I saw an interesting interview with Quest Baits boss Shaun Harrison on the Carpology e-news letter that I’m signed up for, and one question in particular grabbed my attention.
“Where do you see carp fishing in 10 years time?”
“Good question that one. I think we will see more and more commercial type fisheries springing up over here as they have all over France in the last few years. Carp anglers want readily available big fish and don’t necessarily want to put themselves out too much in order to catch them. We are very much in the idle age and I think we will be seeing more and more ready built comfortable holiday type fisheries springing up with toilets, showers, restaurants, the lot. I’m not saying this is how I want to see things moving but it is how I expect them to.”
Shaun’s reply seems to mirror my own thoughts but got me to thinking more closely about the future of carp fishing not only in the UK and here in France.
Since I set up my own fishery in 1999 and we launched Angling Lines a couple of year’s later things have changed considerably over here. I remember in the early days, when I used to advertise in the magazines that we were only a handful offering commercial carp fishing holidays in France. Now you open any magazine and it’s like a ‘Thomas cook’ catalogue for fishing, such is the huge choice and variety of lakes on offer. I have seen a number of significant changes in the way anglers approach France today.
Pioneers: The early years, starting right back in the mid 80’s when the likes of Maddocks, Hutchinson and co used to come to fish the Orient and St Cassien, seem to have gone for ever. Certainly there is still only a relatively small number of hardcore carpers who seek out the large carp that inhabit these type of venues. They welcome the challenge, the difficulty and the uncertainly that a ‘go it alone’ trip involves. There are no guarantees, and this goes down to even getting a swim at busy times in lakes Like St Cassien, which is still popular with all of Europe’s carp anglers. This problem has been compounded by the ban on night fishing in the summer.
Guided Trips: These early pioneers such as Dave Plummer, paved the way for a number of companies who offered to take some of the uncertainty out of a foreign trip by accompanying the anglers to a water such as St Cassien or the Lac du Der. They turned their own experience on this type water into a business to help those who had a less adventurous nature, fish these fabulous locations. with the onslaught of commercial venues these trips have all but ceased to exist.
Drive & Survive Commercial Venues: The next significant step was the number of ‘drive and survive’ venues (as they were quickly nick-named) that opened up across France. A number of enterprising individuals like Zenon Bojko and Dave Payne rented waters with the sole aim of providing easy big fish fishing in lakes that had often received massive stockings of big carp. These fish were relatively easy to come by in the early days as they had little value in France and could be easily obtained both legitimately and illegally. These lakes offered the luxury of toilets showers, and often food and bait provided on site too. This type of venue continues to enjoy a large following and the large number of such lakes now in existence means the choice has never been greater.
Exclusive Venues/Accommodation: The last two or three years has seen this side of the market explode. Family type holidays to France have always been popular, but with the offer of top notch accommodation right by a carp fishing lake stocked with big carp, one can combine a family holiday and a carp fishing trip in one. These lakes tend to be smaller, thus can easily be booked out exclusively to one party of anglers avoiding any problems sharing a venue may pose.
The Future: Well the number of venues in France has now reached saturation point and many lakes are finding it hard to attract custom. The investment needed to launch a new venue has also increased dramatically, with the price of property increasing but more importantly the price of good quality and large stock fish. The price of these has gone up 8 or 10 fold since the late 90’s.
I can see the future offering a generally higher quality of venue. The poorer equipped lakes will struggle to stand up to the quality operations. With the higher cost of setting up a venue and the general disillusionment of some of the sites I can see a general slowing up in the number of people wanting to take the risk of launching a French venue.
The increased competition is naturally going to make a number of venues suffer from lack of custom and probably fail in the long run. A non negligible part of this is the lack of support that the French government gives to small businesses. The statistics show that only 1 in 5 survives the crucial third year, when the state wants all the tax relief they offered you in the first two years, paying back, this on top of your regular tax. The massive tax bills all new businesses receive in this third year of trading sees only the most profitable of farsighted survive. Many simply don’t have the turnover to be able to save money for this tax bill anf go to the wall.
I think the illegal or non legit. venues trading in France will be forced into closure. Many English owners have for a long while simply ignored the French legislation on setting up and running a business, evading tax and social charges (National Insurance etc.) Already we have seen the authorises clamp down on these venues.
One thing though that seems certain is that the holidays will cost more in the future. The current exchange rate is not looking like improving and all the venues will need to increase their prices in pounds simply to remain on an even keel. Inflation in France will no doubt see prices forced up even further.France remains one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world and a thus is a firm favourite for Brits both for ordinary tourists and carp anglers alike. While carp fishing in England continues to boom I can’t see the demand for French holidays slowing.