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   Old Thread  #268 11 Feb 2018 at 4.22pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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!


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   Old Thread  #267 11 Feb 2018 at 4.19pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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!
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   Old Thread  #266 11 Feb 2018 at 4.16pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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!


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   Old Thread  #265 11 Feb 2018 at 4.13pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.




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   Old Thread  #264 11 Feb 2018 at 4.11pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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
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   Old Thread  #263 11 Feb 2018 at 4.02pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.

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   Old Thread  #262 11 Feb 2018 at 3.59pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.

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   Old Thread  #261 11 Feb 2018 at 3.56pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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?”

“Yes.”

“Any good.”

“No.”

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.

“Yes.”

“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.
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   Old Thread  #260 11 Feb 2018 at 3.54pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.
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   Old Thread  #259 11 Feb 2018 at 3.50pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.
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   Old Thread  #258 11 Feb 2018 at 3.47pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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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."
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   Old Thread  #257 31 Jan 2018 at 5.20pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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...and yes, I finally did manage to capture that sunset!



More to come...
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   Old Thread  #256 28 Jan 2018 at 4.12pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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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!





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   Old Thread  #255 28 Jan 2018 at 4.10pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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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 bars and restaurants, finishing in the early hours of the morning playing dirty pool for drinks against all comers, beating the pants off the local hustlers in the process. I wondered if we should have warned them that Nige plays pool to county standard. We called him Nige 'Chinzano Bianco' Britton as once he was on the table you couldn't get rid of him. (See Dave Lister - Red Dwarf).

The few drinks we won did a lot to restore the jollity and soon the unpleasantness of the afternoon was forgotten in a welter of beer, wine and of course dear old Armagnac. Oh yes...I did have a couple of Zombies, and now I understand how they’d got to Bill and Nige so badly. I was a bit the worse for wear that night!

I realise I have made quite a few references to our boozy habits and make no apology for the fact that socialising as as much a part of our trips as the fishing...what's the point of going on holiday if you can't enjoy yourself…And we certainly did that, big style!



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   Old Thread  #254 28 Jan 2018 at 4.06pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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Once I’d set up, I wandered down the path to where Nige was brewing up. As the kettle started its song, suddenly two of his rods went off almost simultaneously. I grabbed one and he took the other and both fish shot off at a terrific lick, luckily in different directions. After ten minutes both fish were still well out in the lake, pulling hard. Suddenly my fish was gone, a hook pull. This left the swim now clear for Nige to play his fish to the bank. Franck turned up for a brief visit in a rattle trap of a Renault 5 that he had bought the previous weekend. By the state of it he was lucky he'd even managed to get it home! Here's Nige in action, the inevitable fag in mouth, sacks in the margins with yet more captures, looking cool as a cucumber. If I needed only one image to covey a typical Nige moment this would be it!



A few minute later one of my rods screamed a take and a strong fish went off like a scalded cat and I’d no sooner got that one in the net, when another of my rods roared off. It was yet another low twenty! This is nice isn’t it, I said, as my third rod roared off. Smaller this time, just over fifteen pounds. I looked around as another buzzer sounded. It had to be one of Nige's as I was now playing a fish on the only rod if mine that was still fishing. This was crazy fishing. The swim looked like it had been hit by a tornado with rods and gear scattered everywhere. Neither of us had a rod in the water! Nige chucked a rod out that still had a bait on: it was snaffled up before he could put the indicator on. Then, unbelievably, the same thing happened to me. It was quite incredible fishing and without question our best French fishing to date. Sure, Steve, Nige and I had enjoyed some pretty hectic fishing on The Starship Enterprise trip but those fish had been a lot smaller. This was carping the like of which we had never experienced before. Here Franck nets one for Nige.



Over in Weedy Corner we noticed Bill was busy baiting up along the shallow bar using the boat. The fresh east wind that had sprung up mid morning ever since we'd arrived was now blowing across from Weedy Corner towards the car park bank where we were fishing. Who says carp don't like east winds…Poppycock!

But hang on…what's going on?…what was the boat doing drifting around in the middle of the lake...Nobody aboard either? Slowly the Plastic Pig drifted towards us across the lake, carried on the fresh breeze. Bill certainly wasn’t in it, but most of his tackle was. Thank God for that favourable breeze. If it had been going the other way, up the lake, it would have been hard work getting it back. As it was he had a long walk round to the car park to wait for the boat to drift into the bank.



Bill departed at the oars for his long row back to his swim while Nige and I continued to fish on through the morning until about midday when a small white and blue car pulled up. It was the Gardes again, the pair that Nige had encountered in the small hours. Having already checked Nige's carte de peche and found it to be in order, they then looked at mine very carefully. It too was OK. They pulled a face and rather grudgingly handed it back to me. They left soon afterwards. Me and Nige felt a beer coming on so we packed the van and set off around the lake to pick up Bill. On the way we called in at the shop for some supplies, and came out to find the Garde de Peche waiting by the van. Were they after us yet again. What’s going on?
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