Can you remember the first time you fished abroad? Maybe you haven’t been yet. Maybe you are thinking about going. Well my first time was just recently, the week of March 19-26th 2011.
The fact that we had never been abroad before was of slight concern. I say we as both me and my dad, my usual partner in crime whilst on the bank, planned the trip together and it was something we had been planning for a while.
Our first port of call was the internet and after a quick browse, Angling Lines seemed to deliver everything we needed from a company;
- a range of lakes,
- a quick easy booking process including the ferry crossing
- and all the information needed on French laws etc.
This was perfect and all we had to do was pick our venue and we would be off. We chose a lake very similar to the type we would fish over here. Many anglers have preferences from where they want to fish, others just go anywhere with carp swimming in its depths, but we settled on Lac du Villefond; an eight acre lake with a good head of carp running into the fifties.
I have been lucky enough to catch English fish into the forties, so the lure of both common and mirror carp over the magic fifty mark was rather exciting. The lake has an amazing back up stock of thirties and although tricky at times, a bit of thought goes a long way. The lake can be booked exclusive too and this was something we were keen to exploit. The fact that at eight acres we could utilise the entire lake and move if necessary was a big advantage and was something which would help whilst on our trip.
So with everything booked, sea sickness tablets taken and a quick 3 hour trip from the port of Caen, we arrived at the gates of Villefond thanks to some fantastic directions from Angling Lines and a trusty Sat Nav.
The first view of the lake really sets the scene well. Meeting the owners Mark, Debbie, John and their lovely dog Caesar, we walked around immaculately kept banks, taking in picturesque scenery and hardly noticing the deathly quiet atmosphere with only the birds and local wildlife for company. All in all it was a fantastic first impression and after invaluable advice from the owners we settled on two pegs toward the deeper part of the lake.
The lake itself has an island, enticing margins, shallows of around 3ft and deeper areas of 14ft+. From our pegs we could get to most areas and after a quick marker which registered firmer areas within the lakes generally soft bottom, all six rods were accounted for. I say ‘soft’ bottom as some areas were silty, especially in the deeper areas and others were of a sandy type bottom. As a result, utilising the diffusion lead clips from Nash with swivel style leads and lengthened rigs allowed us to ensure tip top presentation. This coupled with the maggi-mesh PVA, a few crushed baits plus some PVA foam also allowed the rig to stay away from being sucked into the bottom debris. We also began to use solid PVA bags full of goodies over tighter beds of bait such as particles or corn and pellets.
We utilised the six rods between us, preferring to help each other get the rods out and bait up as accurately as possible, especially due to dad’s back troubles; working as a team. This way we would share the takes, regardless of whose rod it was and enjoy our fishing together and this, although controversial to some, is something I feel more anglers should do. When fishing with my dad I am just as happy when he catches as when I do. However, that is easy when fishing with a family member and a friend may provide a more competitive atmosphere. I’ll be the first to admit at being slightly green eyed with ‘matey’ on the opposite bank ‘bagging’ them whilst I sit motionless, but with my dad it is impossible to feel that way; we fish together: we catch together.
With all the rods sorted, we settled for some dinner on our first evening in France. Shortly after closing my eyes a take on the right hand rod alerted us to the far margin rod taking line at speed. I lifted into the fish and immediately gave line as the fish went on its first of three or four powerful runs throughout the fight. Midway through the fight, the middle rod fishing in open water signalled a strange, but definite take and we both stood rods in hand battling two very powerful carp. We smiled, thoroughly enjoying our trip already; this was what it was all about. Without the boring explanations of huge fish rolling over the net cord, I’ll simply say exactly that happened. With both fish on the bank we could see we had been rather fortunate with our first nights results. The first fish weighed 41.04 and knowing the second half of the brace was larger we returned the first and lifted the second from the margins. It was very heavy and the scales registered a new lake record mirror at 47.04. Sitting up after replacing both rods we just sat and smiled at each other and there was still six nights left!
The following morning it got better and after another grand tussle under the rod tips a third forty of the trip exceeded all our expectations and was pictured at 42.04, fantastic! Whilst I stood and recast, dad walked round to the opposite margin and applied some bait exactly over the top of my cast. Without the use of a bait boat, this precise accuracy would not have been possible and is a testimony to our teamwork motto. This teamwork further paid off with a 33lb mirror from the same spot just a few hours later, dad managing to hold on to what was another powerful fish. Needless to say we were over the moon with our first 24 hours and although warm during the day, we settled down for another cold evening. The following morning three fish came in very quick succession, a 32.04, 36.02 and a 38.08 within two hours of each other and we had great fun watching a wealth of fish activity in between takes, you could almost know when a take was forthcoming, great fishing. As the afternoon sun heated the water further, the fish gradually moved into sallower water and the only move for us was to follow. This was something we were glad we could do as a result of our exclusive booking and it paid off too, landing a 28.08 mirror from the shallow end of the island.
Again the night passed without action and once again the morning was the time for a take. A 30.02 at first light woke us both and shortly afterwards we were again rewarded with one of the lakes big fish. At 40.04 I sat cradling her in the morning already dreading going home and it was only day three. Everything was going to plan, the bait, the tackle and our tactics were all paying dividends. As we were fishing from a similar area and Mark had given us the advice that the fish, like most, were wary of noise or lines, we had used fluorocarbon line and back leads combining his with as minimal disturbance as possible.
We had brought around 10 kilos of boilie, our preferred OCM from Tails Up, some particle and pellets as well as 10 tins of corn. By using multiple rods, we could bait each in a different way, i.e. some with a large amount of bait, others with very little etc. It seemed that all of our takes had come over a sprinkling of free offerings and this was something we took note of. Changing all the rods to this tactic, we put no more than fifty baits around each hook bait. This prompted even more takes and following this change, we landed three different 39lb fish that evening, all incredibly close to the 40lb mark. This further reiterated that the fish were not yet completely awake from their winter slumber and that a mouthful or two was enough to outwit them; fishing for one at a time. The morning graced us with more fish, landing a 37.12 and a 34.06 along with a magnificent 38.08 common in the afternoon. Being the fourth day we were running low on supplies and in the early evening visited the local town Parthenay. A supermarket called ‘Hyper-U’ allowed us all we needed and we returned to the lake within an hour of leaving, sorted!
After a good bit of ‘boeuf burger’ we settled again and managed a 22lb mirror in the night, our smallest fish so far and one we believed to be one of the new stock fish. At this point I would like to mention that all of the fish were immaculate and in perfect condition. To that extent when the middle rod again went into meltdown, we were to only dream how magnificent the fish would be on the other end. For a good 15 minutes the fish gradually tired at range before once more battling hard under the tip. With a flash of scales we knew it was a common and a good one, but neither of us witnessed its mass until it was wallowing in the mesh of the net. This was a very good fish and a common to boot! Weighing it was an ore inspiring sight and we ‘wooped’ as it settled just below fifty; 49lb 2oz. The pictures really do not do the fish any justice. It was a fish which we will remember for the foreseeable future. Understandably we were chuffed and to boot; Arthur, the name of the fish, is an original from the lake stocked by the previous owner, a true character fish with a bit of history.
Just as we were slipping her back and taking some return shots, we were interrupted by another take. This turned out to be a 34lb mirror and another really nice looking carp. By actually putting less bait in the time between takes had been reduced and we were gradually increasing our catch rate. This continued with us landing another one of the lakes gems a few hours later. Completely out of the blue during the afternoon heat, another fish made a mistake; our 20th take in 6 days. I recognized the fish immediately after hoisting it up onto the mat as a fish named ‘max’ and just knew it was over 40. At 42lb 14oz it didn’t disappoint and is quite recognizable as I’m sure you will agree. Furthermore, we managed to brace this fish with a smaller 28lb mirror shortly before landing ‘max’, our third brace of the week thus far.
It was our last 24 hours so we decided to have a celebratory boeuf, bacon and cheese burger and watch as shooting stars filled the French skies. Every night the skies were smattered with stars and I have to admit that as the lake was so dark at night due to no light pollution, the sky lit up, it was truly fantastic and just added to the already mesmeric atmosphere. The last day dawned on us and although I had missed home, I really did not want to leave without a few more. It took a little more time, the lake making us wait right until the end, but around 9am we had a 28.05 from the open water spot, followed quickly by a beautiful scaly mirror of 36.08. We began packing up and having the kind permission from Mark to drive round, we parked the car behind the peg and began loading up for the trip home. As a final farewell the island rod signalled a big drop back and we played our final fish to the net, a 22lb common and our 24th fish for the week.
The weather was glorious all week, I gained a pound or two from the French bread, I cannot speak highly enough of the owners and their kind hospitality and to top it all, the fishing alongside the best angling companion one could ask for was fantastic. We finished with 4 twenties, 13 thirties and 7 forties and for our first ever trip to France, we were more than pleased. As stated the lake isn’t overly easy, but is stocked well with some stunningly large carp. If you are thinking of fishing abroad, I couldn’t recommend it enough and we will definitely be returning! Fishing abroad was always something we were wary of, just in case our views of good old blighty were tainted slightly due to our so called smaller fish. This however, couldn’t be further from the truth and as I write only four days after our return, I am already planning to go fishing back home to a lake holding nothing bigger than low twenties. You know what it’s like, you just get the bug!
Where ever you go, whoever you’re with; enjoy your fishing