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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.
15 May 2021 at 12.17pm
In reply to Post #473
Many thanks (albeit belated ones) for this, Jon.
10 Apr 2021 at 3.25am
In reply to Post #469
"What do you think your contribution to carp fishing has been Ken?"
Ha! Pretty sure "legend" covers that
Was reading my 1998 beekay offering only yesterday
Long may you post big fella
3 Apr 2021 at 12.41pm
In reply to Post #1
Wow ive got some looking and reading here, I may be some time, thanks K.
30 Mar 2021 at 2.48pm
In reply to Post #469
To quote Cat in Red Dwarf!, "I have brought joy to the world becaus I have abeautiful ass!"
29 Mar 2021 at 1.07pm
In reply to Post #468
29 Mar 2021 at 12.57pm
In reply to Post #1
What do you think your contribution to carp fishing has been Ken?
25 Feb 2021 at 6.31pm
In reply to Post #467
Plenty in the tank Sir
25 Feb 2021 at 4.51pm
In reply to Post #1
119, 553 views now. I'm pretty chuffed about that. Still got one or two memories left in the bank so watch this space.
27 Jan 2021 at 12.57pm
In reply to Post #465
But, Dave. I have got a Proper Job, and some Proper Black too!
26 Jan 2021 at 6.23pm
In reply to Post #464
Disappointed you didn’t have a “proper job” Cornish accent........
26 Jan 2021 at 4.26pm
In reply to Post #463
I wouldn't know anything about that, Mr BL!
22 Jan 2021 at 8.29pm
In reply to Post #462
Loved it Ken. Pioneering times even if it looks like a 70s German porn video
15 Jan 2021 at 12.22pm
In reply to Post #461
Just found a youtube vid of the Rainbow tripo in 1994.
Ultimate Carping - Rainbow Lake,
3 May 2020 at 0.23am
In reply to Post #460
2 May 2020 at 1.05pm
In reply to Post #459
The sunsets and sunrises were always spectacular…
…and I shall never forget catching fish for the camera. This is the director of what was Romania's top angling TV program with Philippe, myself and a nice thirty pound common caught to order.
And of course how could I forget Olivia!
My little mascot George, enjoyed the place too!
But my most abiding memory is of sharing five fantastic weeks with one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, the mad guy that is Philippe Lagabbe without whom all this would never have happened. Merci bien, M. le Bison!
Thanks for the memories.
Funnily enough this lock down, which has kept us cooped up for over five weeks now means that Tat has found chores galore to do that might not have got done had the virus not struck. I'll get back to this thread soon, I hope. In the meantime keep safe, keep well and most of all, keep SANE.
2 May 2020 at 1.04pm
In reply to Post #458
Time to put this thread to bed. Here are a few Raduta scenic shots that I hope may give you some idea of the incredible adventures I enjoyed on this amazing lake. The isolation can be mind-numbing, but there is beauty all around, you just need to see past the hopes and dreams of giants and be happy for whatever comes along. There are so many carp in the lake, probably 100,000 or more so if the gods decide to award you a lump then that is because you had the winning ticket in that moment's raffle. The luck of the draw in other words.
That said, when the top anglers get on there they do seem to catch more than their share of biggies: Paisley, Briggs, Lagabbe, Hoogendjik, Danau…they all seem to draw the winning ticket on an annoyingly regular occasion.
Me? I guess I didn't enter the draw often enough! In my two sessions on the lake I had 100 carp over twenty pounds, the majority of which were over thirty. Yet in all those hours I managed only five forties. If your name's on it you will catch it…maybe! Philippe certainly had the Indian sign on the place.
There are many reminders of the lake's history before the valley was flooded. Sadly most of the buildings have fallen into disrepair, but one or two still remain .
Not all though…
The reservoir is enormous and to a newbie like me it was mind blowing. Luckily I had Raduta specialists Laggabe and Hoogendijk to see me right.
One memory I will take away from the place is not the fish or the fishing, it is the sound of bells ringing as a local farmer moves his flock of sheep and goats to new pastures, always accompanied by one or several of the semi-wild dogs that roam the hills.
30 Apr 2020 at 11.20am
In reply to Post #457
Hi Dave...or should I say, Gurt? Great to hear from you. Hope you are well and still as enthusiastic about life, love and the pursuit of happiness as ever! Glad you are enjoying SWS. I've got to get back to it sometime soon but strangely this lock down business has seen me far too busy to be sat in front of a desktop all day. As you can see in post #7 I was then and remain heavily influenced by that great book you gave me. I still read it on a regular basis to keep my feet well and truly on the ground!
28 Apr 2020 at 3.37pm
In reply to Post #23
Goodness me young Kenneth!!
That brings back some warm memories of beautiful places, some really nice people and some incredible carp of which few had names.
I'm going all nostalgic.
Good to see you are well and are surviving this awful virus.
Stay safe young man and thank you for the read.
19 Apr 2020 at 3.32pm
In reply to Post #455
Got a few more pix from the Raduta trips to put up but first I need to scan them. Seeing as I have not got that much on my plate at the moment - thanks CV-19! - I shall try to get them up soon. Then, I think, for a while I'll go back to SW Memories rather than French ones.
Keep safe and sane, peeps
19 Apr 2020 at 8.40am
In reply to Post #454
Later I showed the photo (below) to Simon Crow and Steve Briggs both of whom had caught some very big fish from the lake. They both recognised it and told me that it was a known fish, not often caught, that had come out earlier in the year from a swim in Water Tower Bay to a French guy. On that occasion it weighed 25.5kg. Yes, it was the same fish that Xavier had caught on our session with Philippe, Leon and their his group of French anglers in May. It too had made the same six mile journey as I had just done up to the far end of the lake. These fish sure do like to travel.
Now here it was again caught by Philippe. A rough conversion put its weight at 54lb…What a sight for sore eyes it was!
18 Apr 2020 at 3.24pm
In reply to Post #453
I set up in a deep channel running between the bank and a large island not far from the village of Magureni. Apparently the island was the site of a cemetery that was flooded when the valley and surrounding villages and churches were flooded after the river was damned at Pesana. Since then human bones washed up on the shore on a fairly frequent basis. Small wonder the population hated the now-executed dictator Ceausescu who had given the locals no option but to leave, and quickly, as the flood waters swamped their homes and livelihoods.
I took the boat out with the echo sounder pinging away and found fifteen feet of water only a dew yards out. Looking at the bank behind me it was clear that the steep slope there continued below the water and this slope continued down for a good 150-200 yards before flattening off. Then the level started to climb again towards for far bank, the slope here being a lot more gradual.
I laced the far margin with a couple of kilos of Trigga placing the majority of the bait along the fifteen foot contour, this being the successful depth in the other swim in Water Tower Bay. I also dropped a kilo of chops along the near margin, again concentrating on the fifteen foot contour line.
The wind had started to pick up as I set up the tent, which made this task a bit fraught. Luckily Philippe saw my struggles and came up to help me. He and his mate were set up about half a mile down the bank from me. Sport has been slow while he (and I!) had enjoyed the delights of Tuborg Gold but the change in the weather looked as if it might gee things up a bit! Sure enough, I had a take while we were still putting up the tent. That was quick. The fish was a comparative tiddler at a mere twenty-five pounds! Strange how you standards seem to change on an almost daily basis. Give anybody a 25lb common in the UK and they'd be doing cartwheels; the same fish at Raduta is shrugged off as a tiddler! Odd!
The weather was changing quickly now and as the light went the temperature dropped like a stone. The Romanian autumn had arrived at last. Bye-bye summer heat, shorts and a T-shirt. Hello chill winds, woolly jumpers and water proofs! Here waves march down the channel as a stiff north westerly wind blows down the length of the channel.
It started to rain hard, to bucket down, in fact, and with the cold wind and the heavy rain came a bit of a shock to the system after the very hot late summer weather we'd enjoyed in the first two weeks of the trip.
I sat in the tent looking down the channel towards the distant swim where the two Frenchies were fishing. My close in margin rod bucked and heaved in the breeze then suddenly the buzzer screamed out. Clearly this feisty weather was much to the carps' liking. In the fierce breeze the fish felt very heavy but I though that could well be the weight of the wind of the line and the rod. Indeed at times the rod was almost blown out of my grip, however, I got the fish into the margin and saw it was no size at all, probably only a low double. I unhooked it in the mat then rebaited and recast. (That white dot just past the headland down the bank is Philippe out in the boat playing his biggie.)
I put the kettle of for a brew and while I was boiling I noticed Pierre, Philippe's fishing partner, running up the bank towards me. He's in a bit of a hurry for a cuppa, I thought to myself! He arrived in my swim puffed out but full of beans, telling me that Philippe had caught one of the biggies.
Now I have probably mentioned this before but he never weighs his fish…ever! It's enough for Philippe that they are gorgeous and they have lent their beauty to him for a few brief moments. What a lovely attitude. I set off down the bank with Pierre, arriving in the swim to find Philippe playing another fish. Greedy sod!
It looked to me to be a low forty pound common, fat as a barrel but gorgeous for all that. We cracked a beer on the strength of it, and why not? It was worth a bit of a celebration, especially when Philippe told me that he had an even bigger common in the sack!
17 Apr 2020 at 12.49pm
In reply to Post #452
Fishing in total isolation on the huge lake in Water Tower Bay was awesomely lonely and after spending time at the hotel with Philippe, and then returning to the solitude of the tent reinforced my feelings of sadness and loneliness. Another solitary sunset drove home the sense of isolation and frankly this was driving me mad. I determined to move the next day.
I decided to move right up the lake to the general area we had fished in May at Sandulita. Philippe and his mate were also up that way and it would be nice to have a bit of company for the last few days of the session. I packed down slowly and managed to manhandle the huge canvas bivvy into the boat, the best of the gear being piled on top. There was just about room for me to sit and row but it would be a long old haul.
As the crow flies the distance between the two swims was a mere two miles but bearing in mind the twists and turns taken by the course of the lake it was nearer a six mile row. I wasn't looking forward to that!
Luckily as I rowed through the Hotel Bay I noticed that Philippe's boat with the petrol outboard was still at the hotel slipway. I swung over to the jetty and went into the cool lobby of the hotel. I could hear Philippe's dulcet tones emanating from the bar so I hastened to join him. One again we got sidetracked into spending more time that we should have in the bar but eventually we wandered out into the setting sun and I hitched my well-loaded boat to Phil's petrol-engine'd one, and breathing a hearty sigh of relief that I did not have to row the rest of the way we set off towards the north west corner of the lake.
17 Mar 2020 at 3.41pm
In reply to Post #451
Luckily for me none of the other three rods went off while I was out there dealing with the snag, which meant they were still handily placed and baited. All I needed to do was check over the end gear on the rod that had been snagged and get it back out there.
The weather was hardly conducive to great carp fishing as you can see from the pix; little or no wind and roasting hot. It was October yet the temperature remained in the mid-30s for day after day and the carp were not being exactly playful. More for something to do than anything else I walked across the fields to the hotel some three km away. In hindsight this was not such a great idea as the sun was blistering and I arrived in a pool of sweat. I was surprised to see Philippe's boat on the jetty so I went in search. I found him in the bar (what a surprise) and so we shared a quick larger then I went for a long, cool refreshing shower. This is the front aspect of the hotel from the jetty.
Philippe had moved to a swim in the Hotel Bay as he had arranged to meet with some friends from Bucharest who had come from a long weekend stay in the hotel. In this photo you can see his bivvy set up behind the trees that would provide much needed shade come the afternoon. In the near distance is the white mooring and landing jetty in front of the hotel, the red tiled roof of which can be seen above the trees. In the distance the huge expanse of World Cup Bay stretches away to wards the horizon while in the foreground Phil sets off in the boat to put a bit of bait into his swim.
It was great to meet up with Phil for a beer and a chat and the ice cold larger (Tubourg Gold) slipped down a treat in the cool of the bar, while outside the sun at last started it's slow dip to the far bank. One beer lead to another and for some reason or other I slept the afternoon dozing away under the cool shade of the weeping willows on the lawn in front of the hotel.
I awoke to a glorious sunset…
… but sod that: I was starving hungry and had a raging thirst. Somehow or other we got a bit distracted and after a good nose bag and a bottle or three of Romanian red (drink with caution) I booked a room for the night, as did Philippe.
Talking of sunsets, whenever the sun rose or set in a dramatic sky you could guarantee Philippe would be there with his camera.
At the time photography was no more than a passionate hobby for Philippe, albeit one that supported his work as an angling consultant for many French and UK companies. I was constantly amazed while fishing with the guy at the amount of time and effort he put into his photography - and this was before digital cameras - if you wanted to have your work accepted at the highest level you shot colour transparency film; not cheap and the amount Philippe used it must have cost him a fortune.
Philippe has not picked up a rod for many years now, as I think he became disillusioned with the circus that is modern carping. The "tiger cubs", as Big Bill calls them, are a bit too much for anglers of a certain age and while Philippe was largely responsible for the evolution of modern carping in France, the young social media chieftains, Bloggers and videoists are a far cry from how carping used to be. He is not the only one who finds this today's carp scene confusing, shrill and far to modern. I am firmly in his camp!
Philippe now devotes his considerable skills to being a hugely gifted photographer. If you are interested in photography that is art as well as documentary take a look at his website…in fact take a look even if at the moment you are not interested! I think you will be impressed.
The following morning I walked back to my lonely bivvy. Fishing on my own on such a huge, remote lake was a chastening experience. Loneliness can be a cruel mistress and despite the fact that it was calm, hot and sunny and the fishing continued on and off, with several beautiful commons ending up in my net, my disposition took a bit of a downturn. A week on your own with no company whatsoever can be pretty daunting and as I write this now during the 2020 CV-19 pandemic, I can truly sympathise with all those who live on their own and cannot get out for any meaningful social contact. It must be awful.
17 Mar 2020 at 3.37pm
In reply to Post #450
Hi again. Suddenly I find myself with more time on my hands than I ever could have wished for. I should have been fishing in France at this very moment but due to the virus crisis that is now on hold. So I now have time to tell you a bit more about my Raduta trip in October 2003…
I mentioned the snags earlier and after a couple of nervous touch-and-go encounters with fish out on the plateau I finally had a serious take from a very powerful fish that snagged me up good and proper. As before I went out in the boat with the rod to see what could be done to retrieve the situation and on arriving over the top of the fish (was it still on?) I found everything was locked down solid.
I should mention at this point that on my first trip the previous May I had been shown how to set up the end gear to deal with the snags. This consisted on beefing up the last 30m or so with, first 20m of 85lb Ton Up, and then with an additional 10m length of 55lb heavy duty sea fishing nylon.
The braid and the nylon were joined using a Mahin knot that was sealed with a hefty dollop of Superglue.
This is the nylon I had been advised to use by Simon Crow, who had already enjoyed a few trips to the lake so his advice was well tried and tested. Penn nylon is renowned throughout the sea fishing world as one of the strongest, toughest and most abrasion resistant monos available. When it calls itself 'Super Tough' it ain't kidding.
Initially I used the new (at the time) Fox Submerge Braid on the reels but after a few outings I found it to be very hit and miss as far as sinking was concerned and on a couple of occasions the line seemed to be forced to the surface as weed and algae started to build up on the line. This meant I had to dump many meters of line when it simply became unusable.
Again on the recommendation of Crowy, I removed the troublesome Fox Submerge in favour of 50lb PowerPro. Though this is in effect a neutral buoyancy braid, when fished in deeper water with a heavy lead and bar taught line this was not a problem; certainly not like the "buoyant" Submerge had been. (To be fair to Fox, they quickly changed the specs of the original Submerge and released a second version, a denser braid that sank a brick.) This is the Power Pro with a length of Kryston 85lb b.s. Ton Up braid as an abrasion resistant leader.
So anyway, back to the story…Where the line seemed irretrievably snagged and I could not feel if the fish was still on or not. The line went straight down from the rod tip to the snag, the depth under the boat being about 25 feet. I now knew what had cost me those fish earlier in the trip, as I felt fairly sure this was the culprit for those lost fish. With the heavy duty end gear now within reach I was able to grab hold of it and wrapping it around my sleeve-padded arm I tried to heave it free of the snag. Not a chance! It was set solid in the bottom. I took a couple of half hitches around one of the thwarts and pulled hard on the oars to try to move the snag with the boat... and believe it or not the bottom started to move!
Little by little whatever it was began to rise up from the bottom. I could feel nothing on the line but a heavy weight and cursed the fact that the snag had cost me what had felt like a good fish. Meanwhile I still had the snag to deal with. Bit by bit I started to gain line and leaning over the side of the boat I saw what looked like half a tree looming under the boat. I could see the end gear (sadly a carp-free zone) and with the snag now within reach I manhandled it towards the boat though try as I might I could not get it aboard and the last thing I wanted was to drop it back onto my hot spot. I got it alongside the boat and got a length of mooring rope around it, and then slowly began to row back to the shore. It seemed to take me forever but at last I got into shallow water where I could step out of the boat onto solid ground. Now I could get the damn thing ashore. It was as long as the twelve foot boat and equally as deep and it weighed half a ton (maybe!). Here it is. In the cold light of day it doesn't look much but this photo doesn't do it justice.
25 Feb 2020 at 3.41pm
In reply to Post #449
It was a very pleasant interlude in very interesting company and I went back to my swim hoping to see Olivier and his model again some time before I left. A few days went by. I caught quite a few more carp and passed the time of day with a spinning rod and a plastic lure catching zander and the odd perch. Great fun.
Then one day a boat pulled ashore about 50 yards down from me and out stepped Olivier. In the boat with him was a gorgeous young girl who he introduced as Olivia. This could get confusing! We sat and had a beer and Olivier then casually told me that he’d like me to catch him a big common carp, at lest thirty pounds in weight, so he could do some photos with Olivia as the sun was setting. Just like that, eh? Don’t want much do ‘e? From the cloudless sky it would clearly be a beautiful sunset but catching a 30lb common to order is not a task I relished, and I told him so in no uncertain fashion. “I trust you Ken,” he said. “I know you won’t let me down. We’ll be back in a couple of hours!” So saying they sailed off into the distance.
I thought I should make a bit of an effort, seeing as how he had asked so nicely, so I put fresh bait out over the existing hookbaits and hoped that would do the trick.
An hour or so later I saw Olivier’s boat heading back towards me. Bugger! I haven’t got a carp for him, let alone a thirty, I thought to myself, whereupon the rod in the near gully was away. After a lively scrap I landed, yes, you’ve guessed it, a big common, well over the requested size. I acted all nonchalant, as if I catch big commons to order every day, and to be honest, I felt a bit smug. Meanwhile Olivia was in my tent getting changed…Oh to have been a fly on that wall!
Finally we were ready and I lifted the carp up and placed it gently in her arms. Even though she had never handled a carp that big before she was a model professional and she posed while Olivier fired off hundreds of shots on his pro-model DSLR Fuji. One of those shots appeared in the Zebco calendar the following year. I think you’ll agree it’s a cracker…so’s the carp.
Satisfied with his work Olivier then asked me to pose in the water with the fish. It’s not every day that you get a professional photographer to take your trophy shots but when (if) it happens you grab the opportunity with both hands.
And that is the tale – two tales actually – of a couple of memorable episodes that took place during a that session on the amazing Lake Raduta in October 2003. What a year, what a session. What a lucky bugger!
I'll come back to round off the trip next time.
25 Feb 2020 at 3.37pm
In reply to Post #448
Now for a look at the sacked fish. I brought one of the sacks ashore and did the ritual pix. Another beautiful fish.
Finally a third common posed for the cameras.
So that is the story of how I once had four on at once and landed all of them. I guess you wouldn’t think life could get any better than that, but you’d be wrong! Later that day I had another five takes, lost one to the snags but landed the others, one of which was a lovely 42lb + common.
Another thirty pound common…This was getting boring…NOT!
It was a long trip, three weeks all but a day, and a man needs some R&R at some period during such a grueller, so half way through I wound in and walked across the fields back to the hotel for a shower and a beer or six. I was relaxing outside in the sunshine when Robert came out to join me, a couple of cold beers in hand and accompanied by a big stocky fella. This chap was from Kiev and he had told Robert that he and his friends had heard than Philippe and myself were on the lake and they wanted us to join them for a beer, if that was alright.
Alright! I should say so!
Philippe was still way up the lake and I had not heard how he was getting on, so I suggested to the Ukrainian guy that we could drive up to fetch him. Yep, this met with general approval so off we set in his 4WD. The big guy seemed confident in where he was going but after about half an hour driving this way and that, and never getting anywhere near Philippe's swim we were well and truly lost. Driving up and own the roads in the back of beyond showed me just how primitive the country was if you wandered away from civilization.
Eventually we abandoned any hope of reaching Philippe's swim and more by good luck than good judgment we eventually ended up at the Ukrainians' swim in World Cup Bay, where a good time was clearly being had by the big guy's three remaining countrymen. Soon I was deep in my cups on prime Ukraine Vodka.
We were drinking out of shot glasses with a rounded bottom so impossible to put down anywhere. It seemed the done thing was to down the lethal oil-like liquid in one as soon as your glass was filled. When one by one they started falling by the wayside I made my excuses and left, as the NotW would put it! I walked back to the hotel and cadged a bed for the night off Robert who was quite amused to hear my story. Apparently these guys were renowned for getting visitors to the lake well and truly spannered!
Nest morning at breakfast, nursing a sore head and gulping down gallons of coffee and guy came to my table and asked if he could join me. Of course, I said, and we got talking. He told me that he knew Philippe both as an angler and as a superb photographer and he introduced himself as Olivier Portrat and handed me a business card. On it he described himself as an “Angling and Outdoor Writer, Photographer and Tackle Consultant” and kind of threw in the comment that he was in Romania to do some photos for the 2004 Zebco calendar.
Now anyone who likes to mix glamour and angling will know that they don’t come any better than the Zebco calendar, and as I was just such a chap this told me all I needed to know about Olivier. And once he had shown me a few examples of his work, I had no reason to doubt the fact that here was one talented fella. We chatted for a while about this and that, and he told me that he was at the lake mainly to get some good shots of zander in the hands or on the rods of one of several Romanian models that had accompanied him to the lake. I told him where I was fishing and said he was welcome top drop in for a tea or stronger if he was passing, especially if he was going to be in the company of a pretty girl! It turns out that Olivier was no stranger to the latter!
25 Feb 2020 at 3.35pm
In reply to Post #447
As I was fishing on my own the easy option would have been to cast all four rods to the deep channel at 30m, but the call of distant waters was hard to resist and though it posed quite a challenge the plateau was clearly the place to be fishing. Yes, I would put one rod in the channel but the others were all going out at range with a scattering of bait, around each rod!
It was blowing hard and there was quite a chop on. In fact, getting afloat was a bit problematical, the boat shipping water over the gunwales, the waves threatening to swamp it at one stage. Still, I managed to get out far enough to stop and bail out, and anyway, I welcomed the wind, as I knew full well that they liked a bit of a blow on Raduta.
I used the boat and the sounder to find what I hoped were suitable spots, then scattered the bait far and wide about the plateau. I then dropped each baited hook from the boat and then piled a scattering of kilos of tigers over the top of the hookbaits before rowing back to the bank. So there we are, all set up for the coming night and maybe a bit of action, three rods on the plateau, the fourth being cast into the deep channel off to my right. I poured myself a beer and then sat back to watch the sunset going down leaving a purple sheen over the lake.
Nothing happened that first night in the new swim, but at first light the next morning I watched a jaw dropping display of fish showing all over the plateau. They were clearly having a very hearty breakfast!
I was full of expectation but the sun rose and the activity seemed to die out almost completely. Had they wiped me out? Should I refresh the swim and put on new hookbaits?
I was pondering the answer to those questions when the middle rod of the three on the plateau was away. I picked up and straight away the rod was wrenched down by an almighty tug. I was using 35lb braid mainline and drop-off leads so by leaning back on the rod I was able to bring the fish up off the bottom. Some 250m out a huge tail slapped the water to foam as the fish set off across the top of the plateau running from right to left in front of me. Pump and grind, pump and grind, eventually the fish was close to the bank, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing it lollopped into the net. Looked a good fish too.
I had it on the mat and had just reached for the scales when the rod in the channel was away. Hastily I bundled the fish on the mat into a sack, picked up the rod and struck. Immediately I knew that this was nothing special, for it felt every inch a grassie. The lack of fight told me all I needed to know. Now this may sound strange but at that time grass carp didn’t really ‘count’ at Raduta, as there were thousands of them in the lake and to be honest I think most folk would rather avoid them than catch them…I am no different!
Not bothered if the grassie got off, I put the rod back on the rest with the clutch set lightly and made sure the one in the sack was staked out securely, then returned to the rods to winch in the grassie. Beeeeep! Suddenly the two remaining rods out long went off almost simultaneously. This was the left and right hand rods and the hookbaits must have been at least 100m apart. What size was the shoal of fish out there?
Leaving the grassie to its own devices I hit the left hand rod and started to play it in. Almost immediately it snagged me up, so I put that rod back on the rests and turned to the right hand rod. This one came in grudgingly and it was clear it was no grassie. After about 25 minutes of pump and grind I had the fish in the net; a common and a good one too. I sacked that one up as well.
So the situation is this: I’ve landed and sacked a two nice commons and I've got another fish snagged up on me out on the plateau and, almost forgot, a grassie doing absolutely nothing apart from sulking somewhere not too far out. Let’s get that one out of the way! Grassies only fight properly when they see the net and then only briefly, so I simply winched this one in to the net, allowed it to go bonkers for a while and then lifted it out onto the mat. I put it straight back.
Now all that was left was the snagged fish way out yonder! I got in the boat with the rod and a net and gradually reeled myself out to the snag. The right hand edge of the plateau was the shallowest and when I arrived over the top of the snag I could actually see clouds of silt coming up off the bottom. The fish was still on!
Luckily I was using a 10m length of 45lb Quicksilver and a 2m length of 50lb nylon to deal with the abrasive nature of the lakebed, and these two were doing their job admirably! I wound down and heaved and low and behold the whole snag lifted off the bottom in a great cloud of silt. I could clearly see my line and amazingly it was wound only lightly around a large vine branch. It was a matter of seconds to ping the line off the snag, which dropped away quickly and then the fish was off like a train towing me and the boat around the lake. Thankfully it headed towards the bank but after about ten minutes it seemed to weaken and after a really brilliant fight I got the fish into the net and then into the boat. It was another scale- perfect common.
Back on the bank she went 37lb 12oz! Wow, what a result! A few pics and back she went.
25 Feb 2020 at 3.34pm
In reply to Post #446
After a protracted and tiresome battle I finally managed to break down the tent, pack it into the boat and transport it across the lake to the opposite shore. The map below shows the path I took with the boat and the new swim, which was more or less in the same spot as Xav had fished in May.
This photo taken in May shows the Cove Swim with out two big tents and across the other side you can just about make out another bivvy. This is Xav's biv and is more or less in the spot I had decided to fish after moving out of the Cove.
Crossing the lake with the sounder switched on revealed a couple of interesting features towards the far side, which could be fished quite easily from the new swim. However, by the time I managed to get the tent up to my liking and the bedchair and the rest of the paraphernalia sorted out it was closing in on dark and I still hadn't eaten a thing all day. I set up the rods and did a pub chuck into the lake, casting only fifty or sixty yards or so. Better a bait in the water than a bait in the bait box! Thus tidied away I cooked a bit of dinner and turned in.
You will not be surprised to know that given the pub casts the night was a blank one but at least I'd got a good night's sleep had been the result. I made a cuppa and sat in the door of the test, watching the sun come up across the village away to me left. Now, given a chance to look about I took in my new circumstances. The swim was nice and dry, flat with a bit of mud at the water's edge. The lake surface was white calm, dimpled here and there by small fry and the odd splash and scatter as the zander had their breakfast. It was a lovely sight and it heralded a warm day.
It's amazing what a bright new dawn can do to liven up one's day but it was made still better when a battered old Land River pulled up behind the swim. In it were the two ghillies who had looked after Philippe and myself in May and with them was Philippe himself. Philippe said I had made a good move situated as I was some a quarter of a mile or so down from Becker’s Point on the north bank of the huge bay.
In the past Philippe had caught well from the swim and he helped me enormously by pointing out the hot areas that had been good for him, a deep channel running across the swim some 30 yards from the bank, and a huge plateau between 150-200 yards out. I wondered if this was simply the same plateau we had fish from the Cove but Philippe said, no, it was not as wide but was much longer than the one in from of the cove.
Well breakfasted and raring to go I went out in the boat to look for the features. It was good to have Philippe's input and it gave me added confidence in the move. The echo sounder confirmed what Philippe had told me. The screen revealed a more or less lozenge shaped feature narrowing at both ends and opening out in the middle. It was I guessed some 200m long and 80m wide at its widest point, rising up from about thirty feet at its foot to maybe twelve feet at its shallowest point. The whole area was carpeted in snags: old vines and rocks that were festooned in mussels that clung to every obstruction. It was probably the snaggiest swim I have ever fished, but the fish were there.
In close the gully was easy to find, a slender channel that almost seemed to be man made so straight and narrow did it run. It was an easy cast from the bank. This is a rough idea of the features. The red dot is the famous Becker's Point, my new swim is marked with a blue dot. The rough positions of channel and the plateau are marked in white.
22 Feb 2020 at 3.47pm
In reply to Post #445
Three in the morning and I was fully awake. No point just lying here, Kenny boy, I told myself. Get out of your pit and put the rods out. From my previous trip to the lake I had the landmarks for the plateau more or less stored in the grey matter that I laughingly call my brain so the trip out in the dark was not as hit and miss as one might imagine. Soon the echo sounder indicated the steep rise of the leading edge of the plateau and the first rod went over the side. I dropped the second bait about twenty yards further on and I scattered a few tigers here and there about the general area.
The morning was fresh and cold but by the time I got all the rods out and the markers well positioned the sun was peeking from behind the clouds over to my right heralding a decent day, I hoped.
I got back in the bag with a cuppa and a packet of biscuits and soon I was well away, catching up on some much needed sleep, however less than an hour later I was roused from my slumber by a screaming sounder box. That was quick! I played the fish in from the bank and soon I had a rare (for me) mirror in the net. No great size, about mid twenties I would say.
Rod rebaited and rowed back out to the plateau, I once again turned in to try to get a bit of sleep.
I was rudely awakened by a loud angry voice. A gesticulating Dutchman had got the right hump with me for fishing "his" swim. He told me that he had been baiting the area for months! I told him that he was talking ball cocks as there had been no sign of him back in May! Perhaps that wasn't the most diplomatic thing to say, as his ire now seemed to go off the scale. Anything for a quiet life I told him I was quite happy to share the swim with him, whereupon it transpired that there were three of them. One I can handle, three, no way. Eventually we worked out what I thought was a reasonable compromise. I would stay put and he could fish the right hand section of the plateau from the next swim to my right below the water tower while I kept my rods on the left. The feature was plenty big enough for two, as Philippe and I had shown on the previous visit back in May.
The day passed without any more fishy action, but my new neighbours seemed hell bent on encroaching further and further onto the plateau until I found myself once again squeezed out to the left. I could not believe these guys; from the water tower to the plateau must have been at least 400 yards! It was a good long way for me at about two hundred yards but these guys were fishing twice that distance. What was galling was the fact that there are several very tasty marks in front of the water tower they could have fished. I made up my mind to move the next morning.
I could see that the swim where Xav had fished in May was free so at first light the next morning I started packing up. It was near enough a kilometre across the bay to the new swim but luckily I now had the boat in full working order but even so it would still take me at least a couple of trips to move to the new swim. I got much of the gear into the boat OK and did the first trip across without any problem. I was a bit gutted when I crossed the plateau to see quite a few fish marking the sounder but I was resigned to the fact that there was no way I could fish enjoyably in peace and quiet with my noisy neighbours. They were welcome to the fish that showed on the screen; I just hoped they were bream
Meantime I turned my attention to the huge canvas bivvy that had been set up in my swim in the cove. I had no idea how it came to bits and even less how it went up again but needs must…
22 Feb 2020 at 3.42pm
In reply to Post #444
So we pick up the story a few months later and again I was a guest of Robert Raduta and Philippe Lagabbe. Sadly this time I was to fish on my own as Philippe had agreed to fish with a young French guy on his first visit abroad. He was a smashing fella so I hoped that maybe we could all squeeze into a swim together as had been the case in May. However, Philippe had decided to fish a totally new area of the lake, leaving me to do my own thing, whatever that might be.
Philippe and his young companion started the two week session way up the lake towards the Sandulita Bay are we had started on the May session. According to Robert a lot of fish were coming out from that area so the pair were naturally keen to take his advice. I thought I would err on the side of caution and take the easy option to begin with so decided to fish the same swim where we had done so well last time in the small cove swim near the water tower in Preasna Bay. The read dot is me, the white dot is Philippe and his mate. That's about four miles between the two swims.
When I finally got a boat (yes, there is no way to access the cove swim by road s a boat is essential) yet more delay hit me. Unfortunately the engine I was due to use had been used and abused by the party before me on the lake and it was in need of a few running repairs. The problem was caused by floating braid, which had entangled the prop seizing the engine solid. Luckily I am used to sorting out this kind of mess but I had no tools with which to remove the prop boss in order to get at the cotter pin. When I eventually found a tool box and removed the boss, I found that the cotter pin had been replaced with a nail! If the original pin had been in place it would have sheared off making the removal of the braid a lot easier. As it was the nail didn't shear and the prop kept spinning until many yards of braid ended up in the prop. It took me about an hour to get at the pin, remove it, then remove the many yards of braid that was entangled in around the drive shaft. Nightmare!
Finally I got to the swim as night was drawing in. With no time to loose I went out in the boat to find the plateau we had fished in May. I had with me a plentiful supply of Dynamite's Frenzied hempseed and tigers, which were to be the main bait on this session.
I also had some Techni Spice shelfies with me, which I intended to use as an alternative bait on a couple of rods. The one kilo bag had been kicking around in my rucksack for a year or more as it is my go-to bait when the going is tough. That bag had done some miles! It had come with me every on every trip and in all the years I have used it, they have never failed me! I don't use them every time, only when I am scratching for a take but when the chips are down they don't 'alf work!
As before I used simple set ups, mainly tough nylon or braid knotless knotted to a size one or two hook. The pix are pretty self explanatory.
As well and the Dynamite and Nutrabaits stuff, Vlad had got hold of some very decent high oil pellets that had done well at Raduta Lake over the summer months. He'd given me a 25kg sack of them. He told me to pile it in, the more the merrier as the carp loved them!
Baiting up finished, I set about getting some rods ready. It was near enough dark by now, and I was dog tired from the trip over. First the drive up from Cornwall to Heathrow then the long wait + flight with British Airways to Otopeni Airport, and finally the journey to the lake from Bucharest. This would normally take less than an hour but for some unknown reason the driver that came to pick me up got lost! Then there was the problem with the bait and the engine…I turned in…The rods can wait!
21 Feb 2020 at 8.55am
In reply to Post #443
What a night! In our final 24 hours Philippe continued to catch. It got so that in the end we were both playing fish at the same time. For those last four days we had a gale of wind blowing right in our faces for 90% of the time. It was virtually impossible to get out to the plateau most of the time but with just as many fish coming at 30-40 yards, it wasn’t a problem.
So that’s the story of my first trip to Sarulesti. I cannot in all honesty tell you how many fish I caught as I simply lost count after a while. Philippe reckons we caught around 125 fish between us and he says I must have caught at least seventy of them! I’ll take his word for it. All I know is I shall never forget that session on the wonderful lake.
Here the sun rises above the village of Preasna. The wind is just beginning to ruffle the surface, typical of east winds that come up with the sun. We knew that it would strengthen as the daylight strengthened heralding another day's superb carp fishing.
The lake had got right under my skin and Philippe told me they were planning a repeat visit in early autumn. He asked casually, "fancy coming along?" I nearly kissed him.
21 Feb 2020 at 8.53am
In reply to Post #442
Once again the weather fate lent a hand. Suddenly a repeat of that fierce wind sprang up, blowing straight into our bank with waves three feet high crashing onto the shingle beach at out feet. It was impossible to use the boat as it would have been swamped within a couple of yards of the shore. This meant that it was also impossible to take baits out to the plateau so I had no option other than cast into the wind dropping the baits only twenty to thirty yards out. I fished two rods on the shelf and two at the foot of the drop in about 28 feet of water. The wind was really hacking into out faces and once again the huge area of coloured water spread out into the lake.
I felt sure the fish would respond as they did in the previous big blow and sure enough, they did. Over the next 48 hours Philippe and I caught with almost predictable regularity, a fish an hour each! All our carp came to rods cast from the bank to the marginal shelf at depths between 15-28 feet of water. It was easy fishing, brilliant fishing, exhausting fishing, and with the fish averaging low thirties we were having a whale of a time. They were like peas in a pod, those long sleek commons. We must have hit on the Mother Lode!
The margin hot spots continued to produce and we picked up carp regularly in the onshore gale of wind. Here you can see just how rough it had become as Philippe plays a big carp in a lively surf.
It felt odd to be fishing such a massive expanse of water yet to be baiting up with a catapult or a throwing stick but the fish were in close. There must have been hundreds of them and they were on the feed and wanted bait and we were there to give it to them!
The weather continued to confuse…one minute blowing a hoolie, the next white calm. Now, as quickly as it had sprung up the wind died completely allowing me to take all four rods out to the plateau to the spots I had fished over the weekend some two hundred yards out from the bank. What a difference a day makes. Look at the lovely placid surface of the lake and compare it to the pix of the swim during the blow.
Moving them back to the long range feature paid off big style. Out on the plateau the big girls had come out to play! I caught three forty pound commons in less than 24 hours. First was a nice fish of just over the forty pound mark, followed by a 42lb 12oz common, a glorious fish a yard long and as sleek as a bullet.
The third forty was my biggest of the trip so far, a big dumpy lump of a common. It was hardly the most beautiful fish in the world but at 45lb 8oz, I wasn't complaining.
Meanwhile the blow came back with a vengeance and yet more big girls went on a feeding spree, spurred no doubt by the big wind. Across from us Xavier landed a gorgeous 25kg common, and Philippe and I both had commons of over 40lb. This is Xav's.
21 Feb 2020 at 8.47am
In reply to Post #441
Across the bay I could see Xav busily baiting up his swim. From when I was standing it looked as if he was fishing the same plateau as us, but from the other side…Perhaps I needed a shower!
Meanwhile Philippe put two rods out onto the plateau and two off to the right on the drop-off ledge. That left me a large bit of the plateau to go at, and as I was not having any action in close I decided to put all four rods out long again.
Tuesday morning arrived and with it came a Romania film crew. They wanted to shoot several 30-minute shows dealing with tackle, bait and tactics for the lake. Vlad was fronting the show for Romanian television and he conducted his first interview with me on the lawn of the hotel overlooking the lake. I don’t know why they were asking me about tactics as it was only my first visit to the lake, but I was flattered to be asked, however for this first interview Vlad wanted to quiz me about bait as my articles in the Romanian magazine has established me as some kind of bait buff. ('E don't know me too well, do 'e?).
Philippe and I had again caught well during the night and we had a couple of decent fish to show them for the filming. I must admit, it did feel strange but apparently the programs were very well received when they aired at prime time on Saturday mornings. In fact I’ve been asked to go back and do some more. Whatever is the carp world coming too? Here’s we are I in true pose mode!
Filming and interviewing took up most of the morning. The interviewer was my old mate Vlad Pavlovici who at the time worked for the British Council. His spoken English and French was immaculate so asking questions in either language was easy for him.
While we were being filmed a young French guy rowed across to chat to us. His arrival was well timed as one of my rods went off almost the minute he arrived. He'd blanked so far so I said he could have the honour…
By now I had caught over fifty fish and was getting exhausted! The majority of the fish were commons, many of them over thirty pounds. Sadly I had yet to catch one of the lakes really huge fish which ran to over seventy pounds, but I was more than happy with my lot and everyone agreed that given the numbers of fish I was catching it was only a matter of time before something a bit better came along. Philippe was catching plenty too but by contrast he was working less hard for his fish as 90% of his takes were coming from the margins. He kept on at me to leave at least one rod in close but I wasn’t confident about it. The fact was that even though Philippe was catching well from in close, whenever I put a rod close in on the left hand side of the swim it remained untouched. I wanted runs, the more the merrier, so it was the plateau or nothing for me.
21 Feb 2020 at 8.43am
In reply to Post #440
It was hard graft getting the baits in position on the plateau on my own in the rough conditions so in the end gave up on the long range rods deciding instead to concentrate on the margins, where thanks to the continuing onshore wind the fish continued to feed at throwing stick distance.
It was a decision that paid off in style; I caught eight carp in the first 24 hours while I was on my jack in the swim, all bright silver or gold commons like peas in a pod. That's more like it!
Sunday morning and the wind began to die down and the fish drifted off into the deeper water, probably heading back out to the plateau. I rowed all four rods out to the plateau and baited up heavily with tigers and hemp plus several kilos of shelf life Trigga. I also added the last of my Big Fish Mix to the bait carpet for good measure. It felt odd to be out there in the boat throwing in kilo after kilo of bait but it was clear there were a lot of carp in front of me now so there was no good reason to be frugal with the bait.
Sure enough the fish kept me awake all night. No rest for the wicked; again I caught another eight commons of between twenty-five and thirty-five pounds including a long, lean, bright silver common of 35lb 8oz.. What a night!
After a brief lull in the proceedings while I caught up on some sleep the fish came back with a vengeance any by nightfall Sunday I had landed another five thirties including this thirty pound beauty.
I looked in the bait chest. The level was dropping alarmingly and It was frightening to see just how much bait those Sarulesti carp could devour. In fact I don't think I was putting in anything like enough but if I didn't want to run out of bait I would have to start rationing!
Xav and Philippe spent another night in the hotel so again I felt pretty confident it would all kick off during the coming Sunday night. And I wasn’t wrong! I had a further nine fish during darkness including all thirties, all over 15kg in weight, magnificent looking beasts, immensely long and totally virgin, never caught before. As the night was calm I took each bait back to the plateau after every fish landed. Hard work, but worth it.
Monday morning and I felt totally knackered! The swim looked like it had been shelled, gear scattered everywhere, the tent a mess and my sleeping bag damp and cold - too much getting in and out of it to land fish! In three the nights fishing that I had the swim to myself I had caught thirty-one carp, all commons, most over thirty pounds in weight. That's the stuff of dreams and no mistake. In fact I was having trouble convincing myself that this was actually happening…I was having an outstanding session.
Philippe got back Monday mid-morning and immediately took the boat out to rebait the plateau after I had told him of my astonishing run of big fish that had been caught from the area while he was away. There was no doubting the effectiveness of the baits we were using as some of the fish were excreting the Robin Red-boosted Big Fish Mix in the sack.
21 Feb 2020 at 8.38am
In reply to Post #439
Saturday morning came and the wind blew even harder. It was an onshore wind and the waves marched in serried ranks towards us, the wind blowing the tops off the waves and sending spray flying. Waves were crashing onto the beach and as expected the fish seemed to like the lively weather. With the wind came two exceptional fish. First Philippe latched into a fish on one of his margin rods less than 30 yards from the bank at first light. Here Xav (with the bucket) and Leon, help Philippe get ready for the pix.
The fish picked up his hookbait on the fifteen foot shelf on the drop-off and at such close range it really tore off. It was an incredible fight from an incredible fish. According to Philippe it was one of the originals, a mirror we put at about 20kg or so we guesstimated.
That fish was to result in some of the most spectacular photos I have ever taken and they have been used many times in magazines over the years. The waves and the swell we not conducive to photos of a guy trying to put back a large carp, but I thank the fishing gods that Philippe decided it was worth a try. He found out the hard way that such a task in a rising sea is not easy!
Not to be outdone Xav latched into another amazing looking fish, again from the drop-off at very close range a near fully-scaled mirror, a big round fish with massive 'apple tart'-like scaling. (Incidentally, that is what the French call these big heavily scaled fish, "tarte au pomme" - apple tarts.) It was the most gorgeous fish you could imagine, and the photos don’t really do it justice. It weighed just over 35lb.
Two amazing fish in a brief early morning feeding spell from a spot really close to the bank. It seemed amazing that you could catch just a few rod lengths out in such an enormous expanse of water, but Xavier, Leon and Philippe have caught stacks of big Sarulesti fish well within casting range and you would be wrong to imagine that all the fishing is at extreme range, taking the baits out by boat. The conditions helped no end, of course.
In fact it was blowing so strongly that a huge zone of highly coloured water began to form as sand and silt was disturbed from the lake bed an swirled into suspension in the water in front of us. I'd say this disturbed, coloured water reached out some thirty yards into the lake and obviously a lot of natural food was getting swirled around at the same time, drawing in carp to feed in the coloured water.
Surprisingly Xav decided to move across the lake to a swim more or less opposite the cove where we were fishing. Philippe had fished this swim before in very similar conditions and had caught well, strange given that the wind would be behind the angler. I think Xav was feeling a bit cramped fishing as he was between Philippe and myself, but so far I had not had a sniff while he had caught! Odd! Anyway, he packed up and moved his rods which would mean I could now get some rods onto the distant plateau.
Xavier, Leon and Philippe had to pull off the lake for the Saturday evening to say goodbye to some of their French tour anglers who were going home after a week, and to greet others who were arriving for their week. This left the swim entirely to me and I was going to make the most of it! That afternoon I caught my first Romanian carp, a common of 28lb. Nice start and who cares if mid-twenties are considered 'small'.
21 Feb 2020 at 8.36am
In reply to Post #438
Obviously we would need to use the boat to take the baited rods out to the plateau as it was too far for us to cast. We decided to fish two rods each on the top of the plateau and two each on the drop-off. Twelve rods on a feature may sound like too many but remember this was no small tiddly little plateau you might find in a home counties gravel pit, it was a massive one the size of a small field…
…well, that was the plan; what I had not allowed for was the highly competitive nature of my two French companions. Philippe and Xav had already established themselves, sharing a bivvy in the middle of the swim, Philippe's rods to the centre and right, Xav's to the centre and left. This left me precious little room to put my baits on the feature, huge though it was. My bivvy was on the left hand side of the swim, which meant my rods were squeezed out to the extreme left hand side. I was hard pushed to get a bait anywhere on the plateau. In the end I had to resign myself to dropping my baits way off to my left on open ground with no discernible features to be found. Here Philippe sets off in the boat to bait the plateau and drop a hookbait on it.
Bait for the trip was Trigga in both shelf life and fresh, as well as some home mades Big Fish Mix boilies that had been home-rolled prior to the trip. They were heavily loaded with additional Robin Red to compliment the RR already present in the original base mix. The finished baits were then air dried until they were rock-hard.
The boiled baits were backed up with preserved tiger nuts and hempseed from Dynamite Baits, the preserved version one can buy in the large jars. Dynamite had sent out a dozen 2.5kg jars of the nuts along with some of their preserved Frenzied hempseed.
At last we had some semblance of order in the swim, though I cannot say I was to delighted with my tail-end-Charlie position shoved out on the left of the swim. Still at least I had some rods in the water…at last!
The darkness brought a gale force wind from the east…I hate and wind with east in it, all they ever bring me are blanks! Little did I know that my dislike, on this occasion anyway, was ill informed! We sat in Philippe and Xav's tent sharing a brew, the door flap done up tight, the porch flapping in the fierce wind.
That first night, the Thursday and apparently 'big fish Thursday' according to the French guys, Xav caught a nice common of about 35lb and a grass carp, while Philippe caught two what I would call very decent commons of around 25lb or so. He didn't weight them but then he would not have done so even if they had been double that size. Philippe has never weighed a carp in his life claiming that it demeans them He likens it to you going out on the pull, scoring with a drop-dead gorgeous girl, taking her home, making her breakfast in bed, then as she is leaving you ask her to…"pop-up on these scales for us for a minute would you?"
Mid twenties are apparently considered small for the lake! They looked big enough to me; I would have given a king’s ransom for either of those fish at the time. Little did I know what was to come later!
The weather was totally unpredictable, one minute white calm, the next blowing a hoolie. Meanwhile it had become rather lively, to say the least with three foot waves crashing onto the shoreline at our feet, spray flying everywhere. It was like being on the beach at Brighton and I couldn't help thinking that the gale force onshore wind would push the carp in to our bank, even into casting range. That would be nice, as taking the baits out 200+ yards to the plateau was rather wearing, especially if you had to bail out the boat first!
15 Feb 2020 at 4.16pm
In reply to Post #437
So long story short, the signs all seemed to suggest that the fish were grouped up in the bigger bays so after a quick scout around we all decided to head for Water Tower Bay where a few fish had been caught by the rest of the party. Now here we were in our third swim, a beach-like affair not far from the eponymous water tower in the massive bay. There were just three other anglers fishing the bay before Phil, Xav and me arrived so we doubled the number of anglers fishing there. Mind you, in 700 acres you could never call it crowded! That red dot indicates our swim.
After setting up camp in two substantial canvas tents we went out in the boat for a look-see. The bay was 700 acres and the swim itself was about four miles from the base camp at the hotel so we also needed to shop for food and other victuals. The whole lake is more than 1,200 acres in size so you can imagine how essential it was to have access by boat as the roads were non-existent!
With the outboard engine chugging along happily we used the echo sounder to scan the lake bed. The underwater topography looked perfect. From the margins in front of the tents the bottom dropped away quickly to about 25 feet, then shelved gently as we moved out further into the lake. Then about two hundred yards from the swim a large plateau began to show on the sounder, the bottom climbing steeply from thirty feet to about 15 feet in a matter of yards. Further exploration showed that the plateau itself was huge stretching out over an area the size of several tennis courts. It was roughly rectangular in shape and the depth to the top varied between 15-18 feet, the surrounding water being an average of thirty feet deep. The red line shows the distance and rough size of the plateau.
Using a donking rod (a six foot long sea fishing rod carrying a reel loaded with braid with a ten ounce lead on the end) we found that the lake bed on the top of the plateau was pretty solid and by dragging the lead over the lake bed we could feel the distinctive pluck-pluck of mussel beds,
In close, no more than 30-40 yards from the bank, the bottom plunged steeply down in an acute drop-off, falling quickly to about 25-30 feet and half way down the drop-off a narrow ledge some two yards wide seemed to run along its length. Depth to the ledge was also about 15 feet. This looked as if it would be an ideal spot to fish after dark or in big onshore winds when the fish would almost certainly patrol the drop-off. We baited the plateau and the margins with tiger nuts and boilies; lots of boilies; about 10 kg of boilies…!
How much! Well there was method in what may seem at first to be madness. All three of the guys had fished the lake before and they knew full well the size of the shoals that formed in some of the bays and just how much bait these fish could go through. Luckily we had a lot!
15 Feb 2020 at 4.11pm
In reply to Post #436
Now while it was supposed to be a 2-week trip a strange set of bizarre circumstances conspired to limit me to just eight days proper fishing. Basically what happened was this. I was working for Fox International at the time and the gear I wanted to use was sent out for me by Fox, as was the Nutrabaits gear Phil and I were going to use. The whole shebang was flown out in three pallet loads by FedEx and was supposed to complete the journey to the hotel by road transport. Romania was adapting slowly to the idea that they would have to abide by the rules and regulations of the EU in less than four years time, Union having announced that together with Bulgaria the country would join in 2007, however, in 2003 corruption was rife in the customs and excise service. Surprise, surprise, my gear was impounded at customs until the relevant 'import duty' was paid, something in the region of $500! I didn't have that amount to hand and anyway, I was buggered if I was going to give in to bribery and corruption.
So I ended up with no rods, reels, end gear, leads, bedchair sleeping bag and worst of all, no bait. Luckily for Phil all his gear had arrived thanks to the company for whom he worked, the tyre company Michelin. They had sent his tackle and bulky items via their own contract with DHL and because they had a few irons in the fire in Romania no such 'duty' was necessary and his gear made it to the hotel without having to cough up the 'duty'.
As for me, well there was nothing for it but to wait until Monday and then go in to try to sort things out at Customs. Meanwhile I slept under a blanket of the floor of the tent while in the village a huge party went on through the Saturday night and into the Sunday. The noise was raucous and continued unabated more or less for the whole weekend. I stuck this out for the Saturday night but come Sunday I was tearing my hair out. Luckily Robert offered me a room in the hotel which meant I could get an early start in retrieving my gear. Phil meanwhile had cadged a bag of Leon's bait off him so at least he could fish. Here an old church dominates the far side of the bay, which dwarfs Phil's rods.
I slept like a log that Sunday night after enjoying a very nice dinner and a few ales as well as a bit of a party with some German hunters who were breaking their stay at the hotel while on a hunting party shooting wild bore. To be honest I think the wine, women and song was more important than the wild bore! If you've ever been to Robert's hotel you may know what I mean!
Monday I telephoned Vlad Pavlovici who worked for the British Council, though he was also a consultant to various tackle companies including Fox, Solar, Nash and Nutrabaits…He had some clout in other words, and this clout extended to him having a quiet word in the necessary ears, as a result of which my gear mysteriously was released with no 'duty' owning. Thanks, Vlad!
Phil fished the weekend to no avail and had decided to move so on Monday morning he arrived at the hotel with much of his gear. The bailiffs (they were more ghillies than bailiffs to be honest) were bringing the rest of his gear by boat. Leon and Xav had not started fishing yet but by Tuesday we were all set up in various swims in the Hotel Bay. My gear had by now arrived thanks in part to Vlad's intervention and perhaps also thanks to a quiet word from Robert, who had even more clout than Vlad. I set up on a point looking down the channel towards World Cup Bay. It was a tasty swim that looked very promising as it covered a huge area of the lake, which I had all to myself.
Thirty six hours into the trip and reports from the various pair of French anglers spread out around the lake began to trickle in. It seems that the two largest bays were providing the action, that is if you could call six fish between twenty anglers 'action'. It was nice and warm in the spring sunshine and the hotel was in easy walking distance…the bar beckoned and as Phil has the breaking strain of a Kit-Kat it didn't take much arm twisting to persuade him that a glass or two would be a great idea. Certainly we weren't missing much as nobody in the Hotel Bay had so much as a sniff. However, it was nice to watch the storks stalking!
…and then getting fed up and flying away!
15 Feb 2020 at 4.08pm
In reply to Post #435
Anyway, back to the story (incidentally this is an expanded repeat of one of my blogs for Haith's).
In all honesty I never had the slightest intention of fishing the lake, not even when the press was being flooded with articles and pictures of huge fish caught in true adventure-style conditions, complete with marauding mice, plague dogs, humans bones and gypsy villages. That's being a bit unkind to the dogs, as they were usually loveable old rogues who only wanted a bit of love shown to them. Once you had befriended any one of the hundreds of dogs you had a friend for the entirety of your stay. This one adopted Philippe and me when we fished close to the village of Sandulita.
Come the early noughties and Sarulesti, to give it its proper name, was well entrenched on the ‘circuit’ and not being one for following the crowds to such venues I steered clear. And that’s how things would have stayed had I not got caught up in the French carp protection group the UNCM run by Philippe Lagabbe and Eric Deboutrois, both of whom had been to the lake at least once and were raving about it. At the same time I had started writing for a Romanian publication submitting words and pix to the carp editor of the magazine Vlad Pavlovici.
Back in France, Phil had teamed up with a couple of well known carp anglers, Leon Hoogendijk and Xavier Paolozzi and the three of them had started doing trips to Sarulesti. Meanwhile Vlad was on about me going out there to fish the huge lake and maybe do some TV…Hang on a minute, this is me you’re talking about; me…Ken Townley. Are you sure?
I remained rather reluctant to go out there until finally Phil twisted my arm. He said that he, Xavier and Leon were taking a group of French guys to the lake for a fortnight's trip and did I want to come? I could fish for free and all he asked was that I make myself available and maybe give a few tips on carp fishing and generally make myself useful. Oh yes…and he’d pay my expenses too! Well a man can only put up so much resistance and so it was that I found myself in the heady company of a group of French carpists drinking cold beers in the lakeside hotel in the red-hot May of 2003. This Robert Raduta's hotel situated on the banks of the lake that is popularly known by his surname, Lake Raduta.
I believe Robert himself was quite well connected and he moved in pretty impressive and exclusive circles. In particular he was apparently an excellent tennis player and coached the Romanian team that included Ilie Nastase.
I flew into Bucharest airport and met up with a few French guys who had just arrived. A battered fleet of minibuses was on hand to take us out to the lake where I met up with the rest of the party, as well as Leon, Xav and Philippe. Here the trio is outlining the areas to be fished, briefing them as the group drew for swims.
Me and Phil ended up right at the top of the lake in a swim beside a rubbish dump - I kid you not - at the mouth of Sandulita Bay. Home for the trip was a huge canvas tent that had been erected for us by a couple of the lake's bailiffs…they could have chosen a bit more of a salubrious spot!
14 Feb 2020 at 4.12pm
In reply to Post #434
OK, I know I was going to talk about my couple of years on the Emperor Lake Syndicate (ELS) but that can wait for a while, as instead I want to revisit the two trips I made to the famous Romanian lake at Sarulesti. This is a huge lake some 45 miles east of Bucharest, capital of Romania. The country was once part of the Iron Curtain countries, very much under the thumb of the Russian bear and ruled by the hated dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. This man was as feared and despised every bit as much as were Stalin and Hitler, ruling Romania from 1965 until his death in 1989. He became infamous for his lavish lifestyle, and started to build a palace for himself in the 1980s with miles of marble floors and thousands of crystal chandeliers with gold lavished upon the interior while his countrymen starved. He was overthrown in the popular revolution of December 1989 and together with his wife was summarily executed by firing squad on Christmas Day of that year.
Often called 'The Last Stalinist' Ceausescu was cruelty personified but strangely enough the lake at Sarulesti is a direct consequence of his plans for a vast self-sustaining infrastructure. Part of those plans called for the construction of dams along the course of a large tributary of the Danube and these created vast reservoirs that were used for irrigation, fish farming and other commercial fresh water activities. This is just a tiny part of the Sarulesti Lake (Raduta Lake) seen from the dam wall.
And this is a nice common caught in the small Dam Bay (if you call 100 acres small!)
The lake is 1,200 acres in size and was created when the valley was flooded to create one of the five huge lakes that lie along the river's course. The reservoir below Sarulesti is even bigger, being over six miles long and measuring 2,000 acres!
As an historical footnote, the water also flooded several villages on the river bank and the residents were offered no alternative accommodation nor given sufficient time to relocate their monuments, churches and graveyards. Consequently human remains could be seen washed up on the banks.
You can more or less split the lake into distinct, almost separate zones, the canals and the bays. Naturally enough the canals connect the bays, most of which are huge in themselves. They are all huge but one of the largest is Preasna Bay, which is 700 acres. It is named after the village that lies on the western side of the bay and overlooks it. Other bays are the so-called World Cup Bay, Sandulita Bay, the Hotel Bay and Magureni Bay. On my first visit we fished initially in Sandulita and our swim is marked with a red dot. We moved from there to Preasna Bay, again indicated by the red dot. The hotel is marked with a blue dot.
Fish are caught all over the lake and while each bay and channel seems to hold a resident population, they are also pretty nomadic and they wander from one end of the lake to the other is a surprisingly short time. For instance, the fish shown below was initially caught in Preasna Bay and was then recaptured the following day in Magureni Bay, a distance of some four miles. No wonder it was hungry!
Back in the early noughties Raduta was famous for its carp but nowadays there seems to be more emphasis put on the Beluga sturgeon that go to over 300lb. That's not to say that the carp fishing takes a back seat, far from it. The carp fishing has come on it leaps and bounds since the fish kill in 2004 and once again there are several fish in the 60-70 lb bracket.
In addition the predator fishing is as good as ever with some enormous perch, black bass, zander and pike being the prime species. The lake is absolutely crammed with bait fish so it is small wonder that the predator fishing is so good. The zander in particular are great fun.
24 Jan 2020 at 2.10pm
In reply to Post #433
Alongside the joking and banter there was some serious work carried out by the Syndicate. When Tanners was first dug the designer thought it might be a good idea to create a feature on the lake bed between the islands so a circle of breeze blocks was laid and then filled in with gravel. We called it the Magic Roundabout. In theory this was a great idea but in practice it was a pain in the jacksie. We lost fish on the sharp edges of the blocks and the gravel sank without trance into the mud of the lake. It became such a hazard that we decided it must come out. It was tiring and very muddy work!
Tanners was a bleak and dire place in the depths of winter when all the vegetation had died back and the banks were a sea of mud. However, good company and the prospect of an evening beer kept the spirits up. Here me and Nige have a discussion about who drank my pint last night!
This is the lake in the bleak mid-winter.
It could be a real frost trap too.
Compare that with the good old summertime.
Koi snatching was something of a competitive sport when things were slow, cold and tough. An evening or two on a betalight float and sweetcorn would bring steady fun action with the kois, which averaged about 5lb. Pretty as a picture they were too.
Tat and I have some very happy memories of our Clawford days. With the change of ownership from private into corporate hands one wonders what the future will hold. Certainly there are still some big carp in the lakes and as long as the 'suits' understand what they have got then the potential for great carp fishing is there. If the offspring of the originals is anything to go by there will be some lovely carp in there to target.
So it's so long to Clawford and John & Wanda and all the crew. Have a happy retirement.
Here are a few parting shots. H goes in for one!
I'll get the Emperor lake pix scanned soon and we'll head to the South Hams for more reminiscences.
24 Jan 2020 at 2.02pm
In reply to Post #432
Having described the social side of the Clawford years in (probably) more detail that is strictly necessary in a carp fishing blog you may well be asking yourself, do they ever go fishing? Well, yes, we did a bit here and there and enjoyed ourselves enormously. The 5Cs was a great group of people and there was literally zero competition, no big egos. We shared knowledge, and bait and rigs and beers. It was some of the best fishing of my life. Here are a few happy memories.
Terry Taylor plays a Tanners Lake fish while his daughter stands by with the net. Young Sam (in the cap), a fellow syndicate member watches proceedings.
Here's the result…
Talking of Sam, he was no slouch with a carp rod either.
My mate Nige Britton could catch carp from a raindrop and Clawford was just one of the lakes all over the UK an Europe where he showed his skills to great effect. Having retired and moved to a cottage overlooking the R. Lot in France, no doubt those cunning river carp are also now getting the Nige treatment. Here's the guy with a Clawford biggie.
Steve Churchill, along with Nige and a few other like-minded anglers in Roche AC such as Big Kev, Colin and yours truly were entirely responsible for turning the Club around, creating a brilliant carp-friendly club that attracted membership to such an extent that we had to close the books. A subsequent committee under the leadership of the legendary Gert Louster, and his fellow Cornish carpers, took things on a step further, cementing the Club's finances and setting it on a secure footing that made Roche the envy of the south west carp scene. Sadly the Club today is a far cry from those halcyon days…
…but enough of that. On a brighter note, Steve was another RAC stalwart that found the atmosphere and the carp at Clawford greatly to his liking.
Harry (H) was always a great laugh and when the going got tough he got going. He is another very good angler but of course, being the Fishery Manager at Clawford gave him a huge advantage (only joking, H!) but he too could catch carp from a puddle. In fact I became the Tanners Lake's official photographer as far as H's carp were concerned; I spent more time taking pix of his fish than he did of mine, that's for sure.
There were some right good carp in Tanners back in the day and this common was the first to go over the thirty pound mark. Others followed and for a while Tanners was the 'must have' ticket in the two counties. With so many of the syndicate on good baits - Prems, BFM, the Reservoir Special and Trigga in the main - it was small wonder that the fish put on the pounds.
23 Jan 2020 at 5.05pm
In reply to Post #431
…including how to spot Hyakutake's Comet, which filled the night sky over SW France for a brief few hours during our visit. Bill was in his pit that evening and as I knew that the glorious cosmic visitor was due that night I was up and waiting for it to appear. It was fantastic, like a long zip fastener blasting though the Cosmos.
"Bill!" I shouted. "Come out and see this. It's amazing!."
What is…?" asked Bill. I told him about the comet's trail that filled the sky.
"Yeah, OK,," he said. "I'll catch it a bit later!"
I didn't have the heart to tell him that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see one of the greatest Cosmic spectacles of his or anyone else's life, that would not return for another 70,000 years! Oh well…!
Now if that had been Chilts it would have been a different story. He, like me, takes great pleasure in star-watching.
This is Bill's first French target fish, a fish that set him on his path to legendary glory…or so he says!
Bill, just in case you don't know, is a fanatical supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and he can bore for England on the subject. Nige is equally fanatical about Nottingham Forest. In consequence whenever the two meet on a football Saturday, money will change hands depending on the result. On this occasion, when Bill came down to do a slide show, Forest won and Bill handed over the tenner through gritted teeth!
As I mentioned just now, Pete Amey will always be close to the heart of Nutrabaits…
23 Jan 2020 at 5.02pm
In reply to Post #430
Marcus Watts is a very significant figure on the SW carp scene. Once a tackle dealer in Wadebridge, Marcus made a big name for himself by catching many of our region's finest carp, among them the then College record of 34lb.
So great a reputation did Marcus acquire that anglers flocked to his shop to buy his baits. One in particular, which was called the Reservoir Special was rightly feted as one of the best fishmeal baits in the country, and to be fair, it did catch everywhere. Small wonder that he was head-hunted by Dynamite Baits who tasked him with the development of their boiled bait range. Thus the Reservoir Special became The Source…Nuff said!
Marcus was also a regular at Carp Society events, often attending Conference and regional meetings on behalf of Dynamite, usually in the company of one of the big names of our sport such as Terry Hearne or Frank Warwick (seen here). Marcus is the very tall geezer at the back.
Also in picture are two of the nicest people in Cornish carping, Lee and Alison Critcher. They are behind Frank left and right of his bonce! I could write reams about these two. Lee a gentle giant of a man and his missus a lovely lass with a heart of gold. She was a Development Manager for a regional business expansion and development organisation back in the 90s and she worked at developing small businesses in the St Austell area. As such she helped me refurbish my office from the creaking old set up I had at the time to a brand new all- singing all- dancing office suite; new PC, new scanner, new printer, new just about everything, and all as a low cost interest-free grant. Bless you, lass! She was always smiling and was a capable and happy member of the Clawford Syndicate, as was Lee. They both knew how to catch a carp or two as well!
As did her old man…
I did a couple of shows myself but only as a support act, once to Frank and a second time to Bill Cottam. Bill was always great fun. His northern sense of humour kept us in stitches. Bill seems to have nurtured his talent for telling funny stories and he once contributed occasional pieces for Carpworld called 'Carping Allegedly' If you haven't seen them I suggest you look online. There are one or two archived pieces to be found, including one that details Bill's extraordinary talents for biscuit eating, in which he gives us a list of his all-time top ten Favourite Biscuits…only Bill Cottam…!
A truly gifted angler, Bill would not only make us laugh but also make us think. He has always used his own Uber Method, keeping things simple and using the best bait money could buy (Trigga). The Graviers Scar Fish and the Saussaie common are just two of his worthy trophies, however, I think I can claim the fame for sparking the big fella's flame for large continental carp. I took him to Boffins Pool in March 1996 as Bill had set his sights on catching the long forty pound common that Tat had caught the previous year. He accomplished this fairly rapidly, though sadly at a tad under the forty pound mark. Not to worry, said Bill. Mission accomplished. So it was that Bill caught his first French biggie. I taught him all I knew on that trip…
23 Jan 2020 at 4.59pm
In reply to Post #429
I don't think we could have found a better venue for the meetings. Clawford had everything including free carp fishing; yes, John even agreed to open the carp lakes to Carp Society members who attended the meetings and quite a few guys and gals took him up on the offer. In addition there was B&B accommodation and bivvy space on the lawn in front of the farm house for those who wanted to stay over and indulge! Add to that the comfort of the lounge and the splendid bar and restaurant and you could say that the venue had everything! This is the lawn in front of the farm house…bivvy space galore. We held some terrific meetings there and they only stopped because John fell gravely ill.
Some of the best speakers of the day were kind enough to come and do shows for us, donating raffle prizes, signing autographs and the like. All they asked was a bed for the night and to be well fed and watered…Well, John made sure of that! Here Nige gets the round in!
Tim and Mary loved the West Country and would always respond with a happy, "yes" when asked to come down to us to do a show. This is Tim with the guy he called 'The Devon Tench Angler' a title award to our great mate Pete Amey. For a few years Devon man Pete worked in Kent. He was a brickie by trade and he was a bloody hard worker. He'd go where the money was best and that wasn't Devon or Cornwall back in the day. While living and working up country Pete joined Halls (Leisure Sport) and was for a while a bailiff on Darenth. There he had a fearsome reputation as a guy who would stand no nonsense (he represented Britain in the 1960 Olympics as a wrestler so if he said jump you said how high!).
He was also a formidable catcher of specimen tench, though whether this was by accident or design was never made clear! On the right of the shot of Tim and his dad is Pete Amey Junior, an accomplished angler who takes after his Dad. By strange quirk of fate both Petes caught huge Devon carp from the same venue within a week of each other. Dad caught 'Smirk' the well known ELS mirror at 51lb while Junior caught another ELS monster at 44lb! He also had a trial for West Ham but he didn't quite make it! (Lucky escape there, Peter mate!)
Pete Amey was a lifelong Nutrabaits user and in fact he was cherished by the company, as he was the fist guy to buy a job lot of Hi Nu Val and all three Addits, the company's first commercial products. Bill never forgot that and always kept a kindly eye out for Pete over the thirty odd years that he used Nutrabaits. I've got a pic of Pete with a lovely mid thirty from Kent somewhere but at the moment I am buggered if I can find it. Tim did a couple of seasons on Darenth in the early 80s and got to know Pete very well. In fact, it was through Pete that Tim got to meet the Darenth crew that would later take on the testing of the fledgling HERNV (Hi Nu Val) and the amino acids and other powders (the Addit range) that would soon feature on the bait scene. Here's Tim and Pete at a Clawford show.
And this is Tim, trying to explain the complexities of his HERNV bait to a confused attendee at one of the shows. A bemused John Ray looks on.
Surrey all rounder Bill Rushmer and his wife Ginny were frequent visitors to Clawford and Bill came down a couple of times to do a show for us. He was a fascinating speaker and they were both terrific anglers. Ginny in particular could charm them out of Major John's while Bill himself practised quick fire match fishing on JR's Lake.
20 Jan 2020 at 3.05pm
In reply to Post #428
It all started one weekend when Tat and I were supposedly fishing but got side tracked in the bar. We got talking to John about the Carp Society and reminiscing about our previous meetings under the old regime back in the good old days. I told him we were looking for a venue on the Devon/Cornwall border where we could hold meetings. "Why not have them here?" John asked. "We could do dinners, breakfasts, rooms for those that wanted and there's plenty of bivvy room outside."
In fact it had everything we could possibly wish for so I got cracking on doing a bit of advertising trying to drum up support. I no longer had my list of CS members but a troll around the tackle shops in the two counties son spread the word so once again we were back at it organising some of the best regional meeting anywhere in the country (he said modestly).
By now John had formed a carp syndicate on Clawford which covered the fishing on three lakes, JR's, Major John's and Tanners. The syndicate was called the Five Cs (Clawford's Crafty Carpers Carp Club), a slight dig, perhaps, at another nearby syndicate? Membership was restricted to Devon and Cornwall residents only and I soon managed to part fill it with my friends from Roche AC, Steve, Nige, Lee and Ali, to whom it became a home from home. I imagine the bar/restaurant had a fair part to play in their decision to join!
Many an evening was spent in jovial competition in the game of Spoof. This is lethal and can turn out pretty expensive and intoxicating! The rules, for those that don't know the game, are simple yet complex to the uninitiated.
Each player - there came be as many as want to play - holds in his closed fist up to three coins. One coin, two, three or even no coins at all. Players take it in turn to guess the total number of coins held hidden in the closed fists by the group. For instance, if ten are playing that means there could be a maximum of thirty coins so player 1 might call "twenty". Player 2 might call "seventeen". Player 3 "twenty-six" and so on. Gradually each player makes his choice. (It is best to be the last of the ten to call as that gives you some idea of who is holding what, also bearing in mind what you yourself are holding and who you think is bluffing.) When all ten have called the players open their fists to reveal what they are holding. The winner is the guy or girl that guesses the correct total who then drops out of the game and the next round commences. Now the nine remaining players start again, the first caller being the player to the left of the first round winner…are you following me…?
Here a late night group, some of whom should be fishing, is Spoofing for the last round (which it seldom was!). From left to right, Harry (H), John the boss, Wanda the real boss, Nigel and a mystery player whose fist is all we see of him. I suspect it is Steve. I have already won a call so I am out and thus am doing the pic.
After each round the winner drops out until only two players are left. These two play off against each other until there is a final winner. (This is the best round of all as the two can only be holding a maximum of six or a minimum of none.) The winner drops out leaving the group looser - the last one standing, if you like - to buy the next round!
Now as you can see, Spoof is very much a bluffer's paradise and many a happy Saturday night was spent
Spoofing in the bar at Clawford. Often holiday visitors would join in and if I remember rightly this group were from Wales. I think the lass on the right has the hump as she has had to buy the last round! As you can see the Cornios, Steve, Nige and me, are already out. We cheat!
Still, all's well that end well and even if you loose you send up smiling as you'll be as pissed as a pudding, especially if it's a large group of players.
20 Jan 2020 at 2.06pm
In reply to Post #427
We had great fun at The Shrubbery and many members stayed overnight. The beer ran freely, as did the G &Ts, the humour, the carpy tales and the good natured joshing. Those meetings were always a good laugh, as I am sure anyone who attended one will agree.
The Carp Society was a wonderful vibrant, enthusiastic organisation at the time and this can-do attitude lead eventually to it purchasing outright Horseshoe Lake. Sadly the repercussion of the purchase put the Society in a somewhat vulnerable position and a committee purge meant that all the stalwarts that had formed and supported it from Day One were out on the street and a team of what I called 'city slickers' took over. In time it became clear that the 'new' Carp Society as constructed by the replacement committee was in it for one thing only: Money!
Gradually the regional organisation fell apart. Regions lost membership and the CS didn't seem to care any more. All they wanted to do was protect their nest eggs, the Sandown Show and Horseshoe Lake, while at the same time stripping the CS of any assets they could get their hands on. With the regional structure ripped up Tat and I could no longer be the Regional Organisers for the Devon & Cornwall region so we stepped down. We hated what the Society had become and felt totally adrift from the new structure. We handed over the region's Society funds, which were considerable as we always made a small profit on the meetings, little knowing that the funds would be swallowed up by 'jollies' and 'members' expense'!
It took legal action that went as far as the High Court to prise the sticky fingers of the 'city slickers' away from the Society but eventually they were ousted with the CS's remaining assets still intact. Once again Tim Paisley and his team of Society die-hards from the old days restructured the CS and kept its finances secure. With Tim once again at the helm of the Carp Society (it was, in effect, his baby) we again felt able to try to resurrect the region and by chance found a willing and able host in John and Wanda's Clawford Vineyard. This is how our Society meetings usually ended up!
20 Jan 2020 at 12.53pm
In reply to Post #426
Some of my fondest SW memories are of the Carp Society meetings we held all over the area. When the Society was formed in 1981 I knew nothing about it. Then by chance I dropped into Tackle Up, a tackle shop in Ash Vale, and saw on the counter a small pile of Carp Fisher magazines, the first such mag published by the Carp Society. The magazine - the one with Mike Wilson with an amazing Savay mirror on the cover - drew me in an held me in awe. What a carp, what a photo! I got talking to the shop owner, Colin Chandler, who was taking new members on behalf of the Society. I signed up straight away. My number was 1066 (significant or otherwise? I have often asked myself that!).
So began a long association with the CS and at the first meeting Tim Paisley asked Tat and I to be the Regional Organisers for the Devon and Cornwall branch. I had started a tentative (pen) friendship with Tim when I wrote to him about bait. Tim's expansive letter drew me deep into the carp bait world, though to date I am still to figure out much of it! However, my connection with Tim, who was the Society's first Secretary, opened doors and getting hold of top flight speakers for our meetings was a piece of cake (I suspect Tim did a lot of arm twisting on our behalf!). You can read more about my naive forays into the bait world in my Haith's Baits Blogs:
So it was the we held our very first regional meeting at the Exeter Court Hotel on the A38 at the foot of Haldon Hill. Tim was once of the speakers, Ritchie the other. Rod was supposed to come down too but in the end he couldn't make it. Ritchie more than made up for Rod's absence. Anyone who has been fortunate to hear one of Ritchie's talks will know what I mean!
And that was just the first of many. In order to attract the very best speakers we decided to hold our meetings a little closer to what many might call civilisation so we moved venues to The Shrubbery Hotel, Ilminster (now a Best Western).
Being that bit closer to the Home Counties meant that we could attract the cream of the top anglers for the area and over the years our guest list read like a Who's Who of carp fishing. We had Tim, Ritchie, Andy Little, Bob Baker, Albert Romp, Chris Yates, Bob James, Clive and Malc, Rod (eventually!), Mike Wilson and many other famous names.
We always tried to do that little bit more for the guests and attendees. We offered good hotel rooms meals, a buffet or two, space to bivvy up if required (it often was!). Thus we always managed to get great attendances for our meeting and we treated our guests like royalty. Another thing: we noticed that many of the regions up country had loads more members than little old Devon and Cornwall and their meetings attracted many members and non-members alike, often well into the hundreds strong. Invariably the meetings held in these highly populated regions took place in the evenings, often in midweek. Me and Tat knew this would not work for us as both members and speakers would have a long trips each end of the meeting. We therefore decided to hold ours on a Saturday afternoon and evening, usually laying on a meal at half time, and a decent raffle at the whistle. This was Tat's brainwave and as a result we always had full houses and eventually the demand was such that we had to restrict numbers, the meetings being ticket-only affairs.
17 Jan 2020 at 3.56pm
In reply to Post #425
What neither of us knew was that Bill had other plans for the pre-dig fishmeal for he and Lee Walton were putting together the early trial versions of Trigga. Trigga was eventually launched in the spring of 2001 and it soon became Nutrabaits' top seller. It followed the increasingly popular tendency towards totally natural ingredients and attractors and the base mix contained no artificial ingredients. Key to its success was in my opinion the same blend of hydrolysed marine meals that Bill had sent me to try out on the Big Fish Mix. In addition Trigga contained low fat organic marine proteins, milk and whey proteins and the key secret (yes, truly) ingredient Trigga Powder. The latter had been touted to Bill buy a guy who worked in the cat food industry. The powder was added to tinned feeds to make them more attractive and at the same time easier to digest Knowing a good thing when he saw one Bill bit the guy's hand off but not before gaining an assurance that the Powder would not be touted to any other bait firm. At the time of the launch nobody, and I mean NOBODY, knew what the Powder was or where it came from. This well guarded secret lasted about 18 months before the beans were spilled! In the meanwhile we had a field day.
There's a funny story behind the development of Trigga prior to its release. When I was first given the bait for field testing it came in ready rolled frozen form. I had no idea what the base mix consisted of or what liquid attractors were included. I was simply sent 20kg of 15mm baits and told to get on with it! Little did I know but all the other Nutrabaits field testers had been treated the same way but each one of them had a different version of the bait. As luck would have it I was sent a batch of bait that didn’t work too well. Thinking that all the testers were experiencing similar results I got in touch with Bill and told him I thought the bait was rubbish! A few weeks later Bill told me what he'd been doing. Each of the testers had received a batch of the bait, each one containing a different level of pre-dig and Trigga powder. When the results came in (both good and bad) Bill was able to refine the base mix with the optimum levels of each ingredient. The next batch he sent me took me to another dimension on Tanners!
I have long had a passion for paste baits, always being aware that they are short term as small fry will readily attack and paste be it a freebie or a hookbait. If you can live with this and accept that you have to rebait frequently then there is no better bait than a nice amino-oozing fish meal paste. I used both the Stage 2 BFM and Trigga in paste form to great effect on Tanners, and while messing about with them one day I came up with an idea for mounting a double paste bait on the hair. This is it:
The stocking mesh-wrapped baits were mounted cross wise through a small bait band…I guess I had inadvertently invented the Bollox Rig some dozen years or so before it became more widely used at Rainbow Lake!
17 Jan 2020 at 3.51pm
In reply to Post #424
I didn't take me long to fall in love with Tanners. It was my kind of carp water, small, intimate and very beautiful.
Not easy, though, as I quickly discovered. It was not some sit, bait and wait type of water and I needed to think about my fishing to get the best from the lake. I eventually achieved a modicum of success at the lake over the years but Tanners came under a fair amount of pressure once the word spread about the quality of the fishing and the carp definitely wised up. The Tanners carp were not stupid and they were not fooled for long by what soon became the standard tactics on such a small lake, namely mini baits, light line tiny hookbaits, etc. I had looked at the ‘standard’ approach of most of the regulars on Tanners and found it wanting. True, it had worked for a while but it didn't seem to be doing the business. I felt a bit of a swerve from the tried & trusted was called for.
I was not much of a rig changer back in the day (same as these days in fact) but I had seen most of the rigs others were using at the time and they were invariably long, supple hooklinks and tiny hooks, the thinking being that if they couldn't see of feel the hooklink they (the carp) would trip up. That's all well and good but if the fish are feeding warily, as I was sure the carp in Tanners were, then these ultra long hooklinks also gave the fish plenty of opportunity to spit out the hook and hookbait. I thought if I went to the opposite end of the scale, big leads, stiff hooklink material and big hooks I might get a few on the bank. Thus I came up with this set up which comprises a 4oz lead and four inch 25lb Quicksilver hooklink to a size 2 hook. The hookbait itself was 20-25mm in diameter!
From the mid 90s onwards the trend on the lake had been for a really delicate approach using ultra light running leads, flying back leads, lead core behind the lead, etc. etc. Baits were invariably tiny 8-10mm boilies fished on long critically balanced confidence rigs over a small carpet of pellet or ground bait or simply a PVA bag of the same. Tactics were always to cast to the margins of the islands with a tiny hook bait put as tight to the island as possible. Six inches off was regarded as too far out! I followed this doctrine for a while but it soon became obvious to me that the carp were getting wise to the approach as loads of the anglers were reporting aborted runs, stuttery pick ups and fish bow waving off the bait carpet. Fishing open water seemed to me to be the ideal switch tactic, though I will admit I would always keep one rod tight to the margins.
All in all this switch in tactics worked well for me and continued to do so throughout my years on the complex.
Does anyone remember the heatwave summer of 2003? I went up a few times that summer but the heat was crippling. I remember fishing on the hottest day of the year, when the temperature reached 38.5 degrees. It was impossible to stay in the bivvy after 11.00h; it was like an oven. The sun was relentless that summer but nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely, thanks in no small part to the bar and Wanda's grub. I used to bait the open water quite heavily with freebies and was pretty happy with the sessions as a whole given the conditions. In three 36-hour trips in August I landed eleven fish including seven twenties including a beautiful common. At the same time other guests were struggling. This was my swim on Tanners when the heatwave struck.
I don't want this thread to turn into some boring old 'how to do it' one but if I can give just one piece of advice to anglers who are struggling on their lake it would be to consider the size of their hookbaits and freebies. For instance, go into your local tackle shop or chat to the peeps visiting the conferences. Ask them what size (and shape) baits they are using. I am sure that the consensus would be in favour of medium sized freebies and hookbaits. Ask your tackle dealer which is the most popular size shelfie he sells. I'll take a bet he'll say 15mm! So first off try something different. If everyone’s using 15mm baits why don’t you try larger or smaller than the norm? For Tanners, while everybody was on crumb sized 'bits' I got busy in the kitchen with the bait gun and made up some giant baits of about 25mm. This totally flew in the face of the accepted wisdom at the lake but it worked a treat, and not just on Tanners. It has been a tactic that has worked for me on many waters.
Baitwise back then I was firmly in the Nutrabaits camp (as I had been since the mid-80s, so using their premier mixes was a given. I had been testing a version of Big Fish Mix that contained a pre-digested fishmeal which I called Stage Two Big Fish Mix. This was in the early days of hydrolysed (enzyme treated) feeds and liquids but it became clear to all Bill that there was something in them. I had passed on my theories and ideas to Bill who was also working along the same lines. The BFM Stage 2 was also in use by others in the Nutrabaits came such as Paul Selman, though neither of use knew that the other was working along similar lines!
6 Jan 2020 at 4.55pm
In reply to Post #423
We jump ahead several years and as predicted Clawford became something of a hot spot for the west country's coarse anglers. The two carp lakes, Tanner's and Major John's, had been stocked with some decent carp from several reliable sources and these were now doing well. In addition our mate Harry ('H') had been appointed fishery manager and he told us that the lakes were producing some decent fish up to mid twenties. The complex had also been extended and now there were seven lakes on site. Of these two were designated as specimen carp lakes, the others being mixed species fun lakes. This shot was taken (I am guessing here) in about 2002.
I went up a few times for a few winter sessions and renewed my association with the Clawford bar and restaurant. John and Wanda's hospitality had, if anything, got even more expansive and it was a hard place to leave on a wet and windy winter's night in order to return to a damp, smelly bivvy. But you won't catch anything in the bar, or so the story goes! (Though that assertion was often a bit wide of the mark in 'certain' Home Counties venues...cough!) This is a typical winter scenic on Tanners, icy cold, indicators frozen on their mounts and the line frozen in the rod rings, reels frozen almost solid!
It took me a couple of visits to get to grips with Tanners, the lake I fished almost exclusively throughout the Clawford years. It has to be one of the most challenging and frustrating waters I have ever fished. Whenever I fished it I knew full well that I had fish in front of me but at times I couldn't buy a take. Fish showed over the bait on and off throughout the day and night but pick ups (for me at least) were few and far between. You could see them and hear them at night they were the most elusive of carp.
I really wish I could understand carp…Maybe then I’ll catch a bit better! Mind you, that first winter campaign I did up there was a bitter one, which made leaving the warmth and comfort of the bar and the hotel all the harder. Indeed, I will freely confess to staying a pint too long on the odd occasion and being offered a bed for the night thanks to Wanda's kindness. This is a view of Fletcher's from my bedroom window. Nice innit! (The stakes you can see on the hillside opposite are the supports for the vines after which the complex is named.)
Tanner's had the Indian sign on me and no mistake and my good nature was not improved by having to net several of the lake's biggies for H, who often fished the nights on Tanner's.
Way back in 1981 when the Carp Society was formed, Tat & I took on the job of Regional Organisers for the Devon & Cornwall area. We did two stints as ROs first when Tim was at the helm and again, later, when Tim managed to oust the disastrous committee that had come close to destroying the Society. We had some lively and exciting regional meetings at venues all around the south west, attracting some of the top speakers of the day, however, none were so much fun as those we held at Clawford. There are a couple of famous faces here (and one or two infamous ones too!).
By now quite a few of my mates from Cornwall had joined the Clawford Syndicate, which was rapidly gaining a decent reputation for itself. Nige and Steve (from Roche AC's committee) joined as did a fair few of the Devon Mafia and it soon became a lively and jovial syndicate with much emphasis being put upon time away from the lake, if you get my meaning. Having a pub so nearby can be very distracting.
6 Jan 2020 at 4.51pm
In reply to Post #422
It was a lovely warm day when I arrived at Clawford. What a venue…78 acres of rolling hills with the River Claw running through the valley. At the time there were only three lakes on the complex, Fletcher's, a small two acre lake in front of the farmhouse, and down the valley JR's Lake and Tanner's. These had just been dug and were not ready to receive fish stocks at that time, however, the latter would become a favourite carp lake for myself and a few of my mates in the coming years. In this shot, taken later that year on a winter visit, Tanners is on the right as you look down the valley.
After John had filled me in on the lake I was going to fish, Fletcher's, and advised me of the best spot to fish I set up in a quite corner by the inlet stream. John had told me that Fletcher's Lake held mainly ghosties and some golden tench as well as plenty of newly stocked carp between two and ten kilos. This was somewhat disappointing as I had hoped for bigger fish, but lets not run before we can walk. This is Fletcher's Lake as it looked in 1995 (the photo in the previous post shows the lake after it had been extended in about 2010).
I won't linger too much on the fishing that first day: suffice it to say I did not cover myself in glory. Yes, I did catch but my biggest carp, a ghostie, went about 5lb.
A couple of other anglers lake had some slightly bigger carp, including this lively double for a young visitor.
…and this low double for another visiting angler.
John and his Polish wife Wanda were fantastic hosts. Nothing was too much trouble and John's barbeque performed sterling service. This is John and his missus in 1995.
And here Jerry and I enjoy one of Wanda's famous Full English breakfasts on a bench beside the lake.
I left the lake knowing that the future looked really good for Clawford and if John's ambitious plans truly came to fruition this would be a venue to cherish in a few years time and if the hosts continued to enjoy a party with their guests I could think of several mates who would happily make the trip up to North Devon to enjoy this hospitality. Those two really know how to party!
6 Jan 2020 at 4.44pm
I doubt if I'll again experience a trip like that first one to the Chateau Lake in 1996, but never say never, eh? I made many trips to the Chat in the years that followed and I will return to some of the most significant as the memories resurface in what remains of my old, decaying brain matter. For the time being let's continue looking at the years in the mid-to late 1990s and past the dawn of the new millennium. This brought not the widely predicted chaos, but instead a widening of my horizons both home and abroad.
In fact my first experience at Clawford Vineyard came in 1995 when I got a phone call from John Ray, owner of the complex. I was writing the regional weekly fishing summary for Devon and Cornwall in Carp Talk at the time and John rang to invite me down to his newly-opened fishery in north Devon. John explained that he had big plans for the venue, with new lakes planned and extensions to the grounds and accommodation were well advanced. It sounded pretty exciting so we arranged that I would come up to Clawford a.s.a.p.
John and Wanda took strong precautions against infection, insisting that all visitor use their net and boot dip.
For anyone who has visited Clawford for a holiday or for a fishing trip in the past decade you may be shocked to see what the accommodation was like back in the mid-90s. Here owner John Ray stands by his beloved barbeque in front of the lovely old farm house that formed the sole B&B aspect of the complex.
Look at it a few years later…And this is just a small part of the overall development of the Vineyard.
In addition to extending the main house to add eight more bedrooms, Clawford also added three self-contained holiday houses on the site of the old car park.
In fact the extensive development now entails 17 fishing lakes, 24 self-catering units, eight B&B rooms, a six-bed farmhouse, as well as large bar and restaurant area. It is situated three miles south of Holsworthy, north-west Devon and the site is set in 78 acres of wonderful, peaceful countryside in the valley of the River Claw.
(2020 Update: Clawford site is now in new hands, John and Wanda having moved on into happy retirement. We wish them well, albeit somewhat wistfully as we and our mates enjoyed some epic times at Clawford, as you will see in later posts.)
4 Jan 2020 at 1.06pm
Big thanks to Cam the Mod for tidying this thread...
Moving on I want to stay in the south west at a couple of venues that linger fondly in the memory bank, namely Clawford Vineyard and Emperor Lake Syndicate (ELS) so all you Devon anglers keep an eye out for my next reminiscences.
29 Dec 2019 at 4.57pm
In reply to Post #419
I think I have managed to recover all the photos that became unavailable after TinyPic shut down. The thread should now be more or less intact.
I have to be honest, I have not really felt up to the challenge of writing this thread since April 2019 when I last posted to it. But I have realised that there are a lot more happy (and not so happy) memories I could share with you, so I will get around to writing again in the new Year. In the meantime, Tat and I would like to wish you all a Happy and Successful New Year with plenty of these
8 Apr 2019 at 3.28pm
In reply to Post #410
The years went by and the big carp continued to thrive. Andrew Endean caught Daddy at 34lb plus and I know a couple more came out at high twenties but time and old age caught up with them. Carp are easy to spot in the lake and it's hard to see any these days. Then there is the threat from otters, which have decimated all the lakes along the valley. Once again Salamander is heavily silted and is infested with ducks, Canada geese and the resident swans. Rats run riot around the lake and any magic the lake once held has gone. So sad. This is the last known capture of Big Daddy when he came out at a few ounces over thirty-four pounds.
I used Salamander a great deal over the year as a testing ground for various rig and bait ideas. I know I was the first to use the hair and Robin Red on the lake and the advantages these gave me were immeasurable. And over the years I went on to experiment with various seed and particle baits. I also developed the use of boilie crumb there. It was amazing to see the carp ghosting out of the weed onto the baited patch, where they were clear to see for those who had the ability to actually look!
I also did a fair bit of rig experimentation on Salamander, developing and refining my Drop Down Rig (top) as well as an early version of what was later to become a popular modern rig (bottom).
However, it was when testing liquid attractor that I had the most fun. One little experiment involved squirting neat Minamino over groups of fish that were basking in the sunshine. I used a syringe to send a spray of liquid attraction on top of their heads and the reaction was astonishing. They seemed to almost go into a frenzy, clearly 'smelling' the attraction but finding nothing concrete to eat. It was this that lead me to start messing about with a baiting trick that I called at the time Boilie Soup.
The idea was to create a powerful source of attraction on the lake bed and up through the water column using neat fishmeal and Robin Red base mix with GLME, Betaine, Salmon oil, flavour and a tub of lumpfish eggs. The idea should be self explanatory.
The carp in Salamander couldn't get enough of the soup, charging around like mad creatures scouring the lake bed for every tantalising item of food. The only things big enough to be called tangible food were the tiny fish eggs but even after every single one of those had gone, the fish continued to mooch around looking for more!
So that was then, this is now. Salamander is no more, It rests in peace as do its original carp, fish that gave a few lucky anglers the experience of a lifetime.
8 Apr 2019 at 3.23pm
In reply to Post #409
The years have passed and Salamander lives on. Without many of my favourite fish, the lake became a shadow of its former self. The improvements effected when the lake was emptied to allow the silt to be removed certainly changed the character of the lake but the drastic pruning of the covering willows and the creation of an island at the inlet end have done nothing to improve its looks. The silt that was removed in 1993 was back by 1994 and is as big a problem now as it was then. Why the council did not install a silt trap when they had the chance baffles me. They will certainly need to undertake further dredging and cleaning in future years, for already the lake is as badly silted now as it was before the dredger arrived. The spillway has certainly improved the look of the outlet end and the fluctuation in water level that occurred before, should now be a thing of the past.
But what of the fish?
Well, back in 1994 after the fish went back there was probably more pressure on the lake than ever before despite the fact than many of its best fish were gone. Naturally, Big Daddy was the target everyone was after and in November '94 he showed how much he enjoyed the comfort of the reduced pressure for the available food in the lake by coming out at 32lb l2oz for Steve and 33lb plus for me the following spring. At the same time the other carp were also growing well. The Phoenix of Salamander Lake was emerging from the ashes of the fish loss.
The sadness of the loss of so many lovely fish is, to a certain extent, balanced by the knowledge that reduced competition for food allowed the remaining carp in the lake to gain weight, when it seemed that most, if not all, had reached their ceiling weights but I still think wistfully of what the lake would have been like if all the original biggies were still there.
The lake continued to be an open target for anyone who wanted to help himself to a few fish. Why the council never made an effort to control the fishing on the lake is beyond me. Perhaps they don't care. Whatever...The fact remains that the lake was among the more famous in the south west corner of England. It was only a matter of time before the remaining biggies went missing yet again as the temptation to remove Daddy and his friends for a few quid in the back pocket proved too irresistible.
Well before the theft I had a long, rather drink sozzled chat on the banks of Salamander with the late Graham Orchard, a great carp fishing character here in the south west. "You ought to have these fish away you know, Ken", Graham told me.
"I can't do that, Graham, " I said. "It would simply go against everything I stand for in carp fishing."
"Look mate" said my friend, "I know how much these fish mean to you, how much you love the lake and the carp in it, but one day you're going to come down here and some little toerag will have nicked all the fish. Then how will you feel? If we don't move em and keep them local, somewhere private, then someone will come and have them away up country."
"I realise that, Graham, but simply cannot think of it, let alone do it or condone it," I said. Yet I knew in my heart of hearts that he had a point.
"The thing is, Graham, if I, or any of us stoop that low, we are no better than they are. It would be theft full stop. If we destroy this place by taking the fish and putting them into another lake what would we have achieved? Nothing! We'd simply have crossed off another worthwhile lake on the pitifully small list of those we have available to us to fish."
I look back now on that conversation and, even with the benefit of hindsight, I still say I was right and could sleep with a clear conscience is clear. The trouble is others were not so righteous and once again the wreckers moved in and dumped on the place from a great height.
Prior to the theft there were possibly as many as ten twenty pound plus fish at at least one thirty present in the lake in the summer of 1990. These lived their days in a blissful environment feeding on the bloodworm-rich silt augmented by anglers' baits and as much bread as they could eat. Happy days gone but not forgotten.
O.K., you may be saying to yourself. So the guy has had some fish nicked. Shame, but it happens. It's just some tuppence ha'penny lake in some God forsaken outpost of the carp fishing world...Small beer... What's all the fuss about? Well, I just hope and pray that a lake and its fish that you hold as dear to your heart as I held Salamander is not given a similar treatment. Perhaps then you'll know what small beer is and what it isn't.
8 Apr 2019 at 3.15pm
In reply to Post #408
I was of the firm opinion that fish were missing from the lake and I made my feelings clear, and finally I was proved right: in the late winter of 1993 the local authority emptied the lake in to remove the silt, at the same time creating a breeding island for the swans, ducks and coots and rebuilding the spillway. A netting team from the NRA was called in to remove the carp to a holding pond while the work was done. The dam was then breached and as the levels fell seventeen carp were netted and removed from the lake; one was missed by the netting party and, sadly, it died. Eighteen fish in total. I have an album of photographs covering the last fifteen years of my carp fishing at Salamander. I have photographs thirty five different fish. If the theft never took place, where were the missing fish?
Here are a few pix of the lake when it was empty. This is the main bowl, the deepest part, albeit it only about three feet deep when full. You can see the troublesome swan's nesting island in the middle of the photo.
This is at the inlet end of the lake where the island was under construction. It was severely silted up at the time, as can clearly be seen in this photo. Despite this no effort was made to create a silt trap, which would have alleviated the need for any further work to de-silt the lake.
While the lake was empty the council decided it would be a good idea to do some landscaping. In affect this mean cutting down all the trees and bushes around the lake's perimeter. Take a look at these before and after photos and tell me that the 'landscaping' worked! This is the outlet end of the lake prior to the work.
And this is what it looked like after they had done their worst.
I was on good terms with the local branch of the NRA having been commissioned to write a ten thousand word report for the Agency which was published as 'A Comprehensive Coarse Fishing Fish Strategy for the South-West'. A right mouthful and no mistake! Parts of the report covered public access lakes and river and Salamander Lake featured prominently in this section.
So having first contacted the head of fisheries at Exeter to put him in the picture, I then rang my contact at the NRA in Bodmin to ascertain when or if the carp would be returned to the lake. I was told that they were planning on moving the carp back to the lake in late March or early April. So it was that just before the Easter 1993 I stood on the banks of Salamander waiting for the fish transporter to arrive. With me was a reporter from the Western Morning News, officials of the local park authority, the netsmen from the NRA and officials of the Water Authority.
The carp were returned in two batches, so as to prevent overcrowding on the short journey. Seventeen fish were returned, the same number that had been taken out. I got a fairly good look at each of them and took pictures of as many as I could. I was overjoyed to see that Big Daddy was one that went back. Of the other twenties, Carole's Pet and Jellybelly were the only ones that were returned, but happily the upper doubles, Goldie, Walnut, and Mystery were also among the returnees. These fish were not weighed but it they all seemed to do well after the cleaning of the lake bed. For instance, Carole's Pet had dropped a couple of pounds when she want back but later that same year she came out at over 25lb.
8 Apr 2019 at 3.14pm
In reply to Post #407
Then, when Daddy was caught a few weeks later the story started going around that I had made up the story to blind anglers to the fact that there were such good fish in the tiny park lake. The knives were out for me in a big way but I was certain something was wrong with the pool. The news that Daddy was still in the lake, in all probability still accompanied by all his usual friends (said the sceptics), rekindled old passions in many carp fisherman's hearts, mine included and for a while, the hordes descended on the lake in search of the fabled carp of Salamander Lake. I got a lot of stick from people but there was no way I could prove that the netting had taken place and my uneasy fears for the place cut little ice with others. Meanwhile I managed to catch one of the remaining residents the fat old girl we called Gutbucket, an unlovely name for a lovely carp, and this capture was taken as a sign that I was talking through my arse!
However following Daddy's initial capture the only other big fish to make an appearance were Gutbucket and Carole's Pet, a rare capture for me as this honour is traditionally reserved for our lass, hence the carp's nickname.
All in all the fishing at Salamander was very poor at what had always been a traditionally productive time of the year and the longer the other well known carp in the lake remained uncaught, the more worrying their continued absence became. I fished the lake hard for the rest of the year and right through the winter when we were ashore for bad weather but failed miserably to land a single carp, but, Sod's Law was about to intervene and confuse the issue still further.
There was no doubt that all the fish in the lake were by now well known by local anglers, their rough weights known as well. Yet suddenly rumours began to circulate of big fish, twenties, coming out and these captures seemed to add weight to the tale that the whole thing was a blind. On the other hand the Salamander regulars thought that even if these rumours were true the reported weights were simply new weights for old fish.
So here was the dilemma: had there, in fact, actually been netting? If not, what had happened to the well-known fish, at least some of which should have come out in the ensuing months; and if there had been a netting, was it official, or was it illegal? Was the whole thing one gigantic wind-up?
But I knew my Salamander Lake and I was convinced that there were fish missing; perhaps not all the bigger fish, but certainly many of them. My association with the lake went back further than all bar that of Ian Johnson who had actually stopped fishing the lake in the mid-80's. In effect asking me about the history and the inhabitants like asking Mike Wilson about Savay, or Kevin Clifford about Redmire.
Among the diehards Dave the policeman continued to fish it as 'part of my investigation' as he explained it to his sergeant! Nice one, Dave! Sadly he had not been able to take the matter any further. The account of the youngster who had actually witnessed the theft was getting shakier with the passing of time and in the end he'd been told to wind down his enquiries. Still, at least he was probably the only copper in the country who, for a time, was actually paid to go carp fishing!
Of those still fishing the lake, and they were few and getting fewer, nobody knew as much about the place as me. I had even compiled a photo album of the carp in the lake, fish caught not only by myself but by many of the other guys that fished there.
8 Apr 2019 at 3.12pm
In reply to Post #406
There are a few sad evil-minded individuals who will swear blind that I invented the story of the fish theft from Salamander Lake in the summer in order to put off the growing band of visiting anglers. That is the most arrant nonsense I have ever heard. Will you guys get a life! The fact is that the lake is frighteningly vulnerable to thieves with main roads all around it and a car park within feet of the bank; anyone who wanted to steal fish from the lake would find it laughingly easy. Sadly, someone decided to help themselves to the fish in Salamander and that is fact, not fiction.
I chased the Salamander carp half heartedly during the early part of 1990, but when Savay opened its call was too strong to resist. I spent most of the early part of the season either driving to the lake, fishing the lake, or returning from the lake and had little time to spend on other venues closer to home. I still had a job at sea and had to make a crust so Salamander was quietly forgotten.
I was on the Toads and even though we were first rota on that year work had kept me away from Savs so I missed the first three months. But I had some leave saved up so I managed to get up to the Valley in mid September, cursing that bloody boat with every mile that passed.
By all accounts the opening week had been brilliant and the fishing had been pretty goof the following two or three rota weeks. Bill had caught a few…in fact, everybody had caught a few, so I had missed out in a big way. Still absence makes the heart grow fonder and in Savay's case fonder doesn't even begin to describe it so I was chaffing at the bit when I drove into the car park to meet Bill. We could not set up until later that day so we adjourned to the Barge to catch up on events so far. Bill had enjoyed a blistering start to the season and he told me that the lake was still on form with fish showing towards the far end by the Gate swim down as far as the Sluices. On the Colne Bank he told me that he had seen fish in the Daisies and most of the other swims facing the Long Island.
While we were in the Barge I rang Carole to check all was well and to tell her I had arrived safely. (She worries about me driving on the M25 as both of us hate it with a passion. I reckon my heart rate trebles the minute I get onto that accursed road. What is it with drives in the south-east? Don't you know how to drives safely and slowly?).
So once the reassuring was done I asked her how things were going at home. "I've had a call from Dave the policeman who has heard a rumour that Salamander has been netted," she said, "There was only one witness, a young lad who isn't a fisherman," she continued. "Apparently they have taken some carp away". The story told of a blue van, men in bright orange overalls, a beach seine, holding tanks and everything needed to make a quick sweep of the lake and bugger off sharpish before people got too curious. The lad who had witnessed the netting challenged the men who fobbed him off with a story that they were legally removing the carp on behalf of the council, an unlikely story but the youngster wasn't about to challenge it.
According to the very young witness, the netsmen had apparently made one sweep of the outfall end of the lake and had netted what was variously described as, 'every fish in the lake', down to, 'one or two big carp'. The story was vague but somebody reported the strange goings on to the police, who took only passing interest; it was only a few smelly old fish for heaven's sake. The news played on my mind throughout my week on Savay and when I got home Carole filled me in on further developments.
The rumour mill had been in overdrive as the news spread throughout the county. There were wild allegations about who had done it, about the location of the stolen carp, but nobody really had any concrete evidence. By chance one of the guys who fished the lake was Dave the a copper and when he told his inspector that the netted fish were worth thousands of pounds the police were forced to take a greater interest. Nothing came of it and in the end it fell to Dave to do his best with limited time and opportunity at his disposal. The uncertainty and young age of the witness meant that there was always going to be a seed of doubt about the whole story; had the theft actually taken place?
23 Mar 2019 at 2.00pm
In reply to Post #405
I was on a roll at the lake and more to satisfy my enquiring mind I switched tactics completely. The groundbait idea had sparked off the old brain cells to experiment further and it was at Salamander that I first used and refined the idea of crumbing. I wrote about the method in an old Nutrabaits magazine and while I cannot claim to have invented the method, I am certain that I was the first to go into print with it. If you haven't tried crumb on your lake I suggest you give it a try. It really gets them steamed up! This one dates back to the dark ages when the use of crumb was almost unknown. It's a bit different now!
I spent much of the year spreading my wings, fishing new waters, including Savay, where I spent the remainder of the summer. We also took our first tentative trip abroad where we enjoyed the new sensation of catching a few French fish for a change. Though Carole and I had our share of French biggies Salamander remained our jewel in the crown.
When we first started on Salamander in 1979 the fish had been woefully easy to catch thanks to the hair and boiled bait approach but, by 1989, they were as crafty a bunch as you'd wish to meet. As described previously, I stopped fishing Salamander for no other reason than I was bored with the place. I had caught every fish in the lake (or so I thought) and with more and more anglers now coming down from up country in search of a close season twenty the place had lost its magic.
And so we come to the fish theft…
23 Mar 2019 at 1.58pm
In reply to Post #404
The swim I chose to fish was bordered by two overhanging trees and a fringe of rushes, but rather than fish it from its own bank, I decided to set up on a corner not far way and cast across to the bank, going round afterwards to tie on the baits and drop them in the edge, with a generous dollop of groundbait on top to disguise the hooklink and hookbait. Mind you, I was in something of a dilemma over hookbaits.
Let me explain...I'd already chosen the base mix and the smell that I wanted to use. The milk protein mix had no need to prove itself any further, nor did the essential oil that I had been using since the start of the summer. It was about now that pop-ups became all the rage after featuring in several magazine. I had not, up till then, been keen on pop-ups or critically balanced bottom baits, but I felt that perhaps now was the time to experiment. I have always had misgivings about ultra-critical balancing of both pop-ups and bottom baits. I firmly believe that they draw attention to their status as a hookbait as much, if not more so, than a standard bottom bait. It just isn't natural for a hookbait to waft around all over the place, simply because a carp swims by. For all that, there had been plenty of fish caught throughout the country to show that perhaps the method had something going for it.
Mind you, not all the carp that had fallen to the trick were as cautious as the Salamander fish but perhaps they too would fall for it. It was worth a try. It's all very well having misgivings, but the trouble is that you can't prove or disprove that they are well founded until you've seen proof, or otherwise. So it wasn't until I watched the Salamander carp spook off these ultra-critically balanced baits that I decided that the time and trouble I had been taking in getting a bait to sink ridiculously slowly might not be worth all the effort.
However, back to the groundbait...
The plan called for me to bait up with two buckets of groundbait into just the one swim for three nights, starting fishing on the fourth night and emptying the lake! While the prebaiting was carried out I made up some very buoyant Black Pepper EO and Cranberry hookbaits, using polyballs from a bean bag and these were balanced to the 'nth degree in the bath at home. By the fourth night I was ready to drag 'em!
Oh, the best laid plans...I sat up for most of the night as disillusion caused by silent buzzers and motionless indicators set in. By first light I was devastated; all that planning and hard work had come to naught. I peered into the swim and could not believe my eyes. all the groundbait was gone! All that remained were the two hookbaits, still wafting around in the light currents caused as a few small roach rooted among the last crumbs that remained after the carp had demolished the best part of eight or nine kilos of groundbait during the night.
I was annoyed with myself for succumbing to the temptation to try something in which I was not fully confident, so off came the critically balanced hookbaits and on went bottom baits, balanced with nothing more than a sliver of rig foam to counteract the weight of the hook.
The following night all was ready once more and as the light went, I slopped the groundbait into the margins, placed the two hookbaits in the swim and then retreated to the bivvy to await the coming night. The bottom baits worked like a charm and my confidence in buoyant hookbait disappeared overnight, not to return for perhaps twenty years when I started using bespoke hookbaits.
Among the captures was a hump backed mirror I had not caught before. It came as a bit of a surprise as I thought I knew and had caught every fish in the lake by now.
23 Mar 2019 at 1.56pm
In reply to Post #403
Later that year I switched to my first love bait wise, namely paste baits. They cannot be used everywhere but if you can get away with the bait not being destroyed by small fish then paste have many advantages over boiled bait. The HNV base mix created fantastic pastes and by cramming as much powder into the eggs and the liquid attractors as possible, I found I could create a paste that could be cast out under the float and still remain on the hair. I used a small bead at the end of the hair and this formed the base around which to mould the paste. You can just about make out the early use of my Drop-Down Rig in this pic. The paste has been flattened by the fish flapping on the mat.
I had been using float fishing tactics for stalking the Salamander carp for the past three or four years and felt it was time for a change. Certainly I had seen what appeared to be carp testing above the bait from the presence of line coming down from the float Sounds a bit hard to take in, eh? Yes, that's what I thought, but takes were getting harder to come by. It was then that the newly introduced Kryston Multi-Strand appeared on the market and, for a while, it solved completely my presentation problems.
I used two end rig set ups. One for stalking in close where I could see the fish I was after and another for casting into the holes in the weed. The latter was straightforward enough, being simple tubing, a three ounce drilled bullet and six inch Multi-Strand hooklink. It was the margin stalking arrangement that was a bit different.
Basically, it is an extra long Combi link with four feet of Multi-Strand, attached directly to the reel line. The set-up was fished free line style and the bait was moulded around the hook (no hair).
(Don't laugh! The method was then and remains to this day a fabulous stalking tactic and I thank my lucky stars I had the foresight to order half a dozen spool from The Tackle Box before Kryston was taken over in 2018).
Immediately after switching to freelined paste I went on a lovely run of captures from the lake. I had seven fish in as many early morning visits, fishing paste on the hook. In most cases, I actually watched as the carp picked up the bait. Invariably, the fish moved away slowly with the bait well into its mouth, looking for a further bait sample. I have no doubt that they did not know they had a hookbait in their mouths. Some of you may think that there would be a problem with the Multi-Strand as it is prone to form a loop off the bottom, but the material is so soft that the fish are not spooked by it. Many times I saw fish brushing against the long section of Multi-Strand without appearing alarmed in the slightest. I can see how they might become more cautious after repeated captures, but this should not occur for some time. Obviously, the method has its limitations, but given similar conditions and style of fishing, I cannot see why it should not work anywhere.
Salamander had, by now, established itself as one of the most difficult lakes I had fished. In order to catch on a regular basis, it was vital to keep thinking, thinking, thinking all the time and about every aspect of one's approach. It was one such radical departure from the norm that kept me on fish through a long, hot summer when the pool lay stagnant and torpid and the fish seemed to be similarly affected. Recalling my early days at the lake when maples had proved so successful we reverted to the particle approach with some success.
My mate Bill and I had talked at Savay the previous summer about trying the continental approach to carp fishing, namely using groundbait. While it failed miserably in The Valley (the bream hammered us) I was not discouraged and felt that Salamander would be an ideal place to revive the idea.
I experimented with a few assorted recipes but as distance was not a factor in the fishing at the pool, there was no need for great big match style balls that splashed down like a depth charge. No, I wanted a sloppy mix that I could introduce up by hand, putting bait into likely margin swims at the dam end of the lake. Eventually, I settled on a mix comprising equal parts of groats, crushed and whole hemp, maize meal and salmon fry crumb. This gave the groundbait its unique carp appeal and I have no hesitation in suggesting it to anyone thinking of trying a similar approach. Without salmon fry crumb, the groundbait is a goodie but with the addition of the strong smelling crumb, it takes on a whole new lease of life and will draw carp into a swim very effectively.
23 Mar 2019 at 1.54pm
In reply to Post #402
The lake was beginning to lose its originality and freshness for me and this coupled with the growing number of visiting anglers from all over the south, again led me to seek out pastures new for much of the summer of '88 but
Carole and I returned to the lake with a vengeance that autumn, taking six twenties in three visits. Carole set the ball rolling with, who else, but The Pet. This was followed by Big Daddy, Jellybelly, Gutbucket and finally Daddy yet again. More encouraging still were two 'new' carp we had not seen on the bank before, one a curious looking mirror with a very crooked back, which was christened Quasimodo.
The other new fish was also a mirror that Tat caught at a shade over eighteen pounds.
Tat ended a memorable spell with Goldie at 21lb 2oz, a gorgeous fish which I had first caught in the winter of '85 at 19lb. One of the most pleasing captures of the year was her a shade over twenty pounds. The fish had not been caught for seven years and was thought to be dead. Indeed, the circumstances of its "death" were well documented.
Apparently, a youngster had found the fish in the shallows apparently in some distress. Hoiking it out the kid took it home to show his Mum. She screamed in horror and told him to get rid of the now-dead carcass, so the youngster had returned the lifeless corpse to the lake where it promptly came back to life!
In the end we caught just about every fish in the lake on our HNV baits with essential oils, confirming that such baits are inherently attractive and can be fished as single hook baits, or with a light applications of free offerings. Others using pure attractor baits which contained high levels of commercial flavours did not fare so well.
By the start of the 1989 season, we were looking at perhaps seven or eight carp over twenty pounds in the lake; Daddy, Gutbucket, Jellybelly, Goldie, The Pet, Clover, and one other big fish that we had all spotted at various spots around the lake but had yet to put it on the bank. How a fish could do this had me beat, for some of the best carp anglers in the area were fishing the lake by now and most of the fish had been caught at one time or another.
It wasn't until Ken Jones arrived on the water, following successful seasons on Rashleigh and a local syndicate water, that the mystery of the uncaught fish was solved. He caught it within a couple of visits at 22lb 12oz a gorgeous fish that had definitely not been caught before and so acquired the nickname of The Mystery on the spot!
Most of the more successful anglers were on fairly high tech baits of one description or another but one of the most effective baits was dear old bread. You see the locals threw tons of the stuff at the resident swans and ducks and the carp could often be spotted underneath the feeding birds, picking up bits of bread that were missed by the squabbling wildlife.
The lake did not appeal to everyone. For a start it was a park lake with all that that entails. Night fishing could be a bit hairy as the lake was on the glide path from the pub to the council estate, and when you heard drunken laughter and riotous singing you kept your head down! My mate Nige hated the place as did a few other Rashleigh friends. In fact Nige's only fish from the lake was Daddy, caught on a free lined piece of bread flake underneath the ducks.
23 Mar 2019 at 1.49pm
In reply to Post #401
Playing around with Geranium EO we quickly found the optimum level to be 2ml per kilo. Clove EO seemed to be much stronger and 1ml per kilo was found to be ideal. It wasn't until we tried a combo of the two that we found what we thought then was a winning combo. First it was Daddy that took a shine to the milk HNV, falling to the clove and geranium oils mix. A string of other big fish followed and by the end of October every fish in the lake was on the lookout for our bait. Most of the biggies eventually tripped up on it and yet again Tat banked her 'Pet' a fish that seemed unable to resist her charms…A bit like me, in fact!
Throughout the summer the weed posed a few problems but it was nothing we couldn't cope with. It also had the effect of putting off the county's itinerant trophy hunters who were somewhat daunted by the weed. As if the weed beds were not enough, the council had also seen fit to introduce a silly little wooden platform moored by chains at all four corners, in the hope that a pair of swans that had made the lake their home would nest on it. The swans viewed the flimsy affair with disdain and nested downstream, but in the meantime the raft remained. It soon became a holding area but the carp usually managed to escape by bolting around the chains.
By the following year the news was out on the local grapevine about Daddy and his back up twenties, to say nothing of the dozen or so upper-doubles. Not unnaturally, quite a few new faces arrived on the scene. As the pressure increased still further, the fish got cuter and our previous success became harder to achieve. So cute had the fish become that it was common to watch carp spook off a carpet of bait. Indeed, they would even spook off single hookbaits. A few of the lads turned to particles, but with little or no success.
The lake was by now badly silted up, the winter silt being deposited at the shallower end, completely covering the original bar which John and I had fished in 1980 and reducing the depth over the silted area to less than a foot. So bad was it that a quarter of the lake became unfishable. You can see how shallow it was by the photo below. The overall depth in the rest of the lake was reduced to an average of less than three feet and with problems arising with ducks and swans picking up hookbaits and free offerings, the lake was becoming increasingly hard to fish.
Prebaiting was out of the question due to the bird life. Even at night the swans were capable of spotting and picking up baits and for most of the anglers regularly fishing the lake, pure attractor baits became the order of the day.
However, I couldn't help feeling that Hi-Nu-Val and the Addits (no longer a prototype but now a proprietary base mix following the launch of Nutrabaits in 1987) was an attractor bait in its own right. Match this magic base with an essential oil and you'd have a bait that was radically different from anything else the other anglers were using. Keeping free offerings to a minimum kept the birds off the baits, yet still provided a feeding stimulus that the carp found much to their liking.
The base mix also made surprisingly good pop-ups as we discovered one day when Tat decided to fry a handful in a light coating of sesame seed oil. At the time she was aiming at creating a slightly different 'smell' profile but that idea went out of the window when she found out that the bait all floated. Pop-ups were just beginning to find favour with the carp world in Cornwall, though the rest of the country had been onto them for a year or more. Until ready made pop-ups appeared on the market we used fried Ni-Nu-Val to make all our pop-ups. Adding a few mils of essential oil or neat flavour to the cooking oil also added still more attraction.
23 Mar 2019 at 1.45pm
In reply to Post #400
The bait that had done so well on College had not been used to any great extent on other venues so I began slipping a few kilos into the lake on a regular basis and in June '87 I finally got around to fishing there again. Carole and I spent hours making thousands of 8mm boiled baits using the smallest Gardner Rollaball. The bait was as follows:
7oz rennet casein
3oz egg albumin
1oz Davina Body Build
0.5ml N-butyric acid
15ml Liquid Liver
scald for 15 seconds.
I suppose we must have made up about four dozen mixes with which to prebait the lake with the new HNV, which was introduced in just two areas; the Aquarium one of my favourite fish-watching spots, a swim beneath a drooping willow tree, close to the inlet at the opposite end of the lake. By the time I came to fish the lake at the end of June '87 it was clear that the fish were going ape over the baits. It seemed a strong possibility that the biggest fish in the lake would fall to my attack sooner rather than later, and so it proved one glorious summer's morning. This is the story…
I arrived at the lake around noon and I had the lake to myself. There was no one else fishing, but the weed looked to be almost insurmountable. In fact, only the two prebaited swims were still fishable and those only in the margins where you could see that the bait was in the clear. In the prebaited swims the fish had created dinner plates, patches of gravel, scoured clear of silt. These proved that the carp had cleaned up the baits I had been introducing and as I crept into the swim under the willows, I felt pretty confident.
A couple of handfuls of mini boilies went in and I sat back to watch events unfold. Eventually, a few fish came ghosting out of the thickest weed and quickly cleared up the free offerings. I hadn't cast in as yet, but now I got
the float gear ready and dropped it in the margins, the float right up against the bank, almost touching it. The hookbait, a string of mini-baits threaded on to sewing cotton and attached to the eye of the hook, was no more than four or five inches from the edge. There were no further introductions of freebies, all there was left in the swim was the hookbait. As I watched Daddy came into the swim, swam straight up to the hookbait and sucked it in. A hectic fight followed in which the fish snagged me twice. Twice I started to strip off to go in for it and twice the fish came free. Eventually, the fish slipped over the net cord and he was mine. He weighed 26lb l4oz and was at the time, my second heaviest fish.
The year continued to smile on us and a few samples of essential oils arrived from Tim and Bill Cottam, prior to the launch of Nutrabaits. These would produce a string of nice fish from Salamander before the end of the year. 8mm Hi-Nu-Val combined with the essential oils worked a treat and accounted for just about every carp in the lake that summer. Indeed, at one point we had them queuing up for more!
23 Mar 2019 at 1.43pm
In reply to Post #399
In the three to four years that followed, I spent less time at Salamander than before. College had become my number one venue and Salamander was relegated to become simply a water where I might while away the odd hour or two in the evening. College was definitely a session water and I didn't think that Salamander would respond to session fishing. However, it would not be long before I was proved wrong in this assumption.
My occasional forays to Salamander Lake, fitted in between work and two or three day trips to College, were rewarding enough but with disappointing success compared to the early days. A few guys had begun session fishing the lake on a regular basis, among them was Tony Chipman, a committee member of Roche A.C. who very kindly showed me his spots on Rashleigh on my first visit. It was Tony who stirred my interest in the lake again when he caught Daddy at over 24lb during his winter-long campaign. Here's Tony in action.
I had never given too much thought to my presentation. I was convinced that simple, six inch Dacron rigs, using the tag of hooklink material passed through the eye to form the hair were all that was needed.
However, that summer I began a fishing one specific area of the lake where the weed was thickets. Here the best tactic was to fish a single hookbait over a carpet of hemp. The swims I fished were shallow and the water still clear so it was very easy to observe carp and their reactions to baiting situations and to rigs in general. I was shocked when I watched the Salamander carp suck in and then reject my simple Dacron rigs without so much as a bleep or a rattle of the rod tip, I knew I had to put my thinking cap on again.
After a great deal of frustration messing about with tubes and silicone and other rig gizmos I realised that there was no rig better suited to margin fishing than the simple float fishing tactic I had used to fish in the edge on most of my earliest trips to the lake. My reliance on the dominant high-tech aspect of modern carp fishing had blinded me to the fact that simplicity usually brings its own rewards.
In 1987, 1 started using the high protein bait I had been using on College. It was a highly experimental bait, based on the milk protein HNV approach and was, in fact, the prototype of the enzyme-based bait that Tim Paisley had worked on over the years. Carole and I were the only carp anglers in the south west to be on the bait, though other anglers throughout the country were field testing the radical idea in preparation for a commercial launch of the base and the enzymes, along with a range of the then only whispered about essential oils and other enhancers, stimulators and amino acid preparations.
The bait I was using would become Hi-Nu-Val, the enzymes and other enhancers would be named the Addits. The bait, the additives and the essential oils Tim and Bill Cottam were playing with were set to change the way carp anglers think about flavour compounds for ever. Nutrabaits was still several years away, but the bait was one that Carole and I used to catch over two hundred College fish in both 1985 and 1986.
The summer of '87 saw me putting in the hours at Salamander for the first time. I'd been on College for the past four years and to be honest I was getting a bit fed up with the place. I felt like a new challenge and Salamander would do nicely.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.47pm
In reply to Post #398
However, there was a bait freak burgeoning inside me bursting to get out, so while we were on a roll, I changed the bait! (Yes, that makes a lot of sense, Ken!). I switched the Nectarblend for another Haith's product, P.T.X. and switched flavour from banana to cinnamon oil, which I bought from a local health food store. Apparently it was used as a calming vapour rub, or some such nonsense. I used it at 2ml per 500g and it reeked! The new bait worked equally as well and it didn't take a genius to figure out that it was the Robin Red and the lower flavour levels that were doing all the damage.
Throughout the year I divided my time between Rashleigh and Salamander, really piling in the Robin Red bait and reaping the rewards, In November, I caught Big Daddy again, this time at 201b 4oz, the first authentic capture of a twenty from the water. The big fish definitely had the taste for the Robin Red bait by now, for I caught him again a few months late, up in weight a fair bit. He obviously liked his boilies.
Most of the fish were growing steadily but were, at the same time, becoming more and more crafty. The next year was definitely The Year of the Floater. The duck problem was nothing like as bad as it is today, so I was able to get away with prebaiting and fishing with free offerings, in my book, virtually indispensable for successful floater fishing. The carp in Salamander quickly wised up to floaters and stopped taking them altogether after a couple of years but to start with they were just silly for them. The bait I favoured was Purina Dairy Dinner, a hoop shaped biscuit, coated in a lovely, sweet smelling, milky powder that the carp adored. Rig? Dead complicated; I threaded four on to the nylon hooklink greased with Mucilin, the stuff in the little round red tin. Here's Daddy (I think) snaffling down floaters, Chum Mixers in this case, a few years later.
At one stage, I thought I had caught every fish in the lake, but a subsequent comparison of photos with Ian showed that I had missed out on three that he had caught but I hadn't. However, as I'd had nineteen different fish we were able to revise upwards slightly our estimate of the number of fish in the pool. Two memorable sessions stand out in my mind. The first was the first day of a week off sick following an operation - the unkindest cut of all! - and with stitches still healing in a tender place, I spent a hectic evening at the pool, taking three fish in an hour off the top. One of the trio proved to be a right mug for floaters as I caught the fish four times during the year, each time on the same bait and presentation. Apologies for the Billingsgate shot.
The other capture that stands out in my memory involves the first ever capture of the fish that came to be known as Carole's Pet. I was building most of my own rods at the time on Sportex and North Western blanks. I had just finished the whippings on a new S.S.5 that I had been building and outside, the weather looked perfect for floater fishing, but I had no suitable light floater rods, having stripped down my entire collection for rebuilding. With the varnish still drying on the SS 5, I took it to Salamander and had The Pet on the bank within five minutes of arriving at the lake. Little did I know that I would not see that fish fall to my rod again for another seven years. In the meantime, Carole caught it over and over again, repeatedly stuffing the capture up my nose and earning the fish its well deserved nickname. My first encounter with the carp soon to become known as Carole's Pet.
More ancient history to come...
19 Mar 2019 at 3.43pm
In reply to Post #397
"I thought you said you were going to use toffee", said John, who had been putting a six egg mix in a day.
"Coffee, you prat!" I replied.
Coffee, Toffee, Schmoffee! They don't seem to care much either way, John joked as his bait was virtually taken on the drop! Soon one of my rods was away to a nice double. It was the first capture of Clover, the lovely near-pure leather with the clover leaf pattern on its flank. The fish weighed just over 18lb.
Unknown to us at the time, another carp man was fishing the lake, a guy called Ian Johnson. Ian lived close to the lake and every lunchtime he would stroll down to the lake and fish freelined bread flake to rest on the top of the weed. In fact, Ian had been fishing the lake since the fish first went in and had probably caught most of the lakes carp when they were mere babies. Now he was catching regularly on the most simple tactics.
We often bumped into each other and were able to compare catches and start building a more precise picture of the lake and its carp in our minds. Ian was keen to try the obviously successful rig and bait John and I had been using but, at the time, the rig was definitely still on the secret list and, much as I liked Ian, I wasn't about to give away my edge. I did give him the recipe for the bait however, and he caught a carp of just over nineteen pounds on a lump of freelined paste.
This fish was not Big Daddy but another fish that was destined for local fame and fortune, a fat, yet very pretty carp that we nicknamed Gutbucket. This meant that we now had two fish approaching twenty pounds in the pond and, judging from Ian's catches and those of John and myself, it looked as if there were perhaps eighteen to twenty sizeable fish in the lake.
With hindsight, it is obvious that our rather haphazard attitude to flavours and flavour levels would start to work against us in time, but we were way too inexperienced to realise this at the time. Sure enough, it wasn't long before the carp began to get rather wary of small red balls of food emitting a wide variety of unnatural pongs, and a return to a particle approach was only temporarily successful. It was time to find out more about bait and bait science in order to get more out of the obvious potential of boiled baits.
At the end of 1980, I pulled off Salamander in favour of a local club water, Wheal Rashleigh, belonging to Roche AC and it was on this water that I refined the basic bait and flavour. There was no doubt that Robin Red had considerable long-term pulling power and I enjoyed considerable success on the lake, still using a fairly simple recipe, but with a lower level of just two flavours, cinnamon and banana, both from Rod Hutchinson. The bait was a simple variation of the original with slightly elevated levels of Robin Red. It was 6oz Nectarblend, 2oz Robin Red, 2oz Gluten plus 3ml of the flavour blend and 5ml of Hermesetas. This bait was readily devoured in great quantity by the Rashleigh fish and it accounted for the largest mirror and the largest common in the lake on my first visit, both taken within half and hour of each other! This is the big mirror a fabled old warrior soon to be christened Busted Tail by the growing carp fishing fraternity in the Club.
Reading up about baits suggested that a dollop of a sophisticated milk protein would improve the bait no end, and one of the whispers suggested Casilan, a baby food. This was actually calcium caseinate, a refined variant of rennet casein. In for a penny…I bunged in four ounces of the stuff for good measure! Soon my little red balls became the going bait on both Rashleigh and Salamander.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.42pm
In reply to Post #396
From then on, my love affair with the pool was sealed. The big fish cast its own unique spell on me, a spell that lasts to this day and one that will continue to last while the great carp remains in the pool. Sadly, and I hate to say so, given the sad state of carp fishing in the area at the present time, his days may be numbered and then the pool will be destroyed for ever as far as I am concerned.
(Remember, this was written in about 1995.)
The two fish on particles really stirred me up, so much so, that I even skipped work a few times, much to the anger of the skipper of the trawler I was working on. Then he too became captivated by the carp in the little pond and we both skived off from time to time. We were fishing commercially on the wrecks of the English Channel, off the Cornish coast, but when bad weather put paid to a salt water trip, it was the fresh, bubbling, stream-fed water of Salamander Lake that drew to its banks both me and John Affleck, my skipper and a tench and carp angler of some renown from the early days of Kent and Home Counties carping.
The first boiled bait I used was the brilliant Robin Red/Nectarblend/Wheat Gluten recipe that was being used by many of the more successful up-country anglers. It was flavoured with any of the original Hutchinson flavours such as Scopex, Enigma, Mystere and his original Cinnamon, which was brilliant. We all worked on ten-ounce mixes back then…not sure why! The exact recipe if I remember rightly was 7oz Nectarblend, 2oz Wheat Gluten and 1oz Robin Red. Four size 2 eggs plus 10ml flavour (how much!) and 5ml liquid Hermesetas. Boil for 2 minutes then dry for 24 hours.
It was 1980 and the hair rig was still a well-kept secret, especially in my part of the world. Luckily, I knew all about it, thanks to Speedy, and I was going to make the most of it! Being so new to the whole field of flavours and base mixes, I dived into the complex minefield with a will, and no flavour or combination of flavours was safe in my bait kitchen. Those poor old carp in Salamander didn't know what to expect next, as they were bombarded with a steady stream of red boiled baits flavoured with coffee, banana, toffee, chocolate, Green Zing, and permutations of some, or all, of the above. It says much for their initial naiveté that they gobbled them all up, regardless of the smell or taste.
In the early days, the lake was about eight feet deep at the dam end, and even where the stream entered the lake you could find five or six feet on either side of a prominent bar of silt and gravel, carried down by winter floods and deposited in the lake in a long finger-like feature that drew cam to it like bees to a honey pot. The water over the top of the bar was only some two or three feet deep and, on hot summer evenings, you could see fish clearly as they swirled and bow waved on the bar. It was here that John and I began to fish boilies for the first time.
It was late summer, another hot and still August evening when we set up one rod each at the inlet end of the lake. The Robin Red boiled bait had been going in for a week or so to get them used to the shape and smell of the bait but, as we found out later, John and I had been baiting up with different flavours, the exercise was probably futile.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.41pm
In reply to Post #395
That summer, I visited my good friend the late, and deeply missed, Trevor Housby. Each summer, Trev and I would spend a week or more, lost among the streams and backwaters of the Test and the Avon, fishing for trout and grayling, or on one of the club lakes near Ringwood, fishing for pike. The river at Christchurch was our Mecca for barbel and chub and we would spend patient hours stalking the few really big fish that inhabited the lower end of the Parlour Pool or The Compound. This odd looking pike took a chunk of luncheon meant ledgered for barbel under the wires of the Parlour Pool's pump hose outlet.
Me and Bill also joined the river syndicate run by Tom Williams on the Longford Estate in Wiltshire (Remember My River in the Angling Times?). What a laugh we had on there. Mile and miles of the R Avon and it's streams and backwaters, two weirpools, a pump house and eel trap, several white water runs with deep pools between. It was bliss. We mainly fished for chub and barbel but the roach fishing was out of this world as was the perch fishing. I think this is a nice chub but it's also a lousy photo.
During one particular visit, I told Trevor about the lake I had discovered and of the carp that I suspected now to weigh close to twenty pounds. I had no proper carp gear of my own, having sold my entire range of tackle in 1973, so Trev gave me a pair of North Westerns - AC7's I think they were - and suggested I give them a try. Bill had shown me the rig; I'd picked up enough about using particles and the basics of boiled baits on our trips to the syndicate water; Trev had given me the rods; I already had a pair of Mitchell 300 reels. I was half way towards becoming a carp angler again, all I needed now was a few carp under my belt.
Our summer days at Ockenham Lake, the syndicate water that Bill and I fished, were very laid back affairs It was predominantly particle fishing there in those days, using flavoured black-eyed beans, free-lined on a size two hook right in the margins. Very exciting fishing and a method that cried out to be tried at Salamander. So armed with a bucket of blackies, one of Trev's North Westerns and a trusty 300 loaded with new eight pound line I arrived at Salamander.
The swans and ducks that would, one day, become a nightmare as the water silted up, had yet to put in an appearance, so I was able to bait up a couple of patches in the margins and, because of the clarity of the water and the bright colour of the bait, could watch the carp as they moved in to sample the scattering of little white beans. The first carp I caught out of Salamander was a pure leather of just over eight pounds. I watched it pick up the bait in just four feet of water, less than a foot off the bank. I thought my heart was going to burst out of my body, so hard was it thumping and racing, its hammer-beat pounding in my ears as the carp first mouthed, then sucked in the bait. The scrap was hectic and equally heart-stopping in the weedy water, but I won in the end.
That little fish grew to become one of a famous trio of leathers in the pool. At the time, I did not know it, but the little eight pounder had a bigger brother so inevitably in time they would become known as Little and Large. There was another leather in there that we later caught and named he Clover thanks to a clover leaf scale grouping on her right flank. Her back and left flank were quite nude so I guess you could say she was an almost-leather.
I returned to the lake three days later and, using identical tactics, caught the now famous Big Daddy at approximately eighteen pounds. I have to say approximately, as I didn't have scales with me nor did I have a sack so the fish was guesstimated.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.39pm
In reply to Post #394
I also spent a lot of my free time on the rivers of Hampshire and Dorset trotting for the most part, for roach and chub, though I also did my fair share of grayling fishing too.
My friend, Bill, had been on at me to get back into the carp fishing game for some time, even going so far as to put me on a lovely little syndicate water in Devon to get my interest going again. In truth, though, I was still not committed to a return to carp fishing. Things had changed so much since I'd left it and I wasn't sure if I wanted to get involved in quite the way that now seemed necessary. In 1979, I fished for just anything that came along, bass, sea trout, reservoir trout, chub and barbel, mullet, pollack, eels, you name it. A return to full time carping? No thanks.
So just what it was that drew me to the banks of the little lake that August day, I'll never know. I was armed with a saggy old glass float rod, a creaky old folding garden chair (you know the sort), a couple of tins of sweetcorn and no particularly high hopes. I had seen rudd in the lake approaching maybe two pounds in weight and I think I told myself, at the time, these were my quarry.
I sat in the shade of the thickening willows, watching a red-tipped float sitting still and lifeless, poking through a slight scum line that was carried towards me on a warm, gentle breeze. The oppressive heat of a full-blown summer high pressure area sitting slap-bang over the south west made me sleepy and I dozed intermittently through the lazy afternoon. When I opened my eyes, after who knows how long, maybe only seconds, maybe minutes or even an hour, the left hand rod tip was just straightening, quivering and shaking from some unseen underwater attention. I started upright in the chair. Where was the float? Over there, under a tree, several yards from the baited swim. I grabbed the butt and struck at nothing. Everything came back, but the hook was bare. Sods Law had struck again and I had dozed off just when I got a bite!
Carp or rudd? Which had been the culprit? No way of telling, though I like to think that maybe, just maybe, it was a carp. I fished away the remains of the day without further excitement but then just as the light was going, a couple of gulls, flying low across the surface, spooked one, or maybe two, fish that had been cruising below the surface. As they turned in their panic, they sent huge swirls to the surface. That was my first experience of the carp of Salamander Lake; hard proof that the whispers were not merely rumour.
You'd have thought I'd have been right back there the next day, wouldn't you? But the carp fever had not yet had a chance to infected me again. The next free time I had for fishing took me down west, to The Lizard, fishing the coves and deep rocky gullies for anything that came along. I was after wrasse, but the bass were running hard that summer and the silver dreams held sway for the rest of the summer and most of the autumn months.
Winter was work, work, work and, by the following summer, I had almost forgotten about the carp in the little lake. True, I had enjoyed yet another hectic trip with Bill to our syndicate lake (where he had let me in on the secrets of the hair and of Robin Red and boiled baits), but carp still did not figure greatly in the overall scheme of things.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.37pm
In reply to Post #393
Once upon a time there was a stream, an insignificant little affair, running off low hills, through farmlands and forests towards the distant sea. Where it met softer, flatter ground, the clear waters spread out across the surrounding plain. At its edges, the plain became a marsh, in its middle, a bog. Then came the homes; built to house the workers of local industry. The buildings were of solid stone and granite, warm in winter, cool in summer. In the shelter of the surrounding hills, the little hollow and its plain were a natural sun trap.
For the inhabitants of the little village that sprang up close to the marshy bog it was almost ideal: almost! You see, the only drawback to living in this idyllic little spot was the bog itself as due to the nature of the swampy surroundings, in summer the place was a fetid swamp of pungent, mosquito ridden water. The broken down silt and mud of millennia steamed and bubbled in the heat and the villagers often complained; in the summer about the boggy smell and insect life which played havoc with their everyday lives; or in the winter, when heavy rain ran off the hills and the stream became a torrent, about the flooding of the bog land and the surrounding plain, making roads and footpaths impassable. Something had to be done and, with the usual alacrity shown by councils the length and breadth of the country, it only took a hundred years or so to get around to dealing with the problem.
So it was that in the mid-70s heavy plant moved in, first to divert the stream, then to shore up the bank, dredge out the silt, plant a few willows, build a dam at the other end from the stream entrance, re-route the stream through the eight foot deep hollow left behind by their labours, and depart. As the hollow began to fill, the stream wove a magic spell over the once stagnant area. Where there had been bog, now there was a cool, dark lake, brimming over with natural life carried down from the hills on a bubbling tide of highly oxygenated water.
The lake settled down quickly, the stream carrying its life blood of silt and natural food, soon covered the gravel bottom with a layer of soft mud. Weeds found a hold and began to flourish in the perfect conditions for growth. All that was missing were fish of which there were none, other than a few bold or lost sea trout that had used the lower part of the stream for millennia.
They ventured upstream as far as the lake where they stayed a while before moving on further towards the foothills of the moors. Minnows appeared as if by magic and a few brown trout took up residence but there was no real life to the pond. What it needed was a few carp gliding lazily through the turbid water, grubbing in the bottom to send clouds of mud billowing up towards the surface.
In 1977, the council decided to stock the lake with coarse fish, including a hundred and fifty carp, thousands of rudd, a few tench and some perch. From being almost devoid of aquatic life, now it was full to bursting. The local kids had a field day. Maggots made an awful killing, literally, as hundreds of small fish were carried back to homes in the village to be paraded like trophies, before being fed to the cat.
Though I guess one had to feel for the unfortunate victims, their sacrifice was not in vain. In truth, the lake had been overstocked to the point of lunacy; now the fish that were left found they no longer needed to compete for food and soon, the thirty or so remaining carp began to thrive in the rich water, putting on weight and condition. Whispers of grey, ghostly monsters, glimpsed, or maybe only imagined, gliding through the murky water, began to be heard yet, at the time, I showed only a small spark of interest. My carp fishing life had only recently been renewed after a decade or so of fishing for other species. My return to the ranks was only just reawakening and there was a lot of new tackle and tactics with which I needed to come to terms.
I fished the Salamander for the time in late summer 1979. I had been carefully dipping a hesitant toe into the steamy quagmire that modern carp fishing seemed to have become in the years I had turned my back upon it. I had packed it all in several years earlier in favour of the savage, heart-stopping excitement of barbel fishing.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.35pm
In reply to Post #392
THE STORY OF SALAMANDER LAKE 1979 - 1997
Over the past forty years I have written at some length on Salamander lake, not only in this thread, but also in the many articles I have had published in carp fishing mags throughout Europe. Like most if not all of you reading this, I hold a very special place in my heart for the lake that first triggered my interest in carp fishing. For some of you it will be a club lake or maybe a pit in the valley or elsewhere in the country. For me, Salamander will always be that place. So please forgive me for writing about it once again.
This is the lake in about 1978…
Salamander Lake has had a hold on me that is for over forty years. My first article about the lake appeared in 1981 when I wrote a piece for the magazine Coarse Angler called Hooked on Carp, which detailed my early days at the lake. Back when I first started fishing the lake it was clear to me that the lake would be very vulnerable to over-fishing and perish the thought, fish theft, so I thought it judicious to include a few blinds in the Coarse Angler piece to protect the lakes whereabouts and its true identity
There followed a further couple of stories, again for Coarse Angler and there were a blinds in those ones too! Since then, the lake has featured in many of my most memorable carp fishing experiences and stories.
Salamander Lake! What can I say? I adore the place! It was indirectly responsible - along with another lake in Devon - for bringing me back into the carp fishing fold after I'd packed in regular carp fishing in the early
seventies. These days, the lake is a pale shadow if itself with few if any carp left in it. You see, it is a free water, fishable by anyone with a rod license, completely uncontrolled by any club or organisation. The local council own the surrounding marsh and parkland and, from time to time, they pay lip service to the people who use the park as somewhere to walk the dogs and to take the kids but, for the most part, the lake has been left to get on with its life as best it can.
Sadly, the lake is at the mercy of the more unsavory *******s that haunt the fringes of carp fishing and life in general and many fish have been stolen to stock other waters, while others have died from abuse, neglect and downright bad angling. For all that, the lake was once the only water in this part of the country that could offer the carp angler a true challenge, as the carp that were in it were the craftiest I have ever fished for.
I first fished Salamander Lake in 1979 and caught my first carp of any size from the water a year later. In the years that followed, I got to know its inhabitants very well indeed - so much so that I even got around to nicknaming most of them myself. As the story unfolds, I think you will see how and why I have built up such an intimate feeling for the water and I hope you will also forgive me for omitting any hints of its whereabouts. That said most carp anglers who really want to locate the water will not find the process too hard.
Back then Salamander was just another lake on the big fish circuit, one poster boy anglers liked to visit, hammer it for as long as it took to catch the big one, and then depart. They have no soul, these people. They take all and give nothing. On the other hand, a few visiting anglers with a heart and a soul and a feel for the water, gave as well as they took. Their rewards were well deserved and their pleasure usually shared. It is a busy park lake with all that that entails, but on quiet summer morning while the world awakes there is magic to be found on its banks.
So this is its tale, a re-write of the three-part series I did for Carpworld published in 1996.
2 Mar 2019 at 7.52am
In reply to Post #391
Postscript: As it turns out the fish that beat me up so badly thqat night was in all probability one of only two catfish in the Chat. One was an albino that was only ever seen once when the lake was drained for work to be done on the sluice. It was not weighed at the time but those who saw it reckoned it was close to two meters long! That would make it around 250lb.
The other cat was caught many years later by well-known home counties angler Stuart 'Lilo' Gillam, now living the high life in Thailand with Sean his son, both running the hugely successful Gillam's Fishing Resort in Karabi. Tat and I had met the pair in what was, I believe, their final carping trip in Europe when they visited the Chat before heading out east. We shared a great week with them and enjoyed more than a few beers together. Stuart caught the other catfish on a return visit to finalise details of the Resort and while 'home' he found time to fit in a visit to the Chat where he caught this huge fish (Stuart is on the left). He didn't weigh it, but as you can see, it's a beast, probably well over a hundred pounds. Was it this huge creature that had caused me so much grief in the wind and rain of a hideous night marooned on the island?
So ended the trip. It had been hugely successful from both a personal and a commercial point of view (remember, the whole point of the trip was to gather material to publicise the lake). One thing was for sure: I'd be returning to the Château Lake!
2 Mar 2019 at 7.46am
In reply to Post #390
Shivering with cold and drenched to the bone I chucked the rod into the bushes and struggled into the bivvy and after a thorough towel down and a change of clothes plus two cups of brandy-laced coffee I began to feel human again.
Early morning and the wind died down and the rain stopped. Peeping out of the bivvy door I saw a sky ablaze with stars. What a transformation. Were the carp still around? Yes, they were…As the dawn broke I had another take from a carp that fought like crazy all the way to the net. It was one of the strongest carp I’ve ever played taking me over thirty minutes to overcome its powerful struggles. The scales presented me with yet another biggie, a humpty-backed mirror of just over thirty three pounds…Pinch me, someone!
Though it was still early this called for a beer! Another celebratory 1664 slipped down my throat; what a nice breakfast! And it wasn’t over yet by any means! Mid-morning I caught a small mirror and just as I was thinking about lunch another big carp took a bait off the big hump to the right of the east pontoon. It was yet another thirty and no sooner had I done the pix of that one that the other rod on the east pontoon went off...!
I was due to pack up fishing at midday but the temptation to stay for one more night was nagging at my brain. I was probably overstaying my welcome and pushing my luck to the limit but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave!
At six in the evening I was very glad I stayed! I was sitting on the pontoon as the sun went down, watching the world go by, when the tip of the one of the rods cast into the channel pulled slowly round. The buzzer gave a couple of bleeps, then broke into its full battle cry as a carp took off with the bait. Although the carp had picked up a bait cast well off to the right, all it wanted to do was go left, left, left all the time until it went around the back of the island. I had no choice but to strip off my trousers and T-shirt and go in after it.
What a performance. From snag to snag, tree branch to tree branch. Eventually I managed to get the snag leader onto the reel and I led the carp like a dog on a leash through the snags back to the pontoon. I climbed out onto the boards and eventually landed the fish after about thirty minutes of unarmed combat! Bugger me if it wasn't another thirty. Was I dreaming? I’d never seen such a magnificent fish and after such an amazing fight the memories of that carp will stay with me for a very long time indeed.
The night was quiet until the early hours of the morning. At just after five o’ clock I had yet another run on one of the rods cast to my left into the channel. Another fabulous fight from a very strong fish and yes, you guessed it, another thirty.
Suddenly it was over. The dawn broke over the eastern end of the lake and as it the sun rose the wind once again switched direction back towards the south west. The carp moved with it almost immediately and soon I could see them jumping way off in the bay once again. It was time to go, time to bid farewell to this amazing lake. The sun beamed down on the lake and the tranquillity of the surroundings made me sad that I was leaving but I would be back!
2 Mar 2019 at 7.41am
In reply to Post #389
I fell to with a vengeance that night, re-baiting the swims with three kilos of boilies, tying on new hook links and hooks and generally acting as if it was the start of the trip and not nearly the end of it. Not expecting anything to happen until at least one in the morning, I sat out on the pontoon as the night fell. A fresh wind blew straight into my face as I smoked a cigarette and drank a bottle of beer.
The wind was from the south east, warm and humid, a real carp angler’s wind. I knew I shouldn’t tempt providence, but once again I felt very confident of catching and this time my confidence was well placed. At just after eight o’clock in the evening the right hand rod burst into life, the first time I’d had a take off to the right hand side. After about ten minutes I had managed to get the fish in close. In the fading light I could see great swirls coming up from the bottom as the carp fought for its freedom and this was a prelude for a long struggle under the rod tip. After another ten minutes the fish at last sank into the waiting folds of my net, and I saw straight away that I had captured another good thirty.
I broke out another bottle of beer and tipped the whole lot down my throat to celebrate. The lake looked and felt so completely different that evening and into the dark hours. T-shirt weather towards the end of October in northern France? Unbelievable. With the unseasonably warm weather pushed towards me by a fresh south east wind it felt like carp weather and no mistake. And so it was…yet another thirty came to join me on the island. This was now on the point of stretching the bounds of reality!
The wind started to pick up by mid-afternoon and the fresh south easterly breeze blew straight into the swim, increasing in strength the longer it blew. The new wind brought carp towards me in numbers and they were crashing out all over the place. It just proved what I had been thinking all along, that the fish were following the wind. And the night was young. Plenty of time for more. The wind seemed to be strengthening all the time and it was now looking really carpy. I hope I don’t get any sleep I said greedily to myself.
It was awesomely warm but with 100% cloud cover, the breeze shoving them along at a ferocious rate. It looked like a storm was on it's way. In the gathering gloom I sat out in the freshening wind on the west pontoon drinking a few beers and listening to the carp crashing out in the darkness before heading for the shelter of the bivvy. I lay there listening to the wind as it increased in strength. If I don't get a few tonight, I thought to myself, I never will.
Sure enough and hour or so later, with rain now falling heavily, I had a brace of smaller fish, both commons that were returned un-weighed and un-photographed…I wanted to get out of the rain as I was getting drenched.
The weather conditions were perfect as the wind had really began to blow strongly and by midnight it was near gale force blowing straight into the western pontoon swim: it could only be a matter of time before I had another run.
It came as the light strengthened with the dawn, a screaming take from a very strong fish that ripped line off at amazing speed. I bent into it as best I could but nothing I could do seemed to have any effect. On and on it ploughed putting many yards between us. Whenever I tried to stop that incredible run the fish pointed me and continued to rip line from the reel. By now I was soaked right through and was loosing my sense of humour. This fish was beating me up and no mistake!
So there I stood, cold, wet and if truth be told pretty fed up. There was only a couple of reasons why I could make no headway against this fish; it was either foul hooked or it was the biggest carp I had ever hooked. I never discovered the answer and frankly I didn't care one way or the other. I was exhausted and about to freeze to death. Thankfully with the fish on a long line - probably by now 200m away - the weight of the wind on the line and the rod conspired to pull the hook free. Thank God for that, I said to myself.
2 Mar 2019 at 7.39am
In reply to Post #388
I baited up the gully area to my left with a further two kilos of bait. and fished two rods onto the same patch of bait that had produced a couple of fish earlier in the week, even while the wind was blowing a hoolie towards the far bay at the time. Hopefully not all the carp moved on the breeze. Maybe they'd learned a trick or two from the College carp that at time stubbornly refused to follow the wind, not matter how many 'experts' told them that was whet they were supposed to do!
The third and fourth rods were cast in the direction of the château bank from the western pontoon but with the wind in my face I was not able to get anywhere near the shallows in front of the boathouse. However, Pete had pointed out to me a quite prominent bar that lay only a dozen or so yards off the west-facing pontoon. It was steep and quite vicious, ripping the leads to pieces. It was easy to find to…You just pulled back until the rod tip started banging away like a good 'un. I put one rod on the top of this feature and chucked the other one as far as I could towards the boathouse and backed up the hookbaits with a kilo of bait on each rod.
So far all the takes had come during the hours of darkness. The buzzers had not uttered a single bleep in daylight, so it was a considerable surprise when, at just after nine thirty in the morning with the sun well up in the sky following another blank night, all hell suddenly broke loose. First of all I had a run on the left hand rod on the eastern pontoon and while I was playing that fish one of the two rods on the western pontoon went off! I didn’t know what to do, so I hung onto the first rod while the other one screamed its head off. There was no way I could play them both at once as the two were at opposite ends of the island about twenty metres apart!
Thankfully fate decided things for me as I pulled out of the first fish so chucked the rod down and then ran across to the other side of the island to hit the run that was still taking line. That fish I managed to land, a strange box-shaped creature. I guess we'd call it an Italian strain carp over here, but maybe it was simply a slightly odd-shaped Royale strain of fish.
So all of a sudden, out of nowhere, two runs had come at along within minutes of each other. The fish had come back to me at last and the weather forecast finally predicted an end, albeit only a temporary one, to the interminable south west wind. I felt sure that once the wind turned to another direction I’d have carp in my swim in big numbers.
The next morning, dawn arrived in the most spectacular fashion. I have never seen such a brilliant red sunrise. Quite the most amazing I natural phenomenon I have seen in all my (too) many years of carp fishing.
The new day brought with it new weather; not a cloud in the sky, the sun came out, it got warm then hot and by mid morning it was an absolutely glorious day. I had two fish by lunchtime, a mid twenty and a double figure common, the smallest carp so far on this trip. Both had fallen to bottom baits fished with just a small stringer to draw attention to the hookbait, no free offerings at all. It didn’t seem to matter whether I baited up with two or three kilos of free offerings or none at all if the fish were there they hung themselves! Both carp were caught on the close-in rods, cast into the gully about fifty meters or so into three metres of water.
I went into the village again that morning and visited the restaurant for another shower and a meal. These left me feeling really invigorated and refreshed. I felt so much better after a good meal, a drop of wine, and a decent shower that I was now ready for anything. Once again I decided to fish only with five bait stringers rather than over a large carpet of boilies and to be honest, I was very confident of my chances of catching now that the wind had stopped blowing away from me.
But I blanked yet again! My brash confidence of the previous night evaporated in a frustrated mist! The lake continued to baffle me. I had been awake for most of the night listening for fish but I never heard a thing. I couldn’t understand it at all. Where had they gone? A change in the weather often gets carp feeding and though the lake was now under the influence of a high pressure system, I felt sure that the new wind from the south east would have brought fish into my area. But that’s carp fishing. Sometimes they defy all reason and you just have to sit it out and hope! But I couldn’t complain. I was happy with what I had caught so far and there were still two more nights to go and now the wind had turned right round and was blowing straight towards the château bank and the island.
20 Feb 2019 at 10.19pm
In reply to Post #387
Excellent Ken, very interesting!!
20 Feb 2019 at 12.55pm
In reply to Post #386
More to follow soon.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.54pm
In reply to Post #385
By now I was beginning to grasp the magnitude of the task I had undertaken. I had never fished such a huge lake before and looking at it in the cold light of day it was obvious that there was a huge amount of water I could not cover. Hoping they would come sniffing around the island in search of food was expecting a lot, and there was no obvious activity coming from down the far end of the lake. Nor were they showing themselves in front of the western pontoon now the wind had dropped away. Using Google I have since measured the distance from the island to where I had seen fish showing. As I had thought at the time, its near enough half a mile. In this photo, which was taken from the peninsula (swim 26 for those of you who know the lake) looking back down the lake, the island is in the centre of the photo. How tiny it looks on such a huge expanse of water.
Still, at least I had the beginnings of an article building in my head should the Count finally commit to his plan to open up the lake to the great unwashed!
Four fish on the bank so far and more to come I felt sure. But sadly the next night was a blank one. I wondered if the fish that had drifted away from the far end of the lake might not have by-passed the island altogether and we now feeding on the remains of the bait Pete and Mik had put in at the weekend. Wouldn't do any harm to move a couple of rods over to the other pontoon, would it? I reeled in the two long range rods and moved them across to the other pontoon. I now had a pair of rods on each side of the island and I somehow felt much more confident.
Such confidence was misplaced as again I suffered a blank night but I felt it was only a matter of time before the carp came back to me, even though there was little or no activity to be seen way up the lake towards the far bay and there was no sign of any carpy action to my left or right. I figured the fish could well be shoaled up off the shallows in front of an old boathouse that stood prominently on the château bank. Little did I know what a huge part this little structure would play in my carp life over the years to come. Here you can see the island in the centre of the photo while the boathouse itself is visible on the far left of the picture between the old oak tree on the lawn and the fir tree that towers over the little building. It is about 350m between the island and the boathouse so there is plenty of room for the carp to loose themselves in the vastness of the lake.
Sunday was dull and overcast, a bit drizzly and the wind had freshened up quite a bit, more south-west weather that would surely take the fish out of range again…
In fact it was real carp weather and they should have been going mad. Maybe they were, but not where I was fishing! I was so emotionally exhausted by the long session with only myself for company that I decided to have a day off and went into town to do some shopping before stopping at a Les Routiers restaurant for a shower and a decent meal. By the time I got back to the island at about four in the afternoon I was refreshed and ready for the fray again.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.52pm
In reply to Post #384
The forecast was good for the night with fresh winds and reasonably high temperatures. But I didn’t know what to expect after one night when we caught was followed by one when we all blanked. As the evening drew in a few carp began to show a long way off in the bay away to the east. It looked as if my fears had been realised, the wind had carried most of the carp with it towards the far bay. I was rather apprehensive that I might be in the wrong swim and decided to give it one more night on the island. If I blanked, I would follow the wind and move further up the lake.
Despite my misgivings I caught a couple of carp, one coming to the rod cast way off to the left in the deepest part of the channel between the island and the château bank, the other on the long range right hand rod cast about 100m in the direction of the far bay. The runs came at three and five o’clock in the morning and were the only takes of the night...not that I was complaining, they were both thirties! I sacked them up to wait for the morning when I could do the photos. (OK. I know the thought police of today will now be having a conniption fit, but back then everybody did it.)
The dawn when it arrived was very red heralding the arrival of strong winds and a few hours of rain. Luckily I managed to photograph the two carp before the rain arrived but then I had to retreat to the bivvy while the rain passed. The weather was not really in favour of the island situated as it was nearer the western end of the lake than the eastern one. With the prevailing westerly wind blowing hard all the time the carp seemed to have followed the wind up the lake, away from the island into the distant bay at the eastern end of the lake a good half a mile away from my baited patch!
The predictable rain, heralded by the morning's red sky had arrived and it pissed down for about 6 hours. I was marooned in a dark, dank sea of green and the rain hammered down onto the roof and the wind threatened to uproot the bivvy and blow it, and me, into the lake! It was bloody horrible and to be honest I was glad I didn't get a take.
Eventually the wind lost its anger and as it did so the rain lost its ferocity and soon the sun came out and the world took on a much rosier hue.
Sitting out in the late evening sunshine, beer in hand watching the world go by, I heard a huge splash that seemed to have come from pretty close by. I got up and looked for the ripples and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that the fish had crashed out just a matter of yards from the right hand margin of the island, about ten years from were I was sitting. I needed no further invitation to reel in one rod and chuck a speculative hookbait and stringer into the rough area of the splash and before I had time to put the rod back on the pod the bait was taken and a big fish set off for deeper water. After a good bit of to and fro-ing the carp ended up in the net. Another really good fish well over thirty pounds in weight.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.50pm
In reply to Post #383
Out in front of me, looking eastwards up the lake to a distant bay, the lakebed seemed pretty flat at about three meters deep while off to my right the bottom could not have been more different. Here it went up and down like an egg box. I was spoilt for choice. I decided to fish three rods out in front cast as far as possible with the fresh wind from astern to help me and one rod across towards the shallows. I planned to trickle bait into the egg box for a few days as a back up if there was no action. See what happens…
We got sorted out by dusk, then cooked the evening meal before sitting back to relax for the first time since leaving home. It was wonderful to sit and drink a cold beer watching the sunset and listening to a few carp crashing out away up the lake to the east. Soon my eyes were drooping with lack of sleep so I climbed into the blissful warmth and comfort of the bag and fell asleep almost immediately. I slept like a log, thus missing what was apparently the mother and father of all storms that hit the lake during the night. Thunder crashed and lightning flashed and yours truly slept right through it. Just as well I didn't have a take, though I should add, I have never ever slept through a take in my life.
It was still dark when I awoke. I looked at my watch; four in the morning. I peered out of the bivvy door to be greeted by a thick fog. The lake what I could see of it was while calm. Looking at the fog I thought to myself, “That’s the end of that,” for I have never done well in foggy conditions. However, just to prove me wrong suddenly, from the other side of the island, a buzzer screamed out! It was one of Mikhail’s rods! Pete was as wide awake as myself so we were soon with him on the pontoon as he took up the fight. Apparently the take had come on a bait cast into about three metres of water some twenty metres out. It was a terrific scrap from a beautiful carp, a big hump-backed grey Italian strain mirror of just over thirty pounds.
Everybody was delighted for Mikhail for it was a personal best. We had a cup of coffee to celebrate the first carp of the trip then went back to bed. I tried to read a bit of my book but I could feel my eyelids slapping shut and gave in to the fatigue. It didn’t seem as if I’d been asleep more than a few minutes when I too had a very fast run. I made my way along the pontoon, through the fog, then picked up the left hand rod. The LED was glowing brightly and the indicator was emitting a continuous shriek! As soon as I struck I knew I was attached to a very good fish. It had picked up a pop-up boilie cast off to the left some thirty metres out. And what a fabulous fish it was, a common not far off thirty-five pounds!
There was no more action that night, nor during the day that followed but we’d had two “thirties” after all. What a fabulous way to start to a session!
Obviously we were very excited by the prospect of the next night’s fishing but in fact it was a complete let-down after the two big carp of the previous night. We all blanked. It seemed almost unbelievable that they could switch off so quickly after switching on so instantly the day before. I think perhaps the weather conditions played their part for it was a completely different night, clear and cold with millions of stars shining in the sky, not a ripple on the lake and a touch of frost on the ground. We were all rather disappointed, especially for Pete who had to leave that morning. He had not had a touch all through the session, but Mikhail and I were obviously very happy with our big carp.
My two friends left at midday. I sat out on the rods in the freshening south westerly breeze. The conditions looked good again; blue skies and big white clouds all puffing along on a fresh south westerly breeze. There was some early drizzle in the wind but that soon cleared up and it was quite warm in the sun. I sat out on the western pontoon with the bins, scanning the water for a sign of carp. There were enough fish poking their heads out to make the heart pound harder!
20 Feb 2019 at 12.48pm
In reply to Post #382
Eventually we reached the island and the two pontoons that had been built to accommodate anglers. They were very sturdy and comfortable but not big enough on which to put up a bivvy. However, there was plenty of room on the island itself. In fact it was mega comfortable and it even had its own WC… of sorts!
I had the big double bivvy with me for the long session and soon I was installed in the absolute luxury and blissful comfort of the excellent canvas pump-up.
It was all a bit hard to take in at first: here I was marooned on an island in the middle of a seventeenth century estate lake that was apparently stiff with carp. How good is that!
Pete and Mikhail had arranged some time off work to do a couple of nights with me. The pontoon looking down the lake towards the road end was slightly bigger and would accommodate two sets of rods so they took that side while I set up on the opposite side of the island. Here the swim faces more or less due east, a bit of a bugger as the wind was a fresh south westerly, blowing away from me. Not to worry! This is Pete and Mik as they are setting up on west-facing pontoon, the bigger of the two.
And this is the view of Pete and Mik's swim from afloat with the Chateau in the background. Nice, eh?!
Soon we were installed on the island. What a magnificent setting! Off to the left the imposing château dominated the view, surrounded by a thick pine forest the magnificent lawns swept down to the lake edge. There were even a few deer grazing quietly on its lush expanse.
A quick buzz around with the sounder and the Zodiac showed a distinct area of shallows in front of the lawn. It was only about a meter deep but the depth dropped off fairly steeply a couple of hundred yards of the chateau bank's margins. There was then a deep channel some three to four meters deep running between the island and the shallows and I felt this would be a good spot for at least one or maybe two rods.
I decided to bait up fairly heavily along the change-over line from deep water to shallow. In effect, this meant that I could fish into two or three metres of water about fifty metres off to my left, while the gradual slope meant a cast of about a hundred meters further put me in the deepest water of about four meters. I dropped a kilo of bait along the drop-off, concentrating mainly on the deeper water and the shelf leading up to the shallows.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.47pm
In reply to Post #381
Excited by Pete’s news that I might be in with a chance of catching some previously uncaught carp, I made arrangements to go over for a visit in late October 1996. Unfortunately I had to undertake the trip alone, my usual fishing partners being committed to other adventures and Carole being hard at work earning a living so that I could go fishing. Bless her!
The thought of spending any length of time in my own company was rather daunting. I’ve never fished in such isolated circumstances, nor for such a long time without company or a break of some kind. I was a bit uneasy about the prospect ahead. To cap it all the shipping forecast gave SW 6-8 for the night of my crossing so my stomach was churning with butterflies as I left home.
The crossing from Plymouth to Roscoff was pretty rough and bumpy with a south westerly gale blowing. On board I met a group of English anglers who were on their way to Fishabil. I told them of my plans and where I was going (though I didn't name the lake) and they queried the wisdom of going to a completely unknown lake, when I would have to drive straight past the known quantity of Fishabil in order to get there. But if you don’t try out new things, you never, learn do you? Starship Enterprise - to boldly go and all that, splitting infinitives in the process. !
The rough weather meant that I didn’t sleep very well on the ferry and I drove to the lake with drooping eyelids. The weather was not very pleasant, heavy rain under lowering grey skies. Not the sort of start I would have wished for. I met Pete and his mate Mikhail at the lake and we agreed that we would fish together for the weekend before they had to pull off for work. Eric got a bottle out - I found out in later visits that sinking a swift glass or seven was the accepted procedure to follow at the start of a trip in France. Here's Pete on the left with Eric the Estate Manager.
Eric mentioned that there were already three English lads fishing the lake so we all went up to see how they were doing. They were not best pleased to see me and even less so when I told them of the purpose of my visit, but nothing was agreed just yet and until I had met the Count their little secret was safe.
By a huge coincidence I had met one of the group before; Roy Williams, an old College visitor from way back. It's a small world. Nige Cobham and Graham Mountain were on the trip too. Good anglers all three of them, so it was no surprise to hear that they'd had a few decent fish, though they were cagey about sizes. As they were leaving the next day I was all for going into their vacated swims, but after a bit of a discussion it was clear that Eric felt we were in with a better chance if we fished two newly created pontoons swims situated on an island in the middle of the 170 acre lake. (It turned out that these had been built especially for my visit so it would have been rude not to fish them.) In the photo the pontoon on the right is east-facing, while the one of the left faces west towards the main road and the sluice outlet.
Back at the car park Eric steered me in the direction of a rather dilapidated pontoon alongside which sagged a rather tired-looking semi water-logged punt about the size of the QE2. If it hadn't be tied to the jetty I reckon it would have sunk.
We bailed it out but water came in as fast as we emptied it. Oh well. We bit the bullet and got on with it! Pete had brought his big Zodiac with a powerful Evinrude petrol outboard so we loaded all the gear into the two boats and prepared to set off the half mile or so across the choppy surface to the island. Of course, the outboard wouldn't start so after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing a small electric motor was hitched to the transom of the punt and the battery was connected up. Even with the size of the punt there was only room for Pete's gear and mine so Mik's went in the Zodiac, and wheezing like a good 'un, the little electric struggled to get all three of us out to the island. This was my first view of it. I was mighty impressed, to say the least.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.44pm
In reply to Post #380
It was the weather as much as any other factor that kept us off the bank of the big lake while we indulged in a spot of touristy stuff, you know, eating and drinking the best that France has to offer and occasionally doing a bit of sight seeing. It was while on our tour of the area that we came across a large French town with a big river running though it and for want of something better to do we tried our luck for the carp, even though we did not know for sure if there were any carp in there. (We have since found out that virtually every French river holds carp to a greater or lesser degree. Indeed, if we'd though to stop in the town we'd have found a big tackle shop, the walls of which were festooned with photos of good sized carp. Hey-ho! You live and learn.) This is a short section of the river in question.
As it turned out there we got pretty lucky and dropped onto a few fish straight away and we actually caught a few twenties. In fact there are much bigger carp in there as we subsequently discovered but on that visit we were happy with what he caught. This is Tat and myself with three nice twenties.
I mentioned that the big barrage was one of three lakes in the valley so naturally we had a look at the other two. The first was as big as the one we were fishing but was long and thin whereas the one by our gite was just big! The third lake was only twenty kilometers away from the gite so naturally enough we visited the lake. God, it looked carpy!
The lake was in the grounds of a fairy story chateau with wide sweeping lawns and thick forests: it looked as if it had come straight out of a novel or was some exotic film set. Further enquirers in the nearby town indicated that, indeed the lake was very private and was owned by a true aristocrat, a count no less! We were told that there was some talk that the lake might open for fishing on a limited scale the following year, so the following year we were back, this time staying in a nice little bar/restaurant cum guest house situated right on the banks of the river we had fished the previous year.
Again we managed a few decent fish from the river but once again we were disappointed to find that the private lake remained just that…Private.
Year followed year…we found new challenges and caught a few from here and there. Then in the early part of 1996 I got an excited phone call from my old friend, now living in France, Pete McDermott. He had managed to get permission to fish the Chateau Lake and together with Mikhail his mate he had fished a 24-hour session for seven fish, smallest just over twenty pounds, biggest a good thirty. This is Pete with a Chateau Lake mirror.
Pete and his mate were the very first carp anglers ever to cast a boilie into the lake and naturally they visited it throughout the summer, each time being rewarded with some very decent fish.
The lake was a completely unknown quantity as far as its potential was concerned and Pete was eager for me to fish there as he knew the lake may not remain open for long as the owner was in two minds whether to allow the great unwashed onto its banks. I don't think he needed the money so who could blame him. However, Pete arranged a meeting between me and the Count, the idea being that we could talk it over and I could maybe point out the financial benefits he might gain by opening the lake, which I would publicise in the UK.
20 Feb 2019 at 12.43pm
In reply to Post #379
CHATEAU LAKE: OCTOBER ‘96
I thought you might like to read a bit about my experiences on a lake I became associated with back in the 90's and the 00's, L'etang de la Poiteviniere, aka the Château Lake or simple the Chat.
This was not the first French lake I fished. Nige, Steve and myself had ventured across the Channel first in 1989 and several times thereafter. However, while we had fished some pretty decent lakes such as Chatillon and Hutchy's 'Commons Lake' it wasn't until we tripped over Poiteviniere that our French forays really began to kick off.
Tat and I had also discovered the joys of French holiday cottages enjoyed some pretty decent gite/fishing holidays and it was on one of those trips that we first encountered the now-famous estate lake that has since become so well known. Little did I know at the time that the Chat was to figure so hugely in my angling over the next fifteen years.
Have you ever looked through a fence or over a wall into a dream-world? You see before you the private landscape of an ancient château; a lawn that looks as if it has been painted onto the surface of the earth, a Capability Brown garden blossoming with colour and splendour and, maybe, a lily-fringed lake where huge carp sport and parade with not a care in the world. A paradise. Wistfully you say to yourself, “I’d give anything to be able to fish there,” but you know that cannot be. For a start there's a bloody great sign baring your way that says "Private"
That is what happened to us a few years ago, in the late summer of 1991. We had rented a gite situated on the banks of a big lac de barrage in western France. It was one of three lakes that lay in the valley of a river, surrounded by thick forests and dotted with the occasional village, the lake was about 800 acres in size.
We had chosen the gite 'on spec' more because it was only a stone's throw from the water that any other reason. We took a chance that the lake would produce carp and while we did catch a few upper doubles and mid-20s we had hoped for better things. Here's Tat with a low twenty and myself with a typical carp from the huge lake.
You can get some idea of the size of the lake from the above pix and at the time it was certainly the largest lake we had fished so far in our carp fishing lives. College was the largest venue we'd tackled to date so to look out on this huge expanse of water - and these pix show only about a quarter of it - was pretty daunting. To be honest I think we did pretty well to catch anything at all! As you can see from the photo the weather took a dislike to us in no uncertain way!
13 Feb 2019 at 12.32pm
In reply to Post #378
We always take alternate runs and this one was Tat's so she picked up the rod and reeled like mad to get in contact with the fish while I got the boat ready. Tat, however, said she didn't need the boat as it was, "just another bloody bream", and certainly, she did not seem to be having too much bother reeling it in. However, as the fish got closer to the swim it began to put up a bit more of a fight and the rod took on a more familiar curve. Was this a carp after all?
It sure was! Not one of the fabled monsters but at 23lb it was very welcome nevertheless. It behaved like a dog on a lead, a common trait when my lass plays a fish. They seldom give her grief and even from over 200 yards away she played this one in like a true pro. I assume it was one of the stockies that went in back in 1995, and that being the case I wonder how big it might be today?
So there it is, the story of my second, and probably final trip to Rainbow Lake. I told you it was nothing to get excited about but from looking at Kev's vids I think Steve's advice holds true today, so if one of you is lucky enough to get a booking in swim 14, maybe this meagre account will help.
I'll finish with a couple of scenics. They don't really do the lake justice, as you have to see it to understand the raw beauty of the lake.
More to come soon!
13 Feb 2019 at 12.31pm
In reply to Post #377
While scouting about for an alternative area to fish we found quite a nice plateau just in front of the mini islands between swims 14 and 16. The rod is not pointing at the spot in this pic, in fact the plateau is off to the right a fair bit.
Well we had brought with us about twenty kilos of frozen, home-made Trigga boilies (barrels) and a couple of sacks of a 50/50 combo of groats and Red Band pigeon conditioner a bucket of which had been in soak since we left the UK. By now it was heaving nicely!
We were going to fish four rods between us and we'd been warned that really strong end gear was required due to all the snags. The only stuff I had in the box that I thought would do was 45lb Quicksilver so I borrowed a trick from history and made up a double length hooklink using this material. I added a fine hair and crimps to hold it all together. To my eyes it looked crude as hell but what did I know.
Hookbait was a pair of Trigga barrels on the hair. Nothing special.
To start with we dropped the hookbaits and a small scattering of boiled bait, some of which I crumbed around the areas Steve had suggested, including one up the channel. We'll tackle a take on that one when we come to it, we thought!
We had 25lb braid on the reels with a snag leader of 45lb Quicksilver topped with a header of leadcore. The lead was attached using a drop off clip and the milk bottle was allowed to run freely up the line to a stop placed about fifteen feet from the hooklink swivel. Was that strong enough? We would see.
There is no easy way to put the following 12 days. We saw neither hide not hair of a carp, though we did see on the bank several bream and tench and a solitary sturgeon. Our eyes were glued to the spots throughout daylight and we kept an ear open for the slightest splash during darkness: we saw nothing and heard nothing. Mind you, we were not alone. Alain in 12 blanked as did the guys in 16 to our left. Meanwhile Tim and John had arrived and moved into 19 where they picked away at slow but steady fishing until John caught an 82lb mirror. This was apparently a carp known as the Briggs fish and it would later go on to break the Rainbow record at 91lb plus for Martin Locke.
We kept the bait going in by dibs and dabs in the hope that there would be something there for the carp to eat when they eventually turned up, but in the meantime the tench and bream were eating everything we threw at them and the sturgeon didn't help either.
It was cold, wet and miserable and come the day of our wedding anniversary we were glad to get off the lake in favour of a trip into Bordeaux where we wallowed in the luxurious comfort of a posh hotel and even posher nosh, but even that short break did nothing to get the carp feeding on our spots. We decided to move the channel rod onto the plateau and moved the corner rod fishing in the margins of 13 up the bank to join the other rod fishing the vicinity of the stump. This was the area that was producing the majority of the non-carp takes, so at least we knew were doing something right, even if the carp had yet to play ball.
Day after dreary day, the trip wound it's way to a close. With one more night left to go we put the baits out one last time. As darkness fell at last we saw a splash over the stump baits. Come on you beauty.
It was fully dark when one of those rods gave a couple of bleeps then showed a huge drop back. Had a fish nudged the lead down into the deeper water or was it an actual take?
13 Feb 2019 at 12.29pm
In reply to Post #376
This is a brief rundown on the advice Steve gave us:
If the water level is not too high then look for an underwater tree stump lying a few yards off the margins of the long bank away to your left, he said. The carp patrol the whole length of that bank between swims 12 and the corner to the right, nominally swim 13. A bait placed close to the stump stands a good chance as does one down in the corner to the right. You can see our two right hand rods at the extreme right of this photo. The right hand rod of this pair we fished down to the corner where the bait was dropped in about five feet of water. The other was dropped just off the stump in around seven feet. You can just about see a bottle close to the red dot that marks the stump. The rods in the foreground started off being fished to the ends of the bars running all the way down from swim12, though one was alternated between the bars and the end of the tree. Swim 12 can be seen in the distance. Alain Danau was in residence when we were there.
Steve said to look out for the branch overhanging the water off the margin of the left hand island. You'll know it when you see it, he said, and told us to keep a hookbait in there dropped at the end of the branch.
There are good spots in the middle of the bay, said Steve. He told us to locate the bars that run down the length of the bay from swim 12 and then fish the end of the bars. As he said, they were easy to find using the sounder but keeping a marker on them was frustratingly difficult, as anyone who has fished that swim will tell you. The bars slope very steeply and we found that the markers just tumbled off the slope and out of sight very easily. Of course if we'd known about H-Block markers at the time life would have been a great deal easier. I have marked the very approximate position of the bars on this pic.
The end of the bars are about 80-90 yards off the bank so a lot further away that it looks in the photo. I would guess that they are underneath the ducks!
Steve also said that there was another very productive spot we should try. It involved a bit of skulduggery, though as it lay up one of the channels just off to our left. As you can see from this photo the series of small islands identify the start of several channels that run into the bay behind them. In order to fish them we needed to shove a bankstick into the bankside at our end of the channel, running the line around the bankstick up to the end gear so thirty yards up the channel. As you can see, it takes an experienced Rainbow Lake angler to fish this one, and being a totally inexperienced we were a bit tentative about sticking a rod up there. The red dot marks the start of our channel…
…and the line shows the course of the line from bank to hookbait, running around a bankstick placed on the corner of the small island.
We were concerned about how we would get a hooked fish out from the channel but Steve assured us than as long as the lead got dropped the fish didn't do much, just stooged around until you got over the top of it in the boat, whereupon you could bend into it and bring it to the boat. Blimey! Sounded very hairy to us, but remember, this was the first time we had been confronted by the challenge of fishing around corners. In hindsight we need not have worried and hundreds of carp are landed in total safety by Rainbow anglers using this trick.
3 Feb 2019 at 2.16pm
In reply to Post #375
When we had fished the lake in 1995 we were as green as grass. Fishing round corners using rollers or over islands using V-rests was yet to be invented and if you couldn't play them into the bank then they snagged you up and you lost them! Now modern thinkers were coming up with new ideas every day. One of these was fishing bottles to keep the line off the bottom. Now that one I can claim some credit for as I had published a scaled down version of the rig in (I think) Carpworld in about 1998.
It was a set up I came up with to fish the Pavilion swim on the Chateau Lake, a swim with a notoriously snaggy and complex set of lake bed features. It bears quite a resemblance to how some guys still fish Rainbow and indeed it was one we had in mind for our first visit. I started saving our empty one pint milk bottles!
The two week period we had been offered in swim 14 covered both my birthday and our wedding anniversary and to push the boat out a bit to celebrate we sailed Portsmouth - Santander and booked one of the posh cabins with a balcony etc. Cost a fortune but it was well worth it as we were treated like royalty and felt like real posh gits. It was our first crossing on the recently launched cruise ferry Pont Aven.
If you ever feel like pushing the boat out and enjoy a 24-hour sea crossing, I can thoroughly recommend sailing down to Spain with Brittany Ferries. If nothing else, it cuts a shed load of mileage off the road journey and it's a great way to travel too.
Mind you, the Bay of Biscay can get a bit frisky at times!
I had been in contact with Steve prior to our departure. In 2005 he had enjoyed terrific trip to Rainbow, fishing swim 14, and he was mega helpful with advice, tips and so on. In fact he even drew me a map showing his productive spots, describing the features to fish to in great detail. These are (roughly) the spots he recommended.
In practice the spots he recommended were easy to find and I think they still hold good today. At the time, however, I didn't feel confident enough to fish the channel rod, which involved a right turn around a roller, preferring to fish the more easily accessible areas such as the plateau, the tree, the end of the bar and the submerged stump. Steve really went out of his way to help us. He is a proper gent! Sadly his advice, spot on though it was, did not help us too much as the lake had been limed just a few days previously, which I know from my experiences at Wheal Rashleigh can have a negative effect on a lake for a week or so.
We arrived at the lake on my birthday and we wanted to splash out a bit before starting to fish so Pascal rang a mate in the town and arranged a nice hotel for the night, where we enjoyed a lovely nosebag and a very comfy night's rest.
The lake looked much as I remembered it from eleven years previously, though perhaps the water level was up a fair bit compared to 1995. Certainly the features across the bay in front of the reception area were nothing like as prominent. Otherwise the lake looked fantastic.
Pascal greeted us with coffee and a sandwich before showing us around. We immediately made a chronic error: Swim 19 was free for our first week as Tim and John were not due to arrive until the following Saturday. Pascal said we could fish it if we wanted to…Like and idiot I said no! In my defence I had no idea that it was one of the 'going' swims on the lake: it was not for nothing that Tim had booked it some two years earlier! But I had Steve's advice firmly fixed in my mind and did not want to set up in one swim only to have to move to 14 a week later. What a mistake that turned out to be! But in my mind I still had visions of catching fish like those Steve had caught from 14 the previous year.
More to come soon.
20 Jan 2019 at 1.39pm
In reply to Post #374
You will recall that in the autumn of 1994 Tat and I had returned to the public Category 2 lake at Brive-la-Gaillarde, intending to do a long session on the lake where Kevin Maddocks had made a film with Liam Dale that featured an obscene amount of carp. Just our bloody luck that when we got there the cupboard was bare. They'd gone and emptied the gaff and moved all the carp to Rainbow!
Now read on: The Horsebox trip started a trickle of interest that rapidly grew into a torrent. Bill and I were bombarded with questions about the lake, as I imagine were Paul in the shop (Bristol Angling Centre) and Mike at work (Essential Baits), while Liam took the phone off the hook and buggered off to Africa! Meanwhile we jump forward a few years to our second and last trip to the lake in 2006…and I warn you, don't expect too much, as our trip was small beer compared to the results many have enjoyed on the famous lake. OK, I know me and Tat are not alone in having a few (fourteen to be exact) bad days there, but if you look at the youtube stuff and Kev's (currently deleted) vids many peeps have some fantastic memories of Rainbow.
A bit of background: Since returning from the Horsebox trip in 1995 we had kept an ear open for news about Rainbow on the carp fishing grapevine and as we had forecast it was starting to throw up some impressive fish. Those little stockies were starting to come out at twenty and thirty pounds plus and the Brieve fish were steadily putting on the kilos.
In 2003 I went to Romania for the first time with Philippe and Leon, a trip I will describe later in this thread. I had a fantastic time there, rubbing shoulders with some of the best carp anglers in Europe at the time including the late Kurt Grabmeyer as well as Alain Danau and Philippe Lagabbe. One of the gents in this photo is a charlatan by the way! I'll leave you to make your minds up which one!
The A-List anglers that gathered in the hotel most lunchtimes made me ask myself what on earth I was doing there, but it was a cosmopolitan crowd that mingled well and we had a lot of laughs. Among the guys on the lake on that visit was Steve Briggs who had already carved out a much respected name for himself on the European carp circuit, and with good reason: the guy could catch carp from a puddle. Chatting away over a beer it transpired that we had a number of French waters in common having fished then one or more times…though not at the same time. One of the lakes was Rainbow where Steve was in the middle of a very successful campaign. Not only did we have lakes in common, we also had a fish or two as well, such as this one.
(Talking of Raduta, this gives me a gratuitous opportunity to show you a photo of one of my all time favourite carp, a thirty pound common caught to order, story to follow sometime.)
Moving forward three years and out of the blue an invitation to fish Rainbow again popped into my inbox. It was from Pascal asking if Bill and I fancied going back to the lake now that a good decade had passed since our last visit. He offered us swim 14 for the last week in March and the first in April. Bill had to decline as these dates fall right in the middle of the European carp expo season and he would be rushed off his feet dashing from one European capital to another. However, I said yes bloody please!
We finalised the dates and Pascal agreed that Tat could accompany me so the first few weeks of 2006 were spent in a flurry of excited anticipation as we prepared the tackle for what would be for us a totally new experience and a totally new way of fishing. At that time there was not much info on the lake though controversy surrounding the rather esoteric ways and means employed by the guys were fishing there was beginning to emerge.
20 Jan 2019 at 1.30pm
In reply to Post #373
Now bug-free Dave had returned to the fray and had set up on a tiny island with just inches to spare on either side. He caught two nice twenties in quick succession. The fish were obviously on the move with the change in the weather, for both Paul and Dave were rewarded for their dogged persistence with a double figure carp apiece. Thruster took a leaf out of the West Country lads' book and moved again, back into the swim he'd started in. This, for two reasons: 1) he missed the social aspect that came with fishing with me and Bill, and 2) to be nearer to the car park when it came time to pull off. Good thinking, in my book!
In the gloom of the gathering drizzle, Bill, Mike and Thruster posed for a pic. It was coming towards the end of the trip and that certain sadness I always seem to experience during the last forty eight hours or so of a trip was creeping over us all. Would you buy a bag of boilies from this lot?!
On our final afternoon a lorry from a fish farm arrived. No less than 2,000 small carp, mostly commons, went into the lake. At the time we thought that in time and given proper lake management we expected these stockies to grow to huge sizes and make Rainbow one of the most sought after tickets in France, though we thought that was probably a year or two off yet. (2019 comment: am I Mystic Meg or what!). Here's a 1995 pic of Pascal as he empties a dustbin load of one kilo carp into his lake. Just think, one of these babies may well weigh over seventy pounds today!
By the Monday we' had enough. The change in the weather had not had the hoped-for beneficial effect on the Rainbow carp at least, not on the ones in front of me and Bill, and the trip seemed to be grinding to an unproductive halt with increasing inevitability. Bill and I pulled off a day early ahead of the long drive home.
Liam treated us to a very nice meal in the restaurant in Hostens that night. We had a few beers and the odd wine or two and discovered that Liam's next project was to be a trip to film Nile perch. Andy said that he'd heard that the jackals were pretty fierce where they were going and he didn't fancy it one bit, so he was planning on returning to the BBC to film Jackanory or some such nonsense. It was good to have his jocular presence with us during the trip. A very nice guy and a good cameraman to boot. Here I sit in the mouth of Bill's bivvy while Andy films the rods. Very artistic!
Sue waxed lyrical about this and that, including the fact that my voice-overs had turned out nice again. Liam mellowed out more and more as the night went on (cough), and with the film more or less finished, he could unwind and relax, which he did big style.
Back to the chalet we strolled in the clear night air. The weather was changing yet again. Outside the chalet, the tall angular shape of the discarded horse-box awaited its call to arms. The return journey was a few hours away. I could hear the Range Rover groaning at the prospect.
Bill and I were returning by a different route, crossing Roscoff - Plymouth so Tat could collect me more easily. Even though it rained almost all the way up to the port we did the journey, including meal breaks, in about eleven hours. It's a bloody long way to Roscoff from Rainbow and that's a fact! At least going back this way we wouldn't have to wonder about Liam and his ponderous cargo. No more, "Excuse me! Have you seen a horse-box?"
The ferry crossing from Roscoff was a doddle, thanks to a day cabin which allowed Bill to get a bit of kip before the drive back to Sheffield. I'd arranged for Tat to meet the boat at Plymouth and, in bright sunshine, we emptied my gear onto the pavement outside the ferry terminal. I still had a couple of beers left so I toasted Bill's health as he drove off. It had been a real pleasure to share such a challenging trip with the guy.
The fates had not been kind to us and to be honest we had no idea how to fish Rainbow properly; stuff like fishing around the points or over the bars using rod rests, playing fish from the boat, things that are taken for granted at the lake these days. I had thoroughly enjoyed my week at Rainbow Lake and would love to go back there.
(In fact Tat and I went back in March 2006. The trip encompassed the dates both of my birthday and our wedding anniversary and perhaps we didn't take it as seriously as expected. Hey-ho. Never mind, eh? I'll come back to that trip soon but don't hold your breath; it's nothing to get excited about!)
20 Jan 2019 at 1.17pm
In reply to Post #372
I slept like a log that night but not long after turning in Bill lost yet another fish pulling out of what had felt like a pretty impressive carp (aren't they all when you loose them?). Then, as if to mock us still further, at first light I lost yet another fish to a margin snag after something picked up one of my inside rods and made it to the unknown snag in the blink of an eye. No amount of pulling or tugging was going to get this fish out so I put the rod back onto the rests to go and get the boat to see if I could free the fish. I had not gone a yard when suddenly the line on the snagged rod fell slack. I picked up the rod again, only to reel in the discarded tackle as if it had never been touched; no sign of fish or snag. Curious!
I went out in the boat to top up my bait carpet, Liam tagging along for the ride and to do some filming. You can see the car park in the distance with swim 1 visible over Liam's left shoulder.
At last, to raise our spirits just a smidgen, Bill landed a carp. It weighed about 14lb, not what you go to the south of France for but very welcome nonetheless. At least it showed that Bill and I were still correct in our firm belief that we were doing things right. After all, we’d now had eleven takes, resulting in two carp and two sturgeon. All we needed was a lump each, and we’d be able to call the trip a qualified success. Here's Bill playing the scamp after the take on one of his two distance rods. Try doing that today…He must have bitten on the lucky biscuit that day! (Apologies for the poor photo.) You can see that Bill is looking to his left where spreading ripples indicate that that a fish had just jumped down towards the corner. Fish had been showing there all week but we couldn't buy a pick up there!"
Liam seemed pretty happy. The daily scripts and the filming was working out well, thanks in no small part to Mike, Dave and Paul’s carp and not forgetting the sturgeon. He almost had his film in the can by now but there were still one or two shots left to do, including some pretty funny nonsense concerning Thruster, Bill, a pair of scissors and a Kevin Maddocks’ haircut. (Once again, you'll have to watch the film to get that!)
The weather changed on the seventh morning, cold and damp with a light drizzle which quickly turned to a heavy downpour. The Dutch lads left for home, a 1300 kilometer drive which I didn’t envy them. Some Dutch lads were due to arrive the following day so we were running out of chances for a result. Following Thruster’s departure for pastures new, Bill and I now had the bay entirely to ourselves but if we thought that this would make a difference, we were sadly mistaken, for our last night was a blank one. Mind you, the sunrise and sunset seen from our swims were often spectacularly beautiful.
Meanwhile, Thruster found himself in blissful isolation once more. No sooner had me moved in to the Black Beach than Mike and Paul moved out. They fancied the look of a large island overlooking the distant club house. It was to no avail and after a blank night they moved yet again, this time to a tiny island just behind the series of gullies which mark the boundary of the Caravan Bay.
20 Jan 2019 at 11.56am
In reply to Post #371
The supermarket was selling fresh oysters. At the time I couldn't get enough oysters; quite simply, I adored them. Sadly in 2003 I developed a severe allergy to them and the resulting food poisoning was so bad it put me in hospital. The doc told me that my next oyster would be my last…it would kill me. No more oysters for me, then!
However, back to 1995 and Bill was curious about oysters as he had never tried them.
“What do they taste like, then?” he asked as we were driving back to the lake.
“Brilliant!” I assured him. “Try one.”
I opened one and offered it to Bill. I watched as he slid the juicy morsel into his mouth. I hadn’t told him that the best way to eat oysters is raw, still alive, straight from the shell! The big fella’s throat worked to keep his rising gorge down. I thought he was going to drive off the road and pile us into a tree.
“For crying out loud,” he shouted. “How can you eat that? It’s bloody awful.”
“All the more for me then” I said.
I ate the lot on the way back to Hostens and left the empty shells outside the chalet where Liam, Sue and Andy were staying. Apparently, I had missed one and as it began to fester in the heat, the smell permeated the house with nauseating effect. The film makers were not amused. What a waste of a good oyster!
We called in to see mick and the Dutch guys. They were suffering once again. After two blank nights following the carp’s departure from the area, they were back once more to hook pulls and lost fish. I have no idea what they were doing wrong but it must have been very frustrating. I can’t help thinking that they were getting sturgeon trouble, but they assured us it was carp that were causing the problems.
It was late afternoon and, having completed the day’s script and recording the voice-overs, we’d got the baits out early to our liking. More for something to do than a planned change of tactics, I’d decided to switch to a prototype Tutti flavoured Big Fish Mix boilie I’d brought along. These were fished over a bed of trout pellets, a complete change from what I’d been putting in to date. Now, a couple of hours later, in the cooling evening, sitting back in the low chair outside the bivvy some four or five yards away from the rods, I glanced down towards them. The middle indicator was bar taut, against the butt section of the rod. I’d had a take! Why hadn’t I heard the buzzer? Because the bloody things were turned off, that’s why, pillock!
(I always turn my buzzers off when I’m adjusting my line after casting out (or rowing the baits out in this case. I can’t stand all the bleeping and so on that accompanies most carp anglers when they are adjusting their lines, it’s so unnecessary. Of course once in a blue moon, you forget to turn them back on again!)
I picked up the rod and wound down, hoping to feel the responding thump of a good fish from the other end. Glancing at the reel it was clear that the fish had gone some distance, straight into the nearest snag. Cursing myself for a fool, I jumped into the boat and pulled myself across the 120 yards of intervening water to where the line disappeared straight down from my arched rod tip to the snag below. I could make no impression on either the fish or the snag. Luckily, the Quicksilver was now on the reel so I could exert a lot more pressure. I grabbed the line in my hands and heaved, cutting my fingers in the process. Suddenly, the line jerked clear and I took up the rod again, prepared to resume the fight, but the line led straight to another snag. Once again I got over the top of the snag and pulled. Whereupon the snag released my gear intact and certainly not encumbered by any carp!
Once again me and Bill enjoyed the warm evening with a beer or two before turning in.
20 Jan 2019 at 11.12am
In reply to Post #370
Mike told us that he felt that the fish were not in his and Paul’s area in the sort of numbers they’d experienced earlier. They were seeing less action over the baits with fewer fish crashing out and little or no fizzing. Mike had kept his baiting to a minimum so as to increase the chances of the hook bait being picked up but it was clear that the change in the weather was pushing the fish out of their baited swims.
But there was still time for Paul to get in on the act. Just when he had thought he’d missed his chance, as it began to get light at five o’clock in the morning, he caught a long, lean mirror of just over 251b. Paul had switched one rod to a new spot in the margins where he’d watched fish rolling as they cleaned up small carpets of bait, which he’d been trickling into the swim for a couple of days. Naturally, Mike’s fish had all fallen to his own air-dried Essential Products baits but Paul kept the Nutrabaits’ flag flying, catching his fish on the (then) new Tutti-Frutti shelfies.
Day four arrived and in swim 1 Thruster was feeling the wanderlust. The under water terrain in front of his swim seemed to be an inpenetrable jungle of snags, the only clear area being at very long range near to another bird hide. Thruster had found this area on his initial scouting foray with the boat and sounder and had marked it down as a likely looking area, using the boat to position all three rods near the shooting hide. Likely or not, so far he had not had so much as a single pick up.
Nor, for that matter, had Mischa one of the Dutch guys who had moved out of his starting position as he felt there were too many lines in the water. He was probably right. Sadly for him his new spots had so far been unproductive. I can only assume that the fish were coming into the bay from our left and we were perhaps cutting Thruster and Mischa off in some way. Seems hard to believe but I’m sure that was what was happening.
Thruster was also now being hampered by not having ready access to a boat. Liam had commandeered the only spare one to use for filming, leaving poor old Thruster out in the cold. Pissed off at not being able to fish his preferred area, in the end, he had grabbed Mr. Director’s boat while he wasn’t looking, loaded up his substantial pile of tackle, food, beer and wine and set off in the general direction of the Black Beach.
Liam spotted him when he was halfway across the bay and he was incensed at the prospect of losing his transport.
“What are you doing with that boat?” he yelled.
“Hang gliding!” said Thruster, continuing on his majestic, arse-back’rds way. Liam fumed and threw things, but there was no stopping Thruster as he thundered across the bay, hidden in his own welter of spray kicked up by his unorthodox rowing style. As he turned the corner and passed out of sight, another boat hove into view, cutting across the bay, heading for the car park. This one was also being rowed in a peculiar fashion, push me, pull-you, one side at a time. If you ever see the film you’ll see what I mean. It must have been Silly Rowing Day at Rainbow Lake.
We heard later that Thruster eventually finished up on Black Beach, just in time to join Mike and Paul in their search for a new area to fish. They’d had their first blank night and, for the first time, their baited patches had remained untouched throughout the night. In the three days remaining, Mike and Paul would move four times, a tribute to their dedication and perseverance.
Meanwhile, after getting settled, along with Thruster now set up on the Black Beach, Paul and Mike were getting hungry. Time for a visit to Hostens to lay in some grub. How do you ask for one of those long loaves of bread in French? Paul asked. You say,
“un bonk s’il vous plait,"
, Mike told him, making an excuse and beating a hasty retreat, leaving Paul alone in the bread shop with just the voluptuous lass behind the counter for company.
Pointing innocently, Paul came out with the phrase in perfectly accented French but was confused when the gorgeous girl behind the counter smiled, drew the shutters, put up the closed sign on the door and advanced with a predatory smile on her face...in his dreams!
Purchases completed, Paul and Mike headed back for the lake, passing on the way, Bill and I heading for the bar. This was purely for professional reasons you understand, for Liam wanted to film the village and the bar, preferably with volunteers drinking a beer or two outside in the bright sunshine. Reluctantly, we allowed our arms to be twisted. The days were getting hotter again after a brief period of overcast and drizzle; now the temperatures were in the mid-seventies, just the weather for sitting outside under the café's awning, drinking ice cool beer.
20 Jan 2019 at 10.52am
In reply to Post #369
The strike was met by a solid resistance and almost immediately the long pointed snout of a sturgeon shot skywards as the grey, arrow-shaped creature cleared the water. The rest of the short-lived fight was equally spectacular, with frequent broaches interspersed with darting, short and savage runs. The fish had picked up a margin bait and it put fifty or sixty yards between itself and the bank on its first run. It was (briefly), one of the more memorable fights I have enjoyed in my time. I say briefly because whatever it was, the bloody thing fell off! I said a very rude word. Things were not going well for me this trip!
Then, as if to reinforce my ineptness, Bill actually went and caught one of the blighters! Not content with seeing me lose what would have been our first sturgeon, he then proceeded to latch into a strong, if unspectacular fish that came grudgingly to the net with few, if any, histrionics. The sturgeon fell to one of Bill’s long range rods, a fish weighing just under 261b. The fish’s tail was broken almost at a right angle, which probably accounted for the unspectacular fight.
I had been experiencing lift and bleeps all morning and we both suspected there were sturgeon about and sure enough mid-morning I had another. Again, the take came from the inside rod and once more I was treated to an aerobatic display which would put a lively sea trout to shame. The fish slugged it out on a relatively short line but, compared to Bill’s dour scrap, this one was all action. Bill and Thruster joined me and Bill dipped the net under the still protesting beast. Together we heaved the long, sinewy creature ashore, placing it gently down on the mat. Into the sling, up she goes…just under twenty pounds…Not bad!
This pic shows the position of the sturgeon's mouth and it is clearly obvious why we were getting so many bleeps and false takes.
Two sturgeon in four hours made a nice picture and I know both Bill and I were very pleased with our respective captures. I had taken to calling them ‘Prestons’, a pun on the name of Preston Sturgess, an American film director and screen writer. Preston Sturgess…Preston Sturgeon…Presonts. Geddit?!
Liam was particularly caustic at this, saying that he’d never heard of him. For a film maker himself, Liam is obviously very poorly informed about the history of the medium in which he has chosen to make his living. Born in 1898, Preston Sturgess won two Oscars, for The Great McGinty’ and ‘Christmas in July’, as well as directing such classics as ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ and the brilliant, ‘The Lady Eve’. By a strange coincidence, Sturgess retired to the Bordeaux area of France in 1950, where he died, nine years later, aged 61. That's Liam told, then!
Soon, the pulls and tugs we d experienced throughout the day ceased entirely and the fish could be seen moving out of the bay en masse. The last we saw of them they were off jumping and bow waving off to our left. It looked as if they were on their way round to see what Mike and Paul had to offer! Lucky them.
News from around the lake began to filter in as I sat in my bivvy ready to write the new day's script. The Dutch lads still hadn't put a fish on the bank, though not for the want of takes. All fours had had runs during the night but had either failed to connect (probably sturgeon) or lost fish to the snags. The paying party had rung to say they wren't oming after all, and off the Sensas Team there was no sign. However, Mike had cracked it again ( knew he would), this time with a big round fish of 31lb 8oz. It was his only take of the night and it came at ten o’clock the previous evening. Once again, the big carp had tripped up on the same spot where Mike had caught his previous fish; he might just as well have left his other two rods at home.
18 Jan 2019 at 3.03pm
In reply to Post #368
Bill, Thruster and I spent the early part of the night setting the world to rights over a beer and a bottle of wine or two. Bill was still a bit despondent about losing a very strong carp earlier that evening but Thruster soon cheered us both up. Christ he was a big guy! In fact the pair of them would not have been out of place in a tag team in the wrestling ring!
Thruster the Forester was becoming a real boon to the trip. A hard nut with a heart of gold, he had us in stitches with tales of his exploits at home (judged, I have to regret, too outrageous for the sensitive stomachs of my gentle readers). How his missus puts up with him is astonishing. Kindred spirits seem drawn together and we spent several highly amusing, not to say, hysterical evenings talking the dark hours away.
I turned in about one in the morning but I couldn’t sleep. Out in the darkness, fish crashed out over our baited areas with monotonous regularity. Eventually, so convinced was I that I was going to get a run that I sat by my rods until the dawn, drinking gallons of coffee to keep me awake. Bill’s swim too seemed to be full of fish crashing out by his markers. I felt certain that one of us was going to get a take, yet nothing happened through the night and as the dawn light began to chase the mist off the water, I returned to my bed somewhat chastened and rather downhearted. What did we have to do to get a take? In the end I realised that it simply wasn’t to be and after a quick breakfast and a cup of tea I dragged my weary bones back to the warmth and comfort of the big bivvy.
I dozed on and off as the sun rose behind the pine forest that surrounds Rainbow Lake, scattered images of what might have been flitting across my mind’s eye. I had decided not to re-bait with first light, choosing instead to leave the overnight baits where they were, just in case any carp remained in the baited area though, admittedly, the crashing out had stopped. However, you couldn’t be sure they’d all cleared off. Perhaps now, with washed out baits and less groundbait in the swim the chances of a take were improved. Who knows? It was worth a try.
I’d just dropped off again when the buzzer screamed out, indicating a fantastically fast run. I struggled to the rods, trying to shake off the thrice cursed sleeping bag as I went and arrived at the still protesting buzzer in a tangled mess. The line was absolutely pouring off the spool of the reel on the middle rod. Picking it up I struck hard…at absolutely nothing! What the...?
I’d no sooner got over my astonishment than the left hand rod was away to a similar flyer, but the resulting strike was met by the same total lack of resistance. There could only be one answer; the sturgeon had arrived. For the remainder of that morning both Bill and I were plagued by a series of strange takes; little lifts, pulls and tugs, the odd bleep or series of bleeps, but neither of us actually managed to hook into one of the takes, if takes was what they were.
It was very frustrating to say nothing of hard work, what with the constant re-baiting and so on. It was clear that the lake’s shoal of sturgeon moved around mob handed and they had arrived in force in our bay, where they were eating us out of hearth and home. Back and forth we scurried in the boat, taking top up supplies of bait and particles across to our distant markers where the sturgeon were obviously making hay. By why weren’t we getting fish?
It wasn’t until we voiced our frustrations to Liam that it became a little clearer. Liam has had a few encounters with sturgeon in his time, in fact, he holds some kind of world record for Beluga sturgeon. He told us that sturgeon feed by extending their lips onto the bait, picking it up, crushing and biting into it at the same time. All their chewing is done at the front of the mouth, unlike a carp, which has to pass food items to the throat teeth before it can chew them up.
We now figured that the sturgeon we were encountering were picking up the boilie hook baits, holding them in their lips and moving off with the bait. The hook was still outside the mouth so that when we struck, we simply pulled the hair through the bait, leaving the sturgeon with a bite to eat and us with sweet Fanny Adams! Plan B was called for. What was Plan B? Simple. Very short hairs on an extended shank hook a bit like the so-called Looney Rig. This had the effect of presenting the bait below the bend of the hook. Did it work? In short, yes it did!
It was eight o’clock next morning when I had a flying run. The night had been fairly quiet but it was clear that the sturgeon were still around as they had been showing themselves on the surface from time to time throughout the night, though they were obviously not feeding. Probably full up, judging by the amount of bait we reckoned they’d cleared up. Then, as the light strengthened, they got their heads down again. The run came to one of the margin rods, placed on a narrow ledge in about eight or nine feet of water, surrounded by depths of twelve to fourteen feet. I think the run was all the more impressive simply because it came from so close in. The spool seemed to be emptying at an alarming rate and when I picked up the rod, the reel was buzzing like a kicked-over hornet’s nest.
18 Jan 2019 at 2.52pm
In reply to Post #367
Some twenty yards in from the burnt tree and to its left, I’d found a very interesting feature on the sounder. It appeared to be a dead tree or similar snag, but groping round with a grapnel had produced nothing tangible. An echo sounder can lie by showing weed and tree branches as fish, but it doesn’t usually deceive by showing snags that aren’t there so what was it? I put the sounder onto zoom and finally found what appeared to be a soft underwater hillock with a coating of soft silt and a few straggles of weed on its top. The snag was about ten feet further out from this hillock and it was clear that this area would certainly be very attractive to carp if I could get them feeding in there. I decided to move two rods onto this feature, stop putting in particle and fish a light carpet of boilies only on this new mark.
And it had worked. Though small, at least it had been a carp, our first take at
extreme range and proof that we were at least getting something right. Then, as the evening drew on and Bill, Thruster and I were sharing a meal and a beer in my swim when Bill’s middle rod, fishing a gully in some eight feet of water some 130m from the bank, was away to an absolute flyer. Bill tiptoed down the path with all the grace of a delicate gazelle (oh, really?) and struck the bucking rod that was already threatening to jump off the rests. The tip was dragged down almost to the horizontal, as a very strong fish set off on a run that stripped sixty yards of line from the reel. It was an amazing run the fish staying deem and making savage line-stripping runs.
Gradually, the fish slowed and Bill began to work it back towards us. As he did so, the left hand rod, now fishing an area of shallower water in front of the point was also away, the tip section pulling right round, almost to its fighting curve on the rests, before a startled Thruster could respond to Bills shout to grab it! I don’t know if it was this extra complication that caused Bill to lose concentration just for a split second, or whether the fish he had one would have found the snag anyway, but that is what it did; one second, going hell for leather, the next second, solid.
(It has sine been discovered that the area in front of what was then swim 3 is snag city, which is the reason neither swims three or four are fished these days.)
Bill tried to pull the snagged fish clear for about thirty seconds, but it was to no avail, so we jumped into the boat and pulled our way across to the snag, hoping and praying that the fish was still on. But when we arrived directly over the snag, the hook pulled free with almost no effort at all and the fish was gone. Bill was devastated, for the fish had clearly been something very special. What was strange, was that we had passed over that snag with the sounder several times but nothing had shown up.
As if that disappointment was not enough, the second take that Bill had on his left hand rod had come adrift in yet another snag, leaving a shattered Thruster to reel in the intact end tackle, the bait still on. Two runs in as many minutes, both obviously from carp and both now lost to snags. It was becoming clear that, as with the Dutch lads, we too were fishing an area that was full of snags.
At times like this, when an angler has lost not one, but possibly two very big fish the needs to be left alone. No amount of commiseration can make up for the disappointment of losing fish. I pulled the cap from a bottle of beer, handed it over and left Bill to his inner cursing. Luck was certainly not going his way on this trip. Four takes and all four had found one of the innumerable snags in the bay in front of him.
Bill quickly sorted himself out, put fresh baits on new hook links and while I held the rods as Bill rowed his hookbaits and fresh bait carpets to his two markers, Thruster got busy with the corkscrew. Chores over, we sat in my swim as the light went, gazing in awe at a spectacular sunset, which kissed the tree tops to our left. It was warm and a gentle breeze had picked up from the south west, which was now blowing straight into our bay.
We’d been told that the fish didn’t move with the wind other than to move from one gully to another, one island to another. That said, we felt that maybe there were a few fish prepared to move on the freshening breeze and hope sprang eternal once again. Bill forgot his earlier disappointment as the three of us made a big hole in a case of beer and a bottle or five of red wine’ I’d bought the booze just that morning and the idea was to take it easy over the five remaining days. Hey ho! The best laid plans!
Out in the darkness, fish were crashing out with almost monotonous regularity over the baits; it was just a matter of time before we got among the big 'uns. In the margins in front of my swim, a dart shaped projectile left the water, silhouetted in the full moon’s glaring light. It looked as if the sturgeon had moved in. Wouldn’t mind one of them, I thought to myself.
18 Jan 2019 at 2.48pm
In reply to Post #366
By now it was gone midday and the sun had climbed to its zenith. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and there was plenty of heat in the sun, even though it was still only mid-March; T shirt weather. Glass of beer weather!
Thus inspired, I sat in the bivvy and wrote the draft of the day’s script, covering bait and tackle. Did you know that many famous film directors wrote and rewrote scripts on set? Today, Rainbow Lake, tomorrow, Hollywood? I think not!
Day 2 arrived with news of another big fish for Mike at 401b 4oz. The bugger! I knew you he’d empty the lake.
Meanwhile, the Dutch lads were suffering woefully. The swim they’d chosen presented a lot of problems and they had been losing fish to the snags almost since the day they’d arrived. The main problem they’d encountered were the snag trees across the far margin to which they were fishing. Dropping short to avoid the snags meant no more takes! What do you do, fish the tree line and loose fish or drop short and get no bites? Very frustrating. (They were fishing what is known as swim 18 today and the snags in that swim are well known and avoided by the regulars. At the time there we no regulars to put them right.)
Luckily for the most part they were getting the end gear back as invariably the fish were lost when the hooks pulled out. One of the Dutch lads had lost a huge fish that shed the hook and left him to reel in half a tree. And what a tree it was! It looked like the Christmas tree from Trafalgar Square had been dumped in the lake. It was massive. How he got it in to the bank I'll never know. Now, to add to their woes, it was clear that all this activity - hauling in snags, loosing takes - had pushed the fish out of the area. What to do? No good sitting in the swim all day simply to loose fish. Move on, maybe? In the end, they decided to sit it out in the hope that the fish would move back into a swim, which was clearly much to the carps’ liking. A change of rigs and hooks was probably called for but at least they were on fish, which is more that you can say for Bill, Thruster and me.
Over in the north east bay, Mike was busy with the film crew again. His big fish had taken at about 1.30 in the morning and followed a couple of hours of constant action, with fish crashing out over the baited areas. In fact, the 40 was Mike’s second fish of the night, as a small carp of about 81b had tripped up on his presentation as the light went. Once again, a popped up fruit flavoured boilie over a big bed of particles had done the damage.
Mike had been baiting a narrow channel in seven feet of water for two days and he’d seen the area cleared of bait during the first night, so it was a racing cert that he’d be on for a fish come the second. And that wasn’t all the action on the second night either, for Dave too had caught again, this time a big ex-Brieve mirror, which took the bait at about four in the morning and gave him fifteen minutes of hectic and nerve stretching excitement. Like all Dave’s fish, this one too fell to a popped up Cream Cajouser readymade. I think it is great what Dave says on the video that accompanies the shots of the fish going back. “I’m glad to say that even after forty years of fishing, after I got it in the net, I was shaking!”
Not content with his three carp so far, Dave now did what I consider to be a very magnanimous thing, for he pulled out of his swim to allow Bill to fish a long rod down towards the area where Dave had been getting most of his action. He was clearly still suffering from the effects of the flu, or whatever it was he’d caught, and he was going to have a night off. Meanwhile, Liam and Andy the cameraman filmed everything that moved (and loads of things that didn’t move, for that matter) and I sat in the big bivvy and wrote the scripts that are on the finished film.
For the three of us fishing the bay in front of the clubhouse the going had been slow verging on the non-existent. Just the one lost fish hooked in the margins. However, at last we were beginning to get a bit of action. On the morning of Day 2, another pick up for Bill, along the same margins had also found the same snag and that fish too had come off. Then, at about ten in the morning, when we’d thought that it was all over for the day, I caught a small carp of about eight pounds from a new area I’d found with the sounder.
Liam piled the video crew into one of the Rainbow Lake boats, which we nicknamed The African Queen due to its rather antique looking canopy, and then the Swamp Donkey powered the film makers across the lake, using a spluttering outboard engine that handily leaked fuel in a delicate trail across the three swims which Bill, Thruster and I were fishing. Any good that?
18 Jan 2019 at 2.34pm
In reply to Post #365
Baits out, burgers frying in the pan and a cold beer at the ready we awaited the fading light with a keen anticipation. The darkness fell like a shroud, in what seemed like seconds flat and the tiredness and excited exhaustion of the previous forty eight hours caught up on me. I climbed into my brand new, never-been-used-before sleeping bag at about ten o’clock and I‘d like to tell you that I fell fast asleep. Not yet I didn’t. I should have tested the bag before leaving home, for it was clear that the zip was knackered and it resisted all attempts to get it to stay done up. I struggled and cursed and threw the stupid bag across the bivvy, but to no avail. In the end, I had to settle for spreading it out like a blanket. Luckily, I had brought my a one piece thermal suit in case of extreme cold or emergencies, very welcome it was too.
Eventually I dropped off into an uneasy sleep at about one in the morning, not before I’d checked on John and Bill. They appeared to be sleeping soundly, which made me all the angrier at the frustrating sleeping bag. I awoke, fishless, with the dawn and wandered down to Bill’s swim to see if he’d had anything during the night, but his dry landing net and the sounds of a deep and untroubled sleep coming from his bivvy told its own story.
I was standing there when I heard a distant screaming run from the corner where Dave was fishing. It went on and on for what seemed like an age. Come on, Dave! Eventually it stopped and, crouching down to peer through the undergrowth, I could just make out Dave striking a rod. Leaving Bill to his slumbers, I wandered up the bank to see if I could help. As it turned out, my assistance was very welcome for Dave looked to be in some considerable pain but he stuck to his task with what was clearly a good fish and, after a very dour and exhausting fight, I slipped the net under a lovely thick mirror, which looked to be about 251b, which had picked up Dave’s Cream Cajouser shelfie.
I sacked the fish, while Dave explained that he’d been suffering for the past twenty four hours with a crippling headache, sore throat and streaming eyes and had hardly got a wink of sleep all night. He reckoned he’d just nodded off when the buzzer had announced the run. He certainly looked bad enough, so I left him to catch up on his sleep and wandered back to my own swim. Bill was stirring. “Any good, mate?” I asked him, though I could guess what the answer would be.
“Nah”, he told me, “though I lost a good fish right here in the margins.”
Bill pointed to a spot just a couple of yards from the bank where he’d put his margin rod the night before.
“It went like a bat out of hell up the edge before it found a snag”, he said.
I commiserated and put a sympathetic kettle on to boil. Thruster came thundering through the undergrowth like a bulldozer. Christ, he is a big lad! Nothing! we chorused, before he could ask. “Same here”, he replied.
So it looked as if it was all down to Dave to save our bacon and, even as we sat drinking the first cup of tea of the day, the sound of Dave’s buzzer broke the still air once again. This time, Dave needed no help to land a very lively mirror of about 18 or 191b, which was put straight back without being weighed. The fish was captured on film by the video crew who’d arrived earlier and were busy shooting a general shot of the lake when Dave’s buzzer sounded. The resulting scramble to get down to his swim and start filming the fight was comical to watch, Liam charging ahead, empty-handed, while Andy the cameraman and Sue the sound engineer struggled across the broken terrain in his wake, carrying boxes and cameras, tripods and microphones and all the other paraphernalia that seems to be required when making a video.
And what of the others? Well, the Dutch lads had suffered all night with the dreaded sturgeon; one of the other guests had caught a small carp; a couple of visiting English journalists had blanked and the two paying guests had also failed. That just left Mike and Paul. Liam was getting worried. He needn’t have! Mike had caught, and what a catch, a lovely mirror of just over 371b, while Paul had missed out on a fish that had fallen off half way in. The pair had baited up several areas along gullies and on plateaux where they could see their bait carpet. Fishing like this it was easy to see which areas had been visited, for the lake bed had been polished clear of silt and the bait was gone on the two spots that had produced runs during the night.
18 Jan 2019 at 2.15pm
In reply to Post #364
This a general view across to the channels in front of swims 2 and 3.
Splitting up the photo I can show you the rough areas we fished. The blue dots are the areas when I placed my three rods. They are between 120 and 130m out.
The red dots are where Bill placed the baits. His longest rod is about 150m from the bank while the nearest one was only about 50m and was placed in what appeared to be a rather snaggy area over which a lot of fish seemed to be present if the sounder was to be believed.
In addition Dave suggested we all fished at least one rod close in. It was between eight to twelve feet in front of us, sloping down rapidly to a wildly fluctuating lakebed. It would be easy to bait the margins rods with a steady flow of particle, putting it in little-and-often, along with a handful of boiled baits to add further to the bait carpet’s attraction qualities.
The particle we always use in France is a mixture of three different ingredients; flaked maize, groats and a micro seed blend. These are mixed in equal parts and about eight kilos of dry blend makes up a twelve kilo wet mix, enough to fill a ten kilo bait bucket once water has been added and the particles have swollen. The beauty of this mix is that it needs no boiling. Simply cover the seeds with water and add flavour or liquid food additives as required. Leave for 24 hours and it’s ready for use. The groats and the flaked maize in particular swell up and absorb water and the additives very effectively. In fact, the mixture almost trebles its weight after the day in soak.
Naturally enough, the boilies Bill and I were using were the new Nutrabaits shelfies. Bill had also brought bait along for Paul Dicks, Thruster and the Dutch guys. We chose to start off on the Cream Cajouser and the Pineapple and Banana, while Paul went on the Tuttis and Thruster on the Strawberry Cream and Bergamot Oil. We also intended to make up a ten kilo bucket of fresh particle each day. Luckily Bill's motor was large enough to allow us to cram about 200kg of mixed bait in among the rest of the gear!
Liam came round in the afternoon to do some recording once we’d set up and got the rods and the baiting up sorted out. This took the form of a sort of video diary, which he hoped would chart our progress (or lack of it) during the trip. Bottle of beer and wine glass in hand, Bill and I did our bit and, as Liam left for the comforts of the chalet down the road in Hostens, which would be the video crew’s home for the week, we prepared for the first night on a new French water. Thrilling stuff, eh?
17 Jan 2019 at 3.49pm
In reply to Post #363
To be honest we were winging it; neither of us had a clue where to start because there were so many features in front of both of us that it was hard to know where to start. It was clear that the small humps and tiny islands were connected by a series of bars that ran across us from right to left and they seemed to continue down into the far channel, which is where Dave was fishing.
Nowadays these bars and channels are characteristics of the majority of the swims on Rainbow. there are few flat areas of lakebed so the choices of where to fish in each swim is now generally acknowledged. However, at the time of our visits the swims 5-12 and 12-18 did not exist and there was certainly no road access to them even if you wanted to fish off piste as it were.
We were also intending to fish a pair of rods in the margins. Putting all our eggs in the distance basket was not a good plan and as Dave Watson had said we could use a couple of extra rods if we wanted to, we didn’t need any further encouragement. Bill’s margin looked very tasty, with overhanging trees and deep water right in close. Mine was somewhat less inspiring and it wasn’t until I’d had another little explore with the boat and the sounder that I found the host of interesting (and very confusing!) features in an around the channels.
17 Jan 2019 at 3.24pm
In reply to Post #360
The channels leading into the bay from both the right and left hand ends could be covered from the main bank if necessary (from swim 5 on the left and swim 1 on the right these days), while two distinct and very fishy looking points leading out into the bay at its extremities were unfishable, due to the presence of a couple of shooting hides, though they could be fished by either Bill or myself if we fancied rowing the bait out a long, long way. All in all, it was a tasty area to fish.
But first it was time for a beer. After all, you cannot start a French trip without celebrating your arrival and toasting your (hoped for) success, so I drove into Hostens for a crate of Kronenbourg from the local shop. It was a glorious day, warm with a mild breeze; a perfect day for a beer outside a beckoning café and I was tempted, but I didn’t fall... Like hell! Honestly Ken, you’ve got the breaking strain of a Kit-Kat.
I sat in the sun while the cafe awning flapped in the fresh puff of wind. The beer was ice cold and the barman chatty enough. Too chatty, I wondered? He was very interested in the new project being run just down the road and wanted to hear all about the carp fishing and so on. I had a feeling I’d be seeing more of the bar as the trip went on.
I drove back to the lake to find Bill already set up so I quickly set up in my chosen swim along from Bill. I’d brought the big canvas pump up Bivvy, which is so comfy it is like home from home. Inside I set up my small table, typewriter and small chair. It was like a green-shrouded office. I'd had brought a ream of paper on which to write the scripts which I had been asked to produce on a daily basis, depending on the demands of the filming and what needed to be covered each day. It was quite cosy!
Bill and I had already drafted a rough guide to what needed to be covered, for we didn’t just want to make a fishing video of baits and rigs and leave it at that. No, we wanted to make it as instructional as possible, passing on the benefit of our own experiences in France over the years. I like to think we’ve succeeded, but only time will tell. With the bivvy now set up on a small mound overlooking the lake, I set up the rods to cover as much of the bay in front of me as possible, without impinging on Thruster, who was to my right and who also fancied fishing at range towards the entrance to the bay away to my right. We had a little chat about it and I agreed with everything he said - like you would – he’s built like a brick **** house!
Bill and I had another row around with the sounder and found an average of about twelve foot at range and also under our feet in the margins. The steepness of the shelves was amazing. Tight under the burnt tree, I found about two feet of water yet less than a few yards away it was twelve feet deep. and just a bit further again it was down to a depth of eighteen, nineteen even twenty feet. So within no more than three yards of the bank the margins dropped from a couple of feet to twenty feet! No way freebies were going to stay in the margins over there! This is a wide angle view of the whole bay with the modern day swim 5 on the extreme middle left of the pic.
The over hanging tree in the middle right in this pic was a spot I fancied for one rod, but again the slope was steep in the extreme. Using the sounder I traced the path of the bar that ran from the left hand side of the island and here I found more reasonable depths between three to six feet along the top of the connecting bar that ran from island to island. Bill and I chose to concentrate on and beyond this bar that ran right across the bay between our two swims. We would put a rod each on the top of the bar in about five feet of water and one each behind it in anything from six to sixteen feet in depth. Bill decided to fish tight to and in front of the far island and also to an area of snags to the left. He baited all three rods with particle and a kilo of boilies over the top.
17 Jan 2019 at 2.59pm
In reply to Post #361
PM for you Rumple!
17 Jan 2019 at 5.30am
Cracking thread Ken - slowly working my way through it.
Regarding the SW scene. I have a few mates living down that neck of the woods and i have ventured around the Exeter Canal and also Upper and Lower Tamar (beautiful lakes and the canal having massive potential for all species)
Did you spend much time on these waters, I know Pete Gregory had a 40+ out of the Exeter Canal way back and also the Upper Tamar held a few gooduns...no doubt some of this may well be contained in this thread and i'll come to it along the way.
So much untapped potential in the SW waters (think it was called Peninsula Fisheries).....shame that the lakes are adjoined or near to Tarka and his mates...
13 Jan 2019 at 3.01pm
In reply to Post #359
Before we started fishing we had a look in the club house where Pascal the owner of the lake showed us around. I found the bar particularly interesting especially when he opened a bottle of champagne. The showers and toilets were pristine and in the bar there were several table comfy chars in which to relax while sipping a beer or two. It looked like bliss as far as I was concerned!
From outside in the car park came a wheezing and a hissing as Liam's Range Rover, now relieved of its horsebox pulled up. I think the journey down had taken it out of the vehicle, which was steaming gently in the April sunshine. Water dribbled from the front of the car and there was a distinct smell of hot metal and boiling water. It would be glad of a rest!
Andy and Liam set to with a vengeance, gear of all kinds started to spill from the back of the car; tripods, cameras, battery packs. Blimey! Liam wasn't doing things by half. Pascal looked on in puzzled amusement!
Liam wanted to do some scene-setting shots of the lake so I was called into action as a model. My early bald spot put in its first appearance. It wasn't until Liam was doing the editing that he pointed it out to me. How kind of him. Until then I had no idea it was there. In my late forties, I had to accept that age was creeping up on me!
Mike and Paul's plan for their swim was to fish at varying depths, baiting several areas of clear gravel in between weed beds that could be inspected at regular intervals to see if the bait had been eaten. Bill and I were somewhat restricted in our choice of swims, due to the constraints that filming and writing scripts would impose upon us. We both fancied the long bay down from where Mike and Paul were to fish, where a nice wide sandy area looked big enough to house us both. This would have been, I guess, what is now swim 12. However, the filming and recording the sound track demands easy access to the participants and Liam wanted at least a couple of us to be within easy access of the Range Rover.
The bay in front of the clubhouse looked tasty and Dave had been fishing the area with some success. He was in a corner swim - swim 4 is not fished these days - and he offered to move out of his swim to let Bill in. However, I think he rather fancied a swim mid way along the bank between the corner and swim 1. I think this would be swim 3 today but if that is the case then it is now usually left vacant so as not to interfere with anglers in swims 2 or 5. Besides, Dave was clearly on carp and we needed fish for the film. So what with one thing and another Bill ended up in 3 while I went into swim2. Thruster pitched up in swim 1. This shows the bay and the position of the four swims we were going to fish.
They like you to pair up at Rainbow or at least fish adjacent closely neighbouring swims as they reckon most of the playing of fish is done from a boat so someone needs to stay in the swim in case another rod goes off. The ones we would fish were ideally suited. The Dutch lads were in what are now 18 & 19 with Mike and Paul in 11, a swim they called the Black Beach after the dark almost black sand therein. Before Bill and I went off to at last set up and start fishing I did a group shot of the assorted players. Here l-r are: Dave, Pascal, Liam doing his 'I'm the director' bit, yours truly, Andy the cameraman and Bill.
While Bill went off for a walk round, I dug out the sounder, jumped into the boats and had a quick row around the bay in front of the area in front of our swims. It was so full of features I had no idea where to start. The area in front of our swims appeared to be tailor-made for the sort of long-range fishing I enjoy most. About 130 yards away, a small island poked its head above the surface. It was decorated by a solitary tree, a pine, its trunk burnt and twisted, leaning out over the water at a steep and crazy angle. You know what it’s like when you see something like that, don’t you? Regardless of what the underwater terrain is like, you automatically think to yourself, that looks tasty. Silly really, but I bet more than a few of you have felt the same at times. It’s like a sign saying, ‘fish here’! Incidentally, one of the shooting hides can just about be seen in the extreme middle left of this photo. This is now swim 5 and is one of the most productive swims on modern Rainbow lake.
12 Jan 2019 at 12.14pm
In reply to Post #358
This is a fairly typical landscape at Rainbow. It's mind boggling the first time you see it! I am not sure where the guys are standing. I think they are on a small island behind the channels that lie behind swims 1, 2 and 5. They are certainly not on the swim that is now called The Island Swim.
The Bristol pair had brought their own fibreglass dinghy with them, as well as an echo sounder and these were to prove invaluable as the week went by. Soon, the two West Countrymen were afloat, off into the jungle of features in the general direction of the north west corner, into which the wind was blowing steadily. It took them six or seven hours looking around the area before they eventually picked on a spot where they could intercept fish moving along the channels in front of them and into the bay that opened up beyond. It was mind numbingly beautiful.
12 Jan 2019 at 12.13pm
In reply to Post #357
I think we were all taken aback at the complexity of the lake, its numerous islands, gullies and bays. In fact there are so many features on the lake that each swim it totally different to the one next to it and should be fished almost as if it were a different lake! In places there are depths approaching twenty feet and less that a boats length is shelves up to three feet. The proverbial egg-box only more so. There are also shallow bars, plateaux, tiny islands, and some of the bars are so steep they reach up fifteen to twenty feet in an almost sheer slope.
By mid morning it was decided. Mike was going to fish with Paul while I would fish with Bill. They like you to pair up at Rainbow as they reckon most of the playing of fish is done from a boat so someone needs to stay in the swim in case another rod goes off. John Moth said he would drop in next to wherever Bill and I ended up.
The Dutch lads were installed in a couple of swims that are now identified as 18 & 19, while Mike and Paul set up on the opposite side of the lake on an area of black sand which they called the Black Beach. This is now swim 11 I believe. Finally Bill and I set up in a couple of swims in the bay closest to the clubhouse swims 2 & 3 nowadays, though 3 no longer exists. John set up in the first swim no known believe it or not as swim 1, astonishingly enough!
Other fish had come out to Dave before we had got there, including a thirty and a big twenty, as well as a few sturgeon. The Dutch lads in particular had been plagued with these prehistoric looking fish, but they had failed to make contact with any of them. A sturgeon’s mouth is deeply under slung, rather like a shark’s and as it chews its food with the tooth plates on its lips, it does not pass the food back into its throat to bite on it, hence standard hair set ups are a bit hit and miss - mostly miss. Often, you get a screaming run, only to be met with nil resistance, for when you go to pull into the fish you pull the bait out of its mouth at the same time. Either that or it simply drops the bait!
A nice beach area, looking out to a long, steep sided island, held Mick Paine and his friends from a large Dutch tackle shop, Dion and Cass. They had arrived three days earlier but so far had been frustrated by losing sturgeon after sturgeon on their shelfies. It appeared that the sturgeon liked boilies, and no mistake. In typical Dutch fashion, a case of beer lay cooling in the water and Mick insisted that we partake…and why not? Mick seemed to think that the sturgeon had moved out, as their swim had been much quieter that night, though Cass had lost what had felt like a very big carp during the night.
Bill and I took a slow wander around the perimeter of the lake. Rainbow Lake is supposed to be 100 acres. It's a very big hundred acres in my opinion and the stroll took the best part of the morning. By the time we got back to the caravan, Paul and Mike had joined us, after looking closely at all the bays and many of the gullies. But if there were loads of features to look at from the bank, there were three times as many to investigate from the boat. As far as the eye could see, small islands and weed beds dotted the surface. I have never seen so many features in my life. Just look at these small islands that partially hide a small bay. They mark the start of a series of channels that run up into the bay. Carpy or what!
These are actually situated in from of swims 14 & 16 (there is no swim 15), and nowadays they are well known for producing some of Rainbow's monsters.
11 Jan 2019 at 3.37pm
In reply to Post #356
Another, less bulky, shape loomed out of the night. “What’s all this row about?” It was Dave Watson, carp angler of the old school and now apparently the UK agent for the lake. We shook hands and explained the situation, but first we wanted to know if the lake was fishing.
“Any good?” we asked.
“Got a nice fish in the sack for the morning and I’ve just lost another into the snags. Now piss off to the chalet we've booked for you and let’s get back to sleep.”
Following Swampers we drove the six or seven kilometers into the nearby village where a nice comfy holiday chalet had been put at our disposal for the duration. I had scripts to write on a daily basis and there was room for a rough editing suite. It looked pretty good all in all. The kitchen supplied Bill his final coffee charge of the day before we slumped down on the beds and went out like a light...for about two hours
Deep in the land of nod and kicking up zeds galore we were rudely awakened when all hell broke loose as Liam and the horsebox arrived. It was pointless trying to sleep further so we leapt up with all the speed of a sloth on Valium, made coffee and breakfast and then headed back to the lake.
What greeted us was breathtaking. A mass of tree-covered islands, little humps and tussocks sticking out of the water, features everywhere. The sky gave a promise of good, settled weather. Dawn was breaking and the birds were giving out a full and glorious dawn chorus. It was magic.
Mike and Paul emerged from the bivvy and then Liam arrived with Thruster and the film crew. They started to film immediately. In a swim in the corner of the bay which I believe was once swim 4 but is now no longer used, Dave and Swampers were weighing and photographing Dave's overnight fish, a 27lb mirror that looked absolutely beautiful in the morning light.
Everything about Rainbow Lake looked good! Had we arrived at Heaven on Earth? Only time would tell but first impressions were very encouraging.
The first day at Rainbow was one of to-ing and fro-ing. We were introduced to the Dutch anglers who were also taking part in the filming. They had been there a few day already but had taken the time to try to get to know the swims better so had not really put too much effort into the fishing. Meanwhile Mike and Paul went for a stroll around the lake before choosing a swim.
11 Jan 2019 at 3.36pm
In reply to Post #355
The journey down through northern France was tedious in the extreme and having been held up leaving Le Harvre Bill and I were convinced Liam, horsebox and all, were ahead of us on the road somewhere. At every stop Bill leant out of the window and asked, “Excuse me! Have you seen a horse box?” The bemused French passers-by would have been hard pushed to make sense of all that if it had been asked in French; the fact that Bill was speaking the broad Yorkshire dialect that passes for the English language up there had them completely stumped.
I will just mention this in passing for any motor racing fans reading this... Bill was driving; I was dozing in the passenger seat. We’d passed Le Mans and were heading south on the N 138 towards Tours. The road ran arrow straight through thickly wooded countryside. There was a brow of a hill about half way down this long straight; you could see it miles off. Strange I thought to myself, “what’s this Armco crash barrier doing here lining both sides of the road?”
Then it came to me. We were tootling down the famous Mulsane Straight, the fastest part of the Le Mans 24-hour race circuit. I remembered the film 'Le Mans' starring the late Steve McQueen, which featured real life racing cars from the mid 70’s. There are some spectacular sequences in the film of the Mulsane Straight, taken by on-car cameras mounted on some of the
quickest racing cars ever to race at Le Mans. I glanced across at the speedo. We were doing 50 mph: the Gulf-Ford GT4O’s and Porsche 917’s used to clock up over 250 mph down this very same stretch of road. Five times faster than we were traveling. As a lifelong motor racing fan, this brief, first hand experience put Le Mans into perspective for me a little bit. Those guys needs their heads examined!
We arrived at Rainbow Lake at about two in the morning, to be greeted by a locked gate. In the thin beam of the headlights we could see Mike and Paul in their Volvo estate down the lane beyond the gate. Clearly that had made better time than us and it looked like they were setting up a bivvy to kip in. We could just about catch a glimpse of the glistening lake through the pine trees. The gate was locked and it was the middle of the night. We didn’t want to cause a disturbance so we sat and waited like a pair of lemons until a huge hulking shape detached itself from the shadows and ambled slowly towards the gate.
A bearded apparition stood in the glare of the headlights, looking fierce. “Who’s that?” it demanded.
Now, not unnaturally, Bill and I were feeling a bit teasy after the long drive. “Laurel and Hardy. Who the **** do you think!” exclaimed Bill. “Now open the sodding gate.”
“Is that the Yeti (Mark Westenberg)?", I asked Bill. "More like some sort of Swamp Monster”, he replied as the hulk opened the padlock to let us in. Here's the S.M. in typical pose taken later during the session.
It seemed that Paul and Mike had arrived ten minutes ahead of us. Of the horsebox and Liam there was no sign. Bill and I were fit to drop; all we wanted was to get our heads down somewhere. A big mobile home parked beside the lake looked ideal.
“You can’t sleep in there”, said Swampers importantly. “That’s for Liam and the crew.”
“You won’t see them for a few hours yet”, we told him. “The guy’s got a horsebox to contend with!”
11 Jan 2019 at 3.33pm
In reply to Post #354
The sound of plates being laid out and cutlery distributed drew us to a small parlour: “You can’t come in here yet”, Ted told us. “Breakfast isn’t until six thirty. Go away!”
Bill growled. “I only want a cup of coffee”, he argued.
“Not until six thirty”, insisted Ted.
Bill was ready to kill. Eventually, we all managed to gather around the two tables set out for us in the tiny breakfast room. Bill and I were joined by a small, quiet guy and the big mooning bugger from the previous night. He introduced himself as John Moth and his nickname, so he told us, was Thruster Mothballs. You will hear more of thus guy later. Paul from Bristol was into Ted from the off.
“So you’re the kiddy on the high seas are you Ted?”
Ted jumped in with both feet. “Do you want to see one of my videos?” Needing no further prompting Ted slipped a video into the VCR. Liam, one of the most prolific makers of films on any subject you care to mention, groaned as the telly showed a shaky film of Ted going through his routine. He wasn’t the only one groaning.
“Very impressive, Ted”, we all told him. “Good stuff eh, Liam?” Liam kept his counsel.
Ted needed no encouragement to boast. Soon he was giving us chapter and verse about how to go wreck fishing out of Pompey. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that I’d been doing that and similar for many years. The video showed a small ling coming aboard. Now in my humble opinion ling taste absolutely awful even though some say it is better than cod. I expressed my opinion knowing it would cause a storm:
“You haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about”, Ted exploded. “How many ling does a carp fisherman ever catch?”
Liam was clearly fed up with the despotic Ted. He wasn’t having any more of this so he explained, in no uncertain terms, how I used to make a living.
“Oh, you worked on the trawlers did you?” he said. “I had a trawler once, you know!”
“Of course you did, said Bill.
It was an interesting breakfast to say the least, especially when the little guy, (it turned out that this was Andy the cameraman), was confronted by Ted over the alleged theft of the sugar spoon! "Why the **** would I want to do that?" he asked. Ted was adamant. Andy was just confused!
“Give him his spoon back, Andy”, said Thruster joining in the wind up. Ted was obviously getting pretty worked up about this bloody spoon. How we got out of there without the police being called in I have no idea. I hope Ted’s found it by now. He was convinced one of us had stolen it. It was only a teaspoon, for Christ’s sake!
Incidentally, much as I’d like to allow readers to experience the delights of Ted’s Shangri La, out of kindness to Ted, his real name and that of his pleasure dome have been changed to protect their identities. (And to protect anyone from suffering as much as we did.)
Breakfast over, it was time to head for the ferry. We hitched up the horse box and the Range Rover let out a soft cry of distress as we set off through the already crowded, winding back streets of Portsmouth in search of the ferry port. Next stop, Bordeaux...with any luck.
Bill and I were pulled over at customs before we could board the ferry. A wide-eyed customs officer regarded the chaotic tangle of gear, bait and other assorted junk with a bemused gasp.
“What’s all this lot in aid off, then?” he demanded.
We explained that we were going to the south of France to make a video about carp fishing. I could tell the customs guy was placing us in the 'Bull*****rs' category. “Anyone else in the party?” he asked. I leant out of the window and pointed to the perspiring Range Rover and horsebox slowly crossing the car park towards the ferry.
“See the guy with the horse box? He’s the producer and director of the film. Don’t ask him about Shergar!”
We rolled through the huge stern doors onto the ferry. A last we were on our way. Now the trip can begin. (OK. I know this is not Portsmouth, nor is a P&O ship, but it's the best I can do to help break up post after post of dialogue with no pix.)
The crossing was smooth and as boring as they all are when you can’t have a beer because you’re driving on the other side. It was enlivened slightly by Liam doing his “I’m the Director” act, flying about the ship filming just about everything that moved. It was Andy’s first trip to France. Suddenly, he bolted from his seat to point at the cliffs of Le Havre looming up through the mist.
“There’s France!” he shouted excitedly.
11 Jan 2019 at 3.31pm
In reply to Post #353
It was clear that Ted was one of those guys who just had to have been there, done it, seen it, tried it, written the book, become an expert at, anything you cared to mention.
“I’m going hang-gliding next week,” I mentioned as we trudged up yet another flight of stairs.
“Well, that’s pretty easy after you’ve been an airline pilot”, said Ted.
I swear I could hear Bill screaming silently with laughter inside.
The twin bedded room was clean and neat but it was, well, basic. I suppose that would be the right word to call it. There was a telly but no satellite and only the basic channels, no movies, no sport and the colour was diabolical and the hand control was knackered. It would have been at home on the Ark but as far as we were concerned it was a waste of space in the tiny room.
It was all academic anyway, as. No telly. No en suite, no kettle. Bugger all, in fact. We trudged downstairs to find Ted. He wanted to know all about us. Where were we going? Down near Bordeaux we told him.
“Oh, Bordeaux, eh? I go fishing, you know. I make films too, videos in fact. Actually I’m pretty famous around here. I’m one of the top sea anglers in this part of the world.”
“Of course you are!” said Bill, who had not taken to our Ted. He was not alone.
“Where can we eat locally?” we asked.
Ted pointed out a nice looking pub just down the road. At least he got that right. The beer was clear and the food was good. We sampled lots of both and while we were eating, Mike and Paul arrived. They too had not been too impressed by Ted’s place! I’d not met either of them before but, of course, knew Mike’s reputation as one of the best captors of big carp in this country. Yet he was quiet and unassuming with a lively sense of humour; altogether far too likable for one of the UK’s most successful carp anglers!
The ice was quickly broken and we shared several beers, talking the hours away in anticipation of what lay ahead in the forthcoming week at Rainbow.
We left at closing time and walked back to Ted’s place. From what Paul and Mike told us, it seemed that we were actually in one of the better rooms.
We turned in but a loud commotion outside drew us to the window. Outside in the street Liam’s Range Rover clicked and ticked as the engine cooled and the car steamed quietly in the cooling night air. The car had obviously been subjected to a fair amount of abuse while a dull and dirty horsebox lay on sagging springs behind the exhausted motor. A horsebox? Liam looked up at Bill and I hanging from the bedroom window laughing our heads off.
“It was all I could get at such short notice”, he complained.” Look what it’s doing to my car!”
Three others got out of the vehicle. One was (very) obviously Sue, the sound engineer and another was probably Andy, the cameraman, but who was the great lump with them? We would find out.
The horse box was man-handled into the narrow alley along with Paul’s estate car, our Transit and Liam’s Range Rover. Bill and I were still in our room as Ted showed them to their rooms. As they passed our door, Bill leaned out to welcome Liam and crew. The mysterious big guy mooned at him! Strange way to introduce yourself, we thought. We bid them a jovial welcome.
“Quiet!” said Ted. “There are other people in the rooms, trying to sleep.”
“You wish!” said someone.
The alarm clock woke us at five-thirty the next morning. I made it down the corridor to the shower in the freezing cold of a March dawn, to be greeted by a minuscule shower stall with a pathetic drip of tepid water from the leaky showerhead. It was better than nowt, but only just.
“You’ll be impressed with the shower”, I told Bill when I got back.
I could not imagine him even fitting into the shower stall, let alone actually getting a shower. Downstairs, Ted was preparing breakfast in the kitchen adjoining the dining room. It smelled good. We went in and sat down at a nicely laid table. Bill was after his coffee fix.
11 Jan 2019 at 3.29pm
In reply to Post #348
I was a bit worried about leaving the van, loaded with thousands of pounds worth of tackle and bait, in an open hotel car park or worse, in the street overnight, but Liam had assured us there was a commodious car park attached to the luxury hotel.
“There’ll be plenty of room in the secure parking area”, he said.
Sound! We arrived in Portsmouth at about six in the evening. Liam’s map wasn’t as helpful as it could have been, so we drove around looking at some impressive examples of south coast luxury hotels scattered along the sea front. Sadly the Hotel Splendide was not one of them. Getting ever more lost by the minute, we turned up one wrong road after another and if it hadn’t been for a house fire somewhere in the wilds of Fratton I doubt we’d ever have found the elusive place. As it was, the police car attending the fire contained two rather bored policemen who gave us instructions.
The Hotel Splendide was not on the sea front nor was it in any way, shape or form as splendid as its name suggested. In fact it was a small commercial guest house tucked away up a dark and dingy side street. To call it a hotel would be pushing it. To call it Splendide would be lying through your teeth!
The receptionist (owner, chef, cleaner, parking instructor) was a guy called Ted. I could write a book about Ted, so completely did he fill our first twelve hours of the trip. Far from living up to its name, Ted’s place was clearly aimed at the lower end of the market and that’s putting it nicely! Putting it bluntly, it was a dump!
The place was clearly devoid of other guests (frankly, I’m not surprised) but you could see that Ted was looking forward to having a house full for the night. He impressed Bill straight away.
“You can park the van down there”, he said, pointing to a narrow alley at the side of the house. “It’ll be safe down there.”
I wondered how safe. Carefully, Bill backed up the van, Ted barking instructions like a mad sergeant-major. “Left hand down a bit...No! That’s too far... Straighten up... Go right... RIGHT! Oh forget it... I give up!”
Bill was slowly loosing his sense of humour as he was doing fine without all Ted’s histrionics. It was quickly becoming clear that patience was not Ted’s long suit. He stood to one side and watched as Bill managed, perfectly easily, to back the van up to the far wall.
It was then that I realised just why the van’s contents would be safe for the night. Bill was stuck inside the van, for the doors would only open an inch or two due to the walls of the alley that boxed the van in on either side. In the end, while the ever more bad tempered Ted stood and watched, Bill managed to climb out of the driver's side window, a task that was under his breath.
with some difficulty for Bill is a big guy. Ted sucked his teeth and shook his head, making his feelings pretty obvious. My mate was not impressed and Ted was now in imminent danger of feeling the painful end of Bill’s fist. It was not a good start and more was to come. We picked up our bags and headed for the front door. Ted was waiting by the phone.
“I’ve just had a phone call from someone called Liam”, he told us. “His trailer’s broken an axle. He’ll be late, as he‘s got to pick up a replacement. Now, I’ll show you to your room.”
On the way upstairs he drew from me the fact that we were off to the south of France to make a film about carp fishing. He had been to France, he told us. Oh yeah?
“Carp fishing?” we asked.
“Of course not, Ted exclaimed grumpily. “For the dogs.”
“Don’t ask him about his dogs”, Bill muttered, “We’ll be here all bloody night.” Too late, the words had already left my lips.
“What kind of a dog have you got?”
“Bill keeps Great Danes”, I told him.
“Shut UP!” whispered Bill in exasperation.
“I used to do that, of course”, said Ted. “Labradors are more of a challenge.”
“Naturally”, said Bill sarcastically. He is touchy about his dogs.
11 Jan 2019 at 12.54pm
In reply to Post #347
11 Jan 2019 at 12.50pm
In reply to Post #349
looking forward to it ken always a good read
11 Jan 2019 at 12.50pm
In reply to Post #349
looking forward to it ken always a good read
10 Jan 2019 at 3.51pm
In reply to Post #348
Liam Dale had been contracted by John Stent and Dave Watson of the company Euro Carping to make a video about the new lake they had acquired for which they would be doing the bookings and the publicity. Bill and I had worked with Liam before when we made a bait video for Nutrabaits.
Hyperactive Films Ltd and its proprietor and film maker Liam was well known as a prolific producer of fishing vids, having previously done several about carp fishing that featured Kevin Maddocks, Alan Taylor and others. Sadly the Nutrabaits vid never saw the light of day but the one on Rainbow certainly did.
As you can tell by the hyperbole on the blurb for the sleeve, Liam had set himself some pretty high goals, which to a large extent I think he and the crew achieved.
If the anticipated fun and frolics that had accompanied me and Bill's hilarious attempts at making the Nutrabaits vid were anything to go by, this trip should be a laugh if nothing else.
10 Jan 2019 at 3.44pm
In reply to Post #347
The cast list changed frequently in the weeks prior to departure. Kevin was coming; Kevin wasn’t coming, Kevin P. was coming, Kevin P wasn't coming, John Stent was coming…no he wasn't. You get the picture? Other assorted 'faces were supposed to be coming. Alan Taylor, The Yeti, Andy Little, they were all supposed to be coming along at one time or another but, in the end, the cast list worked out as follows: Bill and me, Mike Willmott accompanied by Paul Dicks from Bristol Angling Center, the Hyperactive crew of Liam Dale (Director), Sue (sound engineer), Andy (cameraman) and John Moth alias Thruster the Forester, who seemed to be simply along for the ride, but who might have been there to provide the muscle as he’s a big lad. Also on board was Dave Watson (yes, the Dave Watson Carp Society fame). Dave was part of the management of the company Euro Carping, which had arranged a tie-in with the owners to take parties and do the bookings.
Other assorted bodies would crop up from time to time including a party from Holland led by Mick Payne who would be making a parallel video for the Dutch market, killing two birds with one stone. Also from Holland would come the Dutch Sensas team, now with Cor de Man as its bait consultant, due later in the week on a brief recce trip. In addition, we were told there would be sundry other journalists and helpers popping in from time to time, as well as a quartet of paying guests from the UK who had booked the first two weeks of the season. It sounded interesting and if they all turned up it would be crowded to say the last!
The question of who was using what tackle and bait was eventually sorted out completely amicably. There were various commercial interests to be taken into consideration behind the scenes what with two bait firm moguls on board and a third (Kevin) part-financing the whole shebang, but once Liam discovered that he wasn’t dealing with mega egos and he didn’t need to massage anyone’s feelings in order to get maximum co-operation it all seemed to go well. We just needed Mick to behave himself on camera!
Departure day, 20th March - my birthday loomed. We were due to sail from Portsmouth to Le Havre on the 8.00 am. sailing. A bit of a struggle that. It meant having to leave Cornwall in the early hours of the morning to get to Portsmouth in time to catch the ferry. Bill too would need to be an early bird. We twisted Liam’s arm a touch and he eventually relented.
“I’ve booked you and Bill a nice en-suite room with all the trimmings at the Hotel Splendide, a very nice hotel near to the ferry port. That way you can get a decent night’s sleep and be up as fresh as a daisy in good time to catch the boat.”
Fresh as a daisy? He don’t know us too well, do 'e? I’m never at my best in the mornings, while Bill is positively comatose until he’s had at least a gallon of coffee. Add a previous night in the pub and we need an alarm clock the size of Big Ben to rouse us.
Liam continued. “The others are going to stay overnight as well, as will the film crew and myself, so we’ll be able to have a quiet little drink and get an early night.”
Carole drove me up to Ringwood on the 19th for I’d arranged to meet Bill about 3.00pm in the afternoon. It snowed as we travelled up the A35 and I wondered about the wisdom of visiting France so early in the year. Bill ran into the snow around Birmingham and eventually turned up at about four o’clock. We loaded my gear into the van then set off for the apparently super-posh, mighty-plush hotel. I was looking forward to a bucket of coffee, followed by a long hot bath, a change of clothes, a beer or two, then a decent meal and a G & T to round off the evening.
10 Jan 2019 at 3.41pm
RAINBOW LAKE - or EXCUSE ME BUT HAVE YOU SEEN A HORSE BOX? – April 1995
Rainbow Lake! The very name sends shivers down the spines of carp anglers across the world and with good reason. In fact, it has been hard to keep the name of Rainbow Lake out of the news over the past few years, what with the great and the good of carp fishing beating a path to its door, photo after photo of the lake's fabled monsters appearing online and in the press, in articles and videos. Indeed the Kevin Ellis vids have revealed much of the wonder of the lake. There are probably more carp over sixty pounds in weight in Rainbow than in any other lake in the world. No wonder getting a booking on there is harder than getting **** from a rocking horse!
Some of you may well have been lucky enough to go there, while others will sit with fingers crossed in the hope that they will get a swim one day. My own history with this super-lake is nothing like as well blessed with monster carp as that of others, but in some small way I believe I was among those who were responsible for putting the lake on the map.
But first a little back tracking…Tat and I had been on a tour of south west France looking for likely lakes, rivers and gites and after stopping at several likely looking spots we eventually found ourselves on the terrace of a nice restaurant overlooking a large lake that lay in the valley below us.
A decent meal was on the cards and as we sat in the sunshine looking down on the lake, we noticed the odd splash or two disturbing the surface. I asked the guy behind the bar if there were carp in the lake and he told me that there were a few but they were not fished for as the lake was more widely known for its predator fishing. I filed the lake away as a 'maybe' and that was that!
We move forward to the early autumn of 1994. After a nightmare few days moving from venue to venue looking for the sun, we found ourselves once again at the restaurant overlooking the lake, this time not so much for a nosebag - that might come later - but more to fish the lake for a week or maybe two if all went well.
Ha! As if…
When we got there we found that the lake had been drained and there was no fishing. Apparently the local authorities were fed up with cleaning the lakeside of litter and excrement left behind by so-called anglers after the name of the lake became well known on the circuit. This was the lake where Liam Dale of Hyperactive Films had done a video called Half a Ton of carp, featuring Kevin Maddocks and friends and following the video's release the world and his wife had beaten a path to the lake's door. Their resulting mess was the reason for the lake's eventual closure. Apparently the carp had been sold to stock a private lake south of Bordeaux called Lac du Curton. The lake's name was changed to Rainbow Lake later that year when it became a commercial venue and the rest is history...
We skip forward now to the winter of 1995. The phone rang as I looked out on a dreary Cornish winter, wet and miserable, with summer carp fishing just a memory. “How do you fancy a trip to France in March then, youth?” said Big Bill.
“Nah! Sorry but I doubt if I could afford it.” I replied.
“It’s free!” came the voice on the other end of the telephone.
“I’m on!” I said.
“Right. The good news is that Liam has been asked to do a video of Rainbow Lake, but he wants to combine this with an hour or so of how-to-do-it filming, focusing on the nuts and bolts of fishing in France."
I’d met Liam before when he filmed a promo video for Nutrabaits, which never saw the light of day and found him to be a good laugh so if that was the good news what was the bad? I asked Bill. “Mike Willmott’s coming.” Ah! "The bugger will probably empty the place," I said to Bill.
“Yeah, I know. Don’t worry though, you won't have much time for fishing. You’re not only acting as Liam’s personal technical advisor during the making of the video - and don’t go thinking that means anything because it doesn’t - you’re also writing the script. As if that ain’t enough, you and me are acting as consultants to Liam and the crew.
“No wonder it’s free then," I said. "Will there be a chance of a beer or two?"
"I expect so," said Bill!
2 Jan 2019 at 12.24pm
In reply to Post #345
Tat and I hope all your carpy dreams come true in 2019. I'll pick up on the thread soon but first we would like to share this with you:
We always have rib of beef on new year's eve. It's a tradition that goes back nearly fifty years and dates from a time when we had briefly flirted with going veggie. Bad mistake. Awful idea IMHO!
We both missed beef so much that after a couple of years on Nut Roast and Rooshti with Eggs, we decided to kick the veggie habit in style on NYE 1971 and did so with a fine
cote de boeuf
…And that set the trend for us. This year we bought a lovely rib of Dexter. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
While hunting through the cellar to find a suitable red to drink with the beef I discovered a bottle of 1995 Graves, which I thought had all gone after drinking what I believed was the last in the case the previous year. But on lifting a case of a decent but not superior Medoc, I discovered, tucked away almost out of sight a dust- and cobweb-covered bottle of this 1995 Pressac-Leognan. What a surprise and a lovely way to see out the old year.
We hope you net an equally satisfying surprise this year…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
2 Jan 2019 at 12.02pm
In reply to Post #344
Thanks, Forest guy! And back at you. Great win for your team yesterday. You've got one of the best managers in football IMO. Keep up the good work...Nobody wants Leeds back in the premiership!
24 Dec 2018 at 1.27pm
In reply to Post #343
Merry Christmas to the both of you, and all the best for the new year
24 Dec 2018 at 10.21am
Tat and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
See you again soon...don't get too pithed!
6 Dec 2018 at 3.20pm
In reply to Post #341
fab read thanks Ken
4 Dec 2018 at 10.37am
In reply to Post #340
3 Dec 2018 at 3.33pm
In reply to Post #339
That just had to be it. We couldn’t believe the fishing that we’d experienced over the past 48-hours. Surely there were no fish left out there on the plateau…Wrong! In fact the day was far from done with. A common of just over twenty pounds came my way so once it was landed I tore out to the marker with another bucketful of bait. Before I got back one of our rods was away and with Tat sparko in the bivvy the French guys had a scrap to decide who would take the run. As it turned out, Giles emerged the winner and by the time I got back with the boat the fish was in the margins where it was netted by Jose, while J-L looked on.
As if the social side needed any boosting another group of French guys arrived. They were there more for the craic than the fishing, I suspected. As the night progressed, the noise level rose, but we couldn’t complain. We’d had our day and no mistake. If we never had another fish on this trip we’d be happy.
So we joined in the very rowdy party that lasted most of the night, interrupted, astonishingly enough, by a steady stream of carp both big and small for the assembled revelers/carp anglers. Carole now fully refreshed caught two smaller commons, while I had a common of about sixteen pounds. I was joined by Giles and Jean-Louis for the photos. It is a happy photo that always brings a smile to my face whenever I recall those great memories.
By the early hours of the morning we were both wilting under the strain and took ourselves off to the comfort of our sleeping bags. I was awoken by a screaming run at just after five in the morning and with only an hour's sleep under my belt it took me what seemed like forever to get myself sorted out. It was still dark but muggy and warm with a fresh but very hot breeze blowing down the lake. I was joined on the rods by a very inebriated Jean-Louis, bottle of wine in hand, who emptied much of it into my mouth and down my chin and neck as he tried to persuade me that playing a very angry carp in the darkness of a cloudy French dawn was best accompanied by at least a gallon of Bordeaux. After the first couple of glasses, I came to the conclusion that he was probably right!
Half an hour later it was Carole’s turn. We were getting almost blasé about low twenties; this was another. Two more followed, both commons, one each. Was this for real, or what? I consigned the last of our bait to the plateau and its surrounds and we sat back with a beer and a few bottles of wine in the company of our French friends to await the final 24-hours...which just had to be an anti-climax, didn’t they? Yes, indeed! We had just one more carp between us, a small mirror for Carole. To be honest were out on our feet. The party had taken its toll on both of us, though the French just carried on partying.
French carping? I love it!
So ended the return trip to Boffin's Pond. Since then we have both caught more carp and bigger carp but I don’t think we’ve ever had such enjoyable carp. We'd be back! Next up I would like to tell you about the trip when Bill C and I went to Rainbow to make a film with Liam Dale. Has anybody seen a horsebox?
3 Dec 2018 at 3.26pm
In reply to Post #338
It was Friday, the start of the sacrosanct French weekend and the anglers were gathering for the social. Jean-Louis, Carl, Jose and Francois I knew from the previous visit but Tat had not met them before. I warned her about Jean-Louise's charm offensive, which was deployed full bore when ever a member of the opposite sex was around.
The guys had been good company back when I was at Boffin's with Nige and Colin, and it looked as if they were going to be good company again. They set up a large picnic table just down the bank from us and once it was set, copious amounts of wine, beer and food appeared as J-L built a rudimentary barbecue out of rocks and bricks. Then Giles the lake owner drove up in his rattling old Citroen and began unloading yet more grub, a repeat performance of the hospitality we’d enjoyed earlier in the year.
And still the carp fed out there on the fabulous plateau and I added another small mirror to my list. This was too good to be true. We were eating our way through a mountain of chicken when Carole’s next run sped off. With an audience surrounding her, watching her every move (they don’t see many women carp anglers in France) the assembled company was prepared to be critical. It didn’t get the chance! Carole played to the gallery in fine style, in fact, I thought she was putting on too much of a show and told her, “Stop mucking about, and get the bugger in!”
“I can’t,” she exclaimed. “It’s a bloody good fish!”
And so it proved to be, a stonking great mirror, another linear. The gallery applauded, more wine was poured, the fish toasted in fine Bordeaux. If I didn’t have the pictures to prove it, I’d assume that ’d been dreaming, but the action was by no means over. A run, this time from the left hand gully gave me my own personal best common, a fabulous fish of 35lb 2oz that fought like a demon from start to finish, first in the water, and then for a further fifteen rounds on the bank. I’d died and gone to Heaven, surely!
The guys gathered round and snapped loads of photos. Giles said that this same fish had been caught by Rod earlier in the year. If that was the case it had healed wonderfully well as its mouth looked like it had not seen a hook in all its days…and just look at the size of those pecs!
Not to be outdone J-L had a good common...
…while the barbie continued in full flow…
It all got a bit much for Tat who took to the tent for a brief siesta. I knew she would come back to the fray full of beans and ready to go again, so I let her have her beauty sleep.
3 Dec 2018 at 3.17pm
In reply to Post #337
The afternoon remained hot and sunny. At the hypermarket I had bought a stack of barbecue grub and several bottles of bottles of wine but the carp seemed determined to keep us hungry, if not themselves! The rod on the shallows produced an eighteen pound common for me while I was cooking the steaks, then Carole had another small common of about eleven pounds from the right hand gully. When a further five doubles came our way we thought the kindergarten had arrived…Enough is enough; this was hard work so we pulled the rods in so we could eat in peace! I guess that will sound weird to some of you but the fish ain't everything!
Refreshed and ready for more, I topped up the bait carpet and the rods went out once more. Night fell and it seemed as if the fish had eaten their fill. A few hours went by before yet another pristine common came along for Tat.
Strangely, though conditions were identical to the previous night, after Tat's fish it went dead and we spent the majority of the dark hours in fishless anticipation. I’d just dropped off to a proper sleep when I had a run. Dawn was an hour or so away when one of the plateau rods had a take. Another furious fight, another fabulous fish, another thirty plus common for me. While I was weighing it the other rods on the plateau was away. I popped my common into a sack while Tat ran to hit the run. Here's the thirty photographed after the commotion that followed Tat's run was over and done with. (This fish was actually deemed worthy to be used as a cover shot for Carpworld.)
Now it was Tat's turn to shine big style. This one really gave her the run around, mostly on a long line in the deep water towards the middle of the lake. At last she got in to the edge and I sank the net under it. What a fish…a magnificent gurt big common. We looked at each other and burst out laughing. When it all comes right in France, it REALLY comes right.
…and just look at the girth on it!
Lunch! Time for a for a beer, a bottle of white wine for Tat and maybe a bottle of Champagne or something. We reeled in and walked up to the village to celebrate a new personal best for Our Lass. For some reason this took us longer than expected and by the time we got back to the swim we had company.
3 Dec 2018 at 3.13pm
In reply to Post #336
Sure enough, I was still rebaiting the rod on which I had lost the fish when Tat had another run, this time on the right hand rod cast well off to the side of the gully. Putting a hookbait well off the main bat carpet is a tactic we often use as it can sometimes trip up loners that like their own company and do not appreciate being crowded out by hordes of smaller fish all battling over dinner.
The fish took off on a steaming run belting up the lake to her right, heading for the dam wall like the hounds of hell were after it before kiting in towards the margins about 120 yards away. Now it was my turn to run up the bank and this time I took one of the oars and thrashed the margins to a foam with its blade. This seemed to do the trick and the fish headed out into deeper water again. Slowly but surely Tat worked the fish in towards the net and I scooped it up first time of asking. It was another lovely great linear, three pounds lighter than her first. This was getting silly!
In fact, this was fishing beyond our wildest dreams. Here we were landing fish of a size and quality we could never have imagined back in deepest, darkest Cornwall when we had been catching doubles and low twenties at College and Rashleigh.
Out I went again, rowing like a madman to bait up the plateau and gullies leading to it. By now it was clear that there were loads of fish in the general area and we didn't want them to drift off for lack of free food. I unloaded half a bag of Frolic, a jumbo tin of sweetcorn and a couple of kilos of boiled baits onto the area around the plateau. We were going to run out of boiled bait at this rate so we spent a tedious hour cutting each bait into quarters to make it go further.
The sun continued to beam down on us with the temperature pushing thirty degrees. It was a perfect autumn afternoon; sun, beer, wine and carp, and what carp! Here's a lovely common from the plateau. Could life get any better?
3 Dec 2018 at 3.10pm
In reply to Post #335
At first light we re-baited the rods and I took to the boat to top up the bait on the plateau. The marker was miles away down the lake to our right, obviously moved by that first furious charge of my common. It was easy enough to find the feature again by the landmarks I had taken, so I popped the marker back in place and baited the area liberally with boiled baits. I’d no sooner got back to the shore when I had a blistering run from a rather tatty scattered/linear mirror that took a bait fished on the top of the plateau. They must have been feeding while I baited up over their heads.
We were going to need groundbait after all if this carried on. The daylight blossomed to a sun-kissed morning. It became hotter and hotter and soon the wind picked up again from the south. I wanted to anticipate their arrival today, so I rowed a bait up towards the shallows where the fish had shown the previous afternoon, before sitting down in the shade of the poplars to enjoy a breakfast of French bread, Camembert and garlic sausage. Very anti social!
As the morning passed by a couple of local carp anglers that we'd met in May called in to see us on their way to another lake not far away. They were happy to hear that we had caught but were a bit surprised as they said that for the past couple of months the lake had been a bit moody. They put the improvement down to the moon! Yes, they were quite serious, and why not: I know of quite a few French anglers who firmly believe that the phases of the moon influence the fishing and these guys were adamant that the last quarter was by far the best. They French guys left but said that they would be returning at the weekend as there was a fish-in planned at the lake. I liked the sound of that!
It looked as if the lake had died on us for the time being, so, leaving Carole on the rods, I drove into town to try and get some groundbait ingredients. Would you believe it? They’d sold out! I bought a bag of Frolic and some jumbo-sized tins of sweetcorn, but wasn’t happy: the bream would play merry hell with that.
It took me an hour or so to do the shopping. While I was at the checkout I had a strange premonition. I can’t explain it but Carole often cracks a fish out when she’s on her own while I’m away on some errand or other. I couldn’t get out of the hypermarket quickly enough and I drove back to the lake as fast as I could. Sure enough, as I pulled up onto the grass behind the swim Carole came across to meet me, hopping up and down with excitement. “Where the hell have you been?” she demanded.
“Shopping! What have you caught?”
“A sodding great thirty three pound linear mirror!” she replied, beaming all over her face. “My personal best!”
The fish had taken about half an hour previously, just when I’d been queuing in the hypermarket feeling odd about something!
We did the photos in the bright afternoon sunlight. What a magnificent fish! And it was just a start…!
Tat had just put back the big linear, which actually weighed 34lb 2oz, when I had a run from a fish that I managed to bump off almost straight away. Clearly they were stacked up out there and I just knew that we'd get some more action imminently. The fizzing and bubbling out there looked like a Jacuzzi!
28 Nov 2018 at 4.17pm
In reply to Post #334
Carole picked up her run, struck and was greeted by dour but not frantic resistance. She said, “I’m going to need that net before you, I reckon.” She was right. In a few minutes she had worked the fish into her feet where it lay, beaten awaiting the net. Carole hoisted her prize ashore, sacked it quickly, then came back in time to net my carp, now almost finished with its antics. Now we had two fish on the bank, Carole’s a very pretty 19lb 4oz common, mine a blistering near-thirty pound (29lb 40z to be precise) common. What a scrap it put up. I wondered what a big thirty or, dream on, a forty might scrap like! I sacked it for it's dawn appointment with the camera.
We sat in the bivvy in the warm light of the strip lamp and drank a toast to the first twenty of the trip. Was it a portent of things to come? We certainly hoped so. That was not our only action of that night and carp continued to splash occasionally out in the darkness. I felt it was only a matter of time before we had another fish, and sure enough, at five o’clock in the morning I lost a fish that felt like a good lump - don’t they all. It took a bait off the plateau, a feature that was plainly fast becoming a hot spot. Then just as the dawn was breaking, Carole had a take on a rod that was fishing in the gully to the left of the plateau, a nice upper double mirror.
28 Nov 2018 at 3.34pm
In reply to Post #333
Darkness fell quite quickly, a brilliant red sun lighting up the sky on the western horizon behind us. It foretold a hot day tomorrow, thank God! Sure enough, as the sun set, the wind died away to no more than a zephyr of directions breeze. The carp seemed to have left the shallow bay off to our left, and the only fish showing were the hundreds of thousands of small fry dimpling the surface as the light went. It was eerily still and silent; not a man made sound nor natural noise to be heard. No birds, no insect noise, nor traffic or tractor, cough or cry. Almost total silence. Very spooky. How many times have you heard perfect silence? if there is such a thing.
The night chill sent us early to the shelter of the big canvas bivvy, where coffee laced with local Cognac quickly dispelled the cold. The night fell completely and the creatures of the dark hours began to show signs of life. A few rats, or maybe coypu scurried about in the thick bankside undergrowth. An owl hooted far off above a distance maize crop. The ubiquitous French dog that always seems to turn up wherever we go began its weary bark Would this one go on all night, as others had on different waters?
And then the carp began to feed...!
It was just after four in the morning when one of the rods cast onto the plateau gave a single bleep. We had tossed a coin for the first run and as I had won the toss, this was my take, if it developed. I was at the rods quickly. The indicator on the rod that had signaled the interest was a fraction lower than the others. I felt the line but there was no tension, nor any significant slack. A line-bite, perhaps? I gave it a few minutes then decided there was nothing to it. I’d just returned to the warmth of my sleeping bag when the same buzzer bleeped again. I had an awful feeling that I knew what was going on; bloody bream!
I was lying in the darkness of the bivvy cursing the slimy buggers when the `bream` took off on a flier. By the time I’d struggled to the rod to find the line pouring from the reel. I picked up the rod and struck; it was almost wrenched from my grip as a very strong fish took exception to my action. The carp - it was certainly no bream! - set off into the night, tearing away to my right, heading for the barrage as if the hounds of hell were at its heels. I could make no impression on that fish at all, and was rapidly loosing control of the fight. I’d have liked to follow the fish down the bank to my right, but the big oaks at the water’s edge made this impossible. I had no option but to hold on and hope for the best.
On and on the fish ran, tireless and brutishly powerful. If it carried on like this I would loose it for sure. By now Carole had joined me at the rods. There was only one thing for it. “Can you get some rocks or stones and get away down the bank there and heave ‘em in? This fish will shred me off on the bankside the way it's going.” I asked her in desperation. Still the fish ran, the rod arched around almost parallel with the water, pounding off towards a distant goal. A few moments later I heard some light splashes. “Use stones, not fairy dust!” I shouted in exasperation. “I can only find grit,” came a faint reply. But the grit seemed to do the trick. Suddenly the line began to angle out from the near bank towards the center of the lake as the fish changed direction. The headlong dash slowed and then stopped and at last I felt as if I had some say in the matter. I pumped and gained line; pumped again. Slowly the fish came back towards my bank. I put the torch on to illuminate the net at my feet and as I did so the other rod on the plateau was away.
28 Nov 2018 at 3.27pm
In reply to Post #332
A fresh warm wind, a feeding wind, was ruffling the surface and the sun was now peeking through the clouds with growing intensity. At last things were going our way.
From the bar we drove across the grassy banks surrounding the lake and pulled the little Renault into the area behind the swim where Nige had fished in June, which we had called The Point. We had the lake to ourselves so we set up and then I went out in the boat for a scout around with the echo sounder. The swim is marked with a small red dot in this graphic. (This is a modern image. The swimming pool and the dam surrounding it were not there when we first fished Boffin's.)
I found a very interesting feature about eighty yards from the bank where a small plateau curved gently up from the bottom. It was about twelve feet to the top of the plateau, about fifteen to eighteen feet to the surrounding lake bed. It seemed to be about two or three square yards in size, almost square, rather like a dining table set out below the surface. I placed a marker at the back of the plateau and extended the area of search, using the marker as a reference point. Circling outwards from the plateau I found two gullies about a foot deeper, leading towards the plateau from the north and the south. The Grey Line function on the sounder told me that the main lake bed was covered with soft silt about a foot thick, but the silt on top of the plateau was only an inch or so deep, the sounder revealing that the bottom was mainly hard-packed gravel or stone. It cried out to be fished so I jotted down a couple of rough intersecting landmarks in case a fish moved the marker…and pretty rough they are as you can see.
This tactic must seem so old hat these days, what with GPS-enabled sounders and bait boats, but I am an old salty dog taught to take land bearings from an early age!.
We fancied using groundbait on the plateau and in the gullies and there was a big supermarket not far away where I would be able to buy maize, millet and canary seed, and of course Frolic dog food, which was rapidly acquiring legendary status as a must-have part of any baiting campaign. However, in the meantime we decided to fish only with boilies and judge whether we needed groundbait after that. I rowed back to the plateau with about two kilos of boilies - shelfies, pure fishmeals and some birdy/fish home mades - and then we cast two of our four rods out onto the feature. As usual Carole and I fished four rods between us. We would take alternate runs, regardless of whose rod got the run…First get your run!
The other two rods were cast out to the gullies so as to cover both sides of the approach to the plateau, one in each gully, a cast of about seventy yards. These two rods were baited with stringers only in the hope that carp leaving or arriving at the plateau would be tempted by the meager offering. It is surprising how often this little trick works. We knew that some pretty cute anglers had fished the lake - Rod and Dave to name but two - so we added a extra dimension to the presentation; we fished two baits on the hair and the stringer was made up of three or four separate pairs of baits. This would leave individual pairs of freebies on the lake bed and we hoped the fish would wolf down the double bait hookbait without suspicion.
As we sat and ate the curry, washing it down with several bottles of beer. A few fish began to crash out at the top end of the lake towards which the breeze was blowing. I was tempted to move at least one rod to cover this area, but that meant rowing the bait up to the spot where the fish were showing. I thought that this would be a self defeating exercise as the boat would probably spook the fish from the shallow water. Anyway, if I knew my French weather, the wind would go down with the sun, and the fish would move out of the shallow bay, passing close by our baited area as they did so.
28 Nov 2018 at 3.24pm
In reply to Post #331
So there we were on Pete's lake, catching only smalls and being deafened by the frogs and threatened by the snakes! We were only a few hours away from Arnout's lake so we had pulled off Pete's lake and driven south for what seemed like hours until we reached the outskirts of a town. Crossing a slow-flowing river, we set off through fields of nodding sunflowers, along a winding back road until we came to the lake itself.
First impressions? Heaven! Nestling in a quiet valley the lake sits in peaceful solitude among fields of maize and corn. The village appears unchanged since before the revolution and the lake, about twenty five acres of it, nestles among its surrounding poplar trees and gentle slopes like a jewel in Paradise’s crown.
I’d love to be able to tell you that we caught stacks of fish, but as you may have read in the earlier posts that would be a lie. But it was enough simply to be on the lake. I learned later it was known by the Brits who fished it regularly as the Boffin's Lake, more normally just Boffin's. The local anglers were friendly and more welcoming than any we’d previously met - and that’s saying something - and though Colin blanked and I caught only one fish, albeit a magnificent linear mirror, it didn’t seem to matter one jot. Nige, as usual picked the only swim on the entire lake that contained any carp and did well, as usual. His top fish was a mirror of just over thirty pounds. Jammy git! That trip really fired up the blood and I kept going on about it to Tat throughout the following months. "About time you got your arse in gear and took me down there, then," she demanded. I needed no further asking as I had been gagging to get back there. So it was that Carole and I made plans to fish Boffin's in September 1995.
The lake lies less than a hundred miles from the Spanish border so we took a couple of days on the road to get down there. The weather all the way down was changeable so we stayed for a night at the small hotel by the river we had fished previously where Tat had caught her PB.
Not at all disheartened by the weather, Carole and I did the sight-seeing bit, eating and drinking well as we made our way slowly south through the hills and forests of central France. The rain caught up with us at Uzerche so we again stopped at a small hotel just outside the town on the banks of the R.Vezere, which was running high, fast and coloured. However, it looked a very good prospect for some river carping so the area was filed away with a view to a future visit. From the hotel I rang the bar overlooking Boffin's: “What’s the weather doing where you are? I asked.
“Il y’a un petite soleil timide,” replied Giles, the owner.
“A shy little sun?” I thought to myself. “What on earth’s he talking about?”
Next morning, the `shy sun` had reached Uzerche and a glimpse at the weather forecast for the next few days in the newspaper told us it was set fair for the next week or so. A few hours later, by way of a meandering series of D-roads heading steadily south west, we arrived at the bar. The sun was blazing down and the shy little sun was now as bold as brass. We had a beer and Giles brought us up to date about what had been happening on the lake. From the bar we looked down on the full panorama of the lake, glinting in the sunlight in the valley below. After the summer heat the level was slightly down from our visit in June, but Giles told us that it would soon be back to normal as the recent heavy rain had filled the streams that fed the lake, which were running high and fast. A rainbow kissed the far bank by the road. Was this a sign that we should fish there? Nah! I wanted to fish the swim where Dave and Nige had done so well.
28 Nov 2018 at 3.22pm
In reply to Post #330
BOFFIN'S POOL: SEPT ‘95.
If you have followed this tale so far, especially the more recent posts detailing the start of our French journeys, you will note that for a little old Cornish buoyo, used to catching doubles and the odd low twenty - if you were lucky - my early trips to France had been very successful by my comparatively low standards. True, College held a single biggie of just over thirty (which I caught in 1983!), and there was a few twenties to go at, but to catch mid to upper twenties, a scattering of thirties and even a low forty was something very special for a Cornish carper.
So let's have a brief recap of 1994, a year that will always be infamous in my memory. France had been pretty kind to me and Tat since our first visit in 1988, but that all changed with 1994. That year carved an indelible black mark on our previously successful sorties to France. To say that it was not our best year’s fishing, both at home and abroad, is putting it mildly. I suppose you could sum up how bad it was by the fact that up until the early autumn of 1994 we had caught between us just nineteen carp in the UK and in France. Undaunted and in the hope that French carping would come to our rescue, in September of ’94 we set off once again in search of golden carp in France…Well, that was the plan at any rate.
It was a nightmare of a trip! We had twenty-five days holiday saved up and we spent nineteen of them driving over 2,000 miles in the pouring rain, along the motorways, N-routes and back roads of France in a vain attempt to find either a river that wasn’t flooded, a lake that wasn’t being emptied and a sun that wasn’t constantly obscured by cloud. The former two we never found; the later we found only when we went out on deck as the ferry left France, six days ahead of our planned departure date. We were shattered, worn out and defeated by the remorseless downpours, a leaking tent, a car accident, a spell in hospital for me, and not a single carp to our credit. To rub it in, the sun shone down blissfully for the entire six hour ferry crossing, adding a rather pathetic brownish glow to our normal pallor. When we went into the pub that evening they said, “You’ve got nice tans. The weather must have been lovely.” I felt like screaming. That was 1994. Goodbye and good riddance!
The following year I went back to France with Colin and Nige, a trip described in the immediately preceding posts. We’d been told about a lake in the Vendee by my friend Pete McDermott had heard about. We met up with Pete and his pal Mikhail in mid-June and struggled to catch four decent fish between us. The lake Pete put us on was as wild and dramatic as anything you’d find in a South American jungle with mossies the size of small helicopters, wasps, hornets and snakes. It was more like an SAS survival course. In the end it became too much for all of us and when the snakes started coming into our bivvies we just knew it was time we looked elsewhere.
At the 1994 Pyramid Bait and Tackle Carp Exhibition held at Hooten in Holland I was told the name of a lake that supposedly held some good fish. Arnout, the guy who put me on to the lake told me that he had not fished it himself as it didn’t hold big enough fish for him! “There are no fish over twenty kilos,” he told me. “No good for Dutch carp anglers. There are plenty of twenties and thirties, though.”
“Do none of the of the Dutch carp men fish it, then?" I asked.
“I doubt it,” he replied. “They are after bigger stuff than twenties and thirties. It's the lake Hutchy and Annie have been fishing the past couple of years.”
I'd been searching for this venue for the past couple of years. Had I now dropped onto it like a lucky bugger? Puzzled by this somewhat dismissive attitude I filed the name of the lake away in my mind for a possible visit next time we were in the area.
28 Oct 2018 at 2.55pm
In reply to Post #326
(As it turned out Tat and I enjoyed several; trips back to the lake and for several years I ran a French/English syndicate on the lake. The membership included both Dave Ball and Rod, Mally, Speedy Bill and the Thames river carpers, Big Bill, Bri Skoyles and a few other Yorkies plus a few well trusted Cornios. We enjoyed some of the best fishing imaginable, but all good things come to an end. A team of French fish thieves were about to plunder the lake's stock of carp to line the pockets of an unscrupulous bar steward. The syndicate was disbanded in 1999. The lake has now been taken over by a new owner and once again fishing is available. Sadly the stock is not what it once was but we have hopes that it may one day return to its former glory. I doubt if Tat and I will return but Nige and his better half still visit the lake from time to time.)
Coming up the tale of Tat's first visit to the lake, several PBs, lots more great food, wonderful company and incredible fishing.
28 Oct 2018 at 2.54pm
In reply to Post #325
"Sadly for me and Colin it looks as if the carp have had enough of the commotion on the bank and in the weed and have legged it. Not seen sight nor sound of one for the best part of twenty-four hours now. This is the swim that was alight at the weekend, yet it seems devoid and empty now. Perhaps there were too many fish caught in a relatively small area of what is a fairly big lake. Perhaps they've gone off to sulk somewhere. Certainly there's nothing here but water and weed. Hey-ho…it's very frustrating. I don't think Colin's up for a move as it would be his seventh in six days but I might shift if nothing happens tonight. But it's a fabulous day and if you forget the fishing, then everything's perfect bliss. As Colin said, if you are going to blank, you couldn't ask for a much nicer place to do so.
"Nige is in for a bit of a shock in a minute. He's got to go up to the café to pay his bar bill. He's looking a bit shaky but then, I don't suppose I'm looking too perky. It's now coming up to a quarter to ten, Monday morning, and hope is doing its best to spring eternal but it's having a bloody hard job! The well of optimism is running dry on this bank. Nige is obviously firing on all six, but over here...? Hey-ho, can't be helped. Speak to you later in the day. Bye for now."
"It's now Monday night about eleven, and it's going to be our last. I'm living in hope more than expectation. I don't think we're going to score now. There's an east wind blowing away from us and if the fish hadn't spooked from our area after the weekend, I'm sure the strength of the breeze will push them away. A good angler, keen and at the start of his trip, would move with the breeze but I'm knackered and looking forward to a good night's sleep. It's been thirty-five, thirty-six degrees today. Roasting hot, far too hot for carp fishing.
"We decided over dinner to call it a day and head back to the barrage where Pete's still fishing; spend the last night with him. So this is our last night here. This has been without doubt the best trip I've been on with the lads. Yeah, the best ever. I've had three runs, landed one eight pounder at the barrage and a gorgeous linear down here that looked almost like a College fish. Beautiful. But that big linear seems a long time ago now and with twelve hours still to go maybe, just maybe, something special will come along tonight but I'm not holding my breath! Night, night, darling. Love you!"
"Hey, ho! Tuesday morning and another blank night. I think I expected it but it is still a mystery how the swim completely switched off. We are doing exactly the same as Nige - he's caught another two twenties by the way - and yet we are sitting here with our fingers up our noses. It's not as if we are miles apart, really we are fishing more or less the same part of the lake.
"Colin is being very philosophical at blanking but the news from home has kept him smiling through the blank hours. 'Sh*t happens,' is what he said to me this morning. Nige's got nothing to be disappointed about and that's for sure. I think he's had four or five lovely twenties and a magnificent thirty pound mirror plus quite a few doubles as well. I knew when he blanked up at the barrage he'd get his own back!
"So were going to pop in to see Pete on the way home. I rang his house last night, not expecting to hear from him, more to check that he was still fishing, but he's back home, having pulled off after a five day blank. In hindsight this was a good move on our part
"There it is, this edition of French Message comes to an end. A bit of a disappointing end but there you go. I can't wait to get home now. So, I'll see you soon, Tat, and I hope we'll both see this little bit of Paradise in the not to distant future. I can't wait to bring you out here to enjoy what is without doubt the best lake I have ever fished in France, nay, possibly in my fishing lifetime. I'm sure there are other challenges awaiting us somewhere along the line, and we can look forward fishing them, but I shan't be looking any further afield than this little bit of heaven, that's for sure.
28 Oct 2018 at 2.48pm
In reply to Post #324
"Back again with a big grin all over my face, not because I have had another carp but simple because this has been a magical day. It's Sunday night now, Tat and I have just spent one of the best days I've ever had here in France, In pure angling terms we've had better (laughing and a bit slurry!) but today has bee splendid. Me, Nige and Colin went up to the village at lunchtime for a meal. We had a good drink and plenty of superb grub, then came back to find that Jose, Jean-Louis and all the rest of them had got the picnic going and the wine flowing. J-L was in fine form with the bottle.
They invited us to join them…no, they insisted that we join them. So we sat around most of the afternoon sipping beer and wine and eating foie gras and Chorizo, camembert and rochefort cheese, smoked salmon and langoustines. God, it was horrible, but we just felt we had to be social! Here are l-r Jean-Louis, Nige, Francois, kids, Jose and Colin, while in the background the Little Man opens yet another bottle and for the rest of the day we just sat and drank and talked the afternoon away.
"We had the most wonderful evening, sharing the Entente Cordiale. There was Grandma and mum, nephews, nieces, sons and daughters and all the French carp anglers and us all sitting around and enjoying this wonderful, laid back way of (French) life. It was just absolutely splendid.
"It got dark and at about ten o'clock the French guys said 'au revoir', piled all the gear into the cars and drove (yes!!!) off into the sunset. What a fantastic crowd they were. Me and Colin moved the rods a bit to the right so we were now fishing the French guy's water and by the evening we were ready to start fishing. I am now overlooking the part of the lake that has produced ten fish including one for me, so far this weekend. Will we catch? Who knows. I could do with a good kip to be honest after this afternoon! Think I'll get the rods out and put my head down…No, hang on…Oh yeah! I nearly forget the best part of the whole trip.
"While we were in the restaurant, Colin phoned home and got some very good news. It seems he is going to be a dad again! So we had to have a good drink for that. Everybody is so happy for him, all the women clucking around him, beaming like mother hens and they don't even know him! The poor chap is just about awash in wine and cognac, all the blokes shaking his hand and the women fussing over him. Oh, it's just a great time, that's all. You've got to come here, Tat. We have got to get here together. It is truly Paradise. I'd adore it if you could come here for a week or so. OK, it's a hell; of a drive but what is waiting at the end of the road is worth all the hassle of getting here. It's a little bit of heaven just waiting for you to visit and catch a carp or two. You'd love it, kiddie. Just adore it! "Right. This time I really am going to get some zeds. Sleep well, darling. I'm missing you but I'll be home soon."
"Well here I am again and it's morning after yet another blank night. I slept like a log and I have woken up without a headache, which is astonishing really all things considered. The French guys told me that you don't get hangover if you drink that gut rot rose. Maybe worth considering…Not!
"So now it's Monday morning, eight o'clock and the sun's beaming down yet again. Not surprisingly, we've had naff all over this side during the night, and considering the state we were in that's probably a very good thing!
"Apparently at some stage during the night Nige had a fish that weeded him up. He came over for the boat and Colin went back to help him try to land it but they lost it in the weed. It's as well Colin was there for Nige was rat arsed and had no idea what he was up to, nor where he was going. Colin helped him bait up again. It seems that Nige was in the bar till the small hours, getting legless with Jean-Louis and Jose and Giles, the owner. He's a bit unsure what happened during the night anyway but in true Nigel form he managed to get the rods out despite being wrecked.
"Well the sun is well up and we are going to go into the village in a minute for supplies. I expect we'll have to have a beer while we are there too! What a pain! Just looking across to the Point and I can see than Nige is into a fish. He's sitting on a lot of good fish, is Nige, and to prove it, hangover or not, has just landed a superb 26lb common. Again it found the weed and so we both wound in and went round to help him. By the time we had walked all the way round there he'd managed to land it. What a fish!
28 Oct 2018 at 2.38pm
In reply to Post #323
"Good morning French France! Here we are on a bright and sunny Sunday morning and if I am sounding a bit croaky it must be the wine. I've cracked it and so has Nige. I've had a beautiful linear of just over twenty-seven pounds and Nige has had a 30lb 6oz mirror, a 19lb mirror and a 15lb common.
Just down the bank from me, Jean-Louis and the other French guys have had another four carp, including another twenty. Here J-L and Jose do the pix for the guy they just call The Little Man!
And this is J-L with a twenty pound common.
Here's the Little Man with a nice mirror.
"This became something of a regular occurrence that weekend; people gathered around while they take pix of one another's fish, kids and all! Brilliant.
And Little Man again with his son.
"Colin's not had so much as a bleep but Nige is yet again becoming the kiddie on this trip. Why do we keep bringing him? He invariably tucks up everyone else on the trip...Still, he is brilliant company and that's the important bit...Oh yes. He can get hold of the transport too! Still, van and fantastic company or not, I think I'll break his neck if he carries on like this. He could catch carp in a water butt!
(This pic shows the house on the hill that was a familiar landmark in Rod's photos, one of which he used on the bobbins of mono he used to sell. This saddoe carried one of the labels showing this farmhouse around in his wallet in the hope that one day he'd trip over Rod's little paradise. Well, it paid off!)
He also had this beauty that night. Golden balls has our Nige!
"So anyway, we are just getting spruced up a bit, a shower and a shave, and looking forward to going up the road into the village for a meal. It's Sunday and we have reserved a table and the menus looks pretty decent for 120FF. I expect we'll have a beer or two and glass of wine, maybe. I'm sure I don't need to tell you, Tat, that one of the highlights of any trip is a Sunday lunchtime nosebag."
28 Oct 2018 at 2.27pm
In reply to Post #321
Being a prominent member of the Surrey carp angling fraternity, Bill recognised Dave Ball straight away. He's a bit of a secret squirrel apparently but Bill told us later that he's a member of some very exclusive lakes to the west of London and he has caught more than his share of biggies. I knew of him from his photo on the Cover of Carp Fisher 5. And of course, Rod being there confirmed Arnout's tale. We had a walk around the lake and arriving on the far side opposite where Dave was fishing we came across another bivvy and a set of rods and some carpy smelling sacks. Someone had been doing the business! It was Rod, of course.
"He was in convivial mood. "Fancy a whisky?" he asked me. I accepted happily. "Want lemonade in it?" I said OK. He poured a clear flat liquid into my whisky glass (Rod does nothing by halves) and handed it over. It nearly did for me…Whatever he'd added to the whisky, it certainly wasn't lemonade! Dave told me later it was probably vodka! Nige tells it differently; he reckons it was white wine. Ether way it was certainly high powered rocket fuel.
"Now, a few hours later I realize why they were not best pleased to see us, as this lake is a little gem, a hidden paradise, Tat. It's about 20 acres, maybe a bit more and it's glorious, absolutely glorious. You've got to come here, Tat, there's no question about it. You'll love it. It's even got a little bar and small restaurant!
"The bar was where we bought our permits and had a beer or two. The patron, Giles, was very nice and even bought us a round. There were a few small photos up on the wall above the bar and Nige and I saw a few familiar faces. You can see them top right of the photo.
There were pix up there of Rod, of course, and Dave, plus the other Dave from the tackle shop in Richmond, and his missus Kay. I remember seeing her on the cover of Carpworld a couple of years ago.
"This lake…It's gorgeous, so beautiful and friendly and welcoming and it's everything a French lake should be, really. There's an atmosphere about it, almost as if you don't even need to catch fish to enjoy its magic. It is... perfect, that's the word.
"So anyway, as I say, it's Friday morning and we've had twelve hours of fishing and, as far as I know, none of us have caught. Dave and his missus and Rod have pulled off and from what I could gather from the guy in the bar, who has apparently been enjoying their custom, they've had some nice carp up to fifteen kilos, which is about thirty-three pounds, I think. Dave actually came round and apologised for cursing me and so we had a swift half before he hit the road. He's got nothing to apologise about as far as I'm concerned. I know how he felt, believe me.
"I'm now set up in the swim Rod was fishing. I'd be a fool not to! There is a small bush to the left of the swim and I swear I have seen it before in a few of Rod's trophy pix from this lake. I am going to call this swim Rod's Bush. I think Nige has moved into Dave's swim which is more or less opposite me. It's on the corner of the lake opposite on the bar side. It's like a sort of point so that's what I'll call the swim. Yeah, I think Nige is in there now as I can see a light flickering over there. I heard Dave talking to Nige while we were having a beer and he told him to jump in and fill his boots. Knowing Nige that's exactly what I think he'll do!
" So we've split up now trying to cover a fair bit of the lake. It's a very interesting lake but my main focus is an island that is just about in casting range, or failing that I will use the boat. Colin's set up about a hundred yards away to my right fishing onto an area of shallows…well that is what Dave and Rod called it. The sky is crystal clear and the stars are amazing. It's fantastic, Tat. We are definitely coming back to this place. Well, that's about it for now. I'm thinking of you and missing you. Talk to you in the morning…Bon soir, mon amour. That's French you know!"
28 Oct 2018 at 2.18pm
In reply to Post #321
"Whose idea were snakes anyway? I mean, what are they for? No wonder the origin of temptation was in the form of a snake. Evil looking things. "Snake in the grass" was one of Bill's favourite phrases. Never did find out what he was on about. We'll see what tonight brings. I think if we don't catch something hefty tonight we are going to shift. No idea where? I quite fancy trying a river for the first time. I know that the Charente holds decent carp and I have been tipped off that the stretch through Cognac is worth a look. That will please me greatly as you know how I love a drop of Cognac! Speak to you in the morning, kiddie. Bye, sweetheart!"
"It's morning and a lot's happened since I last spoke to you. Yesterday was a day of moving. We've packed it in at the barrage where we were fishing with Pete and Mik. Although Colin had two more carp and a bream, Nige and I blanked. Nige was in tears doing the photos of Colin's fish. Could have been hay fever, I suppose.
"So it was decided to move on. We never saw anything worth staying for, though I'm sure there are some real lumps in here. The trouble is, the restrictions imposed by the limited night fishing zones, together with the poor access means that you can physically only fish, I'd estimate, a ting proportion of the lake. So, unless you've got unlimited time to build up the swim, you catch what's in front of you and if that's small fish, so be
"The fish have little need to wander far and wide to find food, the natural food potential of this lake is astonishing. In one night I netted out twenty crayfish the size of small lobsters. They were very nice cooked up with a glass of white and some French bread. There are empty mussel shells and the water is thick with daphnia. There's absolutely no doubt that the lake is capable of producing a real monster, but I don't think we've got the time to sit it out for maybe one run between us on this visit. I'm sure there are big fish in the barrage but we didn't see anything like it, so we decided to try the lake I'd been told about in the winter.
"So, with my heart very firmly in my boots in apprehension if I'd got it wrong, we came on further south to that lake I told you about, Tat, the one that Arnout had told me about at the Pyramid Exhibition in February. This was apparently 'Rod's commons lake' as he put it.
(Rod and Annie had been all over the press of late with some glorious photos of some very impressive commons. I guess the world and its wife was trying to find the lake, and if Arnout was correct, that's just what I'd done.)
"Arnout told me that he hadn't fished it because, and I quote, 'The fish are too small for me; no twenty kilos or bigger'. Sad, eh? Still, according to the info I've picked up on my travels since then, the lake could be worth a look, but it might all be rubbish. It could be another five hours on the road for nothing. We'll have to see. Speak soon. Bye for now."
"Well after another arduous trip we have finally arrived at the lake. We got a bit confused as there are two lakes in this valley. One didn't look as if it had ever been fished. It was an impressive size but bare as a badger's arse. It looked very new and it didn't fill us with any enthusiasm. So we moved on to take a look at another lake that we spotted from the road.
"And yes. we dropped right on it! Dave Ball and, would you believe it, Rod himself were on here when we arrived. I guess Arnout's tip was spot on! Dave is here with his missus and we stumbled over them as we started to walk around the other lake. We came around a corner and there was a bivvy and a set of rods. It was Dave and his missus and they were not pleased to see us, to put it mildly. Dave swore and kicked a nearby tree! "Not you, Townley! Of all the people to get sussed by it had to be you." I know how he felt having been rumbled on a water like this. I remember when Les came back after stumbling across my beloved Pads Lake in northern France. When he rang me and told me I wanted to kill him. I think that's how Dave and his missus feel about us!
28 Oct 2018 at 2.15pm
In reply to Post #320
These fish are absolutely pristine, I doubt if they've ever been caught before in their lives. They've got mouths that are unmarked, with the full curtain membrane just inside the mouth, a sure sign of virgin fish. Immaculate, like they've just been made.
So that's the story right up to date. Goodnight, sweetheart. See you in the morning (singing…very badly)."
The tape resumes to the sound of a gazillion frogs doing their thing. What an awful racket. It is truly the most grating and annoying noise and it never stops!
"Can you hear that lot! They are driving me insane. It's impossible to sleep and even if I had a run I doubt I'd hear it. Anyway, there's not much to tell you…it's the morning after the night before and it's been a blank for all of us. Still, it's a lovely morning and I am sitting here with a cup of tea gazing at the lake and hoping to see signs of carp. The sun has just started to kiss the bivvy driving away the overnight dampness and condensation. There's a beautiful bird of prey of some kind circling overhead. I expect he's look for frogs: there's enough of the feckin' things, it'll get fed up eating them. I think it's a red kite. Beautiful!
"It really is a picture this lake, especially when the sun's shining like this. I don't want to go through another experience like last year, Tat. Later I'm going to the village to get some bread and some of that lovely creamy butter, a wedge of Camembert and a bottle of cholesterol-laden full cream French milk, and I'm going to have myself my first proper French breakfast in the sun. Speak to you soon. Bye!"
"I'm back…Not much to report. In the end the village shop was closed so we went into the town for a beer and a meal. A bloke in the bar asked if we were fishing - how could he tell…perhaps it was the smell - and when we said yes and told him whereabouts he told us that it was well known for its pike and zander. Our faces fell and he asked, "what's wrong?
"We're fishing for carp," we said.
"Ah! That's could be a problem, then," he replied. "The lake was emptied last year and the big carp were removed. They then stocked with small carp of about three to four kilos."
Large festering ball cocks!
"So we've spent about four hours away from the lake. The guys are a bit despondent as they seem to think we're only on small fish. It's a bit awkward for me, as I have this sneaking feeling that they are right but we haven't really given it anything like a fair trial yet and there's Pete to consider. It would not be a nice thing to do just to bugger off, saying, Cheerio Pete! after he'd gone to so much trouble to put us on the lake and tried so hard to get us some decent pitches.
"Thing is, we are catching what's here and what's here are small and if we believe the guy in the bar then that's all we are likely to catch. I suppose a move would make sense, but to where? The rest of the lake is so wild and the banks are so steep it would be impossible to fish most of the perimeter. Mind you, the bloke in the bar by the lake, where those photos of the big commons are up on the wall, still reckons that they didn't net out all the big carp and that they lake definitely holds fish to over 20kg. What to do? The few fish that we have caught have all be singles apart from Colin's eleven pounder, and it has to be said, they are immaculate.
"So, the story at the moment is that we are going to give it one more night. We have moved Nige along the bank into deeper water; the shallows where he'd been fishing were clearly not going to produce fish. Colin and I have stayed put. The tiddler snatching competition held this afternoon resulted in a resounding win for matchman Colin. Loads of skimmers and the odd roach; no poisson-chat, thank goodness.
"The snakes are a bit more active this evening after the warm sunshine of today. While we were moving Nige a monstrous great one slithered across in front of me. Far too big to be an adder, it must have been a grass snake.
Either way, I stopped dead and Colin turned white. Nige, who hates snakes, nearly jumped out of his skin!
28 Oct 2018 at 2.11pm
In reply to Post #319
"I decided it was time to renew my acquaintance with the bar. I couldn't resist its neon call from across the river so I jumped into the boat and scooted across to the other side. It was coming on dark and I'd just finished the first beer when the patron came out and told me that Nige and Colin were fishing in a no night fishing area! Oh no! Nige would be steaming after all the hassle.
"I looked across towards their swims and, even in the twilight, they looked pretty obvious. No thoughts of concealment of course, they thought they were in a legally authorised area. What do I do? I thought to myself. If I don't tell them and they get a tug they'll be a bit pissed off, but if I put them in the picture, they'll be even more so. I had another beer or two while I pondered this weighty problem and, in the end, I decided to row back straightaway - well, after one last beer or two - and warn them. As I'd feared, they were not best pleased.
"By the next morning, after a blank night Nige and Colin were on the move. They'd not fished the night but had heard nothing jumping and were not happy where they were. Looking about from the boat they'd found a nice spot on the café bank, fairly clean, good access by van and with legal nights. My single night in the bay had been totally uneventful and I'd heard nowt either, so I decided to move across the lake with them.
"Unfortunately Pete's influence with the Powers That Be had no effect, which is how we come to be where we are. We've been fishing these swims for less than 24 hours now and had a couple of fish, so I think the move seems to have paid off. Pete and Mik have stayed put on the opposite bank but they've not had anything so far, nor, as far as I know, nor has Nige.
"This really is a very pretty lake, heavily wooded and almost totally wild. I've seen plenty of snakes but I think they're grass snakes I hope. There are buzzards and red kites overhead and an osprey put in a fleeting visit at first light this morning. As least, I think it was an osprey. It swooped down and ate a fish and that's what ospreys do, isn't it? The frogs are a nightmare after dark. You just cannot hear yourself think, and as for sleeping, well I've not done much of that. You have to wait for dawn, which comes at about 5.00 a.m. before the racket starts to die down a bit, then you can maybe get a bit of shut-eye, but it never really stops. Even in broad daylight they don't shut up!
"I've just been out in the boat this morning while the others were still asleep and I've been messing around with the sounder and found two or three really nice features at longish range.
So I've put one rod on an area right across on the other side of the lake, some 150 yards away in l4ft of water where there's a very interesting looking bar or plateau. No need of a marker as there are two pike poles on it. Bloody nuisance, but saves me using a marker. Diagonally inside from that, back towards me some 30 yards, I've got 28ft of water where I'm assuming the track of the old river bed runs, and that is, I hope, the one that's going to produce one of those monster commons like those in the photos in the bar.
"There's something about 28 feet of water: I don't know what it is, but I always feel confident in deeper water over here and once I've found 28 feet my confidence doubles. Illogical I'm sure, but that advice came from God … that's Hutchy by the way, so who am I to question it. Inside about another 30 yards from the river bed, there's another peculiar mark on the sounder on which I've put a small marker. That one's at about 80 yards from the bank, so I'm fishing in a diagonal line from 80 yards out to my right, to 130 yards off to the left. And it's worked! O.K., only small, but a carp's a carp.
"Colin, to my left, is fishing into the bay area with a few trees in the lake in front of him, which may make landing fish a bit of a dodgy proposition. He's baiting up in a similar pattern to me and he too has had success. Nige is off to the right and he's in an all-or-nothing swim, if you ask me. It's shallow and very weedy and looks as if it should hold fish but I don't think it does, but time will tell. So far Nige has not had anything, but knowing Nige, that mean's he'll be in at the finish with a bloody hatful. (Little did I know just how prophetic that throwaway line would turn out to be.)
"So there we are. Two nights fished. A move after the first night. Rebaited the new swims. Rewarded with two carp between us, admittedly only small but hope springs eternal.
28 Oct 2018 at 2.07pm
In reply to Post #318
Bait was the usual assortment of groats, crushed hemp, flaked maize and a few trout pellets; anything that took a minimum of preparation. This we supplemented with about 50 kilos of assorted Nutrabaits ready mades, which I had air dried for a month to try to harden them up against the possible attacks by crayfish and poisson-chats. The van groaned under the weight of all the gear and the bait but when we bunged a two hundredweight fibre glass boat on the roof it really kicked up a fuss. How we managed to cram all the odds and sods we needed for a trip into that tired old workhorse I'll never know but somehow we managed it.
The lake we were going to fish was 600-acre Lac du Barrage in the Vendee. We'd been told about the lake by my mate, Pete, who we've met before in this thread. Pete lived in France and, he was going to join us for a few days, along with his French mate Mikhail (Mik). Pete told us that the lake was not being fished a great deal but it had the potential to do some very big fish, so we took his word for it, said, thanks, Pete, and went for it. Nige did the driving, as usual, and we traveled overnight from Plymouth to Roscoff, arriving at about 7.00 a.m. the next morning, after a very smooth crossing with plenty to eat and even more to drink.
In the winter I had been given a nudge about a lake where Rod was currently fishing. For the past couple of years he and Annie had been popping up from time to time in the press and in his catalogue with some drop-dead gorgeous commons. Meanwhile us ordinary folk were desperately trying to find the venue he was fishing. Rod had released a mono and on the label was a photo of the man himself with a lovely big common, which had also appeared in one of the catalogues along with pix of several other large commons. In the background of the photo you could see a house on a hill and sad man that I was, I kept a copy of the label in my wallet against the day when, chance in a million, I landed up on a lake with just such a house on a hill. How sad is that! If our first lake was no good, we planned to go searching for this other lake as a fall back option.
The tape starts…
"Well, here we are, Tat! It's one o'clock in the morning. I think it's Tuesday but then again it might be Wednesday. I've only been here for the blink of an eye and already France has cast her spell on me and I've completely lost track of time. How wonderful? We spend too many hours watching the hands of the clock go round and no doubt we'll still be watching them when we drop off this mortal coil. What a waste! There, that's the philosophy out of the way. Now to get on with this tape.
"More important than philosophy is the fact that I've just landed the first carp of the trip. It's no size but it's a start. Anyway, that's the first fish of the trip. I took it up to show Colin who'd bivvied up about thirty yards down the bank from me. Pushing through the undergrowth and vegetation my steps must have sounded like some monstrous creature of the night approaching his tent. I think I scared the life out of him.
"I've just listened to that bit again. Can you hear those bleeding frogs in the background? God knows how we get any sleep with that lot on the go. It's a full moon tonight, a real harvest moon and it is so bright I can actually see my nearest marker and it's eighty or ninety yards away. I reckon I could read my book by its light as well. No wonder the frogs are giving it so much wellie.
"We've seen quite a bit of movement over the baits and away down the lake to my right, but for the most part it seems to be from small fish. It's a gorgeous lake but the noise…! I don't know if the frogs are going to come out on this tape. I'll just turn the volume up a bit and poke it out the door a minute."
(There follows a deafening racket as about ten million little green blighters set about their nightly courtship rituals.)
"How about that…It is a mind-numbing noise that rules out all thoughts of sleep. I don't know if that comes out. I hope it does. OK, I'll say goodnight now and in the morning I'll go over what's happened so far in more detail. Goodnight, kiddie."
28 Oct 2018 at 2.01pm
In reply to Post #317
Sorry it's been such a long time since I added to this thread. What with one thing or another things have been pretty ****ty since the last time. A couple of health scares, some financial worries and of course, getting old! Result? Could not be arsed to continue. But I have got my sh*t together for the time being so here goes with some more of my ancient history, starting with the time we stumbled over a lake that was well on the secret list. It would have remained so to this day had it not been decimated by a team of sh*t bags stealing carp on an almost industrial basis in order to stock a previously devoid (of carp) private lake. The 'Team' as they liked to call themselves plundered lakes and river all over the south of France but eventually they and the owner of the lake into which they were putting these fish were outed and publicly named and shamed. They say that sh*t sticks…well sadly in this case it didn't and today he goes on his merry way without any apparent stain on his character.
The lake has since been restocked but the magnificent carp that once put smiles on the face of one of the greats of modern carp fishing (Rod) are now living in the aforementioned private lake that costs a bomb to fish nowadays. However, the little bit of Paradise that we stumbled upon still does the occasional biggie and its magic is not reduced by the fact that the angler is now fishing for smaller fish. The lake owner has changed and the place has been renovated to a good standard and it now welcomes campers of all kinds to its site. My mate Nige, who figures large in these tales, has been back and, like he does, caught a whacker so maybe the phoenix has risen from the ashes. PM me and I'll give you a link.
Anyway, that is ancient history and most folk say to forget it, move on, water under the bridge. Me, I'll never forget or forgive and if you read on you may see why.
St Louis Blues - May 1995.
Some of you guys might remember a few of my old Carpworld articles wherein I transcribed my audio diaries addressed to the missus, nickname, Tat. They took the forum of a more-or-less verbatim transcription of micro-cassettes that described the day to day goings on of me and whoever happened to be with me on trips to France. These were pretty popular at the time so I thought it might be an idea to reprieve one of them as part of this thread.
You may have read the posts describing the 'Nightmare' trip and will have noticed that that it was not blessed with an abundance of good humour. Sure, we caught some nice fish but the weather almost drove me to suicide and, at times, I felt that my company was at times as welcome as a fart in a phone box and I know that I tried the patience of my fellow anglers to its limit. It says much for their patience and forbearance that they didn't just drive off and leave me!
By complete contrast, this story tells a very different tale, one of the best fishing trips to France ever, even though I caught only a few singles and one lovely linear. So, though the fishing was crap, the craic was fantastic. It takes a lot more than a few slimy old carp to make a trip.
Once again, I was joined by my mate Nige Britton and again we were indebted to Nige's boss for the use of the company van, an ageing Maestro diesel with a couple of hundred thousand miles on the clock. Those of you who were around at the time will know that the Maestro was a Devil's brew of a vehicle, one of Leyland's worst, made at a time when the factory was on strike more often than it was working and you were lucky if anything made therein made it to its first birthday. Clearly Nige's tender ministrations with a spanner had meant that this particular vehicle mostly ran like clockwork. Here Speedy empties the old beast on a campsite somewhere in France.
Joining us for his first French carp fishing holiday was young Colin Stephens, a very likable ex-Army Signaler and general nice guy. Being the newcomer, Colin got the unenviable third seat option in the van - that being a Low chair wedged among the mountain of gear - a position he bore with great fortitude, uncomplaining and undemanding. I could not have said the same had our positions been reversed. The fact that such a seating arrangement was highly dangerous and would actually have voided the van's insurance mattered not one jot to Nige! After all, where else was the guy supposed to sit.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.28pm
In reply to Post #316
On the ferry home there was talk of a pike trip, maybe a bass fishing trip. Me? I wasn’t interested. I’ll stick to carp fishing for now. There were places to go and people to see, and I had heard this whisper about a lake in the Vendee where you couldn’t fail to catch thirty pound commons! I bloody wish!
I would return to this lake the following year with Bill Cottam. We were plagued by muskrats diving on the baits. Bill even reeled on in whereupon it tried to take lumps out of him. We blanked but Bill claims to this day that he saw the biggest carp in his life while drifting about above the emerging pads. "It dwarfed the boat," said Bill. Another monster for another day.
Before I leave this particular memory, let me tell you the strange story of the funny dream about a throwing stick.
Throughout the trip Nige and I had been using the heavy metal Cobra throwing stick to get our baits out at range. Bill looked intrigued, not having seen that uniquely shaped Cobra before. I offered him a go with mine. He put a handful of boilies in his pocket and one by one tried to fire them out into the lake. Each one landed with a great big splash right at his feet. "They take some getting used to," I told him. "Take it back to your swim with you and have a practice. In fact you can keep it as I've got another at home." Bill thanked me and trudged back along the towpath to his bivvy.
The next morning I was standing looking at the canal while drinking a cuppa. A canal boat passed and bobbing in its wake I saw a small black object about four inches long floating upright along the canal. It looked remarkably like the plastic-covered handle of a Cobra throwing stick, more or less awash with water, floating upright gently down the canal. I walked up to Bill's bivvy. "Alright, mate?" I asked. "How you getting on with the Cobra?"
"Pretty good, thanks," Bill replied.
"That's good," I said, "Coz I had a funny dream last night. I dreamed that I saw the end of a Cobra throwing stick bobbing about in the canal…I'd hate to think you'd chucked it in!"
Bill grinned sheepishly. "Stupid ****ing thing," he said!
Bye for now!
5 Apr 2018 at 3.14pm
In reply to Post #315
I stuffed it straight into a sack and sat down, shaking. Then, when I got my breath back, ran up to Bill to get the scales. He was fast asleep! Though I didn’t want to waken him, I was desperate to know the weight of the fish for I had a niggling feeling that it was over thirty, but without the scales the weight would have to wait until morning. Still, I was a very happy chappie! Another fish for the Book of Dreams.
The big mirror was the climax to what was, for me, a somewhat traumatic fortnight. At times I felt like I’d been in heaven, at others I might have been trapped in a hell on earth. There were long, dreary periods of mind-numbing boredom, trapped for hours on end in the zipped-up confines of a mouldy-green bivvy, but that fish put me in seventh heaven. It’s amazing what a fish can do!
I lay awake through most of the night, checking the sack at regular intervals. I searched around in the confusion under my bedchair and found four bottles of beer that I didn’t know I had, so I celebrated the capture as the night passed slowly by. I had my prize!
Friday morning. A bright and sunny morning. And I felt pretty bright and sunny myself. The big mirror was a thirty, as I’d guessed. 31lb 4oz, again! Lovely! A thirty from two different waters for me this trip. I was going out with a bloody great bang rather than with a pathetic whimper. I couldn’t ask for better than that could I? The sun was shining, God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the carp world!
The last day was something of an anti-climax. In the evening Jean-Yves ran me up to the bar on the back of his scooter. Seventy mph along the towpath! He insisted on buying me a few more beers. Who am I to refuse! I said my goodbyes to the locals in the bar - the ancient rugby fan was there with his old cronies, and they kept buying too. Then the patron and his wife pushed the boat out, insisting I drink some weird Belgian concoction called, Sudden Death. It wasn’t as bad as Special Brew, but it was bad enough. It was really good to laugh again after what had felt like purgatory at times.
Jean-Yves bought a crate of beer for Bill and Nige and we brought it back to their swims on the back of his scooter. I hate to think what might have happened if we’d come off. Canal one side, lake the other, carrying 24 bottles of beer! In spite of that, I had a very pleasant glow on as we rode along the towpath to my bivvy. Nothing like as scary a trip as the journey up to the bar. I can’t think why! What a nice day! And a thirty as well. The nightmare had passed to become a fading memory. The afterglow of the big carp was much more memorable. I can still recall that tremendous fight. The rain and the mud and the purgatory were long forgotten. The brain has a way of eventually putting bad memories behind it.
It had been a strange old fortnight. Some good fish landed and some not so good. The weather had cramped our efforts I am certain and I wondered how we would have fared if the weather had stayed fine.
That was it for another year. I suppose in retrospect I could look back on the trip and say I was pretty happy with it. I’m sure both Nige and Bill would say the same. Yet somehow there is a feeling of, I don’t know, call it anticlimax, call it failure. No, that’s too strong. Not failure; more of a let-down, I guess.
I had expected more, fished badly, yet still been rewarded. All the same, I’d experienced a darker side to my French fishing than I’d previously known. As I said at the beginning of the previous chapter, I had never expected to come so close to packing it all in before, especially when fishing in France. But I had looked my own personal purgatory in the face and laughed at it after coming out on top. True, I’d come perilously close, but if the Gods thought they’d got the better of me this time, they’d have to think again, though I have suffered with my back ever since.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.12pm
In reply to Post #314
Once again I trudged up to Bill’s swim, and found Nige and Bill sharing a coffee. Bill had caught another carp during the storm, this time a mirror of just on 21lb in weight.
The day passed quickly with a return visit to the bar at lunchtime. Steak and chips and ice cold beers gave a whole new meaning to the word, contentment. Jean-Yves, the French fly fisherman we'd met when we arrived, came to see us and brought some of his home-tied trout flies along to show to Bill who also ties his own trout flies. He was full of praise for Jean-Yves’s efforts which certainly looked good to me, but then, I don’t know one fly from another. It helped pass the time though and the afternoon soon slipped by in a welter of beer and conversation.
When we got back to the bivvies we had a few more beers to round off the day then sat around in the cool of the evening and watched the stars come out. For once it wasn’t raining. Isn’t that typical. Here we are, coming towards the end of the trip, and the weather looks like settling down.
As the light left the sky that evening I baited up heavily once again. I was casting into three quite distinct separate areas, though all three were in or close to the pads. By hedging my bets in this way, I hoped to cover more fish that might be cruising in and out of the pads during the night, and in order to stop them dead in their tracks if they entered a baited area I wanted to give them a meal worth lingering over. So each area was filled in with five hundred boiled baits and the hookbait was accompanied by a five-bait stringer.
I sat in the darkness of my bivvy as the night passed, drinking beer and eating chorizo sausage, listening to countless owls calling to each other through the still air. Unlike the previous night, this one was cool and calm, the sky full of stars with a huge full moon to light up the glittering lake. Out in the pads a carp jumped noisily setting the coots screeching in angry protest.
It was just after one in the morning when the orange LED on the middle rod glowed in the darkness. No tone, just the light. That was the buzzer that had been playing up all week: was it a fish or another fault? I got off the bedchair, pulled on my boots and stood outside by the rods in the cold night air. It was perfectly still and eerily quiet. There was an almost tangible air of tension in the air. Suddenly the middle buzzer gave a brief water-soaked squeak and I heard the faint click as the reel gave a few inches of line.
I picked up the rod, clamped down on the reel, took three or four strides backwards and struck. The rod was almost wrenched from my grasp. Out by the pads a huge swirl showed at the surface as a good fish fought against the pull of fifteen pound line. It was the start of a fantastic fight from one weedbed to another. I think the fish found just about every weedbed in the lake; it was a bit like playing “join the dots”. Even when I got the still very angry carp in open water in front of me, it continued to fight like a maniac, but at last I got it into the net. It was a stonking fish, golden and long with massive shoulders, so like a Leney fish, it could have been from Savay. In the breathless torchlight I took a good look in it’s mouth and was pleased to see that it was pristine with no bruising or obvious hook marks left by previous captures; a fish that doesn’t get caught a lot. That gave me a great deal of satisfaction.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.10pm
In reply to Post #313
The two days rest and relaxation had done me the world of good and the pills had made me feel like I was floating. I have no idea what they were but they did the trick. Now on this new lake in a nice flat swim with NO MUD! I felt as if the trip had only just started and I was full of enthusiasm and eagerness for a carp. With just two days left to go, I felt I had to prove to myself that my zest for fishing hadn’t floundered in the sea of mud that I’d left behind at the other lake, and this was just the place to do it. This was bliss compared to the previous lake (though admittedly this pic was taken the following April when I went back to the lake with Bill Cottam).
We spent a very enjoyable three or four hours with the locals up at a nearby bar. They were amazingly friendly and went out of their way to make us feel at home. It was so typical of countryside France and the attitudes of rural Frenchmen. I must say we’ve always been lucky in this respect whenever we’ve fished in France. We met a French rugby supporter up at the bar who must have been eighty in the shade if he was a day. He told us that he’d been to Twickenham three times to watch the internationals and he’d had such a good time that he decided to show us that the French can be excellent hosts too, and we all got a little bit here and there on the strength of his memories of English rugby’s hospitality.
By Wednesday evening the weather had deteriorated once more. Heavy rain swept towards me down the full length of the lake, carried in the teeth of yet another gale-force south-westerly breeze. But now I was dry, warm, rested and relaxed. The weather could get stuffed! I couldn’t give a damn. I fell asleep early that evening, just as darkness fell. A deep, dreamless sleep on cloud nine. As so often happens when you crash out too early, I awoke in pitch darkness, groping for my watch. Just after midnight. Is that all!
It was still raining, and the wind was beginning gust quite strongly. I wandered up the bank to Bill’s swim to find him and Nige sitting in the darkness under the shelter of his bivvy, sharing a few beers. Bill had caught another common that he’d sacked up but if the truth were known, they were both a bit on tenterhooks having been up all night looking out for the Garde-Peche. We’d had several guarded hints during the course of the day that the enforcers of senseless French laws were around, but I couldn’t for the life of me see them coming out in all this rain. Still, for all that, I wanted to get my rods in as soon as the storm passed.
The storm didn’t pass. In fact it got worse. By two in the morning it was blowing a hoolie, nine, maybe ten of wind, I’d guess. The bivvy was shaking about like a mad thing and the noise of the rain pounding once again on the bivvy roof was deafening. I was sitting in the darkness of the bivvy, the door zipped up, holding onto the brolly pole for extra security, when all three of my buzzers went off at once. Not fish, that was for sure. I unzipped the door and shone my torch at the swim. No rods, front bar lying drunkenly at an angle. Bother - or words to that effect. A huge gust of wind had blown the rods right off the rests and carried them three or four yards along the bank.
Luckily nothing was damaged, not even the buzzers which looked to have taken the brunt of the blast. A large tangle of branches clutched the line and the indicators in a tangled mess. I bit through the lines at the reels and dragged all three sets of tackle in by hand, then threw the whole shebang into the back of the bivvy, climbed back into the dry, warmth of my sleeping bag, said, “sod the fishing!” and crashed out into a deep and contented sleep. Carp fishing? You can keep it!
What I didn’t know at the time was that I had slept blissfully through one of the worst storms France had suffered in years, completely unaware of the turmoil going on around me. The fury had passed by the time I awoke at about seven o’clock, though the radio was full of tales of destruction, damage, even death. I was glad I’d slept so soundly. I dug the rods from the back of the bivvy, re-tackled and cast out as the sun once again graced the water with a shimmering kiss that sent shafts of bright sparkling light dancing across the surface. It was a morning to savour after a night to forget. This is looking up the lake from the inlet end.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.09pm
In reply to Post #312
I think I was on my third or fourth beer when the drenched pair of Nige and Bill, appeared dripping copiously over the bar, the carpet and everything in their vicinity. “Enjoying yourselves?” I asked. “Sod off!” was the reply.
They ordered beer and a bite to eat and told me that they had set up at the far end of the lake where the large bed of lily-pads dominated the lake. It was an obvious carp-holding area, one which Jean-Yves had pointed out during our tour of the lake the previous day. They seemed quite sympathetic towards my back problems, and I felt a little bit less of a **** when I decided to spend another night in the hotel. That evening I splashed out on a great big meal and a bottle of Bordeaux, followed by a few brandies. I slept like a log for another nine hours.
The next morning, Wednesday, dawned bright and clear. I drew back the curtains to a strange sight. The sun was shining. Bloody hell! Another night on a decent bed had returned my back to something like normal. I grabbed a quick breakfast and almost ran the two to three miles down the bank to the far end where Bill and Nige were fishing. By ten o’clock I was all set up. It was a lovely morning, hot and steamy with little or no wind. A far cry from the deluge of the past week. I even managed to get everything dried out, including my sleeping bag, the bivvy and the groundsheet.
I set up right at the far end of the lake looking out on the same patch of lily pads that Bill and Nige were fishing. They were quite a way further up the bank from me. I suppose it was just possible that they might cut me off from fish, but I couldn’t help feeling that there were a lot of fish that never moved far from the sanctuary of the pads. Why should they? Bill was to my left, about two hundred yards away, and Nige was another seventy or eighty yards further on again. Bill had an easy cast to the pads but Nige? Well, I just didn’t know why he chose to set up where he did, as it didn’t look as if he could reach the pads.
The lake was constructed in the Napoleonic era at the same time as a long transport canal that ran alongside it. The water in the lake was used to supplement the canal and help operate the lock gates. This is how it looks today, though at the time we were there the pleasure beach on the north side of the lake was not there. We set up like this.
Here you can see Bill and Nige set up on the towpath that runs alongside the canal, though I don't think horses have plodded their way along it for a century or two!
They had both caught fish during the night. Bill had had four takes, loosing two fish in the pads but the two he had landed were both commons of close to twenty pounds apiece. And while Nige had caught only the one fish, it too had been a common. The carp were all long, dark fish, with a good deal of wildie about them. The Nottingham lads had enjoyed some action too, but they were being a bit cagey so it was hard to be sure what exactly had happened. Sadly the fish were not the pristine, uncaught virgins we’d been hoping for or expecting. Most were showing signs of having been caught before with varying degrees of bruising around the lips, and though we were slightly disappointed about this, in a way that was no bad thing. At least it showed that they knew what boilies were.
My swim was very comfortable, being both level and lump-free and just as Jean-Yves had said, I found three prominent and distinct hard patches of gravel close to the pads in front of me, which I baited up with boilies and a small scattering of tigers. It was a week since my last fish and I was getting twitchy for a take and now I felt very confident that this was where I’d get one.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.08pm
In reply to Post #311
I looked across the road and there it was. Heaven, in the form of a flickering, beckoning neon saying `Augerge du Lac`. I asked, “How do you fancy some of that? We can make a fresh start in the morning after a decent night’s kip with a few beers and a bit of decent grub down our faces - become a bit civilised after all the muck and bullets. It will do us the world of good. What do you think?”
“I don’t know,” said Nige. “I think I’ll stay on the campsite. What about you, Bill?”
"That'll do for me," said Bill.
“Well it won't do for me…**** the campsite!” I exclaimed. I was beginning to feel like a right pariah but I was buggered if I was going to fart about in the pouring rain on a sopping little six-quid a night campsite when for a tenner I could get a decent night’s kip in the hotel. Sod you lot!
So, leaving the others to do as they pleased I lugged my dripping holdall across the road to the hotel, where the evening and the night that followed were spent luxuriating in comfort and Joy the proprietor! (Only kidding, Tat.) It was absolutely wonderful. The bed was so comfy I slept right through the night for about ten hours solid in the comfort and warmth of the hotel room. And though I felt a bit of a **** for doing so, my back was desperately grateful, for a few hours at least.
The relief didn’t last. In the morning when I awoke m y back had gone completely. It took me ten minutes to get out of bed, and a further half an hour to straighten up. I was really struggling. I could neither sit down properly, nor could I straighten up. I was lurching about the place like Quasimodo. From the big French windows of my hotel room I could see the lake stretched in front of me, a furious rain-lashed gale sweeping its full length, the branches of the trees along its banks whipping viciously in the teeth of a storm force south westerly. So much for the forecast.
Across to the left of the lake, behind the sailing club, Bill and Nige were packing up their bivvies on the campsite. Bill was throwing gear into the van with gusto, or was that fury! It was raining, a torrential downpour, and blowing a good nine or ten of wind to boot. Isn’t that lovely! There’s no way I’m fishing in that lot, I thought to myself. So I ran myself a brim-full bath of scalding hot water, grabbed my book and for the next three hours or so I soaked away the aches and pains of the past eight days. It was magic and afterwards I could even walk upright!
It didn't last and within an hour I was bent over like an old codger. I asked at reception desk for directions to the nearest chemist. There the pharmacist examined my back, said, "does that hurt?" and prised me off the ceiling after my agonised response. He told me that I had slipped a disc and that he had manipulated it back into place but it would hurt like hell for a few days, and I should go home and rest and then rest some more. I explained that I was 600km from home and was on a camping/fishing trip with my mates. He advised against it but saw that I was determined to carry on regardless so he gave me some really strong pain killers that did exactly what it said on the tin Bliss!
By midday the rain had stopped so I went down to see if I could find the others. I noticed four bivvies parked in a row at the top end of the lake and went over for a chat. The bivvies belonged to a party of four lads from Nottingham, friends of Rod Hutchinson, who had asked them to give the water a try to see what it was like. According the Rod it was one of those waters where you have to wade through the small commons to get at the bigger fish. I don’t mind wading like that, even in France, though I accept that it isn’t what everybody goes to France to find. Mind you, wading was hardly what the Notts. lads appeared to be doing for they’d only had a couple of fish between them in the five days they’d been there, and neither had been anything special.
I talked a while but when it started raining again I went back to the hotel, sat in the bar and got started on the ales. I was on holiday to enjoy myself, and that didn’t include any more fishing in the sodding rain, thank you very much! I wasn’t interested in big fish, small fish, ANY bloody fish. I just wanted to enjoy myself and sitting in the rain in the most appalling conditions doesn’t qualify as enjoyment to my way of thinking.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.06pm
In reply to Post #310
An hour or so later the others were packed away. The boat was lashed securely to the roof rack, the back of the van stuffed full of dripping fishing tackle, clothes and gear. We went up to the bar for a farewell coffee, (in my case more beer and a couple of cognacs) and after bidding `au revoir` to all and sundry, we set off for pastures new.
“Anyone any idea where we are going?” I asked.
“Leave that up to you, Ken,” was the reply. Thanks a bunch, chaps. That’s nice of you. What am I? A bloody tour guide! Hey ho. Where to now?
“How about Foret d’Orient?” I suggested. “Joe’s swim might still be free.”
“Anywhere but there!” they said.
I listened for a spirit message. Go west, young man, it said. We turned onto the motorway and followed our noses. As we drove out of the valley the sun came out. The promised clearance had arrived. A hour later and we’d have packed up in the dry. We headed in the general direction of north for several hours and I dozed to the drone of the engine and the tyre noise. Next thing I knew, we were being flagged down by some very menacing traffic police on dark blue BMW bikes. They shepherded us into the next service area and as we stopped half a dozen plain-clothed officers surrounded the van. They were from the customs bureau; what on earth had we done to upset the customs service?
They questioned us briefly, asked us all to get out of the van, to open up the rear door. They took an despairing look at the mountain of gear jam-packed every which way into the back of the van and exchanged exasperated glances. They were in for a long job if they wanted to search that lot. When a flood of turgid rainwater fell from the sill, accompanied by the stale, dank aroma of long-stay, soaking wet carp men, they decided that we hadn’t done anything wrong after all, and we were waved on our way.
Yet more pounding miles along the motorway led us, eventually, to a new water. It was one that Rod had mentioned to me after he'd heard rumours that it held some decent fish. It was on the way home for us so why not?
It took some finding and we spent a couple of hours going up blind alleys and taking countless wrong turnings before we got it right. Even then we couldn’t believe that we were in the right place. By the time we’d found the lake the bloody rain caught up with us again and the heavens opened. Just what I needed.
I got chatting to a short, stocky French guy who was walking the banks in the rain. He seemed very pleased when I replied to his questions in French and I think this broke the ice as he soon volunteered to show me the way down to the far end of the lake. He drove me around on the back of his motor scooter, my back protesting at every bump, then he drove me back to the cafe where I’d arranged to meet Bill and Nige. By now the rain was really belting down, and the thought of setting up in the rain did not appeal one little bit.
To make matters worse my back was now giving me some serious gyp. The prospect of struggling to a swim in the rain in the gathering dusk, setting up a soaking wet bivvy, then climbing into a sopping wet sleeping bag was not one I relished. I was almost ready to call it a day mad head for home, but what I really fancied most of all was a hefty meal, a few beers, a long hot bath and a good night's kip. Tomorrow I’d wake up to a decent breakfast and - maybe - a few more beers. See how I feel about the world after that lot!
5 Apr 2018 at 3.05pm
In reply to Post #309
I had not had so much as a twitch for over three days now, but I suppose I should have expected no less: I was hardly what anyone would call 'going for it' as my enthusiasm levels plunged lower with every twinge in my back!. The weather wasn't helping and now I had the bloody boat anglers to contend with.
Later that day Bill caught a small double that he didn’t weigh, just unhooked it in the net and put it straight back. Nige blanked, I blanked. The boats full of pike anglers got in my way all day, and it rained hard, and the forecast was terrible yet again; my buzzers started playing up and the reels filled with water. I could hardly move and then as if I needed any more hassle, the elastics on my bed chair gave way. All in all I rather wished I was somewhere else. Anywhere else!
Saturday morning dawned still, overcast and very damp. The boat anglers were pretty fair with their attentions dividing them equally between the three of us. By mid morning they'd wiped out each and every rod. The rain fell all day; the flood level rose in my bivvy; the drowned-out buzzer refused to work, despite all attempts to dry it out - though in truth these were never really likely to succeed, given the torrential rain; my back was killing me; the bed chair sagged alarmingly; the bivvy started to leak along the door seams, and when Bill dropped a case of bottled beer as he was carrying it back from the van, the catastrophic events of the day reached their climax. We could only try and laugh it off, but it was hard work! Just one of those days. I should never had got out of bed!
We went for a drive around in the rain and looked at two other lakes nearby. Both were deserted, which spoke volumes. The whole valley simply wasn’t fishing, full stop. It was go-though-the-motions time. Another blank twenty-four hours followed and even Nige was coming round to the idea that we should move. I was now in pretty savage pain as my back had become decidedly dodgy and I could hardly stand up, let alone pack up and move. But I felt that we simply HAD to move if we wanted to keep our sanity. The rain was interminable.
Monday morning crept up on me in a wave of apathy. It had rained hard all night, and though Nige and Bill fished, I wasn’t up for it for the pain in my back was becoming almost unbearable and I lay awake all night unable to sleep. I took a few too many pain-killing tablets, and eventually they began to have an effect. I listened to the radio and at last found some good cheer, the French station’s forecast finally announcing an improvement in the weather. Not before bloody time either!
The pain-killers slowly worked their way to the seat of the pain in my back and I began to drift off to sleep on the Jerry-rigged bedchair. It was bliss, but I was not to sleep for long. At a touch after eight o’clock in the morning I was woken by a tapping on the bivvy and the door was unzipped. Nige and Bill were standing there in the pouring rain. The promised improvement had not yet arrived.
Nige said, “I think we should move.”
“Thank Christ for that, but let’s wait until the rain stops, though, eh?”
“No, we want to move now!”
“In this f...... lot?”
“Might as well, it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop.”
“But I’ve heard the forecast on the radio,” I said. “They’ve given sunshine and showers for later on and we’ll be able to pack up in the dry. Dry bedding, dry tent, dry-ish clothes.”
“Nah! Let’s do it now and get it over with.”
“No way, guys!” I was adamant. “I’m not packing up until this bloody rain stops. We’ve been here at least two days too many as it is. Another couple of hours won’t make any difference, will it?”
“I thought you were the one that wanted to move,” said Bill.
“Damned right I do!” I yelled, beginning to really lose my temper. “I’ve wanted to move for the past four days. We’ve been wasting our time here, that’s for certain, but I can’t see the point in getting soaked packing up, when in all probability, if we wait a couple of hours, we can do it in the dry and with a bit of sunshine to cheer us up. In fact the only way I’ll be unpacking my gear again if I have to pack it away while it’s soaking wet is if the sun comes out and it’s nice and warm. And if that means that it doesn’t get unpacked again this trip, then so be it!” I was wet, angry and in a lot of pain.
There was much muttering and gnashing of teeth. Then Nige stomped off saying, “I’m going to pack my bloody gear away and I’ll just leave my bivvy up until you can be bothered. You can do what you like.” Bill said more or less the same, but in actions that spoke deafeningly louder than words. All of which left me with no choice. In the midst of a fairly hairy thunderstorm we started to pack up. An hour and a half and two hikes back to the van later, urged on by a seething rage at the world, I was all packed. I rowed the boat across to the other side while Nige and Bill packed up and wandered up to the bar - yes, at last our wandering barista had returned. About time to…just when we were leaving.
5 Apr 2018 at 3.02pm
In reply to Post #308
We were all absolutely soaking wet, very damp and, speaking for myself, a bit depressed. I’d been picking up the local French radio station on the radio, listening to their weather forecasts. There was no sign of an end to the storms that were sweeping all of northern France.
I was getting pretty fed up and every twist and turn caused my back to protest angrily! The rain had by now turned the once-grassy banks into a thick and muddy morass and the dreadful weather was beginning to get to me. And the poor fishing wasn’t helping either. By Friday, after a particularly severe storm that had been accompanied by twenty-four hours of torrential rain, I was feeling pretty miserable. The lake had risen several inches and the deluge of rainwater had turned the once crystal-clear lake into a thick, chocolate-brown soup. The stream at the top end of the lake was rushing through over its banks, flooding lake and putting the kiss of death on the fishing in the process. I wanted to leave and leave right now!
Earlier, in a (probably vain) attempt to improve the fishing in my swim I had introduced a widespread carpet of groundbait to cover a roughly circular area some fifty yards in diameter between seventy and one hundred and twenty yards out in front of me, and marked it with two markers at each end. The ploy had not worked and my rods remained lifeless in the rests. My swim had definitely died completely on me, as had Bill’s down the bank to my right. We both felt it was time to move.
Bill moved a bit further to the left into the mouth of the bay, while Nige shoved his damp and dripping gear into the van and drove around to the opposite side of the arm, more or less opposite Bill's new area. At least it would be handy for the bar if Jan-Francois ever returned! That's our trusty Maestro van across the other side with Nige's bivvy below it. Meanwhile Bill set off in the boat to see if he could find his little hotspot from last year.
Me? Well I fancied anywhere but this ****'ole!
We still hadn’t risked fishing at night, though so far the Gardes de Peche had been conspicuous by their absence. I’d almost have welcomed a tug, if only to get the adrenaline flowing once again. Bill moved again during a brief lull in the downpour on Friday afternoon, this time into the arm itself. The ground was a lot harder here and at least the slightly less muddy bank held some obvious attractions. The bar was much closer for a start.
It was a move that paid off almost immediately in the shape of a twenty-five pound mirror taken on a bait rowed out into the centre of the arm in about ten feet of water. He didn't weigh it, just put it straight back, as it was again pissing down.
I had by now started to attract the unwanted, yet considerable attention of several pike and zander anglers who seemed to be using my markers as homing beacons. Whether or not they were acting deliberately or not, their antics soon put paid to my fishing while they were on the lake. Once, when I had just got back from rowing my baits out, a pike angler made a beeline for the same baited area and dropped anchor right on top of it. In next to no time he had caught my lines with his spinner, sending the frantic Frenchman into a gesticulating and highly volatile tantrum.
Eventually he simply cut through my lines leaving me the best part of six hundred yards of nylon adrift. As if the wasn’t enough Mr Angry was soon joined by another couple of boats and their presence finally brought the fishing in my swim to a complete halt. It was totally impossible. The occupants of the three boats appeared to take considerable pleasure in their bloody-mindedness leaving me fuming helplessly on the bank. There was nothing I could do about it but wait for them to go in for lunch then remove the markers. That might confuse the buggers!
5 Apr 2018 at 3.01pm
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.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.59pm
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.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.58pm
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.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.56pm
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.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.55pm
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.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.53pm
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.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.51pm
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.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.47pm
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.
5 Apr 2018 at 2.45pm
In reply to Post #298
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!
3 Apr 2018 at 11.19am
In reply to Post #298
Just got to select the relevant photos for the next section.
2 Apr 2018 at 1.20pm
Please be patient, chaps. Got a lot on my plate at the moment but rest assured, there is more tosh to come.
24 Mar 2018 at 2.13pm
In reply to Post #295
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.