Chris Ball | Back in the Day : Vic Gillings
With his drainpipe jeans, winkle-picker shoes and sweptback hair, Vic Gillings was certainly different in looks to the normal specialist big fish angler of the 1970s
It’s some 20 years since Vic Gillings sadly died of a massive heart attack at a comparatively young age. He had a pretty unique personality, along with a dry sense of humour and became a friend from way back when I first started the Surrey/Middlesex region of the British Carp Study Group in the early 1970s. A heating and ventilation engineer by trade, at the time he lived very close to Heathrow Airport and on a couple of occasions I went to his home and remember seeing triple-glazed windows for the first time, which aided in keeping the aircraft noise to a minimum.
Make no mistake, Vic was a dedicated big fish angler, who was just as happy catching huge pike and catfish as well as massive carp and, along, with his fishing mates, Terry Polycut, Dick Gayner, Bob Burchett, Ray Kemp, Alan Hawkins, Dennis Smale, Dave Ball, Mike Starkey, Richard Lloyd and others, enjoyed years of catching big fish.
Vic once fished next door to me when I managed to land my first winter double on trout pellet paste from the Tarn Pond at Cutt Mill in Surrey around 1973 – in typical Vic-style he announced, “Well you’re off the mark, now I want one!”
The 1970s saw Vic as a really keen carp angler and he captured his first 20-pounder from the Tarn Pond in the mid-70s. Then in 1979 he really hit the headlines with the third largest carp reported that year – a monster of 37lb 12oz captured from the famous Ashlea Pool.
At Ashlea on opening day Vic took a couple of rods over to an island as carp could be seen swimming past on their way to cruise around the shallows. Taking the minimum of tackle, once in position he scattered out some floater cake. His first cast was to a small hole in the weed where earlier he’d seen some disturbance. His second piece of floater cake was positioned on the far edge of a channel through which the fish frequently swam. As the carp continued to swim around in the lily-covered shallows he settled into the swim. Suddenly one of the pieces of floater cake was taken and on initial contact he thought it was maybe a smaller fish. At this point Kevin Maddocks, who’d witnessed events, asked if it was a big one, so Vic applied some pressure in an attempt to have a look. This manoeuvre succeeded and a huge back broke surface. He reached for the net but found to his horror it was firmly fixed to a hawthorn bush. Vic shouted out for help and a fellow syndicate member Geoff Booth answered.
Meanwhile the net had pulled free and Vic tried to net the fish – at this point he realised it was a fish called Lucky. Then Geoff arrived and picked up the net as triumphantly Vic guided the fish into it. Once the leather was unhooked and safely in the folded landing net, the pair made a perilous journey along a narrow plank walkway back to dry land to weigh and photograph the beast. Even better, Kevin Maddocks had with him a 16mm cine film camera and managed to record most of the battle, netting, and subsequent weighing. The footage lasts to this very day.
Vic was a Leisure Sport Angling bailiff at a number of venues including Longfield (Fox Pool) and Horton. I remember the odd time in the late 1980s when we would both be creeping around after the Longfield fish, and once Vic and I watched as The Koi (a mirror of over 30lb) sidled up to my hookbait that was positioned on a marginal concrete ledge to the left of the Ruins swim. It came in facing directly at us as we sat hidden in the bushes. It took the hookbait, I yanked the rod back and the bait just trundled out of its mouth and ended up 6-inches closer to the bank, whereupon The Koi took it again! I heaved the rod back once more, and yet again the bait just ‘fell’ out of its mouth. The pair of us needed a drink after that.
Vic, along with many others, had a desire to catch a carp called Shoulders, and though it didn’t happen at Longfield, Vic caught up with the fish later when it lived in Horton.
At his funeral I remember seeing a large beautiful floral work of art (from Leisure Sport Angling), depicting a fish leaping out of the water. You could see it represented a carp with the water portrayed by a bed of blue flowers... There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.