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His initials are embedded in carp history, yet somehow the man behind the name remains under the radar. Here John Kneebone catches up with Colne Valley carper, Kenny Dorset.

The final message of confirmation had come through… “You, me, Plumb, Damo and Kenny Dorset, we’re going out to France”, and a week or so later I was on my with the lads. I’d already fished with everyone except Kenny and was looking forward to meeting someone I’d obviously heard about, but had never met. At it happened we ended up in a double swim together and I can honestly say the first thing that strikes you with Kenny is that he’s a bloody nice bloke. Although as he set up, chatting away, inducing one discussion after another about rigs, kit, lakes and all sorts of fishing stuff, it was also very apparent that he was ‘thinking’ man and an intelligent, analytical angler. You couldn’t help but be intrigued with each story or piece of carping reasoning that Kenny spoke of – and I looked forward to finding out more…

Kenny you’ve been angling for a long time now, and we’re dying to find out what you’ve been up to, but start by telling us how your fishing began?

“I started fishing back in 1979/80 on South Weald day ticket water and from there I managed to get a ticket on a small club water. I was really lucky to get that ticket, as there were quite a few anglers fishing it at that time as well, and a really well-known angler of the time, Geoff Kemp and I really wanted to be like him. It took me a long while to get to a position like the one he was in, I mean I struggled, really struggled to start off with. I just wanted to try my hardest to catch fish and eventually I did get there and never looked back. I loved my fishing then and still love it just as much today.

Tea, rigs and Kenny Dorset – let the interview begin
Tea, rigs and Kenny Dorset – let the interview begin

So back in the beginning, when you saw people like Geoff, what do you think set anglers like him apart when everyone else was struggling?

“Oh it was definitely bait, bait without a doubt, in them days it was bait, well… we all thought it was bait, but he did have a few secrets that we never knew about. Fixed leads for one that was unheard of, we just never had a clue. He had it sussed out in such a way that when he was casting out it looked like he had just an ordinary lead. When he got a take, it came back as a free running lead, but it wasn’t, he’d fixed it, and in such a way that we couldn’t see. If anyone was around he’d leave the lead as a free running lead, but when he brought it back in and rigged it up again, he used a matchstick and a piece of tubing and looped the line back over so his lead was fixed. As soon as he got a take, the matchstick pinged out of the tubing and needless to say, his lead was free running again! What a fantastic thing to do, well, it was to us and that’s how he caught so many fish.

Then you start thinking, why didn’t we think of that? Such a simple idea! Then everybody started fixing their leads properly, using proper clips and not worrying about using matchsticks. Everybody knew then and the catch rates were incredible, absolutely incredible. At that time we were using size 2 long shank tealies and low water salmon hooks, it was ridiculous. Paste baits as well. It was Geoff who came out with a boilie; I’d never seen a boilie in my life! The results were just fantastic: twenty twenties in a season he had, and this was around 1982/83, which at that time was unheard of, just unheard of.”

A couple of things you’ve touched upon there, rigs, edges and bait. So firstly, give us your thoughts on bait?

“Well, initially we were all doing the same thing, it was all paste baits, everybody was doing the same, but Geoff changed it to a high protein bait. He was in the know. Obviously we didn’t know that at the time, and he came up with a flavouring he put in a bait. No one thought it would make that much difference, but the difference was incredible and from then on everybody wanted to buy Geoff’s bait. It was a boilie because it was harder and it didn’t come off when you cast – there were loads of reasons why it worked better than a paste bait, better than maggots, better than anything. It was new, it was incredible and the learning curve for me was just fantastic, but it was just the beginning where bait was concerned."

Baiting, watching and returning to marginal spot is a number one tactic of Kenny’s
Baiting, watching and returning to marginal spot is a number one tactic of Kenny’s

So what happened next?

“It all started on a club water in Essex called The Grange. I was fishing it, along with Kev Knight and Steve Morgan from Mainline Baits – well, Mainline didn’t exist then. They had their own business in the painting and decorating game; really nice blokes who I got on with really well. At the time they were on a water we knew as ‘LG’ (Little Grange) and doing pretty well on the lake. I too was catching quite a few, but I was using a little bait that shouldn’t of been used: tigers. Kev and Steve just couldn’t believe I was catching so many fish, and so they asked me if I’d use their bait?
“You’re having a laugh,” I said, “You know… you’re painters and decorators.”
They said, “No, we’re going to do our own bait.”
I said, “Yeah, alright, pull the other one!”
Then one day they pulled up with a van full of bait and said, “Here you go, what do you reckon on that?” and that was the Liver & Marine, their very first one. I said, “Well… I’ll give it a go, I’ll try it.” I looked at it, tasted it, and thought, ‘yeah, that’s alright, yeah it’s nice bait that’. In the end it was just incredible and I never looked back.

Putting the amount of bait in was the thing. I’d never had the facilities or knowhow to put a quantity of bait in. Me and a friend of mine started putting a bit in, this is a bit later now, when the Mainline Grange had come out. My friend and me got on it over Little Grange and the amount of bait was just incredible. They (Kev and Steve) gave us a bit of bait to put in and bait up with. Me and my mate, we’d never done a kilo of bait in a day – maybe half – but we started putting in two kilos a day, just to see whether or not it would get us anywhere. We put in two kilos a day – he did the mornings and I did the nights, because I was after work and he was before work, so it suited us lovely as we were both working full-time.

We started baiting it and unbeknown to both of us, we were both thinking the same thing: he’s not putting the bait in because it’s not there. Little did we know, the fish were eating it all! So I said to my mate, “I think we better up it because I can’t see where the baits are going; the birds must be having it, they’ve got to be.” So he said, “Well, look, I’m still putting it in.” I said, “Are you?” He’s like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah…’ Of course this is when we’ve said we’d both had our doubts, but there you go. Anyway, I said, “I’m going to go down there one day and put five kilo in.” He said, “You can’t do that!” I said, “Well, I’m going to – I’ll sit in the car park for half-an-hour and watch; if it’s birds we’ll know.” So I got there really early one morning and put five kilo straight in the swim and sat back up in the car waiting.

Then a fella came in, a birder – like with a camera and a tripod. I thought ‘oh God, he’s going down the other end of the lake and I’d not seen any birds or anything down there, so I’m going to follow this fella down there and see if anything is going on’. So I’m walking behind this bloke, and this is the Gods honest truth, as I’m going down, he says, “Are you an angler?” So I said, “Yeah, I’m just having a walk around” not wanting to let him know. He said, “Well I’ve come down to photograph these fish, I’ve been down three mornings on the trot and these fish are just phenomenal, I’ve never seen anything like it.” I said, “Oh yeah, show me.” He went straight to the baited area and there they all were; like thirty fish on five-kilos of bait, just mullering it. Within twenty minutes it was gone – the whole lot!

That was five-kilo, so then we upped it to ten-kilos, but it didn’t matter how much you put in. We started off with a little area, a clear area about three-foot round and in the end it finished up being thirty-foot around. It was just stupid, we had to move it, so we started baiting everywhere then. We baited the whole lake, everywhere we could, we baited, because we thought if we spread the bait around the lake we’re going to do really, really well and that was when the biggest carp was around thirty-five/thirty-six-pound, and we dreamed of a forty but never ever thought we’d be able to catch one, let alone have one in our lake, but it did, it did its first forty. My mate had it at forty-pound and then at forty-two. I couldn’t catch it at the time, but then I did catch that fish at 49lb and it went on to scrape fifty: 50lb 4oz, and that was because of all the bait going in. Absolutely phenomenal, and like I say, I’ve not looked back since.”

Back in the day with Kev Knight
Back in the day with Kev Knight

Is there a capture that sticks out to you as a real eye-opener?

“Yeah, one of two things really. There was a fish in LG called ‘The Big Linear’; there was also a ‘Little Linear’, not a massive fish, around 25/26lb, something like that, and I just couldn’t catch it. I netted it for a mate of mine and I thought ‘I’ve got to catch this’, what a fish, what a cracking fish. In actual fact, I have got that fish imprinted on the front of my house because I absolutely loved it and I really, really wanted to catch it. We were on the new bait and I still couldn’t catch it and I couldn’t work out why. I was fishing the areas it came out of quite a lot and then one day I was fishing The Disabled swim and this is the truth: I was really upset at the time because a fella turned up who was disabled and you’ve got to leave the swim, which is only fair. I moved out, he moved in and I was not best pleased, but you know, I shook his hand and wished him all the best and I went off walking around the lake thinking what do I do now. As I was walking, a fish topped out in the middle of the lake and I thought ‘that’ll do for me, it’s the only thing I’ve seen, I’m going to go for it’.

With that, I made up a stringer, thinking ‘we’ve done everything we can all around the lake baiting, if I put a stringer on, which no one’s done for a while, I’ve got a good chance I might catch it’. So I got my stringer ready and first cast it went out perfect – right where I’d seen the fish. I’m was just getting the other rod out and wallop, it’s off and it was the Linear, I couldn’t believe it! Thirty-pounds too, the first time it’d been out over thirty. I was elated.

That taught me two things: finding the fish or location and the bait. Without that, I wouldn’t have caught it, because we’d spread that bait about and the fish were used to finding it and this fish had taken the whole lot. The PVA string hadn’t even had time to melt, it’d taken everything! All I’d done was use a single hookbait and three boilies on the PVA and looped it back over so it was one little group of bait and that fish had swallowed the lot.”

1995/96: The ‘Grange’ bait was formed
1995/96: The ‘Grange’ bait was formed
1990: My first encounter with what was to be the Little Grange biggie at 33lb 12oz
1990: My first encounter with what was to be the Little Grange biggie at 33lb 12oz

Do you still use PVA stringers?

(Kenny smiles, chuckles and replies) “No, I don’t and people don’t, and I don’t know why they don’t?”

Why don’t you?

“I don’t know, I really don’t know, um… I should. I think at the time it was a new thing, PVA string and it was like proper string; there wasn’t tape like we have today. It was a new thing and everybody used four and five bait stringers and everybody used to catch on them. Why people don’t use it today, I’ve no idea. I’m one of the worst, I don’t and I should, it’s a fantastic method.”

How did things develop after the Big Linear?

“Because there was so many people on the bait now, well, obviously everybody wanted to get on it, because we were catching so many fish. You had to try and be one step ahead, try and be a little bit different. When I was using PVA string at the time, I had a chat to one of my mates and said, “I’m going to make a really long Hair up and put three 18mm baits on – bottom baits, just straight bottom baits on a long Hair.” When I’d caught The Big Linear, I’d thought, ‘hang on a minute, that fish has just picked up four baits and it’s like, thirty-pound, and it had never been thirty that fish’. It went on to be nearly forty-pound by the way that fish before it died. Anyway, I just thought I’ve got to try it, it’s different, it might work and so I did. I put three 18mms on a long Hair about two-and-a-half-inches long, cast it out and had an 18lb common. I thought, ‘here we go, I’ve bumped into something else now, another thing that we can do’ and I’ve used it quite a lot since, catching lots of fish on it. You’ve really got to look at what you’re doing. Half baits, I’ve tried that, I’ve watched fish going over two half baits back-to-back on the Hair."

1992: Getting bigger at 41lb 8oz and my PB at the time – this shows you what bait can do!
1992: Getting bigger at 41lb 8oz and my PB at the time – this shows you what bait can do!

The Butterfly Rig?

“It wasn’t called that then. What happened was you’d take a bait off the Hair and it would cut in half naturally. You’d then throw it in the water and it would waft down. I thought, ‘bloody hell, I’m going to try that and put half a bait on’ and yeah, it wafted down – it was different. Try this: put a ping pong ball in your mouth and spit it out: it comes out easy. Put half of one in your mouth and it’s a lot more difficult to spit out. All them sort of things and thinking like that has caught me a lot of fish.”

1980: My first twenty at 22lb from South Weald Bottom Lake
1980: My first twenty at 22lb from South Weald Bottom Lake

So do you think it’s still possible to keep an edge secret and should you do so?

“Yeah, I think if you’ve got yourself a little edge, you need to keep it to yourself, well at least until you’ve caught the fish you want to catch. With a few club waters I’ve fished, there were particular fish I wanted to catch more than others, and people are saying to me, “What are you doing, you’re catching really well.” I’d say, “I can’t tell you, I will tell you but not yet.” And they’re like, why? I say, “Well, if I tell you and you catch it, that’s my chance gone, because I’ve come up with something and you’ve used it before I’ve had chance to catch on it. So no, I’ll tell you, but I’m not going to tell you now,” and that’s what I did.

“I did it with two little 10mms on the Hair and sandwiching a piece of plastic corn in between to counter-balance it and all that. I know counter-balancing had been done before, but not with double baits or treble baits; it’s all been done with single baits normally. I tried doing it with a double bait; I tried it with tigers, drilling them out – in fact, drilling out baits hadn’t even been thought of back then, but we did all that then just to be a bit different. This was around 1989/90, something like that. It was such a long time ago – you try all this things and really I should go back to some of them.”

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