Meet the Trustee: Matthew Neal

12 November 2021


Matthew Neal has been a fisherman for over 50 years. He’s fished in many countries for coarse, game and sea fish. His main interest, and the one area that always excites him is fishing for carp. He’s fished for them since the days when a potato or small balls of partially boiled cat food were considered revolutionary.

While happy to use modern techniques and tackle in pursuit of his passion, he enjoys the simplicity and ‘back to basics’ approach of fishing for wild and feral carp. This remains his favourite way of spending time by the water.

In this interview, we get a personal perspective of Matthew’s interest and reasons for being a part of the Wild Carp Trust.

The Wild Carp Trust

What’s your main role within the Wild Carp Trust?

Holder of the Trust Purse (Acting), also known more formally as Wild Carp Trust Treasurer although I do help with overall charity governance and administration and advising on those “Oh, that’s a good idea but… ” moments as well.

What’s your vision for the Wild Carp Trust?

I very much support the Trust vision of protecting and conserving the oldest strains of carp for future generations. I have a particular interest in helping create a carefully planned strategy that will see a small number of locations identified in future as suitable for limited stocking of our oldest strains of carp but that is a few years away yet.

How will you achieve it?

Slowly and carefully, ensuring that as a formally constituted Trust we not only use our collective knowledge and passion for this unique initiative but that we also learn from others. I am never happier than when sitting quietly at some remote lake or pond. However, as a Trustee I also recognise we must also think about funding, strategy and planning and all those business activities that we often escape from simply to indulge our own passion for angling.

What do you hope that others will bring to the Wild Carp Trust?

I think my fellow Trustees bring a wealth of experience from both their personal and professional backgrounds. Additionally, I think our members will demonstrate their interest and belief simply by joining the Wild Carp Trust.

We are growing all the time. The more donors and members we have, the more it helps give the Trustees energy and reinforces our belief that what we are doing is something that others also believe strongly in. If you are reading this interview as a prospective supporter, I really would encourage you to join the Wild Carp Trust. We can really make a difference and the benefits to everyone are, I think, significant on many levels.

Your passion for wild carp

Why wild carp?

Simply put, it brings back an excitement that I felt as a child when my cousin and I used to fish a remote, overgrown, and very old monastic pond for what we then simply termed ‘wildies’. That was over 50 years ago, and times change but we can, slowly and carefully, help to ensure that future generations also experience that same excitement connecting the past with the present.  I still think back fondly to memories of the history of that particular pond.

Fishing for wildies

When did you catch your first wildie?

Around 1973 I think? The passage of time tends to blur a few areas but certainly around the 1970s. As far as I can recall, and with some subsequent research, these fish were probably about the closest one could reasonably get to a wildie – no record of stockings, just a long neglected old pond. No other fish present. Long, lean, bluntish head shape and around that 2-5lb size with an unbelievable power in stripping line from an admittedly dodgy “clutch”. Sufficient provenance ? Well, I like to think so whether it was a “Wildie”, “Feral” or a Reversion, others can judge.

What’s your favourite way of fishing for wildies?

I have never fly fished for carp so instead, for me, my favourite tactic remains float fishing with a simple quill (ideally red topped) or a small floating bait flicked out at dawn or at twilight to drift enticingly near to a rising fish. Magical.

What’s your favourite wild carp water?

This is a difficult question to answer, as so many ponds and lakes have been developed to cater for more modern needs. What I think of as idyllic might be different to others. I still enjoy the classic “Old Estate Lake” but similarly enjoy the harsh and challenging environment of Pant y Llyn.

Any waters you’d still like to fish?

Yes. My problem is simply balancing the equation of available time with available choice!

Conserving wild carp

Why conserve wild and feral carp?

I think that the Wild Carp Trust’s vision can help us all realise that the past can also be a part of our future. We can help preserve our oldest strains of carp and help future generations enjoy the almost mystical excitement that I certainly experienced as a child when fishing in the overgrown grounds, of an abandoned Carthusian Monastery lost in Southern England.

Final thoughts

There is a view that wild carp thrive on neglect. I have some sympathy with that. However, I think some realism is required. There is currently little factual knowledge in the UK in respect of our older strains of carp. There is a lot of what can be described as anecdotal evidence and it is a good example of how perhaps opinions can become facts and how facts can then become part of a myth. The Wild Carp Trust is trying to change that. We have some ambitious plans to not only preserve our older strains to benefit future generations, but to educate as well. That is the balance of blending the magic of our “Wild Carp” with realism.