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   Old Thread  #303 5 Apr 2018 at 2.53pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.


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   Old Thread  #302 5 Apr 2018 at 2.51pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.

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   Old Thread  #301 5 Apr 2018 at 2.47pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.
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   Old Thread  #300 5 Apr 2018 at 2.45pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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!
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   Old Thread  #299 3 Apr 2018 at 11.19am Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #298
Just got to select the relevant photos for the next section.
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   Old Thread  #297 2 Apr 2018 at 1.20pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
Please be patient, chaps. Got a lot on my plate at the moment but rest assured, there is more tosh to come.
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   Old Thread  #296 24 Mar 2018 at 2.13pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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.
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   Old Thread  #295 24 Mar 2018 at 2.07pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #294
By the following morning the weather had reverted to its usual pattern of warm days/cold nights. Bill had been awake since before first light having slept on the rods. He was full of anticipation and I could see why…Carp leapt and shouldered through the surface over the baits, a sure sign of feeding fish, and Bill felt that he was on a good number of feeding fish for the first time this trip.



Sadly nobody had told the carp in front of him, that they were supposed to pick up his baits, and instead it was Gary who took the first fish of the morning, yet another twenty pound mirror that snagged him up on the same mooring pole that had been my downfall earlier in the trip. While he took to the boat to free the fish, another of his rods was away. Ali needed no further encouragement and played her fish to the bank in less than ten minutes, while hubby fussed about in the boat. They made a pretty picture, Gary with a twenty-five pound mirror, Ali with her twenty-one pound leather. The pix had to wait while the sun came up. It gave Ali plenty of time to put on the war paint and the bling, change her clothes and wash her hair! She needn't have bothered; she'd look great if she was dressed only in a carp sack!



I think Bill was beginning to loose heart. It was understandable if truth be known. Gary was catching, I was catching, now Alison had caught a twenty on her first run of the trip, albeit on hubby's rods, but he didn't seem to mind even though so far Bill had caught only three doubles, all he had to show for a hell of a lot of effort. We were running out of days and I think he was tempted to do the night but in the end like me he took them in. And a good job he did, as at three in the morning our 'friendly' G de P returned. Do they take us for idiots?

We awoke to a bit of a shock. The water level had gone down by about 18 inches and suddenly the troublesome pike poles were revealed above the surface. Gary had been plagued by the things and had lost gear and/or fish to them on several occasions. There are actually just off the photo to the left but you can just about see a single pole further down the bank.



You can also see Gary's little boat…it really was tiny but believe me, we'd have been a lot worse off without it. That little dinghy showed just how essential a boat is on French trips and for us the days of tiny kids plastic beach toys were over once and for all!



The day was carp-free and with only a day and a half before we had to pull off we felt a trip into town was called for. Our little French mate had arrived and we sitting in 'his' swim in his own little dream world so we asked him to keep and eye on the gear and then went up to the bar to get a taxi. For some reason we never got around to ordering it so the lovely town, built on a plateau and surrounded by a defensive wall, one of the most historic towns in all of France remained unvisited. Shame on us!



We were a bit tired and emotional when we left the bar at God know what hour. We had enjoyed superb hospitality and made some good friends among the regulars. They couldn't have been more friendly and welcoming…I had a feeling Bill and I might be back some day! After all, a decent bar serving fresh bread and decent meals is almost as important as the quality of the fishing



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   Old Thread  #294 24 Mar 2018 at 2.03pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #293
I slept the night away dreaming of monster carp. Monday dawned as before, bright and sunny and white calm.



Neither Bill nor I fished the night but Gary fished on, giving proof, if proof were needed, that fishing at night was the answer as he caught a lovely looking mirror of 29lbs 4ozs.



It rained on and off for most of the day and Bill and I fished all through it on the two long range gravel patches that we’d found with the sounder, though this meant rowing every hook bait out to the markers, not something I found terribly enjoyable at the time, especially in the pissing rain. Later, as I became more experienced I realised that this was by far the most efficient ways of catching carp anywhere, not only on the Continent. Indeed on a deep mid-winter trip to an Italian lake with Bill C. we found ourselves having to take them out getting on for 500 yards. By then braid on the reels was the way to go, and even at this range Bill still knew the minute the duck picked up his hookbait. Mind you, he didn't know it was a duck at the time, and as he wound it in it got progressively heavier as it neared the bank. It took him the best part of ten minutes to get it to the net and we never for a minute doubted that it was a carp! Sadly it was dead by the time we 'landed' it.

That afternoon the rain intensified. It was the first serious rain of the trip. Rain or no rain Ali did her stuff, preparing a proper spaghetti Bolognese dinner for us that evening. It was made with really fresh pasta and a sumptuous meat sauce made with minced beef (steak hache), tomatoes onions and all the trimmings. What a star she was. We sat under the brollies, all togged up in waterproofs, filling our bellies with heaped plates of Ali's finest. It was delicious, all the more so because of the conditions. Neither Bill nor I are great bankside cooks (though we won't sink so low as to depend on Pot Noodles!) so without Ali's cooking we'd probably have relied on tins of Cassoulet and Boeuf Bourguignon, not that they are not nice, but you cannot beat properly prepared home cooking. Thanks, Ali!



The rain stopped at dusk and we went to our separate bivvies. I slept like a log and heard nothing of the alarms and excursions of the night. About an hour before midnight Gary had another big mirror, this one just two ounces short of thirty pounds. He sacked the fish for a morning photo session and sat back to await the next run.



There were fish crashing out all over the place, he told me later. More movement than he’d seen at any time since he’d arrived. He expected great things from the coming night. I’m sure his optimism was well founded, but unfortunately his fishing was to be rudely cut short. At one o’clock in the morning the G de P paid their not-unexpected return visit. This time they got lucky. There was little aggro from them, they even stayed for a beer and a coffee. To be honest, I think they were only keen on one thing and that was to collar one of us, it didn't matter who. Though they were quite nice about it they left Gary with a five-hundred franc fine, though at least they didn’t confiscate his gear or the car, which they were quite entitled to do.
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   Old Thread  #293 21 Mar 2018 at 5.13pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #292
I let the fish leave my arms and slowly she drifted away into the warm waters of the lake; back to her mysterious depths. I fell over backwards into the lake, splashing and yelling like a little kid. Forty pounds!



I had to tell Carole the news so I ran up to the bar to use the phone. While I waited to get through he poured me a very large cognac. He could see that I was overjoyed with my capture, and that is an emotion the French are particularly sympathetic towards. As Carole and I spoke another large cognac appeared at my elbow. A crowd was gathering at the bar as the Sunday afternoon customers were put in the picture by Francois. By the time I got off the phone the queue of cognacs had grown alarmingly, and by mid-evening I a bit the worse for wear. Did I care?

More to come as Bill, Gary and Ali get among the lumps too!

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   Old Thread  #292 21 Mar 2018 at 5.08pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #291
Finally Gary slipped the net under the beast. He grunted as he took the strain of the weight of the fish in the floor of the landing net. “It has got to be forty, mate,” he told me. I was shaking like a leaf. Bill had to take the rod from me and together he and Gary carried my prize back to the swim. We weighed it on Bill’s Salter scales, zeroing the weight of the sling, a new one from the Nash stable, light as a feather but very strong, a far cry from the monstrous things we carry around with us these days.

“Forty-one,” said Gary.

“No, Gary,” said Allison. “Look, it’s under forty. Thirty-nine, fourteen.”

We lowered the fish onto the mat and Gary took the scales and tried again. I wasn’t looking. I couldn’t! Bill looked over Gary’s shoulder and shook his head. He said, “The needle is swinging about too much. It’s certainly close, though.”

“I’ll sack her up for a moment,” I said. I wanted to get my breath back, finish my dinner, have a good slug of wine and then maybe we’d be ready to weigh the beast properly.

By the time I’d finished my meal, got over the shakes and enjoyed a calming cigarette quite a crowd had gathered.

“Can we see your fish?” asked a little French lad who was out with his family.

“Sure. We’re just going to weigh it now,” I told him and removed the sack from the margins. This time we used one of the oars through the eye of the scales to keep them steady. Up she went and once again the needle swung down to the forty pound marker. Alison looked at the dial, then turned away. What had she seen, I wondered, for from where I was standing supporting one end of the oar I couldn’t see the weight myself.

“Come on, Ali. Put me out of my misery. What does it say?”

“It is very close,” she said. “Just over forty, perhaps.”

Perhaps wouldn’t do. Was she just being kind to me? Bill and I have known each other since 1968 when we started fishing together. I knew he would not flatter the fish. If it was 39.15, that’s what he would give me.

I recalled the story of Fletch’s Mangrove common, and his now-famous retort to Tim’s “I’ll give it 19.15” comment ran through my heard. “Give me those f------ scales!” Fletch had exclaimed.

“Bill! What does it weigh,” I asked my oldest friend.

An agonising few seconds passed as the needle steadied once more following a brief kick from the fish in the sling.

“It is exactly forty pounds,” he declared. “Bang on the mark!”

I don’t know what I did then. I may have shouted, cried, laughed. Whatever, I don’t recall. The pictures flashed by and half way through my flash unit packed up. What timing! The crowd grew by the minute…



…and for a moment I wondered if we were going to run into problems when it came to returning the fish. But no, they even clapped as the fish finally regained its freedom as Gary took some final shots of the fish going back.









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   Old Thread  #291 21 Mar 2018 at 5.02pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #290
The sun blazed down and the heat took the sting out of the fish’s appetite. More and more local walkers were strolling up and down the banks and we drew a few curious looks as well as some good natured "bonjours". Early afternoon and Gary had a small common, and then it all went quiet for a few hours. The little French carp man arrived once more. We exchanged greetings while he set up as usual on his point. So far we’d not seen him have so much as a take, let alone a fish. There were a few pike anglers about and they gave us a few uneasy moments when it looked as if they might catch our lines, but all went smoothly.

Meanwhile both Bill and I got busy making boilie crumb. Back in 1992 nobody had heard of this little trick and to be honest, it was a big edge at times. Of course we did not have any weed grinders or Ridge Monkey gizmos that are around today. No, we simply crushed each bait with a pair of pliers.


We saw that the carp angler we had taken to calling Mr Orange-Marker was actually fishing, for the first time. 'His' swim was on the opposite bank and apparently there was a fairly large plateau at casting range that he was fishing. We’d become accustomed to his evening visits to bait up from his little blue-hulled dinghy, but this was the first time we’d seen him cast out a bait. He didn’t seem too interested in the world that was passing him by; surreptitious scrutiny through the binoculars revealed that he was fast asleep. Not a bad plan!

We spent the afternoon in lazy contemplation of the lake. A few cars drew up along the far bank as several groups and couples took their post-Sunday dinner stroll around the lake. A lone sailboarder juggled his plank in the light afternoon breezes: it was all very peaceful and idyllic, and I dozed off in the cooling sunshine as the weekend drew to a close.

At five o’clock Ali cooked dinner for us all. She did Boeuf Bourguignon and it brilliant. It was also a good excuse to open a couple of bottles of wine. I had just tucked in to the first mouthful when my buzzer sounded. Why do they always wait until you’re eating a hot meal before they take?



I dashed down the bank to my rods. The fish was going like a train but eventually it slowed and I managed to get a few turns of line back onto the reel. Then it was off again fighting in the deep water more or less half way between our margin and the far bank. On such a long line I had little control over the fish; it could do more or less whatever it liked and it liked the idea of putting as much distance between us as possible. Finally it reached the distant plateau way up towards the barrage. There it stopped, turned, and powered its way back across the lake. It was obviously going to plough right through the little Frenchman’s lines, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. This is me doing my best Christopher Robin goes carping impression, hanging on for dear life while the fish does whatever it wants!



By now Gary had joined me with the net, and as we were pulled along the bank by the still-powerful fish, Bill asked our friend to drop his rods as we passed though his swim. The fish was still way out in the lake, hugging the bottom and refusing all my fruitless attempts to turn it or bring it closer in to the bank. And so we went on, getting ever further from my swim as the fish continued to pull my arms off. It was an awesome fight. Gary told me later that it lasted only twenty minutes. I say 'only' but from where I was standing it seemed like hours.

We saw the fish for the first time when it swirled among some tendrils of weed growing in the margins of the west-facing arm - yes, that’s how far we’d been dragged by the fish. It looked big, but not that big. Then it turned head on and we saw the width of it. I started to shake; I think I’d always known it was a good fish. Indeed Gary later mentioned that the first words I’d spoken when he joined me with the net were “big fish!”, but now I got a look at it, I needed no further telling. It was well over thirty.

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   Old Thread  #290 21 Mar 2018 at 5.01pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #289
I did a yard of pix on both his camera and on mine, and though it was only seven o’clock in the morning, we got the cognac bottle out for a celebration. Little did I know, as I stopper'ed the bottle, that I was just one year away from catching that same common myself, nor, in the more immediate future did I know that later that same day I would be pulling the cork from the neck once again - this time for my own celebration.

Sunday was a day I’ll not forget in a hurry. It had started on a high note with Gary’s big common, but for Bill and me the most notable thing to notice was that the number of runs we were getting was gradually decreasing. It occurred to me that perhaps Gary was cutting us off as fish moved up the lake from our right, arriving at his widely baited area first, then spooking into deeper water, further from the bank, whenever he had a take.

I borrowed Gary’s boat and sounder and went for a scout around. I have had considerable experience of echo-sounders, gathered over the years while I have been at sea, and while I have never placed much store in them as fish-finders. For finding features and depths they are indispensable, especially if they have a Grey Line facility. This allows the experienced user to differentiate between a hard and a soft bottom, isolating patches of silt or gravel, weed and more solid snags. Gary’s was one such sounder.

For most of the morning I rowed back and forth, following a distinct drop-off contour at twenty-eight feet. I remembered what Rod had said about this depth. According to the Maestro it was the 'magic' depth to fish in really deep waters. I plodded back and forth along the 28 foot contour line. The lake bed seemed to be almost entirely made up of soft silt about six to eight inches deep. However, I found one area of really hard gravel situated in front of Bill some one hundred and eighty yards out. I dropped the anchor on it and 'donked' and the reassuring thump that came back told me that the sounder had not lied, the lake bed was rock solid beneath the boat. I dropped a marker on the feature so that I could find it again, for it was very small, no more than a couple of square yards or so.

While I was out in the boat, Bill had a run. The fish had picked up a bait that he’d rowed out into no-mans-land, simply throwing a dozen free offerings around the hookbait that was lying in thirty feet of water, at least two hundred and fifty yards from the bank. The fish was another double, sixteen pounds, a mirror. Being a Sunday there were quite a few after-diner ramblers taking a stroll around the lake and Bill's fish caught some attention.



“What have you put that marker on, Ken?” Bill asked me when I got back to shore. I told him and he immediately took over the boat, and while I held his rods, he rowed two hookbaits and a hundred freebies out to the marker. He had a run on one while he was rowing back! He rowed ‘till his arms were falling off, getting back to the bankside while the fish was still in full flight, and soon had a mirror of about seventeen pounds in the net. Point proved, I think and "thank you, Rod!"



As soon as Bill had rowed the rod back out to the marker I once more began my own search for a similar piece of hard ground in front of me. I found one, but it was a good hundred and fifty yards from the bank. Still, needs must and all that.

By midday I had all three rods and three hundred freebies sitting out there in twenty-eight feet of water and by three in the afternoon I’d had two takes, and lost them both. It was my first experience of fishing at such a range and I’m sure the hook had not been set properly. On each occasion the fish had got off within a few seconds of picking up the rod. There's a hell of a lot of stretch to deal with when you are fishing at that sort of range. Of course, I knew all about the advantages of using braid…from a charter boat, but it had never occurred to me that braid was the answer to the problems of sensitivity and stretch when fishing for carp at range.
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   Old Thread  #289 21 Mar 2018 at 4.59pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #288
Mid-afternoon: the little French carp angler settled into his swim on the point. For a couple of days we’d kept things on nodding terms only with maybe a wave and a `bonjour`, but gradually the ice was broken. The previous day we’d shared several beers together, conversing in my broken French. Today he returned the favour with a couple of bottles of home-made wine. It was rich, strong and truly delicious, but coming on top of the drinks we’d had with lunch, also a bit overpowering.

A little later, towards the evening, Cor and Marlies arrived, together with their dogs. They were camped on the site at the lake where we had stayed the first night and where Gary and Alison had been trying to catch carp for a week.

“I’d give it a miss if I were you,” Gary warned, with good reason.

“Why not come on here with us,” I offered. “There’s plenty of room.”

“Maybe,” said Cor. “We’ll see how we get on at the other lake first.”

(l - r: Alison, Marlies, Cor and Gary.)



Alison cooked an excellent supper for us all and we gathered in their swim for the social whirl. More wine, more beer, steak sandwiches with fried onions and mushrooms, and...what’s that noise? Yes. It was a run for Bill. He dropped everything and left in a hurry. It was a brief fight from a small fish but at last he managed to put one on the bank, a common of just over twelve pounds, but he’d broken his duck.



Night fell and as usual we wound in at about eleven. Gary however, decided to risk it.

“We got checked at one in the morning on our first night here,” we warned him. “The Garde-Peche are a bit hot under the collar about illegal night fishing in this region.”

“I’ll take my chances,” Gary said. “I’m here to catch carp.”

Can’t argue with that. It was Gary’s decision, his problem if he got caught. When, next morning, Gary peeled back the soggy sides of the carp sack to reveal a thirty-three pound common, we wondered if we had been right in keeping to the rules. But silly though they may be, they were the rules of the land. I suppose we all catch fish on our own terms.

As it turned out, the night had been a feast of action for Gary. Just after midnight he’d had a screaming run from a fish that snagged him around a pike mooring pole. Shortly afterwards he had another take, this time a seventeen pound mirror. A bream followed at three in the morning, then, with dawn approaching on a gunmetal sky, the big fish. It had fought, Gary later told us, like nothing he’d ever caught before, stripping many yards of line off his reel. The fight had lasted nearly half an hour, and by the time he had landed it, he was three hundred yards down the bank and the sun had risen well above the tree line. At 33lbs 8ozs it was a personal best common and at the time Gary’s second biggest ever carp.



Looks a bit grumpy…the fish, not Gary!



Ali does the pix of Gary's big common.


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   Old Thread  #288 21 Mar 2018 at 4.56pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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Alison was all for the idea. She had not enjoyed the last couple of days as Gary’s German friends had proved rather too... what? Exuberant, shall we say? And that’s putting it mildly. I think that once I’d told them that our lake offered them peace and quiet and hopefully a few fish and the odd laugh or two, Alison was convinced. Gary was not so sure. Quite understandably he was in rather a black mood - and who wouldn’t have been - but his wife is very gorgeous and has a way with the lad when she wants to get her own way. She whispered seductively in his ear. Whatever she said it had the desired effect: “We’ll come and join you,” said Gary!

We drove back to our lake to find Bill looking disconsolate. He had lost another big fish! My heart went out to the bloke. He was having some really tough luck this year and it didn’t look as if his fortunes were about to change for the better. Gary and Alison set up about eighty yards away to our right, and while she did the easy bit - you know, putting up the bivvy, preparing the bedding, the kitchen. the pots and pans - Gary did the fishing bit…He was really going for it. Action Man at the ready. He took their tiny boat off the roof-rack and then he was away, paddling about the lake like a mad thing, maize and boilies showering around his head as he baited an extensive area of the lake more or less out in front of him. With the help of his echo sounder he quickly found a small gully running through his swim and he concentrated most of his baiting in this channel.

I was so engrossed watching Action Man at work I almost forgot to put my own rods out again. It was a few minutes after eight o’clock in the morning: I had just cast the third rod out and was adjusting the indicator when middle rod was away. Nothing very spectacular, but the fifteen pound common was a nice greeting for Gary and Alison. It was proof at least that I had not been telling porkies.



An hour later, and Gary needed no further proof. He was away himself to a very strong fish that fought hard for a quarter of an hour or more. When at last it was in the margins we could all see that it was a very pretty, heavily scaled mirror of perhaps thirty pounds. Certainly the biggest fish Bill and I had seen so far.

“You’ve got some neck, haven’t you?” I joked. “Coming on here and stitching us up in less than an hour.”

I wish I’d kept my big mouth shut. The fish swirled on the surface and was gone. Gary is more vociferous than Bill and is well into rod-chucking. Then he swore, loud and long. I don’t blame him; it had been a very good fish.

The day passed peacefully enough, the weather continuing to bless us with warm sun and fresh southerly winds. Mid-morning I landed a very small carp, less than five pounds I’d guess; we didn’t weigh it. We all had lunch at the bar. By now we were on first name terms with Francois, the owner, and his growing friendliness was soon extended to the two newcomers to our party. We sat outside on the terrace eating steak and chips, drinking wine and watching the world go around. There was no need to hurry, the carp would still be there when we’d finished lunch. The little bar also doubled as the village's bakery and the fresh bread smells were divine, and the bread itself even more so. He was a busy bee was Francois.


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