• Posted: 12th April 2024
  • Author: Kieran Duff

I started fishing Kingfisher Lake four or five years ago, doing the odd session here and there when there wasn’t an exclusive booking on the lake and I had the spare time. At the time, when there wasn’t a lake exclusive, it was a day-ticket water. I initially found it through a Facebook advert and saw that it had a 47lb common, so that definitely pricked my interest, along with all of the other old English, cool-looking carp present.

In 2020, I bought my first winter ticket on the lake for the 2020/21 winter season, which started in the November, as it still does. I hit the ground running that year with a new PB at the time in the shape of a fish called Strawberry Boil. Fast-forward a few months and the winter set in, the anglers and the angling pressure disappeared and the fish shut up shop. I moved off the lake and found comfort in other waters that would still do me a bite. Waterside is far from easy at any time of year, least of all in the colder months, when they can hold up in shoals and keep hidden away.

I jumped back on Waterside in the early spring of 2021, as we had some lovely mild weather and I tried to make the most of it. I managed to bag a few of the smaller residents that season, so confidence was high, but on 15th March of that year, the day I was due to arrive, the Common was caught. I was deflated and nearly never went fishing, but I knew that by going, even though I wasn’t going to catch him, time spent on the bank, watching and taking notes would serve me well in the pursuit.

I jumped back on the lake in May of that same year for a four-night session. Things felt good from the minute I got there and I knew I’d catch, but I didn’t feel close to the Common at that time, probably still a bit bruised from March when it rubbed my nose in it. I did manage to snare one of the lake’s A team in the shape of the Scar, a once-a-year visitor to the bank as well as repeat capture of Strawberry Boil. This was the last time that fish ever got caught, as it died during spawning that same year. That session was going lovely, with two different 30lb fish gracing my net. I was delighted with myself until the Common got caught from the swim opposite me at over 50lb. Our hookbaits couldn’t have been more that 20 yards apart and the thought that the BC had likely swam over my hookbait and chosen somebody else’s sickened me, but as they say, when it’s your time, it’s your time!

I fished the odd session here and there that year, but with not much else to report, that was 2021 done for the most part.

The winter of 2021/22 saw me blank for more than 30 nights all in all. Keeping motivated is tough at that point, as any campaign angler will tell you, but I had to keep telling myself that whilst I wasn’t catching I was learning of ways that wouldn’t work and trying new ways that hopefully would.

The Common was really starting to get noticed by now and as he was packing on weight, I knew, in order to catch it, I needed to start booking the lake for myself, so that I did.

Over the spring and summer of 2022, I really felt I had started to get a feel for the place, working out my preferred baiting approaches, learning fish movements, etc. I had two shared weekend bookings that season and managed 10 bites between these two sessions, which came from stalking, floater fishing and on the deck, and a few more of the rare known residents of the lake paid me a visit.

At this point I was gaining momentum and I did something that I’ve never done before and decided I only wanted to catch one carp. I always wanted to catch the Common, in the same way that everyone who fishes Waterside wants to catch the Common, and I was previously content with ticking off the stock until I got to him, but now I was focused and that fish got right under my skin. I even started logging captures, noting the moon phases in which it was caught and what swim it was caught from. I kept a note of everything, trying to spot the smallest of patterns that would maximise my chances of catching it. I kept a close eye on the lake through social media and around that time was made a bailiff on the fishery, which gave me the privilege of walking the lake more regularly and watching the Common, something which was previously unavailable to me as the lake was now nearly always booked out on lake-exclusive bookings. Everyone had the same dream I did; I just knew I had to work hard at every opportunity.

I made a conscious effort to select a week in early April 2024 to fish the lake on my own for seven nights, as all the notes I’d made around the capture told me, realistically, this was going to be my best opportunity, as he always does an early April capture, waking up from his winter lethargy.

For 2023, I had made a couple of bookings: the annual Father’s Day session with my old man and a three-night session in September, just for myself. In those two sessions, I managed another 10 fish, which included the second biggest fish in the lake, a 40lb mirror called Clarkey’s, the second biggest common in the lake called Pearl and a few other incredible Waterside residents, including the amazing-looking Zig-Zag Lin.

Going into winter of 2023/24, family life and a new job took priority, so I only managed nine nights in the four months of the winter ticket, but I somehow still managed three thirties, two of which were repeats, but the third fish was, in my opinion, is the second most desirable carp in the lake and one I was keen to catch, the Woodcarving. Going 37lb 10oz, it was the biggest fish caught on the winter ticket that year.

I did have to remark as to how different the winter fishing was this year from previous years, with constant angling pressure all through the season. The Common was now a certified 60lb-plus fish, so the up-turn in the number of anglers was no surprise and given that the lake was now being booked for months and months in advance, the winter ticket gave a lot of people access to the fish who otherwise wouldn’t have had it.

After the capture of the Woodcarving, Clarkey’s and Pearl, I’d now caught the second, third, fourth and fifth biggest fish in the lake and was gunning for my April session. I had seven nights to hunt down the fish that, by now, hadn’t seen the bank for nine months.

As the week approached, I really tried to distance myself from the lake, not wanting to know what the bookings were doing. I didn’t even want to talk to the other bailiffs or Kris. Every time one of their names pinged up on my phone with a call or text, my heart dropped!

I genuinely felt nervous and anxious. Would they catch it before I got there? Would I even get a sighting of it? All of these thoughts were racing through my head, day in, day out, in the days leading up to my booking.


Arriving at the lake with my daughter, Nancy, with me for the first day of the session, we were met by Kris and his family and the other bailiffs. With a week ahead, the start was pretty relaxed. We had lunch and had a good look around and discussed the approach that I had in mind and ideas they had for me to try and get the job done and fulfill this dream – or nightmare – I’d been living for the past four years.

I noted that the Big Common had done an early April capture at the island end of the lake every year for the past four or five years, so that’s where I started.

I put two rods on a clean area in the middle of the lake, fishing over lots of mixed DNA pellets and a light scattering of washed-out Secret 7 and Bug boilies, with a mixture of white and pink 12mm Half Tones pop-ups fished on the side of the baited area. These rods were to stay on this spot for the duration.

I decided I was going to go heavy with the pellets, as I knew with the warmer water temperatures, the pellet would break down quickly, leaving very little food items, but lots of attraction! It was still early in the spring, so I knew a full feeding frenzy was not likely to happen, but I did want to draw him in if he was nearby.

The other two rods were going to be fished for a bite at a time, with a hand full of mixed DNA pellets and 10 washed-out Secret 7 and Bug boilies fished towards any shows, with white 12mm Bug Half Tones pop-ups as the hookbaits, a tactic which had served me well on this lake up until now. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!

Going into the first night, the fish were showing well. It was like a dolphin show and my confidence was high, but my anxiety and anticipation were through the roof. I was loving it!

The liners started a little while after sunset and I was sure it was going to happen. As much as I was there for one reason only, I felt I just wanted a bite to confirm I was on the right track. After a few hours of darkness, the liners stopped, but I could still hear fish in the zone, so knew they were still there, but I felt as though maybe I’d missed a chance.

The morning came and the alarms remained silent. I was confused as to why I hadn’t had one. I thought to myself, ‘Just sit on your hands and be patient. You know you can catch them, so don’t panic.’ Time was still on my side.

I redid the rods at about 2pm, after sitting out bite time and a bit longer. I was still seeing shows, so knew the fish were still on me, so the rods went back on the same spots as the night before.

The tail end of Storm Kathleen came in with big 40mph winds and rain that had been forecast and battered the lake for the next 24 hours, making the fishing uncomfortable but creating some fantastic big-carp conditions.

Again, the second night came and went with nothing to show for my efforts, other than some savage liners that were so bad, two pulled the line from the clip and one from the bobbin, too!

I knew something needed to change for the third night, as this wasn’t good enough! I was on carp, they were active and smashing my beds of pellets, but I was not catching. So, I decided to match the pop-ups to my free offerings, putting out 15mm S7 Corker pop-ups over some more pellets that evening.

Around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I reset the rods. With not a lot else to go on and fish still showing in the same areas, they went back out in the same areas, albeit with a more subtle hookbait.

Early that evening, the wind eased off and it was bright and clear. I stood in the barbecue area cooking my dinner on FaceTime to my wife and daughter and, out of the corner of my eye, saw a carp flop out a rod-length off an area in the middle of the lake.

I hadn’t seen a thing in that zone for 48 hours, so this prompted a quick change in design before it got dark. I swung two rods round to the right to be able to fish that zone. One went on the show and the second rod in 8ft of water, just over the back of a bar, fairly close in, at about 25-30 yards out.

Both rods were baited with 15mm S7 Corker pop-ups, presented over a handful of mixed pellet and a handful of washed-out S7 and Bug boilies.

Going into the third night, I wasn’t feeling particularly great! The doubts were looming. How hadn’t I caught one yet? Was the Common at the other end away from the main body of fish? Should I make a move in the morning if I hadn’t had anything?

I decided to stick to my guns. I gave my head a wobble and trusted what I had learned over the years about this fish’s habits. This was the right area to be in!

With temperatures dropping and feeling cold, I got in the bag early at about 9pm. Just on midnight, the left-hand rod on the show near the aerator did a bite. It was a bream-like bite with the bobbin lifting up and dropping down, then lifting the rod from the rest and slowly tightening up. I lifted into my first carp. I knew it wasn’t one of the larger fish, with the tapping of the head and short, fast runs, but after a short fight it was in the net and I was absolutely buzzing to be off the mark. The change in hookbait colour and the move of the two rods round to the right towards that show had paid off. A little mid-double Dinton stockie was in the bag. Not what I had come for, but a very cool carp and one to calm my nerves and put my mind at rest, for a short while anyway!

Off the mark after a hookbait change!

Now, confidence was high! I got the rod straight back out, then dealt with the fish. After a few quick photos, I put the fish back and got back in the bag. Freezing, but buzzing! Come on, the Common!

I drifted off to sleep and at around 3.10am, the right-hand rod that was short on the back of the bar absolutely melted off! By the time I got to the rod, the rod tip was bent round to the left nearly to the spigot! I lifted into the fish and knew instantly it was bigger than the Dinton from a few hours ago. It was a solid weight, like being snagged to a fallen tree branch but swimming with the force of a tugboat! I gently eased the pressure into the fish and managed to get it back out in front of me, gaining some control, all the while thinking I was attached to a good fish. I’d caught most of the big fish in the lake in the past and none of them had fought anything like this. It sat in front of me in about 10ft of water and I couldn’t gain anything on it! It was at this point I thought that this could be it! I shook my head and said out loud, ‘Don’t be stupid, Kieran!’ At this point, the fish turned and went on a surging run that I had no hope of stopping, stripping line from a tight clutch like it was on freespool. When the surging runs stopped, I gave the fish a bit of stick, desperate to get some control back in the fight, but every time I got it close to the surface, it turned its head and went again. After 20 minutes or so, the fish started to tire and I finally got it to the surface. In the light of the head torch, I could see it was a common, but thought, ‘That’s not a sixty, anyway.’

After one more surging run, I managed to get its head up and it took a gulp of air. The bank was high and using only a 6ft net handle meant I couldn’t reach it properly to net it, so I jumped into the water fully clothed and managed to get it safely over the net cord. I opened up the folds of the net and said to myself, ‘Jesus, that’s big, is it the Common? No, surely not!’

Was it the Big Common?

Having a back-and-forth argument with myself, not convinced I’d caught the biggest fish in the lake, the one I had tried so hard for years to catch, I made the net safe, ran to the bivvy for my phone and called Kris.

‘Kris, I think I’ve got him!’

I called my wife, my dad and my brother to tell them: ‘I think it’s job done!’ My brother actually jumped out his bed at 3.30am and came to the lake!

Still doubting that I had caught what I thought could have been the target, I needed Kris to confirm it.

He did.

I’d done it!

Four years and more in the making!

I was shaking, soaking wet and freezing cold, but did I care? Not on your life!

I put the fish in the XL retainer, made sure it was safe and put the kettle on.

By this time, my brother, Terry, and Sam and Paul, the other bailiffs, had all arrived and had come to share this moment and help with the weighing and photographing of the fish.

We got all of the camera and weighing equipment ready and I went in to get the sling. This time with waders on, at least!

We got it up on the hook of the tripod and the needle of the scales spun around to 66lb 8oz! Yes, 66lb 8oz of monstrous UK common carp. I was beyond buzzing and couldn’t really understand how I’d I caught it.

Bailiff Sam was on the camera and with Kris aiding with the fish in the water, Terry and Paul doing videos from the bank, they all helped capture the moment beautifully. A moment I’ll never forget!

Whilst we were photographing and weighing the fish, talk quickly got on to where this fish ranked with other big carp that the UK has produced. At this moment, after banding a few fish names around, we realised it was the largest living UK-bred carp and the largest common the country has ever produced!

The feeling of elation just went up a notch when I realised I was holding a piece of history in my arms! I never wanted to let the fish go. I wanted to hold that moment and that feeling forever!

Four years of hard work! Four years of thinking, tinkering with tactics, sitting out in the cold and rain, missing family parties and social events, going fishing even when I never wanted to go fishing at all, all ending with this moment, the moment I landed a British record common carp!

Just after 6am, they had all gone. I wound the other rods in and made a coffee. I stood alone watching the mist rising off the lake. It never looked so beautiful!

I had an overwhelming feeling of happiness, achieving a dream that I thought would only ever be a dream and it brought me to tears. So many people helped me complete this mission and I genuinely couldn’t have done it without them.

My wife, for putting up with my absence and constant talk of the lake and the fish. My dad and my brother for constantly giving me the encouragement and confidence I could do it. Kris, one of the nicest people you could meet, becoming a friend and pushing me to get it done, wanting me to be the person that held his record-breaking carp up for the camera. Sam and Paul have become great friends willing me on to be the last of the Waterside baillifs to have that fish in the album.

Plus, so many more people I had met on the banks of a little gem of a lake in Buckinghamshire over the previous four years.

The messages and calls congratulating me have been nothing short of incredible. Thank you to all!


The biggest common ever caught on UK shores

A moment I will never forget!