There’s no two ways about it, a renaissance in carp angling is taking place in the UK. Even if you haven’t realised it yet, it is happening; a counterpoint to the standardised path it has been walking for a while in the form of a return to some older values, and a greater appreciation of our quarry. To my mind, these are the most progressive things that could be happening in the carp fishing scene, and as opposed to any kind of a regression, they are a genuine step forward in terms of protecting the longevity of our pursuit and the things that make it great. Lets face it, one of the things that made carp fishing great in the UK in the first place were truly great carp, ones that we could be proud of; dark, long-lived, well proportioned, unique and full of character, carp that you’d give your right arm for, and probably your left as well; carp that kept you awake at night, carp that haunted your dreams, and probably broke them as well; leviathans and wood carvings; monsters and myths…
In the past decade, those essential and treasured qualities have been some of the key things that appear to have been abandoned and left by the wayside in the gold rush for more day ticket sales and sticking bivvies in swims. In a drive that has been supported by short-lived, fast-growing ‘commodity’ carp, ones that fill waters almost purely to fulfil a purpose – to eat bait, get fat, and sell tickets – we are potentially losing something quite precious. Thankfully, not everyone sees things that way, otherwise the carp world would be a pretty soulless place and one such man with some vision and a different worldview is Ross Osbourne. I spoke to Ross on the phone after seeing his pretty little fish on Facebook and immediately, his passion gushed out for what is clearly something close to his heart, it’s literally in the name …
Ross is from the Sparsholt school of thought. Studying under Simon Scott clearly had a big impact and while his ideas and knowledge rubbed off, Ross wanted to take things in a new aesthetic direction, something unique of his own and so he has set about carving out a niche all of his own. Ross described an ‘eureka’ moment to me over the phone that occurred in Simon Scott’s lounge where they were studying some of the prized baby carp in his aquarium. Always the perfectionist, and with an aesthetically-driven vision, Ross knew he had to up the anti and push on with his own set of aims and expectations.
‘Over that period of time (at Sparsholt) I started to notice there was a gap in the market. There didn’t seem to be many people interested in producing any truly stunning English carp. We could all see that carp had become the main selling point in UK fisheries, but growth rates had undoubtedly become the key feature and Holy Grail everyone was pushing for. In other words, there seemed to be a lot of very bland, similar looking fish being bred.’
Clearly not enamoured by the dumpy, grey ones being churned out left right and centre elsewhere, Ross decided to head down a different road, and with a completely different mindset.
‘Ideas started to shape in my mind. I’d done my research and knew that on Japanese koi farms, the fish are graded stringently several times during the rearing process, with only the very best colours and best body-shaped fish making the grade. Nothing about size enters the equation. I decided there was no reason why I couldn’t follow suit, but with the humble mirror carp and looking for my own set of criteria, certainly not ones based purely on growth rates and pounds per year considerations. The main things I look for are scale pattern, body shape, fin size, head and mouth shape, colouration and then finally, growth rates.’
Being driven by a different set of goals means that Ross is aiming to create some of the finest carp that money can buy; no more, no less. It’s a lofty set of aims, but in a market that has been flooded with mediocrity, it’s a set of aims that are desperately needed. There’s no doubt that there are some other truly stunning carp out there being bred, but in this particular case, I don’t believe you could ever have too much of a good thing.
Put some pressure on your syndicate owners and club officials next time they discuss stocking, and make sure they know what’s out there before jumping on the same bandwagon as everyone else. Check out IHEARTCARP on Facebook for more images and information
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