz, I didn’t care either way, I’d finally banked my target fish, one that had evaded me for years, the fact it was at a new record weight was a bonus.

Everything was falling in to place, in order to claim a record I knew I needed two independent witnesses, at that point two members came for a walk round to have a look at the water and were only too happy to witness a re-weighing of this mighty specimen, pictures had already been taken in between weighing, so she was released to fight another day. Hand shakes all around and it went without saying I packed up and went up to the hut for a celebratory brew before leaving. In the days that followed I contacted the “powers that be” and submitted a claim and had my scales checked, which were spot on. It was October before the claim was ratified, a long wait, but worth it, I’d waited long enough to catch her in the first place.

“The Big Girl” wasn’t caught for a number of weeks after that and then would you believe it, during my last session of the spring on the Vale before June 16th I banked her again at a slightly lower weight of 8lb 2oz, this time I wasn’t chasing her. It took me years to catch her for the first time and then I caught her twice in two sessions at the two heaviest weights. That was the last time she was caught in 2000 and she went a full twelve months before getting caught again which revealed a whole new sad story.

In the months that followed many of us discussed what weight she might achieve in 2001, such was the growth rate she had shown over the previous few years. We were fairly confident that another year of growth would see her nudge towards the 9lb mark. In February of 2001 though just as fishing would have started to pick up the water had to be closed because of the National outbreak of foot and mouth disease. It would be June before members returned to Lymmvale, on June 17th Kev Shore again banked the “The Big Girl”, but his joy was short lived, on parting the folds of his net a very gaunt looking specimen lay before him, heartbreakingly with a large pellet wound on her shoulder, she was a shadow of her former self and weighed just 7lb 2oz, a weight loss of over 1lb on her top weight.

You see during the enforced closure John and I got permission to continue checking on the water as water keepers and had twice had to ask youths with air rifles to leave the site, once with the help of the police. How many more times they had been there we didn’t know, but the capture of the “The Big Girl” in this condition confirmed our fears that these lads had been shooting at the fish. Days after the capture four of us watched her struggling to swim, drifting in on a wind, but sadly never close enough to reach or we would have ended her suffering for her, as it was she managed to dive down deep and the was the last anyone ever saw of her, a sad, sad end for a magnificent fish. In the months that followed only one orfe showed up, a 5lber, so it became apparent that the others had more than likely met the same unceremonious end. These lads showed up once more and met with a stern talking to fro Kev Shore, what he said can’t be repeated but they never came back.

She wasn’t the best looking fish in the world due to years of abuse from trout nipping her tail, but she was a Lymmvale icon, a representation of what used to be and a fish that gave so many anglers great memories. The fact I still hold the record today, nearly 12 years to the day shows how special a fish she was.

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