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South West Memories.
13 Oct 2016 at 11.40am
It has taken some time but at last here is a recovered version of South West Memories. As you may have noticed I like to illustrate the text as fully as possible with photographs so when the host site I used (TinyPic) closed down, all the photos uploaded to that site were lost. Hopefully this fate will not befall the site that now hosts all my pix!
I have had one or two PMs from members asking me to re-post some of my articles about fishing in the south west and abroad during what were the formative years of what is now modern carp fishing. It was a time of great excitement as each trip was a journey into the unknown, a journey of discovery, if you like. New venues, new tackle, new idea, new tactics, these all came to the fore when I was cutting my teeth on carping in general. I have been a keen angler since I was a kid so as well as my carpy reminiscences I will also take a look at the rest of my formative years as a coarse, fly and sea angler.
PLEASE NOTE: (c) 2021 Ken Townley. All rights reserved.
Material published by Ken Townley on these web pages is copyright of Ken Townley and may not be reproduced without permission. Copyright exists in all other original material published on the internet by Ken Townley and belongs to the author depending on the circumstances of publication.
EDIT: 19th April 2020:: Just noticed that this thread has been read over 24, 000 times! I should have had it published as a book. If it had sold that many copies I'd have been able to retire a lot sooner!)
13 Jul 2021 at 1.14pm
In reply to Post #478
It was love at first sight. The first time I saw (that fish on the bank) I fell in madly in love…(and a bag of ten year old shelfies to the first reader to PM me with the name of the book I paraphrase in that sentence).
Seems that bag of ancient Tuttis will remain here ready for a future trip, maybe back to Maleon?
I am amazed that the knowledgeable membership of this forum cannot tell me the answer! It is, of course, the opening line of Joseph Heller's masterpiece, Catch-22. I quote:
It was love at first sight.
The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.
Yossarian was in the hospital with a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice. The doctors were puzzled that it wasn't quite jaundice. If it became jaundice, they could treat it. If it didn't become jaundice and went away, they could discharge him. But this just being short of jaundice all the time confused them.
I know reading is a lost art these days, but read Catch-22 and you'll be hooked for life. I read it first in 1963 when I was 16 and studying at Bromley Tech. Now I re-read it at least once every year. It is no understatement to say that it is a masterpiece. It is hilariously funny, desperately sad, hugely poignant, a novel that deserves to be set at O-Level or even at A-Level (assuming these antiquated badges of learning still exist!) I urge you to get to your local library and reserve a copy. You will not be disappointed.
21 Jun 2021 at 4.42pm
In reply to Post #486
So that's what I did, and slowly but surely I felt the fish come free. Very free, in fact as it exploded from the water like a breaching submarine, shaking weed from the line in an explosion of spray. And my heart went into my boots for now the fish was clear of weed I could plainly see that it was my so desperately sought-after prize. There was no mistaking that huge scale on the right hand shoulder, the massive tail, the powerful shoulders. I started to shake; yes, literally I stood there shaking. The fight that followed under the tip was amazing, powerful surges of raw strength that wrenched the rod tip down. This was fish of my dreams. At the very least a big PB, probably my first fifty.
Words cannot describe my feelings when at last it was in the net. I stood looking down at it as it lay in the water entrapped by the confines of the net. God, it was massive! “Prepare to celebrate, Kenny boy,” I told myself. Onto the mat she went, then up onto the scales which were suspended from a solid tree branch. If words cannot describe my feelings when I landed her, they were even more inadequate now. The scales read 41lb 8oz! What? I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was certain it was the same fish but how could she be so down in weight.
I sacked her and went to get Tim. He had photos of the fish from its capture just a few weeks earlier and this would enable us to identify the fish with certainty. Sure enough, it was the fifty, but way down in weight.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. After all, I had set out to catch this one particular fish and had succeeded. So in that respect I should be delighted. On the other hand the weight was such a disappointment.
I was gutted. I swung from low to high and back to low again during the course of the morning. My feelings were in a turmoil. Should I be over the moon or gutted.
Paul brought me down to earth: “Stop whinging,” he told me. “I’ve never had a forty and you’ve had three in one trip as well as God knows how many thirties. You’ve caught the fish you have been after all this time and broken just about every Maleon record going so be happy or you’ll really get on my tits.”
So, put yourself in my place. What would you be? Gutted or not? In heaven or in hell? Me? I still can’t decide even two decades later.
(As some of your old timers may have recognised by now, this is a rewrite of an old article I wrote for Carpworld called 'Gutted!' Following publication I was taken to task in no small manner by Jenks who in a letter to the Letters Page of Carpworld he more or less said the same as Paul: be grateful for what you've got and stop whinging!)
A strange coincidence took place at Maleon. On one of my first coaching trips to Maleon I had met a couple of guys who were mates and had come not so much for the coaching side of things but more as a chance to fish Maleon. Little did I know that some seven years later I would come across this pair again at their own lake, Angel Lake at Saint Yrieix la Perche, and it would be here, at long last that my dream of catching a fifty came true…But that's for another time so I'll stop now with this pic of Tony and Dennis, plus Tony's missus Amanda and me in the lodge at Angel in 2005.
21 Jun 2021 at 4.38pm
In reply to Post #485
The next three fish were all twenties but then came a series of slightly better fish - three thirties on the trot. This was getting silly! That night I landed five twenties, two thirties and another forty, my second of the trip. It was a big old grey beastie that fought like a hero for what seemed like hours in the deep dark night. A magnificent fish, but still not my prize, but surely it was only a matter of time before…Shhh! Don't tempt fate!.
By now another angler had joined us and he went into Paul's now-empty swim, as he had decided to move in next to me. A friend of Tim's a French guy, moved in opposite me in the Gate. The lake was getting busy. Now whether these extra lines in the water had an effect or not, I don’t know but while he was opposite me I never had a sniff. But as soon as he left the fish came back to me. A few twenties and yet another upper thirty came to the Trigga.
My confidence was peaking and I just knew I would get the big beauty I had been after ever since I’d seen her in Jay’s arms.
The weather had remained more or les settled throughout but as the evening went by a few mare's tails began to dot the big blue sky, heralding a likely change to wind and rain.
Sure enough the wind picked up and a scattering of brief but heavy showers beat a steady beat on the bivvy throughout the night. In contrast to the previous night this one was fishless but I had a feeling that something good was going to happen at any minute. The rain gave way to passing heavy showers. A rainbow touched down in at the other end of the lake, hitting the water in the small bay to the right of the Corner. Was there gold at the end of that rainbow? Should I move across to the other side?
I resisted the temptation and it's just as well I did for at 9.30 am that morning she came to me!
The bait on the right hand rod, fishing at about 60m out in front of the main weed on the dinner plate was picked up and I hit a very fast take. The fish just powered left, left, left heading forcefully in the direction of the fallen tree to my left. I simply couldn’t stop it and soon all went solid. But was it solid in weed or in the snag? The line didn’t look as if it was going into the snag. Had the fish blundered into the thickest of the weed just in front of the snag? I felt sure it had.
When a fish weeds me up I generally try to extricate it immediately, before it can burrow still deeper into the sanctuary of the weed. I have a tried and tested method of bringing a weeded carp to the net Here's how to do it. It’ll make you cringe but it works. Wind down tight and then clamp down on the spool. Crook the forefinger of the hand holding the rod around the line just in front of the reel. Now walk backwards a short step at a time. On your fingertip you will feel the tension increase on the line and with experience you will be able to tell exactly when the line is close to its breaking point. Do not pass this point! If the fish is going to come out of the weed, it will do so now. Maybe only slowly, maybe all at a rush, but you should feel the tension across your forefinger decrease slightly as the weed pulls out of the lake bed and the fish moves towards you. As it does so, wind down and lift the rod. If the fish is on the move you should be able to resume playing it now albeit maybe encased in a big clump of weed.
21 Jun 2021 at 4.35pm
In reply to Post #484
The rain fell with increasing severity and being a wimp I decided to give the swim a rest and get a good night’s kip, rather than get a bloody good soaking landing slippery, smelly fish! Anyway, I thought to myself, it will give them a chance to get a free meal and build up their confidence. At least, that’s my story!
The rain stopped sometime during the night and at six the next morning, well rested after a good kip, I recast. By midday I’d had seven out, and by six the following morning had had fourteen including a very satisfying mirror of 43lb 12oz. This was fishing beyond my wildest dreams. I was in hauling mode! so I heaped the bait in and the fishing just got better and better.
And then suddenly, as quickly as it had started, the action stopped dead. For 24 hours the buzzers mocked me. Like you do when this happens you suddenly loose all confidence in everything that had, up ‘til then, come up trumps for you. Change this, change that, generally bugger about with everything. I could understand a certain degree of slow down after all that action, but a total stop? Were they still out there but just not feeding? Were they there but had got the 'ump? Or had they simply pissed off altogether? I couldn’t help feeling that they were still out there but were doing a moody.
Meanwhile both Paul and Tim had fish so they were still feeding; just not in my swim for the moment. Here Tim weighs a fish for Paul.
Here it is…
And here Tim demonstrates the not-so-generally accepted method of returning a Maleon carp.
For something to do more than for any other reason dictated by logic, I changed two rods over to pop-up set ups. I was not the world’s greatest fan of pop-ups and Maleon carp were known to prefer bottom baits, however, it was worth a try. I had not used it before but Frank's Short Silt Rig was getting favourable mentions in the press so I bunged this on a couple of rods. Basically it is a helicopter set up with a very short hooklink being fished half way along a 1.5m length of lead core, the hooklink semi fixed in place on a section of shrink tube. Nowadays most of your will know this as the Chod Rig. Hookbait was a small highly flavoured yellow pop-up of the Pineapple and Butyric variety. I just hoped it would work as it was first time of using it and I had little or no confidence in the whole set up.
I need not have worried. Suddenly I was catching again the small yellow pop-ups catching more or less from the off. Funnily enough I now couldn't buy a take on a bottom bait…What's all that about? Pop-ups were what they wanted and pop-ups was what they would get. In the vernacular, Get In!
21 Jun 2021 at 4.34pm
In reply to Post #483
In the light of Tim’s news I decided to give the swim two more days, continuing to bait up very lightly in the hope that the new source of attraction, the Trigga, would tempt them back for a feed.
Meanwhile Tim had caught a couple from the Bailiff's Beach and was looking pretty pleased with himself, the bugger.
Three nights in and still nothing. Time for a move, a rethink, maybe a pint? I like to get away from the water from time to time during a session. I feel certain that the absence of lines in the swim helps reassure any fish that might be cruising the area and it allows them to feed on the bait carpet in peace. It also gives me a chance to recharge my batteries.
I discovered that Paul is a man after my own heart who also likes to leave the water from time to time so we spent a very pleasant afternoon exploring the bars of the nearby town before returning to the lake for super. Though we were all a bit down about the fishing, I felt that it was only a matter of time before someone had a fish as the lake was probably now under less angling pressure than it had been all season.
Once again I kept the baiting fairly light that evening but by dusk the rods had been out for three hours with still nothing to show for it. As the light started to fade however, a few fish began to show in front of me over the big clear dinner plate area that was covered by the left hand rod. Suddenly my confidence was sky high.
I sat up under a brolly as night fell listening to the night creatures rustling in the undergrowth. Bloody rats again! The rain had stopped and the sky was brilliantly clear. It was a joy to be on the bank but by one in the morning all the carp activity that had buoyed me up had ceased and I felt resigned to a move next morning. I climbed into my sleeping bag feeling morose and useless!
I don’t know how long I’d been asleep when the buzzer under the left hand rod gave a couple of bleeps, but it seemed like only minutes. I stood over the rod the bent down to feel the line. It was bar taught against a fairly tight clutch setting so I picked up the rod and hit into a heavy weight. Whatever it was, it wasn’t in a hurry and for the next ten minutes this lump just plodded back and forth on a long line. I gained a bit of line with every pump but it was hard work but at last the fish it was under the tip. It looked huge in the torchlight and my heart leapt. Was it my much sought after beauty? No! In the net the fish shrank somewhat, it was no fifty but who could be unhappy with a 38lb mirror?
My mate Bill reckons that carp are like buses. You wait ages for one then three or four come along at once. At dawn another beautiful Maleon thirty joined the party, this one a 2-Tone mirror of 32lb 2oz mirror. This one had come on the right hand rod cast towards the middle of the lake into no man’s land with just a stringer to draw attention to the hookbait.
With a couple of fish on the bank I felt reasonably confident about increasing the amount of bait I was putting in. Trigga at that time was a revelation! A totally natural bait with a very potent in-built source of natural attraction that had a unique (at the time) active ingredient called Triggerol (hence the trade name). I had already used it on lots of waters and it seemed that the more you put in, the better the fishing got so I was happy to increase the amount. Sure enough, at five-thirty in the afternoon, as the rain began again after a nice sunny day my first Maleon common came my way.
21 Jun 2021 at 4.32pm
In reply to Post #482
I was very tired after the long drive and ferry crossing so, on that first night I didn’t do much more than throw the three hookbaits out with some freebies. Not much of a sure fire way of catching super crafty carp and sure enough, I didn’t. I got busy the next morning however and went out with the boat and sounder for a scout around. As I had expected, though the lake appeared pretty choked with weed, there was room at the weed stems for a hookbait to fall reasonably unhindered to the lake bed.
The sounder showed that the weed had really taken a hold close to and under the snag trees but as luck would have it the Eagle showed a very distinct clear patch just in front of a large weed bed that extended right up to the surface from the lake bed fourteen feet below. So marked was this area I couldn’t help thinking that it was as clear as it appeared because carp had disturbed the weed roots by their feeding activity to such an extent that the weed simply wouldn’t grown there. If I was right then what I had found was one of my favourite fishing spots, a dinner plate that carp frequent regularly. This is such a cleared area on a shallower lake that shows the effect of prolonged, heavy feeding in one particular spot.
If this was, indeed, a dinner plate that the sounder had marked I might be in with a shout. The weed at the surface towards the back of the area marked the spot nicely for casting so there was no need for any other kind of visual marker. I baited the area with a light scattering of Trigga shelf life and frozen baits and Trigga crumb, along with a few hefty balls of Liquid Trigga-laced SuperRed.
Venturing farther from the treeline towards the middle, the sounder revealed that the weed was a lot thicker than last year. To try and find any distinct clear spot was near on impossible. However, I felt confident that if I kept the hooklinks short and kept the hook point masked on the cast, I’d be able to present the hookbait in the clear regardless of where I was to cast. Sure, the lead and hook could come back festooned in weed, but this was only picked up on the retrieve. I felt sure that a light scattering of boilies around each hookbait would bring a take and was not at all worried if the free offerings landed in weed or on the bottom. The carp would find them wherever they landed.
So now all was set. All I needed to do now was catch a fish! The weather had turned during the day and by dinner time it was pretty miserable, cold with plenty of rain and a strong northwesterly wind. Not nice for the angler but pretty good for fishing. . . normally! By the evening of my second night I was feeling a lot more confident with my preparation. The bait was spot on, the exploratory work had shown that I could cast with confidence to my chosen areas and the weather looked good.
Hey ho! The best laid plans, and all that. Next morning revealed a wind swept, sodden lake with the trees shaking in the strong breeze. Rain fell steadily from a leaden sky and all in all it was pretty miserable, made more so by the fact that I’d not had so much as a bleep during the night. Bugger!
I couldn’t believe I’d got it all wrong, but my confidence had taken a knock. I was only slightly reassured when Tim came up to see me later that morning. He told me that the previous week a couple of clients had fished the swim and had filled it in with bait. As a result they’d caught nothing.
Tim tells all his clients not to overdo the bait to start with, but few ever listen. The problem with over- baiting is that it’s easy to put a lot of bait in, but impossible to take it out again if the heavy baiting doesn’t work. Maleon carp are notoriously shy of big beds of bait and have been know to boycott an over-baited area for days, even weeks, until the baits have broken down to a mush or the bream have cleared them up.
21 Jun 2021 at 4.26pm
In reply to Post #481
Another good way of masking the point is with soluble packaging foam.
The standard way of using this foam is to thread it onto the hook and pass the hook back through the foam. However, I have found that if you are using heavy leads of three or four ounces, nine times out of ten the foam comes off as soon as the lead hits the surface. I have found that if you lick and fold as shown here, the foam stays on for much longer allowing the hookbait to fall down close to the lead.
Trapping the hair against the hook shank prior to casting out goes a long way towards eliminating tangles too.
Choice of bait was not hard! I was one of the lucky few who were given Trigga to test back in the summer of 2000 and had done so well on the bait there was no way I was going to use anything else! I would use standard bottom baits on the hair - in common parlance 'matching the hatch' (urgh!) and as alternative hookbaits I would use my go-to bait Techni Spice ready mades.
As for the free offerings well I have done well using a mix of ready made Trigga and frozen Trigga in about equal proportions. I don’t know why this blend should work so well as the two baits are definitely not the same in terms of attraction and composition. However, some field testers actually prefer the ready mades to the freezer baits so I guess I was hedging my bets by mixing the two like this.
Finally I couldn’t go to the lake without a bag of my favourite groundbait SuperRed from Haith’s. I generally stiffen with a very a strong solution of a food liquid (back then it was Liquid Trigga), forming the resulting paste into groundbait balls which I catapulted into the swim along with the freebies or threw in by hand when stalking or casting along the Godawful Sodding Railway Bank.
Tim was doing the cooking this trip. I had been warned that he fancied himself with a tin of beans so wasn't expecting much. Strangely enough he served up a really good nosebag and we sat outside as the sun went down with the odd 1664 or three, watching the occasional carp show on the surface.
It was soft and mild and everything looked really good. I grabbed a bag of bait from the freezer and set off to my swim, Mirror Corner. I took the long route along the south, east and west banks and saw quite a few carp in the small bay in front of The Corner, where Paul was getting set for the evening. Walking along the east bank up past the Bird Hide I came to the Gate Swim. Thee weed growth was just starting to die back but it was still profuse enough to cause problems if a fish wanted to weed you up. Starting in the margins I began to throw bait along the length of the GSRL and once I got to the snag tree I piled a whole bagful into the margins and under its branches.
21 Jun 2021 at 4.25pm
In reply to Post #480
First let me set the scene…Whether we realise it or not, we all start problem-solving the minute we decide on the venue we are going to fish. If we have been there before we see a mind’s eye picture of the water, visualising which swim we aim to fish, how far out and with which type of hookbait, bait carpet and rig. While we are on the way to the venue we rehearse over and over again the strategies we will use and we talk endlessly to travelling companions about how we expect to get on. Then reality steps in as every careful plan usually gets dumped before we even wet a line.
There were just three of us on the lake, Tim, Paul and myself. Paul had arrived the same morning as me and had not yet set up. Being a bit lumbered by the fact that he had an artificial leg, I thought it was only fair that I offer him first choice of swim. That’s when I found out he didn’t like being patronised! Backing down swiftly we tossed a coin for choice of swim: Paul won, I came second with Tim bringing up the rear. Not a problem in reality as there was plenty of room for everyone. I knew exactly where I wanted to fish so imagine my relief when Paul picked The Corner. I looked at Tim; I knew what he was thinking as I felt sure he was after the same swim as me.
“I’ll go in Mirror Corner, “ I said and his face fell.
On previous visits to Maleon I had always liked how that swim had a habit of doing the bigger fish; maybe not as many but certainly the bigger old girls. Not surprisingly was very popular and for 40 weeks of every year you’d find one of the paying clients in there. This would be my first chance to fish it for any length of time. It is rather a secluded, private sort of swim, closed off from the rest of the lake by a fallen tree to the right and the line of the north bank to my left with that lovely little stalking swim in the corner. A couple of large trees had gone over in a winter storm and these formed a very distinct holding area of snags. I don’t like fishing to snags at all but I felt sure the fish would not stay in them all day and would drift out overnight to feed.
Looking towards the far bank three distinct gaps in the far treeline made obvious casting targets and by the weed in front of the middle and right hand rods started more towards the far bank than my own. I had caught fish from the opposite side of the lake by casting some twenty yards or so off the snags and that is what I planned to do again only this time from Mirror Corner. I would cover this area with my left hand rod. The middle rod and the right hand rod were going out towards the middle of the lake and some clear holes in the weed.
I decided to start on bottom baits for no other reason than I much prefer them to pop-ups and in any case Tim had told me that the fish were all falling for standard presentations and not looking at pop-ups. I had done very well on a trip to the river a week or two earlier using freezer baits wrapped in paste.
I have talked about using paste before both as a stocking-wrapped hookbait and also as an outer wrap around the hookbait. I picked this trick up from Max Cottis when he featured it a fishing video and it is a trick I use virtually every time I cast out a hookbait these days. The paste breaks down pretty quickly allowing all the natural attraction of the Trigga (or whatever you fancy using) to flood out. I think this method works so well because it attracts smaller fish to the hookbait. These in turn draw inquisitive carp to it as well and even the craftiest carp are often undone by this little wrinkle.
This presentation is very effective when you are confronted by very weedy lakes (and Maleon is pretty weedy itself) as you can actually bury the hook point in the paste. Now you can cast into weed without hanging the hook up on weed fronds. This pic shows what I am talking about here.
Actually the weed in Maleon is pretty daunting at first sight and if you do marker float work for any length of time you will become convinced that the whole of the bottom is covered in weed. However, much of the weed is the kind that grows in tall single bushy strands that spread out at the surface, giving the impression that the weed is impenetrable. In fact, if you mask the hook point/hookbait and don’t move the lead after it has settled you stand every chance of the hookbait ending up clear of weed on a nice lake bed of sweet, deep, rich silt, or the interspersed patches of hard gravel.
21 Jun 2021 at 4.20pm
In reply to Post #479
Nige, Rich and Jay, the bailiffs, were fishing on the area of the west bank known as Bailiff's Bank and they too were having to be patient. Then the weather changed dramatically. A fairly intense low pressure area swept across the region, pushing away the doldrums-like anti-cyclone that had dominated the weather pattern for ages. It started to rain and blow hard from the south west and like someone had thrown a switch the fish came on hard and strong. In one night we all caught fish and of them all Jay’s was by far the biggest, and the most significant as far as my story goes. This is Bailiff's Bank…
…and here's Rich and Nigel with nice mid-thirties from the Bailiff's Beach.. Rich (top) and Nige.
I was lying in my sleeping bag gazing at the water. The rain had stopped but it was chilly and the strong wind made life rather unpleasant. Jay popped his head around the door. “What’s the biggest fish you’ve ever seen on the bank?” He asked me. I told him 46lb. “I’ve got one bigger than that!” he exclaimed. “It’s fifty-three!" He mentioned that it was a fish he’d been after for three years, ever since he first started working as a bailiff at Maleon. In that time it had graced the bank only twice, proof if it were needed that the fish was a bit cute. It came out on average once a year, and between captures it was hardly ever seen in the water.
I was happy for Jay who was a lovely fella, a brilliant bailiff who worked hard for the lake and its clients and equally hard for his fish. When I went round to do the pix I was awe-struck by the full magnificence of the massive creature. I simply had to catch her myself and I immediately promised myself that I would not rest until I did so. I haven’t been so driven since I first started serious carp fishing back in the 60s. Simply magnificent.
The months passed; I fished the lake again in late July with moderate success but of the biggie there was no sign. Undaunted I returned home only to hear from Tim Kay that the creature had come out two weeks later at 50lb 4oz. I was happy and sad at the same time; happy to know that she’d survived the winter and the floods that always affect the pit in this part of France, sad to know that the fish had probably made its only mistake of the year and was down in weight to boot. This is that rare visit to the bank to an angler fishing The Corner.
It was late October 2001 and I was back at the lake for another post-season trip with the image of that beautiful fish resting irrevocably at the forefront of my memory. Maybe this time? All the way there during the near 600 mile journey from my home in Cornwall I pictured the lake in my mind’s eye. I knew exactly where I wanted to fish, how I would start the session and what I would change if it didn’t all pay off. I went over all my aims and strategies in my head, knowing full well what a foolish course of action this is. In all probability the swim would be taken or the fish would be doing a moody.
21 Jun 2021 at 4.17pm
In reply to Post #478
And this is a general view along the railway bank looking towards the Gate Swim. The prominent snag tree acted like a magnet to the carp when the sun came out and they were a sight for sore eyes for anyone peering down on them from up the bank by the fence.
These two swims were always the first to go when the draw was made and as I was there to do tuitions rather than fish, I had Hobson's Choice and had not so far managed to fish them. On previous visits I had caught from the Bird Hide swim on the east bank where I managed to land a few. This is my bivvy in the Bird Hide swim.
This poor quality pic shows the Gate Swim from the Lodge Bank.
This is a nice mid-thirty from the Bird Hide swim.
Draw a line across the lake from the Bird Hide to The Corner and you will see that it creates a nice little bay that remains largely undisturbed during the day. The weed grows thick and luxuriant in this bay with nice little holes into which a carefully cast bait could trip up an unwary carp as she drifted between the weed fronds.
There is a shed that sits in The Corner, which is supposed to be a bivvy for your week. At first sight you'd probably think this was nice and cosy but in actual fact it was anything but. The noise when it rained was unbearable, everything flapping about, rain hammering on the roof, seeping in through the door and soaking everything. And the rats! God, the rats were all over the place. This was before I caught Weils in 2005 but it was a blooming miracle I didn't catch it sooner.
I did two trips in The Corner and caught OK but I vowed, never again! The vermin were everywhere, running across your feet, up and down the wood planks that formed the floor of the bivvy and scurrying back and forth in the maze of rat runs beneath the shed.
This is a mid-twenty mirror from The Corner:
One year I went over late in the season staying on after the last party of paying guests had left for the UK. The lake had been moody while the customers had been there but with only myself and the two bailiffs left on the lake, we felt confident that things would pick up. I went in The Corner (last time!), which gives access to the small bay tacked onto the side of the southern bank. The weed in the bay was very thick but it seemed to be stiff with carp but for a while they just wouldn’t look at a bait.
21 Jun 2021 at 4.13pm
In reply to Post #477
I was back at Maleon the following year and this session was a bit of a nightmare. Normally Tim booked a maximum of ten anglers on the coach and frankly this is s about five too many. Still, not my problem and Tim had a team of excellent bailiffs who kept order resolutely. What Tim had omitted to mention to me was that for my first week at the lake he had booked twenty, many of whom were first timers to France and clearly first timers to carp fishing too…No gear and no idea, sums up most of them! They were a bloody nightmare, there only to get pissed and stoned and so on…But enough of that, Ken, just get on with the story.
The site was not exactly salubrious, with a couple of old caravans and a dodgy array of cars in various states of decay. The Lodge, however, was clean and tidy and the warm smell of dinner wafted from the kitchen.
Here's a little background. Go back and take another look at the magnificent mirror that started this story.
It was love at first sight. The first time I saw (that fish on the bank) I fell in madly in love…(and a bag of ten year old shelfies to the first reader to PM me with the name of the book I paraphrase in that sentence).
Don't be silly, I here you cry, how can you fall in love with a fish? Well they say love is blind and I was certainly blinded by that one! At the time she was the largest fish I’d ever seen on the bank and was certainly the most beautiful. In the three subsequent years that fish came out only twice. So my hopes were high that this time I might at last get to lay my hands on her.
Since that first tuition trip in 1997 in the years that followed I did six further trips to Maleon, each time getting to know the lake just a bit more. Combining fishing with the tuition aspect of the trip was a bit limiting but I gradually built up a picture in my mind's eye of the lake. It was clear that the railway bank was favoured by the carp thanks to the overhanging trees that gave cover and a large snag tree in the water where they liked to bask and doze.
However, the access to the railway bank was severely limited with just a narrow path between the two corner swims. There was a stalking swim right in the corner which was a stalker's paradise but was very tight and you could only use one rod in there due to the snags. Next to it was a more open swim with better access to open water so if you wanted to bivvy up and fish three rods that was the swim to be in. It was called Mirror Corner. The Godawful Sodding Railway Line ran a matter of yards from the water's edge, but that didn't seem to faze the carp at all. On the other hand to human ears the almost constant train noise was at times horrendous, but the fact of the matter was that you put up with the noise if you wanted to fish either of these hot swims. The nearby railway station in Epernay was a major hub for goods traffic and there was activity 24/7 in the goods yard and sidings. In addition the main line from Paris to the east saw at least twenty high speed trains a day pass by the two swims. To say it was noisy is putting it very mildly.
This is the stalking swim in the corner. It was very good to me but I knew that few if any anglers took the opportunity to fish single rod down the edge tactics in there as it was thought to be too noisy because of the trains…It wasn't!…more of which in a minute. The trick to fishing that swim was to put the bait in the night before while bivvied up in the next door swim about five yards away. If or when they moved in on the bait you'd hear them swirling on the top as they fed, sometimes crashing out to clear their gills. You could see the lake bed some eight feet down and when you saw that the bait had all gone put a single hookbait in there and then just keep whisper quiet.
21 Jun 2021 at 4.00pm
In reply to Post #1
Is this not the most gorgeous trophy shot? It shows Jay, one of Maleon's bailiffs, with the very first fifty pound carp I had ever seen in the flesh. Up until then I had not realised just how huge a fifty is and if it is as pretty as this one, well, that makes it all the more special. This particular fish figures large in this narrative, so I'll say no more at this point and just leave this here for your viewing pleasure.
The lake once known to us Brits as Maleon, lies not far from the town of Epernay in the Marne Departement of eastern France. An old gravel working, it is one of many that litter the course of the River Marne, and is characterised by it's lurid green water typical of most of the pits in the region. Its richness is also typical of these pits and weed grows profusely in the summer months. The lake is roughly square being about 250m at its widest point and 280 at it's longest. It is full of natural food, mussels, crayfish, daphnia and all the usual invertebrates one would expect to find in a calcium-rich lake and consequently the carp and other coarse fish in the lake do well, thriving on nature's richness. The margins are steep and quickly shelve down to 16-18 feet with some deeper spots along the north bank, aka the Godawful Sodding Railway Bank where twenty to twenty-five feet of water could be found.
In the late 90s the lake was leased by Tim Kay, a Brit ex-pat who had previously owned L'Hermitage fishery on the river Seine. Tim was a bit of a rogue but a loveable one for all that. He had run trips to L'Hermitage and did so again on Maleon. As part of his plan to open up the lake he asked me to come out and do a couple of tuition weeks, so one sunny day in August 1997 I found myself pulling up at the fishing lodge after a tiring and somewhat fraught drive right across France from Roscoff in the west to Epernay the capital of the Champagne region in the east. This pic shows the layout of the lake and the relevant swims that are mentioned throughout this tale.
Over dinner that evening I met up with the gang, six anglers and the Dick the bailiff and a very nice bunch they proved to be. I was not there to fish so much as to help out where needed and sow words of wisdom to all an sundry as required. To be honest this group were pretty well versed on all things carpy but I did my bit, walking around the lake stopping at each occupied swim and chatting to the occupants about fishing, life, the universe and everything. Frankly they were nothing like as inexperienced as Tim had made them out to be; all were perfectly capable anglers. Still, I hoped my tips and advice was not too boring - if it was they were all to polite to say so - and we spent a very pleasant week on the lake. All in all the first week was judged a success (the less said about the second week the better!), and Tim invited me back the following year to repeat the process.
They were a very likeable bunch and all caught carp at some point during the week. Sorry if you are reading this guys but I've forgotten your names…it's an age thing.
This guy I remember well; he and his mate came over from SW Ireland, country Kerry. As it happens in the early 70s Bill and I had spent some very happy weeks in Fenit, Co Kerry, and they knew Jack Godley's bar very well (see earlier posts). That broke the ice nicely and we got on ever so well. They both had very distinct soft Irish accents, typical of the west of Eire and I could hardly understand a word they said. Still, they were good anglers despite having no local carp fishing at home, and they had come loaded for bear. Tins and tins of Guinness, lager and a bottle of Eire's finest, Bushmills Black Bush Single Malt! They spent most of the first couple of days catching carp and the rest of the week enjoying themselves. I enjoyed myself greatly in their company!
6 Jun 2021 at 2.55pm
In reply to Post #475
PM for you...
6 Jun 2021 at 1.57pm
In reply to Post #1
Hi Ken,, Sorry for delay in replying, other major distractions. Can't find your messages about the Geoff Kemp rods , so , if you are still interested, please email me . keagem.
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