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Carp fishing Northern France - Hidden Treasures
Earlier in the year a phone conversation had me on the edge of my seat, during a visit to Northern France some friends had found a venue that seem to fit the requirements we looked for in a new venue. What was needed was for some anglers to go over and test fish the venue and was I up for it, was I ever!
From the description it sounded like my type of water, very lightly fished as far as the Carp are concerned and very little known about its potential. My friends were very excited about the venue and couldn’t wait to get back to fish it, having found the water on Google Earth I had to agree, it seemed to be everything we looked for, having arms and bays as well as little creeks to provide the intrigue and challenge we required.
A few phone calls and Paul Johnson a friends and Carp fishing stalwart agreed to join me, having caught many big fish from French waters Paul knows what is required, we had hoped that Rod Bird (Birdy) would also be joining us but things didn’t work out so it was just Paul and myself. After liaising with the local Mason de Peche everything was in place and we were ready to go. Our friends had gone out the week before us and had been fortunate enough to have caught fish to 52lbs so we were really buzzing.
At last the 18th April arrived and with Pauls X Trail loaded to the gunnels we made for the ferry arriving at the port a little before 7am, even the drizzle couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm. We travelled courtesy of Brittany Ferries and I have to say that we were very impressed with good food and hospitality we had an extremely comfortable crossing. As Paul had been at work until 11pm on Friday night and we had made a very early start we had the use of a cabin which was clean and comfortable with excellent facilities. This allowed a few hours sleep and a nice hot shower before the we arrived in France.
After a short, by French standards, uneventful drive we pulled into the small village in Northern France and found the little hotel where we were to meet up with Frederick from the local Mason de Peche. We found Frederick waiting for us in the hotel in the small local town, after a nice cold beer we got down to business. Several areas had been identified as having potential so with permits and maps in hand we followed Frederick on the short drive to the lake. After looking at several spots we elected to fish an arm that narrowed under a bridge before opening out into the main lake again. But what a lake this was, it was exactly as it had been described absolutely beautiful, virtually untouched virgin Carp water buried deep in the French county side, heaven.
Unfortunately it was still drizzling so getting the gear sorted was a bit of a damp job but who cares we have 10 days Carp fishing ahead of us on a totally unspoilt water with unknown potential, nothing could put us down. The Federation de Peche had very kindly provided us with the use of a boat for the duration and while we got the bivvies up the boat was rowed round to our chosen swim. With the gear sorted we set about getting some rods out, as time was now getting on and with the light going we opted for PVA bags for the night and to have a proper look around in the morning. As we could park the car right behind us life was a lot easier than it might have been and we didn’t need to have everything in the bivvies. After a good meal it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Total tranquillity surrounded us, frogs croaked in the rushes and birds sang in the trees as the light melted into darkness and in the margins the Bream and Roach cavorted in their annual sexual rituals. Away in the darkness the odd fish could be heard to roll and splash but we could not tell what they were on this moonless night. We would have no moon until the last couple of days when a new moon would rise, is that good or bad? Some think it’s good to have no moon others think it make little difference, I’m unconvinced either way.
After a hearty breakfast we sorted out the sounder and the electric outboard and spent the next few hours getting to know our swim, Frederick had told us yesterday that the lake was the highest they had ever known it so all depths were well above normal. The massive influx of new water also meant that the lake was very coloured, depths varied from 7ft in the margin to 27ft at the deepest with bars, gullies and plateaus everywhere these along with the marginal features such as overhanging bushes and fallen trees gave plenty of marks to try our luck. With spots chosen and markers in place we baited with beds of particles and boilies, a tactic that has always stood us in good stead on these types of waters in the past, now with baits in position we could relax a little. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy but that didn’t seem to matter our surroundings and the lake seemed to overcome all.
As we settled back with a nice coffee Sebastian from the Federation de Peche arrived bringing us large laminated maps of the lake along with other bits of information. What a lovely guy his wife has just given birth to their first child and he has dragged out to brings us maps etc and check everything is OK, now that’s what I call service. Congratulations on the birth of your daughter Sebastian.
Over the next six days we worked hard at our fishing trying everything we could think of, we caught a number of the double figured Commons but the bigger fish eluded us. These Commons are absolutely pristine and scale perfect, most having never been caught before fight like absolute demons. When that buzzer sounded you had no idea what was on the other end, they were all one toners and when you picked up the rod it slammed round into a battle curve that would have done bigger fish credit.
Over these six days the weather proves to be very erratic with temperatures ranging from 10c to 26.6c during the daytime with a strong northerly blowing straight into us for most of the time. On the Sunday morning I placed a marker at the waters edge, by the Friday the water level had dropped nearly 3ft, the waters edge was now some 15ft from my marker.
On the Thursday the wind swung round and was now blowing away from us and all signs of fish had disappeared so after much deliberation we made the decision to move to a new spot about 1.5k around the lake into a large bay. After breakfast on Friday morning the big upheaval began, we loaded the boat and the rest of the gear went back into the motor, as Paul set of down the lake in the boat I checked the site and made sure we left no rubbish (the one thing we had noticed was that there seemed to be no rats) before setting off around the road. Andy Judd and Pete Truckle arrived at the lake on the Friday and would be fishing for a week they were to start on another lake in the area.
Once again we could get the motor right to the swim which was a bonus as when we picked the spot we thought we would have to boat the gear in, although this nearly proved to be a major problem, more later.
Quickly getting sorted, it was out in the boat to suss out the new area, 7ft in the margin quickly dropping to 17ft and then gradually to 24ft with some deeper areas dropping to 28ft. The main features found were the occasional bar rising maybe a couple of feet off the bottom, deep margins and the numerous tree stumps. Again we baited with beds of particles and boilies, concentrating 4 rods in the deeper water and bars with the other 4 rods being fished in the shallower water and margins. The weather continued to be very erratic with Monday being a day of torrential rain. This brings us to the problem Tuesday morning brought more rain with the sun re-appearing later in the afternoon. With the drive back to the ferry in the morning we decide to start getting sorted and pack up what we could Paul left to get rid of the rubbish bags at the local drop off but was quickly back. He could not get out even with the 4 wheel drive the torrential rain had made it impossible, Paul only had normal road tyres on and not all terrain and they just would not grip. Eventually I suggested trying it in reverse which got him a lot further up and with me shoving for all I’m worth we managed to get out, so the motor stayed out on the hard standing for the night. Later Andy Judd dropped round for a chat, they had pulled off the lake they started on and were now about .75k further round the lake.
Wednesday morning saw us boating the gear along the lake to the motor and hauling it up a very steep incline. We had promised Andy and Pete any water we had left so Andy came round to collect it and very kindly gave us a hand with the gear, thanks mate.
We had again fished hard over our final 5 days but no more Carp were caught although as we packed up on the Wednesday morning we had a couple of very nice fish roll by our markers, what would another night have brought? Over the course of the 12 days we were out there we spoke to some local Carp anglers who confirmed that fish to 25k plus have been caught from the lake a fact further confirmed by the guys from the Federation de Peche.
One thing is for sure we will be going back, this is a cracking venue in a lovely location with its full potential still to be realised. This is certainly my type of water, this venue has everything needed, a reasonable head of fish with the potential of some very big fish and it is challenging, what more could you want. I occasionally fish commercial waters but much prefer this type of venue, maybe it’s the pioneering spirit, the unknown!
Our thanks to Sebastian, Frederick and everyone at the Federation de Peche for making us so welcome, we feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to fish such a cracking venue.
See you on the bank sometime, somewhere!
Tight Lines, Ralph