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   Old Thread  #216 12 Jan 2018 at 3.22pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #215
As if to complete the sense of elusive unreality, a buzzer sounded, soft and muted, echoing in the hazy mist off the lake. Down the bank Pierre-Yves was playing a fish while Franck danced impatient attendance with the net. I went down to take some pictures and by the time I’d walked the hundred yards or so to his swim, the fish was in the net. A nice long leather of about eighteen pounds. “That’s a good start” I thought to myself. I noticed the lack of urgency in getting the carp weighed and returned and wondered for one horrible moment if they were going to kill the fish. But no, it was just that typically French laid-back attitude.

Eventually Franck got around to wetting a sling and doing the honours, while Pierre-Yves simply carried on re-baiting and so on. The fish was returned without ceremony or even photo. It isn’t that Pierre-Yves is in any way blasé about his fish, it’s just that he rarely takes pictures of them, happy simply with the memory of the sport they’ve given him. The sun rose and the heat of the day took its toll on the feeding carp. In the full light of day we could see pads stretching as far as the eye could see. The racket of carp sucking at the pads slowed, then stopped altogether. Perhaps the fish that Pierre-Yves had caught indicated their willingness to feed more on the bottom than at the surface.

That proved to be the case; Franck and I both had fish by mid-morning, while the oh-so-cool Pierre-Yves had another big fish which was returned in the same off-hand manner that we were to come to know so well. He really is the most relaxed bloke I’ve ever come across. I’ve seen people fast asleep who are more uptight! I’d love to fish a pressured English season with the guy. If the blanks started to get to me I know he’d soon help me get things into perspective. As we talked about this and that in his halting English and my broken French, he told me that he was a postman for a living. Beats me how he ever finds the energy to get out of bed at the required early hour, let alone trudge the streets delivering the mail. It wasn’t until later that he told me that he does most of his work from a post office van and had so far taken three months paid holiday this year. I asked him if he could get me a job like that!

The day was turning into a scorcher and in the heat of the day Pierre-Yves was revealed as a man after our own hearts. He likes his beer! Funny, that: Tat and I were just thinking about lunch! We were about to wind in when I noticed two gendarmes down the bank and headed our way. No problem of course. Our tickets were in order and night fishing was allowed. But it’s always the same isn’t it? You always feel guilty when you see the Old Bill, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. These two fetched up at Franck’s bivvy. God, they did look menacing. For a start they look so impressive: as if they’ve just been poured into their uniforms and told not to get them dirty. The cap may look a bit silly, but the guns they wear on their hips certainly don’t. These guys meant business. First of all they wanted to know if we’d been night fishing. I was about to say that yes, of course we had, and why not? when Pierre-Yves stepped in with a denial.

“Good,” they said. “Night fishing isn’t allowed on here any more.”

Franck gulped but said nothing. He’d been fishing the nights right through the summer, confident that he was allowed to do so. Then the gendarmes explained that the mayor had given permission only for a one-off trip by a well known French journalist. Night fishing was definitely NOT allowed! To rub salt in the wound they told us we couldn’t camp on the water. They called it `camping sauvage’ savage camping? I think not! Still, they were the ones with the guns. The bivvies must come down. We can fish till a few minutes after eight that evening and then vacate the water: very official. The only camping was on the official site at the other end of the lake, about four miles from the nearest fish. I thought it was all going too smoothly!

We obviously couldn’t risk carrying on fishing and camping here now that the gendarmes knew we were in the area. We were at a loss as to what to do next. Franck said that many of the lakes he knew of were fishing poorly. We suggested going to Tremelin as we’d originally planned, but then Pierre-Yves, who lives not two miles from the water chipped in with the news that there was a sailing regatta there this weekend! Looks like Plan B was a no-no.
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   Old Thread  #215 12 Jan 2018 at 3.21pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #214
We made up the first dozen or so mixes at home and froze them prior to taking them over in a cool box. We also several pounds of dry mix and the necessary flavours should we need to make bait on the bank. I rang Franck just before we left and arranged to meet him on the barrage on the Monday evening. The early boat from Plymouth would give us plenty of time to get down to the lake before nightfall, or so we thought.

Gales in the Channel are no great respecters of carefully laid plans. The crossing was horrendous and I spent the trip calling for Hughie. Why do I get seasick on big boats? I had spent much of my life bouncing around on the ‘oggin on a poxy fishing boat and hardly ever got ill, yet the minute I step onto a bloody ferry, up comes dinner. Tat, as usual, took all that the Western Approaches had to offer without batting an eyelid, and spent the roughest part of the crossing with her nose buried either in a book or a glass of cognac, or both.

If the crossing was bad, then the delay at the customs was even more frustrating following a terrorist scare, so the gathering gloom of an early autumn evening saw our overloaded little jalopy pounding it’s willing heart out to get us to the lake before it became too dark. We made it with an hour to spare, but we were still half an hour late for our rendezvous with Franck and his friend. There was no sign of either of them. Perhaps they had got tired of waiting. I was a bit concerned, but I needn’t have worried. About half an hour later Franck drove up to the lake accompanied by a man-mountain who made Grizzly Adams look like a stick man. This was Pierre-Yves, all eight feet thirteen inches of him, blotting out the sun and grinning through a thick black beard. Giant Haystacks, eat yer heart out. I could see Tat giving him sideways looks and wondered what she was thinking. It didn’t do to ask!

The two French lads had already set up their bivvies at the far end of the lake, and prepared a swim, all carefully pre-baited for Tat and myself. Wasn’t that nice of ‘em; all we needed to do was cast out, put up the carp house and get stuck into the beers. The lake here was long and fairly narrow, perhaps some two hundred yards across. Away to our right the barrage that formed the lake rose towering into the darkening evening sky. Lily pads stretched from one bank to the other, with narrow clear channels and small cut-out spots where anglers had prepared a swim. I could see why Franck had suggested we come prepared with heavy line as clearly any carp we hooked would be buggers to extract from that jungle.



Soon the barbeque was glowing warmly and the ale was flowing. The evening was warm, perfectly still and I could hear plenty of carp 'clooping' at the undersides of the pads. In the field behind us cattle shuffled noisily in the quiet air, and from far off came the noise of the occasional heavy lorry as it rumbled through the night. A family of coypu made it’s way along the far margins, returning to its burrow for the night. And I thought the rats at Savay were big!

The gales of the Channel had been left far behind us and in the warm stillness of the twilight the stars gradually emerged and a big, full moon illumined the lake with it’s ghostly light. In a state of utter peace and contentment we feasted on barbequed steaks, burgers and sausages, washed down with rich red wine, the odd beer or two and a final cognac as a nightcap. Bliss!

The carp appeared to be totally preoccupied with their feast of snails - either that or they weren’t aware of the part they were expected to play in the proceedings: for the time being, who cared? The sunrise next morning was truly spectacular. The paint-brush of creation had prepared a canvas of colour over the lake, a hazy mingling of soft golden rays that lit the motionless, sparkling surface like a Turner seascape. I dashed off a few shots with the transparency camera knowing that no photograph could ever do justice to such a splendid dawn.


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   Old Thread  #214 12 Jan 2018 at 3.19pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #213
CARP AND CALVA: EARLY SEPTEMBER 1990

I came back from that pioneering trip in May with mixed feelings. Sure, we had caught carp fish from every water we had fished, but I couldn’t help feeling that we’d fished too many! Four waters in ten days, seven hundred miles solely in Brittany?! We had not exactly given the lakes and rivers we had fished much of a chance, had we? Yet with no first-hand knowledge or information to guide us, we managed to persuade ourselves that we had done as well as could be expected. It would be different next year, we said. We’d pick a water and stick to it, hopefully having found out a great deal more about fishing in France than the second-hand gossip that had guided us through our first trip.

My incessant chatter about how wonderful our first trip had been was now getting to Tat, and when she found herself with some leave due, I was on the phone in no time, and soon a short five-day trip was upon us. In retrospect our first trip had really been a bit of an anti-climax and though we’d returned, putting a brave face on it in front of our mates, in truth we all knew that we had done a lot of things wrong. Something of a bull in a china shop attitude had prevailed. If there was a lesson to be learned it was surely that we should concentrate on known waters, rather than blasting off into the blue to God knows where. Sure, we’d caught fish, but with a bit more thought and planning wouldn’t we have been more successful?

The trials and tribulations of fishing abroad are fairly obvious and need no stressing, but if you can learn by your mistakes, then no experience can be called wasted. One of the first lessons that anyone should learn, especially on their first or second trips to France, is to pick a water with a reputation for holding the size of fish you are interested in. If you are simply after singles and doubles, fish any bit of blue you can find. Carp are everywhere in France, in the rivers, in the lakes. A pin in a map will suffice. However, if it is bigger fish you are after then head for the better known waters with an established reputation and keep your ears peeled. You cannot get too much info!

With this in mind, Tat and I planned to fish Tremelin. We’d already heard from Franck that the lake was less now hectic than it had been in May and the park rangers seemed to have become more accommodating. And it was after all, a known big-fish water that had produced some glorious fish during the summer months. It’s not up to Cassien standards of course, but a few of the big thirties had been caught, along with a forty-pound mirror and stacks of twenty-pound fish and big doubles to make up the numbers. That would do nicely.

I wanted a few fish for Tat in particular. It had been a long, hard year for her, what with one thing and another. She holds down a job that carries a great deal of responsibility and recent changes in personnel and working practices had meant long hours and some pretty trying and stressful times. Her fishing had suffered as a result.

Since we’d got back in May I’d been writing regularly to the young Breton, Franck Martin who’d been so kind and helpful to us earlier in the year. Though at the time he was a comparative newcomer to modern carping, he was learning the ropes very quickly. The area around his home is rich in lakes and rivers, and the temptation to flit from water to water, never getting to know any particular lake well enough to get the best from it was an obvious one. Sensibly he was learning to walk before trying to run.

Franck had fished Tremelin a fair bit, accompanied by a friend from Iffendic who was learning the ropes and between them they had notched up some very impressive numbers. However, one very special lake they’d discovered not far from Chateaubriand had been very kind to the pair and a phone call just before we were due to leave for Tremelin soon had us in a maze of indecision. Franck was eager for us to come over and join him on this new lake. What to do? It was no contest really; you go with the local knowledge. What swung it was the fact that night fishing was now allowed on Franck’s water following an arrangement with the local mayor.

The two French carp anglers had caught loads of fish, including mirrors to 33lbs and commons to 26lbs with an impressive average weight of eighteen pounds. The plan to fish Tremelin went sailing out of the window. In the meantime we got the gear ready and made up a few mixes of the fishmeal mix that we’d been on all year. Basically this was a basic red fishmeal base with dried seaweed and a five grams of green lipped mussel extract and flavoured with strawberry and an essential oil. This was the same mix we'd used in the UK and it had done OK so we felt no need to change it for France.
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   Old Thread  #213 11 Jan 2018 at 4.49pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #212
To complete the sorry story, yet more boat anglers appeared out of the mist to drop anchor right in front of us. It was the last straw. We didn’t know it then, but we do now. Weekends, particularly Sundays and public bank holidays are bad news in France. The whole nation goes fishing. And yes, you guessed it: it was a bank holiday and the French anglers were out in force.

The gods had conspired against us to make sure that we wouldn’t get any more chances. The night fishing was out of the question and with this lot creating mayhem in our swims, to all intents and purposes the trip was well over. We were booked on the ferry the following day. The three of us went up to the town for a beer that evening. We had a meal and several beers and I watched as some French guys took on Nige and Steve at table football, you know the one, with all the little model players mounted on twist bars. Be warned! The French take this game very seriously so don’t bet against them. I’m not really a betting man, but I won a few beers on the French lads that evening.

I awoke the next morning to find that so scrote had stolen all my bankside gear. Luckily I’d taken the rods and reels in and put them in the back of the bivvy. That's the final straw…it was all over, time to go home.

So, what had we gained from our first French trip? Well for one thing, I couldn’t wait to come back again. I’d had such a good time that it didn’t matter that the fish we’d caught were small, and for a first visit we could hardly call it a flop, could we? True, we hadn’t caught the big fish we’d hoped for, but on the other hand, we had visited four different waters and caught fish to double figures from each of them. Many people go to France and never even get a run. We’d eaten food fit for the gods and drunk more than enough to drown them. Would we go back? Too right we would. But not on a French bank holiday!

I think it might be fair to suggest that this account of our first trip to France might be fairly typical of many back then, nowadays it's all there on a plate for novice traveling carpers. In hindsight - a wonderful thing - our expectations were set too high and our experience level too low, and as a result we did it all wrong, dashing around from pillar to post, fishing too many waters and not getting to know any of them. But it had been a learning experience and the mistakes we made this time, we hopefully would not make again. Tat and I were going over in the autumn to fish with Franck Martin who had a couple of lakes he wanted to show us.


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   Old Thread  #212 11 Jan 2018 at 4.42pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #211
I needed no more asking as the photos were very impressive, many being over thirty pounds with several that were well over forty, possibly even more. Sadly he was a bit miffed with Dutch and German anglers breaking the rules by night fishing. In the past the gendarmes had cast a benevolent eye upon the odd infringement of the rules, but when a group of carp anglers had got into a fight with the gendarmes and the French anglers they’d decided to clamp down hard on night fishing.

Steve and Nige turned up and we convened an Official Committee Meeting in the bar. I had by now moved my gear and, as it turned out, Steve was all packed ready to join me on the opposite bank where we could fish to the marker buoys. That left Nige in splendid isolation fishing the point swim, but I think he was secretly pleased that he would have the well-known hot spot to himself.

By that evening Steve and I had set up in adjacent swims within easy casting range of the two buoys. The night was uninterrupted by any fishy activity, unless you count the dammed bream. As instructed we rebaited the rods at about 3.00 am, cast them into the gully and followed the splashes of the leads with a couple of dozen pouches of nuts out of the ‘pult. All was ready. The trap was baited, and if all went to plan, we were in with the best chance of a French monster since we’d arrived.

The weather was a repeat of the previous morning. Damp and very still. They should start showing any moment now. The run came at about 5.45 am: a real belter. And I lost it. Arrrgh! An unknown snag frayed the line within a few short seconds of my making contact with the fish, leaving me with no more than an fleeting impression of an immensely powerful lump on the other end. I took loosing that fish quite well all things considered, and the rod only flew fifty yards or so.

From the moment I lost that fish, I just knew that I wasn’t going to catch at Jugon. I was just fated, that’s all. It wasn’t to be. End of story. Full stop. I recast to a small fish that showed off to my right, well up the bank: perhaps Steve was still in with a chance. Let’s hope so. I was only just going through the motions but I hoped Steve or Nige, who was certainly on a roll, might be lucky. They weren’t and the rest of the morning passed in an uneventful doze and the day passed interminably. I was at a low ebb, finished with fishing and wishing I was home.

I went into town on my own that evening and had a glass of beer. It wasn’t happening, a waste of time. Low spirits all round. I got back to the swim about ten o’clock. I couldn’t be bothered fishing through the night, and after all, we’d had a more than guarded warning about the garde de peche. It wasn’t worth the risk, and anyway, I simply couldn’t be bothered to cast out, if you can understand that. I laid the rods out on the rests and climbed into the bag. I slept like a log.



I was awoken before dawn the next morning by one hell opf a commotion coming from further up the bank to my right. I got out of my sleeping bag, threw back the door and peered out. The sight that greeted me held me speechless for a few seconds. There were French anglers driving their cars along the edge of the lake, headlights blazing, horns blaring. They stopped right in front of Steve’s swim and started bashing in rod rests with three pound lump hammers. Out over the gully a couple of big metal rowing boats trolled deadbaits and spinners backwards and forwards over our baited areas. What a lash-up. There was no way we were going to get another chance in the channel today.



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   Old Thread  #211 11 Jan 2018 at 4.38pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #210
He explained that there was a regular feeding pattern to the big carp in the lake. Each morning, between five and nine o’clock, the big carp patrol the camp site bank between fifteen and thirty yards out, he told me, pointing across the lake to two very prominent marker buoys used by the sailing club. That’s where the old river bed runs and they also mark a deep part of the channel. He told me to try and get the baits in position by four in the morning at the very latest and then whatever you do keep the noise down. Apparently they bigger fish in the lake were very aware of anglers and the more noise they made the more likely the carp were to clear off.

It was clear what this guy was telling me. No strolling around on the bank, no kettle on, no shouting and yelling or larking about. He even advised me to put my bivvy up way back from the water’s edge, above a path that he pointed out, running through the woods bordering the lake. There was a genuineness about him that told me that he knew what he was talking about, so after he’d gone, wishing me I wandered down the bank to talk to the others. We decided to move to the swims John the next day as night was already falling.

That night we all got mullered by the dreaded p-c though they did relent for a while and Steve had a nice mirror of around 14 lb. Not really what we were after though. What else happened that night? Oh yes. There was Nige’s little adventure...

Nige sleep-walks. Not a joke, I can assure you. It can be pretty serious, and he’s got himself into all sorts of trouble on account of what others may consider a trifle. That night, halfway through a nice peaceful snooze he decided to take a stroll - or should that read, a hop for he was still in his sleeping bag - into the lake. Then, still sound asleep but by now minus his sleeping bag and thoroughly soaked through, he returned to his bedchair and carried on dreaming. He woke up, who knows how much later, shaking with the cold and with his sleeping bag doing a passable imitation of a small boat drifting off down the lake. There was nothing for it but to go in again to rescue it.

By comparison my night’s fishing was totally uneventful. First light revealed a white calm surface with a hint of mist lying on the water. Over on the far side, close to one of the marker buoys, a huge fish crashed out twice, right in the spot John had shown me. Then another fish showed about two hundred yards further along the bank. Our British mate was right, there seemed to be fish showing in the deep channel close to the far bank. As we watched, a fish jumped in the far channel by the buoys. The lads on the far side seemed to be fast asleep and all this activity didn’t to stir them up at all and we were keen to move. Nige on the other hand said he was staying put on the strength of the three fish that the point had produced so far. Steve too was still uncertain. I wanted to move; I’d seen the buggers jumping.

It was now drizzling steadily and the lake appeared grey and cold. Suddenly a fish crashed out over my baits. It wasn’t one of the true giants that the lake is known for, but was good enough for me. I guessed it at mid- to upper-twenties. Half an hour passed without any further signs of carpy life. Suddenly the tip of the middle rod, cast way out into the middle as far as it would go, and baited with a single soaked peanut, shook violently and the line pulled out of the clip, but no run followed and I knew that, quick as I had been onto the rod, there would be no answering tug from the other end when I struck. I was right of course. I guess I must have forgotten to pack my slice of luck for this trip. Time I moved.

I went into Jugon for supplies and a beer or two. The village itself is very pretty, especially in the square where most of the better bars and restaurants are situated. On the other hand the place is a tourist trap. Everything seems to cost twice what it should, and they see you coming from a long way The people are nice enough though. I got chatting with the proprietor of one of the bars, a big chap with an impressive beard. He told me that the owner of the bar up the road loved carp fishing, and he had caught most of the bigger fish in the lake, photos of which were displayed on the wall of the bar.
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   Old Thread  #210 11 Jan 2018 at 4.36pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #209
It had started to rain quite heavily so I draped the bivvy over the brolly and pushed a couple of pegs in to keep it from flapping too much. I love the sound of rain on the bivvy. It is so soporific. My eyes fell shut with a resounding clang and next thing I knew it was daylight. The swims were a hive of activity as Steve and Nige fell too with a vengeance, bait flying everywhere; rods swooshing and throwing sticks clonking as baits went flying across the gap to splash, tight under the cliff face. Nige had been plagued with false bleeps all night and we wondered if our Richworth ready mades were too soft to stand up to what we put down at first to bream. Later that morning we discovered the true culprits.

A large area of disturbed water in the margins off to our left caught out attention. It stretched for at least a dozen yards and extended out from the bank about five or six yards. Possibly small roach and other fry spawning. I went up to have a look. It wasn't small roach and other fry, it was the dreaded poisson-chat! the slimy horrible little buggers. There were thousands of them and they were spawning, thrashing the water to a foam. In case you have not become acquainted with these ghastly imports. They are actually American Bullhead catfish, famed in the deep south as the prime ingredient of Catfish Pie (but nothing to do with jambalaya). Like all cats they are the most voracious eaters and can clear a big bed of bait in seconds flat!



We spent the lunchtime in a nice restaurant in the town square followed by a few beers in the bar next door. To be honest the sight of those poisson-chat had knocked some of the optimism out of us. They can do that, you know.

Nevertheless as we set in for the dark hours hope sprang eternal! Indeed, at last the little nuisances long enough to allow a nice common of seventeen pounds to get a look in. At last Nige had landed a decent fish, and from what was generally accepted as a comparatively hard water. Maybe the big fellas would soon be putting in an appearance.



I wasn’t happy on the point. I thought there were too many rods cast across the gap to the cliff face and in the shallow water that meant the chances of spooking a big fish were quite high. I decided to move about half a mile up the bank towards the dam, to a swim where a large bay opened up to my left, with a thick marginal weed bed running along the front of the swim. I baited heavily with cooked peanuts and fished nuts balanced with foam. The hookbaits were dipped in neat Strawberry flavour to - hopefully - give them an edge over the free baits in the carpet.

I sat in the sunshine, watching a party of anglers as they arrived on the camp site on the opposite bank. It was clear that some, if not all of them were carp anglers, and it was also clear that they knew exactly what they were doing. No sooner had they arrived than a couple of them ran down to the water’s edge and dropped a few bits of gear in the swims that they wanted. I cursed out loud for they’d picked the very spot I was considering moving to if the fish didn’t oblige where I was. I resigned myself to staying put, whatever happened and put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

The steam had just started pouring from the spout when a battered white Renault 5 with French plates drew up behind my swim. I gave the driver my as usual incomprehensible, bonjour and he said, 'aw right, mate? Caught ‘em all? What was a Brit doing driving a French registered car? It turned out that he lived nearby and better still had caught some bloody great carp. He showed me the photos of some of his whackers from the lake, told me I was in the wrong place and said watch out for the rangers. He pointed out a few areas that he felt might hold a few fish and told me that he preferred that other side of the lake below the camping in a deep channel that ran close to the bank where the old river bed lay…where all the Dutch guys were!
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   Old Thread  #209 11 Jan 2018 at 4.32pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #208
Now what? We had one last lake to try. The lower of the two lakes at Jugon les Lacs was another couple of hours further up the road so we gritted our teeth and set of. By eight o’clock we had arrived at the lake. The lake had appeared in the press when a famous French carp guy mentioned it in Le Pecheur magazine. As result it was now the preserve of Dutch and German anglers. If they want to fish it then there must be good carp in there. In fact as we drove onto the huge campsite alongside the lake we could see a bivvy and a battery of eight rods at the water's edge. I went down for a chat…not much of one as it turned out. The anglers in the bivvy were Dutch and very uncommunicative and it was clear I would get no info from them. Miserable b……s!

We needed to buy day tickets to fish the lakes (no nights) and I got these at the camping reception. I asked about the fishing and it turned out that one of the Dutch guys down by the lake had caught a 49lb mirror from the lake a couple of days earlier. No wonder they didn't want to talk to me!

I had a rough idea in my mind of the layout of the lake, and I had seen photos of some carp against a background of a very prominent cliff towering over a section of the eastern bank. You couldn’t miss such a feature and as we drove around the western side of the lake, sure enough, there it was across on the far bank. There was a nice shallow point running out from our bank that seemed to point straight at the dominating cliff. It seemed an obvious place to start fishing so we put up the bivvies, cast the rods out, and then set about getting some food cooked and wine bottles opened.

I think we all felt a bit shell-shocked after the long, hassle-ridden day, but a crate of beer was unearthed from the back of the van and that helped lift our spirits, that and the report of the 49lb mirror. It helps just knowing that the fish of your dreams are actually in the lake so at least that gave us hope. So far we had been chasing our tails on the back of rumour and tittle-tattle, and while it is all very well fishing unknown quantities we were running out of days and desperately wanted something a bit bigger.

Darkness falls late in summertime in northern France. Even at 11.00pm we could still see to fish. We agreed that it would be silly for us to get a tug for night fishing on the very first night we were there, but in the end decided to risk it. We had almost come to the end of the holiday after all. We all turned in at about midnight. Tired though I was, I stretched out on the top of the bedchair in the warm night air, enjoying a last beer and fag before climbing into my sleeping bag. The surface of lake was white calm, the air still and breathless. If a carp had jumped we’d have seen or heard it a mile off but apart from the ubiquitous frogs and crickets no carpy sound disturbed the stillness.

My eyes were drooping with fatigue and I was sliding gently into sleep when I heard a buzzer. Nige was in! I heard him splashing through the marshy ground in front of his rods, the buzzer ceased its muted yell and the clutch uttered one very short, almost apologetic grunt. Not much of a fight so far. I climbed into my boots and joined Nige with the net. The carp, if carp it was, didn’t seem to do anything. It was just a dead weight at the end of the line, no tugging back or searing runs. When the poor beast was finally brought into the margins we could see why. It was a carp all right, a common of about ten pounds, but it was riddled with fin-rot and looked a very sorry sight indeed. We unhooked it in the water and watched it’s pathetic attempts to swim away with its sad remnants of tail, dorsal and belly fins rotted almost completely away. Poor Nige. I don’t think he was too pleased with this mank looking carp…but a carp's a carp and at least we had opened our account, and on the first night too.

Nige re-cast while I put the kettle on to make the tea. In the pitch darkness we sat, warming our hands on the hot mugs, listening to the sound of the crickets and the frogs at their nightly chorus. Somewhere out in the darkness, over by the foot of the cliff a carp leapt. It sounded like a very good fish. Suddenly Nige was all action as he grabbed the stick and sent more freebies out into the darkness in the general direction of the splash.

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   Old Thread  #208 9 Jan 2018 at 3.35pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #207
I was sitting on the bedchair, looking at the rod tips, when suddenly the whole-set up began to bang and shake. For a few seconds I didn’t twig that I’d had a take - of sorts. Then the left-hand rod tip pulled round violently. I leapt to the rod, striking hard…at thin air. Very curious.

The rest of the morning passed by slowly and gently. We were booked for Sunday lunch at the restaurant Nige knew and were due there at one o’clock. But we certainly couldn’t put in an appearance at any restaurant looking like this. Shaded by the overhanging trees and in the cover of the van we had a wash, a shave and a change of clothes and eventually emerged looking reasonably presentable. We packed the rods and the rest of the gear away and set off for the restaurant.

Over lunch we pondered over our plans for the remaining four days. We all wanted a big fish, of course. After all, isn’t that what people go carp fishing in France for? The problem was, where to go? We were perhaps within about six or seven hours driving of Salagou, the well-known water way down to the west of Montpellier and the reports I’d had of this water made it a tempting choice, but we all felt that by the time we got down there and were fishing efficiently, it would be time to come home again. There were s few stand by alternatives in Brittany and it was these that we decided to investigate.

This was our first choice, a huge barrage lake just to the north of Nantes. It was rumoured to hold carp and we thought it might be worth a try. Sadly all we got out of the visit was a glorious sunset!



After a blank 24 hours we moved again, this time to a lake that was becoming more well known in the UK, Lac de Tremelin a comparatively small water of about 100 acres. I had mentioned the lake to Franck, who had warned us that the lake was a leisure center that would inevitably be very busy and crowded. He also mentioned that night fishing and camping by the lakeside would pose a few problems. He wasn’t far wrong.

First impressions of the lake were not good. It looked as if all of France and his wife was either on, in, under or by the lake. It was chaos, with pedalos, rowing boats, sailboards, swimmers and water polo matches everywhere we looked. We hated it at first sight but we figured that, having come this far, we should at least give the lake a fair chance. We had a walk around and after a long afternoon’s recce found a couple of likely looking points on the far bank. Here we would be able to intercept fish cruising in or out of a couple of bays that cut into the shoreline on either side of the point. Unfortunately getting to the swims entailed a forced march carrying all the gear, and as we were knackered anyway from the driving (not to mention the Sunday lunch), we looked around in the hope that we could find a rowing boat that we could hire for an hour in order to get the gear across in one hit, without the route march.

It turned out to be a fruitless task, but after an hour or so I came across a guy who seemed willing to hire us his own boat for a couple of hours. He wasn’t cheap but I parted with the six quid he demanded and we began to load up the boat under the curious, and watchful eyes of a group of uniformed, official-looking Frenchmen who appeared to be taking more than a passing interest in us. Finally, when the boat was down to it’s gunwales with the weight of the tackle, authority reared its ugly head and we were told in no uncertain manner that we were not allowed to camp anywhere other than on the official camp site. Certainly not by the side of the lake, even if we weren’t fishing. We did one night on the campsite and at first light we left! Beautiful lake though it may be but it wasn't our cup of tea at all.


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   Old Thread  #207 9 Jan 2018 at 3.31pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #206
Nige was in stitches. “The poor sod hasn’t had a dump for four days”, he laughed. “I think it’s finally caught up with him. I had to take pity on the guy or he’d have burst.” Nige and I sat in the bar and drank a slow beer, followed by another slow beer. Finally, thirty minutes later Steve emerged looking relaxed, very relieved and several pounds lighter. “Come on then, you buggers,” he urged. “There’s fish to be caught. No time to waste hanging about drinking beer at this time of the morning.”

By mid-afternoon we were on the river where our friends had caught carp the previous year, and where Nige had lost a very large, completely uncontrollable fish. The River Oust looks is a carp man's dream with a deep steady flow, dark, turbid water and a small head of natural, wild carp looking more like barbel, in fact, than carp. It joins the river Vilaine, at Redon where the two rivers merge to open out onto a wide glacial plain. Fish in excess of fifty pounds have been landed here and carp equally as big have been seen in the Oust. We chose adjacent swims covering both near and far margins. Steve put his third rod very tight to the near bank, under an overhanging willow tree that stretched its shady branches well out across the river, just upstream of him. As before, we used nuts and maize for bait with a scattering of boilies for good measure.

I went into the nearby village for supplies of beer and fags and got back to the river as it was getting dark. The place looked transformed by the onset of the night, for suddenly the water had become alive with fish, albeit mostly bream, that were topping over the baits. I settled under the brolly and pulled it down low over the bedchair. A road bridge 100 yards away carried a fair bit of traffic and as we wanted to keep a low profile and fish through the night. we didn't use bivvies but slept under the stars. To honest they weren’t necessary for though the night was certainly warm enough.

I suppose I must have dozed off at around midnight, but I can remember hearing a buzzer sound on and off for a few seconds sometime during the night. It didn’t seem to amount to anything so I turned over and went back to sleep. It wasn’t until the next morning when Steve recounted the dramatic tale of his bionic wildie that I realised what I had missed. What an odd looking carp it was! It had picked up his sweetcorn hookbait, fished under the willow upstream of him and then shot off downstream and through the line on his middle rod. This accounted for the strange sounding take I’d heard the previous night. By a quirk of good fortune the two rods had untangled themselves and there followed the fight of a lifetime with a superb, lean wildie that weighed in at just under eleven pounds. Sadly none of the photos I took at the time do justice to this incredible fish. The slope of it’s forehead, the shape and massive size of all it’s fins. I’ve never seen a carp like it; a real powerhouse of a fish, built for living in fast flowing waters.




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   Old Thread  #206 9 Jan 2018 at 3.28pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #205
It must have been about midnight, and I thought about getting the rods in when out of the darkness a figure loomed. It was Franck bearing gifts. More beer. Good lad. We chatted for a while and watched as the electrical storm moved off slowly southwards. There had been no rain as yet, but it certainly threatened.

At about two o’clock in the morning I decided to wind the rods in and get a few hours kip. Franck wandered away down the bank, muttering. “I am going to research for carp,” whatever that means. I had just bid him good night when we heard Nige’s buzzer. The run had hardly started when we heard him rush to the rods and bend into the fish. Alas, fortune wasn’t smiling on Nige that night as the fish got away on an unseen snag, as did the next one, and the one after that. The poor bloke was obviously sitting on a bagful of carp and the mother of all snags. The remaining dark hours passed quickly. I slept fitfully for an hour or so but by five in the morning I was fishing again.

The water was flat calm and heavy, oppressive weather of the night before had gone The morning promised sunshine and contentment. I put the kettle on and drank the first coffee of the day as the dawn broke. I’d not heard any action from Nige’s swim, and as I strolled up with a coffee I saw that he was out to the world. Later he told me that he’d been up all night with hoards of bream and had wound in at about 4.00 am to get some kip.

Meanwhile Steve had been busy again. He was definitely the kiddie on this trip. Two more commons of twelve and fourteen pounds had come during the night with a further carp lost. Nice work, sunshine. Nige, Franck and I went down to do the weighing and the photos and polished off the few remaining beers.

Nige was a bit fed up with catching bream, and even Steve, who had hooked four carp so far, felt like a move. We were perhaps being somewhat premature in thinking of moving off to another water already, but we all thought that this lake was unlikely to push up a really big whacker and to be honest, the wanderlust had set in.

I fancied a try for a river carp and as Nige had friends further south (an English speaking restaurateur who could be relied upon to lay on a good Sunday lunch), we decided to move, this time to a river system that had produced fish for some friends of ours the previous year. A new water beckoned, wild river carp and the special challenge they pose.

We packed the gear away on Saturday morning after breakfast. It was a lovely sunny morning when we got on the road heading south and west for the river. The almost empty, long straight French country roads stretched into a distant infinity, bordered by lines of towering poplar trees. It was strangely hypnotic, and I dozed off in the passenger seat while Nige drove. Steve, perched in the folding anglers low chair that passed for the third seat was saying very little. Then, “I expect you boys would like to stop for a beer wouldn’t you?” came Steve’s voice from behind. I came out of my half-sleep at the sound of voices. Did someone say beer? At this hour of the morning? Well, why not. I looked across at Nige. He had a strange grin on his face. He winked and said, “Bit early isn’t it?” “I could really fancy one,” came Steve’s reply.” Not for us thanks,” said Nige. “It’s far too early. Let’s keep going for a couple of hours.”

I looked curiously at Nige. He was trying hard not to laugh. What on earth was going on? We carried on in silence for a few more minutes until we came to a tiny village where we had to give way at a cross-roads. A small bar on the opposite side of the road caught Steve’s eye. “Well I could REALLY do with a beer!” Now this is not like Steve one little bit. It’s not that he doesn’t like beer, but he’s not what you’d call a big drinker. Sure, he likes a glass or two, but his thirst had never bothered him at this time of the morning before. This was completely out of character.

Nige ignored him and turned to ask me how far it was to the next town. I looked down at the map and told him I reckoned it was about thirty-five kilometres. I heard a groan from the back. We pulled over the cross-roads and Nige parked in the small village square. I had no idea what had prompted this change of heart but it was ten-thirty and I suppose we could take a respectable ale or two now. We locked up and Nige and I strolled across the square while Steve ran ahead. “He’s keen to get them in isn’t he?”, I queried.
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   Old Thread  #205 9 Jan 2018 at 3.26pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #204
It was around mid-morning and we were all gathered in my swim sharing a few beers when a young lad of about eighteen years of age tentatively approached the bivvy. In halting English he asked us if we had, “taken any carps”. We told him what we’d had and he sat down for a chat. It soon became clear that this was one of the French carp anglers mentioned by the tackle dealer in the town. Little did I know it at the time but this meeting was the start of a friendship that we would strengthen as the years went by. Now a hugely successful businessman in France's carp fishing industry Franck Martin - for that was his name - was to prove a wonderfully helpful asset to us; not just on this trip but on others as yet unplanned and unknown awaiting us somewhere in the future.

Over a cup of coffee we chatted about carp fishing in general and bait in particular. I was clear that this fella was no mug and he knew what he was talking about when it came to bait. Soon his photos were produced to the accompaniment of admiring grunts and gestures. One fish of just under 38lbs, a common, really caught the eye, a very lovely fish that apparently was the record for the water. There were, it seemed, several even larger carp in the lake but according to our new-found friend, the total stock was only around 200 fish. Not a lot in 400 acres. Looking at Franck’s photos, including several multiple catch shots, it seemed as if the carp moved around in a huge shoal and if you were sitting on that shoal, you could really bag up. Here Franck looks on as Steve and Nige weigh another fish.



Franck offered to show us a couple of the swims he had done well in, so we set off for the far end of the lake where a small, inviting bay branched off the main lake. But though it looked very carpy, the whole area was covered in an impenetrable coating of blanket weed that had gathered in the bay on the breeze that was pushing directly into it. It looked unfishable so we decided to do another 24 hours where we were and take stock the next day.

We went into town for a meal and a beer with Franck, and after dropping the young Frenchman at his house, returned to the lake in high spirits. Nige moved from the point to my right to the one on my left, while Steve and I, having both had fish that morning, decided to stay put. It was blisteringly hot and we decided on a swim to clear the slight fog of beer that still haunted the depths of our grey matter. In the cool clear water we could see down the lake bed, with bars and gullies and little silt traps here and there. We put markers out on likely looking spots and piled the bait in around the markers.

The evening brought a lovely sunset but there was a lot of wind in the sky, the clouds looked breezy and I thought we were in for a bit of a blow later, maybe a bucket of rain too.



Sure enough as night fell the crackle of thunder and lightning loomed on the horizon and once again we were treated to nature’s spectacular light show. It was a fantastic sight and I sat on the bait bucket, beer in hand, watching the awesome power of the elements while the air seemed to crackle and hum with energy. Just as on the previous night this one was warm, humid yet dry, and somehow the violence of the still flickering lightning didn’t seem threatening at all.
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   Old Thread  #204 9 Jan 2018 at 3.09pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #203
A few beers and a belly full of pizza later we returned to the lake. We packed up in the gentle afternoon heat, piled the gear into the back of the van and set off for the new lake not far away. Less than half an hour later we pulled up on the barrage, dragged the tackle from the van and set off along a steep narrow path that wound its way through a thick pine wood. The wind had picked up during the evening, but it was still dry and warm. The breeze felt very refreshing, blowing hard from an easterly direction, straight into the bay we’d been shown by our friend from the shop. It looked ideal and the lunchtime session had brought with it a feeling of quiet confidence.

This new lake looked absolutely fabulous, and now at least we knew we were on with a chance of some better fish. The lake stretched out down the valley like a long silver snake, winding it’s way between rocky points and headlands. I’ve fished bigger waters since, but at the time it just looked huge and magnificent. I didn’t know how even start fishing it. We decided we would be silly to go anywhere but the places we’d been shown by the tackle shop owner as proven fish producing areas. If they didn’t pay off for us, we could always move on later to other parts of the lake.

By nightfall we were spread out along a nice bit of bank. Steve fishing a nice gentle slope dropping to the lake bed, a depth of about fifteen feet. Nige was fishing just off a point where he could cover a small, shallow-looking bay as well as the main area of the lake in front of him.

We all baited up at catapult range and then sat back to await events. Nothing happened and as the darkness fell we all turned in. I dozed, not really asleep so I was half awake when I heard the first fish bosh out at about 4.30.am. It sounded very close, almost as if it wanted to join me in the sleeping bag. Shortly afterwards another fish crashed out twice. I noticed how warm the breeze was for the early hours of the morning, a real feeding wind. I somehow just knew I was going to get a take and climbed out of the bag and stood by the rods. I heard another fish jump, this time it was in front of Nige and wondered if he’d heard it.

A violent electrical storm was flickering around the sky in the distance. It was dry and humid and you could cut the atmosphere and the tension with a knife. I walked down the bank to Nigel; it was funny but I wanted to share this charged atmosphere. He was lying on top of his sleeping bag, smoking patiently. He’d heard the fish jump in front him but he reckoned it and its mates were moving down on the breeze towards Steve and my swims. “I’ve got to have a chance in a minute, Nige,” I said, accepting the offered cigarette. “Be patient, my son. They’ll be here directly.”

We smoked in silence, listening the gentle lapping of the waves and the whisper of the wind in the corn field behind us. Even the crickets had temporarily ceased their racket. I went back to my swim and stood over the rods. Why hadn’t I had a take yet? Watched pots, and all that, Ken, I said to myself and returned to the shelter of my brolly.

I was lying on top of the sleeping bag when the run came, two single bleeps followed by a blistering run. Everything was shaking and banging as the fish took off at tremendous speed. Nigel was there almost before I was. He’d been changing baits when he heard the run start and came charging over, all energy and excitement. The first run on a completely unknown water can get to you like that. The fish went off like a train and felt big, or should I say, it felt like every fish we’d hooked so far this trip; mean and powerful. It took quite a while to get the fight going my way but once I had the upper hand, the rush of adrenaline dwindled away to a trickle and I realised that the fish was no lunker after all. It still scrapped like a maniac though and it was only after several searing runs for the weed were halted that Nigel scooped the fish up in the net.

We weighed and photographed a very pretty fully scaled mirror at just over seventeen pounds. Meanwhile Steve was in action down the bank to our right. Once more Nige was called upon to do the netting, this time a scale-perfect nice common, also 17lbs. We felt a lot better that morning I must say. We had no further action, and as the sun rose higher in the sky, it was clear that the fish were not feeding during daylight. We saw no sign of fish at all, and resigned ourselves to a long wait until darkness.



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   Old Thread  #203 9 Jan 2018 at 3.07pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #202
We must be in a small fish area, we thought. Perhaps a more detailed look around was called for. We spent the rest of the morning scouring the water and peering through binoculars for signs of bigger carp but all that we saw were small fish. The long day passed with plenty of action from the small carp, of which there appeared to be thousands. That night we decided to bait up really heavily with a couple of buckets of nuts and the remains of the maize, with a few boiled baits mixed in with the bits. We had taken a wide selection of baits, including ready mades and several kilos of frozen birdfood boiled baits along with loads of other bits and bobs that we thought might work.

The second night approached and Steve and I really piled the bait in and our baited area was soon carpeted with about fifteen kilos of nuts, maize and boilies. Nigel meanwhile had taken himself off to fish another area well up the bank from us where he’d found a nice shelf and plateau about forty yards out.

For all our hard work baiting the swims so heavily, Steve and I never had a sniff that night but up the bank Nigel had an absolute hat full. In fact he never managed to get all three rods fishing at once, and in the end finished up using just one rod. Fish after fish, but nothing over about five or six pounds. By the small hours of the morning he was so shattered he could hardly keep awake to land the next carp. Sadly they were all small ones but they were really hard fighters. He kept telling himself that it was only a matter of time before one of the big lumps we’d been told about made a mistake. But the stream of single figure carp flowed relentlessly and by four in the morning he’d had enough and he threw his rods into the back of the bivvy and turned in.

We were all getting a bit worried about the lack of better fish but then my first fish of the morning was a ten pound common so we felt a little bit better. Unfortunately it was a flash in the pan as in just a few hours fishing Steve and I must have had close to fifty takes, the majority being commons between seven and eight pounds in weight.

At one stage I had fish on all three rods at once. I landed them all then chucked one rod back out only to have it taken on the drop. It was crazy fishing. Steve was the next one to perform the three on at once trick, then I had another take, then another. Nigel didn't even bother casting out. He said it was tiring him out just looking at us.





This was getting ridiculous. Were there any bigger carp in the lake? We were beginning to doubt it. In the end we decided to find a local tackle shop and see if the owner could help us at all. What worried us most of all was the fact that the fish we were catching looked nothing like the dead and dying fish we’d been shown up at the cafe. Those were thick- bellied, dark golden fish, all doubles at that, while the fish we were catching were pale, slim and torpedo shaped. We had our doubts that the fish came from the same water at all and it was obvious that the crafty sod at the cafe had seen us coming as soon as we got off the ferry.

We drove into Vitre, the nearest big town and got lucky by driving straight up to the front door of the local tackle shop. That’s handy, Harry! God knows how we’d have found it if we’d had to ask directions for the shop was tucked away in a tiny back street and we’d driven straight to it by accident. The owner said that he knew the water we were fishing and assured us that it didn’t hold any big carp at all. These had all been removed a few years previously and killed or moved into private lakes. Following the drain down it had been stocked with 10,000 three to four-kilo carp. No wonder we were getting plagued with them.

He told us about another barrage not far away and pointed it out to us on the map. He even told us that there were a couple of French carp anglers fishing the water who used English methods and that they had caught fish up to mid-twenties. We thanked the shop owner for his kindness and made to leave. The new lake was a fair-sized affair of about 400 acres another barrage lake not far away from our starting point. We were undecided whether to move onto the new barrage straight away or to return to the small fish water for another night. Another committee meeting was called for and that entailed a trip to the nearest bar for light refreshments. We drove back into town, past the chateau and into the old market square. All of us were feeling a tad thirsty, and a few beers would go down a treat. The nearest decent-looking bar was crowded with lunchtime drinkers, getting ready for their midday meal. Idly I glanced at the menu to find a list of some of the most appetising pizzas I’ve ever seen.
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   Old Thread  #202 9 Jan 2018 at 3.03pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #201
A beer and some grub was in order for we were tired and hungry after the long ferry crossing and the subsequent drive down to the lake so when I spotted a welcoming sign saying, 'Bar' we needed no further encouragement. It was time to practice my appalling French on the local populace. “Three beers please!” The bemused cafe owner looked at me, a puzzled expression on his face. He obviously didn’t understand a word I was saying. Funny, I thought I was doing really well!

I dug into the French/English dictionary and eventually managed coax three beers out of the patron before attempting to explain that we wanted to fish the lake and please, could he tell us if there were any big carp in there? “Yes,” said monsieur. “Some nice carp have been taken from the lake.” I didn’t catch the nuances behind the word taken until much later: when he’d said “taken” he had meant it literally! I ploughed on in my halting French, Nige chipping in the odd word from time to time as he resurrected memories of long forgotten school days and distant French lessons. Hunger was gnawing a hole in our guts so we decided to eat at his cafe and talk things over during dinner and a few more beers. We were having coffee when the patron came in with a fish box containing a bloody, but still-alive mirror carp of about 12lb. Proudly holding up his ghastly prize he assured us that it had come from the lake and assured us that his friends had two more out in the boot of their car, taken.



We went outside to examine two double figure commons, both either dead or nearly so crammed into a small metal keepnet (for want of a better word). Nasty though the sight of those dead fish was, they were still big enough to whet our appetite and as soon as we were back inside we were reaching for our wallets, for it appeared that our friendly bar owner just happened to sell the permits for the lake as well.



With the aid of a local map the patron showed us where we could get down to the water and kip by the lake, though he warned us about the night fishing which was absolutely forbidden. We were too exhausted to fish the night anyway, so accompanied by a case of beer to see us through it we set off for the lake.

It was not yet dark as we set up the brollies, light enough for us to scatter some bait about and lace the margins with peanuts, maize and sweetcorn against the possibility that the fish would come in close during the night. We stretched out on the bed-chairs and watched a fiery sunset streak the mackerel sky with red, drinking the case of beer and chatting the dusk away to a background curtain of sound from a million crickets. As darkness fell and a thousand frogs joined in the deafening chorus I put the kettle on for the first coffee on French soil and broke the seal on the cognac bottle. Way out in the bay a carp splashed noisily through the surface and big grins broke out all round.

Despite the fatigue I couldn’t get to sleep at all that night. I was kept awake by the almost constant noise of fish crashing out all over the surface of the lake, to say nothing of the never-ending din from the frogs and crickets. Dawn broke chilly and damp with a heavy dew drenching the grass underfoot. With no real plan of campaign it seemed logical to cover all the areas that we’d baited up the previous night. That accomplished I set off to explore, leaving Steve guarding the rods. I’d not gone far when I heard a whistle. I ran back to the rods to find Steve doing battle on one of my rods! “What’s it feel like?” I asked. “May go mid doubles,” came the reply.

That’ll do for starters anyway. The fish was really pulling hard and the rod was bent right round to it’s limit, so we were both astonished to see the size of the carp on the other end. No more than eight pounds, if that. We had to have a photo though. It was a milestone carp after all.



The morning slipped by and as the sun rose a few fish showed themselves over the baits. Not big ones but they were carp for all that. Shortly afterwards Steve had a run on maize that turned out to be another small carp and then I had another and Steve another, not one of them over double figures. Pretty fish, though…


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