28th May 2024

After a 4-year campaign John Claridge finally got his hands on one of the most historic fish that have come from the Cotswolds. 

If you were to mention the Cotswolds to many anglers, the first thing that would come to mind is ‘The Croc’ and for good reason. A true relic with more stories to tell than most of the anglers to have caught the old relic. 

"As she went in the net, I peered in and the net was filled with the longest, biggest-headed, immense scaly carp I’d clapped eyes on."

John told Sticky:

“Having caught most of the stock in the previous three Springs, including three different forties, I was keen to end my time on this unforgiving pit and conclude my time with the Jewel of the Cotswolds, the Croc.

Knowledge of the Croc’s captures in the past revealed that a day or two after the full moon was her favourite and the May full moon was the most realistic chance of her slipping up.

With this in mind, I restarted my time in mid-April. Being a cool, wet Spring I did my first night in the Beach swim in the deeper water and was welcomed back with a couple of tench as soon as darkness descended!

Returning the following week for a night, and with the first warmth from the April sun, I headed down the shallows. After barrowing past the beach area, I found a group of 5 carp taking in the sun’s rays, mooching in the shallow water. Wasting no time, I dropped into the End Shallows. Having plumbed up a month previously, I got the marker out and with the aid of a catty fired out a hundred or so 16mm Manilla Active boilies loosely, over the fine short weed that sat over the firm lakebed.

A couple of ‘Choddies’ over the top and another on a shorter clear spot closer in and I was angling. With carp some 40 or so yards away from my hookbaits, I was fishing well.

No longer than an hour later, the first of 3 bites came, a repeat capture of Patch, and literally two minutes after netting her, the middle rod was away and the other one on my missing list, the Other Brother, soon resided in the other net. Bundling this one in the retainer and unhooking Patch in the net, I rushed to get the rigs back out, as with two of the Croc’s mates captured, she could be about – time was of the essence.

With both back out in the zone and with it now being the time when other anglers might be turning up, I was conscious not to get seen so left Patch in the net… To my cost, she leapt out the net despite the other net covering over the top!

As I said it was a repeat and the only reason I had kept her, was the last time was a night capture, at a spawned-out weight – now she looked lovely, probably back up to 37lb ish!

No more than a couple of minutes later and one of the recast rods was away again, could the hat-trick be the croc? The lack of scales was a resounding ‘NO’ but another 30lb mirror completed the hectic hour’s action. For the record, the Other Brother was 31lb 6oz.

With no more action that night, and with the full moon and my birthday the following week, I had a rare three-night session planned. Apart from Tench the lake reverted to form and failed to throw out any carp.

I knew of fish showing in the middle, so set up the following week in the Warren. Rising early, I watched several shows just past the baits at range, but come mid-morning the speedboat moved a buoy, dropping right in front of me, so a move was necessary! The constant moving of buoys was nothing new and the thing I hated most in my time fishing the lake – the hordes of Tench and millions of Crayfish were not top of my list either!!!

I suspected they might be moving further down the lake behind the island, so moved into my favourite swim, The Dugout.

The rods and bait were out by 7pm – by 9pm I had a 31lb common in the net, a good move for sure.

I felt things building and made the extra effort to do the Saturday night back in the Dugout and the Bank Holiday Monday night in the End Shallows as the forecast was hot, still weather for the rest of the week. All my added effort was to no avail!

I wanted to get back in the End Shallows after work but with all the fish on the beach area, I missed out to Curly, so dropped back in the Dugout. I awoke the following morning disappointed, as it had felt so right but no chances had occurred. Today was the new moon and that evening I got all three rods out cock-on first cast, confident it could happen. Wednesday being boat night meant I had loads of kayaks and paddle boards encroaching on me, but they died down about half-eight when a Tench picked up my middle bait. A new Chod was back on the spot before dark and I went to bed hopeful.

At 3am another Tench had me recasting the middle rod, once again a new QC Chod was attached and on the third cast I was happy it was back on the money.

Just over 3 hours later it pulled up bowstring tight and with the clutch locked up, I pulled into it, the carp surfacing on impact.

Over the next 5 minutes time stood still as I saw a tail lobe, then a crinkly dorsal followed by a large scaly shoulder…could it be?

As she snaked about in front of me, surely it was her!

As she went in the net, I peered in and the net was filled with the longest, biggest-headed, immense scaly carp I’d clapped eyes on. CRRRRROOOOOCCCC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Manilla plugged pink crayfish-proofed bait looked like a pea in her cavernous mouth – after popping out the size 5 hook from her rubbery lip, we hoisted her up to reveal an extremely healthy weight of 46lb 10oz. I had got through 7kg of Manilla Active those two nights and with her crapping it out on the mat I wondered how many times she had been getting away with it with that huge mouth.

I needed to worry no more as the Croc was mine and I was now a very happy, proud and relieved man!

Already 50 or so years old, long live the Croc, ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’.”