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   Old Thread  #308 5 Apr 2018 at 3.01pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #307
During the night the wind shifted yet again, this time round to the east. I emerged from my bivvy shivering with cold to be greeted by the sight of white horses galloping up the surface of the lake. The wind was cutting, blowing a gale or more along the length of the valley, and with the east wind came the cold as the temperature dropped ten or twelve degrees in less than a couple of hours, though for a while it did at least stop raining. We spread our damp gear on the roof of the bivvies in the hope that the wind and a pale watery sun might dry things out, but it was a forlorn hope.



The respite was cruelly short and soon it was raining harder than ever. Most of my gear was soaked through from a torrent of rainwater that had found its way into the bivvy. It came in under the rear right-hand quarter and flowed out at the left front. There was mud everywhere and it was thoroughly unpleasant. For the rest of the day the rain kept everyone cooped up in his bivvy feeling sorry for himself.

All through the following night the rain poured down in a continuous deluge. The river running through my bivvy became a flood and the mud seemed to find its way into the most impossible places. Later that night the most ferocious thunderstorm I’ve ever experienced crawled overhead with agonising slowness. The lightning conductors on the barrage and the village church were both hit, and the forest on the far bank was also struck as the storm tracked right over the top of us. At its height, the thunder and lightning were accompanied by a frightening hail-storm that left the ground carpeted with stones an inch across, to a depth of three inches or so. It looked as if it had been snowing!

At one stage my bivvy was shaken around in a whirlwind of hail and wind as a ferocious storm battered the region. It felt as if it were being savaged by a pit-bull terrier. I didn’t know whether to be scared or simply to marvel at the awesome power, the brutal, almost primordial forces that unleashed themselves upon us. The lightning was incredible, as if thousands of strobe-powered flash guns were going off on the other side of the bivvy door. Countless times a second, hundreds of separate flashes. An amazing and very awesome experience, and in the middle of it all, Nige had a run!

He didn’t hear it of course. He was sheltering in Bill’s bivvy while the worst of the storm passed, but I doubt if he’d have heard it even if he’d been in his own bivvy. By the time he got back to his rods the carp, if carp it was, had created a cat’s cradle of his other two lines and left, laughing!

Thursday dawned to a scene from hell. The thunderstorm was still rattling around the heavens; in fact it hardly seemed to have moved at all. The rain was back with a vengeance and the mud was thicker than ever. A tree was hit in the woods less than sixty yards away behind me, leaving a long white scar, savagely burnt at the edges, to mark the path of the bolt to earth. The woods on the far bank seemed to be smoking in the early morning light. There was a peculiar smell in the air - metallic, sinister. Is that what brimstone smells like? I asked myself. And to cap it all, I had put my back out during the night. It was agony!

There were a few fish crashing out, but it wasn’t what you’d call hectic. The surface had become mirror-calm as the wind died away leaving heavy rain falling straight down from the thick, grey clouds. I wasn’t exactly hoping for a take as my back was killing me. I could hardly move and never has the phrase 'bedchair back' been more appropriate. I lay on my back with my knees up - seemed to relieve the pain a bit - and listened to the rain and watched the thunderstorm rattling around the valley, lighting up the overcast sky with savage flashes of sheet lightning.

By mid morning the breeze had shifted yet again, back into a more southerly direction. In the UK you expect all these shifts in the wind to blow away the clouds, but not here. Having more or less boxed the compass in the last twenty-four hours, the wind brought with it even more rain, more hail and yet more thunder and lightning. The rain relented briefly later that afternoon, allowing Nige and me a few hasty minutes in which to move our bivvies to less muddy areas.


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   Old Thread  #307 5 Apr 2018 at 2.59pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #306
We wound the rods in at about eleven o’clock that night and had a few beers to round off the day. Night fishing was a dodgy business as the Gardes-Peche had a well-deserved reputation for being tough on the rule breakers in the area. It simply wasn’t worth the risk. Last year Gary had been caught and let off with a comparatively light fine: this year we’d heard horror stories about tackle confiscation and heavy fines. Just before I turned in I topped up the bait carpet with the usual mixture of ready-mades and fishmeals in equal proportions; about three hundred of each.

The threatened rain and wind arrived at about one in the morning and it rocked the trees and shook the bivvy like a dog with a rat, but come the morning it had stopped and the clouds drifted on their way north. I slept only fitfully and was awake before dawn. I unzipped the bivvy door and the sight that greeted me away to my right scared me half to death! The land was black, the sky the same, with a fire-red strip of sunlight between the two. Talk about a red sky in the morning.



As dawn grew into a grey morning, dull with a fresh SW wind blowing towards the dam I felt certain we were in for a deluge. In the chilly morning air I cast out then put the kettle on. The others were not up yet so I sat on my jack drinking the cuppa and eating breakfast. It was noticeably colder than previous mornings but it still looked pretty carpy. I sat in keen anticipation of a repeat of yesterday morning’s performance, though I felt less certain of a take as the night had been very different to its predecessor. It had rained hard for much of the night with a fresh breeze from the south-east blowing straight into the bivvy door. I slept fitfully, and so, it turned out later, did the others. None of us heard so much as a single splash during the dark hours, whereas the previous night we couldn't sleep for the noise of carp crashing out everywhere.

I noticed that the lake had come up a few inches so we must have had a real downpour of rain during the night, and I didn't much like the look of the sky away to the south either. I made more tea, lit a fag and got back in the bag, as it had turned suddenly very chilly. A few loud crashes of thunder echoed down the valley and the tense atmosphere of an approaching storm hung heavy on the morning dampness. Dark, almost black thunderheads built up in the valley away to the south, moving slowly but surely towards us. The stillness was oppressive, even the birds fell silent. The comforting swoosh of a breeze in the trees died away and the air crackled and rumbled in electric anticipation. By seven in the morning the storm had arrived, with driving rain and thunder and lightning. There was no wind to push the murk on its way, the dirty weather was obviously set in for the day.

I zipped up the door to the bivvy, climbed into the sleeping bag and went back to sleep. If the carp were feeding, they’d soon wake me up for I had the extension box right next to my ear. Later that morning Nige had a fourteen pound mirror and Bill opened his account with an eleven pound mirror. The shoal must have been going through my swim to get from Nige’s baits to Bill’s but I never had a sniff. Mind you, the last thing I wanted was a run in the torrential rain that fell for most of the morning. The weather certainly wasn’t conducive to pleasurable fishing and I lay on my bed chair praying that the big lump could hold his hunger in check until it eased off a bit. He could pick up my bait then, by all means.

The rest of the morning passed slowly in a welter of heavy rain, thunder and occasional flickers of lightning. The sun popped out very briefly to shine on a twenty-one pound mirror that picked up one of my baits during the afternoon…



…but then it started raining again, this time heavier than ever. It was a miserable day that lowered all our spirits. I think we’d all have benefited from a trip to the bar for a meal and a few beers, but that sod, Jean-Francois was still on his holidays.
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   Old Thread  #306 5 Apr 2018 at 2.58pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #305
Then just when we thought his swim had died, a lovely, pale Italian-strain mirror just a few ounces short of forty pounds fell to his rods. I don’t know what happened to the tennis elbow, but he wasn’t complaining any more.



Fat old beastie isn't it!



Nige was pretty happy with it, though!



After all that action, it was inevitable that it should slow down, and as the afternoon wore on so the fish moved up towards the barrage away to our left. In the lull, Bill and Nigel went out in the boat, searching the bottom with the echo sounder. It was very hot and the fish were obviously making the most of the autumn sunshine, for there were no signs of any substantial marks on the echo sounder to indicate the presence of carp still on the baits.

The afternoon was quiet, calm and peaceful, and, given our hectic morning, I don’t think Nige or I were complaining that the fishing had slowed. Bill still waited patiently for a take. He wasn’t in any rush. There was time to relax and lie back to watch the world go around.

The lake is a wildlife paradise to those occasional bird watchers like myself, who have only a passing interest. The grey and rather drab bird life of Cornwall pales alongside the magnificent red kites, ospreys and black storks that prowl the skies above and the banks beside the still waters of the lake. I’d heard from Jean-Francois that there were wild boar in the woods behind the west bank, where we were bivvied. I wouldn’t have minded seeing one of those, but not at close quarters. A herd of wild boar had driven two Dutch friends from their tents on the banks of the Foret d’Orient to stand up to their necks in water while the forest pigs destroyed their camp, rods, everything. That was one good reason for our earlier cowardice.

It was a lovely, peaceful and relaxed afternoon. Little did I know that it would be the last I’d enjoy for some time. Happy though I was with my success so far, I couldn’t help feeling that we were missing out by leaving Foret d’Orient. Before I’d left the lake at the weekend, I’d arranged with Joe that we could slip into his swim when he left for home that coming Saturday, and there was a nagging sensation in the back of my mind that this is exactly what we should do. It was hard enough to get a swim on that wild and woolly lake; to be handed a swim on a plate - and a damn good swim at that - was an offer I felt we should not turn down. I voiced my feelings to the others but Bill and Nige felt that there was more to come from this lake.

Maybe I put the jinx of the lake by hoping that action would die off which should encourage the other guys to move. Was it wrong of me to pray that the place fished like a pudding from now on? I suppose it was, especially when it looked as if my prayers would come true as later that afternoon a dark, menacing blanket of heavy cloud moved relentlessly towards us from the south. The heavily laden clouds soon threatened to block the sun completely and we could hear the rain and an increasing wind hammering the forest behind us. This was going to get nasty! Little did we know that as the sun bade farewell we would not see it again for several days.



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   Old Thread  #305 5 Apr 2018 at 2.56pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #304
It didn’t take the carp long to find my baits. The rods had been out less than three quarters of an hour when I had my first run, the buzzer playing its wonderful tune. That take came right in the middle of a downpour. Doesn’t it always! Still, who cares! It’s a fish. So there I was getting a drenching while a strong fish put distance between itself and danger. After the first headlong dash the fight reverted to a predictable give and take pattern and eventually I shook the meshes up around a fat, dumpy mirror carp that went a fraction over twenty. It was almost round; we could have played football with it!



The noise of the run and the splashing of the fish in the margins brought Nige and Bill out to play and soon the bank was a hive of activity. Strange how a fish galvanizes people into action, there were rods and baits flying everywhere!

As dawn came, the fish stopped showing almost completely, but they hadn’t stopped feeding. Less than a hour later I had another run from a fish that came straight off the pages of the Book of Dreams. I have always yearned for a monster common carp and the image of Gary’s long, lean beastie from the previous year still flitted across my sleeping moments from time to time. Now I had my turn, a dream no longer but the spectacular reality of a thirty pound common, 31lb 4oz in fact.



And what a fight, from an unbelievably powerful fish. It was one of the most magnificent carp I’ve ever seen, though as usual I only had a fleeting impression of it while the honours were performed. We took a roll of transparency film of the gorgeous fish, including several of it going back. It wasn’t until I got the photos back that I realised that it was actually the same fish that Gary had caught almost a year to the day previously. Same pose too!



Meanwhile, Nige was suffering severe and crippling pain. A savage re-occurrence of tennis elbow was playing him up badly and he couldn’t use a throwing stick to get his baits out. I have had my fair share of tennis elbow having cortisone injections in both elbows three time in each one. This is a problem that all carp anglers need to be aware of. Throwing sticks, especially the metal variety, are bad news for elbows. So I baited up his swim as well as my own, dashing too and fro. In fact, I was in his swim, waving the Cobra around, with boilies shooting off in all directions, when I heard another run start again on my rods. Middle rod. Great! Another great big mirror of just under thirty pounds, a long solid fish, a proper carp!



What a brilliant morning’s fishing I was having, so far I’d landed three fish. A twenty pound tub, a thirty-one common and a late twenty-nine pound mirror. I was all of a quiver. I put the kettle on for a cuppa, while my three rods rested uselessly against the bivvy. I wasn’t in any rush to re-cast. Let the others have some action for a change!

Which is exactly what happened, at least for Nige if not for Bill. The fish must have moved through my swim and up to Nige’s, for in the next three hours he landed an further three fish. A common at just under 12lb, a dark almost red mirror that looked much like Gary's from the previous year…but wasn’t…



Here the lovely creature goes back.


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   Old Thread  #304 5 Apr 2018 at 2.55pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #303


The level was down quite a bit from last year, revealing three of four yards of thick, gooey mud at the water’s edge. Apart from that not much had changed by the look of things, though our little French carp-fishing pal was missing from his usual place on the point. We set up in roughly the same spots as last year put a bit of bait out and then went into town to get permits for Bill and Nige and to do some shopping for food, wine and beer, returning as the light faded, just in time to put the rods out for a couple of hours. We were arranged like this:



As the evening drew in we ate a dinner of the by now customary Boeuf Bourguignon with new potatoes and carrots, all washed down with a bottle or two of very cheap, yet ever so cheerful claret. Very civilised. It was a very cold, clear night with not a breath of wind. The sky was filled with stars, its clarity at least promising no rain. A few fish were moving splashily away to our left towards the dam, but all in all it wasn’t looking terribly encouraging, especially after a day of very strong, cold east winds. Then, just as it was coming in truly dark, at about ten o’clock, Nigel had two bleeps on one of his rods. He struck, and there was our first carp of the trip. Not big, a mirror of perhaps fourteen pounds, but what it lacked in size was made up for in its significance. It told us that the lake was fishing after all.



That beautiful little fish really lifted all our spirits, for I think we were each feeling a bit low. After all, here we were, Monday night, having been in France for over sixty hours, driven God knows how many miles, spent precious francs on wasted fuel and food and until this afternoon, not so much as wet a line. Yet with our baits in the water for just a couple of hours, we’d already had a fish. Now all they needed to do was get bigger! I couldn’t forget that huge fish that Bill lost last year. Hope we see a few like that on the bank this time.

I awoke at about four o’clock the following morning. It was still pitch black in a wet and soggy pre-dawn drizzle. Thin tendrils of damp penetrating mist clung to the tree tops nestling on the steep wooded hillside opposite, cloaking the valley with a damp stillness. Though it was legally still too early to cast out, the temptation to do so was irresistible as there were fish lumping out all over the place. Dawn was well over an hour or more away but I figured if we were going to get visited by the Garde de Peche they would have arrived around one or two in the morning, not now, just an hour before dawn.

The weather had changed completely during the night, turning cloudy and warm. The breeze had gone and the surface of the lake was mirror-calm. It looked grey and a bit forbidding but there were fish moving just about anywhere we looked. Even as I cast out, ripples came lapping onto the shore at my feet, caused by fish crashing out all over the lake, and especially over my baited area, where huge splashes marked the whereabouts of some of the lake’s giants. It was a magic sound, though the darkness meant that I couldn’t see the culprits. After Nige’s fish last evening it all looked very hopeful.



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   Old Thread  #303 5 Apr 2018 at 2.53pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #302
Curiosity got the better of Bill and Nige, who got the boat out and went for a row around and a play with the echo-sounder. As I watched them pottering about on the enormous expanse of water, I felt the awesome presence of the towering mountains that dominated the view. I had never been this far south before and my only previous experience of mountains was a rather measly effort involving one or two hills in the Scottish Highlands. The Alps were a different kettle of fish. Here they were, so close that I felt as if I could reach out and touch them. It was so quiet and peaceful in the shade of the trees that despite the teeming multitudes on the other campsites, I felt as if I was alone. The fading heat was dry and clean and not at all oppressive, while the cloudless sky, of such a deep azure blue, had a sense of the unreal about it.

I set up my bedchair in the door of the bivvy, stretched out in the crisp shade and fell asleep while Bill and Nige spent the remainder of the afternoon rowing around the lake but the echo sounder only confirmed the detail of the contour map. In addition much more of the fishable bankside was privately owned than we’d previously thought. The prospects didn’t look good at all. They woke me on their return to break the news: they had not been encouraged by what the echo sounder had revealed.

That evening we walked down into the village for a few beers and a meal. A large match of boules was just coming to its conclusion on the flat sandy pitch opposite the bar, the competitors now engaged in noisy argument about a disputed point or some matter of etiquette. Whatever, it was good humoured and the racket was made more tolerable by the free beer that the patron was dispensing to all the players. If he was annoyed when our English accents and atrocious French revealed that we had not been taking part, he didn’t show it. We got a free beer like everyone else.

I asked him about the fishing. He said that the lake was well known for its big carp, which was good, but that most of the big fish were caught from the private landing stages and fishing platforms on the few shallow areas of the lake, and were usually killed after capture, which was definitely not so good. The rest of the lake was either private, too deep - sixty feet just ten yards out from the bank - or owned by the many camp sites that were dotted around the lake. It looked as if we had driven all that way for nothing.

We slept on the problem and it didn’t look any better the next morning. Though the lake was spectacular and beautiful, and even though it certainly held big carp, the access problem was practically insurmountable as far as we could see. “How about going back to Foret d’Orient?” I asked, hopefully, yet inwardly certain that my plea would fall on deaf ears. It did! We settled on a return to the Forty Lake though we were now actually nearer to St Cassien which was certainly a better prospect.

So we headed northwards once more and arrived back at the barrage by mid-afternoon to find that Jean-Francois was still away. What on earth would we do for a beer? And who gave him permission to go gadding off to God knows where without letting us know! The lake was completely deserted. Was that a good thing or not? Perhaps the lake was fishing like a pudding.


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   Old Thread  #302 5 Apr 2018 at 2.51pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #301
Five or six hours later we turned off the main south-bound motorway at Lyons and drove towards the distant mountains. It was blisteringly hot, well over ninety degrees Fahrenheit. The sun scorched down from a cloudless sky turning the inside of the van into an oven. We squirmed and sweated against the sticky seats. The monotony of the motorway down to Lyons now gave way to breath-taking scenery, with steep slopes, littered with thick copses of pine trees, dark green against the lighter hue of rock and boulder. Dotted here and there about the hillsides stood colourful little alpine cottages and larger hotels, while ahead of us towered the Alps themselves. At first they were just indistinct, blue-haze shadows shimmering and dancing in the heat, but as we drew closer the shadows firmed up and became towering, stark silhouettes.



We drove on towards the border, through several claustrophobic, dripping tunnels carved out of the solid rock of the foothills, and as we broke out of one particularly long, dank tunnel and emerged into bright daylight, a glittering panoramic view of the lake sprang up at us as it nestled in a wide valley below. At first sight it was rather startling. The water was bright green! Towering mountains dominated the valley on its eastern side, appearing to climb almost straight up from the water’s edge for thousands upon thousands of feet. A narrow twisting road ran around the lake’s perimeter so we cruised our way round on a lazy tour, stopping here and there to gaze down at the water. In the shade of a grove of trees that stood on a rocky outcrop, a huge flock of great crested grebes preened and dived for fish. I have never seen so many of the species in one group before, and it was clear why they were there. Below the surface massive shoals of what looked like roach or rudd turned this way and that in the crystal-clear water. They were huge, perhaps two or three pounds apiece. The grebes were having a field day.

The lake was obviously very deep, for nowhere on our travels did we get a glimpse of the lake bed, even though the water was so clear that we could see perhaps fifteen or twenty feet down. In addition the banks were dangerously steep and strewn with rocks and boulders among a profusion of heavy weeds, trees and ferns. Large areas of bankside were fenced off for private dwellings with their own beaches or with steps going down from terraced gardens to the water’s edge. Second homes for the well-to-do, no doubt. From a vantage point high above the lake, in the car park of a large hotel, we had a dazzling view over the whole lake. Such areas of bankside that were not in private hands were clearly owned by several camp sites dotted at regular intervals around the lake; camp sites that were heaving with humanity.

“It looks as if there might be a bit of an access problem,” said Nige, pointing at a thousand screaming kids playing in the only shallow area on the lake, that had been roped off to form a safe swimming area, “And that’s putting it mildly.”

“Busy, isn’t it? exclaimed Bill, always a man for the studied understatement. A thirst approached: we could all feel it coming so we dived into the nearest bar to enquire about the immediate availability of a glass or three of beer. To hell with the fishing, first things first. In fact, chance had taken us into the only bar on the lake that sold fishing tickets and we were about to stump up the required francs when a detailed contour map on the wall caught the eye. It indicated that the lake was seventy metres deep in places, and shallow areas were virtually non-existent. Did we really want to fish in three hundred feet of water? I think not. We decided to hold off on the fishing tickets until we had found out more about the place.

We cruised around the lake again as the afternoon wore on. In the shadow of the huge mountain the cool Alpine air refreshed us almost as much as the beer. We decided that we all needed to get a decent meal, a few beers and a good night’s sleep before considering what to do about the access problem, so we booked onto a tiny camp site, nestling under the mountains, and as the fierce continental afternoon heat slowly dissipated to a more tolerable British coolness, we set up the bivvies for the night in the shade of a well-tended wood that stretched down to the lakeside.

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   Old Thread  #301 5 Apr 2018 at 2.47pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #300
We continued our patrol of the massive lake and found plenty of other English guys there. The word was well and truly out. Mangrove Joe (Bertram) was installed in one of the highly fancied swims but so far he hadn’t had any success. (I later heard that he caught a very big carp during his second week on the lake - a just reward for patience and effort). Joe told me that he was leaving the following weekend and that if we wanted to take over the swim when he left, he would hold it for us until noon on the Saturday. A generous offer from one of carp fishing’s gentlemen. I said we’d pop in and see him from time to time during our stay and, assuming that we had not done well, would take up his offer in a week’s time.

Joe warned me that the French weather bureau had been forecasting heavy electrical storms for the past week but nothing as so far materialised. I might have known that the minute we turned up the heavens opened and the lightning flashed furiously across the sky. Little did we know it at the time but this weather pattern was to dog our steps for the rest of the trip.



Though most of the known swims were taken I felt we were in with a good chance of a swim somewhere as the lake was way down from its July levels, albeit leaving the bankside a bit more muddy. But despite spending three or four hours driving around the lake and exploring every little track or pathway, we found each nook and cranny occupied, though there was one small promontory tucked away by the limit of the bird sanctuary looking out towards Little Italy. At first we couldn’t believe our luck, but when we left the car and walked across the soggy banks, we soon discovered why there was nobody fishing there. The soft ground was covered by hoof prints and ragged deep holes in the bankside. A sure sign that the area was a hunting ground for a herd of wild boar. When these things move into your swim, you move out! We gave discretion the better part and left the swim to the wild, aggressive creatures. Cowards? Damn right we are!

By early evening we had done the grand tour of the lake twice without finding an area that we could fish so we adjourned to the bar at Mensil for an Official Committee Meeting. I was all for staying put until we could get a swim, even kipping in the car parks behind the swims if necessary. After all, we had two weeks to go, the fishing had not even started yet. But it was clear that Nige and Bill were not too keen, either on my idea, nor, as it turned out, on the lake itself. Bill fancied going back to the Forty Lake again - not surprising really after last year - so I tried to ring Jean-Francois to find out how the lake was fishing. There was no reply. As it was Nige’s first trip East he said he’d go with the flow and the flow seemed to be saying, the Forty Lake so we drank up and hit the road.

A few hours later we pulled up outside the bar. It was closed, which explained the unanswered phone. A notice in the window told all and sundry that Jean-Francois and family were on holiday. Well, that’s a damn good start, isn’t it! And I really fancied a beer too! We were all feeling the effects of the long and broken journey so we dug among the tangle of gear in the back of the van, got the bedchairs out and set up our bivvies by the side of the road overlooking the lake. It was a lovely night, cool but clear with a myriad of stars. I had a wander along the barrage before turning in, listening for carp crashing out in the darkness. Last year fish had showed close to the barrage after midnight and maybe old habits died hard with them.

Nige, who had done all the driving, slept like a log, but Bill and I slept fitfully through the night, lying restless through the times when we’d have expected to hear carp leaping, but neither of us heard any fish throughout the hours of darkness. That was rather worrying, and the fact that the bar was closed made up our minds for us. As a cold and dewy dawn broke over the sleepy valley we got the map out and after a bit of humming and hah-ing decided to fly a kite and head even further south to a lake in the foothills of the Alps, a completely unknown quantity and, as things turned out, a wasted journey.
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   Old Thread  #300 5 Apr 2018 at 2.45pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #298
Didn't have to wait that long, Steve

WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE: SEPT ‘93

I hope by now you’ll have gathered that I treat France and French carp fishing in a very light-hearted manner. I look on every trip purely as a holiday. I am out to enjoy myself, end of story. The trip is not an endurance test nor a battle of wits with the Garde de Peche. Neither is it a no-holds-barred contest with French lakes, French carp, and certainly not with the French people. My watchwords are enjoyment, rest and relaxation and I have always asserted to myself and to others that when I stop enjoying carp fishing I’ll simply stop doing it. Mind you, I’m not actually sure if I mean it or not, but I can assure you that there have been times when I’ve come perilously close to it. However, I never expected to come as close as I did in the autumn of 1993 when we paid a return visit to the lake where I’d caught the forty the previous year.

I had enjoyed a brief visit to the now famous Forest d’Orient lake in July ‘93 in the company of a few of the Nutrabaits team and though we’d blanked it was obvious that the huge lake was, indeed, a very special carp water and I was keen to get back to the lake as soon as possible. My first experience of the big lake had taught me just what a heart-breaker the place could be if you weren’t on fish. True, that applies to any lake, anywhere, but the problem with Foret d’Orient is that there are precious few swims available, bearing in mind the size of the lake. When the water levels are at their highest, in spring and early summer, it can be very difficult to get a swim on the lake, let alone one that is on fish.

If truth be known, our remaining schedule for 1993 did not involve a return trip with the lads. Carole and I had plans only to go back to the pure bliss of Georges’ gite, for a week in late October, so the idea of an earlier trip with the lads had not even been discussed. However, the prospect of fishing Foret d’Orient once again wormed a crafty path to the carp passion site in my grey matter, and when Nige and Bill agreed to come along for the ride, all that was left for me was to present the fait accompli to Carole.

The trip took place from 4th-18th September. Once more Nige prevailed upon his very generous boss for the loan of the works van and we borrowed a heavily built ten foot long fire-glass dinghy to help with the baiting up. Orient is a big water and the waves can get pretty awesome - no place for a small plastic inflatable. As for bait, I inveigled Bill Cottam into doing a silly-cheap deal for us on sixty kilos of Big Fish Mix and the same of their prototype ready-mades and we crammed these, along with sacks of groats and hemp and a few kilos of tiger nuts into the back of the van. Once again it groaned and sagged ominously on overloaded springs. We crossed Ramsgate-Dunkerque because it was the cheapest route, and arrived on French soil at about midday on Saturday 4th September 1993; by mid-afternoon we were on the tree-lined banks of the fabled Lac de la Foret d’Orient. It was great to be back!

First stop, the swim at Mensil that we’d fished in July. Even though we’d blanked the swim I knew that it was one of the very best on the lake. Not for nothing is it known as Bivvy City. Gary and Mark had fished it the previous year and done well so the swim’s reputation was well founded.



As you can see, though the level was well up when we fished it, we had no idea of the problems that would face us if we actually hooked a carp. Nobody told us that there was a bloody great wall to scale down to get to the water's edge.



Naturally, when we arrived at the lake the a party of Dutch anglers had the area completely stitched up. Leaving Bill and Nige to look around the rest of the area, I went down for a chat. Unusually, these particular Dutchmen were an aggressive and tight-mouthed crowd, and they just glared at me, gesturing their failure - “no carp!” they exclaimed. Did they take me for a right prat? There were drying sacks and slings all over the place. Almost without exception the Dutch carp anglers that I’ve met on my travels have been great company, but this lot were the exception.

It was clear that they were holding a vast shoal of carp in front of them, and I soon found out from the owner of the holiday cottages above the swim that the Dutch carpers had been hogging and rotating the swims amongst themselves for the past three months! A few years later some Brits had their vans torched for doing that!
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   Old Thread  #299 3 Apr 2018 at 11.19am Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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Just got to select the relevant photos for the next section.
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   Old Thread  #298 2 Apr 2018 at 5.13pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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   Old Thread  #297 2 Apr 2018 at 1.20pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
Please be patient, chaps. Got a lot on my plate at the moment but rest assured, there is more tosh to come.
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   Old Thread  #296 24 Mar 2018 at 2.13pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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The level was going down visibly now. If it carried on like this there would be no water left. The lake was actually one of the four in the general area that supplied water to the large navigation canal and river to keep them topped up and supply water to towns and cities further north. All four hold carp to a greater or lesser degree and the one we were fishing was probably the least popular as it was not thought to hold fish of a decent enough size to satisfy the mainly Dutch and German anglers who fished the region. They were awesomely beautiful though, so sod the so-called 'small' carp







If my forty was to be my last fish for the trip, so be it. I was happy as Larry; my first forty. I prayed quietly to myself that it would be the first of many but was now really hoping that Bill would get among the bigger fish. We both fished hard that day and were rewarded with a fish each. A small common for Bill that was returned without being weighed and a nice low twenty for me. I posed as Bill took the pix feeling a bit self conscious. The fish should have been swapped around, the twenty for Bill and the scamp for me. Mind you I don't think for one minute that Bill was in the slightest bit fazed. He is one of the most laid back guys I have ever met.

Last day coming up…Come on Bill, mate! We sat around as the day dragged on fishless then suddenly at last Bill was away and this time it looked to be a better fish off one of the small gravel patches we'd found with Gary's boat and echo sounder. I think this proves two things: a) just how much of an asset a sounder can be: b) how tiny a hot spot can be. A couple of square yards in two hundred acres. I remember Rod writing something along the lines of a hot spot can be as small as a foot square in a 100 acres or words to that effect.

Bill's carp dragged him around the lake a few times before giving up. What a beautiful fish it was too, a shade over thirty pounds. We were all pleased for the guy. He'd sat it out while others were catching all around him but had been rewarded for his patience with one of the prettiest mirrors I have ever seen.



Bill and I moved the next day. It was clear that we were getting fewer and fewer takes where we were. Our friend fishing the point had still to have a take. Even Gary’s action was slowing down. With only one more night to go before we had to leave, we fancied our chances on the plateau on the opposite side of the lake. We set up well away from Orange Marker’s swim, but I guess it must have been a miscast when my left hand bait splashed down within a few feet of the gaudy marker. I left it where it lay!

I’m sure we’d have caught fish that afternoon, if only a succession of pike anglers hadn’t kept rowing through our lines. It was impossible to fish properly, and in the end we wound in and packed away the gear ready for an early start the next morning. At least Bill had caught a decent fish, and naturally I was delighted with my big mirror, but somehow the trip ended on a slightly sour note. Gary’s fine, the French pike men…suddenly I had the homers.

We were ready to go. Ali and Gary were crossing into Folkestone while we were taking the return route from Dieppe so we said our goodbyes and thanks them for sharing some great times with us. The journey back to the ferry port was tedious in the extreme. So too the crossing, and the drive up to Bill’s house. A few pints of decent beer cheered us up though and as the golden ales slipped down, we planned next year trip. A return visit perhaps? Very likely!

Incidentally, on our return to the UK I sent a selection of photos to Carpworld and surprise, surprise, the one of Gary with his PB common made it onto the front cover albeit nearly a year after he caught it. Proud as punch, he was!



Not to be outdone Ali also made it onto the front cover a couple of months earlier with her 44lb mirror from St Cassien. My caption to the cover was 'Gorgeous girl: gorgeous fish' . "Can't argue with that," wrote Tim.



Coming up Bill and I join Nige on a return trip to the Forty Lake. It was not a lot of fun as you'll read in the coming posts.
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   Old Thread  #295 24 Mar 2018 at 2.07pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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By the following morning the weather had reverted to its usual pattern of warm days/cold nights. Bill had been awake since before first light having slept on the rods. He was full of anticipation and I could see why…Carp leapt and shouldered through the surface over the baits, a sure sign of feeding fish, and Bill felt that he was on a good number of feeding fish for the first time this trip.



Sadly nobody had told the carp in front of him, that they were supposed to pick up his baits, and instead it was Gary who took the first fish of the morning, yet another twenty pound mirror that snagged him up on the same mooring pole that had been my downfall earlier in the trip. While he took to the boat to free the fish, another of his rods was away. Ali needed no further encouragement and played her fish to the bank in less than ten minutes, while hubby fussed about in the boat. They made a pretty picture, Gary with a twenty-five pound mirror, Ali with her twenty-one pound leather. The pix had to wait while the sun came up. It gave Ali plenty of time to put on the war paint and the bling, change her clothes and wash her hair! She needn't have bothered; she'd look great if she was dressed only in a carp sack!



I think Bill was beginning to loose heart. It was understandable if truth be known. Gary was catching, I was catching, now Alison had caught a twenty on her first run of the trip, albeit on hubby's rods, but he didn't seem to mind even though so far Bill had caught only three doubles, all he had to show for a hell of a lot of effort. We were running out of days and I think he was tempted to do the night but in the end like me he took them in. And a good job he did, as at three in the morning our 'friendly' G de P returned. Do they take us for idiots?

We awoke to a bit of a shock. The water level had gone down by about 18 inches and suddenly the troublesome pike poles were revealed above the surface. Gary had been plagued by the things and had lost gear and/or fish to them on several occasions. There are actually just off the photo to the left but you can just about see a single pole further down the bank.



You can also see Gary's little boat…it really was tiny but believe me, we'd have been a lot worse off without it. That little dinghy showed just how essential a boat is on French trips and for us the days of tiny kids plastic beach toys were over once and for all!



The day was carp-free and with only a day and a half before we had to pull off we felt a trip into town was called for. Our little French mate had arrived and we sitting in 'his' swim in his own little dream world so we asked him to keep and eye on the gear and then went up to the bar to get a taxi. For some reason we never got around to ordering it so the lovely town, built on a plateau and surrounded by a defensive wall, one of the most historic towns in all of France remained unvisited. Shame on us!



We were a bit tired and emotional when we left the bar at God know what hour. We had enjoyed superb hospitality and made some good friends among the regulars. They couldn't have been more friendly and welcoming…I had a feeling Bill and I might be back some day! After all, a decent bar serving fresh bread and decent meals is almost as important as the quality of the fishing



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   Old Thread  #294 24 Mar 2018 at 2.03pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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I slept the night away dreaming of monster carp. Monday dawned as before, bright and sunny and white calm.



Neither Bill nor I fished the night but Gary fished on, giving proof, if proof were needed, that fishing at night was the answer as he caught a lovely looking mirror of 29lbs 4ozs.



It rained on and off for most of the day and Bill and I fished all through it on the two long range gravel patches that we’d found with the sounder, though this meant rowing every hook bait out to the markers, not something I found terribly enjoyable at the time, especially in the pissing rain. Later, as I became more experienced I realised that this was by far the most efficient ways of catching carp anywhere, not only on the Continent. Indeed on a deep mid-winter trip to an Italian lake with Bill C. we found ourselves having to take them out getting on for 500 yards. By then braid on the reels was the way to go, and even at this range Bill still knew the minute the duck picked up his hookbait. Mind you, he didn't know it was a duck at the time, and as he wound it in it got progressively heavier as it neared the bank. It took him the best part of ten minutes to get it to the net and we never for a minute doubted that it was a carp! Sadly it was dead by the time we 'landed' it.

That afternoon the rain intensified. It was the first serious rain of the trip. Rain or no rain Ali did her stuff, preparing a proper spaghetti Bolognese dinner for us that evening. It was made with really fresh pasta and a sumptuous meat sauce made with minced beef (steak hache), tomatoes onions and all the trimmings. What a star she was. We sat under the brollies, all togged up in waterproofs, filling our bellies with heaped plates of Ali's finest. It was delicious, all the more so because of the conditions. Neither Bill nor I are great bankside cooks (though we won't sink so low as to depend on Pot Noodles!) so without Ali's cooking we'd probably have relied on tins of Cassoulet and Boeuf Bourguignon, not that they are not nice, but you cannot beat properly prepared home cooking. Thanks, Ali!



The rain stopped at dusk and we went to our separate bivvies. I slept like a log and heard nothing of the alarms and excursions of the night. About an hour before midnight Gary had another big mirror, this one just two ounces short of thirty pounds. He sacked the fish for a morning photo session and sat back to await the next run.



There were fish crashing out all over the place, he told me later. More movement than he’d seen at any time since he’d arrived. He expected great things from the coming night. I’m sure his optimism was well founded, but unfortunately his fishing was to be rudely cut short. At one o’clock in the morning the G de P paid their not-unexpected return visit. This time they got lucky. There was little aggro from them, they even stayed for a beer and a coffee. To be honest, I think they were only keen on one thing and that was to collar one of us, it didn't matter who. Though they were quite nice about it they left Gary with a five-hundred franc fine, though at least they didn’t confiscate his gear or the car, which they were quite entitled to do.
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