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The Carp Shop
South West Memories.
13 Oct 2016 at 11.40am
I have had one or two PMs from members asking me to re-post some of my articles about fishing in the south west and abroad during what were the formative years of what is now modern carp fishing. It was a time of great excitement as each trip was a journey into the unknown, a journey of discovery, if you like. New venues, new tackle, new idea, new tactics, these all came to the fore when I was cutting my teeth on carping in general. I have been a keen angler since I was a kid so as well as my carpy reminiscences I will also take a look at the rest of my formative years as a coarse, fly and sea angler.
PLEASE NOTE: (c) 2016 Ken Townley. All rights reserved.
Material published by Ken Townley on these web pages is copyright of Ken Townley and may not be reproduced without permission. Copyright exists in all other original material published on the internet by Ken Townley and belongs to the author depending on the circumstances of publication.
7 May 2019 at 8.25am
In reply to Post #415
That last post is the missing text and pix that should have been used in the St Louis Blues posts! Bit of a **** up, I'm afraid...Sorry
The text should go between posts #323 and #324...If that makes sense!
7 May 2019 at 8.22am
In reply to Post #322
Being a prominent member of the Surrey carp angling fraternity, Bill recognised Dave Ball straight away. He's a bit of a secret squirrel apparently but Bill told us later that he's a member of some very exclusive lakes to the west of London and he has caught more than his share of biggies. I knew of him from his photo on the Cover of Carp Fisher 5. And of course, Rod being there confirmed Arnout's tale. We had a walk around the lake and arriving on the far side opposite where Dave was fishing we came across another bivvy and a set of rods and some carpy smelling sacks. Someone had been doing the business! It was Rod, of course.
"He was in convivial mood. "Fancy a whisky?" he asked me. I accepted happily. "Want lemonade in it?" I said OK. He poured a clear flat liquid into my whisky glass (Rod does nothing by halves) and handed it over. It nearly did for me…Whatever he'd added to the whisky, it certainly wasn't lemonade! Dave told me later it was probably vodka! Nige tells it differently; he reckons it was white wine. Ether way it was certainly high powered rocket fuel.
"Now, a few hours later I realize why they were not best pleased to see us, as this lake is a little gem, a hidden paradise, Tat. It's about 20 acres, maybe a bit more and it's glorious, absolutely glorious. You've got to come here, Tat, there's no question about it. You'll love it. It's even got a little bar and small restaurant!
"The bar was where we bought our permits and had a beer or two. The patron, Giles, was very nice and even bought us a round. There were a few small photos up on the wall above the bar and Nige and I saw a few familiar faces. You can see them top right of the photo.
There were pix up there of Rod, of course, and Dave, plus the other Dave from the tackle shop in Richmond, and his missus Kay. I remember seeing her on the cover of Carpworld a couple of years ago.
"This lake…It's gorgeous, so beautiful and friendly and welcoming and it's everything a French lake should be, really. There's an atmosphere about it, almost as if you don't even need to catch fish to enjoy its magic. It is... perfect, that's the word.
"So anyway, as I say, it's Friday morning and we've had twelve hours of fishing and, as far as I know, none of us have caught. Dave and his missus and Rod have pulled off and from what I could gather from the guy in the bar, who has apparently been enjoying their custom, they've had some nice carp up to fifteen kilos, which is about thirty-three pounds, I think. Dave actually came round and apologised for cursing me and so we had a swift half before he hit the road. He's got nothing to apologise about as far as I'm concerned. I know how he felt, believe me.
"I'm now set up in the swim Rod was fishing. I'd be a fool not to! There is a small bush to the left of the swim and I swear I have seen it before in a few of Rod's trophy pix from this lake. I am going to call this swim Rod's Bush. I think Nige has moved into Dave's swim which is more or less opposite me. It's on the corner of the lake opposite on the bar side. It's like a sort of point so that's what I'll call the swim. Yeah, I think Nige is in there now as I can see a light flickering over there. I heard Dave talking to Nige while we were having a beer and he told him to jump in and fill his boots. Knowing Nige that's exactly what I think he'll do!
" So we've split up now trying to cover a fair bit of the lake. It's a very interesting lake but my main focus is an island that is just about in casting range, or failing that I will use the boat. Colin's set up about a hundred yards away to my right fishing onto an area of shallows…well that is what Dave and Rod called it. The sky is crystal clear and the stars are amazing. It's fantastic, Tat. We are definitely coming back to this place. Well, that's about it for now. I'm thinking of you and missing you. Talk to you in the morning…Bon soir, mon amour. That's French you know!"
27 Apr 2019 at 4.27pm
In reply to Post #412
25 Apr 2019 at 4.21pm
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25 Apr 2019 at 6.39am
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8 Apr 2019 at 3.28pm
In reply to Post #410
The years went by and the big carp continued to thrive. Andrew Endean caught Daddy at 34lb plus and I know a couple more came out at high twenties but time and old age caught up with them. Carp are easy to spot in the lake and it's hard to see any these days. Then there is the threat from otters, which have decimated all the lakes along the valley. Once again Salamander is heavily silted and is infested with ducks, Canada geese and the resident swans. Rats run riot around the lake and any magic the lake once held has gone. So sad. This is the last known capture of Big Daddy when he came out at a few ounces over thirty-four pounds.
I used Salamander a great deal over the year as a testing ground for various rig and bait ideas. I know I was the first to use the hair and Robin Red on the lake and the advantages these gave me were immeasurable. And over the years I went on to experiment with various seed and particle baits. I also developed the use of boilie crumb there. It was amazing to see the carp ghosting out of the weed onto the baited patch, where they were clear to see for those who had the ability to actually look!
I also did a fair bit of rig experimentation on Salamander, developing and refining my Drop Down Rig (top) as well as an early version of what was later to become a popular modern rig (bottom).
However, it was when testing liquid attractor that I had the most fun. One little experiment involved squirting neat Minamino over groups of fish that were basking in the sunshine. I used a syringe to send a spray of liquid attraction on top of their heads and the reaction was astonishing. They seemed to almost go into a frenzy, clearly 'smelling' the attraction but finding nothing concrete to eat. It was this that lead me to start messing about with a baiting trick that I called at the time Boilie Soup.
The idea was to create a powerful source of attraction on the lake bed and up through the water column using neat fishmeal and Robin Red base mix with GLME, Betaine, Salmon oil, flavour and a tub of lumpfish eggs. The idea should be self explanatory.
The carp in Salamander couldn't get enough of the soup, charging around like mad creatures scouring the lake bed for every tantalising item of food. The only things big enough to be called tangible food were the tiny fish eggs but even after every single one of those had gone, the fish continued to mooch around looking for more!
So that was then, this is now. Salamander is no more, It rests in peace as do its original carp, fish that gave a few lucky anglers the experience of a lifetime.
8 Apr 2019 at 3.23pm
In reply to Post #409
The years have passed and Salamander lives on. Without many of my favourite fish, the lake became a shadow of its former self. The improvements effected when the lake was emptied to allow the silt to be removed certainly changed the character of the lake but the drastic pruning of the covering willows and the creation of an island at the inlet end have done nothing to improve its looks. The silt that was removed in 1993 was back by 1994 and is as big a problem now as it was then. Why the council did not install a silt trap when they had the chance baffles me. They will certainly need to undertake further dredging and cleaning in future years, for already the lake is as badly silted now as it was before the dredger arrived. The spillway has certainly improved the look of the outlet end and the fluctuation in water level that occurred before, should now be a thing of the past.
But what of the fish?
Well, back in 1994 after the fish went back there was probably more pressure on the lake than ever before despite the fact than many of its best fish were gone. Naturally, Big Daddy was the target everyone was after and in November '94 he showed how much he enjoyed the comfort of the reduced pressure for the available food in the lake by coming out at 32lb l2oz for Steve and 33lb plus for me the following spring. At the same time the other carp were also growing well. The Phoenix of Salamander Lake was emerging from the ashes of the fish loss.
The sadness of the loss of so many lovely fish is, to a certain extent, balanced by the knowledge that reduced competition for food allowed the remaining carp in the lake to gain weight, when it seemed that most, if not all, had reached their ceiling weights but I still think wistfully of what the lake would have been like if all the original biggies were still there.
The lake continued to be an open target for anyone who wanted to help himself to a few fish. Why the council never made an effort to control the fishing on the lake is beyond me. Perhaps they don't care. Whatever...The fact remains that the lake was among the more famous in the south west corner of England. It was only a matter of time before the remaining biggies went missing yet again as the temptation to remove Daddy and his friends for a few quid in the back pocket proved too irresistible.
Well before the theft I had a long, rather drink sozzled chat on the banks of Salamander with the late Graham Orchard, a great carp fishing character here in the south west. "You ought to have these fish away you know, Ken", Graham told me.
"I can't do that, Graham, " I said. "It would simply go against everything I stand for in carp fishing."
"Look mate" said my friend, "I know how much these fish mean to you, how much you love the lake and the carp in it, but one day you're going to come down here and some little toerag will have nicked all the fish. Then how will you feel? If we don't move em and keep them local, somewhere private, then someone will come and have them away up country."
"I realise that, Graham, but simply cannot think of it, let alone do it or condone it," I said. Yet I knew in my heart of hearts that he had a point.
"The thing is, Graham, if I, or any of us stoop that low, we are no better than they are. It would be theft full stop. If we destroy this place by taking the fish and putting them into another lake what would we have achieved? Nothing! We'd simply have crossed off another worthwhile lake on the pitifully small list of those we have available to us to fish."
I look back now on that conversation and, even with the benefit of hindsight, I still say I was right and could sleep with a clear conscience is clear. The trouble is others were not so righteous and once again the wreckers moved in and dumped on the place from a great height.
Prior to the theft there were possibly as many as ten twenty pound plus fish at at least one thirty present in the lake in the summer of 1990. These lived their days in a blissful environment feeding on the bloodworm-rich silt augmented by anglers' baits and as much bread as they could eat. Happy days gone but not forgotten.
O.K., you may be saying to yourself. So the guy has had some fish nicked. Shame, but it happens. It's just some tuppence ha'penny lake in some God forsaken outpost of the carp fishing world...Small beer... What's all the fuss about? Well, I just hope and pray that a lake and its fish that you hold as dear to your heart as I held Salamander is not given a similar treatment. Perhaps then you'll know what small beer is and what it isn't.
8 Apr 2019 at 3.15pm
In reply to Post #408
I was of the firm opinion that fish were missing from the lake and I made my feelings clear, only for them to be greeted with a great deal of scepticism by the local anglers Then just to muddy the waters still further, the following winter I caught Jellybelly at a decent weight. I looked like a complete fool all over again.
Finally I was proved right: in the late winter of 1993 the local authority emptied the lake in to remove the silt, at the same time creating a breeding island for the swans, ducks and coots and rebuilding the spillway. A netting team from the NRA was called in to remove the carp to a holding pond while the work was done. The dam was then breached and as the levels fell seventeen carp were netted and removed from the lake; one was missed by the netting party and, sadly, it died. Eighteen fish in total. I have an album of photographs covering the last fifteen years of my carp fishing at Salamander. I have photographs thirty five different fish. If the theft never took place, where were the missing fish? Here are a few shots of the drained lake.
Here are a few pix of the lake when it was empty. This is the main bowl, the deepest part, albeit it only about three feet deep when full. You can see the troublesome swan's nesting island in the middle of the photo.
This is at the inlet end of the lake where the island was under construction. It was severely silted up at the time, as can clearly be seen in this photo. Despite this no effort was made to create a silt trap, which would have alleviated the need for any further work to de-silt the lake.
While the lake was empty the council decided it would be a good idea to do some landscaping. In affect this mean cutting down all the trees and bushes around the lake's perimeter. Take a look at these before and after photos and tell me that the 'landscaping' worked! This is the outlet end of the lake prior to the work.
And this is what it looked like after they had done their worst.
I was on good terms with the local branch of the NRA having been commissioned to write a ten thousand word report for the Agency which was published as 'A Comprehensive Coarse Fishing Fish Strategy for the South-West'. A right mouthful and no mistake! Parts of the report covered public access lakes and river and Salamander Lake featured prominently in this section.
So having first contacted the head of fisheries at Exeter to put him in the picture, I then rang my contact at the NRA in Bodmin to ascertain when or if the carp would be returned to the lake. I was told that they were planning on moving the carp back to the lake in late March or early April. So it was that just before the Easter 1993 I stood on the banks of Salamander waiting for the fish transporter to arrive. With me was a reporter from the Western Morning News, officials of the local park authority, the netsmen from the NRA and officials of the Water Authority.
The carp were returned in two batches, so as to prevent overcrowding on the short journey. Seventeen fish were returned, the same number that had been taken out. I got a fairly good look at each of them and took pictures of
as many as I could. I was overjoyed to see that Big Daddy was one that went back. Of the other twenties, Carole's Pet and Jellybelly were the only ones that were returned, but happily the upper doubles, Goldie, Walnut, and Mystery were also among the returnees. These fish were not weighed but it they all seemed to do well after the cleaning of the lake bed. For instance, Carole's Pet had dropped a couple of pounds when she want back but later that same year she came out at over 25lb.
8 Apr 2019 at 3.14pm
In reply to Post #407
Then, when Daddy was caught a few weeks later the story started going around that I had made up the story to blind anglers to the fact that there were such good fish in the tiny park lake. The knives were out for me in a big way but I was certain something was wrong with the pool. The news that Daddy was still in the lake, in all probability still accompanied by all his usual friends (said the sceptics), rekindled old passions in many carp fisherman's hearts, mine included and for a while, the hordes descended on the lake in search of the fabled carp of Salamander Lake. I got a lot of stick from people but there was no way I could prove that the netting had taken place and my uneasy fears for the place cut little ice with others. Meanwhile I managed to catch one of the remaining residents the fat old girl we called Gutbucket, an unlovely name for a lovely carp, and this capture was taken as a sign that I was talking through my arse!
However following Daddy's initial capture the only other big fish to make an appearance were Gutbucket and Carole's Pet, a rare capture for me as this honour is traditionally reserved for our lass, hence the carp's nickname.
All in all the fishing at Salamander was very poor at what had always been a traditionally productive time of the year and the longer the other well known carp in the lake remained uncaught, the more worrying their continued absence became. I fished the lake hard for the rest of the year and right through the winter when we were ashore for bad weather but failed miserably to land a single carp, but, Sod's Law was about to intervene and confuse the issue still further.
There was no doubt that all the fish in the lake were by now well known by local anglers, their rough weights known as well. Yet suddenly rumours began to circulate of big fish, twenties, coming out and these captures seemed to add weight to the tale that the whole thing was a blind. On the other hand the Salamander regulars thought that even if these rumours were true the reported weights were simply new weights for old fish.
So here was the dilemma: had there, in fact, actually been netting? If not, what had happened to the well-known fish, at least some of which should have come out in the ensuing months; and if there had been a netting, was it official, or was it illegal? Was the whole thing one gigantic wind-up?
But I knew my Salamander Lake and I was convinced that there were fish missing; perhaps not all the bigger fish, but certainly many of them. My association with the lake went back further than all bar that of Ian Johnson who had actually stopped fishing the lake in the mid-80's. In effect asking me about the history and the inhabitants like asking Mike Wilson about Savay, or Kevin Clifford about Redmire.
Among the diehards Dave the policeman continued to fish it as 'part of my investigation' as he explained it to his sergeant! Nice one, Dave! Sadly he had not been able to take the matter any further. The account of the youngster who had actually witnessed the theft was getting shakier with the passing of time and in the end he'd been told to wind down his enquiries. Still, at least he was probably the only copper in the country who, for a time, was actually paid to go carp fishing!
Of those still fishing the lake, and they were few and getting fewer, nobody knew as much about the place as me. I had even compiled a photo album of the carp in the lake, fish caught not only by myself but by many of the other guys that fished there.
8 Apr 2019 at 3.12pm
In reply to Post #406
There are a few sad evil-minded individuals who will swear blind that I invented the story of the fish theft from Salamander Lake in the summer in order to put off the growing band of visiting anglers. That is the most arrant nonsense I have ever heard. Will you guys get a life! The fact is that the lake is frighteningly vulnerable to thieves with main roads all around it and a car park within feet of the bank; anyone who wanted to steal fish from the lake would find it laughingly easy. Sadly, someone decided to help themselves to the fish in Salamander and that is fact, not fiction.
I chased the Salamander carp half heartedly during the early part of 1990, but when Savay opened its call was too strong to resist. I spent most of the early part of the season either driving to the lake, fishing the lake, or returning from the lake and had little time to spend on other venues closer to home. I still had a job at sea and had to make a crust so Salamander was quietly forgotten.
I was on the Toads and even though we were first rota on that year work had kept me away from Savs so I missed the first three months. But I had some leave saved up so I managed to get up to the Valley in mid September, cursing that bloody boat with every mile that passed.
By all accounts the opening week had been brilliant and the fishing had been pretty goof the following two or three rota weeks. Bill had caught a few…in fact, everybody had caught a few, so I had missed out in a big way. Still absence makes the heart grow fonder and in Savay's case fonder doesn't even begin to describe it so I was chaffing at the bit when I drove into the car park to meet Bill. We could not set up until later that day so we adjourned to the Barge to catch up on events so far. Bill had enjoyed a blistering start to the season and he told me that the lake was still on form with fish showing towards the far end by the Gate swim down as far as the Sluices. On the Colne Bank he told me that he had seen fish in the Daisies and most of the other swims facing the Long Island.
While we were in the Barge I rang Carole to check all was well and to tell her I had arrived safely. (She worries about me driving on the M25 as both of us hate it with a passion. I reckon my heart rate trebles the minute I get onto that accursed road. What is it with drives in the south-east? Don't you know how to drives safely and slowly?).
So once the reassuring was done I asked her how things were going at home. "I've had a call from Dave the policeman who has heard a rumour that Salamander has been netted," she said, "There was only one witness, a young lad who isn't a fisherman," she continued. "Apparently they have taken some carp away". The story told of a blue van, men in bright orange overalls, a beach seine, holding tanks and everything needed to make a quick sweep of the lake and bugger off sharpish before people got too curious. The lad who had witnessed the netting challenged the men who fobbed him off with a story that they were legally removing the carp on behalf of the council, an unlikely story but the youngster wasn't about to challenge it.
According to the very young witness, the netsmen had apparently made one sweep of the outfall end of the lake and had netted what was variously described as, 'every fish in the lake', down to, 'one or two big carp'. The story was vague but somebody reported the strange goings on to the police, who took only passing interest; it was only a few smelly old fish for heaven's sake. The news played on my mind throughout my week on Savay and when I got home Carole filled me in on further developments.
The rumour mill had been in overdrive as the news spread throughout the county. There were wild allegations about who had done it, about the location of the stolen carp, but nobody really had any concrete evidence. By chance one of the guys who fished the lake was Dave the a copper and when he told his inspector that the netted fish were worth thousands of pounds the police were forced to take a greater interest. Nothing came of it and in the end it fell to Dave to do his best with limited time and opportunity at his disposal. The uncertainty and young age of the witness meant that there was always going to be a seed of doubt about the whole story; had the theft actually taken place?
23 Mar 2019 at 2.00pm
In reply to Post #405
I was on a roll at the lake and more to satisfy my enquiring mind I switched tactics completely. The groundbait idea had sparked off the old brain cells to experiment further and it was at Salamander that I first used and refined the idea of crumbing. I wrote about the method in an old Nutrabaits magazine and while I cannot claim to have invented the method, I am certain that I was the first to go into print with it. If you haven't tried crumb on your lake I suggest you give it a try. It really gets them steamed up! This one dates back to the dark ages when the use of crumb was almost unknown. It's a bit different now!
I spent much of the year spreading my wings, fishing new waters, including Savay, where I spent the remainder of the summer. We also took our first tentative trip abroad where we enjoyed the new sensation of catching a few French fish for a change. Though Carole and I had our share of French biggies Salamander remained our jewel in the crown.
When we first started on Salamander in 1979 the fish had been woefully easy to catch thanks to the hair and boiled bait approach but, by 1989, they were as crafty a bunch as you'd wish to meet. As described previously, I stopped fishing Salamander for no other reason than I was bored with the place. I had caught every fish in the lake (or so I thought) and with more and more anglers now coming down from up country in search of a close season twenty the place had lost its magic.
And so we come to the fish theft…
23 Mar 2019 at 1.58pm
In reply to Post #404
The swim I chose to fish was bordered by two overhanging trees and a fringe of rushes, but rather than fish it from its own bank, I decided to set up on a corner not far way and cast across to the bank, going round afterwards to tie on the baits and drop them in the edge, with a generous dollop of groundbait on top to disguise the hooklink and hookbait. Mind you, I was in something of a dilemma over hookbaits.
Let me explain...I'd already chosen the base mix and the smell that I wanted to use. The milk protein mix had no need to prove itself any further, nor did the essential oil that I had been using since the start of the summer. It was about now that pop-ups became all the rage after featuring in several magazine. I had not, up till then, been keen on pop-ups or critically balanced bottom baits, but I felt that perhaps now was the time to experiment. I have always had misgivings about ultra-critical balancing of both pop-ups and bottom baits. I firmly believe that they draw attention to their status as a hookbait as much, if not more so, than a standard bottom bait. It just isn't natural for a hookbait to waft around all over the place, simply because a carp swims by. For all that, there had been plenty of fish caught throughout the country to show that perhaps the method had something going for it.
Mind you, not all the carp that had fallen to the trick were as cautious as the Salamander fish but perhaps they too would fall for it. It was worth a try. It's all very well having misgivings, but the trouble is that you can't prove or disprove that they are well founded until you've seen proof, or otherwise. So it wasn't until I watched the Salamander carp spook off these ultra-critically balanced baits that I decided that the time and trouble I had been taking in getting a bait to sink ridiculously slowly might not be worth all the effort.
However, back to the groundbait...
The plan called for me to bait up with two buckets of groundbait into just the one swim for three nights, starting fishing on the fourth night and emptying the lake! While the prebaiting was carried out I made up some very buoyant Black Pepper EO and Cranberry hookbaits, using polyballs from a bean bag and these were balanced to the 'nth degree in the bath at home. By the fourth night I was ready to drag 'em!
Oh, the best laid plans...I sat up for most of the night as disillusion caused by silent buzzers and motionless indicators set in. By first light I was devastated; all that planning and hard work had come to naught. I peered into the swim and could not believe my eyes. all the groundbait was gone! All that remained were the two hookbaits, still wafting around in the light currents caused as a few small roach rooted among the last crumbs that remained after the carp had demolished the best part of eight or nine kilos of groundbait during the night.
I was annoyed with myself for succumbing to the temptation to try something in which I was not fully confident, so off came the critically balanced hookbaits and on went bottom baits, balanced with nothing more than a sliver of rig foam to counteract the weight of the hook.
The following night all was ready once more and as the light went, I slopped the groundbait into the margins, placed the two hookbaits in the swim and then retreated to the bivvy to await the coming night. The bottom baits worked like a charm and my confidence in buoyant hookbait disappeared overnight, not to return for perhaps twenty years when I started using bespoke hookbaits.
Among the captures was a hump backed mirror I had not caught before. It came as a bit of a surprise as I thought I knew and had caught every fish in the lake by now.
23 Mar 2019 at 1.56pm
In reply to Post #403
Later that year I switched to my first love bait wise, namely paste baits. They cannot be used everywhere but if you can get away with the bait not being destroyed by small fish then paste have many advantages over boiled bait. The HNV base mix created fantastic pastes and by cramming as much powder into the eggs and the liquid attractors as possible, I found I could create a paste that could be cast out under the float and still remain on the hair. I used a small bead at the end of the hair and this formed the base around which to mould the paste. You can just about make out the early use of my Drop-Down Rig in this pic. The paste has been flattened by the fish flapping on the mat.
I had been using float fishing tactics for stalking the Salamander carp for the past three or four years and felt it was time for a change. Certainly I had seen what appeared to be carp testing above the bait from the presence of line coming down from the float Sounds a bit hard to take in, eh? Yes, that's what I thought, but takes were getting harder to come by. It was then that the newly introduced Kryston Multi-Strand appeared on the market and, for a while, it solved completely my presentation problems.
I used two end rig set ups. One for stalking in close where I could see the fish I was after and another for casting into the holes in the weed. The latter was straightforward enough, being simple tubing, a three ounce drilled bullet and six inch Multi-Strand hooklink. It was the margin stalking arrangement that was a bit different.
Basically, it is an extra long Combi link with four feet of Multi-Strand, attached directly to the reel line. The set-up was fished free line style and the bait was moulded around the hook (no hair).
(Don't laugh! The method was then and remains to this day a fabulous stalking tactic and I thank my lucky stars I had the foresight to order half a dozen spool from The Tackle Box before Kryston was taken over in 2018).
Immediately after switching to freelined paste I went on a lovely run of captures from the lake. I had seven fish in as many early morning visits, fishing paste on the hook. In most cases, I actually watched as the carp picked up the bait. Invariably, the fish moved away slowly with the bait well into its mouth, looking for a further bait sample. I have no doubt that they did not know they had a hookbait in their mouths. Some of you may think that there would be a problem with the Multi-Strand as it is prone to form a loop off the bottom, but the material is so soft that the fish are not spooked by it. Many times I saw fish brushing against the long section of Multi-Strand without appearing alarmed in the slightest. I can see how they might become more cautious after repeated captures, but this should not occur for some time. Obviously, the method has its limitations, but given similar conditions and style of fishing, I cannot see why it should not work anywhere.
Salamander had, by now, established itself as one of the most difficult lakes I had fished. In order to catch on a regular basis, it was vital to keep thinking, thinking, thinking all the time and about every aspect of one's approach. It was one such radical departure from the norm that kept me on fish through a long, hot summer when the pool lay stagnant and torpid and the fish seemed to be similarly affected. Recalling my early days at the lake when maples had proved so successful we reverted to the particle approach with some success.
My mate Bill and I had talked at Savay the previous summer about trying the continental approach to carp fishing, namely using groundbait. While it failed miserably in The Valley (the bream hammered us) I was not discouraged and felt that Salamander would be an ideal place to revive the idea.
I experimented with a few assorted recipes but as distance was not a factor in the fishing at the pool, there was no need for great big match style balls that splashed down like a depth charge. No, I wanted a sloppy mix that I could introduce up by hand, putting bait into likely margin swims at the dam end of the lake. Eventually, I settled on a mix comprising equal parts of groats, crushed and whole hemp, maize meal and salmon fry crumb. This gave the groundbait its unique carp appeal and I have no hesitation in suggesting it to anyone thinking of trying a similar approach. Without salmon fry crumb, the groundbait is a goodie but with the addition of the strong smelling crumb, it takes on a whole new lease of life and will draw carp into a swim very effectively.
23 Mar 2019 at 1.54pm
In reply to Post #402
The lake was beginning to lose its originality and freshness for me and this coupled with the growing number of visiting anglers from all over the south, again led me to seek out pastures new for much of the summer of '88 but
Carole and I returned to the lake with a vengeance that autumn, taking six twenties in three visits. Carole set the ball rolling with, who else, but The Pet. This was followed by Big Daddy, Jellybelly, Gutbucket and finally Daddy yet again. More encouraging still were two 'new' carp we had not seen on the bank before, one a curious looking mirror with a very crooked back, which was christened Quasimodo.
The other new fish was also a mirror that Tat caught at a shade over eighteen pounds.
Tat ended a memorable spell with Goldie at 21lb 2oz, a gorgeous fish which I had first caught in the winter of '85 at 19lb. One of the most pleasing captures of the year was her a shade over twenty pounds. The fish had not been caught for seven years and was thought to be dead. Indeed, the circumstances of its "death" were well documented.
Apparently, a youngster had found the fish in the shallows apparently in some distress. Hoiking it out the kid took it home to show his Mum. She screamed in horror and told him to get rid of the now-dead carcass, so the youngster had returned the lifeless corpse to the lake where it promptly came back to life!
In the end we caught just about every fish in the lake on our HNV baits with essential oils, confirming that such baits are inherently attractive and can be fished as single hook baits, or with a light applications of free offerings. Others using pure attractor baits which contained high levels of commercial flavours did not fare so well.
By the start of the 1989 season, we were looking at perhaps seven or eight carp over twenty pounds in the lake; Daddy, Gutbucket, Jellybelly, Goldie, The Pet, Clover, and one other big fish that we had all spotted at various spots around the lake but had yet to put it on the bank. How a fish could do this had me beat, for some of the best carp anglers in the area were fishing the lake by now and most of the fish had been caught at one time or another.
It wasn't until Ken Jones arrived on the water, following successful seasons on Rashleigh and a local syndicate water, that the mystery of the uncaught fish was solved. He caught it within a couple of visits at 22lb 12oz a gorgeous fish that had definitely not been caught before and so acquired the nickname of The Mystery on the spot!
Most of the more successful anglers were on fairly high tech baits of one description or another but one of the most effective baits was dear old bread. You see the locals threw tons of the stuff at the resident swans and ducks and the carp could often be spotted underneath the feeding birds, picking up bits of bread that were missed by the squabbling wildlife.
The lake did not appeal to everyone. For a start it was a park lake with all that that entails. Night fishing could be a bit hairy as the lake was on the glide path from the pub to the council estate, and when you heard drunken laughter and riotous singing you kept your head down! My mate Nige hated the place as did a few other Rashleigh friends. In fact Nige's only fish from the lake was Daddy, caught on a free lined piece of bread flake underneath the ducks.
23 Mar 2019 at 1.49pm
In reply to Post #401
Playing around with Geranium EO we quickly found the optimum level to be 2ml per kilo. Clove EO seemed to be much stronger and 1ml per kilo was found to be ideal. It wasn't until we tried a combo of the two that we found what we thought then was a winning combo. First it was Daddy that took a shine to the milk HNV, falling to the clove and geranium oils mix. A string of other big fish followed and by the end of October every fish in the lake was on the lookout for our bait. Most of the biggies eventually tripped up on it and yet again Tat banked her 'Pet' a fish that seemed unable to resist her charms…A bit like me, in fact!
Throughout the summer the weed posed a few problems but it was nothing we couldn't cope with. It also had the effect of putting off the county's itinerant trophy hunters who were somewhat daunted by the weed. As if the weed beds were not enough, the council had also seen fit to introduce a silly little wooden platform moored by chains at all four corners, in the hope that a pair of swans that had made the lake their home would nest on it. The swans viewed the flimsy affair with disdain and nested downstream, but in the meantime the raft remained. It soon became a holding area but the carp usually managed to escape by bolting around the chains.
By the following year the news was out on the local grapevine about Daddy and his back up twenties, to say nothing of the dozen or so upper-doubles. Not unnaturally, quite a few new faces arrived on the scene. As the pressure increased still further, the fish got cuter and our previous success became harder to achieve. So cute had the fish become that it was common to watch carp spook off a carpet of bait. Indeed, they would even spook off single hookbaits. A few of the lads turned to particles, but with little or no success.
The lake was by now badly silted up, the winter silt being deposited at the shallower end, completely covering the original bar which John and I had fished in 1980 and reducing the depth over the silted area to less than a foot. So bad was it that a quarter of the lake became unfishable. You can see how shallow it was by the photo below. The overall depth in the rest of the lake was reduced to an average of less than three feet and with problems arising with ducks and swans picking up hookbaits and free offerings, the lake was becoming increasingly hard to fish.
Prebaiting was out of the question due to the bird life. Even at night the swans were capable of spotting and picking up baits and for most of the anglers regularly fishing the lake, pure attractor baits became the order of the day.
However, I couldn't help feeling that Hi-Nu-Val and the Addits (no longer a prototype but now a proprietary base mix following the launch of Nutrabaits in 1987) was an attractor bait in its own right. Match this magic base with an essential oil and you'd have a bait that was radically different from anything else the other anglers were using. Keeping free offerings to a minimum kept the birds off the baits, yet still provided a feeding stimulus that the carp found much to their liking.
The base mix also made surprisingly good pop-ups as we discovered one day when Tat decided to fry a handful in a light coating of sesame seed oil. At the time she was aiming at creating a slightly different 'smell' profile but that idea went out of the window when she found out that the bait all floated. Pop-ups were just beginning to find favour with the carp world in Cornwall, though the rest of the country had been onto them for a year or more. Until ready made pop-ups appeared on the market we used fried Ni-Nu-Val to make all our pop-ups. Adding a few mils of essential oil or neat flavour to the cooking oil also added still more attraction.
23 Mar 2019 at 1.45pm
In reply to Post #400
The bait that had done so well on College had not been used to any great extent on other venues so I began slipping a few kilos into the lake on a regular basis and in June '87 I finally got around to fishing there again. Carole and I spent hours making thousands of 8mm boiled baits using the smallest Gardner Rollaball. The bait was as follows:
7oz rennet casein
3oz egg albumin
1oz Davina Body Build
0.5ml N-butyric acid
15ml Liquid Liver
scald for 15 seconds.
I suppose we must have made up about four dozen mixes with which to prebait the lake with the new HNV, which was introduced in just two areas; the Aquarium one of my favourite fish-watching spots, a swim beneath a drooping willow tree, close to the inlet at the opposite end of the lake. By the time I came to fish the lake at the end of June '87 it was clear that the fish were going ape over the baits. It seemed a strong possibility that the biggest fish in the lake would fall to my attack sooner rather than later, and so it proved one glorious summer's morning. This is the story…
I arrived at the lake around noon and I had the lake to myself. There was no one else fishing, but the weed looked to be almost insurmountable. In fact, only the two prebaited swims were still fishable and those only in the margins where you could see that the bait was in the clear. In the prebaited swims the fish had created dinner plates, patches of gravel, scoured clear of silt. These proved that the carp had cleaned up the baits I had been introducing and as I crept into the swim under the willows, I felt pretty confident.
A couple of handfuls of mini boilies went in and I sat back to watch events unfold. Eventually, a few fish came ghosting out of the thickest weed and quickly cleared up the free offerings. I hadn't cast in as yet, but now I got
the float gear ready and dropped it in the margins, the float right up against the bank, almost touching it. The hookbait, a string of mini-baits threaded on to sewing cotton and attached to the eye of the hook, was no more than four or five inches from the edge. There were no further introductions of freebies, all there was left in the swim was the hookbait. As I watched Daddy came into the swim, swam straight up to the hookbait and sucked it in. A hectic fight followed in which the fish snagged me twice. Twice I started to strip off to go in for it and twice the fish came free. Eventually, the fish slipped over the net cord and he was mine. He weighed 26lb l4oz and was at the time, my second heaviest fish.
The year continued to smile on us and a few samples of essential oils arrived from Tim and Bill Cottam, prior to the launch of Nutrabaits. These would produce a string of nice fish from Salamander before the end of the year. 8mm Hi-Nu-Val combined with the essential oils worked a treat and accounted for just about every carp in the lake that summer. Indeed, at one point we had them queuing up for more!
23 Mar 2019 at 1.43pm
In reply to Post #399
In the three to four years that followed, I spent less time at Salamander than before. College had become my number one venue and Salamander was relegated to become simply a water where I might while away the odd hour or two in the evening. College was definitely a session water and I didn't think that Salamander would respond to session fishing. However, it would not be long before I was proved wrong in this assumption.
My occasional forays to Salamander Lake, fitted in between work and two or three day trips to College, were rewarding enough but with disappointing success compared to the early days. A few guys had begun session fishing the lake on a regular basis, among them was Tony Chipman, a committee member of Roche A.C. who very kindly showed me his spots on Rashleigh on my first visit. It was Tony who stirred my interest in the lake again when he caught Daddy at over 24lb during his winter-long campaign. Here's Tony in action.
I had never given too much thought to my presentation. I was convinced that simple, six inch Dacron rigs, using the tag of hooklink material passed through the eye to form the hair were all that was needed.
However, that summer I began a fishing one specific area of the lake where the weed was thickets. Here the best tactic was to fish a single hookbait over a carpet of hemp. The swims I fished were shallow and the water still clear so it was very easy to observe carp and their reactions to baiting situations and to rigs in general. I was shocked when I watched the Salamander carp suck in and then reject my simple Dacron rigs without so much as a bleep or a rattle of the rod tip, I knew I had to put my thinking cap on again.
After a great deal of frustration messing about with tubes and silicone and other rig gizmos I realised that there was no rig better suited to margin fishing than the simple float fishing tactic I had used to fish in the edge on most of my earliest trips to the lake. My reliance on the dominant high-tech aspect of modern carp fishing had blinded me to the fact that simplicity usually brings its own rewards.
In 1987, 1 started using the high protein bait I had been using on College. It was a highly experimental bait, based on the milk protein HNV approach and was, in fact, the prototype of the enzyme-based bait that Tim Paisley had worked on over the years. Carole and I were the only carp anglers in the south west to be on the bait, though other anglers throughout the country were field testing the radical idea in preparation for a commercial launch of the base and the enzymes, along with a range of the then only whispered about essential oils and other enhancers, stimulators and amino acid preparations.
The bait I was using would become Hi-Nu-Val, the enzymes and other enhancers would be named the Addits. The bait, the additives and the essential oils Tim and Bill Cottam were playing with were set to change the way carp anglers think about flavour compounds for ever. Nutrabaits was still several years away, but the bait was one that Carole and I used to catch over two hundred College fish in both 1985 and 1986.
The summer of '87 saw me putting in the hours at Salamander for the first time. I'd been on College for the past four years and to be honest I was getting a bit fed up with the place. I felt like a new challenge and Salamander would do nicely.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.47pm
In reply to Post #398
However, there was a bait freak burgeoning inside me bursting to get out, so while we were on a roll, I changed the bait! (Yes, that makes a lot of sense, Ken!). I switched the Nectarblend for another Haith's product, P.T.X. and switched flavour from banana to cinnamon oil, which I bought from a local health food store. Apparently it was used as a calming vapour rub, or some such nonsense. I used it at 2ml per 500g and it reeked! The new bait worked equally as well and it didn't take a genius to figure out that it was the Robin Red and the lower flavour levels that were doing all the damage.
Throughout the year I divided my time between Rashleigh and Salamander, really piling in the Robin Red bait and reaping the rewards, In November, I caught Big Daddy again, this time at 201b 4oz, the first authentic capture of a twenty from the water. The big fish definitely had the taste for the Robin Red bait by now, for I caught him again a few months late, up in weight a fair bit. He obviously liked his boilies.
Most of the fish were growing steadily but were, at the same time, becoming more and more crafty. The next year was definitely The Year of the Floater. The duck problem was nothing like as bad as it is today, so I was able to get away with prebaiting and fishing with free offerings, in my book, virtually indispensable for successful floater fishing. The carp in Salamander quickly wised up to floaters and stopped taking them altogether after a couple of years but to start with they were just silly for them. The bait I favoured was Purina Dairy Dinner, a hoop shaped biscuit, coated in a lovely, sweet smelling, milky powder that the carp adored. Rig? Dead complicated; I threaded four on to the nylon hooklink greased with Mucilin, the stuff in the little round red tin. Here's Daddy (I think) snaffling down floaters, Chum Mixers in this case, a few years later.
At one stage, I thought I had caught every fish in the lake, but a subsequent comparison of photos with Ian showed that I had missed out on three that he had caught but I hadn't. However, as I'd had nineteen different fish we were able to revise upwards slightly our estimate of the number of fish in the pool. Two memorable sessions stand out in my mind. The first was the first day of a week off sick following an operation - the unkindest cut of all! - and with stitches still healing in a tender place, I spent a hectic evening at the pool, taking three fish in an hour off the top. One of the trio proved to be a right mug for floaters as I caught the fish four times during the year, each time on the same bait and presentation. Apologies for the Billingsgate shot.
The other capture that stands out in my memory involves the first ever capture of the fish that came to be known as Carole's Pet. I was building most of my own rods at the time on Sportex and North Western blanks. I had just finished the whippings on a new S.S.5 that I had been building and outside, the weather looked perfect for floater fishing, but I had no suitable light floater rods, having stripped down my entire collection for rebuilding. With the varnish still drying on the SS 5, I took it to Salamander and had The Pet on the bank within five minutes of arriving at the lake. Little did I know that I would not see that fish fall to my rod again for another seven years. In the meantime, Carole caught it over and over again, repeatedly stuffing the capture up my nose and earning the fish its well deserved nickname. My first encounter with the carp soon to become known as Carole's Pet.
More ancient history to come...
19 Mar 2019 at 3.43pm
In reply to Post #397
"I thought you said you were going to use toffee", said John, who had been putting a six egg mix in a day.
"Coffee, you prat!" I replied.
Coffee, Toffee, Schmoffee! They don't seem to care much either way, John joked as his bait was virtually taken on the drop! Soon one of my rods was away to a nice double. It was the first capture of Clover, the lovely near-pure leather with the clover leaf pattern on its flank. The fish weighed just over 18lb.
Unknown to us at the time, another carp man was fishing the lake, a guy called Ian Johnson. Ian lived close to the lake and every lunchtime he would stroll down to the lake and fish freelined bread flake to rest on the top of the weed. In fact, Ian had been fishing the lake since the fish first went in and had probably caught most of the lakes carp when they were mere babies. Now he was catching regularly on the most simple tactics.
We often bumped into each other and were able to compare catches and start building a more precise picture of the lake and its carp in our minds. Ian was keen to try the obviously successful rig and bait John and I had been using but, at the time, the rig was definitely still on the secret list and, much as I liked Ian, I wasn't about to give away my edge. I did give him the recipe for the bait however, and he caught a carp of just over nineteen pounds on a lump of freelined paste.
This fish was not Big Daddy but another fish that was destined for local fame and fortune, a fat, yet very pretty carp that we nicknamed Gutbucket. This meant that we now had two fish approaching twenty pounds in the pond and, judging from Ian's catches and those of John and myself, it looked as if there were perhaps eighteen to twenty sizeable fish in the lake.
With hindsight, it is obvious that our rather haphazard attitude to flavours and flavour levels would start to work against us in time, but we were way too inexperienced to realise this at the time. Sure enough, it wasn't long before the carp began to get rather wary of small red balls of food emitting a wide variety of unnatural pongs, and a return to a particle approach was only temporarily successful. It was time to find out more about bait and bait science in order to get more out of the obvious potential of boiled baits.
At the end of 1980, I pulled off Salamander in favour of a local club water, Wheal Rashleigh, belonging to Roche AC and it was on this water that I refined the basic bait and flavour. There was no doubt that Robin Red had considerable long-term pulling power and I enjoyed considerable success on the lake, still using a fairly simple recipe, but with a lower level of just two flavours, cinnamon and banana, both from Rod Hutchinson. The bait was a simple variation of the original with slightly elevated levels of Robin Red. It was 6oz Nectarblend, 2oz Robin Red, 2oz Gluten plus 3ml of the flavour blend and 5ml of Hermesetas. This bait was readily devoured in great quantity by the Rashleigh fish and it accounted for the largest mirror and the largest common in the lake on my first visit, both taken within half and hour of each other! This is the big mirror a fabled old warrior soon to be christened Busted Tail by the growing carp fishing fraternity in the Club.
Reading up about baits suggested that a dollop of a sophisticated milk protein would improve the bait no end, and one of the whispers suggested Casilan, a baby food. This was actually calcium caseinate, a refined variant of rennet casein. In for a penny…I bunged in four ounces of the stuff for good measure! Soon my little red balls became the going bait on both Rashleigh and Salamander.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.42pm
In reply to Post #396
From then on, my love affair with the pool was sealed. The big fish cast its own unique spell on me, a spell that lasts to this day and one that will continue to last while the great carp remains in the pool. Sadly, and I hate to say so, given the sad state of carp fishing in the area at the present time, his days may be numbered and then the pool will be destroyed for ever as far as I am concerned.
(Remember, this was written in about 1995.)
The two fish on particles really stirred me up, so much so, that I even skipped work a few times, much to the anger of the skipper of the trawler I was working on. Then he too became captivated by the carp in the little pond and we both skived off from time to time. We were fishing commercially on the wrecks of the English Channel, off the Cornish coast, but when bad weather put paid to a salt water trip, it was the fresh, bubbling, stream-fed water of Salamander Lake that drew to its banks both me and John Affleck, my skipper and a tench and carp angler of some renown from the early days of Kent and Home Counties carping.
The first boiled bait I used was the brilliant Robin Red/Nectarblend/Wheat Gluten recipe that was being used by many of the more successful up-country anglers. It was flavoured with any of the original Hutchinson flavours such as Scopex, Enigma, Mystere and his original Cinnamon, which was brilliant. We all worked on ten-ounce mixes back then…not sure why! The exact recipe if I remember rightly was 7oz Nectarblend, 2oz Wheat Gluten and 1oz Robin Red. Four size 2 eggs plus 10ml flavour (how much!) and 5ml liquid Hermesetas. Boil for 2 minutes then dry for 24 hours.
It was 1980 and the hair rig was still a well-kept secret, especially in my part of the world. Luckily, I knew all about it, thanks to Speedy, and I was going to make the most of it! Being so new to the whole field of flavours and base mixes, I dived into the complex minefield with a will, and no flavour or combination of flavours was safe in my bait kitchen. Those poor old carp in Salamander didn't know what to expect next, as they were bombarded with a steady stream of red boiled baits flavoured with coffee, banana, toffee, chocolate, Green Zing, and permutations of some, or all, of the above. It says much for their initial naiveté that they gobbled them all up, regardless of the smell or taste.
In the early days, the lake was about eight feet deep at the dam end, and even where the stream entered the lake you could find five or six feet on either side of a prominent bar of silt and gravel, carried down by winter floods and deposited in the lake in a long finger-like feature that drew cam to it like bees to a honey pot. The water over the top of the bar was only some two or three feet deep and, on hot summer evenings, you could see fish clearly as they swirled and bow waved on the bar. It was here that John and I began to fish boilies for the first time.
It was late summer, another hot and still August evening when we set up one rod each at the inlet end of the lake. The Robin Red boiled bait had been going in for a week or so to get them used to the shape and smell of the bait but, as we found out later, John and I had been baiting up with different flavours, the exercise was probably futile.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.41pm
In reply to Post #395
That summer, I visited my good friend the late, and deeply missed, Trevor Housby. Each summer, Trev and I would spend a week or more, lost among the streams and backwaters of the Test and the Avon, fishing for trout and grayling, or on one of the club lakes near Ringwood, fishing for pike. The river at Christchurch was our Mecca for barbel and chub and we would spend patient hours stalking the few really big fish that inhabited the lower end of the Parlour Pool or The Compound. This odd looking pike took a chunk of luncheon meant ledgered for barbel under the wires of the Parlour Pool's pump hose outlet.
Me and Bill also joined the river syndicate run by Tom Williams on the Longford Estate in Wiltshire (Remember My River in the Angling Times?). What a laugh we had on there. Mile and miles of the R Avon and it's streams and backwaters, two weirpools, a pump house and eel trap, several white water runs with deep pools between. It was bliss. We mainly fished for chub and barbel but the roach fishing was out of this world as was the perch fishing. I think this is a nice chub but it's also a lousy photo.
During one particular visit, I told Trevor about the lake I had discovered and of the carp that I suspected now to weigh close to twenty pounds. I had no proper carp gear of my own, having sold my entire range of tackle in 1973, so Trev gave me a pair of North Westerns - AC7's I think they were - and suggested I give them a try. Bill had shown me the rig; I'd picked up enough about using particles and the basics of boiled baits on our trips to the syndicate water; Trev had given me the rods; I already had a pair of Mitchell 300 reels. I was half way towards becoming a carp angler again, all I needed now was a few carp under my belt.
Our summer days at Ockenham Lake, the syndicate water that Bill and I fished, were very laid back affairs It was predominantly particle fishing there in those days, using flavoured black-eyed beans, free-lined on a size two hook right in the margins. Very exciting fishing and a method that cried out to be tried at Salamander. So armed with a bucket of blackies, one of Trev's North Westerns and a trusty 300 loaded with new eight pound line I arrived at Salamander.
The swans and ducks that would, one day, become a nightmare as the water silted up, had yet to put in an appearance, so I was able to bait up a couple of patches in the margins and, because of the clarity of the water and the bright colour of the bait, could watch the carp as they moved in to sample the scattering of little white beans. The first carp I caught out of Salamander was a pure leather of just over eight pounds. I watched it pick up the bait in just four feet of water, less than a foot off the bank. I thought my heart was going to burst out of my body, so hard was it thumping and racing, its hammer-beat pounding in my ears as the carp first mouthed, then sucked in the bait. The scrap was hectic and equally heart-stopping in the weedy water, but I won in the end.
That little fish grew to become one of a famous trio of leathers in the pool. At the time, I did not know it, but the little eight pounder had a bigger brother so inevitably in time they would become known as Little and Large. There was another leather in there that we later caught and named he Clover thanks to a clover leaf scale grouping on her right flank. Her back and left flank were quite nude so I guess you could say she was an almost-leather.
I returned to the lake three days later and, using identical tactics, caught the now famous Big Daddy at approximately eighteen pounds. I have to say approximately, as I didn't have scales with me nor did I have a sack so the fish was guesstimated.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.39pm
In reply to Post #394
I also spent a lot of my free time on the rivers of Hampshire and Dorset trotting for the most part, for roach and chub, though I also did my fair share of grayling fishing too.
My friend, Bill, had been on at me to get back into the carp fishing game for some time, even going so far as to put me on a lovely little syndicate water in Devon to get my interest going again. In truth, though, I was still not committed to a return to carp fishing. Things had changed so much since I'd left it and I wasn't sure if I wanted to get involved in quite the way that now seemed necessary. In 1979, I fished for just anything that came along, bass, sea trout, reservoir trout, chub and barbel, mullet, pollack, eels, you name it. A return to full time carping? No thanks.
So just what it was that drew me to the banks of the little lake that August day, I'll never know. I was armed with a saggy old glass float rod, a creaky old folding garden chair (you know the sort), a couple of tins of sweetcorn and no particularly high hopes. I had seen rudd in the lake approaching maybe two pounds in weight and I think I told myself, at the time, these were my quarry.
I sat in the shade of the thickening willows, watching a red-tipped float sitting still and lifeless, poking through a slight scum line that was carried towards me on a warm, gentle breeze. The oppressive heat of a full-blown summer high pressure area sitting slap-bang over the south west made me sleepy and I dozed intermittently through the lazy afternoon. When I opened my eyes, after who knows how long, maybe only seconds, maybe minutes or even an hour, the left hand rod tip was just straightening, quivering and shaking from some unseen underwater attention. I started upright in the chair. Where was the float? Over there, under a tree, several yards from the baited swim. I grabbed the butt and struck at nothing. Everything came back, but the hook was bare. Sods Law had struck again and I had dozed off just when I got a bite!
Carp or rudd? Which had been the culprit? No way of telling, though I like to think that maybe, just maybe, it was a carp. I fished away the remains of the day without further excitement but then just as the light was going, a couple of gulls, flying low across the surface, spooked one, or maybe two, fish that had been cruising below the surface. As they turned in their panic, they sent huge swirls to the surface. That was my first experience of the carp of Salamander Lake; hard proof that the whispers were not merely rumour.
You'd have thought I'd have been right back there the next day, wouldn't you? But the carp fever had not yet had a chance to infected me again. The next free time I had for fishing took me down west, to The Lizard, fishing the coves and deep rocky gullies for anything that came along. I was after wrasse, but the bass were running hard that summer and the silver dreams held sway for the rest of the summer and most of the autumn months.
Winter was work, work, work and, by the following summer, I had almost forgotten about the carp in the little lake. True, I had enjoyed yet another hectic trip with Bill to our syndicate lake (where he had let me in on the secrets of the hair and of Robin Red and boiled baits), but carp still did not figure greatly in the overall scheme of things.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.37pm
In reply to Post #393
Once upon a time there was a stream, an insignificant little affair, running off low hills, through farmlands and forests towards the distant sea. Where it met softer, flatter ground, the clear waters spread out across the surrounding plain. At its edges, the plain became a marsh, in its middle, a bog. Then came the homes; built to house the workers of local industry. The buildings were of solid stone and granite, warm in winter, cool in summer. In the shelter of the surrounding hills, the little hollow and its plain were a natural sun trap.
For the inhabitants of the little village that sprang up close to the marshy bog it was almost ideal: almost! You see, the only drawback to living in this idyllic little spot was the bog itself as due to the nature of the swampy surroundings, in summer the place was a fetid swamp of pungent, mosquito ridden water. The broken down silt and mud of millennia steamed and bubbled in the heat and the villagers often complained; in the summer about the boggy smell and insect life which played havoc with their everyday lives; or in the winter, when heavy rain ran off the hills and the stream became a torrent, about the flooding of the bog land and the surrounding plain, making roads and footpaths impassable. Something had to be done and, with the usual alacrity shown by councils the length and breadth of the country, it only took a hundred years or so to get around to dealing with the problem.
So it was that in the mid-70s heavy plant moved in, first to divert the stream, then to shore up the bank, dredge out the silt, plant a few willows, build a dam at the other end from the stream entrance, re-route the stream through the eight foot deep hollow left behind by their labours, and depart. As the hollow began to fill, the stream wove a magic spell over the once stagnant area. Where there had been bog, now there was a cool, dark lake, brimming over with natural life carried down from the hills on a bubbling tide of highly oxygenated water.
The lake settled down quickly, the stream carrying its life blood of silt and natural food, soon covered the gravel bottom with a layer of soft mud. Weeds found a hold and began to flourish in the perfect conditions for growth. All that was missing were fish of which there were none, other than a few bold or lost sea trout that had used the lower part of the stream for millennia.
They ventured upstream as far as the lake where they stayed a while before moving on further towards the foothills of the moors. Minnows appeared as if by magic and a few brown trout took up residence but there was no real life to the pond. What it needed was a few carp gliding lazily through the turbid water, grubbing in the bottom to send clouds of mud billowing up towards the surface.
In 1977, the council decided to stock the lake with coarse fish, including a hundred and fifty carp, thousands of rudd, a few tench and some perch. From being almost devoid of aquatic life, now it was full to bursting. The local kids had a field day. Maggots made an awful killing, literally, as hundreds of small fish were carried back to homes in the village to be paraded like trophies, before being fed to the cat.
Though I guess one had to feel for the unfortunate victims, their sacrifice was not in vain. In truth, the lake had been overstocked to the point of lunacy; now the fish that were left found they no longer needed to compete for food and soon, the thirty or so remaining carp began to thrive in the rich water, putting on weight and condition. Whispers of grey, ghostly monsters, glimpsed, or maybe only imagined, gliding through the murky water, began to be heard yet, at the time, I showed only a small spark of interest. My carp fishing life had only recently been renewed after a decade or so of fishing for other species. My return to the ranks was only just reawakening and there was a lot of new tackle and tactics with which I needed to come to terms.
I fished the Salamander for the time in late summer 1979. I had been carefully dipping a hesitant toe into the steamy quagmire that modern carp fishing seemed to have become in the years I had turned my back upon it. I had packed it all in several years earlier in favour of the savage, heart-stopping excitement of barbel fishing.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.35pm
In reply to Post #392
THE STORY OF SALAMANDER LAKE 1979 - 1997
Over the past forty years I have written at some length on Salamander lake, not only in this thread, but also in the many articles I have had published in carp fishing mags throughout Europe. Like most if not all of you reading this, I hold a very special place in my heart for the lake that first triggered my interest in carp fishing. For some of you it will be a club lake or maybe a pit in the valley or elsewhere in the country. For me, Salamander will always be that place. So please forgive me for writing about it once again.
This is the lake in about 1978…
Salamander Lake has had a hold on me that is for over forty years. My first article about the lake appeared in 1981 when I wrote a piece for the magazine Coarse Angler called Hooked on Carp, which detailed my early days at the lake. Back when I first started fishing the lake it was clear to me that the lake would be very vulnerable to over-fishing and perish the thought, fish theft, so I thought it judicious to include a few blinds in the Coarse Angler piece to protect the lakes whereabouts and its true identity
There followed a further couple of stories, again for Coarse Angler and there were a blinds in those ones too! Since then, the lake has featured in many of my most memorable carp fishing experiences and stories.
Salamander Lake! What can I say? I adore the place! It was indirectly responsible - along with another lake in Devon - for bringing me back into the carp fishing fold after I'd packed in regular carp fishing in the early
seventies. These days, the lake is a pale shadow if itself with few if any carp left in it. You see, it is a free water, fishable by anyone with a rod license, completely uncontrolled by any club or organisation. The local council own the surrounding marsh and parkland and, from time to time, they pay lip service to the people who use the park as somewhere to walk the dogs and to take the kids but, for the most part, the lake has been left to get on with its life as best it can.
Sadly, the lake is at the mercy of the more unsavory *******s that haunt the fringes of carp fishing and life in general and many fish have been stolen to stock other waters, while others have died from abuse, neglect and downright bad angling. For all that, the lake was once the only water in this part of the country that could offer the carp angler a true challenge, as the carp that were in it were the craftiest I have ever fished for.
I first fished Salamander Lake in 1979 and caught my first carp of any size from the water a year later. In the years that followed, I got to know its inhabitants very well indeed - so much so that I even got around to nicknaming most of them myself. As the story unfolds, I think you will see how and why I have built up such an intimate feeling for the water and I hope you will also forgive me for omitting any hints of its whereabouts. That said most carp anglers who really want to locate the water will not find the process too hard.
Back then Salamander was just another lake on the big fish circuit, one poster boy anglers liked to visit, hammer it for as long as it took to catch the big one, and then depart. They have no soul, these people. They take all and give nothing. On the other hand, a few visiting anglers with a heart and a soul and a feel for the water, gave as well as they took. Their rewards were well deserved and their pleasure usually shared. It is a busy park lake with all that that entails, but on quiet summer morning while the world awakes there is magic to be found on its banks.
So this is its tale, a re-write of the three-part series I did for Carpworld published in 1996.
2 Mar 2019 at 7.52am
In reply to Post #391
Postscript: As it turns out the fish that beat me up so badly thqat night was in all probability one of only two catfish in the Chat. One was an albino that was only ever seen once when the lake was drained for work to be done on the sluice. It was not weighed at the time but those who saw it reckoned it was close to two meters long! That would make it around 250lb.
The other cat was caught many years later by well-known home counties angler Stuart 'Lilo' Gillam, now living the high life in Thailand with Sean his son, both running the hugely successful Gillam's Fishing Resort in Karabi. Tat and I had met the pair in what was, I believe, their final carping trip in Europe when they visited the Chat before heading out east. We shared a great week with them and enjoyed more than a few beers together. Stuart caught the other catfish on a return visit to finalise details of the Resort and while 'home' he found time to fit in a visit to the Chat where he caught this huge fish (Stuart is on the left). He didn't weigh it, but as you can see, it's a beast, probably well over a hundred pounds. Was it this huge creature that had caused me so much grief in the wind and rain of a hideous night marooned on the island?
So ended the trip. It had been hugely successful from both a personal and a commercial point of view (remember, the whole point of the trip was to gather material to publicise the lake). One thing was for sure: I'd be returning to the Château Lake!
2 Mar 2019 at 7.46am
In reply to Post #390
Shivering with cold and drenched to the bone I chucked the rod into the bushes and struggled into the bivvy and after a thorough towel down and a change of clothes plus two cups of brandy-laced coffee I began to feel human again.
Early morning and the wind died down and the rain stopped. Peeping out of the bivvy door I saw a sky ablaze with stars. What a transformation. Were the carp still around? Yes, they were…As the dawn broke I had another take from a carp that fought like crazy all the way to the net. It was one of the strongest carp I’ve ever played taking me over thirty minutes to overcome its powerful struggles. The scales presented me with yet another biggie, a humpty-backed mirror of just over thirty three pounds…Pinch me, someone!
Though it was still early this called for a beer! Another celebratory 1664 slipped down my throat; what a nice breakfast! And it wasn’t over yet by any means! Mid-morning I caught a small mirror and just as I was thinking about lunch another big carp took a bait off the big hump to the right of the east pontoon. It was yet another thirty and no sooner had I done the pix of that one that the other rod on the east pontoon went off...!
I was due to pack up fishing at midday but the temptation to stay for one more night was nagging at my brain. I was probably overstaying my welcome and pushing my luck to the limit but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave!
At six in the evening I was very glad I stayed! I was sitting on the pontoon as the sun went down, watching the world go by, when the tip of the one of the rods cast into the channel pulled slowly round. The buzzer gave a couple of bleeps, then broke into its full battle cry as a carp took off with the bait. Although the carp had picked up a bait cast well off to the right, all it wanted to do was go left, left, left all the time until it went around the back of the island. I had no choice but to strip off my trousers and T-shirt and go in after it.
What a performance. From snag to snag, tree branch to tree branch. Eventually I managed to get the snag leader onto the reel and I led the carp like a dog on a leash through the snags back to the pontoon. I climbed out onto the boards and eventually landed the fish after about thirty minutes of unarmed combat! Bugger me if it wasn't another thirty. Was I dreaming? I’d never seen such a magnificent fish and after such an amazing fight the memories of that carp will stay with me for a very long time indeed.
The night was quiet until the early hours of the morning. At just after five o’ clock I had yet another run on one of the rods cast to my left into the channel. Another fabulous fight from a very strong fish and yes, you guessed it, another thirty.
Suddenly it was over. The dawn broke over the eastern end of the lake and as it the sun rose the wind once again switched direction back towards the south west. The carp moved with it almost immediately and soon I could see them jumping way off in the bay once again. It was time to go, time to bid farewell to this amazing lake. The sun beamed down on the lake and the tranquillity of the surroundings made me sad that I was leaving but I would be back!
2 Mar 2019 at 7.41am
In reply to Post #389
I fell to with a vengeance that night, re-baiting the swims with three kilos of boilies, tying on new hook links and hooks and generally acting as if it was the start of the trip and not nearly the end of it. Not expecting anything to happen until at least one in the morning, I sat out on the pontoon as the night fell. A fresh wind blew straight into my face as I smoked a cigarette and drank a bottle of beer.
The wind was from the south east, warm and humid, a real carp angler’s wind. I knew I shouldn’t tempt providence, but once again I felt very confident of catching and this time my confidence was well placed. At just after eight o’clock in the evening the right hand rod burst into life, the first time I’d had a take off to the right hand side. After about ten minutes I had managed to get the fish in close. In the fading light I could see great swirls coming up from the bottom as the carp fought for its freedom and this was a prelude for a long struggle under the rod tip. After another ten minutes the fish at last sank into the waiting folds of my net, and I saw straight away that I had captured another good thirty.
I broke out another bottle of beer and tipped the whole lot down my throat to celebrate. The lake looked and felt so completely different that evening and into the dark hours. T-shirt weather towards the end of October in northern France? Unbelievable. With the unseasonably warm weather pushed towards me by a fresh south east wind it felt like carp weather and no mistake. And so it was…yet another thirty came to join me on the island. This was now on the point of stretching the bounds of reality!
The wind started to pick up by mid-afternoon and the fresh south easterly breeze blew straight into the swim, increasing in strength the longer it blew. The new wind brought carp towards me in numbers and they were crashing out all over the place. It just proved what I had been thinking all along, that the fish were following the wind. And the night was young. Plenty of time for more. The wind seemed to be strengthening all the time and it was now looking really carpy. I hope I don’t get any sleep I said greedily to myself.
It was awesomely warm but with 100% cloud cover, the breeze shoving them along at a ferocious rate. It looked like a storm was on it's way. In the gathering gloom I sat out in the freshening wind on the west pontoon drinking a few beers and listening to the carp crashing out in the darkness before heading for the shelter of the bivvy. I lay there listening to the wind as it increased in strength. If I don't get a few tonight, I thought to myself, I never will.
Sure enough and hour or so later, with rain now falling heavily, I had a brace of smaller fish, both commons that were returned un-weighed and un-photographed…I wanted to get out of the rain as I was getting drenched.
The weather conditions were perfect as the wind had really began to blow strongly and by midnight it was near gale force blowing straight into the western pontoon swim: it could only be a matter of time before I had another run.
It came as the light strengthened with the dawn, a screaming take from a very strong fish that ripped line off at amazing speed. I bent into it as best I could but nothing I could do seemed to have any effect. On and on it ploughed putting many yards between us. Whenever I tried to stop that incredible run the fish pointed me and continued to rip line from the reel. By now I was soaked right through and was loosing my sense of humour. This fish was beating me up and no mistake!
So there I stood, cold, wet and if truth be told pretty fed up. There was only a couple of reasons why I could make no headway against this fish; it was either foul hooked or it was the biggest carp I had ever hooked. I never discovered the answer and frankly I didn't care one way or the other. I was exhausted and about to freeze to death. Thankfully with the fish on a long line - probably by now 200m away - the weight of the wind on the line and the rod conspired to pull the hook free. Thank God for that, I said to myself.
2 Mar 2019 at 7.39am
In reply to Post #388
I baited up the gully area to my left with a further two kilos of bait. and fished two rods onto the same patch of bait that had produced a couple of fish earlier in the week, even while the wind was blowing a hoolie towards the far bay at the time. Hopefully not all the carp moved on the breeze. Maybe they'd learned a trick or two from the College carp that at time stubbornly refused to follow the wind, not matter how many 'experts' told them that was whet they were supposed to do!
The third and fourth rods were cast in the direction of the château bank from the western pontoon but with the wind in my face I was not able to get anywhere near the shallows in front of the boathouse. However, Pete had pointed out to me a quite prominent bar that lay only a dozen or so yards off the west-facing pontoon. It was steep and quite vicious, ripping the leads to pieces. It was easy to find to…You just pulled back until the rod tip started banging away like a good 'un. I put one rod on the top of this feature and chucked the other one as far as I could towards the boathouse and backed up the hookbaits with a kilo of bait on each rod.
So far all the takes had come during the hours of darkness. The buzzers had not uttered a single bleep in daylight, so it was a considerable surprise when, at just after nine thirty in the morning with the sun well up in the sky following another blank night, all hell suddenly broke loose. First of all I had a run on the left hand rod on the eastern pontoon and while I was playing that fish one of the two rods on the western pontoon went off! I didn’t know what to do, so I hung onto the first rod while the other one screamed its head off. There was no way I could play them both at once as the two were at opposite ends of the island about twenty metres apart!
Thankfully fate decided things for me as I pulled out of the first fish so chucked the rod down and then ran across to the other side of the island to hit the run that was still taking line. That fish I managed to land, a strange box-shaped creature. I guess we'd call it an Italian strain carp over here, but maybe it was simply a slightly odd-shaped Royale strain of fish.
So all of a sudden, out of nowhere, two runs had come at along within minutes of each other. The fish had come back to me at last and the weather forecast finally predicted an end, albeit only a temporary one, to the interminable south west wind. I felt sure that once the wind turned to another direction I’d have carp in my swim in big numbers.
The next morning, dawn arrived in the most spectacular fashion. I have never seen such a brilliant red sunrise. Quite the most amazing I natural phenomenon I have seen in all my (too) many years of carp fishing.
The new day brought with it new weather; not a cloud in the sky, the sun came out, it got warm then hot and by mid morning it was an absolutely glorious day. I had two fish by lunchtime, a mid twenty and a double figure common, the smallest carp so far on this trip. Both had fallen to bottom baits fished with just a small stringer to draw attention to the hookbait, no free offerings at all. It didn’t seem to matter whether I baited up with two or three kilos of free offerings or none at all if the fish were there they hung themselves! Both carp were caught on the close-in rods, cast into the gully about fifty meters or so into three metres of water.
I went into the village again that morning and visited the restaurant for another shower and a meal. These left me feeling really invigorated and refreshed. I felt so much better after a good meal, a drop of wine, and a decent shower that I was now ready for anything. Once again I decided to fish only with five bait stringers rather than over a large carpet of boilies and to be honest, I was very confident of my chances of catching now that the wind had stopped blowing away from me.
But I blanked yet again! My brash confidence of the previous night evaporated in a frustrated mist! The lake continued to baffle me. I had been awake for most of the night listening for fish but I never heard a thing. I couldn’t understand it at all. Where had they gone? A change in the weather often gets carp feeding and though the lake was now under the influence of a high pressure system, I felt sure that the new wind from the south east would have brought fish into my area. But that’s carp fishing. Sometimes they defy all reason and you just have to sit it out and hope! But I couldn’t complain. I was happy with what I had caught so far and there were still two more nights to go and now the wind had turned right round and was blowing straight towards the château bank and the island.
20 Feb 2019 at 10.19pm
In reply to Post #387
Excellent Ken, very interesting!!
20 Feb 2019 at 12.55pm
In reply to Post #386
More to follow soon.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.54pm
In reply to Post #385
By now I was beginning to grasp the magnitude of the task I had undertaken. I had never fished such a huge lake before and looking at it in the cold light of day it was obvious that there was a huge amount of water I could not cover. Hoping they would come sniffing around the island in search of food was expecting a lot, and there was no obvious activity coming from down the far end of the lake. Nor were they showing themselves in front of the western pontoon now the wind had dropped away. Using Google I have since measured the distance from the island to where I had seen fish showing. As I had thought at the time, its near enough half a mile. In this photo, which was taken from the peninsula (swim 26 for those of you who know the lake) looking back down the lake, the island is in the centre of the photo. How tiny it looks on such a huge expanse of water.
Still, at least I had the beginnings of an article building in my head should the Count finally commit to his plan to open up the lake to the great unwashed!
Four fish on the bank so far and more to come I felt sure. But sadly the next night was a blank one. I wondered if the fish that had drifted away from the far end of the lake might not have by-passed the island altogether and we now feeding on the remains of the bait Pete and Mik had put in at the weekend. Wouldn't do any harm to move a couple of rods over to the other pontoon, would it? I reeled in the two long range rods and moved them across to the other pontoon. I now had a pair of rods on each side of the island and I somehow felt much more confident.
Such confidence was misplaced as again I suffered a blank night but I felt it was only a matter of time before the carp came back to me, even though there was little or no activity to be seen way up the lake towards the far bay and there was no sign of any carpy action to my left or right. I figured the fish could well be shoaled up off the shallows in front of an old boathouse that stood prominently on the château bank. Little did I know what a huge part this little structure would play in my carp life over the years to come. Here you can see the island in the centre of the photo while the boathouse itself is visible on the far left of the picture between the old oak tree on the lawn and the fir tree that towers over the little building. It is about 350m between the island and the boathouse so there is plenty of room for the carp to loose themselves in the vastness of the lake.
Sunday was dull and overcast, a bit drizzly and the wind had freshened up quite a bit, more south-west weather that would surely take the fish out of range again…
In fact it was real carp weather and they should have been going mad. Maybe they were, but not where I was fishing! I was so emotionally exhausted by the long session with only myself for company that I decided to have a day off and went into town to do some shopping before stopping at a Les Routiers restaurant for a shower and a decent meal. By the time I got back to the island at about four in the afternoon I was refreshed and ready for the fray again.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.52pm
In reply to Post #384
The forecast was good for the night with fresh winds and reasonably high temperatures. But I didn’t know what to expect after one night when we caught was followed by one when we all blanked. As the evening drew in a few carp began to show a long way off in the bay away to the east. It looked as if my fears had been realised, the wind had carried most of the carp with it towards the far bay. I was rather apprehensive that I might be in the wrong swim and decided to give it one more night on the island. If I blanked, I would follow the wind and move further up the lake.
Despite my misgivings I caught a couple of carp, one coming to the rod cast way off to the left in the deepest part of the channel between the island and the château bank, the other on the long range right hand rod cast about 100m in the direction of the far bay. The runs came at three and five o’clock in the morning and were the only takes of the night...not that I was complaining, they were both thirties! I sacked them up to wait for the morning when I could do the photos. (OK. I know the thought police of today will now be having a conniption fit, but back then everybody did it.)
The dawn when it arrived was very red heralding the arrival of strong winds and a few hours of rain. Luckily I managed to photograph the two carp before the rain arrived but then I had to retreat to the bivvy while the rain passed. The weather was not really in favour of the island situated as it was nearer the western end of the lake than the eastern one. With the prevailing westerly wind blowing hard all the time the carp seemed to have followed the wind up the lake, away from the island into the distant bay at the eastern end of the lake a good half a mile away from my baited patch!
The predictable rain, heralded by the morning's red sky had arrived and it pissed down for about 6 hours. I was marooned in a dark, dank sea of green and the rain hammered down onto the roof and the wind threatened to uproot the bivvy and blow it, and me, into the lake! It was bloody horrible and to be honest I was glad I didn't get a take.
Eventually the wind lost its anger and as it did so the rain lost its ferocity and soon the sun came out and the world took on a much rosier hue.
Sitting out in the late evening sunshine, beer in hand watching the world go by, I heard a huge splash that seemed to have come from pretty close by. I got up and looked for the ripples and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that the fish had crashed out just a matter of yards from the right hand margin of the island, about ten years from were I was sitting. I needed no further invitation to reel in one rod and chuck a speculative hookbait and stringer into the rough area of the splash and before I had time to put the rod back on the pod the bait was taken and a big fish set off for deeper water. After a good bit of to and fro-ing the carp ended up in the net. Another really good fish well over thirty pounds in weight.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.50pm
In reply to Post #383
Out in front of me, looking eastwards up the lake to a distant bay, the lakebed seemed pretty flat at about three meters deep while off to my right the bottom could not have been more different. Here it went up and down like an egg box. I was spoilt for choice. I decided to fish three rods out in front cast as far as possible with the fresh wind from astern to help me and one rod across towards the shallows. I planned to trickle bait into the egg box for a few days as a back up if there was no action. See what happens…
We got sorted out by dusk, then cooked the evening meal before sitting back to relax for the first time since leaving home. It was wonderful to sit and drink a cold beer watching the sunset and listening to a few carp crashing out away up the lake to the east. Soon my eyes were drooping with lack of sleep so I climbed into the blissful warmth and comfort of the bag and fell asleep almost immediately. I slept like a log, thus missing what was apparently the mother and father of all storms that hit the lake during the night. Thunder crashed and lightning flashed and yours truly slept right through it. Just as well I didn't have a take, though I should add, I have never ever slept through a take in my life.
It was still dark when I awoke. I looked at my watch; four in the morning. I peered out of the bivvy door to be greeted by a thick fog. The lake what I could see of it was while calm. Looking at the fog I thought to myself, “That’s the end of that,” for I have never done well in foggy conditions. However, just to prove me wrong suddenly, from the other side of the island, a buzzer screamed out! It was one of Mikhail’s rods! Pete was as wide awake as myself so we were soon with him on the pontoon as he took up the fight. Apparently the take had come on a bait cast into about three metres of water some twenty metres out. It was a terrific scrap from a beautiful carp, a big hump-backed grey Italian strain mirror of just over thirty pounds.
Everybody was delighted for Mikhail for it was a personal best. We had a cup of coffee to celebrate the first carp of the trip then went back to bed. I tried to read a bit of my book but I could feel my eyelids slapping shut and gave in to the fatigue. It didn’t seem as if I’d been asleep more than a few minutes when I too had a very fast run. I made my way along the pontoon, through the fog, then picked up the left hand rod. The LED was glowing brightly and the indicator was emitting a continuous shriek! As soon as I struck I knew I was attached to a very good fish. It had picked up a pop-up boilie cast off to the left some thirty metres out. And what a fabulous fish it was, a common not far off thirty-five pounds!
There was no more action that night, nor during the day that followed but we’d had two “thirties” after all. What a fabulous way to start to a session!
Obviously we were very excited by the prospect of the next night’s fishing but in fact it was a complete let-down after the two big carp of the previous night. We all blanked. It seemed almost unbelievable that they could switch off so quickly after switching on so instantly the day before. I think perhaps the weather conditions played their part for it was a completely different night, clear and cold with millions of stars shining in the sky, not a ripple on the lake and a touch of frost on the ground. We were all rather disappointed, especially for Pete who had to leave that morning. He had not had a touch all through the session, but Mikhail and I were obviously very happy with our big carp.
My two friends left at midday. I sat out on the rods in the freshening south westerly breeze. The conditions looked good again; blue skies and big white clouds all puffing along on a fresh south westerly breeze. There was some early drizzle in the wind but that soon cleared up and it was quite warm in the sun. I sat out on the western pontoon with the bins, scanning the water for a sign of carp. There were enough fish poking their heads out to make the heart pound harder!
20 Feb 2019 at 12.48pm
In reply to Post #382
Eventually we reached the island and the two pontoons that had been built to accommodate anglers. They were very sturdy and comfortable but not big enough on which to put up a bivvy. However, there was plenty of room on the island itself. In fact it was mega comfortable and it even had its own WC… of sorts!
I had the big double bivvy with me for the long session and soon I was installed in the absolute luxury and blissful comfort of the excellent canvas pump-up.
It was all a bit hard to take in at first: here I was marooned on an island in the middle of a seventeenth century estate lake that was apparently stiff with carp. How good is that!
Pete and Mikhail had arranged some time off work to do a couple of nights with me. The pontoon looking down the lake towards the road end was slightly bigger and would accommodate two sets of rods so they took that side while I set up on the opposite side of the island. Here the swim faces more or less due east, a bit of a bugger as the wind was a fresh south westerly, blowing away from me. Not to worry! This is Pete and Mik as they are setting up on west-facing pontoon, the bigger of the two.
And this is the view of Pete and Mik's swim from afloat with the Chateau in the background. Nice, eh?!
Soon we were installed on the island. What a magnificent setting! Off to the left the imposing château dominated the view, surrounded by a thick pine forest the magnificent lawns swept down to the lake edge. There were even a few deer grazing quietly on its lush expanse.
A quick buzz around with the sounder and the Zodiac showed a distinct area of shallows in front of the lawn. It was only about a meter deep but the depth dropped off fairly steeply a couple of hundred yards of the chateau bank's margins. There was then a deep channel some three to four meters deep running between the island and the shallows and I felt this would be a good spot for at least one or maybe two rods.
I decided to bait up fairly heavily along the change-over line from deep water to shallow. In effect, this meant that I could fish into two or three metres of water about fifty metres off to my left, while the gradual slope meant a cast of about a hundred meters further put me in the deepest water of about four meters. I dropped a kilo of bait along the drop-off, concentrating mainly on the deeper water and the shelf leading up to the shallows.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.47pm
In reply to Post #381
Excited by Pete’s news that I might be in with a chance of catching some previously uncaught carp, I made arrangements to go over for a visit in late October 1996. Unfortunately I had to undertake the trip alone, my usual fishing partners being committed to other adventures and Carole being hard at work earning a living so that I could go fishing. Bless her!
The thought of spending any length of time in my own company was rather daunting. I’ve never fished in such isolated circumstances, nor for such a long time without company or a break of some kind. I was a bit uneasy about the prospect ahead. To cap it all the shipping forecast gave SW 6-8 for the night of my crossing so my stomach was churning with butterflies as I left home.
The crossing from Plymouth to Roscoff was pretty rough and bumpy with a south westerly gale blowing. On board I met a group of English anglers who were on their way to Fishabil. I told them of my plans and where I was going (though I didn't name the lake) and they queried the wisdom of going to a completely unknown lake, when I would have to drive straight past the known quantity of Fishabil in order to get there. But if you don’t try out new things, you never, learn do you? Starship Enterprise - to boldly go and all that, splitting infinitives in the process. !
The rough weather meant that I didn’t sleep very well on the ferry and I drove to the lake with drooping eyelids. The weather was not very pleasant, heavy rain under lowering grey skies. Not the sort of start I would have wished for. I met Pete and his mate Mikhail at the lake and we agreed that we would fish together for the weekend before they had to pull off for work. Eric got a bottle out - I found out in later visits that sinking a swift glass or seven was the accepted procedure to follow at the start of a trip in France. Here's Pete on the left with Eric the Estate Manager.
Eric mentioned that there were already three English lads fishing the lake so we all went up to see how they were doing. They were not best pleased to see me and even less so when I told them of the purpose of my visit, but nothing was agreed just yet and until I had met the Count their little secret was safe.
By a huge coincidence I had met one of the group before; Roy Williams, an old College visitor from way back. It's a small world. Nige Cobham and Graham Mountain were on the trip too. Good anglers all three of them, so it was no surprise to hear that they'd had a few decent fish, though they were cagey about sizes. As they were leaving the next day I was all for going into their vacated swims, but after a bit of a discussion it was clear that Eric felt we were in with a better chance if we fished two newly created pontoons swims situated on an island in the middle of the 170 acre lake. (It turned out that these had been built especially for my visit so it would have been rude not to fish them.) In the photo the pontoon on the right is east-facing, while the one of the left faces west towards the main road and the sluice outlet.
Back at the car park Eric steered me in the direction of a rather dilapidated pontoon alongside which sagged a rather tired-looking semi water-logged punt about the size of the QE2. If it hadn't be tied to the jetty I reckon it would have sunk.
We bailed it out but water came in as fast as we emptied it. Oh well. We bit the bullet and got on with it! Pete had brought his big Zodiac with a powerful Evinrude petrol outboard so we loaded all the gear into the two boats and prepared to set off the half mile or so across the choppy surface to the island. Of course, the outboard wouldn't start so after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing a small electric motor was hitched to the transom of the punt and the battery was connected up. Even with the size of the punt there was only room for Pete's gear and mine so Mik's went in the Zodiac, and wheezing like a good 'un, the little electric struggled to get all three of us out to the island. This was my first view of it. I was mighty impressed, to say the least.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.44pm
In reply to Post #380
It was the weather as much as any other factor that kept us off the bank of the big lake while we indulged in a spot of touristy stuff, you know, eating and drinking the best that France has to offer and occasionally doing a bit of sight seeing. It was while on our tour of the area that we came across a large French town with a big river running though it and for want of something better to do we tried our luck for the carp, even though we did not know for sure if there were any carp in there. (We have since found out that virtually every French river holds carp to a greater or lesser degree. Indeed, if we'd though to stop in the town we'd have found a big tackle shop, the walls of which were festooned with photos of good sized carp. Hey-ho! You live and learn.) This is a short section of the river in question.
As it turned out there we got pretty lucky and dropped onto a few fish straight away and we actually caught a few twenties. In fact there are much bigger carp in there as we subsequently discovered but on that visit we were happy with what he caught. This is Tat and myself with three nice twenties.
I mentioned that the big barrage was one of three lakes in the valley so naturally we had a look at the other two. The first was as big as the one we were fishing but was long and thin whereas the one by our gite was just big! The third lake was only twenty kilometers away from the gite so naturally enough we visited the lake. God, it looked carpy!
The lake was in the grounds of a fairy story chateau with wide sweeping lawns and thick forests: it looked as if it had come straight out of a novel or was some exotic film set. Further enquirers in the nearby town indicated that, indeed the lake was very private and was owned by a true aristocrat, a count no less! We were told that there was some talk that the lake might open for fishing on a limited scale the following year, so the following year we were back, this time staying in a nice little bar/restaurant cum guest house situated right on the banks of the river we had fished the previous year.
Again we managed a few decent fish from the river but once again we were disappointed to find that the private lake remained just that…Private.
Year followed year…we found new challenges and caught a few from here and there. Then in the early part of 1996 I got an excited phone call from my old friend, now living in France, Pete McDermott. He had managed to get permission to fish the Chateau Lake and together with Mikhail his mate he had fished a 24-hour session for seven fish, smallest just over twenty pounds, biggest a good thirty. This is Pete with a Chateau Lake mirror.
Pete and his mate were the very first carp anglers ever to cast a boilie into the lake and naturally they visited it throughout the summer, each time being rewarded with some very decent fish.
The lake was a completely unknown quantity as far as its potential was concerned and Pete was eager for me to fish there as he knew the lake may not remain open for long as the owner was in two minds whether to allow the great unwashed onto its banks. I don't think he needed the money so who could blame him. However, Pete arranged a meeting between me and the Count, the idea being that we could talk it over and I could maybe point out the financial benefits he might gain by opening the lake, which I would publicise in the UK.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.43pm
In reply to Post #379
CHATEAU LAKE: OCTOBER ‘96
I thought you might like to read a bit about my experiences on a lake I became associated with back in the 90's and the 00's, L'etang de la Poiteviniere, aka the Château Lake or simple the Chat.
This was not the first French lake I fished. Nige, Steve and myself had ventured across the Channel first in 1989 and several times thereafter. However, while we had fished some pretty decent lakes such as Chatillon and Hutchy's 'Commons Lake' it wasn't until we tripped over Poiteviniere that our French forays really began to kick off.
Tat and I had also discovered the joys of French holiday cottages enjoyed some pretty decent gite/fishing holidays and it was on one of those trips that we first encountered the now-famous estate lake that has since become so well known. Little did I know at the time that the Chat was to figure so hugely in my angling over the next fifteen years.
Have you ever looked through a fence or over a wall into a dream-world? You see before you the private landscape of an ancient château; a lawn that looks as if it has been painted onto the surface of the earth, a Capability Brown garden blossoming with colour and splendour and, maybe, a lily-fringed lake where huge carp sport and parade with not a care in the world. A paradise. Wistfully you say to yourself, “I’d give anything to be able to fish there,” but you know that cannot be. For a start there's a bloody great sign baring your way that says "Private"
That is what happened to us a few years ago, in the late summer of 1991. We had rented a gite situated on the banks of a big lac de barrage in western France. It was one of three lakes that lay in the valley of a river, surrounded by thick forests and dotted with the occasional village, the lake was about 800 acres in size.
We had chosen the gite 'on spec' more because it was only a stone's throw from the water that any other reason. We took a chance that the lake would produce carp and while we did catch a few upper doubles and mid-20s we had hoped for better things. Here's Tat with a low twenty and myself with a typical carp from the huge lake.
You can get some idea of the size of the lake from the above pix and at the time it was certainly the largest lake we had fished so far in our carp fishing lives. College was the largest venue we'd tackled to date so to look out on this huge expanse of water - and these pix show only about a quarter of it - was pretty daunting. To be honest I think we did pretty well to catch anything at all! As you can see from the photo the weather took a dislike to us in no uncertain way!
13 Feb 2019 at 12.32pm
In reply to Post #378
We always take alternate runs and this one was Tat's so she picked up the rod and reeled like mad to get in contact with the fish while I got the boat ready. Tat, however, said she didn't need the boat as it was, "just another bloody bream", and certainly, she did not seem to be having too much bother reeling it in. However, as the fish got closer to the swim it began to put up a bit more of a fight and the rod took on a more familiar curve. Was this a carp after all?
It sure was! Not one of the fabled monsters but at 23lb it was very welcome nevertheless. It behaved like a dog on a lead, a common trait when my lass plays a fish. They seldom give her grief and even from over 200 yards away she played this one in like a true pro. I assume it was one of the stockies that went in back in 1995, and that being the case I wonder how big it might be today?
So there it is, the story of my second, and probably final trip to Rainbow Lake. I told you it was nothing to get excited about but from looking at Kev's vids I think Steve's advice holds true today, so if one of you is lucky enough to get a booking in swim 14, maybe this meagre account will help.
I'll finish with a couple of scenics. They don't really do the lake justice, as you have to see it to understand the raw beauty of the lake.
More to come soon!
13 Feb 2019 at 12.31pm
In reply to Post #377
While scouting about for an alternative area to fish we found quite a nice plateau just in front of the mini islands between swims 14 and 16. The rod is not pointing at the spot in this pic, in fact the plateau is off to the right a fair bit.
Well we had brought with us about twenty kilos of frozen, home-made Trigga boilies (barrels) and a couple of sacks of a 50/50 combo of groats and Red Band pigeon conditioner a bucket of which had been in soak since we left the UK. By now it was heaving nicely!
We were going to fish four rods between us and we'd been warned that really strong end gear was required due to all the snags. The only stuff I had in the box that I thought would do was 45lb Quicksilver so I borrowed a trick from history and made up a double length hooklink using this material. I added a fine hair and crimps to hold it all together. To my eyes it looked crude as hell but what did I know.
Hookbait was a pair of Trigga barrels on the hair. Nothing special.
To start with we dropped the hookbaits and a small scattering of boiled bait, some of which I crumbed around the areas Steve had suggested, including one up the channel. We'll tackle a take on that one when we come to it, we thought!
We had 25lb braid on the reels with a snag leader of 45lb Quicksilver topped with a header of leadcore. The lead was attached using a drop off clip and the milk bottle was allowed to run freely up the line to a stop placed about fifteen feet from the hooklink swivel. Was that strong enough? We would see.
There is no easy way to put the following 12 days. We saw neither hide not hair of a carp, though we did see on the bank several bream and tench and a solitary sturgeon. Our eyes were glued to the spots throughout daylight and we kept an ear open for the slightest splash during darkness: we saw nothing and heard nothing. Mind you, we were not alone. Alain in 12 blanked as did the guys in 16 to our left. Meanwhile Tim and John had arrived and moved into 19 where they picked away at slow but steady fishing until John caught an 82lb mirror. This was apparently a carp known as the Briggs fish and it would later go on to break the Rainbow record at 91lb plus for Martin Locke.
We kept the bait going in by dibs and dabs in the hope that there would be something there for the carp to eat when they eventually turned up, but in the meantime the tench and bream were eating everything we threw at them and the sturgeon didn't help either.
It was cold, wet and miserable and come the day of our wedding anniversary we were glad to get off the lake in favour of a trip into Bordeaux where we wallowed in the luxurious comfort of a posh hotel and even posher nosh, but even that short break did nothing to get the carp feeding on our spots. We decided to move the channel rod onto the plateau and moved the corner rod fishing in the margins of 13 up the bank to join the other rod fishing the vicinity of the stump. This was the area that was producing the majority of the non-carp takes, so at least we knew were doing something right, even if the carp had yet to play ball.
Day after dreary day, the trip wound it's way to a close. With one more night left to go we put the baits out one last time. As darkness fell at last we saw a splash over the stump baits. Come on you beauty.
It was fully dark when one of those rods gave a couple of bleeps then showed a huge drop back. Had a fish nudged the lead down into the deeper water or was it an actual take?
13 Feb 2019 at 12.29pm
In reply to Post #376
This is a brief rundown on the advice Steve gave us:
If the water level is not too high then look for an underwater tree stump lying a few yards off the margins of the long bank away to your left, he said. The carp patrol the whole length of that bank between swims 12 and the corner to the right, nominally swim 13. A bait placed close to the stump stands a good chance as does one down in the corner to the right. You can see our two right hand rods at the extreme right of this photo. The right hand rod of this pair we fished down to the corner where the bait was dropped in about five feet of water. The other was dropped just off the stump in around seven feet. You can just about see a bottle close to the red dot that marks the stump. The rods in the foreground started off being fished to the ends of the bars running all the way down from swim12, though one was alternated between the bars and the end of the tree. Swim 12 can be seen in the distance. Alain Danau was in residence when we were there.
Steve said to look out for the branch overhanging the water off the margin of the left hand island. You'll know it when you see it, he said, and told us to keep a hookbait in there dropped at the end of the branch.
There are good spots in the middle of the bay, said Steve. He told us to locate the bars that run down the length of the bay from swim 12 and then fish the end of the bars. As he said, they were easy to find using the sounder but keeping a marker on them was frustratingly difficult, as anyone who has fished that swim will tell you. The bars slope very steeply and we found that the markers just tumbled off the slope and out of sight very easily. Of course if we'd known about H-Block markers at the time life would have been a great deal easier. I have marked the very approximate position of the bars on this pic.
The end of the bars are about 80-90 yards off the bank so a lot further away that it looks in the photo. I would guess that they are underneath the ducks!
Steve also said that there was another very productive spot we should try. It involved a bit of skulduggery, though as it lay up one of the channels just off to our left. As you can see from this photo the series of small islands identify the start of several channels that run into the bay behind them. In order to fish them we needed to shove a bankstick into the bankside at our end of the channel, running the line around the bankstick up to the end gear so thirty yards up the channel. As you can see, it takes an experienced Rainbow Lake angler to fish this one, and being a totally inexperienced we were a bit tentative about sticking a rod up there. The red dot marks the start of our channel…
…and the line shows the course of the line from bank to hookbait, running around a bankstick placed on the corner of the small island.
We were concerned about how we would get a hooked fish out from the channel but Steve assured us than as long as the lead got dropped the fish didn't do much, just stooged around until you got over the top of it in the boat, whereupon you could bend into it and bring it to the boat. Blimey! Sounded very hairy to us, but remember, this was the first time we had been confronted by the challenge of fishing around corners. In hindsight we need not have worried and hundreds of carp are landed in total safety by Rainbow anglers using this trick.
3 Feb 2019 at 2.16pm
In reply to Post #375
When we had fished the lake in 1995 we were as green as grass. Fishing round corners using rollers or over islands using V-rests was yet to be invented and if you couldn't play them into the bank then they snagged you up and you lost them! Now modern thinkers were coming up with new ideas every day. One of these was fishing bottles to keep the line off the bottom. Now that one I can claim some credit for as I had published a scaled down version of the rig in (I think) Carpworld in about 1998.
It was a set up I came up with to fish the Pavilion swim on the Chateau Lake, a swim with a notoriously snaggy and complex set of lake bed features. It bears quite a resemblance to how some guys still fish Rainbow and indeed it was one we had in mind for our first visit. I started saving our empty one pint milk bottles!
The two week period we had been offered in swim 14 covered both my birthday and our wedding anniversary and to push the boat out a bit to celebrate we sailed Portsmouth - Santander and booked one of the posh cabins with a balcony etc. Cost a fortune but it was well worth it as we were treated like royalty and felt like real posh gits. It was our first crossing on the recently launched cruise ferry Pont Aven.
If you ever feel like pushing the boat out and enjoy a 24-hour sea crossing, I can thoroughly recommend sailing down to Spain with Brittany Ferries. If nothing else, it cuts a shed load of mileage off the road journey and it's a great way to travel too.
Mind you, the Bay of Biscay can get a bit frisky at times!
I had been in contact with Steve prior to our departure. In 2005 he had enjoyed terrific trip to Rainbow, fishing swim 14, and he was mega helpful with advice, tips and so on. In fact he even drew me a map showing his productive spots, describing the features to fish to in great detail. These are (roughly) the spots he recommended.
In practice the spots he recommended were easy to find and I think they still hold good today. At the time, however, I didn't feel confident enough to fish the channel rod, which involved a right turn around a roller, preferring to fish the more easily accessible areas such as the plateau, the tree, the end of the bar and the submerged stump. Steve really went out of his way to help us. He is a proper gent! Sadly his advice, spot on though it was, did not help us too much as the lake had been limed just a few days previously, which I know from my experiences at Wheal Rashleigh can have a negative effect on a lake for a week or so.
We arrived at the lake on my birthday and we wanted to splash out a bit before starting to fish so Pascal rang a mate in the town and arranged a nice hotel for the night, where we enjoyed a lovely nosebag and a very comfy night's rest.
The lake looked much as I remembered it from eleven years previously, though perhaps the water level was up a fair bit compared to 1995. Certainly the features across the bay in front of the reception area were nothing like as prominent. Otherwise the lake looked fantastic.
Pascal greeted us with coffee and a sandwich before showing us around. We immediately made a chronic error: Swim 19 was free for our first week as Tim and John were not due to arrive until the following Saturday. Pascal said we could fish it if we wanted to…Like and idiot I said no! In my defence I had no idea that it was one of the 'going' swims on the lake: it was not for nothing that Tim had booked it some two years earlier! But I had Steve's advice firmly fixed in my mind and did not want to set up in one swim only to have to move to 14 a week later. What a mistake that turned out to be! But in my mind I still had visions of catching fish like those Steve had caught from 14 the previous year.
More to come soon.
20 Jan 2019 at 1.39pm
In reply to Post #374
You will recall that in the autumn of 1994 Tat and I had returned to the public Category 2 lake at Brive-la-Gaillarde, intending to do a long session on the lake where Kevin Maddocks had made a film with Liam Dale that featured an obscene amount of carp. Just our bloody luck that when we got there the cupboard was bare. They'd gone and emptied the gaff and moved all the carp to Rainbow!
Now read on: The Horsebox trip started a trickle of interest that rapidly grew into a torrent. Bill and I were bombarded with questions about the lake, as I imagine were Paul in the shop (Bristol Angling Centre) and Mike at work (Essential Baits), while Liam took the phone off the hook and buggered off to Africa! Meanwhile we jump forward a few years to our second and last trip to the lake in 2006…and I warn you, don't expect too much, as our trip was small beer compared to the results many have enjoyed on the famous lake. OK, I know me and Tat are not alone in having a few (fourteen to be exact) bad days there, but if you look at the youtube stuff and Kev's (currently deleted) vids many peeps have some fantastic memories of Rainbow.
A bit of background: Since returning from the Horsebox trip in 1995 we had kept an ear open for news about Rainbow on the carp fishing grapevine and as we had forecast it was starting to throw up some impressive fish. Those little stockies were starting to come out at twenty and thirty pounds plus and the Brieve fish were steadily putting on the kilos.
In 2003 I went to Romania for the first time with Philippe and Leon, a trip I will describe later in this thread. I had a fantastic time there, rubbing shoulders with some of the best carp anglers in Europe at the time including the late Kurt Grabmeyer as well as Alain Danau and Philippe Lagabbe. One of the gents in this photo is a charlatan by the way! I'll leave you to make your minds up which one!
The A-List anglers that gathered in the hotel most lunchtimes made me ask myself what on earth I was doing there, but it was a cosmopolitan crowd that mingled well and we had a lot of laughs. Among the guys on the lake on that visit was Steve Briggs who had already carved out a much respected name for himself on the European carp circuit, and with good reason: the guy could catch carp from a puddle. Chatting away over a beer it transpired that we had a number of French waters in common having fished then one or more times…though not at the same time. One of the lakes was Rainbow where Steve was in the middle of a very successful campaign. Not only did we have lakes in common, we also had a fish or two as well, such as this one.
(Talking of Raduta, this gives me a gratuitous opportunity to show you a photo of one of my all time favourite carp, a thirty pound common caught to order, story to follow sometime.)
Moving forward three years and out of the blue an invitation to fish Rainbow again popped into my inbox. It was from Pascal asking if Bill and I fancied going back to the lake now that a good decade had passed since our last visit. He offered us swim 14 for the last week in March and the first in April. Bill had to decline as these dates fall right in the middle of the European carp expo season and he would be rushed off his feet dashing from one European capital to another. However, I said yes bloody please!
We finalised the dates and Pascal agreed that Tat could accompany me so the first few weeks of 2006 were spent in a flurry of excited anticipation as we prepared the tackle for what would be for us a totally new experience and a totally new way of fishing. At that time there was not much info on the lake though controversy surrounding the rather esoteric ways and means employed by the guys were fishing there was beginning to emerge.
20 Jan 2019 at 1.30pm
In reply to Post #373
Now bug-free Dave had returned to the fray and had set up on a tiny island with just inches to spare on either side. He caught two nice twenties in quick succession. The fish were obviously on the move with the change in the weather, for both Paul and Dave were rewarded for their dogged persistence with a double figure carp apiece. Thruster took a leaf out of the West Country lads' book and moved again, back into the swim he'd started in. This, for two reasons: 1) he missed the social aspect that came with fishing with me and Bill, and 2) to be nearer to the car park when it came time to pull off. Good thinking, in my book!
In the gloom of the gathering drizzle, Bill, Mike and Thruster posed for a pic. It was coming towards the end of the trip and that certain sadness I always seem to experience during the last forty eight hours or so of a trip was creeping over us all. Would you buy a bag of boilies from this lot?!
On our final afternoon a lorry from a fish farm arrived. No less than 2,000 small carp, mostly commons, went into the lake. At the time we thought that in time and given proper lake management we expected these stockies to grow to huge sizes and make Rainbow one of the most sought after tickets in France, though we thought that was probably a year or two off yet. (2019 comment: am I Mystic Meg or what!). Here's a 1995 pic of Pascal as he empties a dustbin load of one kilo carp into his lake. Just think, one of these babies may well weigh over seventy pounds today!
By the Monday we' had enough. The change in the weather had not had the hoped-for beneficial effect on the Rainbow carp at least, not on the ones in front of me and Bill, and the trip seemed to be grinding to an unproductive halt with increasing inevitability. Bill and I pulled off a day early ahead of the long drive home.
Liam treated us to a very nice meal in the restaurant in Hostens that night. We had a few beers and the odd wine or two and discovered that Liam's next project was to be a trip to film Nile perch. Andy said that he'd heard that the jackals were pretty fierce where they were going and he didn't fancy it one bit, so he was planning on returning to the BBC to film Jackanory or some such nonsense. It was good to have his jocular presence with us during the trip. A very nice guy and a good cameraman to boot. Here I sit in the mouth of Bill's bivvy while Andy films the rods. Very artistic!
Sue waxed lyrical about this and that, including the fact that my voice-overs had turned out nice again. Liam mellowed out more and more as the night went on (cough), and with the film more or less finished, he could unwind and relax, which he did big style.
Back to the chalet we strolled in the clear night air. The weather was changing yet again. Outside the chalet, the tall angular shape of the discarded horse-box awaited its call to arms. The return journey was a few hours away. I could hear the Range Rover groaning at the prospect.
Bill and I were returning by a different route, crossing Roscoff - Plymouth so Tat could collect me more easily. Even though it rained almost all the way up to the port we did the journey, including meal breaks, in about eleven hours. It's a bloody long way to Roscoff from Rainbow and that's a fact! At least going back this way we wouldn't have to wonder about Liam and his ponderous cargo. No more, "Excuse me! Have you seen a horse-box?"
The ferry crossing from Roscoff was a doddle, thanks to a day cabin which allowed Bill to get a bit of kip before the drive back to Sheffield. I'd arranged for Tat to meet the boat at Plymouth and, in bright sunshine, we emptied my gear onto the pavement outside the ferry terminal. I still had a couple of beers left so I toasted Bill's health as he drove off. It had been a real pleasure to share such a challenging trip with the guy.
The fates had not been kind to us and to be honest we had no idea how to fish Rainbow properly; stuff like fishing around the points or over the bars using rod rests, playing fish from the boat, things that are taken for granted at the lake these days. I had thoroughly enjoyed my week at Rainbow Lake and would love to go back there.
(In fact Tat and I went back in March 2006. The trip encompassed the dates both of my birthday and our wedding anniversary and perhaps we didn't take it as seriously as expected. Hey-ho. Never mind, eh? I'll come back to that trip soon but don't hold your breath; it's nothing to get excited about!)
20 Jan 2019 at 1.17pm
In reply to Post #372
I slept like a log that night but not long after turning in Bill lost yet another fish pulling out of what had felt like a pretty impressive carp (aren't they all when you loose them?). Then, as if to mock us still further, at first light I lost yet another fish to a margin snag after something picked up one of my inside rods and made it to the unknown snag in the blink of an eye. No amount of pulling or tugging was going to get this fish out so I put the rod back onto the rests to go and get the boat to see if I could free the fish. I had not gone a yard when suddenly the line on the snagged rod fell slack. I picked up the rod again, only to reel in the discarded tackle as if it had never been touched; no sign of fish or snag. Curious!
I went out in the boat to top up my bait carpet, Liam tagging along for the ride and to do some filming. You can see the car park in the distance with swim 1 visible over Liam's left shoulder.
At last, to raise our spirits just a smidgen, Bill landed a carp. It weighed about 14lb, not what you go to the south of France for but very welcome nonetheless. At least it showed that Bill and I were still correct in our firm belief that we were doing things right. After all, we’d now had eleven takes, resulting in two carp and two sturgeon. All we needed was a lump each, and we’d be able to call the trip a qualified success. Here's Bill playing the scamp after the take on one of his two distance rods. Try doing that today…He must have bitten on the lucky biscuit that day! (Apologies for the poor photo.) You can see that Bill is looking to his left where spreading ripples indicate that that a fish had just jumped down towards the corner. Fish had been showing there all week but we couldn't buy a pick up there!"
Liam seemed pretty happy. The daily scripts and the filming was working out well, thanks in no small part to Mike, Dave and Paul’s carp and not forgetting the sturgeon. He almost had his film in the can by now but there were still one or two shots left to do, including some pretty funny nonsense concerning Thruster, Bill, a pair of scissors and a Kevin Maddocks’ haircut. (Once again, you'll have to watch the film to get that!)
The weather changed on the seventh morning, cold and damp with a light drizzle which quickly turned to a heavy downpour. The Dutch lads left for home, a 1300 kilometer drive which I didn’t envy them. Some Dutch lads were due to arrive the following day so we were running out of chances for a result. Following Thruster’s departure for pastures new, Bill and I now had the bay entirely to ourselves but if we thought that this would make a difference, we were sadly mistaken, for our last night was a blank one. Mind you, the sunrise and sunset seen from our swims were often spectacularly beautiful.
Meanwhile, Thruster found himself in blissful isolation once more. No sooner had me moved in to the Black Beach than Mike and Paul moved out. They fancied the look of a large island overlooking the distant club house. It was to no avail and after a blank night they moved yet again, this time to a tiny island just behind the series of gullies which mark the boundary of the Caravan Bay.
20 Jan 2019 at 11.56am
In reply to Post #371
The supermarket was selling fresh oysters. At the time I couldn't get enough oysters; quite simply, I adored them. Sadly in 2003 I developed a severe allergy to them and the resulting food poisoning was so bad it put me in hospital. The doc told me that my next oyster would be my last…it would kill me. No more oysters for me, then!
However, back to 1995 and Bill was curious about oysters as he had never tried them.
“What do they taste like, then?” he asked as we were driving back to the lake.
“Brilliant!” I assured him. “Try one.”
I opened one and offered it to Bill. I watched as he slid the juicy morsel into his mouth. I hadn’t told him that the best way to eat oysters is raw, still alive, straight from the shell! The big fella’s throat worked to keep his rising gorge down. I thought he was going to drive off the road and pile us into a tree.
“For crying out loud,” he shouted. “How can you eat that? It’s bloody awful.”
“All the more for me then” I said.
I ate the lot on the way back to Hostens and left the empty shells outside the chalet where Liam, Sue and Andy were staying. Apparently, I had missed one and as it began to fester in the heat, the smell permeated the house with nauseating effect. The film makers were not amused. What a waste of a good oyster!
We called in to see mick and the Dutch guys. They were suffering once again. After two blank nights following the carp’s departure from the area, they were back once more to hook pulls and lost fish. I have no idea what they were doing wrong but it must have been very frustrating. I can’t help thinking that they were getting sturgeon trouble, but they assured us it was carp that were causing the problems.
It was late afternoon and, having completed the day’s script and recording the voice-overs, we’d got the baits out early to our liking. More for something to do than a planned change of tactics, I’d decided to switch to a prototype Tutti flavoured Big Fish Mix boilie I’d brought along. These were fished over a bed of trout pellets, a complete change from what I’d been putting in to date. Now, a couple of hours later, in the cooling evening, sitting back in the low chair outside the bivvy some four or five yards away from the rods, I glanced down towards them. The middle indicator was bar taut, against the butt section of the rod. I’d had a take! Why hadn’t I heard the buzzer? Because the bloody things were turned off, that’s why, pillock!
(I always turn my buzzers off when I’m adjusting my line after casting out (or rowing the baits out in this case. I can’t stand all the bleeping and so on that accompanies most carp anglers when they are adjusting their lines, it’s so unnecessary. Of course once in a blue moon, you forget to turn them back on again!)
I picked up the rod and wound down, hoping to feel the responding thump of a good fish from the other end. Glancing at the reel it was clear that the fish had gone some distance, straight into the nearest snag. Cursing myself for a fool, I jumped into the boat and pulled myself across the 120 yards of intervening water to where the line disappeared straight down from my arched rod tip to the snag below. I could make no impression on either the fish or the snag. Luckily, the Quicksilver was now on the reel so I could exert a lot more pressure. I grabbed the line in my hands and heaved, cutting my fingers in the process. Suddenly, the line jerked clear and I took up the rod again, prepared to resume the fight, but the line led straight to another snag. Once again I got over the top of the snag and pulled. Whereupon the snag released my gear intact and certainly not encumbered by any carp!
Once again me and Bill enjoyed the warm evening with a beer or two before turning in.
20 Jan 2019 at 11.12am
In reply to Post #370
Mike told us that he felt that the fish were not in his and Paul’s area in the sort of numbers they’d experienced earlier. They were seeing less action over the baits with fewer fish crashing out and little or no fizzing. Mike had kept his baiting to a minimum so as to increase the chances of the hook bait being picked up but it was clear that the change in the weather was pushing the fish out of their baited swims.
But there was still time for Paul to get in on the act. Just when he had thought he’d missed his chance, as it began to get light at five o’clock in the morning, he caught a long, lean mirror of just over 251b. Paul had switched one rod to a new spot in the margins where he’d watched fish rolling as they cleaned up small carpets of bait, which he’d been trickling into the swim for a couple of days. Naturally, Mike’s fish had all fallen to his own air-dried Essential Products baits but Paul kept the Nutrabaits’ flag flying, catching his fish on the (then) new Tutti-Frutti shelfies.
Day four arrived and in swim 1 Thruster was feeling the wanderlust. The under water terrain in front of his swim seemed to be an inpenetrable jungle of snags, the only clear area being at very long range near to another bird hide. Thruster had found this area on his initial scouting foray with the boat and sounder and had marked it down as a likely looking area, using the boat to position all three rods near the shooting hide. Likely or not, so far he had not had so much as a single pick up.
Nor, for that matter, had Mischa one of the Dutch guys who had moved out of his starting position as he felt there were too many lines in the water. He was probably right. Sadly for him his new spots had so far been unproductive. I can only assume that the fish were coming into the bay from our left and we were perhaps cutting Thruster and Mischa off in some way. Seems hard to believe but I’m sure that was what was happening.
Thruster was also now being hampered by not having ready access to a boat. Liam had commandeered the only spare one to use for filming, leaving poor old Thruster out in the cold. Pissed off at not being able to fish his preferred area, in the end, he had grabbed Mr. Director’s boat while he wasn’t looking, loaded up his substantial pile of tackle, food, beer and wine and set off in the general direction of the Black Beach.
Liam spotted him when he was halfway across the bay and he was incensed at the prospect of losing his transport.
“What are you doing with that boat?” he yelled.
“Hang gliding!” said Thruster, continuing on his majestic, arse-back’rds way. Liam fumed and threw things, but there was no stopping Thruster as he thundered across the bay, hidden in his own welter of spray kicked up by his unorthodox rowing style. As he turned the corner and passed out of sight, another boat hove into view, cutting across the bay, heading for the car park. This one was also being rowed in a peculiar fashion, push me, pull-you, one side at a time. If you ever see the film you’ll see what I mean. It must have been Silly Rowing Day at Rainbow Lake.
We heard later that Thruster eventually finished up on Black Beach, just in time to join Mike and Paul in their search for a new area to fish. They’d had their first blank night and, for the first time, their baited patches had remained untouched throughout the night. In the three days remaining, Mike and Paul would move four times, a tribute to their dedication and perseverance.
Meanwhile, after getting settled, along with Thruster now set up on the Black Beach, Paul and Mike were getting hungry. Time for a visit to Hostens to lay in some grub. How do you ask for one of those long loaves of bread in French? Paul asked. You say,
“un bonk s’il vous plait,"
, Mike told him, making an excuse and beating a hasty retreat, leaving Paul alone in the bread shop with just the voluptuous lass behind the counter for company.
Pointing innocently, Paul came out with the phrase in perfectly accented French but was confused when the gorgeous girl behind the counter smiled, drew the shutters, put up the closed sign on the door and advanced with a predatory smile on her face...in his dreams!
Purchases completed, Paul and Mike headed back for the lake, passing on the way, Bill and I heading for the bar. This was purely for professional reasons you understand, for Liam wanted to film the village and the bar, preferably with volunteers drinking a beer or two outside in the bright sunshine. Reluctantly, we allowed our arms to be twisted. The days were getting hotter again after a brief period of overcast and drizzle; now the temperatures were in the mid-seventies, just the weather for sitting outside under the café's awning, drinking ice cool beer.
20 Jan 2019 at 10.52am
In reply to Post #369
The strike was met by a solid resistance and almost immediately the long pointed snout of a sturgeon shot skywards as the grey, arrow-shaped creature cleared the water. The rest of the short-lived fight was equally spectacular, with frequent broaches interspersed with darting, short and savage runs. The fish had picked up a margin bait and it put fifty or sixty yards between itself and the bank on its first run. It was (briefly), one of the more memorable fights I have enjoyed in my time. I say briefly because whatever it was, the bloody thing fell off! I said a very rude word. Things were not going well for me this trip!
Then, as if to reinforce my ineptness, Bill actually went and caught one of the blighters! Not content with seeing me lose what would have been our first sturgeon, he then proceeded to latch into a strong, if unspectacular fish that came grudgingly to the net with few, if any, histrionics. The sturgeon fell to one of Bill’s long range rods, a fish weighing just under 261b. The fish’s tail was broken almost at a right angle, which probably accounted for the unspectacular fight.
I had been experiencing lift and bleeps all morning and we both suspected there were sturgeon about and sure enough mid-morning I had another. Again, the take came from the inside rod and once more I was treated to an aerobatic display which would put a lively sea trout to shame. The fish slugged it out on a relatively short line but, compared to Bill’s dour scrap, this one was all action. Bill and Thruster joined me and Bill dipped the net under the still protesting beast. Together we heaved the long, sinewy creature ashore, placing it gently down on the mat. Into the sling, up she goes…just under twenty pounds…Not bad!
This pic shows the position of the sturgeon's mouth and it is clearly obvious why we were getting so many bleeps and false takes.
Two sturgeon in four hours made a nice picture and I know both Bill and I were very pleased with our respective captures. I had taken to calling them ‘Prestons’, a pun on the name of Preston Sturgess, an American film director and screen writer. Preston Sturgess…Preston Sturgeon…Presonts. Geddit?!
Liam was particularly caustic at this, saying that he’d never heard of him. For a film maker himself, Liam is obviously very poorly informed about the history of the medium in which he has chosen to make his living. Born in 1898, Preston Sturgess won two Oscars, for The Great McGinty’ and ‘Christmas in July’, as well as directing such classics as ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ and the brilliant, ‘The Lady Eve’. By a strange coincidence, Sturgess retired to the Bordeaux area of France in 1950, where he died, nine years later, aged 61. That's Liam told, then!
Soon, the pulls and tugs we d experienced throughout the day ceased entirely and the fish could be seen moving out of the bay en masse. The last we saw of them they were off jumping and bow waving off to our left. It looked as if they were on their way round to see what Mike and Paul had to offer! Lucky them.
News from around the lake began to filter in as I sat in my bivvy ready to write the new day's script. The Dutch lads still hadn't put a fish on the bank, though not for the want of takes. All fours had had runs during the night but had either failed to connect (probably sturgeon) or lost fish to the snags. The paying party had rung to say they wren't oming after all, and off the Sensas Team there was no sign. However, Mike had cracked it again ( knew he would), this time with a big round fish of 31lb 8oz. It was his only take of the night and it came at ten o’clock the previous evening. Once again, the big carp had tripped up on the same spot where Mike had caught his previous fish; he might just as well have left his other two rods at home.
18 Jan 2019 at 3.03pm
In reply to Post #368
Bill, Thruster and I spent the early part of the night setting the world to rights over a beer and a bottle of wine or two. Bill was still a bit despondent about losing a very strong carp earlier that evening but Thruster soon cheered us both up. Christ he was a big guy! In fact the pair of them would not have been out of place in a tag team in the wrestling ring!
Thruster the Forester was becoming a real boon to the trip. A hard nut with a heart of gold, he had us in stitches with tales of his exploits at home (judged, I have to regret, too outrageous for the sensitive stomachs of my gentle readers). How his missus puts up with him is astonishing. Kindred spirits seem drawn together and we spent several highly amusing, not to say, hysterical evenings talking the dark hours away.
I turned in about one in the morning but I couldn’t sleep. Out in the darkness, fish crashed out over our baited areas with monotonous regularity. Eventually, so convinced was I that I was going to get a run that I sat by my rods until the dawn, drinking gallons of coffee to keep me awake. Bill’s swim too seemed to be full of fish crashing out by his markers. I felt certain that one of us was going to get a take, yet nothing happened through the night and as the dawn light began to chase the mist off the water, I returned to my bed somewhat chastened and rather downhearted. What did we have to do to get a take? In the end I realised that it simply wasn’t to be and after a quick breakfast and a cup of tea I dragged my weary bones back to the warmth and comfort of the big bivvy.
I dozed on and off as the sun rose behind the pine forest that surrounds Rainbow Lake, scattered images of what might have been flitting across my mind’s eye. I had decided not to re-bait with first light, choosing instead to leave the overnight baits where they were, just in case any carp remained in the baited area though, admittedly, the crashing out had stopped. However, you couldn’t be sure they’d all cleared off. Perhaps now, with washed out baits and less groundbait in the swim the chances of a take were improved. Who knows? It was worth a try.
I’d just dropped off again when the buzzer screamed out, indicating a fantastically fast run. I struggled to the rods, trying to shake off the thrice cursed sleeping bag as I went and arrived at the still protesting buzzer in a tangled mess. The line was absolutely pouring off the spool of the reel on the middle rod. Picking it up I struck hard…at absolutely nothing! What the...?
I’d no sooner got over my astonishment than the left hand rod was away to a similar flyer, but the resulting strike was met by the same total lack of resistance. There could only be one answer; the sturgeon had arrived. For the remainder of that morning both Bill and I were plagued by a series of strange takes; little lifts, pulls and tugs, the odd bleep or series of bleeps, but neither of us actually managed to hook into one of the takes, if takes was what they were.
It was very frustrating to say nothing of hard work, what with the constant re-baiting and so on. It was clear that the lake’s shoal of sturgeon moved around mob handed and they had arrived in force in our bay, where they were eating us out of hearth and home. Back and forth we scurried in the boat, taking top up supplies of bait and particles across to our distant markers where the sturgeon were obviously making hay. By why weren’t we getting fish?
It wasn’t until we voiced our frustrations to Liam that it became a little clearer. Liam has had a few encounters with sturgeon in his time, in fact, he holds some kind of world record for Beluga sturgeon. He told us that sturgeon feed by extending their lips onto the bait, picking it up, crushing and biting into it at the same time. All their chewing is done at the front of the mouth, unlike a carp, which has to pass food items to the throat teeth before it can chew them up.
We now figured that the sturgeon we were encountering were picking up the boilie hook baits, holding them in their lips and moving off with the bait. The hook was still outside the mouth so that when we struck, we simply pulled the hair through the bait, leaving the sturgeon with a bite to eat and us with sweet Fanny Adams! Plan B was called for. What was Plan B? Simple. Very short hairs on an extended shank hook a bit like the so-called Looney Rig. This had the effect of presenting the bait below the bend of the hook. Did it work? In short, yes it did!
It was eight o’clock next morning when I had a flying run. The night had been fairly quiet but it was clear that the sturgeon were still around as they had been showing themselves on the surface from time to time throughout the night, though they were obviously not feeding. Probably full up, judging by the amount of bait we reckoned they’d cleared up. Then, as the light strengthened, they got their heads down again. The run came to one of the margin rods, placed on a narrow ledge in about eight or nine feet of water, surrounded by depths of twelve to fourteen feet. I think the run was all the more impressive simply because it came from so close in. The spool seemed to be emptying at an alarming rate and when I picked up the rod, the reel was buzzing like a kicked-over hornet’s nest.
18 Jan 2019 at 2.52pm
In reply to Post #367
Some twenty yards in from the burnt tree and to its left, I’d found a very interesting feature on the sounder. It appeared to be a dead tree or similar snag, but groping round with a grapnel had produced nothing tangible. An echo sounder can lie by showing weed and tree branches as fish, but it doesn’t usually deceive by showing snags that aren’t there so what was it? I put the sounder onto zoom and finally found what appeared to be a soft underwater hillock with a coating of soft silt and a few straggles of weed on its top. The snag was about ten feet further out from this hillock and it was clear that this area would certainly be very attractive to carp if I could get them feeding in there. I decided to move two rods onto this feature, stop putting in particle and fish a light carpet of boilies only on this new mark.
And it had worked. Though small, at least it had been a carp, our first take at
extreme range and proof that we were at least getting something right. Then, as the evening drew on and Bill, Thruster and I were sharing a meal and a beer in my swim when Bill’s middle rod, fishing a gully in some eight feet of water some 130m from the bank, was away to an absolute flyer. Bill tiptoed down the path with all the grace of a delicate gazelle (oh, really?) and struck the bucking rod that was already threatening to jump off the rests. The tip was dragged down almost to the horizontal, as a very strong fish set off on a run that stripped sixty yards of line from the reel. It was an amazing run the fish staying deem and making savage line-stripping runs.
Gradually, the fish slowed and Bill began to work it back towards us. As he did so, the left hand rod, now fishing an area of shallower water in front of the point was also away, the tip section pulling right round, almost to its fighting curve on the rests, before a startled Thruster could respond to Bills shout to grab it! I don’t know if it was this extra complication that caused Bill to lose concentration just for a split second, or whether the fish he had one would have found the snag anyway, but that is what it did; one second, going hell for leather, the next second, solid.
(It has sine been discovered that the area in front of what was then swim 3 is snag city, which is the reason neither swims three or four are fished these days.)
Bill tried to pull the snagged fish clear for about thirty seconds, but it was to no avail, so we jumped into the boat and pulled our way across to the snag, hoping and praying that the fish was still on. But when we arrived directly over the snag, the hook pulled free with almost no effort at all and the fish was gone. Bill was devastated, for the fish had clearly been something very special. What was strange, was that we had passed over that snag with the sounder several times but nothing had shown up.
As if that disappointment was not enough, the second take that Bill had on his left hand rod had come adrift in yet another snag, leaving a shattered Thruster to reel in the intact end tackle, the bait still on. Two runs in as many minutes, both obviously from carp and both now lost to snags. It was becoming clear that, as with the Dutch lads, we too were fishing an area that was full of snags.
At times like this, when an angler has lost not one, but possibly two very big fish the needs to be left alone. No amount of commiseration can make up for the disappointment of losing fish. I pulled the cap from a bottle of beer, handed it over and left Bill to his inner cursing. Luck was certainly not going his way on this trip. Four takes and all four had found one of the innumerable snags in the bay in front of him.
Bill quickly sorted himself out, put fresh baits on new hook links and while I held the rods as Bill rowed his hookbaits and fresh bait carpets to his two markers, Thruster got busy with the corkscrew. Chores over, we sat in my swim as the light went, gazing in awe at a spectacular sunset, which kissed the tree tops to our left. It was warm and a gentle breeze had picked up from the south west, which was now blowing straight into our bay.
We’d been told that the fish didn’t move with the wind other than to move from one gully to another, one island to another. That said, we felt that maybe there were a few fish prepared to move on the freshening breeze and hope sprang eternal once again. Bill forgot his earlier disappointment as the three of us made a big hole in a case of beer and a bottle or five of red wine’ I’d bought the booze just that morning and the idea was to take it easy over the five remaining days. Hey ho! The best laid plans!
Out in the darkness, fish were crashing out with almost monotonous regularity over the baits; it was just a matter of time before we got among the big 'uns. In the margins in front of my swim, a dart shaped projectile left the water, silhouetted in the full moon’s glaring light. It looked as if the sturgeon had moved in. Wouldn’t mind one of them, I thought to myself.
18 Jan 2019 at 2.48pm
In reply to Post #366
By now it was gone midday and the sun had climbed to its zenith. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and there was plenty of heat in the sun, even though it was still only mid-March; T shirt weather. Glass of beer weather!
Thus inspired, I sat in the bivvy and wrote the draft of the day’s script, covering bait and tackle. Did you know that many famous film directors wrote and rewrote scripts on set? Today, Rainbow Lake, tomorrow, Hollywood? I think not!
Day 2 arrived with news of another big fish for Mike at 401b 4oz. The bugger! I knew you he’d empty the lake.
Meanwhile, the Dutch lads were suffering woefully. The swim they’d chosen presented a lot of problems and they had been losing fish to the snags almost since the day they’d arrived. The main problem they’d encountered were the snag trees across the far margin to which they were fishing. Dropping short to avoid the snags meant no more takes! What do you do, fish the tree line and loose fish or drop short and get no bites? Very frustrating. (They were fishing what is known as swim 18 today and the snags in that swim are well known and avoided by the regulars. At the time there we no regulars to put them right.)
Luckily for the most part they were getting the end gear back as invariably the fish were lost when the hooks pulled out. One of the Dutch lads had lost a huge fish that shed the hook and left him to reel in half a tree. And what a tree it was! It looked like the Christmas tree from Trafalgar Square had been dumped in the lake. It was massive. How he got it in to the bank I'll never know. Now, to add to their woes, it was clear that all this activity - hauling in snags, loosing takes - had pushed the fish out of the area. What to do? No good sitting in the swim all day simply to loose fish. Move on, maybe? In the end, they decided to sit it out in the hope that the fish would move back into a swim, which was clearly much to the carps’ liking. A change of rigs and hooks was probably called for but at least they were on fish, which is more that you can say for Bill, Thruster and me.
Over in the north east bay, Mike was busy with the film crew again. His big fish had taken at about 1.30 in the morning and followed a couple of hours of constant action, with fish crashing out over the baited areas. In fact, the 40 was Mike’s second fish of the night, as a small carp of about 81b had tripped up on his presentation as the light went. Once again, a popped up fruit flavoured boilie over a big bed of particles had done the damage.
Mike had been baiting a narrow channel in seven feet of water for two days and he’d seen the area cleared of bait during the first night, so it was a racing cert that he’d be on for a fish come the second. And that wasn’t all the action on the second night either, for Dave too had caught again, this time a big ex-Brieve mirror, which took the bait at about four in the morning and gave him fifteen minutes of hectic and nerve stretching excitement. Like all Dave’s fish, this one too fell to a popped up Cream Cajouser readymade. I think it is great what Dave says on the video that accompanies the shots of the fish going back. “I’m glad to say that even after forty years of fishing, after I got it in the net, I was shaking!”
Not content with his three carp so far, Dave now did what I consider to be a very magnanimous thing, for he pulled out of his swim to allow Bill to fish a long rod down towards the area where Dave had been getting most of his action. He was clearly still suffering from the effects of the flu, or whatever it was he’d caught, and he was going to have a night off. Meanwhile, Liam and Andy the cameraman filmed everything that moved (and loads of things that didn’t move, for that matter) and I sat in the big bivvy and wrote the scripts that are on the finished film.
For the three of us fishing the bay in front of the clubhouse the going had been slow verging on the non-existent. Just the one lost fish hooked in the margins. However, at last we were beginning to get a bit of action. On the morning of Day 2, another pick up for Bill, along the same margins had also found the same snag and that fish too had come off. Then, at about ten in the morning, when we’d thought that it was all over for the day, I caught a small carp of about eight pounds from a new area I’d found with the sounder.
Liam piled the video crew into one of the Rainbow Lake boats, which we nicknamed The African Queen due to its rather antique looking canopy, and then the Swamp Donkey powered the film makers across the lake, using a spluttering outboard engine that handily leaked fuel in a delicate trail across the three swims which Bill, Thruster and I were fishing. Any good that?
18 Jan 2019 at 2.34pm
In reply to Post #365
Baits out, burgers frying in the pan and a cold beer at the ready we awaited the fading light with a keen anticipation. The darkness fell like a shroud, in what seemed like seconds flat and the tiredness and excited exhaustion of the previous forty eight hours caught up on me. I climbed into my brand new, never-been-used-before sleeping bag at about ten o’clock and I‘d like to tell you that I fell fast asleep. Not yet I didn’t. I should have tested the bag before leaving home, for it was clear that the zip was knackered and it resisted all attempts to get it to stay done up. I struggled and cursed and threw the stupid bag across the bivvy, but to no avail. In the end, I had to settle for spreading it out like a blanket. Luckily, I had brought my a one piece thermal suit in case of extreme cold or emergencies, very welcome it was too.
Eventually I dropped off into an uneasy sleep at about one in the morning, not before I’d checked on John and Bill. They appeared to be sleeping soundly, which made me all the angrier at the frustrating sleeping bag. I awoke, fishless, with the dawn and wandered down to Bill’s swim to see if he’d had anything during the night, but his dry landing net and the sounds of a deep and untroubled sleep coming from his bivvy told its own story.
I was standing there when I heard a distant screaming run from the corner where Dave was fishing. It went on and on for what seemed like an age. Come on, Dave! Eventually it stopped and, crouching down to peer through the undergrowth, I could just make out Dave striking a rod. Leaving Bill to his slumbers, I wandered up the bank to see if I could help. As it turned out, my assistance was very welcome for Dave looked to be in some considerable pain but he stuck to his task with what was clearly a good fish and, after a very dour and exhausting fight, I slipped the net under a lovely thick mirror, which looked to be about 251b, which had picked up Dave’s Cream Cajouser shelfie.
I sacked the fish, while Dave explained that he’d been suffering for the past twenty four hours with a crippling headache, sore throat and streaming eyes and had hardly got a wink of sleep all night. He reckoned he’d just nodded off when the buzzer had announced the run. He certainly looked bad enough, so I left him to catch up on his sleep and wandered back to my own swim. Bill was stirring. “Any good, mate?” I asked him, though I could guess what the answer would be.
“Nah”, he told me, “though I lost a good fish right here in the margins.”
Bill pointed to a spot just a couple of yards from the bank where he’d put his margin rod the night before.
“It went like a bat out of hell up the edge before it found a snag”, he said.
I commiserated and put a sympathetic kettle on to boil. Thruster came thundering through the undergrowth like a bulldozer. Christ, he is a big lad! Nothing! we chorused, before he could ask. “Same here”, he replied.
So it looked as if it was all down to Dave to save our bacon and, even as we sat drinking the first cup of tea of the day, the sound of Dave’s buzzer broke the still air once again. This time, Dave needed no help to land a very lively mirror of about 18 or 191b, which was put straight back without being weighed. The fish was captured on film by the video crew who’d arrived earlier and were busy shooting a general shot of the lake when Dave’s buzzer sounded. The resulting scramble to get down to his swim and start filming the fight was comical to watch, Liam charging ahead, empty-handed, while Andy the cameraman and Sue the sound engineer struggled across the broken terrain in his wake, carrying boxes and cameras, tripods and microphones and all the other paraphernalia that seems to be required when making a video.
And what of the others? Well, the Dutch lads had suffered all night with the dreaded sturgeon; one of the other guests had caught a small carp; a couple of visiting English journalists had blanked and the two paying guests had also failed. That just left Mike and Paul. Liam was getting worried. He needn’t have! Mike had caught, and what a catch, a lovely mirror of just over 371b, while Paul had missed out on a fish that had fallen off half way in. The pair had baited up several areas along gullies and on plateaux where they could see their bait carpet. Fishing like this it was easy to see which areas had been visited, for the lake bed had been polished clear of silt and the bait was gone on the two spots that had produced runs during the night.
18 Jan 2019 at 2.15pm
In reply to Post #364
This a general view across to the channels in front of swims 2 and 3.
Splitting up the photo I can show you the rough areas we fished. The blue dots are the areas when I placed my three rods. They are between 120 and 130m out.
The red dots are where Bill placed the baits. His longest rod is about 150m from the bank while the nearest one was only about 50m and was placed in what appeared to be a rather snaggy area over which a lot of fish seemed to be present if the sounder was to be believed.
In addition Dave suggested we all fished at least one rod close in. It was between eight to twelve feet in front of us, sloping down rapidly to a wildly fluctuating lakebed. It would be easy to bait the margins rods with a steady flow of particle, putting it in little-and-often, along with a handful of boiled baits to add further to the bait carpet’s attraction qualities.
The particle we always use in France is a mixture of three different ingredients; flaked maize, groats and a micro seed blend. These are mixed in equal parts and about eight kilos of dry blend makes up a twelve kilo wet mix, enough to fill a ten kilo bait bucket once water has been added and the particles have swollen. The beauty of this mix is that it needs no boiling. Simply cover the seeds with water and add flavour or liquid food additives as required. Leave for 24 hours and it’s ready for use. The groats and the flaked maize in particular swell up and absorb water and the additives very effectively. In fact, the mixture almost trebles its weight after the day in soak.
Naturally enough, the boilies Bill and I were using were the new Nutrabaits shelfies. Bill had also brought bait along for Paul Dicks, Thruster and the Dutch guys. We chose to start off on the Cream Cajouser and the Pineapple and Banana, while Paul went on the Tuttis and Thruster on the Strawberry Cream and Bergamot Oil. We also intended to make up a ten kilo bucket of fresh particle each day. Luckily Bill's motor was large enough to allow us to cram about 200kg of mixed bait in among the rest of the gear!
Liam came round in the afternoon to do some recording once we’d set up and got the rods and the baiting up sorted out. This took the form of a sort of video diary, which he hoped would chart our progress (or lack of it) during the trip. Bottle of beer and wine glass in hand, Bill and I did our bit and, as Liam left for the comforts of the chalet down the road in Hostens, which would be the video crew’s home for the week, we prepared for the first night on a new French water. Thrilling stuff, eh?
17 Jan 2019 at 3.49pm
In reply to Post #363
To be honest we were winging it; neither of us had a clue where to start because there were so many features in front of both of us that it was hard to know where to start. It was clear that the small humps and tiny islands were connected by a series of bars that ran across us from right to left and they seemed to continue down into the far channel, which is where Dave was fishing.
Nowadays these bars and channels are characteristics of the majority of the swims on Rainbow. there are few flat areas of lakebed so the choices of where to fish in each swim is now generally acknowledged. However, at the time of our visits the swims 5-12 and 12-18 did not exist and there was certainly no road access to them even if you wanted to fish off piste as it were.
We were also intending to fish a pair of rods in the margins. Putting all our eggs in the distance basket was not a good plan and as Dave Watson had said we could use a couple of extra rods if we wanted to, we didn’t need any further encouragement. Bill’s margin looked very tasty, with overhanging trees and deep water right in close. Mine was somewhat less inspiring and it wasn’t until I’d had another little explore with the boat and the sounder that I found the host of interesting (and very confusing!) features in an around the channels.
17 Jan 2019 at 3.24pm
In reply to Post #360
The channels leading into the bay from both the right and left hand ends could be covered from the main bank if necessary (from swim 5 on the left and swim 1 on the right these days), while two distinct and very fishy looking points leading out into the bay at its extremities were unfishable, due to the presence of a couple of shooting hides, though they could be fished by either Bill or myself if we fancied rowing the bait out a long, long way. All in all, it was a tasty area to fish.
But first it was time for a beer. After all, you cannot start a French trip without celebrating your arrival and toasting your (hoped for) success, so I drove into Hostens for a crate of Kronenbourg from the local shop. It was a glorious day, warm with a mild breeze; a perfect day for a beer outside a beckoning café and I was tempted, but I didn’t fall... Like hell! Honestly Ken, you’ve got the breaking strain of a Kit-Kat.
I sat in the sun while the cafe awning flapped in the fresh puff of wind. The beer was ice cold and the barman chatty enough. Too chatty, I wondered? He was very interested in the new project being run just down the road and wanted to hear all about the carp fishing and so on. I had a feeling I’d be seeing more of the bar as the trip went on.
I drove back to the lake to find Bill already set up so I quickly set up in my chosen swim along from Bill. I’d brought the big canvas pump up Bivvy, which is so comfy it is like home from home. Inside I set up my small table, typewriter and small chair. It was like a green-shrouded office. I'd had brought a ream of paper on which to write the scripts which I had been asked to produce on a daily basis, depending on the demands of the filming and what needed to be covered each day. It was quite cosy!
Bill and I had already drafted a rough guide to what needed to be covered, for we didn’t just want to make a fishing video of baits and rigs and leave it at that. No, we wanted to make it as instructional as possible, passing on the benefit of our own experiences in France over the years. I like to think we’ve succeeded, but only time will tell. With the bivvy now set up on a small mound overlooking the lake, I set up the rods to cover as much of the bay in front of me as possible, without impinging on Thruster, who was to my right and who also fancied fishing at range towards the entrance to the bay away to my right. We had a little chat about it and I agreed with everything he said - like you would – he’s built like a brick **** house!
Bill and I had another row around with the sounder and found an average of about twelve foot at range and also under our feet in the margins. The steepness of the shelves was amazing. Tight under the burnt tree, I found about two feet of water yet less than a few yards away it was twelve feet deep. and just a bit further again it was down to a depth of eighteen, nineteen even twenty feet. So within no more than three yards of the bank the margins dropped from a couple of feet to twenty feet! No way freebies were going to stay in the margins over there! This is a wide angle view of the whole bay with the modern day swim 5 on the extreme middle left of the pic.
The over hanging tree in the middle right in this pic was a spot I fancied for one rod, but again the slope was steep in the extreme. Using the sounder I traced the path of the bar that ran from the left hand side of the island and here I found more reasonable depths between three to six feet along the top of the connecting bar that ran from island to island. Bill and I chose to concentrate on and beyond this bar that ran right across the bay between our two swims. We would put a rod each on the top of the bar in about five feet of water and one each behind it in anything from six to sixteen feet in depth. Bill decided to fish tight to and in front of the far island and also to an area of snags to the left. He baited all three rods with particle and a kilo of boilies over the top.
17 Jan 2019 at 2.59pm
In reply to Post #361
PM for you Rumple!
17 Jan 2019 at 5.30am
Cracking thread Ken - slowly working my way through it.
Regarding the SW scene. I have a few mates living down that neck of the woods and i have ventured around the Exeter Canal and also Upper and Lower Tamar (beautiful lakes and the canal having massive potential for all species)
Did you spend much time on these waters, I know Pete Gregory had a 40+ out of the Exeter Canal way back and also the Upper Tamar held a few gooduns...no doubt some of this may well be contained in this thread and i'll come to it along the way.
So much untapped potential in the SW waters (think it was called Peninsula Fisheries).....shame that the lakes are adjoined or near to Tarka and his mates...
13 Jan 2019 at 3.01pm
In reply to Post #359
Before we started fishing we had a look in the club house where Pascal the owner of the lake showed us around. I found the bar particularly interesting especially when he opened a bottle of champagne. The showers and toilets were pristine and in the bar there were several table comfy chars in which to relax while sipping a beer or two. It looked like bliss as far as I was concerned!
From outside in the car park came a wheezing and a hissing as Liam's Range Rover, now relieved of its horsebox pulled up. I think the journey down had taken it out of the vehicle, which was steaming gently in the April sunshine. Water dribbled from the front of the car and there was a distinct smell of hot metal and boiling water. It would be glad of a rest!
Andy and Liam set to with a vengeance, gear of all kinds started to spill from the back of the car; tripods, cameras, battery packs. Blimey! Liam wasn't doing things by half. Pascal looked on in puzzled amusement!
Liam wanted to do some scene-setting shots of the lake so I was called into action as a model. My early bald spot put in its first appearance. It wasn't until Liam was doing the editing that he pointed it out to me. How kind of him. Until then I had no idea it was there. In my late forties, I had to accept that age was creeping up on me!
Mike and Paul's plan for their swim was to fish at varying depths, baiting several areas of clear gravel in between weed beds that could be inspected at regular intervals to see if the bait had been eaten. Bill and I were somewhat restricted in our choice of swims, due to the constraints that filming and writing scripts would impose upon us. We both fancied the long bay down from where Mike and Paul were to fish, where a nice wide sandy area looked big enough to house us both. This would have been, I guess, what is now swim 12. However, the filming and recording the sound track demands easy access to the participants and Liam wanted at least a couple of us to be within easy access of the Range Rover.
The bay in front of the clubhouse looked tasty and Dave had been fishing the area with some success. He was in a corner swim - swim 4 is not fished these days - and he offered to move out of his swim to let Bill in. However, I think he rather fancied a swim mid way along the bank between the corner and swim 1. I think this would be swim 3 today but if that is the case then it is now usually left vacant so as not to interfere with anglers in swims 2 or 5. Besides, Dave was clearly on carp and we needed fish for the film. So what with one thing and another Bill ended up in 3 while I went into swim2. Thruster pitched up in swim 1. This shows the bay and the position of the four swims we were going to fish.
They like you to pair up at Rainbow or at least fish adjacent closely neighbouring swims as they reckon most of the playing of fish is done from a boat so someone needs to stay in the swim in case another rod goes off. The ones we would fish were ideally suited. The Dutch lads were in what are now 18 & 19 with Mike and Paul in 11, a swim they called the Black Beach after the dark almost black sand therein. Before Bill and I went off to at last set up and start fishing I did a group shot of the assorted players. Here l-r are: Dave, Pascal, Liam doing his 'I'm the director' bit, yours truly, Andy the cameraman and Bill.
While Bill went off for a walk round, I dug out the sounder, jumped into the boats and had a quick row around the bay in front of the area in front of our swims. It was so full of features I had no idea where to start. The area in front of our swims appeared to be tailor-made for the sort of long-range fishing I enjoy most. About 130 yards away, a small island poked its head above the surface. It was decorated by a solitary tree, a pine, its trunk burnt and twisted, leaning out over the water at a steep and crazy angle. You know what it’s like when you see something like that, don’t you? Regardless of what the underwater terrain is like, you automatically think to yourself, that looks tasty. Silly really, but I bet more than a few of you have felt the same at times. It’s like a sign saying, ‘fish here’! Incidentally, one of the shooting hides can just about be seen in the extreme middle left of this photo. This is now swim 5 and is one of the most productive swims on modern Rainbow lake.
12 Jan 2019 at 12.14pm
In reply to Post #358
This is a fairly typical landscape at Rainbow. It's mind boggling the first time you see it! I am not sure where the guys are standing. I think they are on a small island behind the channels that lie behind swims 1, 2 and 5. They are certainly not on the swim that is now called The Island Swim.
The Bristol pair had brought their own fibreglass dinghy with them, as well as an echo sounder and these were to prove invaluable as the week went by. Soon, the two West Countrymen were afloat, off into the jungle of features in the general direction of the north west corner, into which the wind was blowing steadily. It took them six or seven hours looking around the area before they eventually picked on a spot where they could intercept fish moving along the channels in front of them and into the bay that opened up beyond. It was mind numbingly beautiful.
12 Jan 2019 at 12.13pm
In reply to Post #357
I think we were all taken aback at the complexity of the lake, its numerous islands, gullies and bays. In fact there are so many features on the lake that each swim it totally different to the one next to it and should be fished almost as if it were a different lake! In places there are depths approaching twenty feet and less that a boats length is shelves up to three feet. The proverbial egg-box only more so. There are also shallow bars, plateaux, tiny islands, and some of the bars are so steep they reach up fifteen to twenty feet in an almost sheer slope.
By mid morning it was decided. Mike was going to fish with Paul while I would fish with Bill. They like you to pair up at Rainbow as they reckon most of the playing of fish is done from a boat so someone needs to stay in the swim in case another rod goes off. John Moth said he would drop in next to wherever Bill and I ended up.
The Dutch lads were installed in a couple of swims that are now identified as 18 & 19, while Mike and Paul set up on the opposite side of the lake on an area of black sand which they called the Black Beach. This is now swim 11 I believe. Finally Bill and I set up in a couple of swims in the bay closest to the clubhouse swims 2 & 3 nowadays, though 3 no longer exists. John set up in the first swim no known believe it or not as swim 1, astonishingly enough!
Other fish had come out to Dave before we had got there, including a thirty and a big twenty, as well as a few sturgeon. The Dutch lads in particular had been plagued with these prehistoric looking fish, but they had failed to make contact with any of them. A sturgeon’s mouth is deeply under slung, rather like a shark’s and as it chews its food with the tooth plates on its lips, it does not pass the food back into its throat to bite on it, hence standard hair set ups are a bit hit and miss - mostly miss. Often, you get a screaming run, only to be met with nil resistance, for when you go to pull into the fish you pull the bait out of its mouth at the same time. Either that or it simply drops the bait!
A nice beach area, looking out to a long, steep sided island, held Mick Paine and his friends from a large Dutch tackle shop, Dion and Cass. They had arrived three days earlier but so far had been frustrated by losing sturgeon after sturgeon on their shelfies. It appeared that the sturgeon liked boilies, and no mistake. In typical Dutch fashion, a case of beer lay cooling in the water and Mick insisted that we partake…and why not? Mick seemed to think that the sturgeon had moved out, as their swim had been much quieter that night, though Cass had lost what had felt like a very big carp during the night.
Bill and I took a slow wander around the perimeter of the lake. Rainbow Lake is supposed to be 100 acres. It's a very big hundred acres in my opinion and the stroll took the best part of the morning. By the time we got back to the caravan, Paul and Mike had joined us, after looking closely at all the bays and many of the gullies. But if there were loads of features to look at from the bank, there were three times as many to investigate from the boat. As far as the eye could see, small islands and weed beds dotted the surface. I have never seen so many features in my life. Just look at these small islands that partially hide a small bay. They mark the start of a series of channels that run up into the bay. Carpy or what!
These are actually situated in from of swims 14 & 16 (there is no swim 15), and nowadays they are well known for producing some of Rainbow's monsters.
11 Jan 2019 at 3.37pm
In reply to Post #356
Another, less bulky, shape loomed out of the night. “What’s all this row about?” It was Dave Watson, carp angler of the old school and now apparently the UK agent for the lake. We shook hands and explained the situation, but first we wanted to know if the lake was fishing.
“Any good?” we asked.
“Got a nice fish in the sack for the morning and I’ve just lost another into the snags. Now piss off to the chalet we've booked for you and let’s get back to sleep.”
Following Swampers we drove the six or seven kilometers into the nearby village where a nice comfy holiday chalet had been put at our disposal for the duration. I had scripts to write on a daily basis and there was room for a rough editing suite. It looked pretty good all in all. The kitchen supplied Bill his final coffee charge of the day before we slumped down on the beds and went out like a light...for about two hours
Deep in the land of nod and kicking up zeds galore we were rudely awakened when all hell broke loose as Liam and the horsebox arrived. It was pointless trying to sleep further so we leapt up with all the speed of a sloth on Valium, made coffee and breakfast and then headed back to the lake.
What greeted us was breathtaking. A mass of tree-covered islands, little humps and tussocks sticking out of the water, features everywhere. The sky gave a promise of good, settled weather. Dawn was breaking and the birds were giving out a full and glorious dawn chorus. It was magic.
Mike and Paul emerged from the bivvy and then Liam arrived with Thruster and the film crew. They started to film immediately. In a swim in the corner of the bay which I believe was once swim 4 but is now no longer used, Dave and Swampers were weighing and photographing Dave's overnight fish, a 27lb mirror that looked absolutely beautiful in the morning light.
Everything about Rainbow Lake looked good! Had we arrived at Heaven on Earth? Only time would tell but first impressions were very encouraging.
The first day at Rainbow was one of to-ing and fro-ing. We were introduced to the Dutch anglers who were also taking part in the filming. They had been there a few day already but had taken the time to try to get to know the swims better so had not really put too much effort into the fishing. Meanwhile Mike and Paul went for a stroll around the lake before choosing a swim.
11 Jan 2019 at 3.36pm
In reply to Post #355
The journey down through northern France was tedious in the extreme and having been held up leaving Le Harvre Bill and I were convinced Liam, horsebox and all, were ahead of us on the road somewhere. At every stop Bill leant out of the window and asked, “Excuse me! Have you seen a horse box?” The bemused French passers-by would have been hard pushed to make sense of all that if it had been asked in French; the fact that Bill was speaking the broad Yorkshire dialect that passes for the English language up there had them completely stumped.
I will just mention this in passing for any motor racing fans reading this... Bill was driving; I was dozing in the passenger seat. We’d passed Le Mans and were heading south on the N 138 towards Tours. The road ran arrow straight through thickly wooded countryside. There was a brow of a hill about half way down this long straight; you could see it miles off. Strange I thought to myself, “what’s this Armco crash barrier doing here lining both sides of the road?”
Then it came to me. We were tootling down the famous Mulsane Straight, the fastest part of the Le Mans 24-hour race circuit. I remembered the film 'Le Mans' starring the late Steve McQueen, which featured real life racing cars from the mid 70’s. There are some spectacular sequences in the film of the Mulsane Straight, taken by on-car cameras mounted on some of the
quickest racing cars ever to race at Le Mans. I glanced across at the speedo. We were doing 50 mph: the Gulf-Ford GT4O’s and Porsche 917’s used to clock up over 250 mph down this very same stretch of road. Five times faster than we were traveling. As a lifelong motor racing fan, this brief, first hand experience put Le Mans into perspective for me a little bit. Those guys needs their heads examined!
We arrived at Rainbow Lake at about two in the morning, to be greeted by a locked gate. In the thin beam of the headlights we could see Mike and Paul in their Volvo estate down the lane beyond the gate. Clearly that had made better time than us and it looked like they were setting up a bivvy to kip in. We could just about catch a glimpse of the glistening lake through the pine trees. The gate was locked and it was the middle of the night. We didn’t want to cause a disturbance so we sat and waited like a pair of lemons until a huge hulking shape detached itself from the shadows and ambled slowly towards the gate.
A bearded apparition stood in the glare of the headlights, looking fierce. “Who’s that?” it demanded.
Now, not unnaturally, Bill and I were feeling a bit teasy after the long drive. “Laurel and Hardy. Who the **** do you think!” exclaimed Bill. “Now open the sodding gate.”
“Is that the Yeti (Mark Westenberg)?", I asked Bill. "More like some sort of Swamp Monster”, he replied as the hulk opened the padlock to let us in. Here's the S.M. in typical pose taken later during the session.
It seemed that Paul and Mike had arrived ten minutes ahead of us. Of the horsebox and Liam there was no sign. Bill and I were fit to drop; all we wanted was to get our heads down somewhere. A big mobile home parked beside the lake looked ideal.
“You can’t sleep in there”, said Swampers importantly. “That’s for Liam and the crew.”
“You won’t see them for a few hours yet”, we told him. “The guy’s got a horsebox to contend with!”
11 Jan 2019 at 3.33pm
In reply to Post #354
The sound of plates being laid out and cutlery distributed drew us to a small parlour: “You can’t come in here yet”, Ted told us. “Breakfast isn’t until six thirty. Go away!”
Bill growled. “I only want a cup of coffee”, he argued.
“Not until six thirty”, insisted Ted.
Bill was ready to kill. Eventually, we all managed to gather around the two tables set out for us in the tiny breakfast room. Bill and I were joined by a small, quiet guy and the big mooning bugger from the previous night. He introduced himself as John Moth and his nickname, so he told us, was Thruster Mothballs. You will hear more of thus guy later. Paul from Bristol was into Ted from the off.
“So you’re the kiddy on the high seas are you Ted?”
Ted jumped in with both feet. “Do you want to see one of my videos?” Needing no further prompting Ted slipped a video into the VCR. Liam, one of the most prolific makers of films on any subject you care to mention, groaned as the telly showed a shaky film of Ted going through his routine. He wasn’t the only one groaning.
“Very impressive, Ted”, we all told him. “Good stuff eh, Liam?” Liam kept his counsel.
Ted needed no encouragement to boast. Soon he was giving us chapter and verse about how to go wreck fishing out of Pompey. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that I’d been doing that and similar for many years. The video showed a small ling coming aboard. Now in my humble opinion ling taste absolutely awful even though some say it is better than cod. I expressed my opinion knowing it would cause a storm:
“You haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about”, Ted exploded. “How many ling does a carp fisherman ever catch?”
Liam was clearly fed up with the despotic Ted. He wasn’t having any more of this so he explained, in no uncertain terms, how I used to make a living.
“Oh, you worked on the trawlers did you?” he said. “I had a trawler once, you know!”
“Of course you did, said Bill.
It was an interesting breakfast to say the least, especially when the little guy, (it turned out that this was Andy the cameraman), was confronted by Ted over the alleged theft of the sugar spoon! "Why the **** would I want to do that?" he asked. Ted was adamant. Andy was just confused!
“Give him his spoon back, Andy”, said Thruster joining in the wind up. Ted was obviously getting pretty worked up about this bloody spoon. How we got out of there without the police being called in I have no idea. I hope Ted’s found it by now. He was convinced one of us had stolen it. It was only a teaspoon, for Christ’s sake!
Incidentally, much as I’d like to allow readers to experience the delights of Ted’s Shangri La, out of kindness to Ted, his real name and that of his pleasure dome have been changed to protect their identities. (And to protect anyone from suffering as much as we did.)
Breakfast over, it was time to head for the ferry. We hitched up the horse box and the Range Rover let out a soft cry of distress as we set off through the already crowded, winding back streets of Portsmouth in search of the ferry port. Next stop, Bordeaux...with any luck.
Bill and I were pulled over at customs before we could board the ferry. A wide-eyed customs officer regarded the chaotic tangle of gear, bait and other assorted junk with a bemused gasp.
“What’s all this lot in aid off, then?” he demanded.
We explained that we were going to the south of France to make a video about carp fishing. I could tell the customs guy was placing us in the 'Bull*****rs' category. “Anyone else in the party?” he asked. I leant out of the window and pointed to the perspiring Range Rover and horsebox slowly crossing the car park towards the ferry.
“See the guy with the horse box? He’s the producer and director of the film. Don’t ask him about Shergar!”
We rolled through the huge stern doors onto the ferry. A last we were on our way. Now the trip can begin. (OK. I know this is not Portsmouth, nor is a P&O ship, but it's the best I can do to help break up post after post of dialogue with no pix.)
The crossing was smooth and as boring as they all are when you can’t have a beer because you’re driving on the other side. It was enlivened slightly by Liam doing his “I’m the Director” act, flying about the ship filming just about everything that moved. It was Andy’s first trip to France. Suddenly, he bolted from his seat to point at the cliffs of Le Havre looming up through the mist.
“There’s France!” he shouted excitedly.
11 Jan 2019 at 3.31pm
In reply to Post #353
It was clear that Ted was one of those guys who just had to have been there, done it, seen it, tried it, written the book, become an expert at, anything you cared to mention.
“I’m going hang-gliding next week,” I mentioned as we trudged up yet another flight of stairs.
“Well, that’s pretty easy after you’ve been an airline pilot”, said Ted.
I swear I could hear Bill screaming silently with laughter inside.
The twin bedded room was clean and neat but it was, well, basic. I suppose that would be the right word to call it. There was a telly but no satellite and only the basic channels, no movies, no sport and the colour was diabolical and the hand control was knackered. It would have been at home on the Ark but as far as we were concerned it was a waste of space in the tiny room.
It was all academic anyway, as. No telly. No en suite, no kettle. Bugger all, in fact. We trudged downstairs to find Ted. He wanted to know all about us. Where were we going? Down near Bordeaux we told him.
“Oh, Bordeaux, eh? I go fishing, you know. I make films too, videos in fact. Actually I’m pretty famous around here. I’m one of the top sea anglers in this part of the world.”
“Of course you are!” said Bill, who had not taken to our Ted. He was not alone.
“Where can we eat locally?” we asked.
Ted pointed out a nice looking pub just down the road. At least he got that right. The beer was clear and the food was good. We sampled lots of both and while we were eating, Mike and Paul arrived. They too had not been too impressed by Ted’s place! I’d not met either of them before but, of course, knew Mike’s reputation as one of the best captors of big carp in this country. Yet he was quiet and unassuming with a lively sense of humour; altogether far too likable for one of the UK’s most successful carp anglers!
The ice was quickly broken and we shared several beers, talking the hours away in anticipation of what lay ahead in the forthcoming week at Rainbow.
We left at closing time and walked back to Ted’s place. From what Paul and Mike told us, it seemed that we were actually in one of the better rooms.
We turned in but a loud commotion outside drew us to the window. Outside in the street Liam’s Range Rover clicked and ticked as the engine cooled and the car steamed quietly in the cooling night air. The car had obviously been subjected to a fair amount of abuse while a dull and dirty horsebox lay on sagging springs behind the exhausted motor. A horsebox? Liam looked up at Bill and I hanging from the bedroom window laughing our heads off.
“It was all I could get at such short notice”, he complained.” Look what it’s doing to my car!”
Three others got out of the vehicle. One was (very) obviously Sue, the sound engineer and another was probably Andy, the cameraman, but who was the great lump with them? We would find out.
The horse box was man-handled into the narrow alley along with Paul’s estate car, our Transit and Liam’s Range Rover. Bill and I were still in our room as Ted showed them to their rooms. As they passed our door, Bill leaned out to welcome Liam and crew. The mysterious big guy mooned at him! Strange way to introduce yourself, we thought. We bid them a jovial welcome.
“Quiet!” said Ted. “There are other people in the rooms, trying to sleep.”
“You wish!” said someone.
The alarm clock woke us at five-thirty the next morning. I made it down the corridor to the shower in the freezing cold of a March dawn, to be greeted by a minuscule shower stall with a pathetic drip of tepid water from the leaky showerhead. It was better than nowt, but only just.
“You’ll be impressed with the shower”, I told Bill when I got back.
I could not imagine him even fitting into the shower stall, let alone actually getting a shower. Downstairs, Ted was preparing breakfast in the kitchen adjoining the dining room. It smelled good. We went in and sat down at a nicely laid table. Bill was after his coffee fix.
11 Jan 2019 at 3.29pm
In reply to Post #348
I was a bit worried about leaving the van, loaded with thousands of pounds worth of tackle and bait, in an open hotel car park or worse, in the street overnight, but Liam had assured us there was a commodious car park attached to the luxury hotel.
“There’ll be plenty of room in the secure parking area”, he said.
Sound! We arrived in Portsmouth at about six in the evening. Liam’s map wasn’t as helpful as it could have been, so we drove around looking at some impressive examples of south coast luxury hotels scattered along the sea front. Sadly the Hotel Splendide was not one of them. Getting ever more lost by the minute, we turned up one wrong road after another and if it hadn’t been for a house fire somewhere in the wilds of Fratton I doubt we’d ever have found the elusive place. As it was, the police car attending the fire contained two rather bored policemen who gave us instructions.
The Hotel Splendide was not on the sea front nor was it in any way, shape or form as splendid as its name suggested. In fact it was a small commercial guest house tucked away up a dark and dingy side street. To call it a hotel would be pushing it. To call it Splendide would be lying through your teeth!
The receptionist (owner, chef, cleaner, parking instructor) was a guy called Ted. I could write a book about Ted, so completely did he fill our first twelve hours of the trip. Far from living up to its name, Ted’s place was clearly aimed at the lower end of the market and that’s putting it nicely! Putting it bluntly, it was a dump!
The place was clearly devoid of other guests (frankly, I’m not surprised) but you could see that Ted was looking forward to having a house full for the night. He impressed Bill straight away.
“You can park the van down there”, he said, pointing to a narrow alley at the side of the house. “It’ll be safe down there.”
I wondered how safe. Carefully, Bill backed up the van, Ted barking instructions like a mad sergeant-major. “Left hand down a bit...No! That’s too far... Straighten up... Go right... RIGHT! Oh forget it... I give up!”
Bill was slowly loosing his sense of humour as he was doing fine without all Ted’s histrionics. It was quickly becoming clear that patience was not Ted’s long suit. He stood to one side and watched as Bill managed, perfectly easily, to back the van up to the far wall.
It was then that I realised just why the van’s contents would be safe for the night. Bill was stuck inside the van, for the doors would only open an inch or two due to the walls of the alley that boxed the van in on either side. In the end, while the ever more bad tempered Ted stood and watched, Bill managed to climb out of the driver's side window, a task that was under his breath.
with some difficulty for Bill is a big guy. Ted sucked his teeth and shook his head, making his feelings pretty obvious. My mate was not impressed and Ted was now in imminent danger of feeling the painful end of Bill’s fist. It was not a good start and more was to come. We picked up our bags and headed for the front door. Ted was waiting by the phone.
“I’ve just had a phone call from someone called Liam”, he told us. “His trailer’s broken an axle. He’ll be late, as he‘s got to pick up a replacement. Now, I’ll show you to your room.”
On the way upstairs he drew from me the fact that we were off to the south of France to make a film about carp fishing. He had been to France, he told us. Oh yeah?
“Carp fishing?” we asked.
“Of course not, Ted exclaimed grumpily. “For the dogs.”
“Don’t ask him about his dogs”, Bill muttered, “We’ll be here all bloody night.” Too late, the words had already left my lips.
“What kind of a dog have you got?”
“Bill keeps Great Danes”, I told him.
“Shut UP!” whispered Bill in exasperation.
“I used to do that, of course”, said Ted. “Labradors are more of a challenge.”
“Naturally”, said Bill sarcastically. He is touchy about his dogs.
11 Jan 2019 at 12.54pm
In reply to Post #347
11 Jan 2019 at 12.50pm
In reply to Post #349
looking forward to it ken always a good read
11 Jan 2019 at 12.50pm
In reply to Post #349
looking forward to it ken always a good read
10 Jan 2019 at 3.51pm
In reply to Post #348
Liam Dale had been contracted by John Stent and Dave Watson of the company Euro Carping to make a video about the new lake they had acquired for which they would be doing the bookings and the publicity. Bill and I had worked with Liam before when we made a bait video for Nutrabaits.
Hyperactive Films Ltd and its proprietor and film maker Liam was well known as a prolific producer of fishing vids, having previously done several about carp fishing that featured Kevin Maddocks, Alan Taylor and others. Sadly the Nutrabaits vid never saw the light of day but the one on Rainbow certainly did.
As you can tell by the hyperbole on the blurb for the sleeve, Liam had set himself some pretty high goals, which to a large extent I think he and the crew achieved.
If the anticipated fun and frolics that had accompanied me and Bill's hilarious attempts at making the Nutrabaits vid were anything to go by, this trip should be a laugh if nothing else.
10 Jan 2019 at 3.44pm
In reply to Post #347
The cast list changed frequently in the weeks prior to departure. Kevin was coming; Kevin wasn’t coming, Kevin P. was coming, Kevin P wasn't coming, John Stent was coming…no he wasn't. You get the picture? Other assorted 'faces were supposed to be coming. Alan Taylor, The Yeti, Andy Little, they were all supposed to be coming along at one time or another but, in the end, the cast list worked out as follows: Bill and me, Mike Willmott accompanied by Paul Dicks from Bristol Angling Center, the Hyperactive crew of Liam Dale (Director), Sue (sound engineer), Andy (cameraman) and John Moth alias Thruster the Forester, who seemed to be simply along for the ride, but who might have been there to provide the muscle as he’s a big lad. Also on board was Dave Watson (yes, the Dave Watson Carp Society fame). Dave was part of the management of the company Euro Carping, which had arranged a tie-in with the owners to take parties and do the bookings.
Other assorted bodies would crop up from time to time including a party from Holland led by Mick Payne who would be making a parallel video for the Dutch market, killing two birds with one stone. Also from Holland would come the Dutch Sensas team, now with Cor de Man as its bait consultant, due later in the week on a brief recce trip. In addition, we were told there would be sundry other journalists and helpers popping in from time to time, as well as a quartet of paying guests from the UK who had booked the first two weeks of the season. It sounded interesting and if they all turned up it would be crowded to say the last!
The question of who was using what tackle and bait was eventually sorted out completely amicably. There were various commercial interests to be taken into consideration behind the scenes what with two bait firm moguls on board and a third (Kevin) part-financing the whole shebang, but once Liam discovered that he wasn’t dealing with mega egos and he didn’t need to massage anyone’s feelings in order to get maximum co-operation it all seemed to go well. We just needed Mick to behave himself on camera!
Departure day, 20th March - my birthday loomed. We were due to sail from Portsmouth to Le Havre on the 8.00 am. sailing. A bit of a struggle that. It meant having to leave Cornwall in the early hours of the morning to get to Portsmouth in time to catch the ferry. Bill too would need to be an early bird. We twisted Liam’s arm a touch and he eventually relented.
“I’ve booked you and Bill a nice en-suite room with all the trimmings at the Hotel Splendide, a very nice hotel near to the ferry port. That way you can get a decent night’s sleep and be up as fresh as a daisy in good time to catch the boat.”
Fresh as a daisy? He don’t know us too well, do 'e? I’m never at my best in the mornings, while Bill is positively comatose until he’s had at least a gallon of coffee. Add a previous night in the pub and we need an alarm clock the size of Big Ben to rouse us.
Liam continued. “The others are going to stay overnight as well, as will the film crew and myself, so we’ll be able to have a quiet little drink and get an early night.”
Carole drove me up to Ringwood on the 19th for I’d arranged to meet Bill about 3.00pm in the afternoon. It snowed as we travelled up the A35 and I wondered about the wisdom of visiting France so early in the year. Bill ran into the snow around Birmingham and eventually turned up at about four o’clock. We loaded my gear into the van then set off for the apparently super-posh, mighty-plush hotel. I was looking forward to a bucket of coffee, followed by a long hot bath, a change of clothes, a beer or two, then a decent meal and a G & T to round off the evening.
10 Jan 2019 at 3.41pm
RAINBOW LAKE - or EXCUSE ME BUT HAVE YOU SEEN A HORSE BOX? – April 1995
Rainbow Lake! The very name sends shivers down the spines of carp anglers across the world and with good reason. In fact, it has been hard to keep the name of Rainbow Lake out of the news over the past few years, what with the great and the good of carp fishing beating a path to its door, photo after photo of the lake's fabled monsters appearing online and in the press, in articles and videos. Indeed the Kevin Ellis vids have revealed much of the wonder of the lake. There are probably more carp over sixty pounds in weight in Rainbow than in any other lake in the world. No wonder getting a booking on there is harder than getting **** from a rocking horse!
Some of you may well have been lucky enough to go there, while others will sit with fingers crossed in the hope that they will get a swim one day. My own history with this super-lake is nothing like as well blessed with monster carp as that of others, but in some small way I believe I was among those who were responsible for putting the lake on the map.
But first a little back tracking…Tat and I had been on a tour of south west France looking for likely lakes, rivers and gites and after stopping at several likely looking spots we eventually found ourselves on the terrace of a nice restaurant overlooking a large lake that lay in the valley below us.
A decent meal was on the cards and as we sat in the sunshine looking down on the lake, we noticed the odd splash or two disturbing the surface. I asked the guy behind the bar if there were carp in the lake and he told me that there were a few but they were not fished for as the lake was more widely known for its predator fishing. I filed the lake away as a 'maybe' and that was that!
We move forward to the early autumn of 1994. After a nightmare few days moving from venue to venue looking for the sun, we found ourselves once again at the restaurant overlooking the lake, this time not so much for a nosebag - that might come later - but more to fish the lake for a week or maybe two if all went well.
Ha! As if…
When we got there we found that the lake had been drained and there was no fishing. Apparently the local authorities were fed up with cleaning the lakeside of litter and excrement left behind by so-called anglers after the name of the lake became well known on the circuit. This was the lake where Liam Dale of Hyperactive Films had done a video called Half a Ton of carp, featuring Kevin Maddocks and friends and following the video's release the world and his wife had beaten a path to the lake's door. Their resulting mess was the reason for the lake's eventual closure. Apparently the carp had been sold to stock a private lake south of Bordeaux called Lac du Curton. The lake's name was changed to Rainbow Lake later that year when it became a commercial venue and the rest is history...
We skip forward now to the winter of 1995. The phone rang as I looked out on a dreary Cornish winter, wet and miserable, with summer carp fishing just a memory. “How do you fancy a trip to France in March then, youth?” said Big Bill.
“Nah! Sorry but I doubt if I could afford it.” I replied.
“It’s free!” came the voice on the other end of the telephone.
“I’m on!” I said.
“Right. The good news is that Liam has been asked to do a video of Rainbow Lake, but he wants to combine this with an hour or so of how-to-do-it filming, focusing on the nuts and bolts of fishing in France."
I’d met Liam before when he filmed a promo video for Nutrabaits, which never saw the light of day and found him to be a good laugh so if that was the good news what was the bad? I asked Bill. “Mike Willmott’s coming.” Ah! "The bugger will probably empty the place," I said to Bill.
“Yeah, I know. Don’t worry though, you won't have much time for fishing. You’re not only acting as Liam’s personal technical advisor during the making of the video - and don’t go thinking that means anything because it doesn’t - you’re also writing the script. As if that ain’t enough, you and me are acting as consultants to Liam and the crew.
“No wonder it’s free then," I said. "Will there be a chance of a beer or two?"
"I expect so," said Bill!
2 Jan 2019 at 12.24pm
In reply to Post #345
Tat and I hope all your carpy dreams come true in 2019. I'll pick up on the thread soon but first we would like to share this with you:
We always have rib of beef on new year's eve. It's a tradition that goes back nearly fifty years and dates from a time when we had briefly flirted with going veggie. Bad mistake. Awful idea IMHO!
We both missed beef so much that after a couple of years on Nut Roast and Rooshti with Eggs, we decided to kick the veggie habit in style on NYE 1971 and did so with a fine
cote de boeuf
…And that set the trend for us. This year we bought a lovely rib of Dexter. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
While hunting through the cellar to find a suitable red to drink with the beef I discovered a bottle of 1995 Graves, which I thought had all gone after drinking what I believed was the last in the case the previous year. But on lifting a case of a decent but not superior Medoc, I discovered, tucked away almost out of sight a dust- and cobweb-covered bottle of this 1995 Pressac-Leognan. What a surprise and a lovely way to see out the old year.
We hope you net an equally satisfying surprise this year…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
2 Jan 2019 at 12.02pm
In reply to Post #344
Thanks, Forest guy! And back at you. Great win for your team yesterday. You've got one of the best managers in football IMO. Keep up the good work...Nobody wants Leeds back in the premiership!
24 Dec 2018 at 1.27pm
In reply to Post #343
Merry Christmas to the both of you, and all the best for the new year
24 Dec 2018 at 10.21am
Tat and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
See you again soon...don't get too pithed!
6 Dec 2018 at 3.20pm
In reply to Post #341
fab read thanks Ken
4 Dec 2018 at 10.37am
In reply to Post #340
COMING UP: Bill C and I go to Rainbow to make a film with Liam Dale. Has anybody seen a horsebox?
3 Dec 2018 at 3.33pm
In reply to Post #339
That just had to be it. We couldn’t believe the fishing that we’d experienced over the past 48-hours. Surely there were no fish left out there on the plateau…Wrong! In fact the day was far from done with. A common of just over twenty pounds came my way so once it was landed I tore out to the marker with another bucketful of bait. Before I got back one of our rods was away and with Tat sparko in the bivvy the French guys had a scrap to decide who would take the run. As it turned out, Giles emerged the winner and by the time I got back with the boat the fish was in the margins where it was netted by Jose, while J-L looked on.
As if the social side needed any boosting another group of French guys arrived. They were there more for the craic than the fishing, I suspected. As the night progressed, the noise level rose, but we couldn’t complain. We’d had our day and no mistake. If we never had another fish on this trip we’d be happy.
So we joined in the very rowdy party that lasted most of the night, interrupted, astonishingly enough, by a steady stream of carp both big and small for the assembled revelers/carp anglers. Carole now fully refreshed caught two smaller commons, while I had a common of about sixteen pounds. I was joined by Giles and Jean-Louis for the photos. It is a happy photo that always brings a smile to my face whenever I recall those great memories.
By the early hours of the morning we were both wilting under the strain and took ourselves off to the comfort of our sleeping bags. I was awoken by a screaming run at just after five in the morning and with only an hour's sleep under my belt it took me what seemed like forever to get myself sorted out. It was still dark but muggy and warm with a fresh but very hot breeze blowing down the lake. I was joined on the rods by a very inebriated Jean-Louis, bottle of wine in hand, who emptied much of it into my mouth and down my chin and neck as he tried to persuade me that playing a very angry carp in the darkness of a cloudy French dawn was best accompanied by at least a gallon of Bordeaux. After the first couple of glasses, I came to the conclusion that he was probably right!
Half an hour later it was Carole’s turn. We were getting almost blasé about low twenties; this was another. Two more followed, both commons, one each. Was this for real, or what? I consigned the last of our bait to the plateau and its surrounds and we sat back with a beer and a few bottles of wine in the company of our French friends to await the final 24-hours...which just had to be an anti-climax, didn’t they? Yes, indeed! We had just one more carp between us, a small mirror for Carole. To be honest were out on our feet. The party had taken its toll on both of us, though the French just carried on partying.
French carping? I love it!
So ended the trip to Boffin's Pond. Since then we have both caught more carp and bigger carp but I don’t think we’ve ever had such enjoyable carp. We'd be back!
3 Dec 2018 at 3.26pm
In reply to Post #338
It was Friday, the start of the sacrosanct French weekend and the anglers were gathering for the social. Jean-Louis, Carl, Jose and Francois I knew from the previous visit but Tat had not met them before. I warned her about Jean-Louise's charm offensive, which was deployed full bore when ever a member of the opposite sex was around.
The guys had been good company back when I was at Boffin's with Nige and Colin, and it looked as if they were going to be good company again. They set up a large picnic table just down the bank from us and once it was set, copious amounts of wine, beer and food appeared as J-L built a rudimentary barbecue out of rocks and bricks. Then Giles the lake owner drove up in his rattling old Citroen and began unloading yet more grub, a repeat performance of the hospitality we’d enjoyed earlier in the year.
And still the carp fed out there on the fabulous plateau and I added another small mirror to my list. This was too good to be true. We were eating our way through a mountain of chicken when Carole’s next run sped off. With an audience surrounding her, watching her every move (they don’t see many women carp anglers in France) the assembled company was prepared to be critical. It didn’t get the chance! Carole played to the gallery in fine style, in fact, I thought she was putting on too much of a show and told her, “Stop mucking about, and get the bugger in!”
“I can’t,” she exclaimed. “It’s a bloody good fish!”
And so it proved to be, a stonking great mirror, another linear. The gallery applauded, more wine was poured, the fish toasted in fine Bordeaux. If I didn’t have the pictures to prove it, I’d assume that ’d been dreaming, but the action was by no means over. A run, this time from the left hand gully gave me my own personal best common, a fabulous fish of 35lb 2oz that fought like a demon from start to finish, first in the water, and then for a further fifteen rounds on the bank. I’d died and gone to Heaven, surely!
The guys gathered round and snapped loads of photos. Giles said that this same fish had been caught by Rod earlier in the year. If that was the case it had healed wonderfully well as its mouth looked like it had not seen a hook in all its days…and just look at the size of those pecs!
Not to be outdone J-L had a good common...
…while the barbie continued in full flow…
It all got a bit much for Tat who took to the tent for a brief siesta. I knew she would come back to the fray full of beans and ready to go again, so I let her have her beauty sleep.
3 Dec 2018 at 3.17pm
In reply to Post #337
The afternoon remained hot and sunny. At the hypermarket I had bought a stack of barbecue grub and several bottles of bottles of wine but the carp seemed determined to keep us hungry, if not themselves! The rod on the shallows produced an eighteen pound common for me while I was cooking the steaks, then Carole had another small common of about eleven pounds from the right hand gully. When a further five doubles came our way we thought the kindergarten had arrived…Enough is enough; this was hard work so we pulled the rods in so we could eat in peace! I guess that will sound weird to some of you but the fish ain't everything!
Refreshed and ready for more, I topped up the bait carpet and the rods went out once more. Night fell and it seemed as if the fish had eaten their fill. A few hours went by before yet another pristine common came along for Tat.
Strangely, though conditions were identical to the previous night, after Tat's fish it went dead and we spent the majority of the dark hours in fishless anticipation. I’d just dropped off to a proper sleep when I had a run. Dawn was an hour or so away when one of the plateau rods had a take. Another furious fight, another fabulous fish, another thirty plus common for me. While I was weighing it the other rods on the plateau was away. I popped my common into a sack while Tat ran to hit the run. Here's the thirty photographed after the commotion that followed Tat's run was over and done with. (This fish was actually deemed worthy to be used as a cover shot for Carpworld.)
Now it was Tat's turn to shine big style. This one really gave her the run around, mostly on a long line in the deep water towards the middle of the lake. At last she got in to the edge and I sank the net under it. What a fish…a magnificent gurt big common. We looked at each other and burst out laughing. When it all comes right in France, it REALLY comes right.
…and just look at the girth on it!
Lunch! Time for a for a beer, a bottle of white wine for Tat and maybe a bottle of Champagne or something. We reeled in and walked up to the village to celebrate a new personal best for Our Lass. For some reason this took us longer than expected and by the time we got back to the swim we had company.
3 Dec 2018 at 3.13pm
In reply to Post #336
Sure enough, I was still rebaiting the rod on which I had lost the fish when Tat had another run, this time on the right hand rod cast well off to the side of the gully. Putting a hookbait well off the main bat carpet is a tactic we often use as it can sometimes trip up loners that like their own company and do not appreciate being crowded out by hordes of smaller fish all battling over dinner.
The fish took off on a steaming run belting up the lake to her right, heading for the dam wall like the hounds of hell were after it before kiting in towards the margins about 120 yards away. Now it was my turn to run up the bank and this time I took one of the oars and thrashed the margins to a foam with its blade. This seemed to do the trick and the fish headed out into deeper water again. Slowly but surely Tat worked the fish in towards the net and I scooped it up first time of asking. It was another lovely great linear, three pounds lighter than her first. This was getting silly!
In fact, this was fishing beyond our wildest dreams. Here we were landing fish of a size and quality we could never have imagined back in deepest, darkest Cornwall when we had been catching doubles and low twenties at College and Rashleigh.
Out I went again, rowing like a madman to bait up the plateau and gullies leading to it. By now it was clear that there were loads of fish in the general area and we didn't want them to drift off for lack of free food. I unloaded half a bag of Frolic, a jumbo tin of sweetcorn and a couple of kilos of boiled baits onto the area around the plateau. We were going to run out of boiled bait at this rate so we spent a tedious hour cutting each bait into quarters to make it go further.
The sun continued to beam down on us with the temperature pushing thirty degrees. It was a perfect autumn afternoon; sun, beer, wine and carp, and what carp! Here's a lovely common from the plateau. Could life get any better?
3 Dec 2018 at 3.10pm
In reply to Post #335
At first light we re-baited the rods and I took to the boat to top up the bait on the plateau. The marker was miles away down the lake to our right, obviously moved by that first furious charge of my common. It was easy enough to find the feature again by the landmarks I had taken, so I popped the marker back in place and baited the area liberally with boiled baits. I’d no sooner got back to the shore when I had a blistering run from a rather tatty scattered/linear mirror that took a bait fished on the top of the plateau. They must have been feeding while I baited up over their heads.
We were going to need groundbait after all if this carried on. The daylight blossomed to a sun-kissed morning. It became hotter and hotter and soon the wind picked up again from the south. I wanted to anticipate their arrival today, so I rowed a bait up towards the shallows where the fish had shown the previous afternoon, before sitting down in the shade of the poplars to enjoy a breakfast of French bread, Camembert and garlic sausage. Very anti social!
As the morning passed by a couple of local carp anglers that we'd met in May called in to see us on their way to another lake not far away. They were happy to hear that we had caught but were a bit surprised as they said that for the past couple of months the lake had been a bit moody. They put the improvement down to the moon! Yes, they were quite serious, and why not: I know of quite a few French anglers who firmly believe that the phases of the moon influence the fishing and these guys were adamant that the last quarter was by far the best. They French guys left but said that they would be returning at the weekend as there was a fish-in planned at the lake. I liked the sound of that!
It looked as if the lake had died on us for the time being, so, leaving Carole on the rods, I drove into town to try and get some groundbait ingredients. Would you believe it? They’d sold out! I bought a bag of Frolic and some jumbo-sized tins of sweetcorn, but wasn’t happy: the bream would play merry hell with that.
It took me an hour or so to do the shopping. While I was at the checkout I had a strange premonition. I can’t explain it but Carole often cracks a fish out when she’s on her own while I’m away on some errand or other. I couldn’t get out of the hypermarket quickly enough and I drove back to the lake as fast as I could. Sure enough, as I pulled up onto the grass behind the swim Carole came across to meet me, hopping up and down with excitement. “Where the hell have you been?” she demanded.
“Shopping! What have you caught?”
“A sodding great thirty three pound linear mirror!” she replied, beaming all over her face. “My personal best!”
The fish had taken about half an hour previously, just when I’d been queuing in the hypermarket feeling odd about something!
We did the photos in the bright afternoon sunlight. What a magnificent fish! And it was just a start…!
Tat had just put back the big linear, which actually weighed 34lb 2oz, when I had a run from a fish that I managed to bump off almost straight away. Clearly they were stacked up out there and I just knew that we'd get some more action imminently. The fizzing and bubbling out there looked like a Jacuzzi!
28 Nov 2018 at 4.17pm
In reply to Post #334
Carole picked up her run, struck and was greeted by dour but not frantic resistance. She said, “I’m going to need that net before you, I reckon.” She was right. In a few minutes she had worked the fish into her feet where it lay, beaten awaiting the net. Carole hoisted her prize ashore, sacked it quickly, then came back in time to net my carp, now almost finished with its antics. Now we had two fish on the bank, Carole’s a very pretty 19lb 4oz common, mine a blistering near-thirty pound (29lb 40z to be precise) common. What a scrap it put up. I wondered what a big thirty or, dream on, a forty might scrap like! I sacked it for it's dawn appointment with the camera.
We sat in the bivvy in the warm light of the strip lamp and drank a toast to the first twenty of the trip. Was it a portent of things to come? We certainly hoped so. That was not our only action of that night and carp continued to splash occasionally out in the darkness. I felt it was only a matter of time before we had another fish, and sure enough, at five o’clock in the morning I lost a fish that felt like a good lump - don’t they all. It took a bait off the plateau, a feature that was plainly fast becoming a hot spot. Then just as the dawn was breaking, Carole had a take on a rod that was fishing in the gully to the left of the plateau, a nice upper double mirror.
28 Nov 2018 at 3.34pm
In reply to Post #333
Darkness fell quite quickly, a brilliant red sun lighting up the sky on the western horizon behind us. It foretold a hot day tomorrow, thank God! Sure enough, as the sun set, the wind died away to no more than a zephyr of directions breeze. The carp seemed to have left the shallow bay off to our left, and the only fish showing were the hundreds of thousands of small fry dimpling the surface as the light went. It was eerily still and silent; not a man made sound nor natural noise to be heard. No birds, no insect noise, nor traffic or tractor, cough or cry. Almost total silence. Very spooky. How many times have you heard perfect silence? if there is such a thing.
The night chill sent us early to the shelter of the big canvas bivvy, where coffee laced with local Cognac quickly dispelled the cold. The night fell completely and the creatures of the dark hours began to show signs of life. A few rats, or maybe coypu scurried about in the thick bankside undergrowth. An owl hooted far off above a distance maize crop. The ubiquitous French dog that always seems to turn up wherever we go began its weary bark Would this one go on all night, as others had on different waters?
And then the carp began to feed...!
It was just after four in the morning when one of the rods cast onto the plateau gave a single bleep. We had tossed a coin for the first run and as I had won the toss, this was my take, if it developed. I was at the rods quickly. The indicator on the rod that had signaled the interest was a fraction lower than the others. I felt the line but there was no tension, nor any significant slack. A line-bite, perhaps? I gave it a few minutes then decided there was nothing to it. I’d just returned to the warmth of my sleeping bag when the same buzzer bleeped again. I had an awful feeling that I knew what was going on; bloody bream!
I was lying in the darkness of the bivvy cursing the slimy buggers when the `bream` took off on a flier. By the time I’d struggled to the rod to find the line pouring from the reel. I picked up the rod and struck; it was almost wrenched from my grip as a very strong fish took exception to my action. The carp - it was certainly no bream! - set off into the night, tearing away to my right, heading for the barrage as if the hounds of hell were at its heels. I could make no impression on that fish at all, and was rapidly loosing control of the fight. I’d have liked to follow the fish down the bank to my right, but the big oaks at the water’s edge made this impossible. I had no option but to hold on and hope for the best.
On and on the fish ran, tireless and brutishly powerful. If it carried on like this I would loose it for sure. By now Carole had joined me at the rods. There was only one thing for it. “Can you get some rocks or stones and get away down the bank there and heave ‘em in? This fish will shred me off on the bankside the way it's going.” I asked her in desperation. Still the fish ran, the rod arched around almost parallel with the water, pounding off towards a distant goal. A few moments later I heard some light splashes. “Use stones, not fairy dust!” I shouted in exasperation. “I can only find grit,” came a faint reply. But the grit seemed to do the trick. Suddenly the line began to angle out from the near bank towards the center of the lake as the fish changed direction. The headlong dash slowed and then stopped and at last I felt as if I had some say in the matter. I pumped and gained line; pumped again. Slowly the fish came back towards my bank. I put the torch on to illuminate the net at my feet and as I did so the other rod on the plateau was away.
28 Nov 2018 at 3.27pm
In reply to Post #332
A fresh warm wind, a feeding wind, was ruffling the surface and the sun was now peeking through the clouds with growing intensity. At last things were going our way.
From the bar we drove across the grassy banks surrounding the lake and pulled the little Renault into the area behind the swim where Nige had fished in June, which we had called The Point. We had the lake to ourselves so we set up and then I went out in the boat for a scout around with the echo sounder. The swim is marked with a small red dot in this graphic. (This is a modern image. The swimming pool and the dam surrounding it were not there when we first fished Boffin's.)
I found a very interesting feature about eighty yards from the bank where a small plateau curved gently up from the bottom. It was about twelve feet to the top of the plateau, about fifteen to eighteen feet to the surrounding lake bed. It seemed to be about two or three square yards in size, almost square, rather like a dining table set out below the surface. I placed a marker at the back of the plateau and extended the area of search, using the marker as a reference point. Circling outwards from the plateau I found two gullies about a foot deeper, leading towards the plateau from the north and the south. The Grey Line function on the sounder told me that the main lake bed was covered with soft silt about a foot thick, but the silt on top of the plateau was only an inch or so deep, the sounder revealing that the bottom was mainly hard-packed gravel or stone. It cried out to be fished so I jotted down a couple of rough intersecting landmarks in case a fish moved the marker…and pretty rough they are as you can see.
This tactic must seem so old hat these days, what with GPS-enabled sounders and bait boats, but I am an old salty dog taught to take land bearings from an early age!.
We fancied using groundbait on the plateau and in the gullies and there was a big supermarket not far away where I would be able to buy maize, millet and canary seed, and of course Frolic dog food, which was rapidly acquiring legendary status as a must-have part of any baiting campaign. However, in the meantime we decided to fish only with boilies and judge whether we needed groundbait after that. I rowed back to the plateau with about two kilos of boilies - shelfies, pure fishmeals and some birdy/fish home mades - and then we cast two of our four rods out onto the feature. As usual Carole and I fished four rods between us. We would take alternate runs, regardless of whose rod got the run…First get your run!
The other two rods were cast out to the gullies so as to cover both sides of the approach to the plateau, one in each gully, a cast of about seventy yards. These two rods were baited with stringers only in the hope that carp leaving or arriving at the plateau would be tempted by the meager offering. It is surprising how often this little trick works. We knew that some pretty cute anglers had fished the lake - Rod and Dave to name but two - so we added a extra dimension to the presentation; we fished two baits on the hair and the stringer was made up of three or four separate pairs of baits. This would leave individual pairs of freebies on the lake bed and we hoped the fish would wolf down the double bait hookbait without suspicion.
As we sat and ate the curry, washing it down with several bottles of beer. A few fish began to crash out at the top end of the lake towards which the breeze was blowing. I was tempted to move at least one rod to cover this area, but that meant rowing the bait up to the spot where the fish were showing. I thought that this would be a self defeating exercise as the boat would probably spook the fish from the shallow water. Anyway, if I knew my French weather, the wind would go down with the sun, and the fish would move out of the shallow bay, passing close by our baited area as they did so.
28 Nov 2018 at 3.24pm
In reply to Post #331
So there we were on Pete's lake, catching only smalls and being deafened by the frogs and threatened by the snakes! We were only a few hours away from Arnout's lake so we had pulled off Pete's lake and driven south for what seemed like hours until we reached the outskirts of a town. Crossing a slow-flowing river, we set off through fields of nodding sunflowers, along a winding back road until we came to the lake itself.
First impressions? Heaven! Nestling in a quiet valley the lake sits in peaceful solitude among fields of maize and corn. The village appears unchanged since before the revolution and the lake, about twenty five acres of it, nestles among its surrounding poplar trees and gentle slopes like a jewel in Paradise’s crown.
I’d love to be able to tell you that we caught stacks of fish, but as you may have read in the earlier posts that would be a lie. But it was enough simply to be on the lake. I learned later it was known by the Brits who fished it regularly as the Boffin's Lake, more normally just Boffin's. The local anglers were friendly and more welcoming than any we’d previously met - and that’s saying something - and though Colin blanked and I caught only one fish, albeit a magnificent linear mirror, it didn’t seem to matter one jot. Nige, as usual picked the only swim on the entire lake that contained any carp and did well, as usual. His top fish was a mirror of just over thirty pounds. Jammy git! That trip really fired up the blood and I kept going on about it to Tat throughout the following months. "About time you got your arse in gear and took me down there, then," she demanded. I needed no further asking as I had been gagging to get back there. So it was that Carole and I made plans to fish Boffin's in September 1995.
The lake lies less than a hundred miles from the Spanish border so we took a couple of days on the road to get down there. The weather all the way down was changeable so we stayed for a night at the small hotel by the river we had fished previously where Tat had caught her PB.
Not at all disheartened by the weather, Carole and I did the sight-seeing bit, eating and drinking well as we made our way slowly south through the hills and forests of central France. The rain caught up with us at Uzerche so we again stopped at a small hotel just outside the town on the banks of the R.Vezere, which was running high, fast and coloured. However, it looked a very good prospect for some river carping so the area was filed away with a view to a future visit. From the hotel I rang the bar overlooking Boffin's: “What’s the weather doing where you are? I asked.
“Il y’a un petite soleil timide,” replied Giles, the owner.
“A shy little sun?” I thought to myself. “What on earth’s he talking about?”
Next morning, the `shy sun` had reached Uzerche and a glimpse at the weather forecast for the next few days in the newspaper told us it was set fair for the next week or so. A few hours later, by way of a meandering series of D-roads heading steadily south west, we arrived at the bar. The sun was blazing down and the shy little sun was now as bold as brass. We had a beer and Giles brought us up to date about what had been happening on the lake. From the bar we looked down on the full panorama of the lake, glinting in the sunlight in the valley below. After the summer heat the level was slightly down from our visit in June, but Giles told us that it would soon be back to normal as the recent heavy rain had filled the streams that fed the lake, which were running high and fast. A rainbow kissed the far bank by the road. Was this a sign that we should fish there? Nah! I wanted to fish the swim where Dave and Nige had done so well.
28 Nov 2018 at 3.22pm
In reply to Post #330
BOFFIN'S POOL: SEPT ‘95.
If you have followed this tale so far, especially the more recent posts detailing the start of our French journeys, you will note that for a little old Cornish buoyo, used to catching doubles and the odd low twenty - if you were lucky - my early trips to France had been very successful by my comparatively low standards. True, College held a single biggie of just over thirty (which I caught in 1983!), and there was a few twenties to go at, but to catch mid to upper twenties, a scattering of thirties and even a low forty was something very special for a Cornish carper.
So let's have a brief recap of 1994, a year that will always be infamous in my memory. France had been pretty kind to me and Tat since our first visit in 1988, but that all changed with 1994. That year carved an indelible black mark on our previously successful sorties to France. To say that it was not our best year’s fishing, both at home and abroad, is putting it mildly. I suppose you could sum up how bad it was by the fact that up until the early autumn of 1994 we had caught between us just nineteen carp in the UK and in France. Undaunted and in the hope that French carping would come to our rescue, in September of ’94 we set off once again in search of golden carp in France…Well, that was the plan at any rate.
It was a nightmare of a trip! We had twenty-five days holiday saved up and we spent nineteen of them driving over 2,000 miles in the pouring rain, along the motorways, N-routes and back roads of France in a vain attempt to find either a river that wasn’t flooded, a lake that wasn’t being emptied and a sun that wasn’t constantly obscured by cloud. The former two we never found; the later we found only when we went out on deck as the ferry left France, six days ahead of our planned departure date. We were shattered, worn out and defeated by the remorseless downpours, a leaking tent, a car accident, a spell in hospital for me, and not a single carp to our credit. To rub it in, the sun shone down blissfully for the entire six hour ferry crossing, adding a rather pathetic brownish glow to our normal pallor. When we went into the pub that evening they said, “You’ve got nice tans. The weather must have been lovely.” I felt like screaming. That was 1994. Goodbye and good riddance!
The following year I went back to France with Colin and Nige, a trip described in the immediately preceding posts. We’d been told about a lake in the Vendee by my friend Pete McDermott had heard about. We met up with Pete and his pal Mikhail in mid-June and struggled to catch four decent fish between us. The lake Pete put us on was as wild and dramatic as anything you’d find in a South American jungle with mossies the size of small helicopters, wasps, hornets and snakes. It was more like an SAS survival course. In the end it became too much for all of us and when the snakes started coming into our bivvies we just knew it was time we looked elsewhere.
At the 1994 Pyramid Bait and Tackle Carp Exhibition held at Hooten in Holland I was told the name of a lake that supposedly held some good fish. Arnout, the guy who put me on to the lake told me that he had not fished it himself as it didn’t hold big enough fish for him! “There are no fish over twenty kilos,” he told me. “No good for Dutch carp anglers. There are plenty of twenties and thirties, though.”
“Do none of the of the Dutch carp men fish it, then?" I asked.
“I doubt it,” he replied. “They are after bigger stuff than twenties and thirties. It's the lake Hutchy and Annie have been fishing the past couple of years.”
I'd been searching for this venue for the past couple of years. Had I now dropped onto it like a lucky bugger? Puzzled by this somewhat dismissive attitude I filed the name of the lake away in my mind for a possible visit next time we were in the area.
26 Nov 2018 at 2.48pm
24 Nov 2018 at 12.08pm
More stuff coming up.
28 Oct 2018 at 2.55pm
In reply to Post #326
(As it turned out Tat and I enjoyed several; trips back to the lake and for several years I ran a French/English syndicate on the lake. The membership included both Dave Ball and Rod, Mally, Speedy Bill and the Thames river carpers, Big Bill, Bri Skoyles and a few other Yorkies plus a few well trusted Cornios. We enjoyed some of the best fishing imaginable, but all good things come to an end. A team of French fish thieves were about to plunder the lake's stock of carp to line the pockets of an unscrupulous bar steward. The syndicate was disbanded in 1999. The lake has now been taken over by a new owner and once again fishing is available. Sadly the stock is not what it once was but we have hopes that it may one day return to its former glory. I doubt if Tat and I will return but Nige and his better half still visit the lake from time to time.)
Coming up the tale of Tat's first visit to the lake, several PBs, lots more great food, wonderful company and incredible fishing.
28 Oct 2018 at 2.54pm
In reply to Post #325
"Sadly for me and Colin it looks as if the carp have had enough of the commotion on the bank and in the weed and have legged it. Not seen sight nor sound of one for the best part of twenty-four hours now. This is the swim that was alight at the weekend, yet it seems devoid and empty now. Perhaps there were too many fish caught in a relatively small area of what is a fairly big lake. Perhaps they've gone off to sulk somewhere. Certainly there's nothing here but water and weed. Hey-ho…it's very frustrating. I don't think Colin's up for a move as it would be his seventh in six days but I might shift if nothing happens tonight. But it's a fabulous day and if you forget the fishing, then everything's perfect bliss. As Colin said, if you are going to blank, you couldn't ask for a much nicer place to do so.
"Nige is in for a bit of a shock in a minute. He's got to go up to the café to pay his bar bill. He's looking a bit shaky but then, I don't suppose I'm looking too perky. It's now coming up to a quarter to ten, Monday morning, and hope is doing its best to spring eternal but it's having a bloody hard job! The well of optimism is running dry on this bank. Nige is obviously firing on all six, but over here...? Hey-ho, can't be helped. Speak to you later in the day. Bye for now."
"It's now Monday night about eleven, and it's going to be our last. I'm living in hope more than expectation. I don't think we're going to score now. There's an east wind blowing away from us and if the fish hadn't spooked from our area after the weekend, I'm sure the strength of the breeze will push them away. A good angler, keen and at the start of his trip, would move with the breeze but I'm knackered and looking forward to a good night's sleep. It's been thirty-five, thirty-six degrees today. Roasting hot, far too hot for carp fishing.
"We decided over dinner to call it a day and head back to the barrage where Pete's still fishing; spend the last night with him. So this is our last night here. This has been without doubt the best trip I've been on with the lads. Yeah, the best ever. I've had three runs, landed one eight pounder at the barrage and a gorgeous linear down here that looked almost like a College fish. Beautiful. But that big linear seems a long time ago now and with twelve hours still to go maybe, just maybe, something special will come along tonight but I'm not holding my breath! Night, night, darling. Love you!"
"Hey, ho! Tuesday morning and another blank night. I think I expected it but it is still a mystery how the swim completely switched off. We are doing exactly the same as Nige - he's caught another two twenties by the way - and yet we are sitting here with our fingers up our noses. It's not as if we are miles apart, really we are fishing more or less the same part of the lake.
"Colin is being very philosophical at blanking but the news from home has kept him smiling through the blank hours. 'Sh*t happens,' is what he said to me this morning. Nige's got nothing to be disappointed about and that's for sure. I think he's had four or five lovely twenties and a magnificent thirty pound mirror plus quite a few doubles as well. I knew when he blanked up at the barrage he'd get his own back!
"So were going to pop in to see Pete on the way home. I rang his house last night, not expecting to hear from him, more to check that he was still fishing, but he's back home, having pulled off after a five day blank. In hindsight this was a good move on our part
"There it is, this edition of French Message comes to an end. A bit of a disappointing end but there you go. I can't wait to get home now. So, I'll see you soon, Tat, and I hope we'll both see this little bit of Paradise in the not to distant future. I can't wait to bring you out here to enjoy what is without doubt the best lake I have ever fished in France, nay, possibly in my fishing lifetime. I'm sure there are other challenges awaiting us somewhere along the line, and we can look forward fishing them, but I shan't be looking any further afield than this little bit of heaven, that's for sure.
28 Oct 2018 at 2.48pm
In reply to Post #324
"Back again with a big grin all over my face, not because I have had another carp but simple because this has been a magical day. It's Sunday night now, Tat and I have just spent one of the best days I've ever had here in France, In pure angling terms we've had better (laughing and a bit slurry!) but today has bee splendid. Me, Nige and Colin went up to the village at lunchtime for a meal. We had a good drink and plenty of superb grub, then came back to find that Jose, Jean-Louis and all the rest of them had got the picnic going and the wine flowing. J-L was in fine form with the bottle.
They invited us to join them…no, they insisted that we join them. So we sat around most of the afternoon sipping beer and wine and eating foie gras and Chorizo, camembert and rochefort cheese, smoked salmon and langoustines. God, it was horrible, but we just felt we had to be social! Here are l-r Jean-Louis, Nige, Francois, kids, Jose and Colin, while in the background the Little Man opens yet another bottle and for the rest of the day we just sat and drank and talked the afternoon away.
"We had the most wonderful evening, sharing the Entente Cordiale. There was Grandma and mum, nephews, nieces, sons and daughters and all the French carp anglers and us all sitting around and enjoying this wonderful, laid back way of (French) life. It was just absolutely splendid.
"It got dark and at about ten o'clock the French guys said 'au revoir', piled all the gear into the cars and drove (yes!!!) off into the sunset. What a fantastic crowd they were. Me and Colin moved the rods a bit to the right so we were now fishing the French guy's water and by the evening we were ready to start fishing. I am now overlooking the part of the lake that has produced ten fish including one for me, so far this weekend. Will we catch? Who knows. I could do with a good kip to be honest after this afternoon! Think I'll get the rods out and put my head down…No, hang on…Oh yeah! I nearly forget the best part of the whole trip.
"While we were in the restaurant, Colin phoned home and got some very good news. It seems he is going to be a dad again! So we had to have a good drink for that. Everybody is so happy for him, all the women clucking around him, beaming like mother hens and they don't even know him! The poor chap is just about awash in wine and cognac, all the blokes shaking his hand and the women fussing over him. Oh, it's just a great time, that's all. You've got to come here, Tat. We have got to get here together. It is truly Paradise. I'd adore it if you could come here for a week or so. OK, it's a hell; of a drive but what is waiting at the end of the road is worth all the hassle of getting here. It's a little bit of heaven just waiting for you to visit and catch a carp or two. You'd love it, kiddie. Just adore it! "Right. This time I really am going to get some zeds. Sleep well, darling. I'm missing you but I'll be home soon."
"Well here I am again and it's morning after yet another blank night. I slept like a log and I have woken up without a headache, which is astonishing really all things considered. The French guys told me that you don't get hangover if you drink that gut rot rose. Maybe worth considering…Not!
"So now it's Monday morning, eight o'clock and the sun's beaming down yet again. Not surprisingly, we've had naff all over this side during the night, and considering the state we were in that's probably a very good thing!
"Apparently at some stage during the night Nige had a fish that weeded him up. He came over for the boat and Colin went back to help him try to land it but they lost it in the weed. It's as well Colin was there for Nige was rat arsed and had no idea what he was up to, nor where he was going. Colin helped him bait up again. It seems that Nige was in the bar till the small hours, getting legless with Jean-Louis and Jose and Giles, the owner. He's a bit unsure what happened during the night anyway but in true Nigel form he managed to get the rods out despite being wrecked.
"Well the sun is well up and we are going to go into the village in a minute for supplies. I expect we'll have to have a beer while we are there too! What a pain! Just looking across to the Point and I can see than Nige is into a fish. He's sitting on a lot of good fish, is Nige, and to prove it, hangover or not, has just landed a superb 26lb common. Again it found the weed and so we both wound in and went round to help him. By the time we had walked all the way round there he'd managed to land it. What a fish!
28 Oct 2018 at 2.38pm
In reply to Post #323
"Good morning French France! Here we are on a bright and sunny Sunday morning and if I am sounding a bit croaky it must be the wine. I've cracked it and so has Nige. I've had a beautiful linear of just over twenty-seven pounds and Nige has had a 30lb 6oz mirror, a 19lb mirror and a 15lb common.
Just down the bank from me, Jean-Louis and the other French guys have had another four carp, including another twenty. Here J-L and Jose do the pix for the guy they just call The Little Man!
And this is J-L with a twenty pound common.
Here's the Little Man with a nice mirror.
"This became something of a regular occurrence that weekend; people gathered around while they take pix of one another's fish, kids and all! Brilliant.
And Little Man again with his son.
"Colin's not had so much as a bleep but Nige is yet again becoming the kiddie on this trip. Why do we keep bringing him? He invariably tucks up everyone else on the trip...Still, he is brilliant company and that's the important bit...Oh yes. He can get hold of the transport too! Still, van and fantastic company or not, I think I'll break his neck if he carries on like this. He could catch carp in a water butt!
(This pic shows the house on the hill that was a familiar landmark in Rod's photos, one of which he used on the bobbins of mono he used to sell. This saddoe carried one of the labels showing this farmhouse around in his wallet in the hope that one day he'd trip over Rod's little paradise. Well, it paid off!)
He also had this beauty that night. Golden balls has our Nige!
"So anyway, we are just getting spruced up a bit, a shower and a shave, and looking forward to going up the road into the village for a meal. It's Sunday and we have reserved a table and the menus looks pretty decent for 120FF. I expect we'll have a beer or two and glass of wine, maybe. I'm sure I don't need to tell you, Tat, that one of the highlights of any trip is a Sunday lunchtime nosebag."
28 Oct 2018 at 2.27pm
In reply to Post #321
"Well that's the first night gone and I have blanked. I slept like a log but when I got up for a pee I heard a couple of boshes. As you can probably hear, the birds are giving it the good 'un. And blessed relief, at the moment there are no feckin' frogs! (I would later come to regret this comment.) The sun is coming up over the hillside church and the bells have just started to toll. There's hardly any traffic noise and the only sounds are from the ubiquitous dogs that seem to plague every lake in France. But they cannot take the magic away. What a place. Mind you, I don't know if I'd be this euphoric if it was pissing down!
"So that's that. We've got five more days fishing left to us and we've just got to make the most of it. Did I mention that the lake is a totally private club water run by the local commune and with an application panel that would make strong men quake! Apparently we seemed to have the right requirements for membership, possibly because Nige fixed the alternator on one of their cars, or maybe Rod or Dave had put in a good word for us. It's hellish expensive though…It cost the princely sum of twenty francs a day to fish here. That's about one pound fifty!
"Oh yesssss! Brilliant! I've just seen a great big carp crash out over my baits out by the island, and now I've just had a bleep. What more could you ask for? I'd better investigate. Bye for the moment, speak to you soon.
"Right, things have moved on some way since I last talked to you, Tat, and that bleep last night was the only inquiry I had. Don't know if Colin's had anything or Nige. No idea where we are in space and time. I think it's Saturday but I cannot be certain.
"There has been a bit of hoo-ha today. Yesterday Colin came up the bank to me. He doesn't speak French and it seemed there was a problem with the locals. A very pleasant French guy had turned up at his swim and told him that he, Colin, was fishing in his (the French guy's) swim and would he please move? Colin was a bit gobsmacked. Can you see that happening on an English lake? 'Of course I'll move for you, old chap. A pleasure. Please, think nothing of it and may all your carp be bigger than mine!' I think not!'
"Apparently the French guy and his friends fished the area we were in every weekend and they'd been baiting it up steadily for a month or more. Now you can imagine what reaction he'd have got in the UK. Bog off, mate! That would have been the strength of it. However, this fella was very nice about it all and considering we were guests on their lake we deemed it a wise move if Colin did as he asked. After all, he could move back into the swim on Sunday night after they'd packed up. In the end I helped Colin to move right around the bank next to Nige. That was all fine and dandy but the French guy and his mates then went on to catch five carp, including a couple of twenties in their first night - as described in a minute.
"So now, as I say, it's Saturday night and if Colin is hurting, he's not showing it at all, especially as far from blanking Nige had three fish during the night, a fifteen, an eleven and a ten-and-a-half. Hmmm! Smalls again! Colin had nothing, I had nothing so, as you can see, it looks as if this could be a bit of a grueller this lake. Not easy by any means. Certainly it doesn't look as if heavy baiting is the order of the day, but if you want to talk about Paradise then this is it and sod the fishing! So here we are, just coming up to ten-thirty, Saturday night. The sun is just about to go down behind the far hills. The setting sun is turning the sky to the west a bright red, hopefully foretelling a good day tomorrow.
"Nige is over on the far side with Colin. They are having their usual meal of those sumptuous Pot Noodles. Must have guts lined with concrete to eat that rubbish! I'm on my own over here but two of the French guys, Jean-Louis and Jose, have kept me company for most of the afternoon and evening. I think we've gathered in a whole heap of brownie points for moving Colin out of 'their' swim. May stand us in good stead. (It most certainly did, if not in terms of fish, certainly in terms of inebriation and le bon vie!')
28 Oct 2018 at 2.18pm
In reply to Post #321
"Whose idea were snakes anyway? I mean, what are they for? No wonder the origin of temptation was in the form of a snake. Evil looking things. "Snake in the grass" was one of Bill's favourite phrases. Never did find out what he was on about. We'll see what tonight brings. I think if we don't catch something hefty tonight we are going to shift. No idea where? I quite fancy trying a river for the first time. I know that the Charente holds decent carp and I have been tipped off that the stretch through Cognac is worth a look. That will please me greatly as you know how I love a drop of Cognac! Speak to you in the morning, kiddie. Bye, sweetheart!"
"It's morning and a lot's happened since I last spoke to you. Yesterday was a day of moving. We've packed it in at the barrage where we were fishing with Pete and Mik. Although Colin had two more carp and a bream, Nige and I blanked. Nige was in tears doing the photos of Colin's fish. Could have been hay fever, I suppose.
"So it was decided to move on. We never saw anything worth staying for, though I'm sure there are some real lumps in here. The trouble is, the restrictions imposed by the limited night fishing zones, together with the poor access means that you can physically only fish, I'd estimate, a ting proportion of the lake. So, unless you've got unlimited time to build up the swim, you catch what's in front of you and if that's small fish, so be
"The fish have little need to wander far and wide to find food, the natural food potential of this lake is astonishing. In one night I netted out twenty crayfish the size of small lobsters. They were very nice cooked up with a glass of white and some French bread. There are empty mussel shells and the water is thick with daphnia. There's absolutely no doubt that the lake is capable of producing a real monster, but I don't think we've got the time to sit it out for maybe one run between us on this visit. I'm sure there are big fish in the barrage but we didn't see anything like it, so we decided to try the lake I'd been told about in the winter.
"So, with my heart very firmly in my boots in apprehension if I'd got it wrong, we came on further south to that lake I told you about, Tat, the one that Arnout had told me about at the Pyramid Exhibition in February. This was apparently 'Rod's commons lake' as he put it.
(Rod and Annie had been all over the press of late with some glorious photos of some very impressive commons. I guess the world and its wife was trying to find the lake, and if Arnout was correct, that's just what I'd done.)
"Arnout told me that he hadn't fished it because, and I quote, 'The fish are too small for me; no twenty kilos or bigger'. Sad, eh? Still, according to the info I've picked up on my travels since then, the lake could be worth a look, but it might all be rubbish. It could be another five hours on the road for nothing. We'll have to see. Speak soon. Bye for now."
"Well after another arduous trip we have finally arrived at the lake. We got a bit confused as there are two lakes in this valley. One didn't look as if it had ever been fished. It was an impressive size but bare as a badger's arse. It looked very new and it didn't fill us with any enthusiasm. So we moved on to take a look at another lake that we spotted from the road.
"And yes. we dropped right on it! Dave Ball and, would you believe it, Rod himself were on here when we arrived. I guess Arnout's tip was spot on! Dave is here with his missus and we stumbled over them as we started to walk around the other lake. We came around a corner and there was a bivvy and a set of rods. It was Dave and his missus and they were not pleased to see us, to put it mildly. Dave swore and kicked a nearby tree! "Not you, Townley! Of all the people to get sussed by it had to be you." I know how he felt having been rumbled on a water like this. I remember when Les came back after stumbling across my beloved Pads Lake in northern France. When he rang me and told me I wanted to kill him. I think that's how Dave and his missus feel about us!
28 Oct 2018 at 2.15pm
In reply to Post #320
These fish are absolutely pristine, I doubt if they've ever been caught before in their lives. They've got mouths that are unmarked, with the full curtain membrane just inside the mouth, a sure sign of virgin fish. Immaculate, like they've just been made.
So that's the story right up to date. Goodnight, sweetheart. See you in the morning (singing…very badly)."
The tape resumes to the sound of a gazillion frogs doing their thing. What an awful racket. It is truly the most grating and annoying noise and it never stops!
"Can you hear that lot! They are driving me insane. It's impossible to sleep and even if I had a run I doubt I'd hear it. Anyway, there's not much to tell you…it's the morning after the night before and it's been a blank for all of us. Still, it's a lovely morning and I am sitting here with a cup of tea gazing at the lake and hoping to see signs of carp. The sun has just started to kiss the bivvy driving away the overnight dampness and condensation. There's a beautiful bird of prey of some kind circling overhead. I expect he's look for frogs: there's enough of the feckin' things, it'll get fed up eating them. I think it's a red kite. Beautiful!
"It really is a picture this lake, especially when the sun's shining like this. I don't want to go through another experience like last year, Tat. Later I'm going to the village to get some bread and some of that lovely creamy butter, a wedge of Camembert and a bottle of cholesterol-laden full cream French milk, and I'm going to have myself my first proper French breakfast in the sun. Speak to you soon. Bye!"
"I'm back…Not much to report. In the end the village shop was closed so we went into the town for a beer and a meal. A bloke in the bar asked if we were fishing - how could he tell…perhaps it was the smell - and when we said yes and told him whereabouts he told us that it was well known for its pike and zander. Our faces fell and he asked, "what's wrong?
"We're fishing for carp," we said.
"Ah! That's could be a problem, then," he replied. "The lake was emptied last year and the big carp were removed. They then stocked with small carp of about three to four kilos."
Large festering ball cocks!
"So we've spent about four hours away from the lake. The guys are a bit despondent as they seem to think we're only on small fish. It's a bit awkward for me, as I have this sneaking feeling that they are right but we haven't really given it anything like a fair trial yet and there's Pete to consider. It would not be a nice thing to do just to bugger off, saying, Cheerio Pete! after he'd gone to so much trouble to put us on the lake and tried so hard to get us some decent pitches.
"Thing is, we are catching what's here and what's here are small and if we believe the guy in the bar then that's all we are likely to catch. I suppose a move would make sense, but to where? The rest of the lake is so wild and the banks are so steep it would be impossible to fish most of the perimeter. Mind you, the bloke in the bar by the lake, where those photos of the big commons are up on the wall, still reckons that they didn't net out all the big carp and that they lake definitely holds fish to over 20kg. What to do? The few fish that we have caught have all be singles apart from Colin's eleven pounder, and it has to be said, they are immaculate.
"So, the story at the moment is that we are going to give it one more night. We have moved Nige along the bank into deeper water; the shallows where he'd been fishing were clearly not going to produce fish. Colin and I have stayed put. The tiddler snatching competition held this afternoon resulted in a resounding win for matchman Colin. Loads of skimmers and the odd roach; no poisson-chat, thank goodness.
"The snakes are a bit more active this evening after the warm sunshine of today. While we were moving Nige a monstrous great one slithered across in front of me. Far too big to be an adder, it must have been a grass snake.
Either way, I stopped dead and Colin turned white. Nige, who hates snakes, nearly jumped out of his skin!
28 Oct 2018 at 2.11pm
In reply to Post #319
"I decided it was time to renew my acquaintance with the bar. I couldn't resist its neon call from across the river so I jumped into the boat and scooted across to the other side. It was coming on dark and I'd just finished the first beer when the patron came out and told me that Nige and Colin were fishing in a no night fishing area! Oh no! Nige would be steaming after all the hassle.
"I looked across towards their swims and, even in the twilight, they looked pretty obvious. No thoughts of concealment of course, they thought they were in a legally authorised area. What do I do? I thought to myself. If I don't tell them and they get a tug they'll be a bit pissed off, but if I put them in the picture, they'll be even more so. I had another beer or two while I pondered this weighty problem and, in the end, I decided to row back straightaway - well, after one last beer or two - and warn them. As I'd feared, they were not best pleased.
"By the next morning, after a blank night Nige and Colin were on the move. They'd not fished the night but had heard nothing jumping and were not happy where they were. Looking about from the boat they'd found a nice spot on the café bank, fairly clean, good access by van and with legal nights. My single night in the bay had been totally uneventful and I'd heard nowt either, so I decided to move across the lake with them.
"Unfortunately Pete's influence with the Powers That Be had no effect, which is how we come to be where we are. We've been fishing these swims for less than 24 hours now and had a couple of fish, so I think the move seems to have paid off. Pete and Mik have stayed put on the opposite bank but they've not had anything so far, nor, as far as I know, nor has Nige.
"This really is a very pretty lake, heavily wooded and almost totally wild. I've seen plenty of snakes but I think they're grass snakes I hope. There are buzzards and red kites overhead and an osprey put in a fleeting visit at first light this morning. As least, I think it was an osprey. It swooped down and ate a fish and that's what ospreys do, isn't it? The frogs are a nightmare after dark. You just cannot hear yourself think, and as for sleeping, well I've not done much of that. You have to wait for dawn, which comes at about 5.00 a.m. before the racket starts to die down a bit, then you can maybe get a bit of shut-eye, but it never really stops. Even in broad daylight they don't shut up!
"I've just been out in the boat this morning while the others were still asleep and I've been messing around with the sounder and found two or three really nice features at longish range.
So I've put one rod on an area right across on the other side of the lake, some 150 yards away in l4ft of water where there's a very interesting looking bar or plateau. No need of a marker as there are two pike poles on it. Bloody nuisance, but saves me using a marker. Diagonally inside from that, back towards me some 30 yards, I've got 28ft of water where I'm assuming the track of the old river bed runs, and that is, I hope, the one that's going to produce one of those monster commons like those in the photos in the bar.
"There's something about 28 feet of water: I don't know what it is, but I always feel confident in deeper water over here and once I've found 28 feet my confidence doubles. Illogical I'm sure, but that advice came from God … that's Hutchy by the way, so who am I to question it. Inside about another 30 yards from the river bed, there's another peculiar mark on the sounder on which I've put a small marker. That one's at about 80 yards from the bank, so I'm fishing in a diagonal line from 80 yards out to my right, to 130 yards off to the left. And it's worked! O.K., only small, but a carp's a carp.
"Colin, to my left, is fishing into the bay area with a few trees in the lake in front of him, which may make landing fish a bit of a dodgy proposition. He's baiting up in a similar pattern to me and he too has had success. Nige is off to the right and he's in an all-or-nothing swim, if you ask me. It's shallow and very weedy and looks as if it should hold fish but I don't think it does, but time will tell. So far Nige has not had anything, but knowing Nige, that mean's he'll be in at the finish with a bloody hatful. (Little did I know just how prophetic that throwaway line would turn out to be.)
"So there we are. Two nights fished. A move after the first night. Rebaited the new swims. Rewarded with two carp between us, admittedly only small but hope springs eternal.
28 Oct 2018 at 2.07pm
In reply to Post #318
Bait was the usual assortment of groats, crushed hemp, flaked maize and a few trout pellets; anything that took a minimum of preparation. This we supplemented with about 50 kilos of assorted Nutrabaits ready mades, which I had air dried for a month to try to harden them up against the possible attacks by crayfish and poisson-chats. The van groaned under the weight of all the gear and the bait but when we bunged a two hundredweight fibre glass boat on the roof it really kicked up a fuss. How we managed to cram all the odds and sods we needed for a trip into that tired old workhorse I'll never know but somehow we managed it.
The lake we were going to fish was 600-acre Lac du Barrage in the Vendee. We'd been told about the lake by my mate, Pete, who we've met before in this thread. Pete lived in France and, he was going to join us for a few days, along with his French mate Mikhail (Mik). Pete told us that the lake was not being fished a great deal but it had the potential to do some very big fish, so we took his word for it, said, thanks, Pete, and went for it. Nige did the driving, as usual, and we traveled overnight from Plymouth to Roscoff, arriving at about 7.00 a.m. the next morning, after a very smooth crossing with plenty to eat and even more to drink.
In the winter I had been given a nudge about a lake where Rod was currently fishing. For the past couple of years he and Annie had been popping up from time to time in the press and in his catalogue with some drop-dead gorgeous commons. Meanwhile us ordinary folk were desperately trying to find the venue he was fishing. Rod had released a mono and on the label was a photo of the man himself with a lovely big common, which had also appeared in one of the catalogues along with pix of several other large commons. In the background of the photo you could see a house on a hill and sad man that I was, I kept a copy of the label in my wallet against the day when, chance in a million, I landed up on a lake with just such a house on a hill. How sad is that! If our first lake was no good, we planned to go searching for this other lake as a fall back option.
The tape starts…
"Well, here we are, Tat! It's one o'clock in the morning. I think it's Tuesday but then again it might be Wednesday. I've only been here for the blink of an eye and already France has cast her spell on me and I've completely lost track of time. How wonderful? We spend too many hours watching the hands of the clock go round and no doubt we'll still be watching them when we drop off this mortal coil. What a waste! There, that's the philosophy out of the way. Now to get on with this tape.
"More important than philosophy is the fact that I've just landed the first carp of the trip. It's no size but it's a start. Anyway, that's the first fish of the trip. I took it up to show Colin who'd bivvied up about thirty yards down the bank from me. Pushing through the undergrowth and vegetation my steps must have sounded like some monstrous creature of the night approaching his tent. I think I scared the life out of him.
"I've just listened to that bit again. Can you hear those bleeding frogs in the background? God knows how we get any sleep with that lot on the go. It's a full moon tonight, a real harvest moon and it is so bright I can actually see my nearest marker and it's eighty or ninety yards away. I reckon I could read my book by its light as well. No wonder the frogs are giving it so much wellie.
"We've seen quite a bit of movement over the baits and away down the lake to my right, but for the most part it seems to be from small fish. It's a gorgeous lake but the noise…! I don't know if the frogs are going to come out on this tape. I'll just turn the volume up a bit and poke it out the door a minute."
(There follows a deafening racket as about ten million little green blighters set about their nightly courtship rituals.)
"How about that…It is a mind-numbing noise that rules out all thoughts of sleep. I don't know if that comes out. I hope it does. OK, I'll say goodnight now and in the morning I'll go over what's happened so far in more detail. Goodnight, kiddie."
28 Oct 2018 at 2.01pm
In reply to Post #317
Sorry it's been such a long time since I added to this thread. What with one thing or another things have been pretty ****ty since the last time. A couple of health scares, some financial worries and of course, getting old! Result? Could not be arsed to continue. But I have got my sh*t together for the time being so here goes with some more of my ancient history, starting with the time we stumbled over a lake that was well on the secret list. It would have remained so to this day had it not been decimated by a team of sh*t bags stealing carp on an almost industrial basis in order to stock a previously devoid (of carp) private lake. The 'Team' as they liked to call themselves plundered lakes and river all over the south of France but eventually they and the owner of the lake into which they were putting these fish were outed and publicly named and shamed. They say that sh*t sticks…well sadly in this case it didn't and today he goes on his merry way without any apparent stain on his character.
The lake has since been restocked but the magnificent carp that once put smiles on the face of one of the greats of modern carp fishing (Rod) are now living in the aforementioned private lake that costs a bomb to fish nowadays. However, the little bit of Paradise that we stumbled upon still does the occasional biggie and its magic is not reduced by the fact that the angler is now fishing for smaller fish. The lake owner has changed and the place has been renovated to a good standard and it now welcomes campers of all kinds to its site. My mate Nige, who figures large in these tales, has been back and, like he does, caught a whacker so maybe the phoenix has risen from the ashes. PM me and I'll give you a link.
Anyway, that is ancient history and most folk say to forget it, move on, water under the bridge. Me, I'll never forget or forgive and if you read on you may see why.
St Louis Blues - May 1995.
Some of you guys might remember a few of my old Carpworld articles wherein I transcribed my audio diaries addressed to the missus, nickname, Tat. They took the forum of a more-or-less verbatim transcription of micro-cassettes that described the day to day goings on of me and whoever happened to be with me on trips to France. These were pretty popular at the time so I thought it might be an idea to reprieve one of them as part of this thread.
You may have read the posts describing the 'Nightmare' trip and will have noticed that that it was not blessed with an abundance of good humour. Sure, we caught some nice fish but the weather almost drove me to suicide and, at times, I felt that my company was at times as welcome as a fart in a phone box and I know that I tried the patience of my fellow anglers to its limit. It says much for their patience and forbearance that they didn't just drive off and leave me!
By complete contrast, this story tells a very different tale, one of the best fishing trips to France ever, even though I caught only a few singles and one lovely linear. So, though the fishing was crap, the craic was fantastic. It takes a lot more than a few slimy old carp to make a trip.
Once again, I was joined by my mate Nige Britton and again we were indebted to Nige's boss for the use of the company van, an ageing Maestro diesel with a couple of hundred thousand miles on the clock. Those of you who were around at the time will know that the Maestro was a Devil's brew of a vehicle, one of Leyland's worst, made at a time when the factory was on strike more often than it was working and you were lucky if anything made therein made it to its first birthday. Clearly Nige's tender ministrations with a spanner had meant that this particular vehicle mostly ran like clockwork. Here Speedy empties the old beast on a campsite somewhere in France.
Joining us for his first French carp fishing holiday was young Colin Stephens, a very likable ex-Army Signaler and general nice guy. Being the newcomer, Colin got the unenviable third seat option in the van - that being a Low chair wedged among the mountain of gear - a position he bore with great fortitude, uncomplaining and undemanding. I could not have said the same had our positions been reversed. The fact that such a seating arrangement was highly dangerous and would actually have voided the van's insurance mattered not one jot to Nige! After all, where else was the guy supposed to sit.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.28pm
In reply to Post #316
On the ferry home there was talk of a pike trip, maybe a bass fishing trip. Me? I wasn’t interested. I’ll stick to carp fishing for now. There were places to go and people to see, and I had heard this whisper about a lake in the Vendee where you couldn’t fail to catch thirty pound commons! I bloody wish!
I would return to this lake the following year with Bill Cottam. We were plagued by muskrats diving on the baits. Bill even reeled on in whereupon it tried to take lumps out of him. We blanked but Bill claims to this day that he saw the biggest carp in his life while drifting about above the emerging pads. "It dwarfed the boat," said Bill. Another monster for another day.
Before I leave this particular memory, let me tell you the strange story of the funny dream about a throwing stick.
Throughout the trip Nige and I had been using the heavy metal Cobra throwing stick to get our baits out at range. Bill looked intrigued, not having seen that uniquely shaped Cobra before. I offered him a go with mine. He put a handful of boilies in his pocket and one by one tried to fire them out into the lake. Each one landed with a great big splash right at his feet. "They take some getting used to," I told him. "Take it back to your swim with you and have a practice. In fact you can keep it as I've got another at home." Bill thanked me and trudged back along the towpath to his bivvy.
The next morning I was standing looking at the canal while drinking a cuppa. A canal boat passed and bobbing in its wake I saw a small black object about four inches long floating upright along the canal. It looked remarkably like the plastic-covered handle of a Cobra throwing stick, more or less awash with water, floating upright gently down the canal. I walked up to Bill's bivvy. "Alright, mate?" I asked. "How you getting on with the Cobra?"
"Pretty good, thanks," Bill replied.
"That's good," I said, "Coz I had a funny dream last night. I dreamed that I saw the end of a Cobra throwing stick bobbing about in the canal…I'd hate to think you'd chucked it in!"
Bill grinned sheepishly. "Stupid ****ing thing," he said!
Bye for now!
5 Apr 2018 at 3.14pm
In reply to Post #315
I stuffed it straight into a sack and sat down, shaking. Then, when I got my breath back, ran up to Bill to get the scales. He was fast asleep! Though I didn’t want to waken him, I was desperate to know the weight of the fish for I had a niggling feeling that it was over thirty, but without the scales the weight would have to wait until morning. Still, I was a very happy chappie! Another fish for the Book of Dreams.
The big mirror was the climax to what was, for me, a somewhat traumatic fortnight. At times I felt like I’d been in heaven, at others I might have been trapped in a hell on earth. There were long, dreary periods of mind-numbing boredom, trapped for hours on end in the zipped-up confines of a mouldy-green bivvy, but that fish put me in seventh heaven. It’s amazing what a fish can do!
I lay awake through most of the night, checking the sack at regular intervals. I searched around in the confusion under my bedchair and found four bottles of beer that I didn’t know I had, so I celebrated the capture as the night passed slowly by. I had my prize!
Friday morning. A bright and sunny morning. And I felt pretty bright and sunny myself. The big mirror was a thirty, as I’d guessed. 31lb 4oz, again! Lovely! A thirty from two different waters for me this trip. I was going out with a bloody great bang rather than with a pathetic whimper. I couldn’t ask for better than that could I? The sun was shining, God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the carp world!
The last day was something of an anti-climax. In the evening Jean-Yves ran me up to the bar on the back of his scooter. Seventy mph along the towpath! He insisted on buying me a few more beers. Who am I to refuse! I said my goodbyes to the locals in the bar - the ancient rugby fan was there with his old cronies, and they kept buying too. Then the patron and his wife pushed the boat out, insisting I drink some weird Belgian concoction called, Sudden Death. It wasn’t as bad as Special Brew, but it was bad enough. It was really good to laugh again after what had felt like purgatory at times.
Jean-Yves bought a crate of beer for Bill and Nige and we brought it back to their swims on the back of his scooter. I hate to think what might have happened if we’d come off. Canal one side, lake the other, carrying 24 bottles of beer! In spite of that, I had a very pleasant glow on as we rode along the towpath to my bivvy. Nothing like as scary a trip as the journey up to the bar. I can’t think why! What a nice day! And a thirty as well. The nightmare had passed to become a fading memory. The afterglow of the big carp was much more memorable. I can still recall that tremendous fight. The rain and the mud and the purgatory were long forgotten. The brain has a way of eventually putting bad memories behind it.
It had been a strange old fortnight. Some good fish landed and some not so good. The weather had cramped our efforts I am certain and I wondered how we would have fared if the weather had stayed fine.
That was it for another year. I suppose in retrospect I could look back on the trip and say I was pretty happy with it. I’m sure both Nige and Bill would say the same. Yet somehow there is a feeling of, I don’t know, call it anticlimax, call it failure. No, that’s too strong. Not failure; more of a let-down, I guess.
I had expected more, fished badly, yet still been rewarded. All the same, I’d experienced a darker side to my French fishing than I’d previously known. As I said at the beginning of the previous chapter, I had never expected to come so close to packing it all in before, especially when fishing in France. But I had looked my own personal purgatory in the face and laughed at it after coming out on top. True, I’d come perilously close, but if the Gods thought they’d got the better of me this time, they’d have to think again, though I have suffered with my back ever since.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.12pm
In reply to Post #314
Once again I trudged up to Bill’s swim, and found Nige and Bill sharing a coffee. Bill had caught another carp during the storm, this time a mirror of just on 21lb in weight.
The day passed quickly with a return visit to the bar at lunchtime. Steak and chips and ice cold beers gave a whole new meaning to the word, contentment. Jean-Yves, the French fly fisherman we'd met when we arrived, came to see us and brought some of his home-tied trout flies along to show to Bill who also ties his own trout flies. He was full of praise for Jean-Yves’s efforts which certainly looked good to me, but then, I don’t know one fly from another. It helped pass the time though and the afternoon soon slipped by in a welter of beer and conversation.
When we got back to the bivvies we had a few more beers to round off the day then sat around in the cool of the evening and watched the stars come out. For once it wasn’t raining. Isn’t that typical. Here we are, coming towards the end of the trip, and the weather looks like settling down.
As the light left the sky that evening I baited up heavily once again. I was casting into three quite distinct separate areas, though all three were in or close to the pads. By hedging my bets in this way, I hoped to cover more fish that might be cruising in and out of the pads during the night, and in order to stop them dead in their tracks if they entered a baited area I wanted to give them a meal worth lingering over. So each area was filled in with five hundred boiled baits and the hookbait was accompanied by a five-bait stringer.
I sat in the darkness of my bivvy as the night passed, drinking beer and eating chorizo sausage, listening to countless owls calling to each other through the still air. Unlike the previous night, this one was cool and calm, the sky full of stars with a huge full moon to light up the glittering lake. Out in the pads a carp jumped noisily setting the coots screeching in angry protest.
It was just after one in the morning when the orange LED on the middle rod glowed in the darkness. No tone, just the light. That was the buzzer that had been playing up all week: was it a fish or another fault? I got off the bedchair, pulled on my boots and stood outside by the rods in the cold night air. It was perfectly still and eerily quiet. There was an almost tangible air of tension in the air. Suddenly the middle buzzer gave a brief water-soaked squeak and I heard the faint click as the reel gave a few inches of line.
I picked up the rod, clamped down on the reel, took three or four strides backwards and struck. The rod was almost wrenched from my grasp. Out by the pads a huge swirl showed at the surface as a good fish fought against the pull of fifteen pound line. It was the start of a fantastic fight from one weedbed to another. I think the fish found just about every weedbed in the lake; it was a bit like playing “join the dots”. Even when I got the still very angry carp in open water in front of me, it continued to fight like a maniac, but at last I got it into the net. It was a stonking fish, golden and long with massive shoulders, so like a Leney fish, it could have been from Savay. In the breathless torchlight I took a good look in it’s mouth and was pleased to see that it was pristine with no bruising or obvious hook marks left by previous captures; a fish that doesn’t get caught a lot. That gave me a great deal of satisfaction.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.10pm
In reply to Post #313
The two days rest and relaxation had done me the world of good and the pills had made me feel like I was floating. I have no idea what they were but they did the trick. Now on this new lake in a nice flat swim with NO MUD! I felt as if the trip had only just started and I was full of enthusiasm and eagerness for a carp. With just two days left to go, I felt I had to prove to myself that my zest for fishing hadn’t floundered in the sea of mud that I’d left behind at the other lake, and this was just the place to do it. This was bliss compared to the previous lake (though admittedly this pic was taken the following April when I went back to the lake with Bill Cottam).
We spent a very enjoyable three or four hours with the locals up at a nearby bar. They were amazingly friendly and went out of their way to make us feel at home. It was so typical of countryside France and the attitudes of rural Frenchmen. I must say we’ve always been lucky in this respect whenever we’ve fished in France. We met a French rugby supporter up at the bar who must have been eighty in the shade if he was a day. He told us that he’d been to Twickenham three times to watch the internationals and he’d had such a good time that he decided to show us that the French can be excellent hosts too, and we all got a little bit here and there on the strength of his memories of English rugby’s hospitality.
By Wednesday evening the weather had deteriorated once more. Heavy rain swept towards me down the full length of the lake, carried in the teeth of yet another gale-force south-westerly breeze. But now I was dry, warm, rested and relaxed. The weather could get stuffed! I couldn’t give a damn. I fell asleep early that evening, just as darkness fell. A deep, dreamless sleep on cloud nine. As so often happens when you crash out too early, I awoke in pitch darkness, groping for my watch. Just after midnight. Is that all!
It was still raining, and the wind was beginning gust quite strongly. I wandered up the bank to Bill’s swim to find him and Nige sitting in the darkness under the shelter of his bivvy, sharing a few beers. Bill had caught another common that he’d sacked up but if the truth were known, they were both a bit on tenterhooks having been up all night looking out for the Garde-Peche. We’d had several guarded hints during the course of the day that the enforcers of senseless French laws were around, but I couldn’t for the life of me see them coming out in all this rain. Still, for all that, I wanted to get my rods in as soon as the storm passed.
The storm didn’t pass. In fact it got worse. By two in the morning it was blowing a hoolie, nine, maybe ten of wind, I’d guess. The bivvy was shaking about like a mad thing and the noise of the rain pounding once again on the bivvy roof was deafening. I was sitting in the darkness of the bivvy, the door zipped up, holding onto the brolly pole for extra security, when all three of my buzzers went off at once. Not fish, that was for sure. I unzipped the door and shone my torch at the swim. No rods, front bar lying drunkenly at an angle. Bother - or words to that effect. A huge gust of wind had blown the rods right off the rests and carried them three or four yards along the bank.
Luckily nothing was damaged, not even the buzzers which looked to have taken the brunt of the blast. A large tangle of branches clutched the line and the indicators in a tangled mess. I bit through the lines at the reels and dragged all three sets of tackle in by hand, then threw the whole shebang into the back of the bivvy, climbed back into the dry, warmth of my sleeping bag, said, “sod the fishing!” and crashed out into a deep and contented sleep. Carp fishing? You can keep it!
What I didn’t know at the time was that I had slept blissfully through one of the worst storms France had suffered in years, completely unaware of the turmoil going on around me. The fury had passed by the time I awoke at about seven o’clock, though the radio was full of tales of destruction, damage, even death. I was glad I’d slept so soundly. I dug the rods from the back of the bivvy, re-tackled and cast out as the sun once again graced the water with a shimmering kiss that sent shafts of bright sparkling light dancing across the surface. It was a morning to savour after a night to forget. This is looking up the lake from the inlet end.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.09pm
In reply to Post #312
I think I was on my third or fourth beer when the drenched pair of Nige and Bill, appeared dripping copiously over the bar, the carpet and everything in their vicinity. “Enjoying yourselves?” I asked. “Sod off!” was the reply.
They ordered beer and a bite to eat and told me that they had set up at the far end of the lake where the large bed of lily-pads dominated the lake. It was an obvious carp-holding area, one which Jean-Yves had pointed out during our tour of the lake the previous day. They seemed quite sympathetic towards my back problems, and I felt a little bit less of a **** when I decided to spend another night in the hotel. That evening I splashed out on a great big meal and a bottle of Bordeaux, followed by a few brandies. I slept like a log for another nine hours.
The next morning, Wednesday, dawned bright and clear. I drew back the curtains to a strange sight. The sun was shining. Bloody hell! Another night on a decent bed had returned my back to something like normal. I grabbed a quick breakfast and almost ran the two to three miles down the bank to the far end where Bill and Nige were fishing. By ten o’clock I was all set up. It was a lovely morning, hot and steamy with little or no wind. A far cry from the deluge of the past week. I even managed to get everything dried out, including my sleeping bag, the bivvy and the groundsheet.
I set up right at the far end of the lake looking out on the same patch of lily pads that Bill and Nige were fishing. They were quite a way further up the bank from me. I suppose it was just possible that they might cut me off from fish, but I couldn’t help feeling that there were a lot of fish that never moved far from the sanctuary of the pads. Why should they? Bill was to my left, about two hundred yards away, and Nige was another seventy or eighty yards further on again. Bill had an easy cast to the pads but Nige? Well, I just didn’t know why he chose to set up where he did, as it didn’t look as if he could reach the pads.
The lake was constructed in the Napoleonic era at the same time as a long transport canal that ran alongside it. The water in the lake was used to supplement the canal and help operate the lock gates. This is how it looks today, though at the time we were there the pleasure beach on the north side of the lake was not there. We set up like this.
Here you can see Bill and Nige set up on the towpath that runs alongside the canal, though I don't think horses have plodded their way along it for a century or two!
They had both caught fish during the night. Bill had had four takes, loosing two fish in the pads but the two he had landed were both commons of close to twenty pounds apiece. And while Nige had caught only the one fish, it too had been a common. The carp were all long, dark fish, with a good deal of wildie about them. The Nottingham lads had enjoyed some action too, but they were being a bit cagey so it was hard to be sure what exactly had happened. Sadly the fish were not the pristine, uncaught virgins we’d been hoping for or expecting. Most were showing signs of having been caught before with varying degrees of bruising around the lips, and though we were slightly disappointed about this, in a way that was no bad thing. At least it showed that they knew what boilies were.
My swim was very comfortable, being both level and lump-free and just as Jean-Yves had said, I found three prominent and distinct hard patches of gravel close to the pads in front of me, which I baited up with boilies and a small scattering of tigers. It was a week since my last fish and I was getting twitchy for a take and now I felt very confident that this was where I’d get one.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.08pm
In reply to Post #311
I looked across the road and there it was. Heaven, in the form of a flickering, beckoning neon saying `Augerge du Lac`. I asked, “How do you fancy some of that? We can make a fresh start in the morning after a decent night’s kip with a few beers and a bit of decent grub down our faces - become a bit civilised after all the muck and bullets. It will do us the world of good. What do you think?”
“I don’t know,” said Nige. “I think I’ll stay on the campsite. What about you, Bill?”
"That'll do for me," said Bill.
“Well it won't do for me…**** the campsite!” I exclaimed. I was beginning to feel like a right pariah but I was buggered if I was going to fart about in the pouring rain on a sopping little six-quid a night campsite when for a tenner I could get a decent night’s kip in the hotel. Sod you lot!
So, leaving the others to do as they pleased I lugged my dripping holdall across the road to the hotel, where the evening and the night that followed were spent luxuriating in comfort and Joy the proprietor! (Only kidding, Tat.) It was absolutely wonderful. The bed was so comfy I slept right through the night for about ten hours solid in the comfort and warmth of the hotel room. And though I felt a bit of a **** for doing so, my back was desperately grateful, for a few hours at least.
The relief didn’t last. In the morning when I awoke m y back had gone completely. It took me ten minutes to get out of bed, and a further half an hour to straighten up. I was really struggling. I could neither sit down properly, nor could I straighten up. I was lurching about the place like Quasimodo. From the big French windows of my hotel room I could see the lake stretched in front of me, a furious rain-lashed gale sweeping its full length, the branches of the trees along its banks whipping viciously in the teeth of a storm force south westerly. So much for the forecast.
Across to the left of the lake, behind the sailing club, Bill and Nige were packing up their bivvies on the campsite. Bill was throwing gear into the van with gusto, or was that fury! It was raining, a torrential downpour, and blowing a good nine or ten of wind to boot. Isn’t that lovely! There’s no way I’m fishing in that lot, I thought to myself. So I ran myself a brim-full bath of scalding hot water, grabbed my book and for the next three hours or so I soaked away the aches and pains of the past eight days. It was magic and afterwards I could even walk upright!
It didn't last and within an hour I was bent over like an old codger. I asked at reception desk for directions to the nearest chemist. There the pharmacist examined my back, said, "does that hurt?" and prised me off the ceiling after my agonised response. He told me that I had slipped a disc and that he had manipulated it back into place but it would hurt like hell for a few days, and I should go home and rest and then rest some more. I explained that I was 600km from home and was on a camping/fishing trip with my mates. He advised against it but saw that I was determined to carry on regardless so he gave me some really strong pain killers that did exactly what it said on the tin Bliss!
By midday the rain had stopped so I went down to see if I could find the others. I noticed four bivvies parked in a row at the top end of the lake and went over for a chat. The bivvies belonged to a party of four lads from Nottingham, friends of Rod Hutchinson, who had asked them to give the water a try to see what it was like. According the Rod it was one of those waters where you have to wade through the small commons to get at the bigger fish. I don’t mind wading like that, even in France, though I accept that it isn’t what everybody goes to France to find. Mind you, wading was hardly what the Notts. lads appeared to be doing for they’d only had a couple of fish between them in the five days they’d been there, and neither had been anything special.
I talked a while but when it started raining again I went back to the hotel, sat in the bar and got started on the ales. I was on holiday to enjoy myself, and that didn’t include any more fishing in the sodding rain, thank you very much! I wasn’t interested in big fish, small fish, ANY bloody fish. I just wanted to enjoy myself and sitting in the rain in the most appalling conditions doesn’t qualify as enjoyment to my way of thinking.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.06pm
In reply to Post #310
An hour or so later the others were packed away. The boat was lashed securely to the roof rack, the back of the van stuffed full of dripping fishing tackle, clothes and gear. We went up to the bar for a farewell coffee, (in my case more beer and a couple of cognacs) and after bidding `au revoir` to all and sundry, we set off for pastures new.
“Anyone any idea where we are going?” I asked.
“Leave that up to you, Ken,” was the reply. Thanks a bunch, chaps. That’s nice of you. What am I? A bloody tour guide! Hey ho. Where to now?
“How about Foret d’Orient?” I suggested. “Joe’s swim might still be free.”
“Anywhere but there!” they said.
I listened for a spirit message. Go west, young man, it said. We turned onto the motorway and followed our noses. As we drove out of the valley the sun came out. The promised clearance had arrived. A hour later and we’d have packed up in the dry. We headed in the general direction of north for several hours and I dozed to the drone of the engine and the tyre noise. Next thing I knew, we were being flagged down by some very menacing traffic police on dark blue BMW bikes. They shepherded us into the next service area and as we stopped half a dozen plain-clothed officers surrounded the van. They were from the customs bureau; what on earth had we done to upset the customs service?
They questioned us briefly, asked us all to get out of the van, to open up the rear door. They took an despairing look at the mountain of gear jam-packed every which way into the back of the van and exchanged exasperated glances. They were in for a long job if they wanted to search that lot. When a flood of turgid rainwater fell from the sill, accompanied by the stale, dank aroma of long-stay, soaking wet carp men, they decided that we hadn’t done anything wrong after all, and we were waved on our way.
Yet more pounding miles along the motorway led us, eventually, to a new water. It was one that Rod had mentioned to me after he'd heard rumours that it held some decent fish. It was on the way home for us so why not?
It took some finding and we spent a couple of hours going up blind alleys and taking countless wrong turnings before we got it right. Even then we couldn’t believe that we were in the right place. By the time we’d found the lake the bloody rain caught up with us again and the heavens opened. Just what I needed.
I got chatting to a short, stocky French guy who was walking the banks in the rain. He seemed very pleased when I replied to his questions in French and I think this broke the ice as he soon volunteered to show me the way down to the far end of the lake. He drove me around on the back of his motor scooter, my back protesting at every bump, then he drove me back to the cafe where I’d arranged to meet Bill and Nige. By now the rain was really belting down, and the thought of setting up in the rain did not appeal one little bit.
To make matters worse my back was now giving me some serious gyp. The prospect of struggling to a swim in the rain in the gathering dusk, setting up a soaking wet bivvy, then climbing into a sopping wet sleeping bag was not one I relished. I was almost ready to call it a day mad head for home, but what I really fancied most of all was a hefty meal, a few beers, a long hot bath and a good night's kip. Tomorrow I’d wake up to a decent breakfast and - maybe - a few more beers. See how I feel about the world after that lot!
5 Apr 2018 at 3.05pm
In reply to Post #309
I had not had so much as a twitch for over three days now, but I suppose I should have expected no less: I was hardly what anyone would call 'going for it' as my enthusiasm levels plunged lower with every twinge in my back!. The weather wasn't helping and now I had the bloody boat anglers to contend with.
Later that day Bill caught a small double that he didn’t weigh, just unhooked it in the net and put it straight back. Nige blanked, I blanked. The boats full of pike anglers got in my way all day, and it rained hard, and the forecast was terrible yet again; my buzzers started playing up and the reels filled with water. I could hardly move and then as if I needed any more hassle, the elastics on my bed chair gave way. All in all I rather wished I was somewhere else. Anywhere else!
Saturday morning dawned still, overcast and very damp. The boat anglers were pretty fair with their attentions dividing them equally between the three of us. By mid morning they'd wiped out each and every rod. The rain fell all day; the flood level rose in my bivvy; the drowned-out buzzer refused to work, despite all attempts to dry it out - though in truth these were never really likely to succeed, given the torrential rain; my back was killing me; the bed chair sagged alarmingly; the bivvy started to leak along the door seams, and when Bill dropped a case of bottled beer as he was carrying it back from the van, the catastrophic events of the day reached their climax. We could only try and laugh it off, but it was hard work! Just one of those days. I should never had got out of bed!
We went for a drive around in the rain and looked at two other lakes nearby. Both were deserted, which spoke volumes. The whole valley simply wasn’t fishing, full stop. It was go-though-the-motions time. Another blank twenty-four hours followed and even Nige was coming round to the idea that we should move. I was now in pretty savage pain as my back had become decidedly dodgy and I could hardly stand up, let alone pack up and move. But I felt that we simply HAD to move if we wanted to keep our sanity. The rain was interminable.
Monday morning crept up on me in a wave of apathy. It had rained hard all night, and though Nige and Bill fished, I wasn’t up for it for the pain in my back was becoming almost unbearable and I lay awake all night unable to sleep. I took a few too many pain-killing tablets, and eventually they began to have an effect. I listened to the radio and at last found some good cheer, the French station’s forecast finally announcing an improvement in the weather. Not before bloody time either!
The pain-killers slowly worked their way to the seat of the pain in my back and I began to drift off to sleep on the Jerry-rigged bedchair. It was bliss, but I was not to sleep for long. At a touch after eight o’clock in the morning I was woken by a tapping on the bivvy and the door was unzipped. Nige and Bill were standing there in the pouring rain. The promised improvement had not yet arrived.
Nige said, “I think we should move.”
“Thank Christ for that, but let’s wait until the rain stops, though, eh?”
“No, we want to move now!”
“In this f...... lot?”
“Might as well, it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop.”
“But I’ve heard the forecast on the radio,” I said. “They’ve given sunshine and showers for later on and we’ll be able to pack up in the dry. Dry bedding, dry tent, dry-ish clothes.”
“Nah! Let’s do it now and get it over with.”
“No way, guys!” I was adamant. “I’m not packing up until this bloody rain stops. We’ve been here at least two days too many as it is. Another couple of hours won’t make any difference, will it?”
“I thought you were the one that wanted to move,” said Bill.
“Damned right I do!” I yelled, beginning to really lose my temper. “I’ve wanted to move for the past four days. We’ve been wasting our time here, that’s for certain, but I can’t see the point in getting soaked packing up, when in all probability, if we wait a couple of hours, we can do it in the dry and with a bit of sunshine to cheer us up. In fact the only way I’ll be unpacking my gear again if I have to pack it away while it’s soaking wet is if the sun comes out and it’s nice and warm. And if that means that it doesn’t get unpacked again this trip, then so be it!” I was wet, angry and in a lot of pain.
There was much muttering and gnashing of teeth. Then Nige stomped off saying, “I’m going to pack my bloody gear away and I’ll just leave my bivvy up until you can be bothered. You can do what you like.” Bill said more or less the same, but in actions that spoke deafeningly louder than words. All of which left me with no choice. In the midst of a fairly hairy thunderstorm we started to pack up. An hour and a half and two hikes back to the van later, urged on by a seething rage at the world, I was all packed. I rowed the boat across to the other side while Nige and Bill packed up and wandered up to the bar - yes, at last our wandering barista had returned. About time to…just when we were leaving.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.02pm
In reply to Post #308
We were all absolutely soaking wet, very damp and, speaking for myself, a bit depressed. I’d been picking up the local French radio station on the radio, listening to their weather forecasts. There was no sign of an end to the storms that were sweeping all of northern France.
I was getting pretty fed up and every twist and turn caused my back to protest angrily! The rain had by now turned the once-grassy banks into a thick and muddy morass and the dreadful weather was beginning to get to me. And the poor fishing wasn’t helping either. By Friday, after a particularly severe storm that had been accompanied by twenty-four hours of torrential rain, I was feeling pretty miserable. The lake had risen several inches and the deluge of rainwater had turned the once crystal-clear lake into a thick, chocolate-brown soup. The stream at the top end of the lake was rushing through over its banks, flooding lake and putting the kiss of death on the fishing in the process. I wanted to leave and leave right now!
Earlier, in a (probably vain) attempt to improve the fishing in my swim I had introduced a widespread carpet of groundbait to cover a roughly circular area some fifty yards in diameter between seventy and one hundred and twenty yards out in front of me, and marked it with two markers at each end. The ploy had not worked and my rods remained lifeless in the rests. My swim had definitely died completely on me, as had Bill’s down the bank to my right. We both felt it was time to move.
Bill moved a bit further to the left into the mouth of the bay, while Nige shoved his damp and dripping gear into the van and drove around to the opposite side of the arm, more or less opposite Bill's new area. At least it would be handy for the bar if Jan-Francois ever returned! That's our trusty Maestro van across the other side with Nige's bivvy below it. Meanwhile Bill set off in the boat to see if he could find his little hotspot from last year.
Me? Well I fancied anywhere but this ****'ole!
We still hadn’t risked fishing at night, though so far the Gardes de Peche had been conspicuous by their absence. I’d almost have welcomed a tug, if only to get the adrenaline flowing once again. Bill moved again during a brief lull in the downpour on Friday afternoon, this time into the arm itself. The ground was a lot harder here and at least the slightly less muddy bank held some obvious attractions. The bar was much closer for a start.
It was a move that paid off almost immediately in the shape of a twenty-five pound mirror taken on a bait rowed out into the centre of the arm in about ten feet of water. He didn't weigh it, just put it straight back, as it was again pissing down.
I had by now started to attract the unwanted, yet considerable attention of several pike and zander anglers who seemed to be using my markers as homing beacons. Whether or not they were acting deliberately or not, their antics soon put paid to my fishing while they were on the lake. Once, when I had just got back from rowing my baits out, a pike angler made a beeline for the same baited area and dropped anchor right on top of it. In next to no time he had caught my lines with his spinner, sending the frantic Frenchman into a gesticulating and highly volatile tantrum.
Eventually he simply cut through my lines leaving me the best part of six hundred yards of nylon adrift. As if the wasn’t enough Mr Angry was soon joined by another couple of boats and their presence finally brought the fishing in my swim to a complete halt. It was totally impossible. The occupants of the three boats appeared to take considerable pleasure in their bloody-mindedness leaving me fuming helplessly on the bank. There was nothing I could do about it but wait for them to go in for lunch then remove the markers. That might confuse the buggers!
5 Apr 2018 at 3.01pm
In reply to Post #307
During the night the wind shifted yet again, this time round to the east. I emerged from my bivvy shivering with cold to be greeted by the sight of white horses galloping up the surface of the lake. The wind was cutting, blowing a gale or more along the length of the valley, and with the east wind came the cold as the temperature dropped ten or twelve degrees in less than a couple of hours, though for a while it did at least stop raining. We spread our damp gear on the roof of the bivvies in the hope that the wind and a pale watery sun might dry things out, but it was a forlorn hope.
The respite was cruelly short and soon it was raining harder than ever. Most of my gear was soaked through from a torrent of rainwater that had found its way into the bivvy. It came in under the rear right-hand quarter and flowed out at the left front. There was mud everywhere and it was thoroughly unpleasant. For the rest of the day the rain kept everyone cooped up in his bivvy feeling sorry for himself.
All through the following night the rain poured down in a continuous deluge. The river running through my bivvy became a flood and the mud seemed to find its way into the most impossible places. Later that night the most ferocious thunderstorm I’ve ever experienced crawled overhead with agonising slowness. The lightning conductors on the barrage and the village church were both hit, and the forest on the far bank was also struck as the storm tracked right over the top of us. At its height, the thunder and lightning were accompanied by a frightening hail-storm that left the ground carpeted with stones an inch across, to a depth of three inches or so. It looked as if it had been snowing!
At one stage my bivvy was shaken around in a whirlwind of hail and wind as a ferocious storm battered the region. It felt as if it were being savaged by a pit-bull terrier. I didn’t know whether to be scared or simply to marvel at the awesome power, the brutal, almost primordial forces that unleashed themselves upon us. The lightning was incredible, as if thousands of strobe-powered flash guns were going off on the other side of the bivvy door. Countless times a second, hundreds of separate flashes. An amazing and very awesome experience, and in the middle of it all, Nige had a run!
He didn’t hear it of course. He was sheltering in Bill’s bivvy while the worst of the storm passed, but I doubt if he’d have heard it even if he’d been in his own bivvy. By the time he got back to his rods the carp, if carp it was, had created a cat’s cradle of his other two lines and left, laughing!
Thursday dawned to a scene from hell. The thunderstorm was still rattling around the heavens; in fact it hardly seemed to have moved at all. The rain was back with a vengeance and the mud was thicker than ever. A tree was hit in the woods less than sixty yards away behind me, leaving a long white scar, savagely burnt at the edges, to mark the path of the bolt to earth. The woods on the far bank seemed to be smoking in the early morning light. There was a peculiar smell in the air - metallic, sinister. Is that what brimstone smells like? I asked myself. And to cap it all, I had put my back out during the night. It was agony!
There were a few fish crashing out, but it wasn’t what you’d call hectic. The surface had become mirror-calm as the wind died away leaving heavy rain falling straight down from the thick, grey clouds. I wasn’t exactly hoping for a take as my back was killing me. I could hardly move and never has the phrase 'bedchair back' been more appropriate. I lay on my back with my knees up - seemed to relieve the pain a bit - and listened to the rain and watched the thunderstorm rattling around the valley, lighting up the overcast sky with savage flashes of sheet lightning.
By mid morning the breeze had shifted yet again, back into a more southerly direction. In the UK you expect all these shifts in the wind to blow away the clouds, but not here. Having more or less boxed the compass in the last twenty-four hours, the wind brought with it even more rain, more hail and yet more thunder and lightning. The rain relented briefly later that afternoon, allowing Nige and me a few hasty minutes in which to move our bivvies to less muddy areas.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.59pm
In reply to Post #306
We wound the rods in at about eleven o’clock that night and had a few beers to round off the day. Night fishing was a dodgy business as the Gardes-Peche had a well-deserved reputation for being tough on the rule breakers in the area. It simply wasn’t worth the risk. Last year Gary had been caught and let off with a comparatively light fine: this year we’d heard horror stories about tackle confiscation and heavy fines. Just before I turned in I topped up the bait carpet with the usual mixture of ready-mades and fishmeals in equal proportions; about three hundred of each.
The threatened rain and wind arrived at about one in the morning and it rocked the trees and shook the bivvy like a dog with a rat, but come the morning it had stopped and the clouds drifted on their way north. I slept only fitfully and was awake before dawn. I unzipped the bivvy door and the sight that greeted me away to my right scared me half to death! The land was black, the sky the same, with a fire-red strip of sunlight between the two. Talk about a red sky in the morning.
As dawn grew into a grey morning, dull with a fresh SW wind blowing towards the dam I felt certain we were in for a deluge. In the chilly morning air I cast out then put the kettle on. The others were not up yet so I sat on my jack drinking the cuppa and eating breakfast. It was noticeably colder than previous mornings but it still looked pretty carpy. I sat in keen anticipation of a repeat of yesterday morning’s performance, though I felt less certain of a take as the night had been very different to its predecessor. It had rained hard for much of the night with a fresh breeze from the south-east blowing straight into the bivvy door. I slept fitfully, and so, it turned out later, did the others. None of us heard so much as a single splash during the dark hours, whereas the previous night we couldn't sleep for the noise of carp crashing out everywhere.
I noticed that the lake had come up a few inches so we must have had a real downpour of rain during the night, and I didn't much like the look of the sky away to the south either. I made more tea, lit a fag and got back in the bag, as it had turned suddenly very chilly. A few loud crashes of thunder echoed down the valley and the tense atmosphere of an approaching storm hung heavy on the morning dampness. Dark, almost black thunderheads built up in the valley away to the south, moving slowly but surely towards us. The stillness was oppressive, even the birds fell silent. The comforting swoosh of a breeze in the trees died away and the air crackled and rumbled in electric anticipation. By seven in the morning the storm had arrived, with driving rain and thunder and lightning. There was no wind to push the murk on its way, the dirty weather was obviously set in for the day.
I zipped up the door to the bivvy, climbed into the sleeping bag and went back to sleep. If the carp were feeding, they’d soon wake me up for I had the extension box right next to my ear. Later that morning Nige had a fourteen pound mirror and Bill opened his account with an eleven pound mirror. The shoal must have been going through my swim to get from Nige’s baits to Bill’s but I never had a sniff. Mind you, the last thing I wanted was a run in the torrential rain that fell for most of the morning. The weather certainly wasn’t conducive to pleasurable fishing and I lay on my bed chair praying that the big lump could hold his hunger in check until it eased off a bit. He could pick up my bait then, by all means.
The rest of the morning passed slowly in a welter of heavy rain, thunder and occasional flickers of lightning. The sun popped out very briefly to shine on a twenty-one pound mirror that picked up one of my baits during the afternoon…
…but then it started raining again, this time heavier than ever. It was a miserable day that lowered all our spirits. I think we’d all have benefited from a trip to the bar for a meal and a few beers, but that sod, Jean-Francois was still on his holidays.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.58pm
In reply to Post #305
Then just when we thought his swim had died, a lovely, pale Italian-strain mirror just a few ounces short of forty pounds fell to his rods. I don’t know what happened to the tennis elbow, but he wasn’t complaining any more.
Fat old beastie isn't it!
Nige was pretty happy with it, though!
After all that action, it was inevitable that it should slow down, and as the afternoon wore on so the fish moved up towards the barrage away to our left. In the lull, Bill and Nigel went out in the boat, searching the bottom with the echo sounder. It was very hot and the fish were obviously making the most of the autumn sunshine, for there were no signs of any substantial marks on the echo sounder to indicate the presence of carp still on the baits.
The afternoon was quiet, calm and peaceful, and, given our hectic morning, I don’t think Nige or I were complaining that the fishing had slowed. Bill still waited patiently for a take. He wasn’t in any rush. There was time to relax and lie back to watch the world go around.
The lake is a wildlife paradise to those occasional bird watchers like myself, who have only a passing interest. The grey and rather drab bird life of Cornwall pales alongside the magnificent red kites, ospreys and black storks that prowl the skies above and the banks beside the still waters of the lake. I’d heard from Jean-Francois that there were wild boar in the woods behind the west bank, where we were bivvied. I wouldn’t have minded seeing one of those, but not at close quarters. A herd of wild boar had driven two Dutch friends from their tents on the banks of the Foret d’Orient to stand up to their necks in water while the forest pigs destroyed their camp, rods, everything. That was one good reason for our earlier cowardice.
It was a lovely, peaceful and relaxed afternoon. Little did I know that it would be the last I’d enjoy for some time. Happy though I was with my success so far, I couldn’t help feeling that we were missing out by leaving Foret d’Orient. Before I’d left the lake at the weekend, I’d arranged with Joe that we could slip into his swim when he left for home that coming Saturday, and there was a nagging sensation in the back of my mind that this is exactly what we should do. It was hard enough to get a swim on that wild and woolly lake; to be handed a swim on a plate - and a damn good swim at that - was an offer I felt we should not turn down. I voiced my feelings to the others but Bill and Nige felt that there was more to come from this lake.
Maybe I put the jinx of the lake by hoping that action would die off which should encourage the other guys to move. Was it wrong of me to pray that the place fished like a pudding from now on? I suppose it was, especially when it looked as if my prayers would come true as later that afternoon a dark, menacing blanket of heavy cloud moved relentlessly towards us from the south. The heavily laden clouds soon threatened to block the sun completely and we could hear the rain and an increasing wind hammering the forest behind us. This was going to get nasty! Little did we know that as the sun bade farewell we would not see it again for several days.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.56pm
In reply to Post #304
It didn’t take the carp long to find my baits. The rods had been out less than three quarters of an hour when I had my first run, the buzzer playing its wonderful tune. That take came right in the middle of a downpour. Doesn’t it always! Still, who cares! It’s a fish. So there I was getting a drenching while a strong fish put distance between itself and danger. After the first headlong dash the fight reverted to a predictable give and take pattern and eventually I shook the meshes up around a fat, dumpy mirror carp that went a fraction over twenty. It was almost round; we could have played football with it!
The noise of the run and the splashing of the fish in the margins brought Nige and Bill out to play and soon the bank was a hive of activity. Strange how a fish galvanizes people into action, there were rods and baits flying everywhere!
As dawn came, the fish stopped showing almost completely, but they hadn’t stopped feeding. Less than a hour later I had another run from a fish that came straight off the pages of the Book of Dreams. I have always yearned for a monster common carp and the image of Gary’s long, lean beastie from the previous year still flitted across my sleeping moments from time to time. Now I had my turn, a dream no longer but the spectacular reality of a thirty pound common, 31lb 4oz in fact.
And what a fight, from an unbelievably powerful fish. It was one of the most magnificent carp I’ve ever seen, though as usual I only had a fleeting impression of it while the honours were performed. We took a roll of transparency film of the gorgeous fish, including several of it going back. It wasn’t until I got the photos back that I realised that it was actually the same fish that Gary had caught almost a year to the day previously. Same pose too!
Meanwhile, Nige was suffering severe and crippling pain. A savage re-occurrence of tennis elbow was playing him up badly and he couldn’t use a throwing stick to get his baits out. I have had my fair share of tennis elbow having cortisone injections in both elbows three time in each one. This is a problem that all carp anglers need to be aware of. Throwing sticks, especially the metal variety, are bad news for elbows. So I baited up his swim as well as my own, dashing too and fro. In fact, I was in his swim, waving the Cobra around, with boilies shooting off in all directions, when I heard another run start again on my rods. Middle rod. Great! Another great big mirror of just under thirty pounds, a long solid fish, a proper carp!
What a brilliant morning’s fishing I was having, so far I’d landed three fish. A twenty pound tub, a thirty-one common and a late twenty-nine pound mirror. I was all of a quiver. I put the kettle on for a cuppa, while my three rods rested uselessly against the bivvy. I wasn’t in any rush to re-cast. Let the others have some action for a change!
Which is exactly what happened, at least for Nige if not for Bill. The fish must have moved through my swim and up to Nige’s, for in the next three hours he landed an further three fish. A common at just under 12lb, a dark almost red mirror that looked much like Gary's from the previous year…but wasn’t…
Here the lovely creature goes back.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.55pm
In reply to Post #303
The level was down quite a bit from last year, revealing three of four yards of thick, gooey mud at the water’s edge. Apart from that not much had changed by the look of things, though our little French carp-fishing pal was missing from his usual place on the point. We set up in roughly the same spots as last year put a bit of bait out and then went into town to get permits for Bill and Nige and to do some shopping for food, wine and beer, returning as the light faded, just in time to put the rods out for a couple of hours. We were arranged like this:
As the evening drew in we ate a dinner of the by now customary Boeuf Bourguignon with new potatoes and carrots, all washed down with a bottle or two of very cheap, yet ever so cheerful claret. Very civilised. It was a very cold, clear night with not a breath of wind. The sky was filled with stars, its clarity at least promising no rain. A few fish were moving splashily away to our left towards the dam, but all in all it wasn’t looking terribly encouraging, especially after a day of very strong, cold east winds. Then, just as it was coming in truly dark, at about ten o’clock, Nigel had two bleeps on one of his rods. He struck, and there was our first carp of the trip. Not big, a mirror of perhaps fourteen pounds, but what it lacked in size was made up for in its significance. It told us that the lake was fishing after all.
That beautiful little fish really lifted all our spirits, for I think we were each feeling a bit low. After all, here we were, Monday night, having been in France for over sixty hours, driven God knows how many miles, spent precious francs on wasted fuel and food and until this afternoon, not so much as wet a line. Yet with our baits in the water for just a couple of hours, we’d already had a fish. Now all they needed to do was get bigger! I couldn’t forget that huge fish that Bill lost last year. Hope we see a few like that on the bank this time.
I awoke at about four o’clock the following morning. It was still pitch black in a wet and soggy pre-dawn drizzle. Thin tendrils of damp penetrating mist clung to the tree tops nestling on the steep wooded hillside opposite, cloaking the valley with a damp stillness. Though it was legally still too early to cast out, the temptation to do so was irresistible as there were fish lumping out all over the place. Dawn was well over an hour or more away but I figured if we were going to get visited by the Garde de Peche they would have arrived around one or two in the morning, not now, just an hour before dawn.
The weather had changed completely during the night, turning cloudy and warm. The breeze had gone and the surface of the lake was mirror-calm. It looked grey and a bit forbidding but there were fish moving just about anywhere we looked. Even as I cast out, ripples came lapping onto the shore at my feet, caused by fish crashing out all over the lake, and especially over my baited area, where huge splashes marked the whereabouts of some of the lake’s giants. It was a magic sound, though the darkness meant that I couldn’t see the culprits. After Nige’s fish last evening it all looked very hopeful.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.53pm
In reply to Post #302
Curiosity got the better of Bill and Nige, who got the boat out and went for a row around and a play with the echo-sounder. As I watched them pottering about on the enormous expanse of water, I felt the awesome presence of the towering mountains that dominated the view. I had never been this far south before and my only previous experience of mountains was a rather measly effort involving one or two hills in the Scottish Highlands. The Alps were a different kettle of fish. Here they were, so close that I felt as if I could reach out and touch them. It was so quiet and peaceful in the shade of the trees that despite the teeming multitudes on the other campsites, I felt as if I was alone. The fading heat was dry and clean and not at all oppressive, while the cloudless sky, of such a deep azure blue, had a sense of the unreal about it.
I set up my bedchair in the door of the bivvy, stretched out in the crisp shade and fell asleep while Bill and Nige spent the remainder of the afternoon rowing around the lake but the echo sounder only confirmed the detail of the contour map. In addition much more of the fishable bankside was privately owned than we’d previously thought. The prospects didn’t look good at all. They woke me on their return to break the news: they had not been encouraged by what the echo sounder had revealed.
That evening we walked down into the village for a few beers and a meal. A large match of boules was just coming to its conclusion on the flat sandy pitch opposite the bar, the competitors now engaged in noisy argument about a disputed point or some matter of etiquette. Whatever, it was good humoured and the racket was made more tolerable by the free beer that the patron was dispensing to all the players. If he was annoyed when our English accents and atrocious French revealed that we had not been taking part, he didn’t show it. We got a free beer like everyone else.
I asked him about the fishing. He said that the lake was well known for its big carp, which was good, but that most of the big fish were caught from the private landing stages and fishing platforms on the few shallow areas of the lake, and were usually killed after capture, which was definitely not so good. The rest of the lake was either private, too deep - sixty feet just ten yards out from the bank - or owned by the many camp sites that were dotted around the lake. It looked as if we had driven all that way for nothing.
We slept on the problem and it didn’t look any better the next morning. Though the lake was spectacular and beautiful, and even though it certainly held big carp, the access problem was practically insurmountable as far as we could see. “How about going back to Foret d’Orient?” I asked, hopefully, yet inwardly certain that my plea would fall on deaf ears. It did! We settled on a return to the Forty Lake though we were now actually nearer to St Cassien which was certainly a better prospect.
So we headed northwards once more and arrived back at the barrage by mid-afternoon to find that Jean-Francois was still away. What on earth would we do for a beer? And who gave him permission to go gadding off to God knows where without letting us know! The lake was completely deserted. Was that a good thing or not? Perhaps the lake was fishing like a pudding.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.51pm
In reply to Post #301
Five or six hours later we turned off the main south-bound motorway at Lyons and drove towards the distant mountains. It was blisteringly hot, well over ninety degrees Fahrenheit. The sun scorched down from a cloudless sky turning the inside of the van into an oven. We squirmed and sweated against the sticky seats. The monotony of the motorway down to Lyons now gave way to breath-taking scenery, with steep slopes, littered with thick copses of pine trees, dark green against the lighter hue of rock and boulder. Dotted here and there about the hillsides stood colourful little alpine cottages and larger hotels, while ahead of us towered the Alps themselves. At first they were just indistinct, blue-haze shadows shimmering and dancing in the heat, but as we drew closer the shadows firmed up and became towering, stark silhouettes.
We drove on towards the border, through several claustrophobic, dripping tunnels carved out of the solid rock of the foothills, and as we broke out of one particularly long, dank tunnel and emerged into bright daylight, a glittering panoramic view of the lake sprang up at us as it nestled in a wide valley below. At first sight it was rather startling. The water was bright green! Towering mountains dominated the valley on its eastern side, appearing to climb almost straight up from the water’s edge for thousands upon thousands of feet. A narrow twisting road ran around the lake’s perimeter so we cruised our way round on a lazy tour, stopping here and there to gaze down at the water. In the shade of a grove of trees that stood on a rocky outcrop, a huge flock of great crested grebes preened and dived for fish. I have never seen so many of the species in one group before, and it was clear why they were there. Below the surface massive shoals of what looked like roach or rudd turned this way and that in the crystal-clear water. They were huge, perhaps two or three pounds apiece. The grebes were having a field day.
The lake was obviously very deep, for nowhere on our travels did we get a glimpse of the lake bed, even though the water was so clear that we could see perhaps fifteen or twenty feet down. In addition the banks were dangerously steep and strewn with rocks and boulders among a profusion of heavy weeds, trees and ferns. Large areas of bankside were fenced off for private dwellings with their own beaches or with steps going down from terraced gardens to the water’s edge. Second homes for the well-to-do, no doubt. From a vantage point high above the lake, in the car park of a large hotel, we had a dazzling view over the whole lake. Such areas of bankside that were not in private hands were clearly owned by several camp sites dotted at regular intervals around the lake; camp sites that were heaving with humanity.
“It looks as if there might be a bit of an access problem,” said Nige, pointing at a thousand screaming kids playing in the only shallow area on the lake, that had been roped off to form a safe swimming area, “And that’s putting it mildly.”
“Busy, isn’t it? exclaimed Bill, always a man for the studied understatement. A thirst approached: we could all feel it coming so we dived into the nearest bar to enquire about the immediate availability of a glass or three of beer. To hell with the fishing, first things first. In fact, chance had taken us into the only bar on the lake that sold fishing tickets and we were about to stump up the required francs when a detailed contour map on the wall caught the eye. It indicated that the lake was seventy metres deep in places, and shallow areas were virtually non-existent. Did we really want to fish in three hundred feet of water? I think not. We decided to hold off on the fishing tickets until we had found out more about the place.
We cruised around the lake again as the afternoon wore on. In the shadow of the huge mountain the cool Alpine air refreshed us almost as much as the beer. We decided that we all needed to get a decent meal, a few beers and a good night’s sleep before considering what to do about the access problem, so we booked onto a tiny camp site, nestling under the mountains, and as the fierce continental afternoon heat slowly dissipated to a more tolerable British coolness, we set up the bivvies for the night in the shade of a well-tended wood that stretched down to the lakeside.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.47pm
In reply to Post #300
We continued our patrol of the massive lake and found plenty of other English guys there. The word was well and truly out. Mangrove Joe (Bertram) was installed in one of the highly fancied swims but so far he hadn’t had any success. (I later heard that he caught a very big carp during his second week on the lake - a just reward for patience and effort). Joe told me that he was leaving the following weekend and that if we wanted to take over the swim when he left, he would hold it for us until noon on the Saturday. A generous offer from one of carp fishing’s gentlemen. I said we’d pop in and see him from time to time during our stay and, assuming that we had not done well, would take up his offer in a week’s time.
Joe warned me that the French weather bureau had been forecasting heavy electrical storms for the past week but nothing as so far materialised. I might have known that the minute we turned up the heavens opened and the lightning flashed furiously across the sky. Little did we know it at the time but this weather pattern was to dog our steps for the rest of the trip.
Though most of the known swims were taken I felt we were in with a good chance of a swim somewhere as the lake was way down from its July levels, albeit leaving the bankside a bit more muddy. But despite spending three or four hours driving around the lake and exploring every little track or pathway, we found each nook and cranny occupied, though there was one small promontory tucked away by the limit of the bird sanctuary looking out towards Little Italy. At first we couldn’t believe our luck, but when we left the car and walked across the soggy banks, we soon discovered why there was nobody fishing there. The soft ground was covered by hoof prints and ragged deep holes in the bankside. A sure sign that the area was a hunting ground for a herd of wild boar. When these things move into your swim, you move out! We gave discretion the better part and left the swim to the wild, aggressive creatures. Cowards? Damn right we are!
By early evening we had done the grand tour of the lake twice without finding an area that we could fish so we adjourned to the bar at Mensil for an Official Committee Meeting. I was all for staying put until we could get a swim, even kipping in the car parks behind the swims if necessary. After all, we had two weeks to go, the fishing had not even started yet. But it was clear that Nige and Bill were not too keen, either on my idea, nor, as it turned out, on the lake itself. Bill fancied going back to the Forty Lake again - not surprising really after last year - so I tried to ring Jean-Francois to find out how the lake was fishing. There was no reply. As it was Nige’s first trip East he said he’d go with the flow and the flow seemed to be saying, the Forty Lake so we drank up and hit the road.
A few hours later we pulled up outside the bar. It was closed, which explained the unanswered phone. A notice in the window told all and sundry that Jean-Francois and family were on holiday. Well, that’s a damn good start, isn’t it! And I really fancied a beer too! We were all feeling the effects of the long and broken journey so we dug among the tangle of gear in the back of the van, got the bedchairs out and set up our bivvies by the side of the road overlooking the lake. It was a lovely night, cool but clear with a myriad of stars. I had a wander along the barrage before turning in, listening for carp crashing out in the darkness. Last year fish had showed close to the barrage after midnight and maybe old habits died hard with them.
Nige, who had done all the driving, slept like a log, but Bill and I slept fitfully through the night, lying restless through the times when we’d have expected to hear carp leaping, but neither of us heard any fish throughout the hours of darkness. That was rather worrying, and the fact that the bar was closed made up our minds for us. As a cold and dewy dawn broke over the sleepy valley we got the map out and after a bit of humming and hah-ing decided to fly a kite and head even further south to a lake in the foothills of the Alps, a completely unknown quantity and, as things turned out, a wasted journey.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.45pm
In reply to Post #298
Didn't have to wait that long, Steve
WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE: SEPT ‘93
I hope by now you’ll have gathered that I treat France and French carp fishing in a very light-hearted manner. I look on every trip purely as a holiday. I am out to enjoy myself, end of story. The trip is not an endurance test nor a battle of wits with the Garde de Peche. Neither is it a no-holds-barred contest with French lakes, French carp, and certainly not with the French people. My watchwords are enjoyment, rest and relaxation and I have always asserted to myself and to others that when I stop enjoying carp fishing I’ll simply stop doing it. Mind you, I’m not actually sure if I mean it or not, but I can assure you that there have been times when I’ve come perilously close to it. However, I never expected to come as close as I did in the autumn of 1993 when we paid a return visit to the lake where I’d caught the forty the previous year.
I had enjoyed a brief visit to the now famous Forest d’Orient lake in July ‘93 in the company of a few of the Nutrabaits team and though we’d blanked it was obvious that the huge lake was, indeed, a very special carp water and I was keen to get back to the lake as soon as possible. My first experience of the big lake had taught me just what a heart-breaker the place could be if you weren’t on fish. True, that applies to any lake, anywhere, but the problem with Foret d’Orient is that there are precious few swims available, bearing in mind the size of the lake. When the water levels are at their highest, in spring and early summer, it can be very difficult to get a swim on the lake, let alone one that is on fish.
If truth be known, our remaining schedule for 1993 did not involve a return trip with the lads. Carole and I had plans only to go back to the pure bliss of Georges’ gite, for a week in late October, so the idea of an earlier trip with the lads had not even been discussed. However, the prospect of fishing Foret d’Orient once again wormed a crafty path to the carp passion site in my grey matter, and when Nige and Bill agreed to come along for the ride, all that was left for me was to present the fait accompli to Carole.
The trip took place from 4th-18th September. Once more Nige prevailed upon his very generous boss for the loan of the works van and we borrowed a heavily built ten foot long fire-glass dinghy to help with the baiting up. Orient is a big water and the waves can get pretty awesome - no place for a small plastic inflatable. As for bait, I inveigled Bill Cottam into doing a silly-cheap deal for us on sixty kilos of Big Fish Mix and the same of their prototype ready-mades and we crammed these, along with sacks of groats and hemp and a few kilos of tiger nuts into the back of the van. Once again it groaned and sagged ominously on overloaded springs. We crossed Ramsgate-Dunkerque because it was the cheapest route, and arrived on French soil at about midday on Saturday 4th September 1993; by mid-afternoon we were on the tree-lined banks of the fabled Lac de la Foret d’Orient. It was great to be back!
First stop, the swim at Mensil that we’d fished in July. Even though we’d blanked the swim I knew that it was one of the very best on the lake. Not for nothing is it known as Bivvy City. Gary and Mark had fished it the previous year and done well so the swim’s reputation was well founded.
As you can see, though the level was well up when we fished it, we had no idea of the problems that would face us if we actually hooked a carp. Nobody told us that there was a bloody great wall to scale down to get to the water's edge.
Naturally, when we arrived at the lake the a party of Dutch anglers had the area completely stitched up. Leaving Bill and Nige to look around the rest of the area, I went down for a chat. Unusually, these particular Dutchmen were an aggressive and tight-mouthed crowd, and they just glared at me, gesturing their failure - “no carp!” they exclaimed. Did they take me for a right prat? There were drying sacks and slings all over the place. Almost without exception the Dutch carp anglers that I’ve met on my travels have been great company, but this lot were the exception.
It was clear that they were holding a vast shoal of carp in front of them, and I soon found out from the owner of the holiday cottages above the swim that the Dutch carpers had been hogging and rotating the swims amongst themselves for the past three months! A few years later some Brits had their vans torched for doing that!
3 Apr 2018 at 11.19am
In reply to Post #298
Just got to select the relevant photos for the next section.
2 Apr 2018 at 5.13pm
Message Suppressed by Forum Moderator.
2 Apr 2018 at 1.20pm
Please be patient, chaps. Got a lot on my plate at the moment but rest assured, there is more tosh to come.
24 Mar 2018 at 2.13pm
In reply to Post #295
The level was going down visibly now. If it carried on like this there would be no water left. The lake was actually one of the four in the general area that supplied water to the large navigation canal and river to keep them topped up and supply water to towns and cities further north. All four hold carp to a greater or lesser degree and the one we were fishing was probably the least popular as it was not thought to hold fish of a decent enough size to satisfy the mainly Dutch and German anglers who fished the region. They were awesomely beautiful though, so sod the so-called 'small' carp
If my forty was to be my last fish for the trip, so be it. I was happy as Larry; my first forty. I prayed quietly to myself that it would be the first of many but was now really hoping that Bill would get among the bigger fish. We both fished hard that day and were rewarded with a fish each. A small common for Bill that was returned without being weighed and a nice low twenty for me. I posed as Bill took the pix feeling a bit self conscious. The fish should have been swapped around, the twenty for Bill and the scamp for me. Mind you I don't think for one minute that Bill was in the slightest bit fazed. He is one of the most laid back guys I have ever met.
Last day coming up…Come on Bill, mate! We sat around as the day dragged on fishless then suddenly at last Bill was away and this time it looked to be a better fish off one of the small gravel patches we'd found with Gary's boat and echo sounder. I think this proves two things: a) just how much of an asset a sounder can be: b) how tiny a hot spot can be. A couple of square yards in two hundred acres. I remember Rod writing something along the lines of a hot spot can be as small as a foot square in a 100 acres or words to that effect.
Bill's carp dragged him around the lake a few times before giving up. What a beautiful fish it was too, a shade over thirty pounds. We were all pleased for the guy. He'd sat it out while others were catching all around him but had been rewarded for his patience with one of the prettiest mirrors I have ever seen.
Bill and I moved the next day. It was clear that we were getting fewer and fewer takes where we were. Our friend fishing the point had still to have a take. Even Gary’s action was slowing down. With only one more night to go before we had to leave, we fancied our chances on the plateau on the opposite side of the lake. We set up well away from Orange Marker’s swim, but I guess it must have been a miscast when my left hand bait splashed down within a few feet of the gaudy marker. I left it where it lay!
I’m sure we’d have caught fish that afternoon, if only a succession of pike anglers hadn’t kept rowing through our lines. It was impossible to fish properly, and in the end we wound in and packed away the gear ready for an early start the next morning. At least Bill had caught a decent fish, and naturally I was delighted with my big mirror, but somehow the trip ended on a slightly sour note. Gary’s fine, the French pike men…suddenly I had the homers.
We were ready to go. Ali and Gary were crossing into Folkestone while we were taking the return route from Dieppe so we said our goodbyes and thanks them for sharing some great times with us. The journey back to the ferry port was tedious in the extreme. So too the crossing, and the drive up to Bill’s house. A few pints of decent beer cheered us up though and as the golden ales slipped down, we planned next year trip. A return visit perhaps? Very likely!
Incidentally, on our return to the UK I sent a selection of photos to Carpworld and surprise, surprise, the one of Gary with his PB common made it onto the front cover albeit nearly a year after he caught it. Proud as punch, he was!
Not to be outdone Ali also made it onto the front cover a couple of months earlier with her 44lb mirror from St Cassien. My caption to the cover was 'Gorgeous girl: gorgeous fish' . "Can't argue with that," wrote Tim.
Coming up Bill and I join Nige on a return trip to the Forty Lake. It was not a lot of fun as you'll read in the coming posts.
24 Mar 2018 at 2.07pm
In reply to Post #294
By the following morning the weather had reverted to its usual pattern of warm days/cold nights. Bill had been awake since before first light having slept on the rods. He was full of anticipation and I could see why…Carp leapt and shouldered through the surface over the baits, a sure sign of feeding fish, and Bill felt that he was on a good number of feeding fish for the first time this trip.
Sadly nobody had told the carp in front of him, that they were supposed to pick up his baits, and instead it was Gary who took the first fish of the morning, yet another twenty pound mirror that snagged him up on the same mooring pole that had been my downfall earlier in the trip. While he took to the boat to free the fish, another of his rods was away. Ali needed no further encouragement and played her fish to the bank in less than ten minutes, while hubby fussed about in the boat. They made a pretty picture, Gary with a twenty-five pound mirror, Ali with her twenty-one pound leather. The pix had to wait while the sun came up. It gave Ali plenty of time to put on the war paint and the bling, change her clothes and wash her hair! She needn't have bothered; she'd look great if she was dressed only in a carp sack!
I think Bill was beginning to loose heart. It was understandable if truth be known. Gary was catching, I was catching, now Alison had caught a twenty on her first run of the trip, albeit on hubby's rods, but he didn't seem to mind even though so far Bill had caught only three doubles, all he had to show for a hell of a lot of effort. We were running out of days and I think he was tempted to do the night but in the end like me he took them in. And a good job he did, as at three in the morning our 'friendly' G de P returned. Do they take us for idiots?
We awoke to a bit of a shock. The water level had gone down by about 18 inches and suddenly the troublesome pike poles were revealed above the surface. Gary had been plagued by the things and had lost gear and/or fish to them on several occasions. There are actually just off the photo to the left but you can just about see a single pole further down the bank.
You can also see Gary's little boat…it really was tiny but believe me, we'd have been a lot worse off without it. That little dinghy showed just how essential a boat is on French trips and for us the days of tiny kids plastic beach toys were over once and for all!
The day was carp-free and with only a day and a half before we had to pull off we felt a trip into town was called for. Our little French mate had arrived and we sitting in 'his' swim in his own little dream world so we asked him to keep and eye on the gear and then went up to the bar to get a taxi. For some reason we never got around to ordering it so the lovely town, built on a plateau and surrounded by a defensive wall, one of the most historic towns in all of France remained unvisited. Shame on us!
We were a bit tired and emotional when we left the bar at God know what hour. We had enjoyed superb hospitality and made some good friends among the regulars. They couldn't have been more friendly and welcoming…I had a feeling Bill and I might be back some day! After all, a decent bar serving fresh bread and decent meals is almost as important as the quality of the fishing
24 Mar 2018 at 2.03pm
In reply to Post #293
I slept the night away dreaming of monster carp. Monday dawned as before, bright and sunny and white calm.
Neither Bill nor I fished the night but Gary fished on, giving proof, if proof were needed, that fishing at night was the answer as he caught a lovely looking mirror of 29lbs 4ozs.
It rained on and off for most of the day and Bill and I fished all through it on the two long range gravel patches that we’d found with the sounder, though this meant rowing every hook bait out to the markers, not something I found terribly enjoyable at the time, especially in the pissing rain. Later, as I became more experienced I realised that this was by far the most efficient ways of catching carp anywhere, not only on the Continent. Indeed on a deep mid-winter trip to an Italian lake with Bill C. we found ourselves having to take them out getting on for 500 yards. By then braid on the reels was the way to go, and even at this range Bill still knew the minute the duck picked up his hookbait. Mind you, he didn't know it was a duck at the time, and as he wound it in it got progressively heavier as it neared the bank. It took him the best part of ten minutes to get it to the net and we never for a minute doubted that it was a carp! Sadly it was dead by the time we 'landed' it.
That afternoon the rain intensified. It was the first serious rain of the trip. Rain or no rain Ali did her stuff, preparing a proper spaghetti Bolognese dinner for us that evening. It was made with really fresh pasta and a sumptuous meat sauce made with minced beef (steak hache), tomatoes onions and all the trimmings. What a star she was. We sat under the brollies, all togged up in waterproofs, filling our bellies with heaped plates of Ali's finest. It was delicious, all the more so because of the conditions. Neither Bill nor I are great bankside cooks (though we won't sink so low as to depend on Pot Noodles!) so without Ali's cooking we'd probably have relied on tins of Cassoulet and Boeuf Bourguignon, not that they are not nice, but you cannot beat properly prepared home cooking. Thanks, Ali!
The rain stopped at dusk and we went to our separate bivvies. I slept like a log and heard nothing of the alarms and excursions of the night. About an hour before midnight Gary had another big mirror, this one just two ounces short of thirty pounds. He sacked the fish for a morning photo session and sat back to await the next run.
There were fish crashing out all over the place, he told me later. More movement than he’d seen at any time since he’d arrived. He expected great things from the coming night. I’m sure his optimism was well founded, but unfortunately his fishing was to be rudely cut short. At one o’clock in the morning the G de P paid their not-unexpected return visit. This time they got lucky. There was little aggro from them, they even stayed for a beer and a coffee. To be honest, I think they were only keen on one thing and that was to collar one of us, it didn't matter who. Though they were quite nice about it they left Gary with a five-hundred franc fine, though at least they didn’t confiscate his gear or the car, which they were quite entitled to do.
21 Mar 2018 at 5.13pm
In reply to Post #292
I let the fish leave my arms and slowly she drifted away into the warm waters of the lake; back to her mysterious depths. I fell over backwards into the lake, splashing and yelling like a little kid. Forty pounds!
I had to tell Carole the news so I ran up to the bar to use the phone. While I waited to get through he poured me a very large cognac. He could see that I was overjoyed with my capture, and that is an emotion the French are particularly sympathetic towards. As Carole and I spoke another large cognac appeared at my elbow. A crowd was gathering at the bar as the Sunday afternoon customers were put in the picture by Francois. By the time I got off the phone the queue of cognacs had grown alarmingly, and by mid-evening I a bit the worse for wear. Did I care?
More to come as Bill, Gary and Ali get among the lumps too!
21 Mar 2018 at 5.08pm
In reply to Post #291
Finally Gary slipped the net under the beast. He grunted as he took the strain of the weight of the fish in the floor of the landing net. “It has got to be forty, mate,” he told me. I was shaking like a leaf. Bill had to take the rod from me and together he and Gary carried my prize back to the swim. We weighed it on Bill’s Salter scales, zeroing the weight of the sling, a new one from the Nash stable, light as a feather but very strong, a far cry from the monstrous things we carry around with us these days.
“Forty-one,” said Gary.
“No, Gary,” said Allison. “Look, it’s under forty. Thirty-nine, fourteen.”
We lowered the fish onto the mat and Gary took the scales and tried again. I wasn’t looking. I couldn’t! Bill looked over Gary’s shoulder and shook his head. He said, “The needle is swinging about too much. It’s certainly close, though.”
“I’ll sack her up for a moment,” I said. I wanted to get my breath back, finish my dinner, have a good slug of wine and then maybe we’d be ready to weigh the beast properly.
By the time I’d finished my meal, got over the shakes and enjoyed a calming cigarette quite a crowd had gathered.
“Can we see your fish?” asked a little French lad who was out with his family.
“Sure. We’re just going to weigh it now,” I told him and removed the sack from the margins. This time we used one of the oars through the eye of the scales to keep them steady. Up she went and once again the needle swung down to the forty pound marker. Alison looked at the dial, then turned away. What had she seen, I wondered, for from where I was standing supporting one end of the oar I couldn’t see the weight myself.
“Come on, Ali. Put me out of my misery. What does it say?”
“It is very close,” she said. “Just over forty, perhaps.”
Perhaps wouldn’t do. Was she just being kind to me? Bill and I have known each other since 1968 when we started fishing together. I knew he would not flatter the fish. If it was 39.15, that’s what he would give me.
I recalled the story of Fletch’s Mangrove common, and his now-famous retort to Tim’s “I’ll give it 19.15” comment ran through my heard. “Give me those f------ scales!” Fletch had exclaimed.
“Bill! What does it weigh,” I asked my oldest friend.
An agonising few seconds passed as the needle steadied once more following a brief kick from the fish in the sling.
“It is exactly forty pounds,” he declared. “Bang on the mark!”
I don’t know what I did then. I may have shouted, cried, laughed. Whatever, I don’t recall. The pictures flashed by and half way through my flash unit packed up. What timing! The crowd grew by the minute…
…and for a moment I wondered if we were going to run into problems when it came to returning the fish. But no, they even clapped as the fish finally regained its freedom as Gary took some final shots of the fish going back.
21 Mar 2018 at 5.02pm
In reply to Post #290
The sun blazed down and the heat took the sting out of the fish’s appetite. More and more local walkers were strolling up and down the banks and we drew a few curious looks as well as some good natured "bonjours". Early afternoon and Gary had a small common, and then it all went quiet for a few hours. The little French carp man arrived once more. We exchanged greetings while he set up as usual on his point. So far we’d not seen him have so much as a take, let alone a fish. There were a few pike anglers about and they gave us a few uneasy moments when it looked as if they might catch our lines, but all went smoothly.
Meanwhile both Bill and I got busy making boilie crumb. Back in 1992 nobody had heard of this little trick and to be honest, it was a big edge at times. Of course we did not have any weed grinders or Ridge Monkey gizmos that are around today. No, we simply crushed each bait with a pair of pliers.
We saw that the carp angler we had taken to calling Mr Orange-Marker was actually fishing, for the first time. 'His' swim was on the opposite bank and apparently there was a fairly large plateau at casting range that he was fishing. We’d become accustomed to his evening visits to bait up from his little blue-hulled dinghy, but this was the first time we’d seen him cast out a bait. He didn’t seem too interested in the world that was passing him by; surreptitious scrutiny through the binoculars revealed that he was fast asleep. Not a bad plan!
We spent the afternoon in lazy contemplation of the lake. A few cars drew up along the far bank as several groups and couples took their post-Sunday dinner stroll around the lake. A lone sailboarder juggled his plank in the light afternoon breezes: it was all very peaceful and idyllic, and I dozed off in the cooling sunshine as the weekend drew to a close.
At five o’clock Ali cooked dinner for us all. She did Boeuf Bourguignon and it brilliant. It was also a good excuse to open a couple of bottles of wine. I had just tucked in to the first mouthful when my buzzer sounded. Why do they always wait until you’re eating a hot meal before they take?
I dashed down the bank to my rods. The fish was going like a train but eventually it slowed and I managed to get a few turns of line back onto the reel. Then it was off again fighting in the deep water more or less half way between our margin and the far bank. On such a long line I had little control over the fish; it could do more or less whatever it liked and it liked the idea of putting as much distance between us as possible. Finally it reached the distant plateau way up towards the barrage. There it stopped, turned, and powered its way back across the lake. It was obviously going to plough right through the little Frenchman’s lines, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. This is me doing my best Christopher Robin goes carping impression, hanging on for dear life while the fish does whatever it wants!
By now Gary had joined me with the net, and as we were pulled along the bank by the still-powerful fish, Bill asked our friend to drop his rods as we passed though his swim. The fish was still way out in the lake, hugging the bottom and refusing all my fruitless attempts to turn it or bring it closer in to the bank. And so we went on, getting ever further from my swim as the fish continued to pull my arms off. It was an awesome fight. Gary told me later that it lasted only twenty minutes. I say 'only' but from where I was standing it seemed like hours.
We saw the fish for the first time when it swirled among some tendrils of weed growing in the margins of the west-facing arm - yes, that’s how far we’d been dragged by the fish. It looked big, but not that big. Then it turned head on and we saw the width of it. I started to shake; I think I’d always known it was a good fish. Indeed Gary later mentioned that the first words I’d spoken when he joined me with the net were “big fish!”, but now I got a look at it, I needed no further telling. It was well over thirty.
21 Mar 2018 at 5.01pm
In reply to Post #289
I did a yard of pix on both his camera and on mine, and though it was only seven o’clock in the morning, we got the cognac bottle out for a celebration. Little did I know, as I stopper'ed the bottle, that I was just one year away from catching that same common myself, nor, in the more immediate future did I know that later that same day I would be pulling the cork from the neck once again - this time for my own celebration.
Sunday was a day I’ll not forget in a hurry. It had started on a high note with Gary’s big common, but for Bill and me the most notable thing to notice was that the number of runs we were getting was gradually decreasing. It occurred to me that perhaps Gary was cutting us off as fish moved up the lake from our right, arriving at his widely baited area first, then spooking into deeper water, further from the bank, whenever he had a take.
I borrowed Gary’s boat and sounder and went for a scout around. I have had considerable experience of echo-sounders, gathered over the years while I have been at sea, and while I have never placed much store in them as fish-finders. For finding features and depths they are indispensable, especially if they have a Grey Line facility. This allows the experienced user to differentiate between a hard and a soft bottom, isolating patches of silt or gravel, weed and more solid snags. Gary’s was one such sounder.
For most of the morning I rowed back and forth, following a distinct drop-off contour at twenty-eight feet. I remembered what Rod had said about this depth. According to the Maestro it was the 'magic' depth to fish in really deep waters. I plodded back and forth along the 28 foot contour line. The lake bed seemed to be almost entirely made up of soft silt about six to eight inches deep. However, I found one area of really hard gravel situated in front of Bill some one hundred and eighty yards out. I dropped the anchor on it and 'donked' and the reassuring thump that came back told me that the sounder had not lied, the lake bed was rock solid beneath the boat. I dropped a marker on the feature so that I could find it again, for it was very small, no more than a couple of square yards or so.
While I was out in the boat, Bill had a run. The fish had picked up a bait that he’d rowed out into no-mans-land, simply throwing a dozen free offerings around the hookbait that was lying in thirty feet of water, at least two hundred and fifty yards from the bank. The fish was another double, sixteen pounds, a mirror. Being a Sunday there were quite a few after-diner ramblers taking a stroll around the lake and Bill's fish caught some attention.
“What have you put that marker on, Ken?” Bill asked me when I got back to shore. I told him and he immediately took over the boat, and while I held his rods, he rowed two hookbaits and a hundred freebies out to the marker. He had a run on one while he was rowing back! He rowed ‘till his arms were falling off, getting back to the bankside while the fish was still in full flight, and soon had a mirror of about seventeen pounds in the net. Point proved, I think and "thank you, Rod!"
As soon as Bill had rowed the rod back out to the marker I once more began my own search for a similar piece of hard ground in front of me. I found one, but it was a good hundred and fifty yards from the bank. Still, needs must and all that.
By midday I had all three rods and three hundred freebies sitting out there in twenty-eight feet of water and by three in the afternoon I’d had two takes, and lost them both. It was my first experience of fishing at such a range and I’m sure the hook had not been set properly. On each occasion the fish had got off within a few seconds of picking up the rod. There's a hell of a lot of stretch to deal with when you are fishing at that sort of range. Of course, I knew all about the advantages of using braid…from a charter boat, but it had never occurred to me that braid was the answer to the problems of sensitivity and stretch when fishing for carp at range.
21 Mar 2018 at 4.59pm
In reply to Post #288
Mid-afternoon: the little French carp angler settled into his swim on the point. For a couple of days we’d kept things on nodding terms only with maybe a wave and a `bonjour`, but gradually the ice was broken. The previous day we’d shared several beers together, conversing in my broken French. Today he returned the favour with a couple of bottles of home-made wine. It was rich, strong and truly delicious, but coming on top of the drinks we’d had with lunch, also a bit overpowering.
A little later, towards the evening, Cor and Marlies arrived, together with their dogs. They were camped on the site at the lake where we had stayed the first night and where Gary and Alison had been trying to catch carp for a week.
“I’d give it a miss if I were you,” Gary warned, with good reason.
“Why not come on here with us,” I offered. “There’s plenty of room.”
“Maybe,” said Cor. “We’ll see how we get on at the other lake first.”
(l - r: Alison, Marlies, Cor and Gary.)
Alison cooked an excellent supper for us all and we gathered in their swim for the social whirl. More wine, more beer, steak sandwiches with fried onions and mushrooms, and...what’s that noise? Yes. It was a run for Bill. He dropped everything and left in a hurry. It was a brief fight from a small fish but at last he managed to put one on the bank, a common of just over twelve pounds, but he’d broken his duck.
Night fell and as usual we wound in at about eleven. Gary however, decided to risk it.
“We got checked at one in the morning on our first night here,” we warned him. “The Garde-Peche are a bit hot under the collar about illegal night fishing in this region.”
“I’ll take my chances,” Gary said. “I’m here to catch carp.”
Can’t argue with that. It was Gary’s decision, his problem if he got caught. When, next morning, Gary peeled back the soggy sides of the carp sack to reveal a thirty-three pound common, we wondered if we had been right in keeping to the rules. But silly though they may be, they were the rules of the land. I suppose we all catch fish on our own terms.
As it turned out, the night had been a feast of action for Gary. Just after midnight he’d had a screaming run from a fish that snagged him around a pike mooring pole. Shortly afterwards he had another take, this time a seventeen pound mirror. A bream followed at three in the morning, then, with dawn approaching on a gunmetal sky, the big fish. It had fought, Gary later told us, like nothing he’d ever caught before, stripping many yards of line off his reel. The fight had lasted nearly half an hour, and by the time he had landed it, he was three hundred yards down the bank and the sun had risen well above the tree line. At 33lbs 8ozs it was a personal best common and at the time Gary’s second biggest ever carp.
Looks a bit grumpy…the fish, not Gary!
Ali does the pix of Gary's big common.
21 Mar 2018 at 4.56pm
In reply to Post #287
Alison was all for the idea. She had not enjoyed the last couple of days as Gary’s German friends had proved rather too... what? Exuberant, shall we say? And that’s putting it mildly. I think that once I’d told them that our lake offered them peace and quiet and hopefully a few fish and the odd laugh or two, Alison was convinced. Gary was not so sure. Quite understandably he was in rather a black mood - and who wouldn’t have been - but his wife is very gorgeous and has a way with the lad when she wants to get her own way. She whispered seductively in his ear. Whatever she said it had the desired effect: “We’ll come and join you,” said Gary!
We drove back to our lake to find Bill looking disconsolate. He had lost another big fish! My heart went out to the bloke. He was having some really tough luck this year and it didn’t look as if his fortunes were about to change for the better. Gary and Alison set up about eighty yards away to our right, and while she did the easy bit - you know, putting up the bivvy, preparing the bedding, the kitchen. the pots and pans - Gary did the fishing bit…He was really going for it. Action Man at the ready. He took their tiny boat off the roof-rack and then he was away, paddling about the lake like a mad thing, maize and boilies showering around his head as he baited an extensive area of the lake more or less out in front of him. With the help of his echo sounder he quickly found a small gully running through his swim and he concentrated most of his baiting in this channel.
I was so engrossed watching Action Man at work I almost forgot to put my own rods out again. It was a few minutes after eight o’clock in the morning: I had just cast the third rod out and was adjusting the indicator when middle rod was away. Nothing very spectacular, but the fifteen pound common was a nice greeting for Gary and Alison. It was proof at least that I had not been telling porkies.
An hour later, and Gary needed no further proof. He was away himself to a very strong fish that fought hard for a quarter of an hour or more. When at last it was in the margins we could all see that it was a very pretty, heavily scaled mirror of perhaps thirty pounds. Certainly the biggest fish Bill and I had seen so far.
“You’ve got some neck, haven’t you?” I joked. “Coming on here and stitching us up in less than an hour.”
I wish I’d kept my big mouth shut. The fish swirled on the surface and was gone. Gary is more vociferous than Bill and is well into rod-chucking. Then he swore, loud and long. I don’t blame him; it had been a very good fish.
The day passed peacefully enough, the weather continuing to bless us with warm sun and fresh southerly winds. Mid-morning I landed a very small carp, less than five pounds I’d guess; we didn’t weigh it. We all had lunch at the bar. By now we were on first name terms with Francois, the owner, and his growing friendliness was soon extended to the two newcomers to our party. We sat outside on the terrace eating steak and chips, drinking wine and watching the world go around. There was no need to hurry, the carp would still be there when we’d finished lunch. The little bar also doubled as the village's bakery and the fresh bread smells were divine, and the bread itself even more so. He was a busy bee was Francois.
21 Mar 2018 at 4.55pm
In reply to Post #286
On any English lake, if you’d waited patiently for fish to move onto your baits and eventually been rewarded by a few fish, you would be quite within your rights in imagining more and bigger fish to come the following day, yes? Not here! Friday was a complete blank for both of us. Why? I wish I knew. The conditions remained perfect, identical to the previous day. Could it be that the baiting program we’d agreed on and which had apparently been working fine, suddenly seemed to have let us down. It looked as if the lake had only built up our hopes in order to dash them on the rocks of over-confidence.
We took the rods in for the night at about ten o'clock and the rest of the night passed quickly, as we slept soundly, knowing that we had no reason to slumber on tenterhooks listening for a take, or the dreaded visit from the gardes. We recast at dawn and by six-thirty in the morning we were beginning to feel that we were on the wrong lake. Gary had not been come to join us a and I was more convinced than ever that I knew the reason. He was too busy catching carp! I had to find out what was going on. Though we were catching I wasn’t so certain that we really were on a big-fish water after all. Twenties are nice, but if Gary was catching forties, well, we wouldn’t miss the twenties all that much!
Leaving Bill on the rods I pulled off to go down to see Gary and Allison again but when I arrived on the bankside opposite the point where they had been fishing, it was clear that they had moved. There were three new bivvies in the swim and I could see through the binoculars that it was an German carper we both knew with a couple of his German friends. I shouted across to them, “Where is Gary?”
“They have moved to another lake,” was their reply amid much ribald laughter.
“Another lake? Where?” I asked.
"Grenoble! Don't be bloody silly, it bloody miles away." The Germans were clearly on a wind up. I started driving back to our lake, then changed my mind as I passed the barrage at the bottom end of the lake that Gary and Alison had been fishing. Pulling off into a rough lay-by I crossed the road and looked out over the lake from the middle of the barrage. There on the boat slip was Gary’s car. I drove down to join them. They were just about packed, only the boat left to tie onto the roof-rack. A very tall, sun-browned Dutch guy and a much shorter English angler were helping him.
“What’s the drama then, Gary?”
“We’ve had enough of this place,” Gary looked thoroughly pissed off. “We’re heading south to the sun.”
“Nothing doing here then?”
More nothings. I was getting used to them. “Anybody else catching?”
Gary turned to the English guy who was looking pleased with himself. “John’s had a thirty-nine pound mirror. That’s it.”
Big fish! I wondered why they wanted to move but said nothing. “We’re catching, Gary. Why not give our lake a go for the weekend. Don’t go flying off down south just yet, come and join us. If you don’t fancy the lake or you still want to move on, you can always do it on Monday. The roads will be chocker now, it’ll take you ages to get down there. What do you say?”
21 Mar 2018 at 4.51pm
In reply to Post #285
A bit later he came to join me for a consolatory beer or two. He was still shaking:
"You know me, mate,” he said. “I give ‘em wellie. I’m not soft on fish. I’ve landed my share. But that fish? Well, that fish was something else!”
Enough said. The action, though fruitless, raised our spirits considerably, though being a natural born pessimist, I couldn’t help wondering how Gary was doing further down the valley. He must be catching by now, I thought. I was tempted to drive down there and see how he was getting on, but was torn between the likelihood of another take, this time for me, and the urge to find out how the other lake was fishing. My fervent desire for a carp, of any size, got the better of me, so I sat it out until well after dark, but to no avail.
Once again we pulled the rods in at about ten-thirty. It was our third night on the water, and we hadn’t been revisited by the G de P as far as I knew. It was breaking my heart, winding in at a time when I felt sure fish would be feeding, but the first night nod was better than any wink.
The weather continued warm and tranquil throughout the daylight hours, with temperatures falling after dark. The wind, what there was of it, stayed firmly in the south, bringing little expectation of any major change. I felt that perhaps a bit more breeze might stir the carp into feeding.
Thursday dawned fresh and muggy. It wasn’t exactly raining, but it was trying hard. The sky was overcast and a south-westerly blew up the lake, carrying dampness on its warm currents and leaving a coating of soft drizzle in its wake. The surface of the lake ruffled slightly in the breeze and it looked as if we were in for a bit of a blow and some rains. Not nice for holidays; much nicer for fishing! At eight o’clock as I was eating a thick ham sandwich, I had my first run of the trip. It put up no fight to speak of, but at least it was a carp. All five pounds of it. Not what we were here for!
I recast the rod and put quite a lot of free offerings around the hookbait. I was beginning to think that perhaps I wasn’t putting enough bait out, and lamented our lack of space which had forced us to leave our beloved groats behind.
Whether I did something right for a change or whether it was pure luck, I was away again at eleven. A bit bigger: sixteen and a half pounds. Half an hour later I had another run but lost the fish after a few minutes. Like all fish that get off, it felt quite sizeable. Meanwhile, Bill was sitting impatiently, waiting for his next run. Though we were only fishing a few yards apart, this morning what runs there were seemed to be coming to my rods.
At lunchtime, I wound in and left Bill to guard the rods; my impatience to know how Gary was getting on had finally got the better of me. I drove down the valley through the woods, until I came out on the point opposite Gary’s swim. I whistled to him and soon he was ashore, but he was wearing a long face. “Nothing?” I asked him. Nah, nothing!” he replied. I passed on the news of our bit of action. Gary decided to stick it out and I returned to the lake to join Bill.
It was about three o’clock by the time I got back to Bill. Quickly I cast my out to my marker, and less than an hour later had two more fish on the bank: 24lb and 21lb and taken within ten minutes of each other. Two hours later I had another twenty, 23lb to be exact. That's more like it. Meanwhile Bill remained fishless, poor bugger. We were on the same bait, same rig, fishing more or less side by side in virtually the same depth of water, yet apart from Bill’s lost fish yesterday, all the runs and all the fish were coming to me. I wasn’t complaining, but that sort of carry-on can make you feel uncomfortable. At least we both felt that we were on the right track in staying not only on this lake, but in the same swims. It was surely only a matter of time before Bill cracked a big fish but for now, at last a few fish had come my way:
21 Mar 2018 at 4.49pm
In reply to Post #284
From the bar we could see our bivvies nestled under the woods of the west bank. As we ate our host explained that though the swims we had picked were generally well thought off, unfortunately they weren’t fishing at all well at the moment. He told us that we were fishing an area that a Dutch couple had spent the previous week blanking...How nice! They had moved to the opposite side of the lake and had also blanked the area close to the plateau. Not for them the niceties of the regular’s etiquette. Finally they had moved yet again, this time to fish a gully more or less opposite where we were fishing. Here they had finally run into a few fish. I wondered if we shouldn’t move to the gully as well.
“It is early days yet. Let’s see how the next couple of days work out. We can always move later on if things don’t go to plan,” said Bill.
“Yeah, OK. Who knows, maybe Gary and Alison are catching a hatfull.”
News of the Dutch success had geed us up a bit. So what if they had blanked where we were fishing, who’s to say they were any good. Maybe they were fishing it wrong. Perhaps the carp just weren’t there at the time. We had plenty of time to sit it out...
Which is exactly what we did. For the next thirty-six hours we watched motionless indicators, mocked by silent buzzers. We ate lunch at the bar: played at pike fishing to while away the odd hour or two: drank a few beers and a bottle or two of wine and generally fretted. Should we move; should we stay put. We stayed put. We took it in turns to walk the lake looking for fish, and nearly forty-eight hours after moving into the swims, we were rewarded - after a fashion.
It was mid afternoon, Wednesday. We were dozing in our bivvies, lunch and a few beers encouraging rather droopy eyelids. I was almost asleep when I heard a buzzer scream out in a long continuous shriek. I had no idea if it was my rod or Bill’s that was away, but I scrambled into my flip-flops and charged out of my bivvy. Bill was halfway towards the rods, his arms wind milling as he plunged down the steep bank to the water’s edge. His middle rod was in full flight.
Whoosh! He swept the rod up, clamping his hand over the rapidly emptying spool, and struck, hard. He was answered by a wrench that almost tore the rod from his grasp and the fish took of at twice the speed. On and on it plunged, defying all of Bill’s efforts to stop it. I could see the darker backing line below Bill’s 15lb Big Game.
“That’s some fish, isn’t it, Bill?” I asked.
“What do you think?” I asked him. “It’s surely a right lump, no?”
“Got to be. I can’t do anything with it.”
Still the fish ran. Savage, arm-wrenching runs that pounded Bill’s thirteen foot, three pound test Armalite as if it was a little kids rod. Bill had no control over it and the situation was rapidly getting out of hand. **** or bust time loomed large. Bill clamped the spool again, holding the rod high to try and stop the fish’s headlong rush. I watched the line pick up off the water. It seemed to hiss under the tension. Swiftly the angle of the line where it entered the water decreased and suddenly, with a massive swirl, the fish broke the surface. It was immense! Even though the fish was over two hundred yards after that fantastic run, I still got a clear view of an immense golden flank, massive broad shoulders and an impressive paddle-shaped tail. It wasn’t a carp, it was a bloody whale.
Then it was gone. The line fell slack then started to fall as the lead dropped back down towards the lake bed. The fish had shed the hook. Bill was gutted but he is not a man given to extremes of temper. Not for him the rod-flinging tantrums or yelled expletives directed at the Gods of fishing. He simply turned away from the water with the briefest curse and walked up the bank towards his bivvy. At moments like this most anglers prefer their own company to the sympathetic words of others, so, handing him a beer, I left Bill alone to get over the lost fish in his own way. I was all set to take a pic of Bill in action when the line went slack as the fish shed the hook. The shutter fired at that exact same moment!
20 Mar 2018 at 5.30pm
In reply to Post #283
At about ten o’clock we decided it was time to get the rods in. Several different sources had warned us that the gardes-peche were very active in the area, not least the owner of the local bar who told us that our presence had already been reported to the authorities by a neighbour, well known for his interfering, busy-body outlook on life. Not even French anglers were safe from his over-zealous vigilance as he scanned the banks with binoculars from the veranda of his house that looked out onto the lake.
“He is a pain in the arse,” declared Francois the bar owner, throwing another Pastis down his throat. At least, that’s what I think he said! We would get to know him and Pastis a lot better as the holiday progressed! Here this most convivial of hosts shares the wicked aniseed-based liquor with two of his equally convivial customers (though they don't look it here!).
We propped the rods up against the bivvies in full view from the track that followed the lake’s edge and with a final sip from the wine bottle we both turned in. I was awoken sometime later. I had no idea what time it was. A torch was flashing about the banks, playing its beam over my bivvy. I could hear soft whisperings. My first thought was that it was someone after the gear, then I realised that I was in France. That particular aspect of modern carp fishing has yet to strike over there. So if it wasn’t thieves, who? It had to be the gardes. I struggled with the sleeping bag, climbed out and crouched in the doorway. The torch was flashing around Bill’s bivvy now. In the newly risen moon I could see their outlines, the soft light glinted off the dull sheen of their guns… Of their what! These guys were loaded for bear!
They spoke hardly a word between them, and then, only in whispers. Satisfied that we were not breaking the night fishing ban, they left as silently as they had arrived, without uttering a word to us.
“Bill!” I called. There was no answer. My friend had slept through the surreptitious visit.
“Well, that’s a result,” I said to myself, climbing back into bed. Just as well we’d got the rods in. I told Bill of our nocturnal encounter when he awoke the following morning. He was as pleased as I was that we’d played it by the rules. There is a certain satisfaction in being law-abiding!
We cast out and made the tea. Dawn’s crispness brought a heavy mist that drasped dampness over our bivvies, rods…everything. I got the rods out and then went for a short walk towards the southern end of the lake where I came across dozens of herons, standing motionless in the shallows. I’d never seen so many in one gathering. “What’s the collective noun for herons?” I asked myself. The lake must be teaming with fry. From a distance they looked like frock-coated old men, hunched backs, spindly legs.
The early morning mist swirled around them, softening shadows and blurring outlines. They stood like grey ghosts, silent witnesses to epic carp battles of the past, perhaps? I strolled back to my bivvy where Bill was still asleep. I left him to his dreams and got back into the bag. It was still chilly and a cup of tea warmed the inner man most effectively!
The morning dragged its feet towards beer-o-clock. The carp weren't playing ball and the bar looked very inviting across the other side of the bay. A swift half at the Auberge du Lac was called for: "Two steak-frites and two large beers please, Francois."
Off for a beer or six as it's my birthday but there's more to come...and we even catch some fish!
20 Mar 2018 at 5.27pm
In reply to Post #282
We set up the bivvies about a couple of hundred yards down the bank from the French guy's point. At water’s edge the margins were slippery and very muddy, but about twenty yards back, fresh dry grass and ferns grew in profusion giving a flat, comfortable area on which to bivvy. It was early evening before we were both set up to our satisfaction. We'd put a bit of bait in sort of willy-nilly but spread over a large area using a throwing stick in my case and a caty in Bill's. He could not get the hang of a stick no matter how hard he tried; in fact the harder he tried the more frustrated he became and I'll tell you a funny story about that one day!
The weather had been kind to us from the minute we’d set foot in France, and it continued that way, sunny but not too hot, with a moderate southerly breeze that puffed towards us up the full length of the lake. The sun had long since dropped behind the trees behind us, but it still shone brightly on the sand-golden shore of the far bank where a few young kids were playing and swimming. On the point our new found friend sat crunched on an uncomfortable folding stool, gazing intently at the water and his rods in turn, as if willing one of them to burst into life. He was not using buzzers, his only indication of a take coming from a slice of potato, slit half way across and wedged onto the line. Shades of Dick Walker!
Bill looked up the bank at his motionless form. “He’s a bit bloody keen, isn’t he?”
“He’s only a child, Bill,” I told him. “He’ll learn. For the moment he has youth and patience on his side. One day, when he’s older and more blasé, no doubt he’ll loose some of that keenness, and become a plebe like us.”
We went into town to do some shopping and get the licences, stopping on the way back for fresh water from a tap in a village square. A small bar looked inviting and as both of us have the breaking strain of a Kit-Kat, we didn’t take much persuading.
“Fancy a beer?”
“Need you ask!”
Later that evening, as the last of the suns rays slid away from the treetops on the far bank, we sat by the bivvies eating a dinner of Boeuf Bourguignon, new potatoes and carrots, all washed down with a couple of bottles of Bordeaux. We felt, at last, as if we were actually on holiday.
We were both fishing about seventy yards out, our baits lying on a silty lake bed in (we estimated) about twenty feet of water. We’d seen no sign of a fish so far, but we were hopeful. It seemed that on the bank we were fishing the lake bed sloped gradually and evenly away to a depth of about thirty feet before rising again as it neared the far bank. Here the contours were much more broken with a few bars, gullies and the big plateau that the guy on the point had mentioned. Unfortunately we couldn’t fish these areas without incurring the possible wrath of the other `regulars`, despite the fact that, for the moment they were nowhere to be seen.
Dusk fell, then night came fast. The sky cleared and a profusion of stars sparkled overhead. The heat of the day had fled with the sun and a keen chill fell over the lake. The wind dropped away completely and in the still air the only sound we could hear was the hooting of an owl in the trees on the far bank. It was a perfect ending to a hectic day.
20 Mar 2018 at 5.25pm
In reply to Post #281
We went down to the bar by the lakeside and ate an unfulfilling Continental breakfast, then set off to look for Gary. I had a rough idea where to look, but despite that, we still got lost several times, often taking what looked like promising side roads that should have led down to the lake, only to find ourselves in a farmyard or a field, Finally we got it right and broke through a stand of trees to find the lake stretched out in front of us, dominated by a point that Gary had been advised to fish by some German friends. Sure enough, there was Gary’s bivvy.
I shouted and whistled across the quarter of a mile of calm lake water that separated us. Two small figures appeared from within one of the bivvies, waved, then took to a small dinghy and started rowing across to us. Squelching through the knee-deep mud that lined the margins, Gary and Alison waded ashore to greet us. We explained our late arrival and then asked him what was wrong with Chantecoq. What was the problem? This is what he told us...
“Problems? You name it, it’s there. The bays near the church were completely stitched up. There were rods everywhere. We drove round to another likely area on the south-west bank and that was busy too. Finally we ended up opposite the church at the northern end of the lake, only to find loads of French and Dutch anglers there who seemed very upset at being spotted by an English angler. It appears that this area is the new hot stop and we heathens haven’t yet discovered it. You've been rumbled! We drove back to the church and looked at the rather disappointing campsite we’d been told about. Very expensive and not too clean. And then there's the mud, acre upon acre of it. We said `sod this!` and got back into the car for the drive down here. That’s about it really. The mud you see here is nothing compared to Chantecoq. It was an arse’ole of a place, as I said on the phone. Wouldn’t fish it if it held carp of a hundred pounds.”
“So when did you get here?” I asked.
“Two days ago,” said Gary. “By pure chance we drove straight down the right road, arrived here and saw that the swim was free, so we loaded up the boat and went over right away."
“So, any good?” I asked.
“Had a bream.” said Gary.
“Is there anyone else fishing here?”
“Yes. There’s an English guy down there in the bay. He’s fishing with a Dutch friend of his. They’ve had nothing. There’s a party of four Dutch anglers on this bank about a mile down to the left.” He pointed. “There, see them? They’ve been here a week and they’ve had nothing. There are two French guys right down by the damn...”
“Not now there aren’t,” I interrupted.
“Then they must have moved, or perhaps they’ve gone to another lake. Anyway, they’ve had nothing.”
“It’s fishing well, then?” said Bill, laughing.
“Brilliantly!” said Gary, not laughing.
“****!” I exclaimed.
“Quite!” agreed Alison.
It was time for Bill and me to make a decision. I rummaged in the car for the motoring atlas. “Why don’t we try this lake down the valley. The tackle dealer I spoke to on the phone told me that there were carp in there and Cor de Man has also tipped me the wink about it. We can’t do any worse that you are doing here, so we'll give that place a try and if we start catching we'll come and tell you and we can team up. Same applies if you start bagging up"
“Good plan,” agreed Gary.
Leaving our bivvies and most of our gear on the camp site, we set of for the next lake on the list and about fifty minutes later we pulled up on the barrage. The lake was completely deserted.
20 Mar 2018 at 5.24pm
In reply to Post #280
(I am reminded of an, allegedly true story. Keith the Tooth and a mate were en route for St Cassien, driving the tackle laden van, while the other members of the party belted south ahead of them in two cars. The Tooth had only the vaguest idea of the route but one thing he had been told was to always keep the Eiffel Tower on your left. Keith reminded his mate of this little piece of wisdom, telling him to keep his eyes open as they approached the city from the north, on the motorway in from Calais. “Fair enough,” said the mate. All seemed to be going well, except that they seemed to have been on the ring road for longer than Keith had expected. He began to get the nasty feeling that they might have missed their turning and were about to do a second circuit. His worst fears were confirmed when until the mate spoke: “This Eiffel Tower thing,” he asked warily. “What about it?” said Keith. “What does it look like?” asked the mate!)
Traffic seemed light on the way in from Dieppe but snarl-up that greeted us as we drove through the underpass at the southern end of the Bois de Boulogne and onto the Periphferique was horrendous. Now I knew why all the guide books, backed up with the advice of friends, said avoid this ring road at all costs! Why had I ignored them!
I knew the exit we wanted, it was called the Porte de Bercy. It looked quite jolly as we drove under it, still on the ring road. I couldn’t have crossed over to the exit if my life had depended on it. There was so much traffic criss-crossing in front of me I was feeling dizzy. Luckily I managed to work my way across into the right-hand lane in time to make the next exit, the Porte de Charenton in the Bois de Vincennes, and somehow, by a mixture of good luck and lousy judgement, we managed to find our way onto the A4 Paris - Reims motorway, only to hit the wrong turn-off which took us onto the N4, a dreadful, single carriageway road that was choked with Sunday drivers.
Turning off towards Provins and Troyes eventually brought us back onto the south-bound motorway, the A5, and as we picked up speed at last, Bill told me that we were passing a big reservoir that I’d heard about from Cor earlier that year. “Shall we have a look at that one on the way down,” he asked. “Bugger that!” I replied. “I’m not stopping until we get to our original destination. There had been enough detours today already, thank-you.”
What a mistake that was! The reservoir we were rushing past with gay abandon was none other than the now very famous, the Lac de la Foret D’Orient. In less than a year’s time, history would be made on its banks. Leon Hoojendjik was just twelve months away from a seventy pound common!
After a brief stop for a meal, we finally arrived at the lake where we had agreed to meet Gary at nine o’clock in the evening after an ten hour drive. It wasn’t supposed to take that long, but you learn from your mistakes, and taking the Peripherique was just one of the many that I made that day. Too shattered to go looking for Gary in the gathering gloom, we drove on to the lakeside camp site, pitched the bivvies and went to find the nearest bar.
I slept like a log that night and awoke early on the Monday morning to find a beautiful sunrise just peeping over the tops of the heavily wooded hillside that loomed over the northern bank of the lake. It was quite chilly and very still, the air crisp and fresh. Below me the lake spread before me in a panorama that dominated the valley, its surface calm and undisturbed. It was beautiful! I sat on a rock, overlooking the full length of the five-hundred acre wilderness, and as the sun rose, huge and orange, it kissed the lake with a warmth and softness that only added to the poetry of the moment.
20 Mar 2018 at 5.20pm
In reply to Post #279
I got busy making up forty mixes of a Preservabait-enhanced Enervite/Hi-Nu-Val combination, flavoured with a sweetener and the same liquid enhancer that Bob Baker was using in the birdfood shelf lifes. The finished baits were dried out for 72 hours before being bagged. I had my fingers firmly crossed that my home made preservative would do the trick. Bill, meanwhile, was hard at work in his own bait kitchen, making tons of his own, highly unique, Obnoxious Blend mix, also flavoured with the liquid enhancer that he’d been using since his early days in Savay. By a strange coincidence his baits smelt remarkably similar to my own. I can’t think why!
With over seventy kilos of boilies to cram into my little Renault, let alone the rest of our tackle and clothes, there was absolutely no room for any particles or mass baits. We would just have to rely on boilies to do the trick. As we waited impatiently for departure-day to come around, news came back from Chantecoq of still more incredible bags of big carp. It certainly appeared that the lake was one fit to go straight into the book of dreams, with thirties being commonplace and forties almost equally so.
Franck Matin (see earlier posts) rang to tell me of a trip to Chanty from which he’d just returned. In a ten day period two of them had caught fifty-three fish of which thirty-three were over thirty pounds and ten over forty pounds! Franck broke his personal best five times in two days and when I tell you that his previous PB was thirty-eight pounds, you’ll realise what a staggering achievement that was! On the down side, Franck told me that there was considerable aggravation from the authorities over night fishing and the need for boat licences. Camping on the lakeside was strictly forbidden, even putting a brolly up was construed as camping. And then there was the mud! If you’ve fished there, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, well, lets put it this way, Franck said me that, no matter what I had previously experienced in the way of mud, nothing compare to Der when the level was down.
It sounded awful and though it was clearly the next big circuit water, full of thirties and forties. I think there has got to be a bit of beauty in a lake, and fishing a sea of mud, albeit for big fish, wasn’t as tempting to me as you might imagine. For all that, it would be silly not to take a look at the water.
Just before he was due to leave, Gary rang. Someone had been tempting him too. and he was going to look at Chanty on the way down. I agreed that a look at the lake couldn’t do any harm adding that we could always move on if it was not to our liking. I knew only one landmark on the lake, the church at Champaubert, so we arranged to meet up by the church. Cor had mentioned a reasonable camp site there, so we amended our plans.
I poured over the map, and eventually sorted out what I hoped would be the best route to the lake from Dieppe. We would be arriving in France at about ten in the morning on the Sunday. Five hours maximum to the lake, I thought. The allegedly terrifying Peripherique, the ring road around Paris, will be almost empty! Piece of cake...Oh, you think so do you?
The day before we were due to sail I packed the car and then dove up to collect Bill on the Saturday before we were due to sail. After squeezing his gear into the car we walked up to the pub for a few beers to ease the tension that always swamps me whenever I get anywhere near the M25. A message awaited us when we got back to Bill’s house: Gary had rung to say that Chantecoq was an arse’ole of a place! Cancel Plan B: revert to Plan A! I wondered what was wrong with it. Bill’s sister who had taken the message mentioned something about mud! I was secretly pleased that we’d be giving the lake a miss, to be honest.
Sunday, first light, saw us boarding the ferry at Newhaven. I was knackered having passed a sleepless night in excited anticipation. The crossing was the usual mix of beer and boredom, but at least the weather was kind to me. At Dieppe we drove straight off the boat and in minutes were deep in the heart of the Normandy countryside, heading for Rouen, and the motorway to Paris. By lunchtime the slender finger of the Eiffel Tower loomed ever larger as we approached the capital and its legendary ring road, the Peripherique.
20 Mar 2018 at 5.19pm
In reply to Post #278
Which is how I came to fill a quarter of an hour of tape with the recorded voice of a distant tackle shop owner dripping priceless jewels of carpy information onto the machine’s slowly revolving spools. Several hours with the dictionary and I had all the information I required. Five, possibly six lakes , plus a stretch of river, all of which had produced some very big carp. The lakes were not being heavily fished and the river’s potential had hardly been touched. Oh, yes! One of the lakes had produced a leather that had weighed in at thirty-one kilos. Surely this was the venue where Arnout had caught.
The lake in question, one of four that lie within an hour of each other along a deep valley, was big - seven hundred acres big, long and narrow, divided into three sections by bridges that spanned the long finger of deep water. A railway line to the south, a main road to the north. Shouldn’t be hard to find. I opened the map and went straight to it. I was all of a twitch, now that I knew where a truly monstrous fish had been caught, but then a letter from Cor de Man arrived. Enclosed was a copy of an article in German magazine, `Blinker`, by a German guy who’d tracked down Arnout’s lake. Not only had he caught the same fish, he also gave chapter and verse of how to find the lake etc. Thanks a bunch, pal! Cor wrote that the lake was now getting heavily pressured and the Garde-Peche were becoming fierce! In the same letter Cor mentioned that he’d heard of another lake nearby that was producing some big fish but it too was becoming very busy with loads of Dutch and German anglers on it. It looked is if it was now or never if I was going to get onto one of these lakes before the world and his wife joined me. This is the lake in question, or a small part of it. The pairs of poles driven into the lake bed are a common sight on many French barrage lakes. They are used by pike and zander anglers to moor up. They can be a right pain in the arse!
Now to book a ferry. I was tempted by a good deal on Stenna Sealink’s Newhaven-Dieppe route offering a fifty percent reduction for return trips taken in September. It tipped the scales. My mate Speedy Bill had earlier mentioned that he would be only too happy to go carp fishing in France again whenever I fancied. I gave him a call to ask if he was free for the proposed dates. Yes, he was. Excellent!
Before we left home I phoned Cor to tell him where we would be fishing and when. He told me that he and his missus were taking some leave in mid-September and were planning on visiting the same region; that it would be great if we could arrange the dates and maybe fish together. I booked the cheap Newhaven - Dieppe crossing for the morning of 6th September. I knew that Gary was crossing the same route two days earlier and was intending to fish one of the four lakes. We arranged to meet him on the bankside.
Meanwhile, we needed some bait! I rang Mick Richardson of Supremo baits and arranged for Speedy to go round to his house to collect 40 kilos of mixed ready-mades. The information that was filtering back from Cor indicated that there was something of a crayfish problem on the all the big eastern lakes and rock hard boilies were the order of the day. We knew from sad experience that the Richworth shelfies of the time were too soft and not even their 18mm jobs would last any length of time given the presence of crays and poison-chats. A shame, for I had always done well on the Birdfood Enhancer version but there was no getting away from it, the Richworths were too soft for most waters in the east of France. American signal crayfish, six inches long, make short work of most baits, and only rock hard jobs would suffice if we were not to be plagued by hoards of the little monsters.
To augment the ready mades we I got busy with rolling tables and bait guns. As it happened, I was at the beginning of a research program into chemical preservatives that would work on ordinary home produced baits. I had been in touch with a laboratory in Exeter where a member of the staff suggested a preservative called potassium sorbate that he reckoned might do the trick. I bought 500g of the stuff, half of which I sent to Speedy for his bait. (Much later I passed on my findings to Big Bill at Nutrabaits and not long after, with my full approval, the company released their own boiled bait preserver, Preservabait.
20 Mar 2018 at 5.18pm
In reply to Post #277
Now read on...
RUMOURS: September 1992
In the early summer of 1991 I began to pick up the odd whisper on the grapevine about an astonishing catch of big carp from an unknown water in eastern France. My French pal Franck had told us when we first met of a water in the east that was producing loads of big carp. It seemed that a Parisian carp angler had caught twenty-eight carp, most of which were over thirty pounds in weight, his biggest fish being fifty-one pounds. And all this in just three days fishing, on his own during daylight hours only. He’d caught 1,000lbs of fish, with an average weight of thirty-eight pounds!
I had an inkling that the water was Lac du Der but wasn’t sure…I should have picked up on that shouldn’t I! Later that same year I heard that Alan Taylor had enjoyed similar, if not better success on a lake, described variously as being in both southern and northern France at the same time. Was this Lac du Der? Finally, in the winter of came news from Bill Cottam of Nutrabaits. He was in the process of putting together the bait catalogue for the coming year. One of his Dutch tackle shops had sent in a story for the magazine. It concerned the capture of a massive carp, almost seventy pounds in weight, from a French lake, somewhere in the east of the country. Apparently a of Dutch guys had put together a catch comprising of thirteen twenties, thirteen thirties, five forties and the Beast, as they called it. Not content with their success one of the party, Arnout Terlouw, a carp angler of great repute in Holland and the rest of Europe, went back to the lake and caught the fish again at a weight of over 65lb. Lac du Der again?
By the summer of '92 I had been corresponding with Dutch fishing journalist, Cor de Man for over a year, and it was from him that the word came back about the lac du Der-Chantecoq, and this was the lake that had been throwing up the big bags of large fish. Arnout's fish was not from the Der but from another, much smaller barrage in eastern France the identity of which was not immediately forthcoming. I began scrutinising the detailed maps of the region with greater care. Previously the area had held little attraction for me, my preference being for the less popular lakes of western France and Brittany. I knew that it was only a matter of time before the masses of UK anglers discovered these wonder lakes but these impressive catches were hard to ignore and I found myself becoming ever more drawn under the spell cast by the prospect of a truly giant carp, so armed with a list of potential lakes and Henri Limouzin’s reference book, “Where to fish in France”, I began telephoning the local tourist offices, the offices of the regional angling federations and the larger fishing tackle shops in the region.
My confidence with the French language had been growing with every visit, to a point where I was now able to carry on a basic telephone conversation, ask the right questions and, up to a point, understand the answers. But several phone calls later, I was no further forward and was becoming just a tad dispirited. Then came the breakthrough I was hoping for. It started innocuously enough with a phone call to yet another tourist information office. After a somewhat halting exchange the girl on the information desk gave me the number of a tackle shop in the town. They would be able to give me all the help I required, she told me.
I rang the number, “Hallo!” came a Gitaine-laced greeting. In for a penny, Ken...
“Bonjour, monsieur. Je voudrais des rensegnements de la peche a la carpe dans votre departement, s’il-vous plait!” I impressed myself if not the guy on the other end. The babble that came back over the wire was far too quick for me to understand. I didn’t even know if I had phrased my question correctly - I would like some information about carp fishing in your area, please - that was what I had tried to say. The babble continued in my ear. “Lentement, lentement, je vous en prie." (Speak more slowly please.)
If the bloke on the other end understood me, he gave no sign. I had obviously just contacted France’s most talkative tackle dealer who was now pouring valuable information down the phone, information that I could not understand. I put the phone down on the hall table, hoping that he would not realise I was not listening for the moment, and dashed into the living room. There I grabbed my pocket tape recorder, checked there was a new tape in the machine and got back to the phone with my own personal French Connection still in full flow.
17 Mar 2018 at 7.37pm
Not looked in here for a while and only just scanned through the latest additions to this magnificent thread, gonna take me a while to catch up!
Absolutely brilliant Ken, a real carp life
13 Feb 2018 at 4.30pm
In reply to Post #275
Going to take a bit of a break for a week or two. It's been a long winter but at last I feel the urge to fish again. There is more to come though so be patient!
13 Feb 2018 at 4.23pm
In reply to Post #274
The evening seemed to fly by and the drinks slid down. It was getting on for midnight when we tried to get away. Both of us had had too much to drink, but all the tackle was in the car and I didn’t want to leave it. “No problem,” said the `patron’. “My wife will drive your car home for you and my son will follow to bring her home. Have another drink!” How could we refuse?
So that was that for this trip. It was not the most successful trip we’d ever had, but it was certainly the most enjoyable so far. We’d caught a decent number of carp using just the four rods between us. All bar one were doubles, with a personal best for Tat, backed up with four other twenties from both venues. As for me, I had that solitary twenty pound common from the river and a few other doubles, but Tat had been the kiddie on this trip, no question. Think I'll leave her at home next time!
We spent the next day looking at a couple of lakes nearby that Michael had said were worth a look. One was private but the other was a huge water that had a reputation for huge pike and zander, but also for some very big carp, which were supposed to live in it's dark depths. Little did I know it at the time but one of those two lakes was going to figure large in my angling life in a few years time, but that tale is for later. That evening, as Tat prepared a farewell feast, I strolled down to the point on the big lake by the gite. In the windswept darkness a couple of French carp anglers were just packing up. They’d had no action all day. I felt quite smug inside!
Georges and Jeanine came up for our final evening along with yet more Chateau Georges. If you were to put a fancy label on his produce and sell it in the UK you’d think nothing of paying twenty quid a bottle for it. We were getting it for practically nothing. The door bell rang. It was Michael and his pals from the bar, come to celebrate out departure in style. If you wonder why we keep going back to France time after time, perhaps now you can understand.
Two years later, in October 1993, we went back to the gite for a week. The big lake looked just the same apart from the level. The summer of that year had been appalling and heavy rains had brought the level up. The point was all but under water. Sadly the river was completely unfishable; over its banks and going through like an express train. But the fisherman’s bar was just the same, Michael and his friends just as friendly. The Chateau Georges was better than ever.
Michael told me that in the summer he had been called out to witness a carp that had been caught by accident by a French pike angler. It had taken a livebait! The angler had kept the fish alive in a hessian sack until the official scales had arrived. After it had been weighed and recorded he wanted to kill it. Michael stopped him and returned the fish to the water. He watched as it swam off strongly and he turned to the astonished captor saying, “That one is for Tat or Ken.” What a lovely thought, and a startling change in attitude from a guy who had previously avowed death to all carp! The fish? It weighed fifty-five pounds!
(The record for the reservoir now stands at 28kg and because of this it is getting heavily fished by French carp anglers. I think I have given you enough clues if you want to find it yourself, so good luck if you happen to trip over it on your travels.)
Postscript: In January 1994 we had a ‘phone call from an English angler who had found George's gite by accident in much the same way we had. He had sad news. Georges had died just before Christmas of a heart attack. We were devastated. Georges had become a true friend and his gite a real home to us. We have not been back. Somehow it just wouldn’t be the same without him. Memory fades, but from time to time, usually as I’m sipping a glass of rather inferior wine, I think of him, his fabulous wine and his amazing zest for all the good things of life, and I raise my glass, take a gulp and with a lump in my throat say, “Here’s to you, Georges.”
13 Feb 2018 at 4.20pm
In reply to Post #273
We set up in the usual place on the jetty with the two rods fishing down the edge and two out in the middle. Runs seemed to be coming mainly from the foot of the jetty's wall and Tat laid claim to the rods straight from the off and as it turned out she was bang on the money. I caught three small commons that final day; Tat caught five commons and three mirrors including another big twenty…Bless! She puts her good fortune done to her mascots, which go everywhere with her when she goes fishing. I've taken them with me on occasion but they never bring me her sort of luck, if that's what it is. Here they are giving me a wave (though it's a good job they don't have fingers as I expect I'd be getting a couple!
And here are a few more of the lucky lady with some of the other fish she caught from the river.
I wouldn't mind but she is so laid back she's almost asleep most of the time. She's either got her head buried in a book or she's filling her face…I love her really, but sometimes I wish she's lay off catching so bloody many!
This is her final fish of the trip…another twenty! Can you hear my teeth gnashing?
We just had to call in at the fisherman’s bar that final night. Michael was wedged at the bar with a glassy-eyed look on his face. He’d obviously been there some time and he had a big grin spread across his face. “What’s he caught?” I asked one of the others.
“Un Brochet. Onze kilos. Magnifique!”
I turned to Michael. “Congratulations. What a fish!” He beamed a red wine smile at us. “And you?” he asked. “How have you done today in your quest for small carp?” He was back on the jibes again.
“Not so small, old pal.” I pointed at Tat who was trying to look modest and failing badly. “Tat has caught five fish over ten kilos,” I told him.
"From the big lake," he asked, astonished!
"No, one from the reservoir and four from the river." Tat was trying to hide her big smile to no avail.
"Well done lass," said Michael. What was the biggest? Not as big as my pike, I’ll bet.”
“Shall I tell him?” I whispered to Tat. She nodded.
“The biggest one from the river was 14.5kg and the others were all over ten kilos."
His jaw dropped as the whole bar laughed that a mere woman could best him. Then he grasped Tat in a big hug. “What are you going to drink? I have to celebrate with a beautiful girl who can fish as well.” He looked at me with a scowl. “Nothing for you! How can you let your wife out-fish you?” He had to get the last word in, though we were kindred spirits for the moment, both seen off by a mere woman!
13 Feb 2018 at 4.15pm
In reply to Post #272
The next day's weather was a repeat of what we'd experienced for most of the trip. Warm and still. Tat had been looking at the Series Bleu IGN maps which are very detailed and ideal for spotting tracks not shown on other maps. She had her eye on another swim not far away by an old stone road bridge that looked as if nothing had crossed it since the Revolution. The river here was slow and very deep, even in the margins we found ten feet of water. It was also much wider than the other swim, perhaps 200m across with hardly an discernible current. It looked very tasty! We set up the two pairs of rods to cover the margins and the middle of the river, chucked some boilies hither and yon and sat back to await developments.
As we sat in the sunshine we heard a loud cacophony of car or lorry engines and looking up we saw a procession of vehicles of all shapes and sizes coming slowly towards us down the track to the river. About a dozen assorted vehicles passed a few yards away and the drove along the unmade road alongside the river, heading upstream. It was clearly a group of travelers of which there are many in France, and they were obviously scouting out a new location to set up camp. I was a bit uneasy and I could see Tat was a bit nervous too and even when she had a take she was not her usual calm and gentle self. The fish was soon on the bank and Tat said, "let's get out of here!" Shame we hadn't found the spot earlier as the fish she'd caught was a good twenty, I'd say, though we didn't weigh or photograph it, as the gypsy encampment started to send a delegation down towards us. I felt sure they were going to ask us for the fish so it went back without the usual ceremony. We didn't fancy hanging around, just in case we caught another one. Exit the Townleys stage left!
(We went back to this spot in 2002. The place looked like a rubbish tip, though the gypsies were nowhere in evidence. There were rats running all over the place, in broad daylight too. We didn't stop. If they ever get around to cleaning up the place we'll be back.)
The next day we returned to the jetty swim. Once again the weather remained remarkably mellow for the time of year. Somebody up there likes us! As usual we fished the two and two arrangement and as usual it was the rods on the jetty that produced the majority of the action. Here's Tat in action with a fish that took hard up against the concrete wall of the jetty. Clearly they loved to feed along the wall, probably feeding on the crayfish that must have been here, though we never had any trouble with them.
…and here's the jammy lady in typical pose with a another twenty pound common.
We never need an excuse to sink a few and that evening found us in the bar again celebrating Tat's great day. Two twenties from the river…no mean feat. I was getting my arse kicked by the good lady wife (grrr) in no uncertain manner!
I was pretty happy with our results so far and with only a day of fishing time left we needed to make the most of it. Naturally once again we made a late start thanks to the demon drink but we were on holiday after all. I apologise if the constant references to bars, restaurants, beer and wine goes against the grain for some of you but for us carp angling is as much about the 'afters' as it is about the fishing.
13 Feb 2018 at 4.13pm
In reply to Post #271
We had three brim-full buckets of soaked groats ready to go that we'd started the previous night. Incidentally, you may have seen me write about cats and carp bait before, namely: if you want to know if your bait is any good see if the cat will eat it. If it goes mad for the bait then so will the carp. Seems like the gite's kittens love groats!
I put the first bucket of groats in with the bait scoop and topped up the carpet with boilies and then we set up the rods, one set on the concrete sill of the jetty with the baits fishing straight down the wall, the other pair covering margins some twenty yards upstream of the jetty. Note the bucket of groats extreme bottom left of this pic.
It was a glorious day as far as the weather was concerned, but as far as the carp were concerned they weren't hungry! This is par for the course with river carping. The shoals can be huge but they can also travel miles in search of food. Sure, they have their favourite feeding zones with which they are familiar - same as with lake dwelling carp - but sometimes it is a bit of a waiting game. The most important thin g is to make sure there is plenty of bait waiting for them when they arrive at their feeding zone (hopefully your swim!). It was now one o'clock and as true Francophiles we felt the need to feed. Being a Monday the Rabelais was shut but the local creperie du lac was not far away. We piled in another bucket of groats and boilies and adjourned to it's welcoming comfort.
Well fed up and agreeably drunk (sorry, Gerald!) we walked back to the river, and got the rods out of the car. In the warm afternoon sunshine it was hard to keep one's eyes open and maybe one or both of us did nod off for a few minutes. It wasn't for long, though, as a yell from the rods on the jetty jolted us awake. My turn for a fish…Maybe I'd get lucky and land on of those lovely big mirrors…on the other hand, maybe not!
I reckon this little scamp was the last one left in the swim as it was the first and the only take of the day. Perhaps we'd been a bit hasty going for lunch, but what the hell! We called in at the bar before returning to the gite. Pete had left a message for us saying that there were fish showing off the sailing club. Sadly the bankside here was reserved for sailors and plank users so there was no fishing allowed. It looked a very tasty area to be honest and it looked a nice alternative to the other spots we'd fished.
13 Feb 2018 at 4.11pm
In reply to Post #270
Though it was only mid afternoon and there were for sure more fish to be caught down the wall, we'd caught decent fish, a near thirty for Tat and that pristine common for myself, plus a few other doubles. If for no other reason, two lovely twenties meant it was time to celebrate!
We were very happy with our results on the river and at for the time being it looked as if the fishing on the big ressy was likely to be rather grueling unless we got more favourable winds to help push the carp towards us. That meant anything with east in it would do, but there was nothing like that in the forecast. So rather that sit it out and hope, we thought that the river offered better prospects. For a start it seemed as if the river carp we were catching were definitely getting bigger, and also it appeared that the carp were obviously getting used to stopping in the swim on their trek up and down the river in search of food. In the meantime, a glass of beer awaited us in celebration of the day’s fishing. (That's one of Roger's glasses of beer, by the way…That will mean something to one or two of you!)
Ah! The best laid plans...Sunday dawned dreary and miserable. It was raining heavily, blowing a hoolie and, to cap it all, there were two French pike anglers in the swim! Undaunted we tried to fish the jetty from the opposite end but it was a difficult cast to get right and we felt that the baits were landing too far out in the flow. So we moved downstream of the jetty to an slight bay that created a small eddy that might hold a few carp…It didn't and we spent a few hours sitting under the brolly watching the river swell and colour-up. In my barbel fishing days, I always considered such conditions as a waste of time and so it proved with the carp as well. Writing that one off to bad timing and bad luck we sought solace in the bar!
We were determined to go for it now, as we were running out of days. The river beckoned and we put any idea of fishing the ressy out of our minds. We would get an early start in the morning and give it our best shot on the river, assuming the swim was free. Meanwhile Tat prepared a casserole for the following day's evening meal and we shared a last glass of Armagnac before turning in.
For once we stuck by our good intentions and were at the river by first light. The swim was free…Yes! but Up the bank some fifty yards or so away a party of ancient French pike anglers were fishing. There seems to be thousands of these old guys throughout France, all fishing antiquated methods, catching sweet FA yet perfectly content in their pastime. They were friendly enough and as usual looked on in amazement at the carp gear. Once again it was the buzzers that fascinated them the most, and we spent a few minutes tweaking the line to produce false runs. After the cold, the wind and the rain of yesterday, today was a complete contrast being warm with a light breeze.
11 Feb 2018 at 4.29pm
In reply to Post #269
“So strong” muttered Tat. “ This is a decent fish for sure”. I didn’t answer. I don’t think she knew she’d spoken aloud anyway. I was standing on one of the rock outcrops as the fish slipped by, just a foot or so beneath the surface. I couldn’t help letting out a startled exclamation. It was a lovely big fat mirror, a proper carp to my way of thinking, it might even go thirty. Then the carp’s shoulders broke the surface as it swirled on the top. Now Tat got the first impression of the fish’s awesome size.
“Here’s your personal best, love,” I murmured, adding a silent “Don’t loose it,” under my breath.
Then suddenly, it was over. After a good fifteen minutes of give and take, the fish just gave up and lollopped into the waiting net. I took the weight and it felt heavy. Up on the bank, we peeled back the net and just stood there for a few seconds, gazing down at the thing of beauty, lying there, in the autumn sunshine, in all its glory. Then Tat just burst out laughing and the spell was broken. It just had to go thirty. It had to! But the scales only gave her 29lb 8oz, no matter how many times we hoisted the sling. (I have this silly dream. Some may call it a nightmare. I dream that I have played a fish of a lifetime to the bank only to weigh it, be disappointed and return it after photos. It is only when the photos come back that the doubts start. It looks far bigger than the weight I’d given it at the time of its capture. Had I weighed it badly? Surely, I must have done. Look at the size of it! It's an awful dream, I tell you!) But what’s in a weight? Nothing could take the magic of that moment away. The trip could end right here and now and we’d still return home happy and proud.
But the gods hadn’t finished with us yet! There was icing on the cake in the form of a lovely, scale-perfect, twenty pound common for me that took a hookbait cast just inches from the concrete wall of the jetty. Here the water was only about eight feet deep and being comparatively shallow we could detect the presence of carp in the swim, as the discoloured water rising to the surface betrayed their presence.
11 Feb 2018 at 4.25pm
In reply to Post #268
The following morning we were on the road bright and early before it got light. My fear was that news of our captures the previous day had got out, possibly from the restaurant owner, and we would arrive in our baited area to find someone else fishing there. With our hearts in our mouths, we drove down to the river. Was someone in our swim? No. What a relief! Out came the rods and some bait and I baited up by using a bait scoop to introduce a bucket of groats that had been soaked in strongly-flavoured water overnight. Three hundred boiled baits followed. Baits on, stringers tied. Any barges in sight…No! So here goes. Four splashes and four rods were soon fishing the margins under our feet.
The weather continued to be kind to us with good sunshine, no rain and light breeze. For some reason I figured that river carp like the opposite weather conditions than lake-dwelling ones…No idea why but there you go!
While we had needed the heavier rods to cast across from the far side, as had been the case on our first day on the river, now we were fishing more or less under our rod tips so the Horizons got left in the rod bag and were substituted with a pair of the 2lb test Hutchinson Spirolites, which we had bought back in the College days. We've still got them and use them too, as they are a dream to play fish on. Here they are set up on the concrete sill of the jetty.
They were joined on the bank by a pair of lovely little Sportex eleven-footers that Tat loves so much. They were built for us by Savay legend Bob Jones with full corks and tiny, lightweight rings. I think the blank was designated the 3353 and they are apparently built to mirror the old glass North Western SS5s; so soft that in a scrap everything bends, even the handles! They are very light with a test curve of 1.5lb, but they are a dream to play fish on, which isn’t something one can say about the Horizons.
An hour or two passed without any signs that there were fish in the swim. I wandered up to the village for some grub and a few beers in the hope that my absence might trigger a take. If that sounds strange, well it’s often worked in the past; I go off for some reason or other and return to find Tat with a whacker on the bank. It’s happened in France before, as well as in the U.K. at Waveney, College and Redmire, to name but a few. This time it didn’t work, but I think I might have brought the fish down river with me.
Tat had her head buried in a book, deep in the mystery of Agatha Christie. I was staring at the water and as I watched, a small carp came splashing to the top in that typical untidy leap typical of small carp. We’ll have a chance in a minute, I said to Tat. She sat up from he book tensed as if we were both thinking the same thing. It's almost as if we knew that something significant was on the cards. It wasn’t anything tangible, but we knew that a take was imminent... 100% certain.
Tat had got up from her chair and was now standing over her rods, while I was up the bank a few yards. For some reason, I looked around and saw that her two rods were banging and shaking in the rests. So did Tat! The buzzer had time only for the briefest of shrieks before she had the rod in her hand and the reel was screaming its head off as a good fish took off across the river with an incredible burst of speed. Savage, searing runs ripped the line off the clutch with consummate ease. Those French carp sure do know how to fight and Tat was now into one that didn’t know when to give up!
I guess the fish must have crossed almost to the opposite bank before Tat managed to get a modicum of control over it. Then, in mid-river, the fish slogged it out on a long line, staying deep and using the flow to exert every ounce of pressure on the rod and the line. Gradually, she worked the fish in towards the bank, only for it to take off again on another searing run, this time upstream along the near bank. I was worried that it might shred the line on one of the rocky promontories, but it all held together while Tat worked the fish back with her usual patience.
11 Feb 2018 at 4.22pm
In reply to Post #267
As we drove west into the glare of the setting sun, both of us felt that at last we were getting to grips with the fishing in this new part of France. The locals in the village bar were all ears when we told them we’d found some proper fishing at last. Michael bought a proper glass of red all round to celebrate our success. By proper I mean a red that came out of a bottle with a cork in it and the neck wrapped in foil. The usual fare in the bar came out of an unlabeled five litre plastic bottle.
As usual everyone was astonished that we didn’t have anything to show for our day’s fishing, but we had managed to get across to them the fact that we only fish for the pleasure of the sport and not to kill the fish. “In England, if we killed a carp on purpose we’d be banned from our clubs and probably end up tied to a tree to reflect on the error of our ways,” I told them.
“You mean it is illegal to kill carp?”
“Not illegal,” I explained. “Worse!” They accepted this with a Gallic shrug. Nice enough people the English, but crazy!
While Tat did the dinner, I strolled down to the big lake to see what, if anything we were missing. The lads were still on the point, but their dry landing nets continued to mock their efforts. The wind was no more than a gentle puff from the north, not enough to stir the carp into life, that much was clear. They rinsed out a glass and poured me a generous measure of Pastis, and in the fading light we chatted as carp anglers do wherever they meet. They were quite knowledgeable about the lake and told me that there were only a few big fish in the lake, mostly mirrors ranging between twenty-five and thirty-five pounds, with two or three huge commons of over forty pounds, fish that were rarely seen and even more rarely caught. Most of the other carp in the lake were commons in the 8-18lbs bracket, though before the lake had been emptied it had produced a monster common carp of fifty-two pounds to a French angler fishing with spud on 30lb line. They’ve got to be thick those French carp! But if they were that thick, why couldn’t I catch them! Don't answer that. Sadly, this huge fish had been killed and paraded around the village by its captor before being eaten.
The French lads said they were fishing until Sunday and invited Tat and me to join them on their pre-baited area and after talking it over with Tat and considering that the next day would be the start of the weekend, when the river would probably be heaving, we decided to take them up on their offer.
And very glad we were too, for just as the afternoon lassitude was setting in one of Tat's rods was away. Considering there was a crowd of quite 'tired and emotional' French carpers looking on and offering advice, she played it like a true pro and eventually brought a lovely looking common of 22lb 4 oz to the net. Were we pleased! The other lads maybe not so: they'd been there for three days and blanked and then along comes this lass and nicks out a twenty from under their noses. That's my girl!
We said our goodbyes soon afterwards, as the French lads were looking like **** and were either snoring in their bivvies or asleep in the warm afternoon sunshine. We felt that a further celebration was called for and one of us was a bit the worse for wear by evening.
We fished the next day with the French lads but had no further action. Considering there were over twenty rods fishing the point it was not at all surprising. The racket some of the French anglers kick up would make Dick Walker turn in his grave…Study to be quiet…My arse! One thing was noticeable; a previously unseen flock of coots had arrived sometime over that weekend and they had soon cottoned on to the baited area. Carnage ensued and we couldn't wait to get back to the river!
11 Feb 2018 at 4.19pm
In reply to Post #266
I cast the rod out again and added another batch of mixed boiled baits. This was more like it. Sunshine and carp, good food and wine in la belle France. A small white van made its way along the top of the bank towards us. It was Jean, the guy from the Rabelais restaurant. He brought a bottle of red wine and a corkscrew with him. What can you say about a nation that seems to brush its teeth in red wine. How can they be anything else but friendly and convivial? If ever a people seem to have got the meaning of life well and truly sorted out, it is the French. Work to live, don't live to work!
We shared our friend’s wine in the sunshine before he was called back to work by a large lady, furiously beckoning and shouting from the terrace overlooking the river, that there were customers needing to be fed. An hour had gone by since the first fish. Had they moved off. Perhaps there wasn’t enough bait to hold them. I’d read somewhere that river carp require big carpets of bait to hold them in a swim, but I was wary of putting too much in.
Just to go off at a tangent for a moment. I often ponder about just how much bait qualifies as 'enough'. I’d found it hard to believe the amount of bait the carp in the lake we'd fished earlier in the year were capable of eating, while the Cannonball fish were cleaning up seven or eight mixes in a day. I was once criticised over an article I wrote for a magazine, my critic suggesting that the amount of bait I had recommended was obscene, but I doubt if he’d ever fished in France. I have no doubts at all that due to the warmer water temperatures the carp’s metabolic rate is much higher than that of English carp. Hence their healthier appetites.
Back to the river, where I was having my doubts about the amount of bait in the swim. Was there enough or should we put in more? Tat said, "sit on your hands and do nothing." As always she was right. A buzzer sounded. It was one of Tat’s rods. The fish, a mirror of fourteen pounds, was quickly followed by another about three pounds heavier. After the carp-drought they could have been thirties, so gratefully were they received.
“They’re getting bigger,” I joked. I should have kept my mouth shut. The next fish was a common of about eight pounds. There was obviously a shoal of small to medium carp over there, but at least we were catching. We’d waited a long time for these fish and were going to make the most of them.
The afternoon sped quickly by. The carp fed steadily through the afternoon but the action slowed as the sun went down and the fish moved off altogether after Tat had landed a last gasp 17lb common.
Before leaving, we had a beer at the restaurant, promising to return the next day, for the fishing in the river was much more productive than at the lake. “We’d love to be able to fish this bank,” I said to Jean, the owner. “Obviously it would be a lot easier if we could fish the deep water from this side rather than cast across from the opposite side."
"It’s a private bank but it's never used these days so nobody will bother you if that is where you want to fish." He then drew us map on the back of a menu and added, “This how to get down to the jetty from this said," he said.
We went on our way detouring briefly to see if we could find our way down to the concrete jetty. In the gathering darkness it wasn’t the easiest route to follow but after a few twists, turns and blind alleys we eventually came out directly opposite the spot we’d been fishing on the other bank. The lights of the restaurant burnt bright and clear some four hundred yards down the bank and in the gloom we could just make out the waving figure of Jean. I waved my thanks back. I was right. Fishing would be a doddle from here. Planning to return the next day we baited up with a bucket of boilies, a mixture of ready-mades and fishmeals that we were making up daily at the gite. Was that enough. I wondered. Probably!
11 Feb 2018 at 4.16pm
In reply to Post #265
The swim that Franck and the restaurant owner had pointed out to us was grassy and comfortable at the top of the bank, giving way to a muddy, slippery water's edge, made even more slippery by the wash from the barges ploughing up and down river. The deepest water looked to be across in front of the concrete jetty about 100 yards away on the opposite bank. The flow was hardly noticeable and we knew that we would be able to get away with four ounce leads. The water was quite clear and obviously very rich for there were empty swan mussels shells in profusion at the water's edge.
I plumbed around a bit and found out that there was about twelve feet of water across on the other side with a much deeper channel running down the middle of the river where I found a good twenty feet. Then the river gradually shelved up towards the near bank where we would be fishing. There were obviously quite a few snags about on the river bed as I found to my cost after loosing a couple of leads while plumbing the depth and feeling the bottom. The snags felt like boulders or large stones, but perhaps they could have been waterlogged trees washed down by winter floods. With all those snags, mussels and boulders on river bed it’s small wonder the swim was apparently a good one for carp.
Here and there along the bank great outcrops of solid rock fell off into the deep water encompassing little bays with sharp eddies and swirling currents. They would certainly be worth exploring but to start with we wanted to fish the steadier flow and greater depth of the far bank.
I got busy with the throwing stick and put couple of mixes of fresh fishmeal boilies and a kilo of Richworths across towards the far bank. Opposite, the jetty was deserted and looked like it was never used, so overgrown was the concrete surface of the structure. Downstream from the jetty was another restaurant. It was shut up tight and the place had the mournful look of a seasonal gold mine once all the punters have gone home. Further upstream the small bar/restaurant we’d used earlier seemed busy enough, judging by the cars outside in its car park. It was lunchtime, after all and the French need no excuses to down tools and tuck in.
I put on stringers and cast across the to the far side. Tat returned with a bulging shopping bag. With the rods out awaiting who-knows what, we set about the cheese and wine with a vengeance. This is the part of French fishing that we both really love. So many of the lakes and rivers have tracks around or along them, and often it’s just a matter of stopping the car, getting the gear out and starting fishing. No walking down mud-strewn paths for mile after mile, only to get to that distant hot-spot and find some other bugger in there. Pile everything into the boot, stop where you will, start fishing, begin the picnic. So, in France, we tend to take everything bar the kitchen sink. Out came the full works; chairs, table, proper glasses for the wine, plates and decent knives and forks.
The early afternoon passed in a pleasant, lazy doze. We were getting a bit philosophical about it all by now and had resigned ourselves to probably not catching fish, so we’d have a good time instead. The sun beamed down, and it seemed to get even hotter. Watching the river flow and listening to the distant, almost restful hum of the traffic heading down south on the motorway, I was half asleep when I heard a funny, almost inaudible clicking sound.
“What’s that?” I asked as I came fully awake. “Silly bugger,” said Tat. “You’ve forgotten to turn up the buzzers. It’s a run, you fool!”
Sure enough, the reel was clicking away on a light-set clutch. I swept up the rod, tightened down to the fish and felt an answering thump come back up the line. The rod hooped over and the fight was on. The fish hugged the bottom, using the current to take it downstream. This only brought the fish in towards my bank though, and soon it was in the shallower water about fifty yards down the bank. Slipping and sliding through the mud, I scrambled my way down towards the fish, Tat, slip-sliding on the muddy shore, followed with the net. By the time we eventually got to it, the fish had done all the fighting it was going to do, and flopped gratefully into the net. A common. No monster but very welcome nevertheless. Well, wasn’t that nice. My first river carp, first time of asking!
11 Feb 2018 at 4.13pm
In reply to Post #264
Next day, be buggered! If the carp fishing gods had relented, it was only briefly. The deteriorating weather proved only that there were fish to be caught when the conditions were right, but - wouldn’t you know it? - the next day was white calm and hot and we never had a sniff. Franck called in for a chat and we passed on Pete's message and mentioned that we were tempted to fish the river opposite the concrete jetty. For a second I thought I had dropped a spherical one; maybe I shouldn't have let on that Pete had passed on one of Franck's secret spots. I need not have worried. Franck was in full agreement with us. The ressy was not worth the effort and the river was a much better bet.
The French carp anglers had arrived early that morning. Full of themselves they felt certain they would have fish. They went on the point and by the time they had finished setting up the area looking like a porcupine, rods everywhere. They baited up a huge area about three hundred yards down the bank from our swims and fished four rods each.
The day was a long one and our faces got equally long with the setting sun’s shadows. We blanked as did the guys on the point but they were going to fish the night. Perhaps that would tell us if we were missing out by not risking it. The evening had turned into something of a celebration over the capture of the first fish of the trip, and a few beers in the bar heralded a bit of a session back at the gite. Burgers on the BBQ and a few glasses of Chateau Georges were called for and the evening passed in a pleasant haze, eating and drinking and playing with the kittens, of which there were dozens, or so it seemed.
I got up with the dawn and walked out to the point. No sacks or slings hanging up to dry, no bank sticks in the margins, no wet landing nets nor the sweet smell of drying carp slime drying on victorious sweat-shirts. Blank night. Disheartened the French guys may have been, but they didn’t show it. They were sitting down to coffee and breakfast, which included several glasses of Pastis! Out over the baited patch the first carp I’d seen jump all week cleared the water in front of me. But disappointment followed and despite yesterday’s fish the more I thought about it the more I fancied trying the river.
It was decided: Today we'd fish the river. After a somewhat tardy start we arrived at the river rather late in the day and it was about ten in the morning when we eventually arrived in the car park by the little restaurant, and by the time we’d said hello to Jean, the friendly patron, it was even later when we actually started fishing. I told the guy that we'd been advised to go across to the other bank where we could drive along the bank to the point opposite the jetty and he agreed that this would make for easier fishing. However, as we were leaving he said, "watch out for the boats." What was that about, then?
As promised the access to the river along the opposite side was easy and we unloaded the gear. I set up the rods and got organised while Tat walked up to the main road to buy lunch. The picnic is as important to us as the fishing, providing the weather allows. Today was a return to the settled weather of the previous week. Yesterday’s brief gale was already a distant memory. The air temperature was already up to the low twenties, which considering it was the middle of October was pretty decent! How do the French stand it! All this great weather, lovely food, sublime wine and carp fishing too. They don't know they're born!
Let me just describe the river for you. It is, in turn, wide and deep, narrow and shallow. It runs through overgrown jungles, alongside neatly tended, poplar-lined footpaths. In places the bankside is solid gravel, overgrown with brambles and bracken, elsewhere its banks are a muddy morass that can cause problems to the unwary. It has weed beds and snag-trees and is navigable for much of its length. Yachts and pleasure boats swing around their permanent deep-water moorings. This is a river for all seasons, an angler’s paradise.
On the downside is the presence of the huge barges that Jean had warned us about. They sat low in the water even when empty but on their return, loaded with sand dredged from the river, they looked dangerously low. Their bow waves were impressive too and we later found out to our cost that the prop wash distributed our bait carpets over a huge area of river bed. Here's the same boat going down empty and coming back a few hours later laden to the gunwales.
11 Feb 2018 at 4.11pm
In reply to Post #263
I rather thought we'd be seeing a lot more of this little restaurant and its friendly owner as the holiday went by. "Maybe we’ll come back towards the end of the week,” we told him, and thanking him for the information, to say nothing of his superb cooking, we headed back to the gite. (I should add that this pic was taken several years later when we returned to the area for a few days .)
Back at the gite it was very noticeable that the weather had improved - from a carp angler's point of view - and a fresh blustery wind carried squally showers right onto the point and into the bay. The change in the weather had transformed the lifeless ocean we’d been confronting for the past week or so. Now it looked like a proper carp lake with waves lapping the shore and a more lively feel about the whole place. It looked so nice we couldn’t wait to get the rods out. The wind was really hacking in, accompanied by savage bursts of rain, yet through it all the sun tried to shine. The passing squalls left the odd bright rainbow over the water. The end of one seemed to touch the inside marker. Pot of gold?
I pumped up the little dinghy and in between squalls rowed out just enough bait to rouse the interest of a passing carp. I was getting wary of putting in too much bait, thinking that while the carp may be visiting the baited areas for a bite every now and then, they were not what anyone could call 'getting their heads down'. Once back ashore, soaked from the waves washing over the front of the dinghy, I got the tangle of rods out of the car and we baited them with fresh hook baits and stringers. I was a bit doubtful if the bulky stringer and hookbait would cast into the steadily increasing wind so I was glad to see the hefty splash as the first cast landed right next to the marker and the hookbait dropped into eight or nine feet of water. The wave action had begun to discolour the water from its previous gin-like clarity. If there were carp worth their salt in the lake, surely they’d be out there on the lee shore getting the invigorating benefit of the wind-whipped water and the stirred up food from the bottom.
To raise our spirits still further, the rain stopped and the sun came out and the wind dropped away slightly. The fresh conditions brought the sailboards and yachts out in force but so far they remained well off shore and did not threaten to wipe out the rods, as had happened the previous year when we'd fished with Franck and Jean-Yves. On the extreme right of this pic you can just about see our little R5 in the middle of the bay, the photo being taken from the point. This perhaps puts the size of the ressy into some sort of perspective.
Perfect the weather may be but still no carp came our way. We didn't even see any shows and it looked as if the river was calling us. The afternoon gradually lost its heat as the sun dipped towards the horizon and Tat left to put on the dinner, walking across the marshy grass, trying not to step on any of the hundreds of thousands of grasshoppers now setting up a cacophony of sound as the evening fell. A vain hope. They were everywhere. I don’t think she had much faith in my carp-catching abilities anymore. I wasn’t sure if I had either.
As the sun set, it took with it the breeze and all my hopes for a fish and I sat in the fading light gently cursing the gods of fishing. I was aching for a fish! But then, where else could I find such peace? Where could such beauty and tranquillity seem to exist only for me? Where else could I have all those acres of paradise to myself? Where else could I find to blank?
Out of the blue, a high tone-buzzer gave a single bleep. A fish? Surely not! One bleep, then another, then a constant scream as a fish took off with the hook bait. God, what a wonderful sound is that first run on a new lake, especially when you had waited several days for it. This one was a flyer and I could make no impression on the fish for about a minute or so and in that time it must have taken a good many yards of line. However, inevitably the carp tired and I pumped it in towards me. The strength of that fish was fantastic, but the disturbance and
agitation of the water on the wave-lashed shoreline seemed to drain the strength out of it and soon it was in the net. Up onto the scales. A touch under 18lb. A freshly minted common.
Beautiful! Never had a fish looked so good, or brought such relief! I sacked the fish and, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, drove back to the gite to collect Tat to come and take the pictures. We’d cracked it at last. We’d hammer ‘em now. Next day - watch
11 Feb 2018 at 4.02pm
In reply to Post #262
Pete told us if we wanted to try another venue that we should give the river a go. He gave us directions to a spot on the river that Franck had put him on to. "It's worth a try as there are some good fish in that river. Go to the road bridge then walk downstream about 400 yards. Look for the concrete jetty and fish close to the wall. Franck's had some nice fish from that spot." I told him I'd never carp fished a river before. "It's like riding a bike," he said. "If you can catch them from a lake then you'll be able to catch them from a river. If anything they are easier to catch as they are generally nomadic and don't come across anglers too often so they are pretty green.
Pete has since become a good friend. He is my sort of carp angler, not a driven man on a headlong plunge for the next monster. Carp are his passion, regardless of size. He is a man who can still see the value of a fifteen pound fish, while his twenties are celebrated with a pull from the Famous Grouse bottle. Pete lives in a country where the carp grow big, but he has his feet planted firmly on the ground. Size isn’t everything to him, so he finds his pleasures easy to come by as the capture any carp, whatever its size, gives him great satisfaction. A man after my own heart.
We moved again the following day. While setting up Tat came back from a walk along the bank to tell me that there was a boat down the bank with grains of maize in the bottom. Could that be the answer? Were we being a bit too technical for these carp? Still, at least the presence of the maize showed that people were, indeed, carp fishing on the ressy so we fishing blind.
The next day was spent away from fishing. We wanted a break so we got into the car and followed our noses on a trip around the countryside. I suppose in the process we were also looking for an alternative water to fish but this was largely unspoken and a lazy day of casual exploration was just what we needed to restore our slightly dampened enthusiasm for carp fishing. We spent much of the time in village bars and cafes asking questions about lakes and rivers, but getting nowhere. We thought we’d got lucky when we stumbled across a rumour of some very big commons taken from an arm of the river Pete had mentioned, but when we visited the spot it was dried out. This was getting silly. What next?
“I know,” said Tat. “Let’s eat!”
She was right, a decent meal would brighten our spirits. A sign beside the road indicated the way to a restaurant. River views, proclaimed the sign. It sounded just the job, the very place to drown our sorrows. I followed the signs into the car park and I could see the glitter of flowing water ahead. The car park was pretty full but we found a space where we could see the river more clearly. To our left was a large road bridge crossing the river. River, restaurant, road bridge...Could this be the one Pete had mentioned? (I should add that this pic was taken several years later when we returned to the area for a few days R&R when we were doing long sessions on the Chateau Lake, much more of which later.)
As things were to turn out finding that restaurant was serendipity. Not only was the food to die for but Jean the owner, waiter, head chef and bottle washer was well versed in the local fishing so I asked him if there was any decent carp fishing in the river.
“Oh yes,” he replied. “There are some nice fish but they can be hard to find as they roam the length of the river. At this time of year the shoals are split up too, but you should have a chance or two just downstream” He tugged at my arm and pulled me outside and pointed downstream. There in the distance about 400 yards away was a fenced in concrete jetty! Bingo! The gear was back at the gite but if the fishing on the ressy remained dire this would be a nice spot to try, especially with a good restaurant within strolling distance. The river widened towards the far horizon but where were standing it looked to be no more than about 120m across. This is looking downstream to the spot where the river widens.
11 Feb 2018 at 3.59pm
In reply to Post #261
We returned to the gite early the following afternoon, having cut short our fishing in favour of a blow-out meal and a few bottles of Chateau Georges. If the truth were known, we were a bit down in the mouth. OK, we had not come solely for the fishing, and everything else about the trip was just perfect. But, a fish would be nice. As Tat did the meal I opened the wine, ostensibly to let it breath. Most bottles of red wine that I open are allowed to breath for at least a minute but this was no ordinary plonk; this was prime Chateau Georges so to drink it straight down would be sacrilege. In the meantime we had some nice local beer to sample…and very nice it was too!
Meal eaten we were just sitting down in front of the fire when a large white, left-hand-drive Mercedes pulled up outside. A tall, imposing grey-haired gent with a thick, bushy mustache climbed out of the car and crossed to the open double doors. “Anyone home?” he said, obviously English.
“Come on in, whoever you are!” I offered. “Have some wine. It’s always nice to hear a familiar accent.”
And thus was my introduction to one Pete McDermott, ex-pat, ex-copper, ex-body guard, avid carp angler, now married to a French girl and living in the big city several miles away. How had he got to hear that we were staying here?
“I’ve been fishing the big lake,” he told us over a glass of red. “I met the president of the angling association who told me that there was an English couple carp fishing the lake. He told me where you were staying, so I came to find you. I think you have already met Michael, yes?”
“Oh, yes!” I replied, pouring the wine, “We’ve met Michael all right!”.
Pete drank deep and looked appreciatively at the glass.
“Good stuff. Where’d you buy it?”
“Georges, the owner of this gite makes it himself,” I told him.
“Hmm! I must get hold of a case or two of this,” said Pete. "I hope you don’t mind me looking you up. It is so nice to hear an English voice for a change, and the chance to talk carp fishing made your presence doubly irresistible.”
“Not at all. We’re glad you called. How did you get on today?” I asked, secretly dreading the thought of a bumper catch to put Tat and I to shame.
“Blanked!” was the answer. "Mind you, it's the first time I have fished it but I am told it has a few decent fish in it."
I was taken aback, "That's not what we are hearing. In fact Michael reckons it's a waste of time fishing for carp on the reservoir."
“Well he's wrong about that. I know there are some good fish in there as a mate of mine from Vitre has had a thirty seven pound mirror. Pete assured us.
We passed on our tale of our blank week then asked, "This bloke from Vitre, would he be Franck Martin by any chance?"
"Yes," replied Pete. "Do you know him?"
I told Pete of our meeting a couple of years ago and our trip together to Cannonball. Pete told me that he had phoned Franck a few days previously and had hoped to fish with him on the ressy but he'd not turned up. Pete had to go to work the next day but asked us to keep an eye out for Franck and pass on Pete's best. He reckoned that fishing was going to improve as a big wind and plenty of rain was forecast. He added that there was a group of carpers from his area coming to the big ressy soon: "Have a word with them if you get the chance. They are good anglers and they are just beginning to get to grips with this lake. They’ve had fish to twenty-six pounds from the point.”
I breathed another sigh of relief. At least we were not on a duff water with no carp in it. I could only assume that the reason we were not catching was either because we were not fishing at night, or simply because the weather was against us. Still, we should worry! We were on holiday, and who wants buckets of rain on your holiday?
We spent a very pleasant evening supping wine with Pete. Georges himself came around that evening bringing a home-made cheese-cake and a bottle or two of red, and while he and Pete babbled away in French to each other far to quickly for me to understand what they were saying, Tat and I carried on supping. The Chateau Georges flowed as we swapped tales of carp on both sides of the Channel. Georges told us he was pressing some grapes for the co-operative the next day and we all said we'd pop round to see the process and maybe sample a glass or two of the 1984 vintage. This is Georges hard at work.
11 Feb 2018 at 3.56pm
In reply to Post #260
That evening we drove around the lake as darkness fell, stopping here and there to listen and watch for signs of carp activity. We neither heard nor saw a sign of a carp, though this was not surprising as it was a still, cold evening with the temperature dipping down towards freezing. I couldn’t help feeling that we needed a bit of a wind and less settled conditions to stir them up a bit.
The hoped-for breeze of warm southerly wind did not materialise and the following morning dawned cloudless and still. Inspiration came there none but we had to start somewhere, so we opened our campaign on the broad shallow point projecting out into the lake where the policeman had reportedly caught his twenty-pounder. It was as good as anywhere under the circumstances and, not surprisingly, going in on a wing and a prayer like that, we blanked.
The weather the next day was equally calm with not a breath of wind. Very pleasant, but not conducive to good carp fishing. So far we’d not had so much as a twitch. The weather on day three was identical, as it was on day four. We’d not seen hide nor hair of a fish, nor of another carp fisherman, and I was beginning to wonder if we weren’t on the end of a gentle wind-up by Georges and the locals.
It wasn’t as if we weren’t working at our fishing. Every day we baited up two areas some fifty and a hundred yards out with a mixture of boiled bait (half fishmeals, half ready-mades), along with a heaped bucket full of flavour-soaked groats and a scattering of tigers around each marker. Each night we fished on well into the dark hours; each morning we fished from just before first light. We gave the swim a couple of days to produce and then moved from the point to the middle of the bay nearest the dam. We felt we were making all the right moves, but the carp (if there were any in there) were not impressed!
To hell with this! The local bar in the village was a dark and unprepossessing affair from the outside. Inside it was bright and cheerful, full of noise, red wine fumes, cigarette smoke and, as luck would have it, anglers. It was the regular rendezvous for the local fishing club. We stumbled upon it one evening when seeking solace for our sorrows with a beer or two. As usual, the stares of the locals were a bit intimidating at first, but they soon went back to their loud conversation and copious drinking. The door swung open and a huge French guy looked straight at Tat and I as we sat, minding our own business, while the bar quivered with a noisy hubbub.
“You have left your lights on,” grunted the newcomer in thick guttural French. He was obviously in no doubt that we were the owners of the right hand drive car outside. I’m sure we carry an invisible sign hanging over our heads saying ENGLISH in big capital letters. We can’t see it, but the French can. The big guy had seen the rods in the car. “You have been fishing?”
My reply was met with a stream of French that I didn’t understand, but it tickled the blokes standing at the bar. OK, I thought. I can take this for a while. It might lead somewhere, you never know. I thanked him and went outside to turn the lights off. “Can I get you a drink?” I asked when I got back inside.
“A small red would be nice.” I ordered it and refills for Tat and me and the guy thanked me and sipped his drink. At three francs a glass (about 20p back then before the bloody euro came along and set inflation soaring) I’d be happy to buy his booze for him all day if I thought it might lead anywhere. His name was Michael and he was the president of the local fishing association.
“You are fishing for carp?” He looked incredulous.
“You must be mad. They are vermin.”
What could I say. “We love catching them in England,” I told him.
“Perhaps, but you are all crazy over there. You put all your fish back in the lake!” This was obviously the height of absurdity.
“Where are you fishing?” he asked.
“The big reservoir,” I told him.
“You are wasting your time there. There are only a few carp in the lake. True, they are quite big, but you will never catch them."
My pride was injured by his jibe but there was no malice whatsoever in him, and we looked forward to our evening visits to exchange tales of woe with the customers of the little bar. We found out from the owner that Michael was a notably unsuccessful pike angler himself, which gave us ammunition for his next attack. One thing was clear; it looked as if Michael was right about the big lake. We had to look for pastures new.
11 Feb 2018 at 3.54pm
In reply to Post #259
We ate breakfast on the terrace in a balmy twenty degrees. You can be lucky at this time of the year in France, but you can be equally unlucky. We cleared away the debris of our meal, the bird life thankful for our crumbs, then wandered down to the lake less than half a mile away.
The point that Georges had mentioned was an obvious feature, one that would surely get plenty of attention from pike and zander anglers. A pair of deeply etched wheel tracks sweeping across the grass leading down to the swim told their own tale. There wasn’t a breath of wind, so deciding where to start fishing would be tricky as without the faintest puff of a breeze to stir them up, we were really on a hiding to nothing expecting to find fish easily.
We settled into the cottage, did a big shop in the hypermarket, sorted out a licence for Tat, bought two dozen oysters and we returned to the gite to devour them. Oysters are an acquired taste: I’d acquired it! (I have since been forced to un-acquire it after developing an allergy to oysters, I put my first bout of sickness and diarrhea three years ago down to a bad oyster, same for my second and much worse bout the following year. My third bout nearly killed me and the French doctor who attended me said that the next oyster you eat will be your last! Say no more. Shame 'coz I adore them!). Outside stood a large barn and peeping inside I saw row upon row of cages of various wild life. There were rabbits, guinea fowl, chickens, turkeys and pigeons and I rather doubted that these were household pets!
Georges came around with further samples of red wine. Where was he getting all this booze from? “I make it myself,” he told me. I couldn’t believe it. It was fabulous stuff. Rich and full with a kick on it like a mule. This was a wine fit for the gods.
“Can we buy some bottles from you?”
“Of course. That and just about any other farm produce you care to name. The wine is ten francs a bottle and it is about fourteen percent!” said Georges.
That’s silly-cheap, I thought to myself and promptly ordered two bottles. We christened the beautiful nectar Chateau Georges. There were fresh vegetables, fruit onions and shallots. We'd not need the supermarket again at this rate.
Tat made her selection of produce and Georges dispatched and skinned the two rabbits she'd chosen for dinner in seconds flat. "Do you want to try the wine?" he asked her. Never been known to turn down a free drink, my missus quickly accepted the offer. Georges used a siphon to draw four glasses of wine from a large barrel that probably held fifteen or twenty gallons of wine, so we wouldn't go thirsty.
"Try some of this," he said, offering us a glass each. "It's six years old so it is just about ready for bottling now."
It was manna from heaven!
After lunch we borrowed Georges's four meter pulling boat and had a gentle row around. In the warm afternoon sunshine the lake seemed to glow, the flat calm surface dimpled here and there by the odd small fish. Of the carp, there was no sign. Prodding and probing with the oars revealed that the lake bed was very similar to Cannonball Lake, where we’d fished last year, being fairly flat and featureless, mainly sand, silt and rock with very few obvious holding or feeding areas. However, it was noticeably deeper and as we ventured further from the bank the oars wouldn't reach the bottom. Judging by the amount of natural food, it was quite possible that some big carp lived in the lake but after talking to Georges and to the locals in the cafe, it didn’t appear to get any serious carp-fishing attention and nobody seemed to know if there were any really big fish in there. We'd just have to take pot luck.
11 Feb 2018 at 3.50pm
In reply to Post #258
He was away only a few minutes. Jeannine and Tat, wine glasses in hand, settled in front of the roaring fire, already chatting away nineteen to the dozen about whatever it is women talk about. “I have just spoken to the Gardes,” said Georges, back on the sofa after his trip to the phone. “The local policeman caught a carp of nine and a half kilos just this weekend. Fishing on the point out there.” He waved his arm vaguely in the general direction of the night. “How far from here?” I asked. “Couple of minutes,” he replied. That’s ‘andy ‘Arry!
Dawn on the first morning in a new gite in France. I woke with first light and lay in bed listening to the bird giving vent to a bright chorus of song. The sun was just peeping over the far side of the lake. It was a beautiful autumn morning, still and calm with a chill in the air. The sun was just lifting over the tree-line many miles away down the valley, reflecting off the surface of a huge lake that peeped through a small copse of poplars in front of the cottage. Insects danced in the warming sunshine, while out on the lake a solitary rowing boat cut soundlessly across the mirrored surface leaving a silent wake between the regular swirls of groaning oars. If there is such a thing as true perfection, maybe this was it.
France slows you down. You get infected by the relaxed laid-back atmosphere almost as soon as you arrive. If I’d been in England I’d have been in a panic to get fishing, get some bait out, prepare the groundbait, whatever, but not here. We had a late breakfast, and while the coffee dripped its way though the ancient percolator, I walked down the hill into the village to buy bread and croissants, and half a pound of gorgeous Normandy butter. On the way back from the village I stopped on the barrage and looked out at the lake. It was white calm and almost completely deserted. A lone pike angler coughed Gauloise smoke and rubbed his hands to keep warm in the shadow of the barrage. His four rods were spread out at fifty yard intervals along the bank, a folded piece of silver paper at the rod tip being the only indication that an unfortunate pike had taken his bait. They love to eat pike, zander and perch (and very delicious they are too) so the French are not going to put any capture back, so instant strike rigs and sophisticated British techniques are not required.
It looked as if the level was down about six or eight feet and a walk around a the margins by the barrage revealed a profusion of empty mussel and snail shells, as well as the odd washed-up crayfish. That’s always a good sign. It shows that there is plenty of natural food for the carp to grow big on. The lake itself was huge. A big notice board on the barrage declared that it held so many millions of liters of water in its 450 acres.
Beneath the protection of the thick glass covering the notice board a faded photo showed a happy crowd of about a dozen anglers posing proudly with their catch of pike. The photo was dated 1932 and showed, so a caption read, members of the local angling association. Underneath it was pinned what looked to be a piece of parchment bordered with black. In an elaborate hand someone had written, “Mort dans la guerre”. A list of names followed. This was a memorial to those happy anglers smiling at the camera all those many years ago, and other men and women of the area who had lost their lives during the Second World War, when this part of France had been at the fore front of the Resistance Movement. It seemed so strange to be standing here in such peace and solitude with the ghosts of dead partisans staring out from a bygone age, before the dreadful spectre of war stole the innocence of the photo away.
I wandered back to the gite with my thoughts. The photo had been a sombre reminder of the history of this part of France. Georges had mentioned a monument to fallen resistance heroes in a village about four miles away. I felt as if I should go there before I left. I simply cannot imagine what it must have been like to live in occupied France during the war, nor in the occupied Channel Islands either for that matter. I had spent some time fishing out of Alderney with John and I knew full well the history of the Channel Islands during WW2.
11 Feb 2018 at 3.47pm
In reply to Post #257
CHATEAU GEORGES: OCTOBER 1991.
October at last. The May trip with Bill and Nige seemed a lifetime away but holidays were here again. Ahead of us, three weeks in a small country cottage on the Loire. The pre-trip arrangements were much as before. Bait, ferry, tackle, route, insurance, the thousand and one things that need to be sorted out before you leave. Of course, there’s always the one thousand and second thing that you forget, which later turns out to be vital. I’m a fusspot, I can’t deny it. Tat got fed up with me fussing. “I couldn't give a damn if we have forgotten something, it’s too late now,” she said, slamming the front door shut with a decisive crash.
The journey was reasonably uneventful. Well, no different from others. Leave home, drive, get on ferry, be sick, get off ferry, drive, get lost, get un-lost, arrive. Finally we arrived and were soon sitting at a long oak table, sharing a bottle of very rich red wine with the gite owner. England might have been a million miles away. We had the best part of three weeks ahead of us in which to catch fish, put on a stone in weight, drink too much red wine and, as it turned out, meet a whole host of new characters, including the amazing Georges, of whom, more later.
The lake was only minutes away. It was supposed to hold carp, but if it didn’t, we’d find somewhere that did. The area of France we’d chosen was completely new to us. Earlier in the year when we had been studying the holiday brochures, this particular gite caught our eye. The advertising blurb mentioned the good fishing nearby and referring to the map I could see they weren’t kidding. It showed a very big blue bit - just a few hundred yards from the gite itself. OK, there was no guarantee that it held carp; that’s a risk you take when you decide to take a cottage which then becomes your base for the holiday, but it was a fair bet that there were fish worth catching in it. Pot luck had paid off for us in the past; we hoped we’d got it right this time. All the planning, the hope and expectations, were about to be put to the test. The yellow dot marks the position of the gite, while the red dots are the spots we fished.
The lake is nearly 4,000 yards from east to west, is about 450 acres in size and holds most species of coarse fish. However, it is as a pike and zander venue that it was well known when we fished it. The dam was started in 1811 under Napoleon and was built by Spanish prisoners. It was opened in 1842. As you will read in this section, the lake was not a well known carp fishing venue and it is also regularly emptied. However, these days the local federation have realised the value of carp fishing as a decent source of revenue and now the larger carp are retained at each vidange. As a result there are now fish to over 50lb in there and it also features three night fishing zones. At the time we visited night fishing was not allowed and as far as we know the biggest fish were low twenties. It was then, and remains, a pretty imposing lake as this pic of the western arm shows.
The cottage was spotless, well appointed, warm and comfortable, with a great big comfy settee in front of an open log fireplace. Georges, the owner, was effusive and generous with his wine and while his wife, Jeannine, showed Tat over the house, we broke the ice in error-ridden French (on my part) and appalling English (on his).
It was pitch black outside, but I could hear waves lapping on a nearby shore. Georges assured me us that the lake was just a short stroll away, and that it did indeed hold carp, though he wasn’t sure to what size they grew. Nobody fished for them in any case. They were second class fish. He showed me a heavy leather-bound volume, its title etched in gothic script picked out with gold leaf.
“This is my `Livre d’Or de la Peche`,” he told me proudly, opening the pages on photographs and diary accounts of the fishing that his visitors had enjoyed while staying in his cottage. I flicked through it searching for signs of carp. There were none. Georges noticed my concern. “The anglers who come here fish for pike and zander and perhaps for a perch or two,” he told me. “If they catch a carp they kill it.”
Certainly the photos did reveal some impressive catches of big predators from the lake; pike to over twenty pounds, a twelve pound zander, a five pound perch. There was a photo of a huge brown trout, all of fifteen pounds. How had that managed to escape capture for so long, I wondered. “Don’t worry about your carp,” Georges assured me, topping up my glass with wine. “Let me make a phone call and I’ll get some information for you."
31 Jan 2018 at 5.20pm
In reply to Post #256
...and yes, I finally
manage to capture that sunset!
More to come...
28 Jan 2018 at 4.12pm
In reply to Post #255
And that was it for another trip. We were due to leave for the ferry by ten o’clock and had promised to call in and say goodbye at the bars and the creperie, but waking early I felt there was still time to catch one more carp. I grabbed the rods and a net and got down to the camp site swim as dawn was breaking. Naturally my friends the pike men arrived a bit later and I was glad of that as we had got on famously with them, to say nothing of one guy averting a possible bit of aggro. So far we’d yet to see them catch a pike or anything else for that matter but they seemed happy with their fishless state and I spent the last few hours in halting conversation.
And I did manage that one last carp. At 6.00 am. I had a half-way-upper which came to naught, and at 8.30 am. had a flyer that was my last take of the trip...another of the kindergarten carp but size didn’t matter; honour was satisfied.
Sadly we packed up and paid our dues for the camp site. The stay cost us around ninety pence each per day, and that included a beautiful site with all the amenities. Spotless showers, toilets, washing facilities etc and all the hot or cold water you need, plus a security guard and secure perimeter after dark. Less than a quid a day each.
We did the rounds and said our goodbyes. The saddest part was that we’d not be going back for a while as the vidange would remove the carp and thus the reason for going there. I think we might just have sewn the tiniest shred of doubt in a few local minds about the wisdom of the regular removal of all the big carp, but then again, they regard their waters in the same impersonal way that a farmer might look on his fields, as the place where the cash crop grows. In this case the cash crop was carp!
Our kind hosts in the creperie foisted a breakfast of savoury pancakes upon us before they would allow us to leave, and it was with a lot of sadness that we said farewell to the little village. If the six hour ferry crossing had seemed to take just half that coming over, it seemed to take twice as long going back. But even as we were sitting in the gloomy atmosphere of the ship’s lounge, plans were already afoot for a return visit. Bill had been so impressed by the friendliness of the locals and the whole ambience of the trip; the food, the wine, the people and of course the fish, that even his brush with the law hadn’t quashed his enthusiasm.
We couldn’t wait for the next French trip and Tat and I were all set for a holiday in October, to a gite on a lake, belonging to a wine-making Frenchman called Georges. New lakes, new challenges, new friends. Zombies to be avoided!
28 Jan 2018 at 4.10pm
In reply to Post #254
Pointing at me they said, "You will come with us" and pointing at Nige said, "Stay there!" This looked serious and these guys pack guns on their hips. I got in the back of their car and we drove through the lanes around the back of the lake arriving at the creperie car park. It appeared that Bill had run into a little bit of bother. What now? Apparently he’d been accused of fishing in the nature reserve but I knew he'd been well inside the notice that marked the limit of the reserve. We'd both fished this spot several time during the trip and had had plenty of visits from the old pike anglers. If we were truly fishing an out of bounds area I am damn sure they'd have told us.
Because by now the Gardes knew I spoke a bit of French and they now insisted that I accompany Bill to the police station. Here we sat and waited for two hours while they made phone calls trying to find out just how much to fine Bill. At one stage I thought I heard some suggestion from someone in an office behind a frosted glass screen to the effect that the speaker thought they were making far to much out of such a trivial offense and my hopes rose for a fair outcome. But I must have misheard for eventually they imposed a fine of 350 francs (about twenty quid back then before the €). How ridiculous! There was no way Bill was deliberately breaking the rules, if rule there was, which was very debatable. Bill tore his fishing permit to shreds and advised them what they could do with the bits! I can’t say I blame him.
That incident highlights the possible pitfalls of fishing abroad. If they want to do you for something they most certainly will, right or wrong though you may be. Talking later to the owners of the creperie, they suggested that we had actually become targets from very early on, not only for catching so many fish, but also for putting them back under the noses of some very jealous and frustrated anglers and locals. Apparently the Gardes had been confident of catching us fishing at night and their frustration at not doing so had probably welled over into this farce.
The jealousy of some of a few of the other French anglers and the gypsies had been obvious, and in such a tiny rural community it was obvious that the police would support local feelings. Which strikes me as strange, for we had been welcomed with open arms in the village and had got on really well with most of the anglers we’d met, especially the ancient pikers. We had all spent quite a bit of money in the village, at the campsite and in the bars and restaurants, yet the attitude of the police had been so confrontational. It left a bad taste in the mouth; not because of the size of the fine, but for the petty mindedness of the authorities who wouldn’t listen to anything we had to say.
By the time we got back to the shop where Nige was waiting in the van he was getting worried. He thought they’d incarcerated us both in the Bastille as we’d been away so long. Fishing was a waste of time now as the sun was beaming down from a cloudless sky and the carp had moved off up the lake again for more nookie. (If you ask for Nookie in France don’t get your hopes up to high if she says yes...It’s a brand of ice-cream!).
“Sod it!” said Bill. “Lets go and sink some. It’s the last day after all so let’s celebrate a damn good trip, despite the trials and tribulations of the past couple of days.”
So we ended the holiday with a nice little jaunt around the b