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   Old Thread  #262 11 Feb 2018 at 3.59pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #261
We returned to the gite early the following afternoon, having cut short our fishing in favour of a blow-out meal and a few bottles of Chateau Georges. If the truth were known, we were a bit down in the mouth. OK, we had not come solely for the fishing, and everything else about the trip was just perfect. But, a fish would be nice. As Tat did the meal I opened the wine, ostensibly to let it breath. Most bottles of red wine that I open are allowed to breath for at least a minute but this was no ordinary plonk; this was prime Chateau Georges so to drink it straight down would be sacrilege. In the meantime we had some nice local beer to sample…and very nice it was too!

Meal eaten we were just sitting down in front of the fire when a large white, left-hand-drive Mercedes pulled up outside. A tall, imposing grey-haired gent with a thick, bushy mustache climbed out of the car and crossed to the open double doors. “Anyone home?” he said, obviously English.

“Come on in, whoever you are!” I offered. “Have some wine. It’s always nice to hear a familiar accent.”

And thus was my introduction to one Pete McDermott, ex-pat, ex-copper, ex-body guard, avid carp angler, now married to a French girl and living in the big city several miles away. How had he got to hear that we were staying here?

“I’ve been fishing the big lake,” he told us over a glass of red. “I met the president of the angling association who told me that there was an English couple carp fishing the lake. He told me where you were staying, so I came to find you. I think you have already met Michael, yes?”

“Oh, yes!” I replied, pouring the wine, “We’ve met Michael all right!”.

Pete drank deep and looked appreciatively at the glass.

“Good stuff. Where’d you buy it?”

“Georges, the owner of this gite makes it himself,” I told him.

“Hmm! I must get hold of a case or two of this,” said Pete. "I hope you don’t mind me looking you up. It is so nice to hear an English voice for a change, and the chance to talk carp fishing made your presence doubly irresistible.”

“Not at all. We’re glad you called. How did you get on today?” I asked, secretly dreading the thought of a bumper catch to put Tat and I to shame.

“Blanked!” was the answer. "Mind you, it's the first time I have fished it but I am told it has a few decent fish in it."

I was taken aback, "That's not what we are hearing. In fact Michael reckons it's a waste of time fishing for carp on the reservoir."

“Well he's wrong about that. I know there are some good fish in there as a mate of mine from Vitre has had a thirty seven pound mirror. Pete assured us.

We passed on our tale of our blank week then asked, "This bloke from Vitre, would he be Franck Martin by any chance?"

"Yes," replied Pete. "Do you know him?"

I told Pete of our meeting a couple of years ago and our trip together to Cannonball. Pete told me that he had phoned Franck a few days previously and had hoped to fish with him on the ressy but he'd not turned up. Pete had to go to work the next day but asked us to keep an eye out for Franck and pass on Pete's best. He reckoned that fishing was going to improve as a big wind and plenty of rain was forecast. He added that there was a group of carpers from his area coming to the big ressy soon: "Have a word with them if you get the chance. They are good anglers and they are just beginning to get to grips with this lake. They’ve had fish to twenty-six pounds from the point.”

I breathed another sigh of relief. At least we were not on a duff water with no carp in it. I could only assume that the reason we were not catching was either because we were not fishing at night, or simply because the weather was against us. Still, we should worry! We were on holiday, and who wants buckets of rain on your holiday?

We spent a very pleasant evening supping wine with Pete. Georges himself came around that evening bringing a home-made cheese-cake and a bottle or two of red, and while he and Pete babbled away in French to each other far to quickly for me to understand what they were saying, Tat and I carried on supping. The Chateau Georges flowed as we swapped tales of carp on both sides of the Channel. Georges told us he was pressing some grapes for the co-operative the next day and we all said we'd pop round to see the process and maybe sample a glass or two of the 1984 vintage. This is Georges hard at work.

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   Old Thread  #261 11 Feb 2018 at 3.56pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #260
That evening we drove around the lake as darkness fell, stopping here and there to listen and watch for signs of carp activity. We neither heard nor saw a sign of a carp, though this was not surprising as it was a still, cold evening with the temperature dipping down towards freezing. I couldn’t help feeling that we needed a bit of a wind and less settled conditions to stir them up a bit.

The hoped-for breeze of warm southerly wind did not materialise and the following morning dawned cloudless and still. Inspiration came there none but we had to start somewhere, so we opened our campaign on the broad shallow point projecting out into the lake where the policeman had reportedly caught his twenty-pounder. It was as good as anywhere under the circumstances and, not surprisingly, going in on a wing and a prayer like that, we blanked.

The weather the next day was equally calm with not a breath of wind. Very pleasant, but not conducive to good carp fishing. So far we’d not had so much as a twitch. The weather on day three was identical, as it was on day four. We’d not seen hide nor hair of a fish, nor of another carp fisherman, and I was beginning to wonder if we weren’t on the end of a gentle wind-up by Georges and the locals.

It wasn’t as if we weren’t working at our fishing. Every day we baited up two areas some fifty and a hundred yards out with a mixture of boiled bait (half fishmeals, half ready-mades), along with a heaped bucket full of flavour-soaked groats and a scattering of tigers around each marker. Each night we fished on well into the dark hours; each morning we fished from just before first light. We gave the swim a couple of days to produce and then moved from the point to the middle of the bay nearest the dam. We felt we were making all the right moves, but the carp (if there were any in there) were not impressed!

To hell with this! The local bar in the village was a dark and unprepossessing affair from the outside. Inside it was bright and cheerful, full of noise, red wine fumes, cigarette smoke and, as luck would have it, anglers. It was the regular rendezvous for the local fishing club. We stumbled upon it one evening when seeking solace for our sorrows with a beer or two. As usual, the stares of the locals were a bit intimidating at first, but they soon went back to their loud conversation and copious drinking. The door swung open and a huge French guy looked straight at Tat and I as we sat, minding our own business, while the bar quivered with a noisy hubbub.

“You have left your lights on,” grunted the newcomer in thick guttural French. He was obviously in no doubt that we were the owners of the right hand drive car outside. I’m sure we carry an invisible sign hanging over our heads saying ENGLISH in big capital letters. We can’t see it, but the French can. The big guy had seen the rods in the car. “You have been fishing?”


“Any good.”


My reply was met with a stream of French that I didn’t understand, but it tickled the blokes standing at the bar. OK, I thought. I can take this for a while. It might lead somewhere, you never know. I thanked him and went outside to turn the lights off. “Can I get you a drink?” I asked when I got back inside.

“A small red would be nice.” I ordered it and refills for Tat and me and the guy thanked me and sipped his drink. At three francs a glass (about 20p back then before the bloody euro came along and set inflation soaring) I’d be happy to buy his booze for him all day if I thought it might lead anywhere. His name was Michael and he was the president of the local fishing association.

“You are fishing for carp?” He looked incredulous.


“You must be mad. They are vermin.”

What could I say. “We love catching them in England,” I told him.

“Perhaps, but you are all crazy over there. You put all your fish back in the lake!” This was obviously the height of absurdity.

“Where are you fishing?” he asked.

“The big reservoir,” I told him.

“You are wasting your time there. There are only a few carp in the lake. True, they are quite big, but you will never catch them."

My pride was injured by his jibe but there was no malice whatsoever in him, and we looked forward to our evening visits to exchange tales of woe with the customers of the little bar. We found out from the owner that Michael was a notably unsuccessful pike angler himself, which gave us ammunition for his next attack. One thing was clear; it looked as if Michael was right about the big lake. We had to look for pastures new.
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   Old Thread  #260 11 Feb 2018 at 3.54pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #259
We ate breakfast on the terrace in a balmy twenty degrees. You can be lucky at this time of the year in France, but you can be equally unlucky. We cleared away the debris of our meal, the bird life thankful for our crumbs, then wandered down to the lake less than half a mile away.

The point that Georges had mentioned was an obvious feature, one that would surely get plenty of attention from pike and zander anglers. A pair of deeply etched wheel tracks sweeping across the grass leading down to the swim told their own tale. There wasn’t a breath of wind, so deciding where to start fishing would be tricky as without the faintest puff of a breeze to stir them up, we were really on a hiding to nothing expecting to find fish easily.

We settled into the cottage, did a big shop in the hypermarket, sorted out a licence for Tat, bought two dozen oysters and we returned to the gite to devour them. Oysters are an acquired taste: I’d acquired it! (I have since been forced to un-acquire it after developing an allergy to oysters, I put my first bout of sickness and diarrhea three years ago down to a bad oyster, same for my second and much worse bout the following year. My third bout nearly killed me and the French doctor who attended me said that the next oyster you eat will be your last! Say no more. Shame 'coz I adore them!). Outside stood a large barn and peeping inside I saw row upon row of cages of various wild life. There were rabbits, guinea fowl, chickens, turkeys and pigeons and I rather doubted that these were household pets!

Georges came around with further samples of red wine. Where was he getting all this booze from? “I make it myself,” he told me. I couldn’t believe it. It was fabulous stuff. Rich and full with a kick on it like a mule. This was a wine fit for the gods.

“Can we buy some bottles from you?”

“Of course. That and just about any other farm produce you care to name. The wine is ten francs a bottle and it is about fourteen percent!” said Georges.

That’s silly-cheap, I thought to myself and promptly ordered two bottles. We christened the beautiful nectar Chateau Georges. There were fresh vegetables, fruit onions and shallots. We'd not need the supermarket again at this rate.

Tat made her selection of produce and Georges dispatched and skinned the two rabbits she'd chosen for dinner in seconds flat. "Do you want to try the wine?" he asked her. Never been known to turn down a free drink, my missus quickly accepted the offer. Georges used a siphon to draw four glasses of wine from a large barrel that probably held fifteen or twenty gallons of wine, so we wouldn't go thirsty.

"Try some of this," he said, offering us a glass each. "It's six years old so it is just about ready for bottling now."

It was manna from heaven!

After lunch we borrowed Georges's four meter pulling boat and had a gentle row around. In the warm afternoon sunshine the lake seemed to glow, the flat calm surface dimpled here and there by the odd small fish. Of the carp, there was no sign. Prodding and probing with the oars revealed that the lake bed was very similar to Cannonball Lake, where we’d fished last year, being fairly flat and featureless, mainly sand, silt and rock with very few obvious holding or feeding areas. However, it was noticeably deeper and as we ventured further from the bank the oars wouldn't reach the bottom. Judging by the amount of natural food, it was quite possible that some big carp lived in the lake but after talking to Georges and to the locals in the cafe, it didn’t appear to get any serious carp-fishing attention and nobody seemed to know if there were any really big fish in there. We'd just have to take pot luck.
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   Old Thread  #259 11 Feb 2018 at 3.50pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #258
He was away only a few minutes. Jeannine and Tat, wine glasses in hand, settled in front of the roaring fire, already chatting away nineteen to the dozen about whatever it is women talk about. “I have just spoken to the Gardes,” said Georges, back on the sofa after his trip to the phone. “The local policeman caught a carp of nine and a half kilos just this weekend. Fishing on the point out there.” He waved his arm vaguely in the general direction of the night. “How far from here?” I asked. “Couple of minutes,” he replied. That’s ‘andy ‘Arry!

Dawn on the first morning in a new gite in France. I woke with first light and lay in bed listening to the bird giving vent to a bright chorus of song. The sun was just peeping over the far side of the lake. It was a beautiful autumn morning, still and calm with a chill in the air. The sun was just lifting over the tree-line many miles away down the valley, reflecting off the surface of a huge lake that peeped through a small copse of poplars in front of the cottage. Insects danced in the warming sunshine, while out on the lake a solitary rowing boat cut soundlessly across the mirrored surface leaving a silent wake between the regular swirls of groaning oars. If there is such a thing as true perfection, maybe this was it.

France slows you down. You get infected by the relaxed laid-back atmosphere almost as soon as you arrive. If I’d been in England I’d have been in a panic to get fishing, get some bait out, prepare the groundbait, whatever, but not here. We had a late breakfast, and while the coffee dripped its way though the ancient percolator, I walked down the hill into the village to buy bread and croissants, and half a pound of gorgeous Normandy butter. On the way back from the village I stopped on the barrage and looked out at the lake. It was white calm and almost completely deserted. A lone pike angler coughed Gauloise smoke and rubbed his hands to keep warm in the shadow of the barrage. His four rods were spread out at fifty yard intervals along the bank, a folded piece of silver paper at the rod tip being the only indication that an unfortunate pike had taken his bait. They love to eat pike, zander and perch (and very delicious they are too) so the French are not going to put any capture back, so instant strike rigs and sophisticated British techniques are not required.

It looked as if the level was down about six or eight feet and a walk around a the margins by the barrage revealed a profusion of empty mussel and snail shells, as well as the odd washed-up crayfish. That’s always a good sign. It shows that there is plenty of natural food for the carp to grow big on. The lake itself was huge. A big notice board on the barrage declared that it held so many millions of liters of water in its 450 acres.

Beneath the protection of the thick glass covering the notice board a faded photo showed a happy crowd of about a dozen anglers posing proudly with their catch of pike. The photo was dated 1932 and showed, so a caption read, members of the local angling association. Underneath it was pinned what looked to be a piece of parchment bordered with black. In an elaborate hand someone had written, “Mort dans la guerre”. A list of names followed. This was a memorial to those happy anglers smiling at the camera all those many years ago, and other men and women of the area who had lost their lives during the Second World War, when this part of France had been at the fore front of the Resistance Movement. It seemed so strange to be standing here in such peace and solitude with the ghosts of dead partisans staring out from a bygone age, before the dreadful spectre of war stole the innocence of the photo away.

I wandered back to the gite with my thoughts. The photo had been a sombre reminder of the history of this part of France. Georges had mentioned a monument to fallen resistance heroes in a village about four miles away. I felt as if I should go there before I left. I simply cannot imagine what it must have been like to live in occupied France during the war, nor in the occupied Channel Islands either for that matter. I had spent some time fishing out of Alderney with John and I knew full well the history of the Channel Islands during WW2.
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   Old Thread  #258 11 Feb 2018 at 3.47pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #257

October at last. The May trip with Bill and Nige seemed a lifetime away but holidays were here again. Ahead of us, three weeks in a small country cottage on the Loire. The pre-trip arrangements were much as before. Bait, ferry, tackle, route, insurance, the thousand and one things that need to be sorted out before you leave. Of course, there’s always the one thousand and second thing that you forget, which later turns out to be vital. I’m a fusspot, I can’t deny it. Tat got fed up with me fussing. “I couldn't give a damn if we have forgotten something, it’s too late now,” she said, slamming the front door shut with a decisive crash.

The journey was reasonably uneventful. Well, no different from others. Leave home, drive, get on ferry, be sick, get off ferry, drive, get lost, get un-lost, arrive. Finally we arrived and were soon sitting at a long oak table, sharing a bottle of very rich red wine with the gite owner. England might have been a million miles away. We had the best part of three weeks ahead of us in which to catch fish, put on a stone in weight, drink too much red wine and, as it turned out, meet a whole host of new characters, including the amazing Georges, of whom, more later.

The lake was only minutes away. It was supposed to hold carp, but if it didn’t, we’d find somewhere that did. The area of France we’d chosen was completely new to us. Earlier in the year when we had been studying the holiday brochures, this particular gite caught our eye. The advertising blurb mentioned the good fishing nearby and referring to the map I could see they weren’t kidding. It showed a very big blue bit - just a few hundred yards from the gite itself. OK, there was no guarantee that it held carp; that’s a risk you take when you decide to take a cottage which then becomes your base for the holiday, but it was a fair bet that there were fish worth catching in it. Pot luck had paid off for us in the past; we hoped we’d got it right this time. All the planning, the hope and expectations, were about to be put to the test. The yellow dot marks the position of the gite, while the red dots are the spots we fished.

The lake is nearly 4,000 yards from east to west, is about 450 acres in size and holds most species of coarse fish. However, it is as a pike and zander venue that it was well known when we fished it. The dam was started in 1811 under Napoleon and was built by Spanish prisoners. It was opened in 1842. As you will read in this section, the lake was not a well known carp fishing venue and it is also regularly emptied. However, these days the local federation have realised the value of carp fishing as a decent source of revenue and now the larger carp are retained at each vidange. As a result there are now fish to over 50lb in there and it also features three night fishing zones. At the time we visited night fishing was not allowed and as far as we know the biggest fish were low twenties. It was then, and remains, a pretty imposing lake as this pic of the western arm shows.

The cottage was spotless, well appointed, warm and comfortable, with a great big comfy settee in front of an open log fireplace. Georges, the owner, was effusive and generous with his wine and while his wife, Jeannine, showed Tat over the house, we broke the ice in error-ridden French (on my part) and appalling English (on his).

It was pitch black outside, but I could hear waves lapping on a nearby shore. Georges assured me us that the lake was just a short stroll away, and that it did indeed hold carp, though he wasn’t sure to what size they grew. Nobody fished for them in any case. They were second class fish. He showed me a heavy leather-bound volume, its title etched in gothic script picked out with gold leaf.

“This is my `Livre d’Or de la Peche`,” he told me proudly, opening the pages on photographs and diary accounts of the fishing that his visitors had enjoyed while staying in his cottage. I flicked through it searching for signs of carp. There were none. Georges noticed my concern. “The anglers who come here fish for pike and zander and perhaps for a perch or two,” he told me. “If they catch a carp they kill it.”

Certainly the photos did reveal some impressive catches of big predators from the lake; pike to over twenty pounds, a twelve pound zander, a five pound perch. There was a photo of a huge brown trout, all of fifteen pounds. How had that managed to escape capture for so long, I wondered. “Don’t worry about your carp,” Georges assured me, topping up my glass with wine. “Let me make a phone call and I’ll get some information for you."
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   Old Thread  #257 31 Jan 2018 at 5.20pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #256
...and yes, I finally did manage to capture that sunset!

More to come...
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   Old Thread  #256 28 Jan 2018 at 4.12pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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And that was it for another trip. We were due to leave for the ferry by ten o’clock and had promised to call in and say goodbye at the bars and the creperie, but waking early I felt there was still time to catch one more carp. I grabbed the rods and a net and got down to the camp site swim as dawn was breaking. Naturally my friends the pike men arrived a bit later and I was glad of that as we had got on famously with them, to say nothing of one guy averting a possible bit of aggro. So far we’d yet to see them catch a pike or anything else for that matter but they seemed happy with their fishless state and I spent the last few hours in halting conversation.

And I did manage that one last carp. At 6.00 am. I had a half-way-upper which came to naught, and at 8.30 am. had a flyer that was my last take of the trip...another of the kindergarten carp but size didn’t matter; honour was satisfied.

Sadly we packed up and paid our dues for the camp site. The stay cost us around ninety pence each per day, and that included a beautiful site with all the amenities. Spotless showers, toilets, washing facilities etc and all the hot or cold water you need, plus a security guard and secure perimeter after dark. Less than a quid a day each.

We did the rounds and said our goodbyes. The saddest part was that we’d not be going back for a while as the vidange would remove the carp and thus the reason for going there. I think we might just have sewn the tiniest shred of doubt in a few local minds about the wisdom of the regular removal of all the big carp, but then again, they regard their waters in the same impersonal way that a farmer might look on his fields, as the place where the cash crop grows. In this case the cash crop was carp!

Our kind hosts in the creperie foisted a breakfast of savoury pancakes upon us before they would allow us to leave, and it was with a lot of sadness that we said farewell to the little village. If the six hour ferry crossing had seemed to take just half that coming over, it seemed to take twice as long going back. But even as we were sitting in the gloomy atmosphere of the ship’s lounge, plans were already afoot for a return visit. Bill had been so impressed by the friendliness of the locals and the whole ambience of the trip; the food, the wine, the people and of course the fish, that even his brush with the law hadn’t quashed his enthusiasm.

We couldn’t wait for the next French trip and Tat and I were all set for a holiday in October, to a gite on a lake, belonging to a wine-making Frenchman called Georges. New lakes, new challenges, new friends. Zombies to be avoided!

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   Old Thread  #255 28 Jan 2018 at 4.10pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #254
Pointing at me they said, "You will come with us" and pointing at Nige said, "Stay there!" This looked serious and these guys pack guns on their hips. I got in the back of their car and we drove through the lanes around the back of the lake arriving at the creperie car park. It appeared that Bill had run into a little bit of bother. What now? Apparently he’d been accused of fishing in the nature reserve but I knew he'd been well inside the notice that marked the limit of the reserve. We'd both fished this spot several time during the trip and had had plenty of visits from the old pike anglers. If we were truly fishing an out of bounds area I am damn sure they'd have told us.

Because by now the Gardes knew I spoke a bit of French and they now insisted that I accompany Bill to the police station. Here we sat and waited for two hours while they made phone calls trying to find out just how much to fine Bill. At one stage I thought I heard some suggestion from someone in an office behind a frosted glass screen to the effect that the speaker thought they were making far to much out of such a trivial offense and my hopes rose for a fair outcome. But I must have misheard for eventually they imposed a fine of 350 francs (about twenty quid back then before the €). How ridiculous! There was no way Bill was deliberately breaking the rules, if rule there was, which was very debatable. Bill tore his fishing permit to shreds and advised them what they could do with the bits! I can’t say I blame him.

That incident highlights the possible pitfalls of fishing abroad. If they want to do you for something they most certainly will, right or wrong though you may be. Talking later to the owners of the creperie, they suggested that we had actually become targets from very early on, not only for catching so many fish, but also for putting them back under the noses of some very jealous and frustrated anglers and locals. Apparently the Gardes had been confident of catching us fishing at night and their frustration at not doing so had probably welled over into this farce.

The jealousy of some of a few of the other French anglers and the gypsies had been obvious, and in such a tiny rural community it was obvious that the police would support local feelings. Which strikes me as strange, for we had been welcomed with open arms in the village and had got on really well with most of the anglers we’d met, especially the ancient pikers. We had all spent quite a bit of money in the village, at the campsite and in the bars and restaurants, yet the attitude of the police had been so confrontational. It left a bad taste in the mouth; not because of the size of the fine, but for the petty mindedness of the authorities who wouldn’t listen to anything we had to say.

By the time we got back to the shop where Nige was waiting in the van he was getting worried. He thought they’d incarcerated us both in the Bastille as we’d been away so long. Fishing was a waste of time now as the sun was beaming down from a cloudless sky and the carp had moved off up the lake again for more nookie. (If you ask for Nookie in France don’t get your hopes up to high if she says yes...It’s a brand of ice-cream!).

“Sod it!” said Bill. “Lets go and sink some. It’s the last day after all so let’s celebrate a damn good trip, despite the trials and tribulations of the past couple of days.”

So we ended the holiday with a nice little jaunt around the bars and restaurants, finishing in the early hours of the morning playing dirty pool for drinks against all comers, beating the pants off the local hustlers in the process. I wondered if we should have warned them that Nige plays pool to county standard. We called him Nige 'Chinzano Bianco' Britton as once he was on the table you couldn't get rid of him. (See Dave Lister - Red Dwarf).

The few drinks we won did a lot to restore the jollity and soon the unpleasantness of the afternoon was forgotten in a welter of beer, wine and of course dear old Armagnac. Oh yes...I did have a couple of Zombies, and now I understand how they’d got to Bill and Nige so badly. I was a bit the worse for wear that night!

I realise I have made quite a few references to our boozy habits and make no apology for the fact that socialising as as much a part of our trips as the fishing...what's the point of going on holiday if you can't enjoy yourself…And we certainly did that, big style!

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   Old Thread  #254 28 Jan 2018 at 4.06pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #253
Once I’d set up, I wandered down the path to where Nige was brewing up. As the kettle started its song, suddenly two of his rods went off almost simultaneously. I grabbed one and he took the other and both fish shot off at a terrific lick, luckily in different directions. After ten minutes both fish were still well out in the lake, pulling hard. Suddenly my fish was gone, a hook pull. This left the swim now clear for Nige to play his fish to the bank. Franck turned up for a brief visit in a rattle trap of a Renault 5 that he had bought the previous weekend. By the state of it he was lucky he'd even managed to get it home! Here's Nige in action, the inevitable fag in mouth, sacks in the margins with yet more captures, looking cool as a cucumber. If I needed only one image to covey a typical Nige moment this would be it!

A few minute later one of my rods screamed a take and a strong fish went off like a scalded cat and I’d no sooner got that one in the net, when another of my rods roared off. It was yet another low twenty! This is nice isn’t it, I said, as my third rod roared off. Smaller this time, just over fifteen pounds. I looked around as another buzzer sounded. It had to be one of Nige's as I was now playing a fish on the only rod if mine that was still fishing. This was crazy fishing. The swim looked like it had been hit by a tornado with rods and gear scattered everywhere. Neither of us had a rod in the water! Nige chucked a rod out that still had a bait on: it was snaffled up before he could put the indicator on. Then, unbelievably, the same thing happened to me. It was quite incredible fishing and without question our best French fishing to date. Sure, Steve, Nige and I had enjoyed some pretty hectic fishing on The Starship Enterprise trip but those fish had been a lot smaller. This was carping the like of which we had never experienced before. Here Franck nets one for Nige.

Over in Weedy Corner we noticed Bill was busy baiting up along the shallow bar using the boat. The fresh east wind that had sprung up mid morning ever since we'd arrived was now blowing across from Weedy Corner towards the car park bank where we were fishing. Who says carp don't like east winds…Poppycock!

But hang on…what's going on?…what was the boat doing drifting around in the middle of the lake...Nobody aboard either? Slowly the Plastic Pig drifted towards us across the lake, carried on the fresh breeze. Bill certainly wasn’t in it, but most of his tackle was. Thank God for that favourable breeze. If it had been going the other way, up the lake, it would have been hard work getting it back. As it was he had a long walk round to the car park to wait for the boat to drift into the bank.

Bill departed at the oars for his long row back to his swim while Nige and I continued to fish on through the morning until about midday when a small white and blue car pulled up. It was the Gardes again, the pair that Nige had encountered in the small hours. Having already checked Nige's carte de peche and found it to be in order, they then looked at mine very carefully. It too was OK. They pulled a face and rather grudgingly handed it back to me. They left soon afterwards. Me and Nige felt a beer coming on so we packed the van and set off around the lake to pick up Bill. On the way we called in at the shop for some supplies, and came out to find the Garde de Peche waiting by the van. Were they after us yet again. What’s going on?
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   Old Thread  #253 28 Jan 2018 at 4.02pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #252
The fishing was certainly hotting up now as our morning had produced over twenty runs between the three of us. We spent lunch time trying to assess just how much action we’d enjoyed. So far we reckoned we’d had over thirty twenties and around seventy doubles. I dread to think what we’d have had if the fish hadn’t been spawning, but the fishing was every bit as good as we’d hoped for before we set of, so there was no begrudging them their amorous activity. After lunch we carried on fishing and I joined Bill in Weedy Corner for the afternoon where we continued to catch a seemingly never-ending stream of very obliging carp.

That evening we convened in the creperie for a nose bag and a few ales and made our plans for the next day, which was to be our last. God, hadn't time flown by? I decided to join Nige over in the car park while Bill couldn't keep away from Weedy Corner. It’s the Savay man in him that calls him to fish these weedy hot spots. Once a pads man, always a pads man! Once again we really piled the bait in heavily that evening and Nige and I used up four buckets of groats, and six mixes of boilies while Bill introduced a large carpet of mass baits along the bar at the back of the pads in Weedy Corner. By now his particle mix of cooked hemp, buckwheat and maples mix was smelling really evil but it seemed that the worse it whiffed the better they liked it.

Nige wasn’t going to miss out on an early start so he left us to drive round to the car park where he had decided to kip the night. As he drove off I turned to Bill and asked, “Do you think we ought to go up to the pub then?”

“Well, you’re forced to aren’t you?” he replied.

I awoke to the shrilling of the alarm clock. Four-thirty in the morning and black as your hat. Do I really want to do this? I made a quick cuppa and kicked Bill out of bed, then set off for the hike round to join Nige. The farm dogs were giving it wellie as the dawn light pushed away the night and the crickets and frogs joined in the canine chorus with a vengeance. What a din! How did any of us ever manage to get any sleep at nights? Alcohol I guess!

It was really chilly in the cold dark but I arrived to find Nige already fishing. morning but by the time I got round to the car park swims I was boiling over. He'd been joined by a young French angler who had set up in the spot I had intended fishing. His gear was a mish-mash of unmatched poles, solid glass rods, creaking reels and wonky banksticks. No buzzers and a trout angler's flick-up net. This should be fun! Luckily he 'fished' only for a couple of hours (fishless) before he threw his assortment of gear into the back of the car and left, shaking hands before he left! I jumped right in behind him!

My markers, which I had re-positioned after the canoeists had moved them, were luckily still in place and Nige told me that fish had been showing over the baited patch right through the night, and that he'd had to sit on his hands to keep from casting out. It was as well that he didn’t for at one o’clock in the morning a van pulled into the car park. It was the Garde de Peche who were glad to see that Nige's rods were in the car.

I reasoned that with the activity through the dark hours that Nige had mentioned, it was a good bet that most of the groundbait had been cleared up, so I dug out the throwing stick and topped up the swim with about five hundred boilies. It was hard work and I was sweating cobs by the time I’d finished. If only the dinghy were here, I thought, that would have made life a lot easier. But we’d left the inflatable with Bill over in Weedy Corner. Here he is looking lost at sea in the Plastic Pig. He is baiting up the prominent bar that runs out into the lake from the right.

By the time I’d finished topping up the Car Park swim, it was getting close to seven o’clock. Time for the first run of the day. Yes! They were that predictable. But though we’d fished the car park swims quite a bit by now, it still wasn’t clear what it was about the area that made it so productive. Franck had said that the bottom was uniformly hard throughout this part of the lake, but none of us could find anything other than soft mud and silt, with odd strands of thin, scraggly weed. All we could think of was that we’d created a hot spot purely through the introduction of so much bait and that the carp were now paying regular visits to the larder for a bean feast.
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   Old Thread  #252 28 Jan 2018 at 3.58pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #251
Then my ancient pike angling pal came storming to my aid, piling verbally into the younger man with a torrent of abuse. I couldn’t catch what he was saying, but the gist of it was that I was fishing purely for pleasure, and if I wanted to return the carp that was my privilege and if he didn’t like that he could just shove it and piss off...Or words to that effect. Exit younger man, thoroughly well told! These are two the old fella kept from being bumped on the head.

Little did we know at the time but over on the far bank Nige had been having identical hassle with a group of three similarly disgruntled gypsies who got the hump because he was returning the fish. They decided to demand a carp with menaces! Now, Nige may make a stick insect look fat but he's a feisty little bugger and he gave them both barrels! We had not encountered this attitude before though it should be remembered that back then the widespread and now current "No Kill" policy was not even thought of. However, being asked so aggressively for a fish left a sour taste in the mouth. Eventually these guys got into their battered old Renault and drove off.

Nige came around round at midday to tell the story. He had two fish sacked up awaiting photos, but could we hurry as he didn’t trust the *******s not to have returned and raided his sacks while he was away. As it turned out, all was as he’d left it, but even as I was doing the pix, one of these aggressive guys came up and started in on the pair of us. We told them to do one and Nige's two fish, were returned to live out their lives as best they could until September when the vidange would sentence the carp to death anyway. He's Nige with a very spawny twenty with the aggressive guy muttering threats behind him.

And here's the other fish…

I guess by now you can judge for yourself the stamp of fish we were catching. About one in three was twenty pounds plus and they were all very young fish, maybe only six or seven years old. Imagine if they 'forgot' to empty the lake once or twice…Dream on, Kenny boy!

And what of Bill? After we got back from doing Nige’s pix, I reeled in and we both went down to join him in Weedy Corner. It was chaos; all three rods had fish on, and all three were snagged up. It was a job to know which one to pick up next! So we decided to lend a hand and pumped up the Plastic Pig to paddle out to the weeds and free the snagged fish. That was the plan anyway, but when Nige got out to the pads all bar one of the fish had got off and the one that was still attached was buried in the stems of the pads. Bill had had a hectic morning with eleven takes of which he’d managed to land seven, not a bad morning’s fishing for all of us! Here's three shots that show the swim and the action quite well. The bar runs out from the reeds you can see on the middle right of the photo. The pads don't look much but they were really thick, a real pain in the arse.

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   Old Thread  #251 28 Jan 2018 at 3.56pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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He staggered off, buried under an avalanche of fishing tackle and headaches. It sounded like quite a night to me. I wasn’t sure if I was glad or sad that I had missed it! I found out later that the drinks were called Zombies, which I seem to remember Billy Connolly in his drinking days describing as the most lethal drink he’d ever had. Which explained a lot! So if you want to avoid a mammoth hangover, don’t make the mistake of buying the patron a drink and never drink a Zombie!

By the time Nige finally surfaced into the heat of the day the fishing was all but over for the morning. Once again it had proved impossible to hold fish in an area once they were determined to move off. Fish spooking away with hookbaits and heavy baiting up over their heads seemed to affect them not one bit and they fed avidly in an area for as long as they felt like it, but once they decided it was time to go, that was it. Nothing would stop them. Really curious behaviour. We wondered if it wasn’t some sort of aberrant behaviour caused by the necessity to feed to replace lost energy after the rigours of spawning.

I was just wondering where to go for lunch and if the others would be up to a hefty meal and a litre of wine when Nige suddenly remembered through the haze that he’d booked us in for a meal up at the restaurant. I was raring to go, though the others were not at all keen. I dragged them along anyway and enjoyed the full-on steak-frites and a beer or three. Bill was up for the hair of the dog but Nige was done for finished and he retired to the shade of the camp site to sleep the afternoon away. By early evening he was up and fit for the fray again so we blitzed the three swims ready for an early start the next morning.

Determined to make up for a lost day’s fishing Bill and Nige decided to sleep by the water so as to be ready at first light, Bill in Weedy Corner, and Nige back in his favourite car park swim. I would take the middle area again in front of the camping, which meant I could kip in the comfort of my bivvy. Bill was by now fully recovered and ready for more, but Nige wasn’t risking further brain damage and left the two of us to it, so we wandered along the footpath in front of the camp site up to the creperie. We watched as the sun set in a blaze of spectacular colour and over a beer or several we set about putting the world to rights.

For once the promised early start was unaffected by any outside influences. My morning’s action started at 6.30 am and lasted through to about midday. All told I had eight mirrors on the bank to low twenties and again all the fish came to the right hand side of my marker, even though I’d spread the bait carpet much more widely around the area. It made me wonder if there wasn’t some sort of feature there to the right that attracted and held the fish, but later plumbing and swimming never revealed anything out of the ordinary. This is one of three low twenties I caught that morning.

The fish scrapped like crazy all the way to the net and the ancient pike men danced attendance with one old boy insisting on netting every fish for me and taking some pix too. He didn't do a bad job of it either.

Me and this particular fella had held several halting conversations during the course of the holiday, and his friendship was to stand me in good stead as the morning progressed. I’d had a couple of runs and the old fella had netted and photographed the fish for me. I returned one without problems but as I was about to return the second carp a lively discussion broke out between the old boy and a younger man who looked a bit of a gypsy who took exception to me putting the carp back. I recognised him as one of the hangers-on who’d been drifting around the car park swims in the company of the two jealous anglers we’d encountered earlier in the trip. He got pretty irate and became very threatening. It wasn't a big fish but I was buggered if he was going to get his hands on it. I didn’t need this sort of aggravation.
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   Old Thread  #250 28 Jan 2018 at 3.54pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #249
I was trembling with the cold of my first-light dip, but a run within seconds of casting out soon got the blood circulating vigorously. The run had come from the right hand rod cast well off the bait patch, and resulted in another nice low twenty, and the re-cast to the same spot was taken as soon as it hit the bottom, another twenty! Two twenties within quarter of an hour. I moved the other rod to the same general area that had produced the takes. It was odd that takes were coming to the right of the marker, but I figured that I had probably tended to scatter the groundbait that way in the darkness of the early morning, swimming bait-up!

To be honest, I wasn’t bothered where they took, as long as take they did! I was feeling very pleased with myself, a self-righteous reasoning telling me that I would rather be catching carp than sleeping off a wicked hangover.

Suddenly my action finished. It was as if someone had flicked a switch, yet I’d put loads of bait out to try and hold them down in the swim. Surely they hadn’t cleared it all up in less than two hours. I was considering a move to Weedy Corner, though it had been agreed that Bill would fish there that morning. I didn’t think he’d be doing much fishing after last night so and wandered down to the swim. My concern for Bill was academic anyway. There were two pike anglers fishing Weedy Corner.

Late morning and Bill came staggering along with his rods heading for Weedy Corner. I told him not to waste his time and he cursed the drink that had meant a late start and loosing the swim. “Sit down there, old son, and tell me the tale of last night,” I demanded.

Bill groaned at the memory, shook his head in 'never again' disbelief.

"We were up at the restaurant having a quiet drink when we made a fatal mistake."

I knew what was coming next.

“Don’t tell me that you bought the patron a drink!"

“Got it in one,” said Bill. “How did you guess?”

“Don’t ask!” I replied, remembering our similar mistake in September last year, when the Calvados had got the better of Tat and I after we’d made the same mistake. Buying the patron a drink seems to be looked upon as an open invitation for you and him to get smashed.

“That was the start of it all," continued Bill. "Next thing I knew he had this funny sweet liquor going into our lagers and we got a little pissed.”

“A little!” I exclaimed. “Have a word. You were rat-arsed!”

“Oh yes I know,” he replied. “But that came later. It wasn’t there that we got totalled. No, we wanted a nightcap and Nige fancied a game or two of pool so we called in at the other bar at the bottom of the hill. The owner was just closing up but he said he didn't mind serving us one or two. Well that guy did for us good and proper.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“Well,” Bill continued. “We were the only two in the bar. It was late, about 11.00 and the owner was very pleasant and a good pool player so we had a couple of beers. We just wanted to be sociable and though we were only a tiny bit pissed at the time, like a pair of prats we went and did it again!”

“Are you telling me you bought him one too!” I cried, appalled.

“I know, I know,” said Bill. “But that’s what we did all right, and then he reached up and got these big glasses down from the top shelf, dusted them off and started pouring all manner of poisonous-looking boozy things into them. I don’t know what went in so don’t ask, but one minute we were sitting there feeling pretty good about things, still more or less sober, the next we’re pissed as handcarts. I’ve never got so drunk so quickly in my life. Those drinks were absolutely lethal."

Bill shuddered at the memory. “Next thing I know Nige got up to go to the loo and discovered he’d lost the use of his legs! We picked him up and plonked him back on his stool while the barman made us yet another of those...things. We knew if we drank it we’d be out of it, but we didn’t want to insult the guy’s hospitality so we put that one away as well. If anything it was even worse than the first headbanger, but we struggled out of the door before he could do us any more damage and the rest you know.”

Bill groaned, holding his head in his hands as memory piled upon memory of things he’d rather have forgotten. “Oh yes. One more thing,” he said, hoisting his gear onto his back and heading for a swim further down the bank. “We told
him we had a mate back at the site, so we’ve arranged to take you in there before we go back home for an ale and a few games of pool with the local hustlers, so look forward to a very decent headache, you gibber!”
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   Old Thread  #249 28 Jan 2018 at 3.51pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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I woke early in the evening to find that the other two had gone AWOL. I guessed that the boozy buggers were up at the creperie, so I took my headache for a walk across the field to look for them. No, not in there. Maybe they were fishing. Out of politeness, I had a beer or two in the creperie, then strolled along the camp site bank and down to the barrage. Still no sign of them so I returned to the creperie to await their return. I had a couple of nightcaps while I waited. Well, you’re forced too!

The sun blazed it’s way down the evening sky. I kept expecting to hear the hiss as it seemed to enter the water on the far horizon. I had been meaning to try to capture that sunset on film since we’d arrived but for some reason or other I still hadn’t got around to it. Too many nightcaps? Perhaps. I went back to the bivvy…Still no sign of Bill and Nige. I stretched out on top of my bed chair and was quickly in the land of Nod, only to be woken by inane giggles and laughter. The lads had returned and they were legless!

Nige, The Pot Noodle Man, was all for digging out the stove for a quick Chicken and Mushroom (or some such repulsive mixture). “Wake up, Townley. Make Pot Noodles,” he yelled." You can sod off for a start,” I replied safe behind the door of the bivvy. Their antics and laughing continued for a while until Bill realised that Nige was too far gone to hold a sensible conversation. In fact he was talking to himself, as Nige had fallen asleep. I tried to stifle my laughter as Bill cursed and struggled with the incredible Puffing Billy of a death trap he calls his cooker. There were farts and groans and mutterings and at last, after a particularly savage jet of flame lit up the night, he gave it up as a bad job. Nige was fast asleep on the dampening grass and Bill, worried about the heavy dew that was forming, man-handled the torpid form into his bivvy and onto the bedchair.

As my two sozzled companions snored the night away, I lay awake planning my attack on the camp site bank swim that we'd marker'd a couple of evenings ago. Nige was planning a return to the car park swims assuming he was feeling well enough! He and Franck had done so well earlier in the trip and they looked to be the hottest swims on the lake, probably due to all the bait that we had put in since arriving.

There was no doubt that the fish were capable of clearing up a vast quantity of groundbait during the brief dark hours, and rather than bait up the camp site swim heavily the night before fishing, I figured it would be best to put the mass bait in at first light, ready for the carp’s arrival mob-handed on their way from the car park swims up to Weedy Corner. I lay there, not relishing the thought of either a row out with the Plastic Pig or alternatively a early morning swim with a ten-kilo bucket balanced on my chest.

Dawn arrived cold damp and drizzly with a heavy dew on the ground. Not the ideal morning for a swim. Then I realised that the Plastic Pig was locked in the back of the van, and the van was nowhere to be seen. God knows where it would be after last night’s revels… Bugger! That meant an first light swim for Ken.

So it was that five o’clock on a chilly spring morning found yours truly swimming frantically out in the general direction of the marker (which I couldn’t see as it was still dark) balancing upon my chest a heaving bucket slopping over with a heady mix of groundbait, particles and boilies. The water was warm enough, but it was dark and threatening and I wasn’t really happy until I was back on dry land again.

I went back to the bivvy some sixty yards away on the camp site and made a quick cuppa against the numbing chill, then dashed back to the swim with the gear to make sure non of the old boys with their ancient pike gear spread themselves out in the pre-baited swim. Of Bill and Nige there was no visible sign, though the groans coming from their bivvies indicated that they were still a long way from a state of bliss!
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   Old Thread  #248 28 Jan 2018 at 3.49pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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We got back to the lake at about eight o’clock in the evening. The camp site and recreation area was still busy and in the lakeside creperie a party of some kind was in full swing. Somehow or other we managed to get involved and ended up having a beer or two in very jovial company. The locals were extremely friendly and seemed determined to make sure we enjoyed ourselves. A long table held a sumptuous running buffet that seemed inexhaustible and our busy hands made light work of the feast. The convivial party looked set to go the full distance but if we wanted to fish for carp the next day, we needed to get away right now. With great strength of character we managed somehow to drag ourselves away and get back to the lake in time to put a marker on the rough area we had fished with the French lads last year. We felt sure we could pick up fish there, possibly bigger ones that might have been spooking away from the car park swims due the number of carp that had been caught there since we’d arrived.

Monday dawned crisp and clear yet again. This weather was amazing. I couldn’t believe how kind it was being to us. So far all we’d had in the way of rain had been the merest drizzle very early in the morning. At first light Bill, Nige and I stood on the deserted camp site bank gazing out on the unruffled surface of the silvery lake. It was going to be another scorcher. Bill and Nige left for Weedy Corner while I decided to fish Weedy Corner.

Every morning the dawn arrived in company with a crowd of little old French pike anglers, though our jealous friends from the first day were not among them. Once again these ancients were out in force along the camp site bank, which was the most accessible of the lake’s banks. From time to time one or two would wander up towards our swims, and after a bit of ice-breaking we all got on famously together. Far from appearing jealous of us, like others we had met, they were absolutely fascinated by our high-tech carp traps. The buzzers in particular had them totally intrigued and each time any of us got a run they’d be there in numbers crowding around the swim as the fight progressed. At first there was a slightly tense atmosphere when we put the fish back, but gradually we managed to get through to these old fellas that we fish only for the pleasure and that we’d get strung up in England if we went around killing carp!

Down in Weedy Corner I sat and shivered waiting for the sun to kiss the water. It was clear that the fish were not in the swim while the sun was off the lake, but as soon as the shadows shortened and the full heat of the sun warmed the shallow water off the distant bar, the swim came to life. I scanned the water close to the bar through my binoculars and thought I detected a golden shadow beneath the surface, but I couldn’t be certain. Then a shimmering dorsal fin broke the surface like a sail, catching the rays of the sun, sending me a glinting message across the water. The carp had arrived!

The first take came shortly after eight o’clock, a fish that came off in the pads and I realised that I would need to beef up the gear to improve my chances of extricating any hooked carp from the jungle, allowing me to pile on the pressure once the fish reached fringe of the lilies some fifty or sixty yards out. You see, it was no problem getting takes off the shallow bar, which was about 80-90 yards out but the problems started when they got to the pads that lay between the bank and the bar. There was no alternative but attempt to bully a hooked fish through the pads and hope for the best. The stronger tackle did the trick and I landed the next five takes on the trot, three high doubles and two low twenties to 22lb 8oz…Very satisfying!

If I was a very happy with my morning’s fishing, Nige and Bill were definitely not, as the blanked completely when on previous days this had been the most productive time of day. Was it possible that the fish had cleared up all that bait? It looked as if that might be the case. Even Weedy Corner died on me as the morning wore on and soon the fish could be spotted away up the lake, splashing frantically among the weedbeds of the nature reserve as they got down to another bout of pretty serious sex. We were forced to adjourn to the bar once again, and we slept off something of an excess through the boiling hot afternoon.
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