At about 1pm on Wednesday, April 12, Scott Lloyd became just the 11th angler in history to land the giant Burghfield Common.
Only 11 months and about 70 nights after beginning his campaign on the maze-like 90-acre Berkshire water, the fish of his dreams was his – at a mindblowing top weight of 62lb 8oz.
Here, in an unabridged interview with Carpfeed, the 27-year-old tells the incredible story of how he tracked it, profiled it and lost it at least once before everything fell into place…
“Going right back to when I was a kid I saw that fish and to me it was like the ‘Last of the Mohicans’, the last of the history fish like Mary and Heather – the Burghfield Common was one of them.
“I had been venturing down south to Oxford so I knew Burghfield was going to be on the cards after Stoneacres (on the Linch Hill complex in Oxfordshire). My last night on Stoneacres was April 28, 2016, and my first session on Burghfield was May 2.”
“I came on in May with high hopes. It takes about four hours to walk around Burghfield and that’s good going – it’s four or five hours with tree climbing. It’s blood sweat and tears because it’s so overgrown in places.
“There are footpaths but they take you well away from the lake, so you’ve got to go through brambles to get to the water’s edge. I quickly developed a passionate hatred of brambles! Basically, it’s a real mission.
“I found fish on that first session but it was more camping and walking round, trying to locate them.
“The next session down I found them in an area called Pit Two, which is like a little lake of its own, with just a 6ft gap under a bridge for the fish to pass through.
“I found a lot of fish in there, but she wasn’t one of them. I lowered a couple of rods in and had one within 20 minutes. I got it in the net and I just thought ‘what am I doing? I’m here for one fish and one fish only.
“From that moment on I went all out to single her out as best I could.
“I spent a lot of time tree climbing. It’s a big edge for me and I’d get up to insane heights. A lot of people forget to use their eyes.
“I’d get up a tree and see thirties and forties feeding on my spots, but if she wasn’t there I would leave them.”
“On the next session I found her and about seven other fish all together, grouping up and getting charged up. They weren’t spawning but it was pre-spawning activity and I knew she was known for really letting her guard down in those circumstances.
“I got up a tree and there was a plateau about 30 yards out. I could see her having a root around in the silkweed, then all of a sudden I watched her split from the main group, come down under this tree then go back to the group.
“I got one rod ready and put it under the tree. I thought if I put a bait on the plateau I’d have a 10/1 chance of hooking her, but under the tree it was more like a 1/1 chance.
“I put this rod down there and a couple of hours later she had a little root around and she clocked something, 100 per cent. I’d trod my lead down and dragged the rod tip through the silt so the leader was hidden, but she just knew there was a hookbait there. Everything was buried but she just knew something was different. I thought I had screwed up my chance.
“After that I put two choddies out on top of the plateau and from up the tree I could see the two hookbaits. One was a fishmeal and the other was a bright one.”
The plateau rods quickly produced a small double and Scott continued his watching brief from the trees.
“All this time I was gathering information, getting to know her personality. One of the other fish in the group was one I called Pointy Face, and it turned out it had a twisted mouth. She (the big common) was with this group.
“I knew she wasn’t a pack fish, she’d never be seen with the fish we called the Escapees [from neighbouring Blue Pool].”
With the big common still in the area, Scott was about to have his first close encounter with her.
“On the plateau her shoulder and the tope lobe of her tail was out of the water she was that deep. I saw her disappear, then saw her shaking her head and the rod bending. I was climbing down the tree and there was this massive eruption – I hit it…and there was nothing there. She had done me.
“I was thinking ‘oh my god, I’ve blown my chance’.”
Down but not out, Scott left one rod out on the spot that night and vowed to re-assess come daybreak.
“I got up the tree the next morning and she was there, she was back! I thought ‘I’ve got to get my sh*t together’ and I put two choddies out there.
“By 6pm the spot is really active. I got down the tree and I was thinking she’s going to have it any minute. Then the left-hander on the fishmeal hookbait hooped round and there was this massive eruption.
“The fish was going for the corner of the island, bending the rod double. I’ve managed to gain on it and it’s gone into the surface weed – I was buzzing thinking it was all possible. I got it 10 yards out and I saw this big gob gulping and I’ve just gone to shuffle the net and…ping…the hook pulled.
“This was my eighth night and, now having caught her, I knew it was her. I can’t say 100 per cent because I didn’t actually see her, but I’m 99-per-cent sure – I knew it was her. I cried my eyes out like a little girl.
“Two days later they started to spawn and I pulled off for about three weeks.”
Returning to Burghfield later in the summer, Scott continued to track the common and piece together any information he could.
“At one point I saw her feeding and she just released three pin prick bubbles to the surface. I was learning a lot of vital information that played into the eventual capture. I knew she wasn’t a pack fish and I felt most confident when there was nothing showing over me.
“It was a really, really hard season – there very little rod action but vital information was coming together.”
In total, Scott caught two and lost six Burghfield fish in 2016. The venue’s hidden buoys and underwater obstacles make hooking a carp just part of the battle.
“It really did get to me. Every session I’d be cut to death and bleeding all over my body from the brambles.”
After a couple of sessions in January and a night in February, Scott booked four weeks off work to really target the common this spring.
“I was down at the Big One show in Farnborough and it was 26c on the Sunday. I was meant to be there until about 5pm, but I knew there was a good chance I could find her in that weather so I managed to get away at 1pm.
“I drove over and went in the Compound swim. There are two big islands in the swim but plenty of open water. One of the islands is about 135yds out to the left and the other is 300yds away, and there’s a jetty to the right on the land owner’s land. There are also two dot islands to my left.”
With a widespread depth of 6ft, Scott targeted much deeper water about 120yds out beyond a steep drop off.
“I was fishing in 16ft of water just past the tip of the left-hand island. I fished locked up with two rods on that spot and the right-hand rod out in more open water.
“The next morning I saw about six fish in the area and my first take came on the left-hand rod. It was on for about 30 seconds then just cut off. I got everything back apart from the rig. I thought ‘it can’t be my grinner knot letting me down’ but I looked at the swivel and it was just burred – the ledge where it drops off is savage and it must have ground off on that.
“I left that rod out and a few hours later one of the other rods has gone off. I was almost convinced it could be the common – it went on a savage run to the right then cut me off on my fluorocarbon leader. I’d been up Linch Hill the week previously and being lazy I’d left the fluorocarbon on.
“After two losses I was in suicide mode, but I knew I had to be tooled up so I brought all the rods in and respooled them with 20lb Sub Braid and 8ft leadcore leaders. I also upped my hooklink from 20lb to 25lb.
“It was now make or break, but those two losses turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“The next morning the fish were showing again. One of the rods goes and it’s a 24lb 10oz mirror. There’s a little bit of scaffolding to the right of the swim and the plan was to pick the rod up, run up this scaffolding and keep the rod high. I did this and I was able to deal with the fish.
“In the afternoon I had a 42lb 10oz mirror and did the same thing.
“Those fish had trained me. The first two takes made me change my tactics, and the second two taught me how to deal with the fish.
“I was really confident but I got up the next morning and nothing was showing. The fish had moved to the other side. My brother was over the other side and phoned me saying I should move round, but this was me – I was staying put. There was a big moon and the moon phase was due to shift at 1.07pm.
“I just said ‘these rods are staying in’.
“It got to about 12.30pm and I was on the phone to my mum when my left-hand rod was away. ‘I’ve got to go,’ I said, and jumped on the rod. I could tell it was a smaller fish by the way it was tap-tapping.
“As it’s gone in the net I’ve spotted it’s the Twisted Mouth Common – it’s her best mate! The fish that I always saw with her! It’s a beautiful fish in its own right and I don’t know of any other captures of it. I knew then that she was definitely out there.
“I put that fish in the retainer and got the net set back up. I rang my mum back and as the phone started to ring I was away on the other rod.
“The rod just slammed round and I jumped on it. I’d thrown my phone on the bed and heard my mum answer and I told her to ring my brother Baz to come round.
“The speed of it…I had to give it line. It took about 70 to 80yds on its initial run.
“I’d seen Dave Lane’s video of his fight with her and I knew how she runs. I knew I potentially had the common on the end and I was buzzing, and it’s gone into the middle of the pond where I wanted her!
“Then it just kited left right round the island. I was pumping, trying to gain line, but I couldn’t. It should have been gone. If I had been on mono I wouldn’t have landed it, 100 per cent.
“It went 50yds round this island and I can feel every tap, every branch as I’m pulling it through. I’m pulling and I can feel it coming, then it goes solid for 30 seconds and I’m just praying. I’m pumping and pumping, and it just came zipping round the island.
“I don’t want to over-exaggerate, but it was almost like a catfish – the speed of it was incredible. It went from the corner of the island at 130yds almost to the scaffolding jetty 30 yards down the margin to my right in an instant. I was reeling and reeling, trying to catch up and it’s almost slack-lining me.
“The line came cutting through the water like cheese wire but I managed to stop it two rod lengths off this scaffolding. If it had gone in there it would have cut me off.
“I gave it everything I had, the rod was doubled over. I was giving it full left hand down, then it came 70 yards in front of me and round the back of the dot island. I could see it through the island and I could see her rolling beyond it, but she came back round and her shoulder came out of the water – it was her! Panic mode set in!
“I had her on for another 10 minutes still after that. Neil Mundy came into the swim and saw I was into a fish. I just said to him ‘it’s 100 per cent her, just be quiet’ and to give him his due he just stood there in silence. We were both standing there and all you could hear was the sound of the drag.
“I got it to the net and it only just fitted in. I just went absolutely mental.
“I was that blown away, I wasn’t thinking about the weight, I was thinking ‘I’ve got the Burghfield Common, the most sought-after fish around.”
Not wanting to stress the fish any further, Scott engulfed the net in his retaining sling and cut his mesh to remove it from around the monster. “It’s the Burghfield Common,” he said, “it’s worth a net!”
As word spread of the capture, a large group gathered for weighing and photos.
“We had 15 to 20 people in the swim, it was overwhelming, I still can’t relive that moment enough.
“One thing I’m really glad of is that we did the pictures before we weighed her, because I think my head would’ve fallen off if I’d known the weight!
Reflecting on a mission accomplished, Scott, who has now moved on to a private syndicate, added: “I definitely fell in love with the lake, but it was a love-hate relationship. I’m not sad that I don’t have to spend another day there!
“You cannot describe that lake – unless you’ve been there you will never have enough respect for that lake or that fish.”
RIG AND BAIT
- Balanced bottom bait rig with large shrink-tube kicker
- Hookbait: Balanced tiger nut
- Hook: Size 4 Korda Wide Gape X
- Hooklink: 6ins 25lb Korda N-Trap Semi Stiff