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   Old Thread  #296 24 Mar 2018 at 2.13pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.
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   Old Thread  #295 24 Mar 2018 at 2.07pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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



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   Old Thread  #294 24 Mar 2018 at 2.03pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.
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   Old Thread  #293 21 Mar 2018 at 5.13pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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!

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   Old Thread  #292 21 Mar 2018 at 5.08pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.









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   Old Thread  #291 21 Mar 2018 at 5.02pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.

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   Old Thread  #290 21 Mar 2018 at 5.01pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.
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   Old Thread  #289 21 Mar 2018 at 4.59pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.


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   Old Thread  #288 21 Mar 2018 at 4.56pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.


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   Old Thread  #287 21 Mar 2018 at 4.55pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.”

"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?”

“Nothing!”

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?”

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   Old Thread  #286 21 Mar 2018 at 4.51pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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:






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   Old Thread  #285 21 Mar 2018 at 4.49pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.

“It’s unbelievable!”

“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!


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   Old Thread  #284 20 Mar 2018 at 5.30pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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!

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   Old Thread  #283 20 Mar 2018 at 5.27pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.


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   Old Thread  #282 20 Mar 2018 at 5.25pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.

“No carp?”

“Nothing!”

“Seen anything?”

“Nothing!”

“Heard anything?”

“Nothing!”

“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.


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