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   Old Thread  #251 28 Jan 2018 at 3.56pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #250
He staggered off, buried under an avalanche of fishing tackle and headaches. It sounded like quite a night to me. I wasn’t sure if I was glad or sad that I had missed it! I found out later that the drinks were called Zombies, which I seem to remember Billy Connolly in his drinking days describing as the most lethal drink he’d ever had. Which explained a lot! So if you want to avoid a mammoth hangover, don’t make the mistake of buying the patron a drink and never drink a Zombie!

By the time Nige finally surfaced into the heat of the day the fishing was all but over for the morning. Once again it had proved impossible to hold fish in an area once they were determined to move off. Fish spooking away with hookbaits and heavy baiting up over their heads seemed to affect them not one bit and they fed avidly in an area for as long as they felt like it, but once they decided it was time to go, that was it. Nothing would stop them. Really curious behaviour. We wondered if it wasn’t some sort of aberrant behaviour caused by the necessity to feed to replace lost energy after the rigours of spawning.

I was just wondering where to go for lunch and if the others would be up to a hefty meal and a litre of wine when Nige suddenly remembered through the haze that he’d booked us in for a meal up at the restaurant. I was raring to go, though the others were not at all keen. I dragged them along anyway and enjoyed the full-on steak-frites and a beer or three. Bill was up for the hair of the dog but Nige was done for finished and he retired to the shade of the camp site to sleep the afternoon away. By early evening he was up and fit for the fray again so we blitzed the three swims ready for an early start the next morning.



Determined to make up for a lost day’s fishing Bill and Nige decided to sleep by the water so as to be ready at first light, Bill in Weedy Corner, and Nige back in his favourite car park swim. I would take the middle area again in front of the camping, which meant I could kip in the comfort of my bivvy. Bill was by now fully recovered and ready for more, but Nige wasn’t risking further brain damage and left the two of us to it, so we wandered along the footpath in front of the camp site up to the creperie. We watched as the sun set in a blaze of spectacular colour and over a beer or several we set about putting the world to rights.

For once the promised early start was unaffected by any outside influences. My morning’s action started at 6.30 am and lasted through to about midday. All told I had eight mirrors on the bank to low twenties and again all the fish came to the right hand side of my marker, even though I’d spread the bait carpet much more widely around the area. It made me wonder if there wasn’t some sort of feature there to the right that attracted and held the fish, but later plumbing and swimming never revealed anything out of the ordinary. This is one of three low twenties I caught that morning.



The fish scrapped like crazy all the way to the net and the ancient pike men danced attendance with one old boy insisting on netting every fish for me and taking some pix too. He didn't do a bad job of it either.



Me and this particular fella had held several halting conversations during the course of the holiday, and his friendship was to stand me in good stead as the morning progressed. I’d had a couple of runs and the old fella had netted and photographed the fish for me. I returned one without problems but as I was about to return the second carp a lively discussion broke out between the old boy and a younger man who looked a bit of a gypsy who took exception to me putting the carp back. I recognised him as one of the hangers-on who’d been drifting around the car park swims in the company of the two jealous anglers we’d encountered earlier in the trip. He got pretty irate and became very threatening. It wasn't a big fish but I was buggered if he was going to get his hands on it. I didn’t need this sort of aggravation.
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   Old Thread  #250 28 Jan 2018 at 3.54pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #249
I was trembling with the cold of my first-light dip, but a run within seconds of casting out soon got the blood circulating vigorously. The run had come from the right hand rod cast well off the bait patch, and resulted in another nice low twenty, and the re-cast to the same spot was taken as soon as it hit the bottom, another twenty! Two twenties within quarter of an hour. I moved the other rod to the same general area that had produced the takes. It was odd that takes were coming to the right of the marker, but I figured that I had probably tended to scatter the groundbait that way in the darkness of the early morning, swimming bait-up!

To be honest, I wasn’t bothered where they took, as long as take they did! I was feeling very pleased with myself, a self-righteous reasoning telling me that I would rather be catching carp than sleeping off a wicked hangover.

Suddenly my action finished. It was as if someone had flicked a switch, yet I’d put loads of bait out to try and hold them down in the swim. Surely they hadn’t cleared it all up in less than two hours. I was considering a move to Weedy Corner, though it had been agreed that Bill would fish there that morning. I didn’t think he’d be doing much fishing after last night so and wandered down to the swim. My concern for Bill was academic anyway. There were two pike anglers fishing Weedy Corner.

Late morning and Bill came staggering along with his rods heading for Weedy Corner. I told him not to waste his time and he cursed the drink that had meant a late start and loosing the swim. “Sit down there, old son, and tell me the tale of last night,” I demanded.

Bill groaned at the memory, shook his head in 'never again' disbelief.

"We were up at the restaurant having a quiet drink when we made a fatal mistake."

I knew what was coming next.

“Don’t tell me that you bought the patron a drink!"

“Got it in one,” said Bill. “How did you guess?”

“Don’t ask!” I replied, remembering our similar mistake in September last year, when the Calvados had got the better of Tat and I after we’d made the same mistake. Buying the patron a drink seems to be looked upon as an open invitation for you and him to get smashed.

“That was the start of it all," continued Bill. "Next thing I knew he had this funny sweet liquor going into our lagers and we got a little pissed.”

“A little!” I exclaimed. “Have a word. You were rat-arsed!”

“Oh yes I know,” he replied. “But that came later. It wasn’t there that we got totalled. No, we wanted a nightcap and Nige fancied a game or two of pool so we called in at the other bar at the bottom of the hill. The owner was just closing up but he said he didn't mind serving us one or two. Well that guy did for us good and proper.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“Well,” Bill continued. “We were the only two in the bar. It was late, about 11.00 and the owner was very pleasant and a good pool player so we had a couple of beers. We just wanted to be sociable and though we were only a tiny bit pissed at the time, like a pair of prats we went and did it again!”

“Are you telling me you bought him one too!” I cried, appalled.

“I know, I know,” said Bill. “But that’s what we did all right, and then he reached up and got these big glasses down from the top shelf, dusted them off and started pouring all manner of poisonous-looking boozy things into them. I don’t know what went in so don’t ask, but one minute we were sitting there feeling pretty good about things, still more or less sober, the next we’re pissed as handcarts. I’ve never got so drunk so quickly in my life. Those drinks were absolutely lethal."

Bill shuddered at the memory. “Next thing I know Nige got up to go to the loo and discovered he’d lost the use of his legs! We picked him up and plonked him back on his stool while the barman made us yet another of those...things. We knew if we drank it we’d be out of it, but we didn’t want to insult the guy’s hospitality so we put that one away as well. If anything it was even worse than the first headbanger, but we struggled out of the door before he could do us any more damage and the rest you know.”

Bill groaned, holding his head in his hands as memory piled upon memory of things he’d rather have forgotten. “Oh yes. One more thing,” he said, hoisting his gear onto his back and heading for a swim further down the bank. “We told
him we had a mate back at the site, so we’ve arranged to take you in there before we go back home for an ale and a few games of pool with the local hustlers, so look forward to a very decent headache, you gibber!”
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   Old Thread  #249 28 Jan 2018 at 3.51pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #248
I woke early in the evening to find that the other two had gone AWOL. I guessed that the boozy buggers were up at the creperie, so I took my headache for a walk across the field to look for them. No, not in there. Maybe they were fishing. Out of politeness, I had a beer or two in the creperie, then strolled along the camp site bank and down to the barrage. Still no sign of them so I returned to the creperie to await their return. I had a couple of nightcaps while I waited. Well, you’re forced too!

The sun blazed it’s way down the evening sky. I kept expecting to hear the hiss as it seemed to enter the water on the far horizon. I had been meaning to try to capture that sunset on film since we’d arrived but for some reason or other I still hadn’t got around to it. Too many nightcaps? Perhaps. I went back to the bivvy…Still no sign of Bill and Nige. I stretched out on top of my bed chair and was quickly in the land of Nod, only to be woken by inane giggles and laughter. The lads had returned and they were legless!

Nige, The Pot Noodle Man, was all for digging out the stove for a quick Chicken and Mushroom (or some such repulsive mixture). “Wake up, Townley. Make Pot Noodles,” he yelled." You can sod off for a start,” I replied safe behind the door of the bivvy. Their antics and laughing continued for a while until Bill realised that Nige was too far gone to hold a sensible conversation. In fact he was talking to himself, as Nige had fallen asleep. I tried to stifle my laughter as Bill cursed and struggled with the incredible Puffing Billy of a death trap he calls his cooker. There were farts and groans and mutterings and at last, after a particularly savage jet of flame lit up the night, he gave it up as a bad job. Nige was fast asleep on the dampening grass and Bill, worried about the heavy dew that was forming, man-handled the torpid form into his bivvy and onto the bedchair.

As my two sozzled companions snored the night away, I lay awake planning my attack on the camp site bank swim that we'd marker'd a couple of evenings ago. Nige was planning a return to the car park swims assuming he was feeling well enough! He and Franck had done so well earlier in the trip and they looked to be the hottest swims on the lake, probably due to all the bait that we had put in since arriving.

There was no doubt that the fish were capable of clearing up a vast quantity of groundbait during the brief dark hours, and rather than bait up the camp site swim heavily the night before fishing, I figured it would be best to put the mass bait in at first light, ready for the carp’s arrival mob-handed on their way from the car park swims up to Weedy Corner. I lay there, not relishing the thought of either a row out with the Plastic Pig or alternatively a early morning swim with a ten-kilo bucket balanced on my chest.

Dawn arrived cold damp and drizzly with a heavy dew on the ground. Not the ideal morning for a swim. Then I realised that the Plastic Pig was locked in the back of the van, and the van was nowhere to be seen. God knows where it would be after last night’s revels… Bugger! That meant an first light swim for Ken.

So it was that five o’clock on a chilly spring morning found yours truly swimming frantically out in the general direction of the marker (which I couldn’t see as it was still dark) balancing upon my chest a heaving bucket slopping over with a heady mix of groundbait, particles and boilies. The water was warm enough, but it was dark and threatening and I wasn’t really happy until I was back on dry land again.

I went back to the bivvy some sixty yards away on the camp site and made a quick cuppa against the numbing chill, then dashed back to the swim with the gear to make sure non of the old boys with their ancient pike gear spread themselves out in the pre-baited swim. Of Bill and Nige there was no visible sign, though the groans coming from their bivvies indicated that they were still a long way from a state of bliss!
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   Old Thread  #248 28 Jan 2018 at 3.49pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #247
We got back to the lake at about eight o’clock in the evening. The camp site and recreation area was still busy and in the lakeside creperie a party of some kind was in full swing. Somehow or other we managed to get involved and ended up having a beer or two in very jovial company. The locals were extremely friendly and seemed determined to make sure we enjoyed ourselves. A long table held a sumptuous running buffet that seemed inexhaustible and our busy hands made light work of the feast. The convivial party looked set to go the full distance but if we wanted to fish for carp the next day, we needed to get away right now. With great strength of character we managed somehow to drag ourselves away and get back to the lake in time to put a marker on the rough area we had fished with the French lads last year. We felt sure we could pick up fish there, possibly bigger ones that might have been spooking away from the car park swims due the number of carp that had been caught there since we’d arrived.

Monday dawned crisp and clear yet again. This weather was amazing. I couldn’t believe how kind it was being to us. So far all we’d had in the way of rain had been the merest drizzle very early in the morning. At first light Bill, Nige and I stood on the deserted camp site bank gazing out on the unruffled surface of the silvery lake. It was going to be another scorcher. Bill and Nige left for Weedy Corner while I decided to fish Weedy Corner.

Every morning the dawn arrived in company with a crowd of little old French pike anglers, though our jealous friends from the first day were not among them. Once again these ancients were out in force along the camp site bank, which was the most accessible of the lake’s banks. From time to time one or two would wander up towards our swims, and after a bit of ice-breaking we all got on famously together. Far from appearing jealous of us, like others we had met, they were absolutely fascinated by our high-tech carp traps. The buzzers in particular had them totally intrigued and each time any of us got a run they’d be there in numbers crowding around the swim as the fight progressed. At first there was a slightly tense atmosphere when we put the fish back, but gradually we managed to get through to these old fellas that we fish only for the pleasure and that we’d get strung up in England if we went around killing carp!

Down in Weedy Corner I sat and shivered waiting for the sun to kiss the water. It was clear that the fish were not in the swim while the sun was off the lake, but as soon as the shadows shortened and the full heat of the sun warmed the shallow water off the distant bar, the swim came to life. I scanned the water close to the bar through my binoculars and thought I detected a golden shadow beneath the surface, but I couldn’t be certain. Then a shimmering dorsal fin broke the surface like a sail, catching the rays of the sun, sending me a glinting message across the water. The carp had arrived!

The first take came shortly after eight o’clock, a fish that came off in the pads and I realised that I would need to beef up the gear to improve my chances of extricating any hooked carp from the jungle, allowing me to pile on the pressure once the fish reached fringe of the lilies some fifty or sixty yards out. You see, it was no problem getting takes off the shallow bar, which was about 80-90 yards out but the problems started when they got to the pads that lay between the bank and the bar. There was no alternative but attempt to bully a hooked fish through the pads and hope for the best. The stronger tackle did the trick and I landed the next five takes on the trot, three high doubles and two low twenties to 22lb 8oz…Very satisfying!



If I was a very happy with my morning’s fishing, Nige and Bill were definitely not, as the blanked completely when on previous days this had been the most productive time of day. Was it possible that the fish had cleared up all that bait? It looked as if that might be the case. Even Weedy Corner died on me as the morning wore on and soon the fish could be spotted away up the lake, splashing frantically among the weedbeds of the nature reserve as they got down to another bout of pretty serious sex. We were forced to adjourn to the bar once again, and we slept off something of an excess through the boiling hot afternoon.
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   Old Thread  #247 28 Jan 2018 at 3.47pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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By first light we were back at Weedy Corner. In the early morning light we could just see Nige and Franck across in the car park swims. The sun was just touching the tips of the trees on their bank but the Weedy Corner was sheltered from it’s early light and we sat and shivered in the cool morning. The swim itself looked dead and it wasn’t until 8.00am when the sun began to brighten the water out beyond the lilies that I had the first take off the distant bar. All went well until it reached the pads, then it was a case of hold on and hope. I felt the stems buck and jag as the line tried to cut through them, while the pads twitched and shuddered as the fish fought for freedom down below in the tangle of stems.

I was lucky. That fish came through, but Bill’s first one didn’t, nor did my next take, or the next. It was clear that the pads were thicker than they looked. Then I had another fish that came through the jungle all right, but Bill lost another two, one on my rods after I’d had two takes at once. One thing was certain, the carp were feeding along the bar in a big way but getting them to the bank meant pulling them through the pads, a risky business. It was exciting, arm-wrenching fishing and I got lucky and managed to winkle out three nice doubles. However, I lost three and Bill’s run of ill luck continued; he had four takes but never got a fish to the net.

Nige meanwhile had enjoyed a hectic night in the car park swims and between them him and Franck had landed about twenty fish between them. However, the night was somewhat spoilt for Nige as four of Franck’s friends had arrived and set up as between Nige and Franck and then began casting directly at his marker! Too tired for aggravation Nige decided to leave them to it and leaving his best three fish sacked up drove around the lake to fetch me for a photo session.

By the time we got back they’d moved all his fish, scattered his gear over most of the swim and broken the head of his landing net. Nige was well annoyed by their attitude, and blamed Franck for not putting his mates right. It put a damper on what had otherwise been and exciting night’s fishing. I did a few pix of Nige's fish and then we drove back to Weedy Corner where Bill had caught a couple and lost one too. Here's a couple of Nige's fish.





Our earlier estimate of the possible patrol route appeared to be spot on as it seemed likely that the shoal of carp from which we caught fish in the car park swims at night and through the first part of the morning was the same shoal that eventually arrived in Weedy Corner by mid-morning. As one area went quiet the other one came alive. They must been moving en masse across the lake from the car park to the Weedy Corner. Indeed, some of the carp we caught on the bar behind the pads were crapping out bits of boilie and groats that we’d put around the markers in the car park swims. This seemed to show just how far and how quickly those fish were prepared to move about the lake looking for bait, the two swims being about 500 yards apart!

The next day was a Sunday; fishing would be a waste of time. Anyone who has fished in France will recognise the significance of that statement. Quite simply, the world and his wife, dog, kids etc turn out into the countryside every Sunday whenever the weather is favourable. The lakes are a solid mass of humanity on, in and even under the water and until the activity dies down late in the evening you would be well advised to enjoy the day doing anything but fish. We decided to take a drive in the country, look at some more lakes and enjoy a meal at the little restaurant at Redon that we’d visited the previous year.

The English speaking owner and chef once again laid on a feast fit for a king. I don’t know how they do it for the price, but I’m not complaining. Smoked trout, snails in garlic and then poached salmon followed by Roquefort cheese, a chocolate mouse, coffee, cognac, and then more cognac. On the way back to the lake we stopped to look at a couple of new lakes. There was no one fishing them but they looked like big-fish lakes, assuming they’d not been emptied recently. Local inquiries revealed that one had not been emptied since 1977. If there were carp in there they’d be worth catching. We were almost tempted to go back and get the gear, but recalling last years mad dash about the French countryside when we’d fished four waters in ten days, we decided not to make the same mistake again. Best to stick to the water you know until you’ve got the best from it rather than gad about the country in a mad pursuit of the unknown.
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   Old Thread  #246 28 Jan 2018 at 3.43pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #245
By the time we got back to the lake Bill was into a fish. It had taken bait cast close in under his rod tip while the two long range rods cast out to his marker had been ignored. Isn’t that always the way! The fish was just over twenty pounds, at last a big fish for Bill. Meanwhile Franck was chatting to some people in an official-looking van that had drawn up in the car park. They were employees of the Departement and had bad tidings, at least for Franck, and to a lesser extent for us if we were planning a return visit. The threatened vidange was now scheduled for the coming winter. The lake would be emptied and all the small carp would be sold, either for the table or to stock nearby lakes. Any unsold carp would be killed and taken away by the local farmers to be turned into fertiliser. What a bloody crime.

The news upset Franck, and I’m not surprised. Remember that these fish had only been in the lake since the last vidange in 1986 and now they weighed over thirty pounds. Given another two or three years of similar growth they’d go well over forty, I’m sure. We were all feeling a bit down in the mouth when the fish came back to revive us. I had another twenty: a long, pale leather of 22lb 12oz. Nige then had two in an hour, mirrors of 17lb and 18lb 4oz. Both were immaculate, looking as if they’d just been made. We were doing the pix of these gorgeous fish when a voice chipped in, “Don’t tell them they’re going to be dead in November,” said Bill.

By now a definite feeding pattern was beginning to emerge. It appeared that through the dark hours the fish fed their way down towards the car park swims along the west bank, also coming up towards our swims from the long arm leading down to the barrage. They would arrive in force on the markers at around seven o’clock and feed for two or three hours. The amount of bait they could get through in such a short time was staggering, and no matter how much bait we put in, there was no way we could hold them in the baited areas once they’d decided to move on. By now were each using ten kilos of mixed bait around our markers, that’s thirty kilos along a strip some hundred yards long. When the fish arrived I reckon they just put their heads down and hoovered up the lot. It was nothing to get three, four, even five runs at a time, so God knows how big the shoal was.

Our next logical step was to identify where they went after they left the car park swims. You’ll recall that Franck and Pierre-Yves had pioneered the shallower areas in front of the camp site bank when Carole and I had joined them there in September ‘90, so naturally I was keen to try one of these swims myself. Alternatively there was a weedy corner on the opposite side of the lake that also looked promising. I felt sure the fish were following a patrol route right across the longest bank of the lake from the car park up to the weed beds. From there I thought they were probably heading up into the bird sanctuary where they spent the rest of the day either in frantic spawning activity or in idle sun bathing, for the weather continued settled with daytime temperatures in the mid- to upper-twenties. This may help give you some idea of the swims:



That evening as dusk approached Bill and I wound in our rods (no night fishing remember), but Nige had decided to take a risk and together with Franck, they were going to fish the night in the two adjacent car park swims. As the light went they baited up with three buckets of groundbaits and boilies - about 30kg worth! Bill and I meanwhile planned to fish the next day in a couple of swims we had not fished before near Weedy Corner, so after putting a bit of bait into the general area we adjourned to the nearby creperie for a bite and a beer. This handy little hidey hole was a Godsend as it was situated just a few yards from the lakeside. You can just see Weedy Corner on the other side of the trees on the left of the photo.



We sat on the terrace as the last of the sun’s afterglow left the sky, overlooking the promising weedy corner, where the thick set of pads grew in sheltered protection from the prevailing winds. The swim had look of Savay Lake about it. A carp sanctuary if ever there was one. A long shallow bar stretched out into the lake from the reed beds about eighty yards out and around twenty yards past the pads. Surely the fish would find this weedy corner and that tempting bar very much to their liking. As we sat and sipped we heard several fish crash out along the edge of the rushes that bordered the swim. Otherwise it was very quiet and peaceful and we sat well into the dark, drinking cool beer and listening to the frogs croaking their mating calls into the still air.
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   Old Thread  #245 28 Jan 2018 at 3.37pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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The afternoon heat was building all the time and the sun beaming down on the bright gravel of the car park itself made your eyes hurt! Only Franck seemed immune whereas we Brits did what we could to avoid the heat. Here's Franck (yellow t-shirt and back to the camera) about to have a word with the guy clocking his rods (my rods are to the right of Franck's). You have to remember that in 1991 modern carp fishing was in its infancy in France and a matched set of rods sitting on front and back bars with buzzers adorning the front ones appeared very futuristic to the majority of the French public. You can almost feel the heat coming out of the photo in this pic.



As the heat intensified the spawning activity seemed to get even more intense and clearly fishing was going to be a waste of time for large parts of the day if they kept this up. The Pig was launched once again, and Bill rowed out to the markers with several slopping buckets of mixed groundbait, boilies and particles ready for an evening session when the cooling night airs might put a stop to the carp’s spawning frenzy. Then we abandoned the lake for the cool comfort of the bar. A few beers we were ready to take up arms again.



Back at the lake we found the swims full of French idiots on planks (sailboards) playing silly buggers. In addition a dozen canoeists were creating mayhem in our swims. It looked as though they’d been designing a slalom course with our markers as one was nowhere to be seen and the other three were way out of position and most certainly not on the baited areas. Fishing was out of the question until the activity died down and the canoes left our swims in peace. While they played silly buggers we tried out the bar on the road across the dam. They had a pool table and Nige's eyes lit up. He is a real pool hall hustler and when he is on song you can't get him off the table. Somehow or other fishing got forgotten for the rest of the evening.

All things considered, I didn’t feel too bad the next morning. Again the dawn was cold and damp, the wind still blowing in from the north. The barometer was high and steady, and though I’ve never liked high pressure in the UK there are times when the exact opposite seems to apply in France. I put the kettle on and had a cuppa and then we drove round to the car parks swims where Franck was already fishing. He just shook his head and blew out his lips in a Gallic shrug. I think he was getting used to our cavalier attitudes towards our fishing. He’d slept in the car park, listening to the fish crashing out in the darkness over our baited areas. Then, at first light he’d cast out and had no action at all. Odd.

I had the first fish while I was still baiting up the second rod. “Good fish,” I grunted as the rod went over. The fish did a fair impression of an Exocet missile and when it turned out to be a small but beautifully formed mirror of around twelve pounds I was amazed as it had put up such a scrap... Small but who cares…I was more than pleased.




The sun was now burning it’s way through the fog and it was getting very hot once again, but there were still carp in the swims. I had a very welcome twenty pound mirror which was followed by twenties for both Nige and Franck, two completely different fish. Franck's was a humpy-backed big scaled mirror while Nige's was almost a pure leather. This was just fantastic fishing. A runs water where the runs were largely twenties.



Once again sport slowed as the morning went on. Nige and I drove into the village for some French bread, cheese and milk and some false caviar. I love that stuff! It’s really lumpfish eggs, but as I’ve never had the real stuff, it’ll do for me until I know better. It is also a fantastically effective attractor and when mixed in with loose feed such as groats or crushed hempseed it really gives the bait carpet a boost. So much so that it is actually banned as a fishing bait in France. Me, I can't stop eating it so it seldom if ever gets as far as the groundbait bucket.

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   Old Thread  #244 28 Jan 2018 at 3.33pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #243
We were still busy with the cameras when Franck had yet another run. The fish must have been going around in one huge shoal for us to get such concentrated action. This fish was a long, lean leather of twenty-three pounds. It was clear that the fish were shoaled up in the general area fronting the car park swims so naturally Bill and Nige set up along the bank to Franck’s right. Given the obvious size of the shoal out in front of us we could expect takes to come at any time and throughout the rest of the morning we all enjoyed some hectic action. Often we had several takes within the space of a few minutes. Initially all the action came to Franck’s and my rods. Twice we both had fish on at the same time, but them they moved a little bit further down the bank towards the barrage where they came upon Nige’s baits. Bill, fishing below Nige nearer still to the barrage, remained strangely fishless.

I felt perhaps we were cutting him off from the fish but at last they arrived in his swim in numbers. Bill’s first fish went just over seventeen pounds, the next nineteen. Suddenly the action just stopped dead and way over on the far side of the lake a tell tale commotion told us that the carp had stated spawning again. What to do? Sit it out in the hope that they’d come back, or go and get some nice ice-cold beers down us? No brainer, really!

We sat in the bar’s and had a beer and a light meal. My lack of sleep was catching up with me, and I went back to the bivvy to catch up on some kip while the others went off with Franck to the far end of the lake in the no-fishing nature reserve to watch the carp spawning. The evening was spent pottering about in the inflatable. We all felt that we might have a better chance of keeping the fish in the baited area if we had a big carpet of groundbait in the swims in front of the car park, so several buckets full of groats, buckwheat, hemp and nuts, along with a scattering of boiled baits were deposited around the markers ready for the next morning.

Later that evening a dark blue van pulled into the camping's car park and three Garde-Peche strolled down to the water’s edge. They didn’t speak to us, nor did they check our licences, but it was obvious that they were sending some sort of silent message. They knew full well that we were carp fishing and much as I think we would have liked to fish through the night, it simply wasn’t worth the risk after such a blatant, if unspoken, warning.

The next morning dawned foggy, misty and damp with a light drizzly rain, but it remained warm and humid and, as on the previous day, everything looked and felt very carpy. We were awake before first light, totally refreshed after a restful sleep and were at the car park swims just after dawn. Franck had beaten us to the swims but in the fog was having trouble in finding the little patch of hard ground that had been producing takes all through his campaign on the water. Visibility was down to about fifty yards and he couldn’t see his marker.

Small carp were spawning in the rushes that fringed the bay to my left, but there was no sign of any bigger fish among them. I hoped that maybe they were too engrossed, feeding on the groundbait we’d introduced to the swims the previous evening. The drizzle relented around mid-morning and the sun poked through the overcast. By eleven o’clock the sky had cleared completely and the lake steamed gently as the heat burnt back the mist and fog, driving the dampness from the air.

As the light improved the markers became visible from the bank so we all re-cast our rods, topping up the bait carpet with home made boilies and a scattering of groats from the boat to supplement the heavy baiting we’d carried out the previous evening. After yesterday’s hectic action we were naturally expecting a repeat performance, but strangely, all the English anglers blanked as the morning belonged to Franck. France 4. England 0.


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   Old Thread  #243 28 Jan 2018 at 3.29pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #242
I got busy with the cameras, firing off several shots of Franck’s two fish that had been sacked up for some time now, and as the two earlier captures came out of the sacks they were replaced with the two we’d just caught. I hoped there was more to come. Quite a crowd had gathered to watch the weighing and photographing ritual. A couple of ancient, sun browned and wizened pike anglers strolled up the bank to join the throng, affecting an air of bored nonchalance. Their murmurings amused Franck. “They are jealous,” he said to me in English. “I have watched them trying to find out the secrets of modern carping from other carp anglers, but nobody will show them the techniques. They would kill all their fish, you see.”

The wind had dropped quite a bit while Franck and I had been playing the two most recent fish, but Franck pointed out that a few carp had started topping in the general area that I had cast to. I was still gazing through a viewfinder when I heard a run start on one of my rods. I put the camera down carefully (in truth, I dropped it), and ran up the bank to my swim, where the line on my middle rod was belting out. I picked up the rod and just hung on as a powerful fish put as many yards in between itself and me as it could.

Was that fish strong! Back and forth it powered on a very long line and after ten minutes I’d still made no impression on it. Then, gradually the fish yielded to the pressure and fifteen minutes later it was in the deep margins at my feet. Now the fight really started with a vengeance; astonishingly powerful surges up and down the margins; great thick oily swirls coming up from below to flatten the wind blown surface. This was a big fish. Slowly but surely the fish tired, and after a dour struggle lasting about twenty minutes Franck slipped the net under my prize, grinned up at me and said, “Fifteen kilos I’d guess.” Whereupon I did a silly dance, up and down on the spot. A thirty!

But the elation was short lived once I got the fish in the net and had a chance to look at it closely: it was certainly a big fish, but it wasn’t a thirty. I searched around for my scales only to realize that I’d left them over on the camp site. Franck had a set of scales that weighed in kilos and he made it fourteen kilos exactly. What the hell was that in pounds and ounces? I had to know. I borrowed one of Frank’s sacks (mine were back at the bivvy with the scales and the sling), sacked the fish and started to run up to the others for a set of English scales, then turned in my tracks to rush back to my shrilling buzzers as another fish took off with the bait. Another hectic struggle followed: “Do all these fish fight like this?” I asked Franck as he waited patiently with the net. He simply grinned and once again said, “Fifteen kilos!” I told him to stop doing that.

Another ferocious twenty minute scrap, another big twenty in the net. Not quite as big as the first, but it made up in looks what it lost in weight. It was an absolutely gorgeous fish! Leaving Franck to guard the fish still in the net I dashed up to where Nige and Bill were fishing to get their scales. “Any good?” I asked. “Nothing,” they replied. “Then get your arses down to the car park. They’re going potty down there!”

And with that I grabbed the Bills scale’s and Nige’s sling and hared off back to my swim…where my third run of the morning had just begun. Unfortunately it fell off half way in, which was OK, really as it gave me a chance to deal with the other two fish. Though I’d told Nige and Bill that I thought I may have a thirty sacked up, I knew in my heart that it wasn’t going to make it. Sure enough, by the time the lads arrived with their tackle I was just lowering the sling back to the deck. It was a near miss, four ounces short of the magic thirty pound mark. I checked it on Nige’s scales and they told the same story. The other, a very pretty mirror, went 25lb 11oz. I was a happy man, to say the least. Here's the bigger of the two.


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   Old Thread  #242 28 Jan 2018 at 3.06pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #241
Somewhat later than we’d originally planned, we set off for the lake, the van bumping and groaning its overloaded way down the potholed track, around to the far side of the lake where Franck was fishing his favourite swim in front of the car park. He gave us his usual quizzical look as if to say, “What kept you?” He’d obviously had some action already, judging by two carp sacks tied to a bankstick in the water in front of him. The fish were both twenties. A nice, heavily scaled 25lb mirror and a smaller near-leather of 22lb. The two twenties were backed up with two big doubles. The English were late on parade yet again. Still, better late than never. Here's Nige getting the news from Franck.



It was time to get some bait out there. Bill and Nige decided to set up in a quiet, rush-fringed bay about three hundred yards up the bank, while I chose to stay with Franck, fishing a nice grassy swim some fifty yards to his left where a shallow, rush- fringed bay swept down from a distant point jutting out into the lake.

We had decided to fish only with boiled baits to start with. If a carpet of groats and particles became necessary, we could always blow the boat up later on. (I say boat but it was more of a kids plaything. We called it the Plastic Pig.) I cast into about twelve feet of water, some eighty yards out. All three rods were baited with fishmeals and stringers, but the free offerings surrounding each hookbait were a mixture of fishmeals and ready mades in equal proportions. Because of our late start it was now really getting hot, well up in the high twenties, with a steady, fresh breeze from the north east pushing into the bay and across the car park swims. It looked very carpy.

Yet I couldn’t help wondering if we hadn’t arrived a bit late, and the activity in Franck’s swim did seem to slow, and then stop altogether as the sun climbed ever higher. A further hour with no fish seemed to confirm that we’d arrived too late. Certainly the car park swims now looked dead, I just hoped against hope that perhaps the others were on fish. That would be some consolation.

Franck and I stretched out in the mid-morning sun. As it climbed towards its zenith so the wind seemed to increase in strength and veer more easterly, blowing more or less straight into our faces. That might stir them up a bit, I thought to myself. Then, suddenly one of Franck’s rods was away. He struck hard and the rod took on an alarming curve as a fish took off at high speed. He was still bent hard into this fish when another of his buzzers sounded. “Oh, Ken, for you!” he exclaimed and needing no further invitation I snatched the quivering rod and leaned into the fish. As on our previous session together at Cannonball, another cat’s cradle situation soon developed as both the hooked fish seemed determined to tangle other lines, no matter how hard we tried to
keep them apart. More by good luck than good judgment we managed to keep them apart and eventually brought both fish to the waiting nets. Franck’s fish was a nice 23lb mirror, while the one that I had played out on Franck’s other rod weighed just under 26lb. A nice start.

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   Old Thread  #241 28 Jan 2018 at 3.03pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #240
The Channel crossing was the smoothest so far and I only felt sick for the first hour. What is it about big boats and my stomach? A couple of large brandies soon eased the queasiness and the rest of the six-hour crossing passed quickly. Straight through customs, and down to Morlaix. Here the almost empty dual carriageway leads straight to Rennes and all points south. Three hairy hours later (the motion of the overloaded van had been more sickening than the motion aboard the ferry), we pulled onto the campsite by the side of the lake.



It was a lovely warm summer’s evening, the lake lay still and peaceful before us while thousands of swifts dimpled its surface, feasting on the countless insects and mosquitoes that were hatching at the surface above the bloodworm beds. Daylight was fading quickly, the air heavy and warm, an oppressive heat that brought sweat readily to our bodies as we emptied the van on the campsite. By the time the bivvies were up we were ready for a beer so we set off for the nearest bar in the center of the tiny village.

On the way around the lake we stopped off for a look at a couple of swims that had caught my eye last time. On the far bank, just in front of a small car park, we could see a lone carp angler who was just packing up. I’d heard from Franck that there were now a few French carp anglers on the lake and as a little inside information would come in handy we went round for a chat. As we neared the car park I could see it was Franck himself and he told us we had arrived at a very good time. Just that day he had caught five fish including two over twenty pounds. That'll do nicely. The pub loomed even larger.

Back at the camp site the soft, warm night was alive with the croaking of thousands of frogs, while the crickets kept up a deafening chirrup in the wheat fields behind us. Out in the darkness a carp splashed noisily on the surface. Was that a good omen? Though we should have been exhausted after the long day’s traveling, I think we were all too keyed up to sleep and we sat outside our bivvies in the gentle night air, drinking beer, sharing stories of bygone days and listening to noisy carp spawning among the reeds along the western fringe of the lake. As the small hours drew nearer tiredness caught up with Nige and he turned in, but Bill and I were too gee’d up to sleep and we stayed awake a bit longer chatting and drinking. The spawning carp mocked us. They were at it like knives!

Eventually we too climbed into our sleeping bags, but still sleep wouldn’t come easily. A thousand dogs seemed to be doing their best to keep most of France awake with a concerto of howls and barks. No matter where you go in France there is always one or more dog on a mission to dark from dawn until duck, keeping you and the rest of France awake!

Yet somehow I must have slept for next thing I knew it was 7.30am. The sun was already high above the treeline surrounding the camp site, its heat beginning to burn the morning haze away. So much for a dawn start! Fatigue had caught up with all of us during the night, and Nige looked as if he’d been shot at, but then so did Bill and I. We were not really ready for the carp just yet. Breakfast came first, coffee and croissants at the cafe.
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   Old Thread  #240 28 Jan 2018 at 3.00pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #239
We spent hours slaving over our respective stoves, building up a huge stock of air dried boilies but eventually we had to call a halt as the van simply wouldn't take any more. Surely there must be enough by now. The home mades added to the bulk bags of Richworths ensured that we would have well over one thousand mixed boiled baits each per day for the ten day’s fishing that lay ahead. The Cannonball trip had shown just how much these French fish like a big dinner so we hoped that boilies, on top of a carpet of groats and particles, would provide a suitably tempting meal.

In early May Franck rang to give a progress report. He said that the carp in the region had still not got down to spawning but that the water temperatures were hovering dangerously close to the spawning trigger point. It did not look too promising, but there was no going back on our plans now, everything had been
arranged and it was too short notice to change our holiday dates simply to account for the vagaries of the carp’s amorous activities. Still, the last thing we wanted was ten days fishing for spawning fish. I suppose we must have been unique in praying that the cold dry weather which had been a feature of the winter and spring months would continue for a while.

It seemed to take forever to come round but eventually the last week in May was upon us and with it came much better weather, just as we’d feared. In France they were getting daytime temperatures in the low thirties. The carp would surely be spawning by now. Bill came down to Cornwall the day before we sailed and on the Tuesday morning, bright and early, Nige pulled up at my front door in a seriously overloaded van, way down on it’s springs and
groaning loudly. The van, the same one as last year only now a bit more battered and bashed, had been loaned to us by Nige’s boss. Thank-you, sir! Nige keeps the running gear in tip top order, and though it is only a modest a 10cwt Maestro with 130,000 miles on the clock, it’s not let him or us down yet, though in the cold light of a 5.30 start, the springs did appear to be suffering signs of being severely over-compressed. Nige said that it was like steering a boat.

I bade farewell to Carole and strolled out in the crisp early morning air to join the others in the van, and we were away. It wasn’t until we got to the ferry port that I realised I’d left the camera bag behind. That’s a good start. The whole point of the trip was, hopefully, to obtain some decent transparencies of beautiful French carp! So much for my organisational skills.

Picture the scene: It is later that morning. Back at home, Carole has just got up for breakfast. There are my cameras on the kitchen table. “Stupid git!” she exclaims and goes running for the car. Now, it’s about forty miles to Plymouth from our house, and there was enough early morning traffic on the road to make the miles seem twice as long. The ferry was due to sail at 8.00am and it was now 6.45am.



“I’ll never make it,” Carole curses. Our car at the time was a ten year old R5 with close to 100,000 miles on the clock, but that morning it was transformed into a Formula One Ferrari. She drove like she’d never driven before and arrived just in time to get the camera bag through customs and onto the boat, where I was wearing a very long face. The trip wouldn’t be the same without my cameras. But when my name was called over the ship's booming tannoy I just knew that Carole had come to my rescue, bless her.

(The death-defying, high speed rush took it’s toll on the way back. Poor little Concorde first overheated, then stalled, coughed and banged her way back to Fowey and was never the same car again, but in view of the many rolls of film that I shot, I think, on balance, that the car’s sacrifice was worth it!)
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   Old Thread  #239 28 Jan 2018 at 2.54pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #238
ZOMBIES! MAY ‘91

The previous year’s short five day trip had seen Tat and I dragged from pillar to post by our young French friend Franck and his laid-back pal Jean-Yves. Read back a few pages and you'll find the account of the trip and will see that we ended up on a big barrage lake where we managed to catch one or two at last. Franck in particular had done well, catching a superb looking mirror of twenty seven pounds plus. That fish alone had made me want more as it only served to whet my appetite for the lake. During the winter Franck kept me up to date with developments. It looked as if the shortage of rainfall through the winter was going to postpone the vidange for another year. If we could just get through the winter without a change of heart on the part of the local authority, we would be in with a shout. (Vidange is the French for and an emptying so that when applied to a lake it means a complete drain down to empty the water and the fish. This is usually done so that routine maintenance can be carried out on the barrage or dam. Incidentally, the same word is also used to describe a wine harvest).



I spent the winter months with fingers, legs, arms, everything crossed and when the spring months arrived without any sign of the threatened vidange I knew we could go ahead and book up in anticipation of some excellent fishing. I rang Nige Britton and Steve Westbury, old fishing friends from Cornish carping, and we made a provisional booking for mid-May and a few weeks later we met in the familiar surroundings of our local pub for a few beers and the all-important Official Committee Meeting. In the depths of a fishless winter the distant thoughts of those French carp certainly got our old enthusiasm flowing again, but then, I don’t really need any excuse for a beer and a chat about fishing.

The talk was of maps and lakes, dates and rumours, bait, tackle and all manner of essentials vital for any successful French carp fishing trip. Then, sadly, Steve had to pull out. He and his family were planning an extended holiday to
Canada in May with a view to emigrating there later in the year or early in ‘92, so Steve was unable to commit himself to any long term plans for a fishing holiday in France as well. A great pity, for Steve had always been very good company over the many years we had fished together (Roche Angling Club lakes, College and other venues in Cornwall) and I knew we would miss his unique sense of humour. One thing we would not miss would be his uncanny knack of out-fishing everyone else!



The fact that the threat of the winter’s vidange that had been hanging over the lake had been lifted meant that there was really only one water to head for. It wouldn’t take long for the lake to get out onto the grapevine at the rate it was producing fish and we just had to get back there before the world and his wife arrived. Further information from Franck only served to encourage us. He’d been concentrating solely on the lake throughout the winter with some success.

The committee meetings became more frequent as D-Day approached, and as expected Steve confirmed that he wouldn’t be able to make the trip. His family’s emigration was looking more and more certain now, though there was no definite date as yet. Hopefully he’d have one more chance to get over to
France with us before they crossed the ocean, but it would not be on this occasion. The sad news was countered by good: I’d managed to twist the arm of Speedy Bill and he’d decided to throw in his lot with us for his first foreign carp fishing trip.

One vital lesson that we’d learnt from previous trips was that we had got the bait aspect very wrong indeed. For a start we’d simply not taken enough bait, and the bait that we did take was far too soft, no match for the hordes of bream, crayfish and small catfish that whittled soft ready-mades and other boiled baits to pieces. So for this trip we agreed that we would rather take too much bait than not enough, and we would need to make them harder as well. In addition was also intended to take several sacks of groats as we knew full well how much carp loved the little yellow grains. Finally we forked out on some back up baits, Richworth shelfies, the Birdfood Enhancer version.

By making the home mades up using an egg replacer and water instead of eggs, and also air drying them till they were rock hard, we were was confident that we’d be able to keep the baits in good condition for the whole of the ten day trip. These would be in addition to the Richworth shelfies.


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   Old Thread  #238 19 Jan 2018 at 2.33pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #237
As for Tat, to her fell the honour of our last fish from the lake. There was about ten minutes left before our self-appointed packing-up time when another rod roared off. This one did everything properly. It fought backwards and forwards with long, powerful runs. It boiled on the top and swirled up from the bottom, a typical fight from a big mirror carp. It was a last-gasp twenty.



So that was it. Considering we weren’t taking the fishing at all seriously, we hadn’t done badly, over fifty fish between me and Tat, plus Franck's worthy contribution, with a goodly number of twenties to boot. This was the first time we had enjoyed what one might call a satisfactory French trip. It was as if our previous visits had been building to a crescendo, thought as it turned out the orchestra was only just getting warmed up, with future exciting times just around the corner. We were already pouring over the map in search of future barrage lakes with, of course, a gite nearby.



Cannonball Lake had been very good to us but if it hadn’t been for coincidence and the good fortune of Debs choosing the gite using the “stick a pin in the map” method, then I don’t suppose we’d have fished the lake at all, and I'd never have caught 'Rod's Common'. Lady Luck, I love you!

It's getting on for thirty years ago that the above took place. The lake was well stocked back then and if the carp have done as well in Cannonball as they have done in other lacs de barrage in the area then there will be some right biggies in there by now. Imagine this one at fifty plus!



But much as we’d enjoyed Cannonball Lake, there was one lake I couldn’t wait to get back to, the one we'd visited briefly in September with Franck and Pierre-Yves. The carp in there were piling on the weight but the threat of the lake being emptied again in the winter was always a possibility, so the minute we got back from Cannonball we were making plans to get back to the big windswept lake again, hopefully this time without added sail boarders!

I'll leave you with one final anecdote. You'll have gathered by now that after we left the lake of an evening things took a somewhat 'liquid' turn, yes? So when one morning as John came down to cook breakfast and he couldn't find the butter you'll perhaps understand why, after an extensive search we eventually tracked it down to the inside of the microwave. No idea how it got there…ahem!

So it was all over, time to leave the sumptuous gite, the fabulous little bar in the village, peasants and Pernod, puds and pies, carp galore, great company and a rabid attack dog (joke). Memories galore that still linger even after nearly thirty years.





More to follow.
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   Old Thread  #237 19 Jan 2018 at 2.21pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #236
We drove back to the gite and twisted the arms of John and Debs to come for a beer (not really!). One beer became several and we walked back to the gite somewhat unsteadily. The clouds were locking up and it looked like rain but so what. We had no intention of being out in it! We spent the evening doing the usual; eating and drinking and playing Trivial Pursuit, girls v boys. These games became quite ferocious at times!



Time was running out and torrential rain fell overnight. At first we thought that it had not brought the level up but then we noticed that our marker was now a bit further away. An influx of cold water…how would that affect the fishing? Not much as it turned out. We were ultra keen now as we were running out of hours so despite a bit of a headache we got to the lake before dawn. The rods went out and almost immediately two of Tat's were away, another nice mirror and a low twenty. Crazy!

It went quiet for several hours after that so I took the opportunity to go out and dump the rest of our greatly reduced supply of bait around the area and at the same time pick up the marker. For one thing we had the casts spot on by now using far bank marks to aim at, and for another we didn't want to leave our 'litter' in the lake. At last I caught my first big mirror, a fish of 27lb 8oz. There were just a couple of hours of fishing time left to us before we headed back to meet John and Debbie for a last night party at the bar. When one of the buzzers went I struck into what felt like an old sack. It was just a solid weight with only the vaguest pulls at the rod tip. No lunges or head shakes, it just stayed put, not struggling or taking in line, but not coming in, either. Then, as if waking up to its situation, the fish began to move slowly and ponderously to my left on a very long line. I tried to pump it but it didn't want to know and just continued unhurriedly swimming parallel to the bank on the same heading. All I could do was follow along the bank keeping parallel with it. After ten minutes or so I was about 100 yards away from the rods and the fish was still swimming left all the time, getting no nearer the bank.

This was getting ridiculous so I piled on the pressure and the fish grudgingly came in a few yards, still trying to go left. In the end I decided just to hang on and hope that its obsession with taking this course would eventually bring it in to the margins, whereupon I could run up the bank towards it, gaining line as I went.

This slightly dodgy tactic worked and eventually the fish kited into the shallows. There was a big swirl on the surface as the fish almost grounded itself in the shallow margins but then with another surge of power it shot off again into deeper water. Now, I know what you must be thinking…foul-hooked, right? I was thinking the same but after a struggle lasting must have been near on half an hour I managed to sink the net under the fish hooked slap bang in the middle of the bottom lip. A mirror and a big one at that, all 28lb of it! Thank you, Lord!




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