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South West Memories.
17 Mar 2018 at 7.37pm
Not looked in here for a while and only just scanned through the latest additions to this magnificent thread, gonna take me a while to catch up!
Absolutely brilliant Ken, a real carp life
13 Feb 2018 at 4.30pm
In reply to Post #275
Going to take a bit of a break for a week or two. It's been a long winter but at last I feel the urge to fish again. There is more to come though so be patient!
13 Feb 2018 at 4.23pm
In reply to Post #274
The evening seemed to fly by and the drinks slid down. It was getting on for midnight when we tried to get away. Both of us had had too much to drink, but all the tackle was in the car and I didn’t want to leave it. “No problem,” said the `patron’. “My wife will drive your car home for you and my son will follow to bring her home. Have another drink!” How could we refuse?
So that was that for this trip. It was not the most successful trip we’d ever had, but it was certainly the most enjoyable so far. We’d caught a decent number of carp using just the four rods between us. All bar one were doubles, with a personal best for Tat, backed up with four other twenties from both venues. As for me, I had that solitary twenty pound common from the river and a few other doubles, but Tat had been the kiddie on this trip, no question. Think I'll leave her at home next time!
We spent the next day looking at a couple of lakes nearby that Michael had said were worth a look. One was private but the other was a huge water that had a reputation for huge pike and zander, but also for some very big carp, which were supposed to live in it's dark depths. Little did I know it at the time but one of those two lakes was going to figure large in my angling life in a few years time, but that tale is for later. That evening, as Tat prepared a farewell feast, I strolled down to the point on the big lake by the gite. In the windswept darkness a couple of French carp anglers were just packing up. They’d had no action all day. I felt quite smug inside!
Georges and Jeanine came up for our final evening along with yet more Chateau Georges. If you were to put a fancy label on his produce and sell it in the UK you’d think nothing of paying twenty quid a bottle for it. We were getting it for practically nothing. The door bell rang. It was Michael and his pals from the bar, come to celebrate out departure in style. If you wonder why we keep going back to France time after time, perhaps now you can understand.
Two years later, in October 1993, we went back to the gite for a week. The big lake looked just the same apart from the level. The summer of that year had been appalling and heavy rains had brought the level up. The point was all but under water. Sadly the river was completely unfishable; over its banks and going through like an express train. But the fisherman’s bar was just the same, Michael and his friends just as friendly. The Chateau Georges was better than ever.
Michael told me that in the summer he had been called out to witness a carp that had been caught by accident by a French pike angler. It had taken a livebait! The angler had kept the fish alive in a hessian sack until the official scales had arrived. After it had been weighed and recorded he wanted to kill it. Michael stopped him and returned the fish to the water. He watched as it swam off strongly and he turned to the astonished captor saying, “That one is for Tat or Ken.” What a lovely thought, and a startling change in attitude from a guy who had previously avowed death to all carp! The fish? It weighed fifty-five pounds!
(The record for the reservoir now stands at 28kg and because of this it is getting heavily fished by French carp anglers. I think I have given you enough clues if you want to find it yourself, so good luck if you happen to trip over it on your travels.)
Postscript: In January 1994 we had a ‘phone call from an English angler who had found George's gite by accident in much the same way we had. He had sad news. Georges had died just before Christmas of a heart attack. We were devastated. Georges had become a true friend and his gite a real home to us. We have not been back. Somehow it just wouldn’t be the same without him. Memory fades, but from time to time, usually as I’m sipping a glass of rather inferior wine, I think of him, his fabulous wine and his amazing zest for all the good things of life, and I raise my glass, take a gulp and with a lump in my throat say, “Here’s to you, Georges.”
13 Feb 2018 at 4.20pm
In reply to Post #273
We set up in the usual place on the jetty with the two rods fishing down the edge and two out in the middle. Runs seemed to be coming mainly from the foot of the jetty's wall and Tat laid claim to the rods straight from the off and as it turned out she was bang on the money. I caught three small commons that final day; Tat caught five commons and three mirrors including another big twenty…Bless! She puts her good fortune done to her mascots, which go everywhere with her when she goes fishing. I've taken them with me on occasion but they never bring me her sort of luck, if that's what it is. Here they are giving me a wave (though it's a good job they don't have fingers as I expect I'd be getting a couple!
And here are a few more of the lucky lady with some of the other fish she caught from the river.
I wouldn't mind but she is so laid back she's almost asleep most of the time. She's either got her head buried in a book or she's filling her face…I love her really, but sometimes I wish she's lay off catching so bloody many!
This is her final fish of the trip…another twenty! Can you hear my teeth gnashing?
We just had to call in at the fisherman’s bar that final night. Michael was wedged at the bar with a glassy-eyed look on his face. He’d obviously been there some time and he had a big grin spread across his face. “What’s he caught?” I asked one of the others.
“Un Brochet. Onze kilos. Magnifique!”
I turned to Michael. “Congratulations. What a fish!” He beamed a red wine smile at us. “And you?” he asked. “How have you done today in your quest for small carp?” He was back on the jibes again.
“Not so small, old pal.” I pointed at Tat who was trying to look modest and failing badly. “Tat has caught five fish over ten kilos,” I told him.
"From the big lake," he asked, astonished!
"No, one from the reservoir and four from the river." Tat was trying to hide her big smile to no avail.
"Well done lass," said Michael. What was the biggest? Not as big as my pike, I’ll bet.”
“Shall I tell him?” I whispered to Tat. She nodded.
“The biggest one from the river was 14.5kg and the others were all over ten kilos."
His jaw dropped as the whole bar laughed that a mere woman could best him. Then he grasped Tat in a big hug. “What are you going to drink? I have to celebrate with a beautiful girl who can fish as well.” He looked at me with a scowl. “Nothing for you! How can you let your wife out-fish you?” He had to get the last word in, though we were kindred spirits for the moment, both seen off by a mere woman!
13 Feb 2018 at 4.15pm
In reply to Post #272
The next day's weather was a repeat of what we'd experienced for most of the trip. Warm and still. Tat had been looking at the Series Bleu IGN maps which are very detailed and ideal for spotting tracks not shown on other maps. She had her eye on another swim not far away by an old stone road bridge that looked as if nothing had crossed it since the Revolution. The river here was slow and very deep, even in the margins we found ten feet of water. It was also much wider than the other swim, perhaps 200m across with hardly an discernible current. It looked very tasty! We set up the two pairs of rods to cover the margins and the middle of the river, chucked some boilies hither and yon and sat back to await developments.
As we sat in the sunshine we heard a loud cacophony of car or lorry engines and looking up we saw a procession of vehicles of all shapes and sizes coming slowly towards us down the track to the river. About a dozen assorted vehicles passed a few yards away and the drove along the unmade road alongside the river, heading upstream. It was clearly a group of travelers of which there are many in France, and they were obviously scouting out a new location to set up camp. I was a bit uneasy and I could see Tat was a bit nervous too and even when she had a take she was not her usual calm and gentle self. The fish was soon on the bank and Tat said, "let's get out of here!" Shame we hadn't found the spot earlier as the fish she'd caught was a good twenty, I'd say, though we didn't weigh or photograph it, as the gypsy encampment started to send a delegation down towards us. I felt sure they were going to ask us for the fish so it went back without the usual ceremony. We didn't fancy hanging around, just in case we caught another one. Exit the Townleys stage left!
(We went back to this spot in 2002. The place looked like a rubbish tip, though the gypsies were nowhere in evidence. There were rats running all over the place, in broad daylight too. We didn't stop. If they ever get around to cleaning up the place we'll be back.)
The next day we returned to the jetty swim. Once again the weather remained remarkably mellow for the time of year. Somebody up there likes us! As usual we fished the two and two arrangement and as usual it was the rods on the jetty that produced the majority of the action. Here's Tat in action with a fish that took hard up against the concrete wall of the jetty. Clearly they loved to feed along the wall, probably feeding on the crayfish that must have been here, though we never had any trouble with them.
…and here's the jammy lady in typical pose with a another twenty pound common.
We never need an excuse to sink a few and that evening found us in the bar again celebrating Tat's great day. Two twenties from the river…no mean feat. I was getting my arse kicked by the good lady wife (grrr) in no uncertain manner!
I was pretty happy with our results so far and with only a day of fishing time left we needed to make the most of it. Naturally once again we made a late start thanks to the demon drink but we were on holiday after all. I apologise if the constant references to bars, restaurants, beer and wine goes against the grain for some of you but for us carp angling is as much about the 'afters' as it is about the fishing.
13 Feb 2018 at 4.13pm
In reply to Post #271
We had three brim-full buckets of soaked groats ready to go that we'd started the previous night. Incidentally, you may have seen me write about cats and carp bait before, namely: if you want to know if your bait is any good see if the cat will eat it. If it goes mad for the bait then so will the carp. Seems like the gite's kittens love groats!
I put the first bucket of groats in with the bait scoop and topped up the carpet with boilies and then we set up the rods, one set on the concrete sill of the jetty with the baits fishing straight down the wall, the other pair covering margins some twenty yards upstream of the jetty. Note the bucket of groats extreme bottom left of this pic.
It was a glorious day as far as the weather was concerned, but as far as the carp were concerned they weren't hungry! This is par for the course with river carping. The shoals can be huge but they can also travel miles in search of food. Sure, they have their favourite feeding zones with which they are familiar - same as with lake dwelling carp - but sometimes it is a bit of a waiting game. The most important thin g is to make sure there is plenty of bait waiting for them when they arrive at their feeding zone (hopefully your swim!). It was now one o'clock and as true Francophiles we felt the need to feed. Being a Monday the Rabelais was shut but the local creperie du lac was not far away. We piled in another bucket of groats and boilies and adjourned to it's welcoming comfort.
Well fed up and agreeably drunk (sorry, Gerald!) we walked back to the river, and got the rods out of the car. In the warm afternoon sunshine it was hard to keep one's eyes open and maybe one or both of us did nod off for a few minutes. It wasn't for long, though, as a yell from the rods on the jetty jolted us awake. My turn for a fish…Maybe I'd get lucky and land on of those lovely big mirrors…on the other hand, maybe not!
I reckon this little scamp was the last one left in the swim as it was the first and the only take of the day. Perhaps we'd been a bit hasty going for lunch, but what the hell! We called in at the bar before returning to the gite. Pete had left a message for us saying that there were fish showing off the sailing club. Sadly the bankside here was reserved for sailors and plank users so there was no fishing allowed. It looked a very tasty area to be honest and it looked a nice alternative to the other spots we'd fished.
13 Feb 2018 at 4.11pm
In reply to Post #270
Though it was only mid afternoon and there were for sure more fish to be caught down the wall, we'd caught decent fish, a near thirty for Tat and that pristine common for myself, plus a few other doubles. If for no other reason, two lovely twenties meant it was time to celebrate!
We were very happy with our results on the river and at for the time being it looked as if the fishing on the big ressy was likely to be rather grueling unless we got more favourable winds to help push the carp towards us. That meant anything with east in it would do, but there was nothing like that in the forecast. So rather that sit it out and hope, we thought that the river offered better prospects. For a start it seemed as if the river carp we were catching were definitely getting bigger, and also it appeared that the carp were obviously getting used to stopping in the swim on their trek up and down the river in search of food. In the meantime, a glass of beer awaited us in celebration of the day’s fishing. (That's one of Roger's glasses of beer, by the way…That will mean something to one or two of you!)
Ah! The best laid plans...Sunday dawned dreary and miserable. It was raining heavily, blowing a hoolie and, to cap it all, there were two French pike anglers in the swim! Undaunted we tried to fish the jetty from the opposite end but it was a difficult cast to get right and we felt that the baits were landing too far out in the flow. So we moved downstream of the jetty to an slight bay that created a small eddy that might hold a few carp…It didn't and we spent a few hours sitting under the brolly watching the river swell and colour-up. In my barbel fishing days, I always considered such conditions as a waste of time and so it proved with the carp as well. Writing that one off to bad timing and bad luck we sought solace in the bar!
We were determined to go for it now, as we were running out of days. The river beckoned and we put any idea of fishing the ressy out of our minds. We would get an early start in the morning and give it our best shot on the river, assuming the swim was free. Meanwhile Tat prepared a casserole for the following day's evening meal and we shared a last glass of Armagnac before turning in.
For once we stuck by our good intentions and were at the river by first light. The swim was free…Yes! but Up the bank some fifty yards or so away a party of ancient French pike anglers were fishing. There seems to be thousands of these old guys throughout France, all fishing antiquated methods, catching sweet FA yet perfectly content in their pastime. They were friendly enough and as usual looked on in amazement at the carp gear. Once again it was the buzzers that fascinated them the most, and we spent a few minutes tweaking the line to produce false runs. After the cold, the wind and the rain of yesterday, today was a complete contrast being warm with a light breeze.
11 Feb 2018 at 4.29pm
In reply to Post #269
“So strong” muttered Tat. “ This is a decent fish for sure”. I didn’t answer. I don’t think she knew she’d spoken aloud anyway. I was standing on one of the rock outcrops as the fish slipped by, just a foot or so beneath the surface. I couldn’t help letting out a startled exclamation. It was a lovely big fat mirror, a proper carp to my way of thinking, it might even go thirty. Then the carp’s shoulders broke the surface as it swirled on the top. Now Tat got the first impression of the fish’s awesome size.
“Here’s your personal best, love,” I murmured, adding a silent “Don’t loose it,” under my breath.
Then suddenly, it was over. After a good fifteen minutes of give and take, the fish just gave up and lollopped into the waiting net. I took the weight and it felt heavy. Up on the bank, we peeled back the net and just stood there for a few seconds, gazing down at the thing of beauty, lying there, in the autumn sunshine, in all its glory. Then Tat just burst out laughing and the spell was broken. It just had to go thirty. It had to! But the scales only gave her 29lb 8oz, no matter how many times we hoisted the sling. (I have this silly dream. Some may call it a nightmare. I dream that I have played a fish of a lifetime to the bank only to weigh it, be disappointed and return it after photos. It is only when the photos come back that the doubts start. It looks far bigger than the weight I’d given it at the time of its capture. Had I weighed it badly? Surely, I must have done. Look at the size of it! It's an awful dream, I tell you!) But what’s in a weight? Nothing could take the magic of that moment away. The trip could end right here and now and we’d still return home happy and proud.
But the gods hadn’t finished with us yet! There was icing on the cake in the form of a lovely, scale-perfect, twenty pound common for me that took a hookbait cast just inches from the concrete wall of the jetty. Here the water was only about eight feet deep and being comparatively shallow we could detect the presence of carp in the swim, as the discoloured water rising to the surface betrayed their presence.
11 Feb 2018 at 4.25pm
In reply to Post #268
The following morning we were on the road bright and early before it got light. My fear was that news of our captures the previous day had got out, possibly from the restaurant owner, and we would arrive in our baited area to find someone else fishing there. With our hearts in our mouths, we drove down to the river. Was someone in our swim? No. What a relief! Out came the rods and some bait and I baited up by using a bait scoop to introduce a bucket of groats that had been soaked in strongly-flavoured water overnight. Three hundred boiled baits followed. Baits on, stringers tied. Any barges in sight…No! So here goes. Four splashes and four rods were soon fishing the margins under our feet.
The weather continued to be kind to us with good sunshine, no rain and light breeze. For some reason I figured that river carp like the opposite weather conditions than lake-dwelling ones…No idea why but there you go!
While we had needed the heavier rods to cast across from the far side, as had been the case on our first day on the river, now we were fishing more or less under our rod tips so the Horizons got left in the rod bag and were substituted with a pair of the 2lb test Hutchinson Spirolites, which we had bought back in the College days. We've still got them and use them too, as they are a dream to play fish on. Here they are set up on the concrete sill of the jetty.
They were joined on the bank by a pair of lovely little Sportex eleven-footers that Tat loves so much. They were built for us by Savay legend Bob Jones with full corks and tiny, lightweight rings. I think the blank was designated the 3353 and they are apparently built to mirror the old glass North Western SS5s; so soft that in a scrap everything bends, even the handles! They are very light with a test curve of 1.5lb, but they are a dream to play fish on, which isn’t something one can say about the Horizons.
An hour or two passed without any signs that there were fish in the swim. I wandered up to the village for some grub and a few beers in the hope that my absence might trigger a take. If that sounds strange, well it’s often worked in the past; I go off for some reason or other and return to find Tat with a whacker on the bank. It’s happened in France before, as well as in the U.K. at Waveney, College and Redmire, to name but a few. This time it didn’t work, but I think I might have brought the fish down river with me.
Tat had her head buried in a book, deep in the mystery of Agatha Christie. I was staring at the water and as I watched, a small carp came splashing to the top in that typical untidy leap typical of small carp. We’ll have a chance in a minute, I said to Tat. She sat up from he book tensed as if we were both thinking the same thing. It's almost as if we knew that something significant was on the cards. It wasn’t anything tangible, but we knew that a take was imminent... 100% certain.
Tat had got up from her chair and was now standing over her rods, while I was up the bank a few yards. For some reason, I looked around and saw that her two rods were banging and shaking in the rests. So did Tat! The buzzer had time only for the briefest of shrieks before she had the rod in her hand and the reel was screaming its head off as a good fish took off across the river with an incredible burst of speed. Savage, searing runs ripped the line off the clutch with consummate ease. Those French carp sure do know how to fight and Tat was now into one that didn’t know when to give up!
I guess the fish must have crossed almost to the opposite bank before Tat managed to get a modicum of control over it. Then, in mid-river, the fish slogged it out on a long line, staying deep and using the flow to exert every ounce of pressure on the rod and the line. Gradually, she worked the fish in towards the bank, only for it to take off again on another searing run, this time upstream along the near bank. I was worried that it might shred the line on one of the rocky promontories, but it all held together while Tat worked the fish back with her usual patience.
11 Feb 2018 at 4.22pm
In reply to Post #267
As we drove west into the glare of the setting sun, both of us felt that at last we were getting to grips with the fishing in this new part of France. The locals in the village bar were all ears when we told them we’d found some proper fishing at last. Michael bought a proper glass of red all round to celebrate our success. By proper I mean a red that came out of a bottle with a cork in it and the neck wrapped in foil. The usual fare in the bar came out of an unlabeled five litre plastic bottle.
As usual everyone was astonished that we didn’t have anything to show for our day’s fishing, but we had managed to get across to them the fact that we only fish for the pleasure of the sport and not to kill the fish. “In England, if we killed a carp on purpose we’d be banned from our clubs and probably end up tied to a tree to reflect on the error of our ways,” I told them.
“You mean it is illegal to kill carp?”
“Not illegal,” I explained. “Worse!” They accepted this with a Gallic shrug. Nice enough people the English, but crazy!
While Tat did the dinner, I strolled down to the big lake to see what, if anything we were missing. The lads were still on the point, but their dry landing nets continued to mock their efforts. The wind was no more than a gentle puff from the north, not enough to stir the carp into life, that much was clear. They rinsed out a glass and poured me a generous measure of Pastis, and in the fading light we chatted as carp anglers do wherever they meet. They were quite knowledgeable about the lake and told me that there were only a few big fish in the lake, mostly mirrors ranging between twenty-five and thirty-five pounds, with two or three huge commons of over forty pounds, fish that were rarely seen and even more rarely caught. Most of the other carp in the lake were commons in the 8-18lbs bracket, though before the lake had been emptied it had produced a monster common carp of fifty-two pounds to a French angler fishing with spud on 30lb line. They’ve got to be thick those French carp! But if they were that thick, why couldn’t I catch them! Don't answer that. Sadly, this huge fish had been killed and paraded around the village by its captor before being eaten.
The French lads said they were fishing until Sunday and invited Tat and me to join them on their pre-baited area and after talking it over with Tat and considering that the next day would be the start of the weekend, when the river would probably be heaving, we decided to take them up on their offer.
And very glad we were too, for just as the afternoon lassitude was setting in one of Tat's rods was away. Considering there was a crowd of quite 'tired and emotional' French carpers looking on and offering advice, she played it like a true pro and eventually brought a lovely looking common of 22lb 4 oz to the net. Were we pleased! The other lads maybe not so: they'd been there for three days and blanked and then along comes this lass and nicks out a twenty from under their noses. That's my girl!
We said our goodbyes soon afterwards, as the French lads were looking like **** and were either snoring in their bivvies or asleep in the warm afternoon sunshine. We felt that a further celebration was called for and one of us was a bit the worse for wear by evening.
We fished the next day with the French lads but had no further action. Considering there were over twenty rods fishing the point it was not at all surprising. The racket some of the French anglers kick up would make Dick Walker turn in his grave…Study to be quiet…My arse! One thing was noticeable; a previously unseen flock of coots had arrived sometime over that weekend and they had soon cottoned on to the baited area. Carnage ensued and we couldn't wait to get back to the river!
11 Feb 2018 at 4.19pm
In reply to Post #266
I cast the rod out again and added another batch of mixed boiled baits. This was more like it. Sunshine and carp, good food and wine in la belle France. A small white van made its way along the top of the bank towards us. It was Jean, the guy from the Rabelais restaurant. He brought a bottle of red wine and a corkscrew with him. What can you say about a nation that seems to brush its teeth in red wine. How can they be anything else but friendly and convivial? If ever a people seem to have got the meaning of life well and truly sorted out, it is the French. Work to live, don't live to work!
We shared our friend’s wine in the sunshine before he was called back to work by a large lady, furiously beckoning and shouting from the terrace overlooking the river, that there were customers needing to be fed. An hour had gone by since the first fish. Had they moved off. Perhaps there wasn’t enough bait to hold them. I’d read somewhere that river carp require big carpets of bait to hold them in a swim, but I was wary of putting too much in.
Just to go off at a tangent for a moment. I often ponder about just how much bait qualifies as 'enough'. I’d found it hard to believe the amount of bait the carp in the lake we'd fished earlier in the year were capable of eating, while the Cannonball fish were cleaning up seven or eight mixes in a day. I was once criticised over an article I wrote for a magazine, my critic suggesting that the amount of bait I had recommended was obscene, but I doubt if he’d ever fished in France. I have no doubts at all that due to the warmer water temperatures the carp’s metabolic rate is much higher than that of English carp. Hence their healthier appetites.
Back to the river, where I was having my doubts about the amount of bait in the swim. Was there enough or should we put in more? Tat said, "sit on your hands and do nothing." As always she was right. A buzzer sounded. It was one of Tat’s rods. The fish, a mirror of fourteen pounds, was quickly followed by another about three pounds heavier. After the carp-drought they could have been thirties, so gratefully were they received.
“They’re getting bigger,” I joked. I should have kept my mouth shut. The next fish was a common of about eight pounds. There was obviously a shoal of small to medium carp over there, but at least we were catching. We’d waited a long time for these fish and were going to make the most of them.
The afternoon sped quickly by. The carp fed steadily through the afternoon but the action slowed as the sun went down and the fish moved off altogether after Tat had landed a last gasp 17lb common.
Before leaving, we had a beer at the restaurant, promising to return the next day, for the fishing in the river was much more productive than at the lake. “We’d love to be able to fish this bank,” I said to Jean, the owner. “Obviously it would be a lot easier if we could fish the deep water from this side rather than cast across from the opposite side."
"It’s a private bank but it's never used these days so nobody will bother you if that is where you want to fish." He then drew us map on the back of a menu and added, “This how to get down to the jetty from this said," he said.
We went on our way detouring briefly to see if we could find our way down to the concrete jetty. In the gathering darkness it wasn’t the easiest route to follow but after a few twists, turns and blind alleys we eventually came out directly opposite the spot we’d been fishing on the other bank. The lights of the restaurant burnt bright and clear some four hundred yards down the bank and in the gloom we could just make out the waving figure of Jean. I waved my thanks back. I was right. Fishing would be a doddle from here. Planning to return the next day we baited up with a bucket of boilies, a mixture of ready-mades and fishmeals that we were making up daily at the gite. Was that enough. I wondered. Probably!
11 Feb 2018 at 4.16pm
In reply to Post #265
The swim that Franck and the restaurant owner had pointed out to us was grassy and comfortable at the top of the bank, giving way to a muddy, slippery water's edge, made even more slippery by the wash from the barges ploughing up and down river. The deepest water looked to be across in front of the concrete jetty about 100 yards away on the opposite bank. The flow was hardly noticeable and we knew that we would be able to get away with four ounce leads. The water was quite clear and obviously very rich for there were empty swan mussels shells in profusion at the water's edge.
I plumbed around a bit and found out that there was about twelve feet of water across on the other side with a much deeper channel running down the middle of the river where I found a good twenty feet. Then the river gradually shelved up towards the near bank where we would be fishing. There were obviously quite a few snags about on the river bed as I found to my cost after loosing a couple of leads while plumbing the depth and feeling the bottom. The snags felt like boulders or large stones, but perhaps they could have been waterlogged trees washed down by winter floods. With all those snags, mussels and boulders on river bed it’s small wonder the swim was apparently a good one for carp.
Here and there along the bank great outcrops of solid rock fell off into the deep water encompassing little bays with sharp eddies and swirling currents. They would certainly be worth exploring but to start with we wanted to fish the steadier flow and greater depth of the far bank.
I got busy with the throwing stick and put couple of mixes of fresh fishmeal boilies and a kilo of Richworths across towards the far bank. Opposite, the jetty was deserted and looked like it was never used, so overgrown was the concrete surface of the structure. Downstream from the jetty was another restaurant. It was shut up tight and the place had the mournful look of a seasonal gold mine once all the punters have gone home. Further upstream the small bar/restaurant we’d used earlier seemed busy enough, judging by the cars outside in its car park. It was lunchtime, after all and the French need no excuses to down tools and tuck in.
I put on stringers and cast across the to the far side. Tat returned with a bulging shopping bag. With the rods out awaiting who-knows what, we set about the cheese and wine with a vengeance. This is the part of French fishing that we both really love. So many of the lakes and rivers have tracks around or along them, and often it’s just a matter of stopping the car, getting the gear out and starting fishing. No walking down mud-strewn paths for mile after mile, only to get to that distant hot-spot and find some other bugger in there. Pile everything into the boot, stop where you will, start fishing, begin the picnic. So, in France, we tend to take everything bar the kitchen sink. Out came the full works; chairs, table, proper glasses for the wine, plates and decent knives and forks.
The early afternoon passed in a pleasant, lazy doze. We were getting a bit philosophical about it all by now and had resigned ourselves to probably not catching fish, so we’d have a good time instead. The sun beamed down, and it seemed to get even hotter. Watching the river flow and listening to the distant, almost restful hum of the traffic heading down south on the motorway, I was half asleep when I heard a funny, almost inaudible clicking sound.
“What’s that?” I asked as I came fully awake. “Silly bugger,” said Tat. “You’ve forgotten to turn up the buzzers. It’s a run, you fool!”
Sure enough, the reel was clicking away on a light-set clutch. I swept up the rod, tightened down to the fish and felt an answering thump come back up the line. The rod hooped over and the fight was on. The fish hugged the bottom, using the current to take it downstream. This only brought the fish in towards my bank though, and soon it was in the shallower water about fifty yards down the bank. Slipping and sliding through the mud, I scrambled my way down towards the fish, Tat, slip-sliding on the muddy shore, followed with the net. By the time we eventually got to it, the fish had done all the fighting it was going to do, and flopped gratefully into the net. A common. No monster but very welcome nevertheless. Well, wasn’t that nice. My first river carp, first time of asking!
11 Feb 2018 at 4.13pm
In reply to Post #264
Next day, be buggered! If the carp fishing gods had relented, it was only briefly. The deteriorating weather proved only that there were fish to be caught when the conditions were right, but - wouldn’t you know it? - the next day was white calm and hot and we never had a sniff. Franck called in for a chat and we passed on Pete's message and mentioned that we were tempted to fish the river opposite the concrete jetty. For a second I thought I had dropped a spherical one; maybe I shouldn't have let on that Pete had passed on one of Franck's secret spots. I need not have worried. Franck was in full agreement with us. The ressy was not worth the effort and the river was a much better bet.
The French carp anglers had arrived early that morning. Full of themselves they felt certain they would have fish. They went on the point and by the time they had finished setting up the area looking like a porcupine, rods everywhere. They baited up a huge area about three hundred yards down the bank from our swims and fished four rods each.
The day was a long one and our faces got equally long with the setting sun’s shadows. We blanked as did the guys on the point but they were going to fish the night. Perhaps that would tell us if we were missing out by not risking it. The evening had turned into something of a celebration over the capture of the first fish of the trip, and a few beers in the bar heralded a bit of a session back at the gite. Burgers on the BBQ and a few glasses of Chateau Georges were called for and the evening passed in a pleasant haze, eating and drinking and playing with the kittens, of which there were dozens, or so it seemed.
I got up with the dawn and walked out to the point. No sacks or slings hanging up to dry, no bank sticks in the margins, no wet landing nets nor the sweet smell of drying carp slime drying on victorious sweat-shirts. Blank night. Disheartened the French guys may have been, but they didn’t show it. They were sitting down to coffee and breakfast, which included several glasses of Pastis! Out over the baited patch the first carp I’d seen jump all week cleared the water in front of me. But disappointment followed and despite yesterday’s fish the more I thought about it the more I fancied trying the river.
It was decided: Today we'd fish the river. After a somewhat tardy start we arrived at the river rather late in the day and it was about ten in the morning when we eventually arrived in the car park by the little restaurant, and by the time we’d said hello to Jean, the friendly patron, it was even later when we actually started fishing. I told the guy that we'd been advised to go across to the other bank where we could drive along the bank to the point opposite the jetty and he agreed that this would make for easier fishing. However, as we were leaving he said, "watch out for the boats." What was that about, then?
As promised the access to the river along the opposite side was easy and we unloaded the gear. I set up the rods and got organised while Tat walked up to the main road to buy lunch. The picnic is as important to us as the fishing, providing the weather allows. Today was a return to the settled weather of the previous week. Yesterday’s brief gale was already a distant memory. The air temperature was already up to the low twenties, which considering it was the middle of October was pretty decent! How do the French stand it! All this great weather, lovely food, sublime wine and carp fishing too. They don't know they're born!
Let me just describe the river for you. It is, in turn, wide and deep, narrow and shallow. It runs through overgrown jungles, alongside neatly tended, poplar-lined footpaths. In places the bankside is solid gravel, overgrown with brambles and bracken, elsewhere its banks are a muddy morass that can cause problems to the unwary. It has weed beds and snag-trees and is navigable for much of its length. Yachts and pleasure boats swing around their permanent deep-water moorings. This is a river for all seasons, an angler’s paradise.
On the downside is the presence of the huge barges that Jean had warned us about. They sat low in the water even when empty but on their return, loaded with sand dredged from the river, they looked dangerously low. Their bow waves were impressive too and we later found out to our cost that the prop wash distributed our bait carpets over a huge area of river bed. Here's the same boat going down empty and coming back a few hours later laden to the gunwales.
11 Feb 2018 at 4.11pm
In reply to Post #263
I rather thought we'd be seeing a lot more of this little restaurant and its friendly owner as the holiday went by. "Maybe we’ll come back towards the end of the week,” we told him, and thanking him for the information, to say nothing of his superb cooking, we headed back to the gite. (I should add that this pic was taken several years later when we returned to the area for a few days .)
Back at the gite it was very noticeable that the weather had improved - from a carp angler's point of view - and a fresh blustery wind carried squally showers right onto the point and into the bay. The change in the weather had transformed the lifeless ocean we’d been confronting for the past week or so. Now it looked like a proper carp lake with waves lapping the shore and a more lively feel about the whole place. It looked so nice we couldn’t wait to get the rods out. The wind was really hacking in, accompanied by savage bursts of rain, yet through it all the sun tried to shine. The passing squalls left the odd bright rainbow over the water. The end of one seemed to touch the inside marker. Pot of gold?
I pumped up the little dinghy and in between squalls rowed out just enough bait to rouse the interest of a passing carp. I was getting wary of putting in too much bait, thinking that while the carp may be visiting the baited areas for a bite every now and then, they were not what anyone could call 'getting their heads down'. Once back ashore, soaked from the waves washing over the front of the dinghy, I got the tangle of rods out of the car and we baited them with fresh hook baits and stringers. I was a bit doubtful if the bulky stringer and hookbait would cast into the steadily increasing wind so I was glad to see the hefty splash as the first cast landed right next to the marker and the hookbait dropped into eight or nine feet of water. The wave action had begun to discolour the water from its previous gin-like clarity. If there were carp worth their salt in the lake, surely they’d be out there on the lee shore getting the invigorating benefit of the wind-whipped water and the stirred up food from the bottom.
To raise our spirits still further, the rain stopped and the sun came out and the wind dropped away slightly. The fresh conditions brought the sailboards and yachts out in force but so far they remained well off shore and did not threaten to wipe out the rods, as had happened the previous year when we'd fished with Franck and Jean-Yves. On the extreme right of this pic you can just about see our little R5 in the middle of the bay, the photo being taken from the point. This perhaps puts the size of the ressy into some sort of perspective.
Perfect the weather may be but still no carp came our way. We didn't even see any shows and it looked as if the river was calling us. The afternoon gradually lost its heat as the sun dipped towards the horizon and Tat left to put on the dinner, walking across the marshy grass, trying not to step on any of the hundreds of thousands of grasshoppers now setting up a cacophony of sound as the evening fell. A vain hope. They were everywhere. I don’t think she had much faith in my carp-catching abilities anymore. I wasn’t sure if I had either.
As the sun set, it took with it the breeze and all my hopes for a fish and I sat in the fading light gently cursing the gods of fishing. I was aching for a fish! But then, where else could I find such peace? Where could such beauty and tranquillity seem to exist only for me? Where else could I have all those acres of paradise to myself? Where else could I find to blank?
Out of the blue, a high tone-buzzer gave a single bleep. A fish? Surely not! One bleep, then another, then a constant scream as a fish took off with the hook bait. God, what a wonderful sound is that first run on a new lake, especially when you had waited several days for it. This one was a flyer and I could make no impression on the fish for about a minute or so and in that time it must have taken a good many yards of line. However, inevitably the carp tired and I pumped it in towards me. The strength of that fish was fantastic, but the disturbance and
agitation of the water on the wave-lashed shoreline seemed to drain the strength out of it and soon it was in the net. Up onto the scales. A touch under 18lb. A freshly minted common.
Beautiful! Never had a fish looked so good, or brought such relief! I sacked the fish and, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, drove back to the gite to collect Tat to come and take the pictures. We’d cracked it at last. We’d hammer ‘em now. Next day - watch
11 Feb 2018 at 4.02pm
In reply to Post #262
Pete told us if we wanted to try another venue that we should give the river a go. He gave us directions to a spot on the river that Franck had put him on to. "It's worth a try as there are some good fish in that river. Go to the road bridge then walk downstream about 400 yards. Look for the concrete jetty and fish close to the wall. Franck's had some nice fish from that spot." I told him I'd never carp fished a river before. "It's like riding a bike," he said. "If you can catch them from a lake then you'll be able to catch them from a river. If anything they are easier to catch as they are generally nomadic and don't come across anglers too often so they are pretty green.
Pete has since become a good friend. He is my sort of carp angler, not a driven man on a headlong plunge for the next monster. Carp are his passion, regardless of size. He is a man who can still see the value of a fifteen pound fish, while his twenties are celebrated with a pull from the Famous Grouse bottle. Pete lives in a country where the carp grow big, but he has his feet planted firmly on the ground. Size isn’t everything to him, so he finds his pleasures easy to come by as the capture any carp, whatever its size, gives him great satisfaction. A man after my own heart.
We moved again the following day. While setting up Tat came back from a walk along the bank to tell me that there was a boat down the bank with grains of maize in the bottom. Could that be the answer? Were we being a bit too technical for these carp? Still, at least the presence of the maize showed that people were, indeed, carp fishing on the ressy so we fishing blind.
The next day was spent away from fishing. We wanted a break so we got into the car and followed our noses on a trip around the countryside. I suppose in the process we were also looking for an alternative water to fish but this was largely unspoken and a lazy day of casual exploration was just what we needed to restore our slightly dampened enthusiasm for carp fishing. We spent much of the time in village bars and cafes asking questions about lakes and rivers, but getting nowhere. We thought we’d got lucky when we stumbled across a rumour of some very big commons taken from an arm of the river Pete had mentioned, but when we visited the spot it was dried out. This was getting silly. What next?
“I know,” said Tat. “Let’s eat!”
She was right, a decent meal would brighten our spirits. A sign beside the road indicated the way to a restaurant. River views, proclaimed the sign. It sounded just the job, the very place to drown our sorrows. I followed the signs into the car park and I could see the glitter of flowing water ahead. The car park was pretty full but we found a space where we could see the river more clearly. To our left was a large road bridge crossing the river. River, restaurant, road bridge...Could this be the one Pete had mentioned? (I should add that this pic was taken several years later when we returned to the area for a few days R&R when we were doing long sessions on the Chateau Lake, much more of which later.)
As things were to turn out finding that restaurant was serendipity. Not only was the food to die for but Jean the owner, waiter, head chef and bottle washer was well versed in the local fishing so I asked him if there was any decent carp fishing in the river.
“Oh yes,” he replied. “There are some nice fish but they can be hard to find as they roam the length of the river. At this time of year the shoals are split up too, but you should have a chance or two just downstream” He tugged at my arm and pulled me outside and pointed downstream. There in the distance about 400 yards away was a fenced in concrete jetty! Bingo! The gear was back at the gite but if the fishing on the ressy remained dire this would be a nice spot to try, especially with a good restaurant within strolling distance. The river widened towards the far horizon but where were standing it looked to be no more than about 120m across. This is looking downstream to the spot where the river widens.
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