‘Clarissa’ the record breaking carp

‘Clarissa’ the record breaking carp, estimated £30,000-40,000 at Mullock Jones.

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Arguably the most important preserved carp in existence, a famous fish named ‘Clarissa’ is coming to auction at Shropshire saleroom Mullock Jones.

The specimen appearing at the specialist sale on July 24-25 was caught in 1952 by the angler and author Richard Walker. It weighed an extraordinary 44lbs, a record for a carp which knocked the previous high of 31lb 4oz well and truly out of the water.

The prize catch remained a British record for more than 27 years.

Now mounted in a glazed bow-fronted case and set in a naturalistic reed and gravel setting, the specimen was restored in 2011 by Cannock-based taxidermist Barry Williams. It is estimated at £30,000-40,000 – a level indicating the hopes it will achieve an auction record for any cased fish.

Giant catch

Back in the 1950s, Walker’s conviction that a 40lb carp could exist in British waters was ridiculed by both by other anglers and the press. Charles Tate Regan, director of the Natural History Museum until 1938, had stated that carp would not grow bigger than 25lb in their natural environment.

However angler Bob Richards caught a record carp of 31lb 4oz in October 1951 from Bernithan, a small lake near Ross on Wye. When Walker caught his 44lb specimen in September 1952 at the same pool in Herefordshire (now known as Redmire Pool and considered England’s home of carp fishing), it caused a sensation with newspapers such as the Daily Mirror stating: “They didn’t think such a giant existed!”

Walker caught the fish on a 10in two-piece split cane rod that he had made in his garden shed. Fitted with a Mitchell fixed spool reel, it was the first rod specifically designed and built for carp fishing – the design became branded as the Richard Walker Mk4 (something of a cult rod for traditional carp anglers). The bait he used on that day was a home-made mix of paste and bread crust.

Richard Walker with ‘Clarissa’

Richard Walker with ‘Clarissa’, a record catch that created a boom in carp fishing.

Walker kept the fish alive and, for 26 years, it lived at London Zoo’s aquarium having been given the name ‘Clarissa’ (although Walker himself nicknamed it ‘Ravioli’). It died in 1978 having lost much of its body mass with its weight reduced to 27lb 8oz.

The carcass was acquired by the great pike and salmon recorder Fred Buller, who had the fish mounted by former Rowland Ward taxidermist Eric Hare (better known for his elephant mounts than his fish). It appears that he did not degrease the fish sufficiently, and although it was on display in Buller’s London shop, it was apparent that further work needed to be done.

It was later bought from Buller by Alan Lane, son of the former world freshwater champion angler Billy Lane, and for many years it proved a great attraction in the Lanes’ fishing shop in Coventry.

Clarrisa the carp

The carp at Mullock Jones shown prior to restoration carried out in 2011 by taxidermist Barry Williams.

Following the restoration carried out by Barry Williams, who worked on making the fish more lifelike and also improved the groundwork, the family has now decided to sell the fish at Mullock Jones along with an exception collection of fishing tackle.

Having once propelled Richard Walker into the record books, will Clarissa set another record in July?

Highest hammer prices for cased fish

2024: Brace of carved salmon, 45lb and 39lb, caught by the same angler from Ireland's river Nore, £25,000 at Duke’s

2013: two barbel from 1934 in a Cooper bow-fronted case made £18,000 at Angling Auctions

2012: Another carp from Redmire Pool, sold for £16,500 at Angling Auctions

*Information for this article supplied by Classic Angling magazine