Banter is a big part of fishing, especially carp fishing. The amount of time you’re sat behind the rods waiting for something to happen means that you need some form of entertainment! My fishing buddy Dan and I are always at it, taking the p!ss if a fish is lost or a making it known if one of us catches more than the other. Before his French trip we were discussing PBs which at the time were fairly close with his being slightly better. I did of course argue that mine was harder to catch! He went and did something on that trip though that’s going to put me on the back foot for quite some time. I thought it was only right to ask him to share that story for this blog which he’s done brilliantly. Over to Dan…
Before I start, I think it’s important to point out that I’m not as good at writing as Rob is but I thought after such a memorable session it was worth having a go.
I started fishing as a kid around the age of 9 catching small roach and Rudd from my local pond. There were about 10 of us in the village and we had a pond about 20 metres squared to fish in. As soon as one person’s float bobbed under, 7 more floats would suddenly splash down next to it! There was the chance for ‘Terry the Trench’ though, a real red letter day if you caught all 1lb of him!
As with most of these stories I discovered beer, bacon and women and fishing disappeared to make room for work and relationships from about the age of 17 until around two years ago at the age of 27.
I’ve since then become totally and utterly obsessed with fishing, from trout on the fly, to pike on the lure, to float feeder and more. But there is one fish that has caught me hook line and sinker and that is the carp. It seems to be full of mystique, with some people crediting them with near Mensa like intelligence. Personally I don’t believe all that twoddle but I do think they are very instinctual, running (or swimming) at the first sign something isn’t right. Unless you’ve got them feeding. When they get their heads down, especially in a group, they really can be easy to catch. For me the two most important aspects of carp fishing are location and baiting. Get these two things right and you are quid’s in. So obviously when I booked my first trip (via angling lines) to Les Genets carp lake in France for a week’s carp fishing over a year and a half ago, which aspect of my fishing did I focus on? Rigs of course! I spent hours and hours tying and perfecting all manner of rigs. Ask me to tie an anti-eject critically balanced reverse chod kd blowback? No problem!
After hours of being moaned at by my other half, I narrowed my rigs down to three types, for pop ups, wafters and standard bottom baits.
SO at 4pm on a sunny Friday a few weeks ago, myself and 4 old friends, two from the original pond in the village of Palgrave Suffolk, set off to Portsmouth. Between us we filled the back of a Hilux and an old converted horsebox trailer. We must have had over £10,000 worth of gear loaded, it truly is amazing the amount of tackle you take when carp fishing. My target for next year is really to cut down and be far lighter and more mobile.
5 hours of traffic jams, MacDonald’s, AC/DC and repeated p!ss taking later, we boarded our ferry, destined for Caen’s France. The crossing was awful. Top tip number one, unless you’ve booked a cabin, take your bedchair on board and don’t bother with reclining seats, they are shocking! Saturday morning we drove off the ferry and on to the lake which was a quick 2 hours away on very quiet and clean French roads.
On arriving, my first thought was ‘WOW’. What a truly stunning piece of the French countryside. The best way to describe it is a cliché, but idyllic just doesn’t do it justice. We walked the lake and setup our bivvies. Location was not a decision to factor in as we’d all drawn for our swims and I found myself, quite happily in the middle of the lake with one of the main features, an aerator, to fish to.
We all decided not to fish the first afternoon and simply chilled, got everything ready and eventual mooched over to the fishing lodge for our first meal of the trip. If you ever visit this lake, and I strongly suggest you do, get the food package. Heather’s cooking is tip top and you will certainly not go hungry.
Stuffed, we headed back to our swims. The lake is a standard oval shape however the far margin has a slight current caused by a nearby stream feeding into an inlet and out of an outlet at the other end of the lake. As such all the fishing is to the far side of the bank and all the pegs are on the other side. Due to the overhanging trees and shrubs etc., bait boats are essential, and the lake has two for hire at very reasonable rates (mine was the largest and an excellent boat at 80 euros). I chose to fish two rods either side of the aerator and one in just off an overhanging reed bed about 30 foot to the left. Bait was simple, crushed and chopped cell and hybrid boilies in both 15mm and 18mm with the addition of lake pellets (from the local leading fish farmer, they are superb quality with low oil and high protein. As such they are the only pellets allowed on the lake) and Larry’s, the lake owners, home cooked maize. Hook baits were chopped cell, a cell wafter and a snowman rig.
At about 3am I was rudely awoken by an absolute screamer of a take, a real one toner. As I hit the rod my first thought was, that’s odd, there’s nothing there. As I reeled in I could feel something pulling, all be it very small. As the tubing broke the surface, the offending culprit was clear – not a carp, but another species ticked of my list, all be it one I wasn’t overly happy to catch. A copyu! For those of you who don’t recognise the name they’re giant rat like rodents and not very pleasant at that!
On the second day (after a cracking full English which was included in the meal package) I once again had a ripper on the left hand rod on the aerator. This was no coypu and the fight was fantastic. This fish was not interested in coming quietly and repeatedly stripped metres of line from a very tight clutch (I use ESP Syncro in 15lb and have total confidence in it, a superb line). Eventually a golden mirror carp slipped into the net and after photos and unhooking weighed in at 36lb and 8oz. I was off the mark and what a way to start, with a PB. This was possibly the best looking fish out of everyone’s catches and was certainly the best of mine. A stunning, perfect and unblemished creature which I will remember for a very long time. Rig wise all that messing around months before had been pointless it seemed. It fell to 3 pieces of maize tipped with a piece of fake floating corn to negate the weight of the hook. A size 8 Fox Arma SSC served as the hook and this was simply knotless knotted on with no additional trickery, it simply doesn’t need it. Fox Camotech coated braid in light camo 15lb soft made up the rig, with the coating removed on the hair and just below the hook to create a hinge effect. An anti-tangle sleeve covers the double loop knot and this is attached to a Fox quick clip tied with a Palomar knot (I have 100% confidence in this knot) to the mainline. Normally in silt I would use a lead clip system; however since we were using the boats I opted for an inline system to give me better bolt effect. The lack of weed and snags meant I didn’t need a drop off system (there is really no need to ditch a lead unless you are fishing really snaggy swims – I’m sure all the talk of dropping leads is simply a way of tackle firms making more money out of us). The lead of choice was a Taska flat pear inline at 2oz. Anti-tangle tubing impregnated with tungsten by Nash polished this off and I always use a back lead with a heavy bobbin when fishing in this way.
Day three began as day two had – a fry up, the rods out and a dose in the bivvy. Eat, sleep, fish, repeat! At about noon I was alerted to my right hand rod by two single bleeps. My mate had seen a fish crash further to the right of my available water by another reed bed in the morning and told me over breakfast. Nothing ventured nothing gained thought I and I decided to put the same maize rig over this spot. It was this rod that was now alerting me. However nothing was really happening. The bobbin moved slowly up then settled back down again. I turned the alarm off and pulled the line gently with my fingers, something pulled back. I hit the rod hard – Fish on! Slowly I retrieved line and I have to say the fish didn’t seem to put much of a fight until I saw it about 3 rod lengths out. It looked like another mid thirty. It soon took off and completely flat rodded me, stripping at least 50 metres of line in a matter of seconds. This was no mid thirty. If it was, it was on steroids. After about 10 minutes, it slipped over the net. Looking in the net I knew it was a decent fish. As I lifted it out of the water I knew it was a very good fish. As I inspected it on the mat my heart stopped. The lake record fish has a very distinctive scar that looks like a lightning bolt. This fish had the scar. All of a sudden it seemed to balloon in size. We shouted Larry round and as we weighed it I was all over the place. As the needle span round to 59lb and 9oz Larry told me it was a new lake record. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I tried to hold it up to the cameras but couldn’t – the fish was huge and I was simply not strong enough to lift it. Waders on, I went into the drink, and thank god I did. What a truly amazing feeling. Being in this beautiful animal’s world was a very special feeling.
As the photos finished, I held her in the water and gave her a kiss. What a magical moment. She rested on my hands in the water, holding her own weight, but not yet ready to swim away. Eventually, after what felt like an eternity but was probably only a matter of seconds, she swam off strongly. I just stayed in the water staring at where she had gone, in a true state of shock. My fist trip to France with a UK PB of 17lb, not only had I smashed it, I’d caught the lake record! Beers were exchanged, hands were shook and I just seemed to float around in a world of my own. Needless to say the rest of the trip was a bit of a blur, but in total I caught 7 fish, totalling 230lb. Between the 5 of us we landed over 1280lb of fish and averaged 33lb per fish. What a truly amazing trip and one that will be remembered by all of us for a long, long time – most of all by me.
Overall I was pleased with the way I approached the session. I concentrated on my baiting, feeding little and often and not sitting on a huge pile of bait like many anglers do. I simplified my rigs and although the big girl came to a simple hair rig, the others came to a fluorocarbon D rig that really works well with wafter hook baits.
If you want a trip to France, go for Genets. Superb fish, superb hosts. Not an easy lake by any means, but not stupidly complicated like some. The total price was £675 and that covered the lake, food, travel, crossing, bait and plenty of beer. Bargain! A special mention must go out to the hosts Larry and Heather, you couldn’t ask for more. Nothing was too much to ask and Larry is a fountain of knowledge. Listen to him and you will catch. The lads must also take a mention, Slim, Coops, John and Chip. Chip our driver and local guide (his French dialect is something to behold) was on his 7th trip, and caught 19 fish up to mid-forties in the week.
So to finish, if you’re thinking of a trip to France, get on Angling Lines and get to Les Genets but leave the big girl alone, she belongs to me!
To keep up to date with Dan’s fishing adventures, follow him on Twitter.
Have you ever thought about a carp fishing holiday in the UK? Read the guide here.