One of the main challenges that I come across on a field testing trip is getting that first run. Swim selection on a new lake can mean the difference to a successful week or failure. I have been lucky in the past with some excellent catches on some difficult venues, but not all of the lakes that I am asked to test are up to scratch and it is the feedback that I provide can make or break a new lake.
There are only 4 testers, Ron Key, Shaun Harrison, Jim Kelly and myself, and the generally the Angling Lines management certainly listen to all of our opinions. On some venues the swims can be very peggy, depending on the time of year that we plan our visit. It is for this reason that we generally fish in pairs so that we can get the best out of the lake, and we try to fish as many of the swims as possible during a week’s session.
I generally have a few months notice before fishing a new venue, however I have known to be given only a week or less to get my act together. Generally, however plenty of advanced warning is given so that both Jim and I can research a venue, either by visiting web sites, forums or speaking directly with the owner’s. It is nice to have some idea of fish stocks and size but unfortunately this is not always possible to establish. Lake sizes and depths can also be hard to establish on occasions, as some lake owners do tend to exaggerate, so I can turn up to a lake with great expectations to be disappointed before I even cast a line. These are the joys of being a field tester, entering the unknown.
A lot of the lakes that I visit are in their infancy and the fish that I tend to catch are possibly at the smallest weights. Once a water has been taken on by Angling Lines customers arrive with lots of good food source for the fish, and the carp weights generally improve quickly. Occasionally Jim and I do get the chance of a revisit, but these trips are few and far between. When this happens I am usually there to try and identify or rectify a problem or to try and get that little bit more publicity for the lake.
Alder Lake is an example of this. Jim Kelly and I were asked to try and get a big hit on this water as the owner thought that it should be capable of producing a lot of carp. It was the second visit for both of us to this beautiful lake set in a valley in rural France. We finished the week with a remarkable catch of 161 carp to over 38lb, nearly all caught in daylight hours, with only a couple of nights fished all week. We made a boilie only approach and used around 75 kilo between us. With a couple of videos and blogs explaining our tactics for the week, this lake has not looked back. Now numerous big hits are recorded throughout the year by most anglers that visit this precious piece of France and there are now carp in the 50lb bracket swimming in Alder.
Our main objectives are new water that have not been fished by British anglers, or waters that are in the early stages of development. This is basically our bread and butter. Every so often we are given a treat and sent to a water of our choice, such as Etang du Boux which I have had the privilege of fishing on 4 occasions now.
I must say that this has got to be one of my all time favourites and would never turn down the chance of wetting a line in this dream of a lake. I have never failed to catch a fish less than 46lb in weight from my visits with lots of 30,s, 40,s and a few 50,s to my name.
There are new waters that I have recently tested that I believe will be hitting the big carp scene in the near future, some with huge fish already swimming about in their depths. These include the vast expanses of Castle lake, the Bachelier waters such as Brie, Brocard Small and Brocard Large, Jonchery, Guillaume Rouselet’s Nautica, and one of the most recent venues that we have visited, Grand Orient. All are producing fish in excess of 50lb with the odd fish over 60lb.
Next year is an unknown. As of yet there have been no dedicated lakes to test, however this is not unusual. By March we normally have list of lakes to fit around our calendar. None of the tester’s have any financial affiliation to Angling Lines, so we all give honest feedback to the company and it is then their decision about the future of any lake.
My blogs and articles show a true reflection on the test and I can say that I personally do not hold back on any criticism and I try to give an honest opinion of size and quantity of fish expectations that an angler should aim for at the end of an average week’s fishing. No one would benefit if I was being economical with the truth and giving a false account of the captures, suggesting that the fish sizes are bigger than what they actually are. This might big up the angler but it certainly does not help the fishery or Angling Lines.
I have written this blog to give an insight into what field testing is all about. I do get the opportunity to fish a lot of different lakes and I thoroughly enjoy the tasks, but the main aim is to ensure that any future customers get a true insight of what to expect prior to their visit.