Like many anglers across the land, the time I can spend on the bank is limited, with work commitments, girlfriend commitments and extra circular activities (Damn evening classes!), 2 nights a week, I’m not looking at a great deal of fishing. Probably 2 nights every other weekend and one, maybe 2 evenings a week and whatever I can sneak in along the way. Being self-employed helps but those readies don’t earn themselves and definitely don’t grow on trees. Making the most of my time and fishing for a fish at a time is something I’ve become very used to over the years. So, when a two-week trip with my brother and three of our friends to Etang des Royales finally came round after a year of impatient waiting, I suppose you could say I was rather excited, yeah right, I was over the bloody moon! On the build up with a month to go all I could think about was those big old rubbery lips munching on the bait. It didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, at work, at college and mainly at night in my dreams (the missus will back me up on that), I just couldn’t get those carp out of my mind, rolling, crashing, bubbling… It was all going on up there and with two weeks to wait I was often told to shut up, or words to that effect, by many of my friends and colleagues. I was looking forward to catching a few French carp and catching up with some of the family who I can safely say were in none of my dreams (thank God!). Having been two years since our last visit, some serious catching up was needed and two weeks in the company of John and Ben would have been like old times.
I could detail the preparation and travelling that it took to arrive at our destination but it would probably bore you more than the travelling bored me. Anyone who’d been fishing abroad would know this. There was one whacking big spanner in our works, which was both frustrating and expensive – the transit that we had arranged to borrow from a mate fell through 24 hours before we were due to set off, so after much thought all we could do was rent a transit, for 2 weeks with insurance cover we knew the three of us would have to fork out. But £750, “excuse me, how much did you say mate??”, I really did think he was having a laugh, but that was how we had a spanking new transit but dented wallets. That was more than I planned to spend on travelling let alone just a van, a van with a broken radio so the journey which is about 3-4 hours from Calais was pretty much silent as soon as people nodded off. Right, I got the moaning out of the way and I’m happy to say that was the only thing I had to moan about for the next two weeks.
We arrived at the lake at around 11.30 am, French time, without any wrong turns –not bad for me - through the green gates and down the track to the lodge with the small lake on the left and the big lake to our right, which was to be my home for the following two weeks. We got to the lodge just in time for a quick chat with Colin Baker from the Richworth stable, who had just finished the week with a few friends and had a good one by the sound of it, with Colin having 8 fish in one night. Anyway they said their good-byes and were on their way leaving us to get to grips with the lake.
Time for the draw and a real bonus was that we had the lake to ourselves for the first week. We pulled numbers from a hat and would you believe it? I pulled out number 1! Dave and Ben, who were doubling up, pulled number 2, my brother Si drew 3 and Mic came out last. After a few lingering laps of the lake I opted for a swim known as the Conifers, which had quite a lot of water with a small bay to my left which had 2 swims in, an island at about 90 yards and some lovely margin spots. I didn’t know what was below the surface but by all accounts I had a bit of everything in my swim and was sure I’d picked a winner. My thoughts were confirmed when two carp stuck their heads out about a rod length off the island in quick succession. My confidence was sky-high and that’s what catching carp is all about.
A bucket full of tricks
I didn’t really have a game plan, I find it best not to have any plans or preconceptions of how I’ll be fishing until I’m fishing. Different situations require different methods. If anything, my plan was to hold back for a night or two, not putting any bait in or even getting the marker rod out and being as quiet as I could, hoping the usual display of almost synchronized marker and spodding by other anglers would create almost a safe area down my end of the lake, providing no one set up in the bay to my left. Anyway I set up camp and rigged up three rods, two using my normal safety leadcore helicopter set-up comprising of about 5ft of ESP 45lb leadcore. My hooklength went on next and is as simple as it gets – I like long hairs so the bait sits about 3/4 inch away from the bend of the hook, which is always an owner flyliner size 8. I normally use 20lb Korda hybrid and this is knotted with a 13 turn knotless knot (unlucky for some) to 5 inches of hybrid and tied with a pallama to a combi line swivel, no tubing on the hair or on the rig at all, with an inch of skin pulled down towards the hook. Simple as that I fished one on a single bait hair and one on a double bait hair. After the hooklength goes on, a large bore bead is threaded on, then the 5ft tail is passed through the big loop in the small tail end, tied to the lead and, hey presto, as safe as houses. I should mention this is the only way leadcore can be used on the lakes, John and Ben are very strict about fish welfare. The third rod was rigged up with weighted tubing and the Korda safety clip – so I could use a small PVA bag on the hook.
Note: Meshing over the boilie to safeguard any poisson-chat or crayfish eating my bait; in fact whenever I fish abroad I will always use meshed baits.
I tightened the hooks in the rings and made my way down to the lodge for a well earned pint and a catch up with John and Ben. I found out no one had set up in the bay to my left – spot on! John talked us through the rules and made sure everyone knew how to handle a big fish on the bank. Then people filtered into the shop for bait and munches and were off. I stayed for another pint and a chat and for some reason or another didn’t get the rods out before dinner. I had two weeks at my disposal, what was the rush? I should mention that dinner is at 6 pm and breakfast at 9 am every day so my food was sorted and was damn good. John, Magda and Benny Boy did us all proud, and John looked a picture in his pinny!
Back in the swim a few pints later, I put the left rod in the margin on a hard spot found with the landing net pole, middle rod at about 50 yards slightly to the left with a small PVA goodie bag on the hook – the lead went down with a “donk” so that was pukka. The right hand rod was put where the fish showed earlier shortly followed by 20 baits. I wasn’t really bothered if nothing was to come in the night ahead, being changeover day, the carp definitely know this. A 25lb mirror fell to the island rod that night (off the mark), after another two nights four more fish fell to the island rod up to 30lb on the nose. During these two days I hardly took my eyes off the lake and my attention was mainly on the island because of the fish movement. There were also lots of crashing sounds in the bay to my left. I did consider moving there but on fear of spooking them decided to stay put, providing no one else moved in the bay. What I decided to do was to pick off the fish as they moved around the island into the bay on my left. Three baits were presented in this area and a scattering of free offerings, approximately 1 kilo of boilies. All hook baits were presented on hard gravel. I suppose you could say the rest was history as over the next three nights I could not put a foot wrong with 24 fish to my name including some good ones with action both at night and in the day. I managed five upper 30’s and a 40lb in an after-noon. I was blown away and regularly turned up for breakfast half asleep and stinking to hi-heaven and loving it. The inevitable happened, Dave and Ben who were doubled up fishing the middle of the lake moved into the bay, I wasn’t too bothered as they were both friends of mine but needless to say I didn’t catch another fish from that swim.
So 48 hours and no action, I made a move for the last night of the week. After a few more lingering laps of the lake I opted for the far corner, which had seen no pressure during our stay. There were signs of fish and it just felt right. Up with the titan, two casts with the marker rod – the first and only time I’d used one during my stay. And I was sorted by midday, I found a lovely little spot at about 60 yards, clean silty area in 4 ½ foot of water. Before the week was up I put another four fish on the bank, one of them being another 40lb, which brought my tally for the first week to 28 including two 40’s, twelve 30’s and the rest twenties. As luck would have it I managed to stay in my swim for the second week, with Dave moving in to my left and Ben to my right – if nothing else we were going to have a good social. With the lake being full I knew it would be a different kettle of fish and it was, with the action not so hectic but steady. I caught thirteen fish the second week, including two known fish – The horse at 41lb 4oz and The big leather at 39lb.
With 41 fish in two weeks I was going home a happy chappie. My brother Si banked 30 fish, Dave 29, Ben and Mic, each of them, 12 fish. The other party, for the second week, had some good catches as well with one of the lads, Chris, having two 40’s. So, everybody had a great time with majority of anglers catching a personal best.
With a return trip booked, I had to put the memories of French carping to the back of my mind and set my sights on my winter campaign. Be lucky!