I have decided to write a piece to try and help people to get the best of their week fishing our lake, Villefond. As the fish grow on in leaps and bounds and with the lake average now pushing over 40lb the carp are becoming ever more wise and wary.
I have explained in previous articles about why I believe the fish feed in such a unique way so I won’t go into that again, what I will start with is common mistakes made and how to avoid them. When you arrive at our lake you have just a week in which to catch as many carp as possible so if I can share the knowledge I have gained over the years walking the banks every day and fishing the lake myself I can hopefully help stop the common mistakes and get more fish on the bank. So here they are:
1) Not doing homework on the lake; if you study our catch reports nearly all of the people who do well, learn as much about the lake as they can before they come out. Our lake and how the fish feed is very unique and I am on site to give advice but a lot of the time only towards the end of the week will people after either blanking or struggling then begin to switch to what is advised. People who have studied the feed back, read the articles, and spoke to me have the advantage of knowing what to expect and can hit the ground running, catching fish from the start.
2) Prepare to change and work for the fish; A lot of people will do there homework like find which swim is doing the best the week before they arrive then fish the same spot. Every week is totally different and although doing your home work is vital being rigid in the follow through can be flawed. For example the fish always move away from noise or lines or even over powering baits and you will find they are constantly moved around the lake. If the week before the fishermen were well spread out but the guy in swim 1 for example had the best bait and rigs and caught the most, this doesn’t mean the following week everyone should be in swims 1, 2, and 3 for example. So its especially important when only a couple of guys are fishing the lake to spread out or get up and go stalking to keep the fish moving around. This preparing to change applies to everything including rigs, baits, every tactic in fact as our fish are extremely cunning and will test your fishing in everyway and again those fishermen that have been quick to adapt to the situation have done the best.
3) Bait & Rigs; I always say there are two ways to catch our fish, get them feeding confidently on a bed of bait so they make mistakes or get your rigs perfect. Both bait and rigs are the most important part of fishing and normally the most neglected! In our lake we have an abundance of naturals and the big carp have no competition from smaller carp, tench, or bream. Add to that the amount of bait thrown in each week and you have carp with so much food they can afford to be very fussy.
Often a BIG mistake people make is choosing the wrong bait. When you go on holiday you are spending a lot of money on the fishing holiday, food, travel, fishing gear etc but then a easy mistake is either choosing a cheaper bait or a lesser quality bait either through the false economy of trying to save a bit of money or because of the great advertising campaign of the big bait brands. Shelf life’s or most of the bigger bait companies provide baits that are nutritionally poor for the fish and make up for it my adding loads of flavour so when the angler picks it up and sniff they think wow the fish will smell that a mile off and come running. Firstly the nutritionally poor baits our fish just wont eat they might pick up the odd one but you will not get them feeding confidently as they always have an alternative natural source or they can simply wait for what is thrown in next week. In this scenario you are now fishing for a run at a time which means they will pick up the bait more cautiously and your rigs have to be spot on (easier said than done).
It’s like I always say fish are like any animal, for example give a dog a dry food or a piece of steak, which one will he take? The good tasty bit of steak, fish are they same especially pressured fish they want the most filling and nutritional food with the least amount of effort and danger of being caught, bad food isn’t worth the risk. Secondly baits with an over powering smell is always a big no no. What in nature smells that strong? Nothing the carp feed on naturally has any smell hence why they have a sense of taste/smell 1000 times better than ours. So when you introduce bait that stinks to high heaven immediately the fish are aware of something unnatural and 9 times out of 10 will spook away.
Quiet a few in fact most of the “Big Name” boilie brands are quilty of this but is mostly because that’s what people look for in a bait, what is the first thing you do (including me) if some one hands you a new bait to look at?
Smell it and how many times do you get people holding out baits says sniff that it’s super strong! With a super smelly bait I know its not going to be until the end of the weekafter the baits are washed out that the fish will move onto the bait. That’s why most fishermen wash out there hook baits but one washed out bait surrounded by lots of over powering baits will still make the carp spook away. It’s the same scenario all the time on our lake, some fish are caught on these baits mostly at the end of the week but very rare does anyone consistently catch carp on them except maybe at certain times of year when the carp have a urgency to feed like around spawning time. These strong baits will work on most lakes especially the day ticket runs waters where there is so much competition the fish will home in immediately on the smelliest bait and feed heavily, so what works on one lake doesn’t always work well on others and I often get told when I try to explain “but it works on the waters I fish at home”. This is the problem these bait do work on a lot of lakes and if the company says they are great for the fish and has pictures of Mr Famous Fisherman with them then how do we know what is really in them?
To solve this problem we began to supply bait both nutritionally great for the fish and subtle in flavour and I myself have caught carp to over 55lb on it and have seen lots of anglers on our lake catch tons of carp including again many 50lb+ fish. I also have fish every time I fish feeding confidently on the bait and have had runs before I have put my back lead on after I got the bait in the water! With the right Bait it’s a just the BIG matter of rigs. I have written about the importance of rigs before so won’t go into detail but will add a picture of the new “Villefond Rig” (a pop up rig) below for people interested in the rig I use for 90% of my fishing and the only rig I have seen on the lake to hook 100% of the time if tied and balanced correctly.
4) Scale; Most people when coming to France scale up their fishing gear, again this can be an error. I see the logic because with bigger bait, generally the thought process is the big bait will get past the smaller fish and get the bigger ones and a large hook because the big fish have large mouths. However in our lake small fish are not a problem and with that in mind the need to scale up the bait is no longer there and a small subtle bait is often less likely to spook the fish than a large one. Also with the Carp being very cautious if they look over the presented bait and see a hook they will go else where and big hooks defiantly scare them away. Anything bigger than a size 6 is very obvious and not recommended I do all my fishing on size 8 hooks and have never lost a hooked fish on them however I find size 10 too small and they don’t hold well in the large mouths of our fish. Generally when I fish I scale down everything to make it easier to hide from the view of the carp, hooks size 8, with baits the biggest I use is 16mm.
5) Water Craft; A lot of people have written great articles on water craft and most anglers are good at spotting signs of fish. A common problem I find is anglers doing one of two things;
A) Spotting feeding fish and dumping lots of bait immediately on their heads. Doing this will result quickly in lots of beds of baits in front of you and soon the fish are either spread out feeding or spooked with all this new food and smell.
B) Not acting on signs of fish. Lots of anglers see fish crashing on the far margin but because it’s not in range or not over the beds of bait they have put out they are reluctant to move. As I have alluded to, the fish will move to the part of the lake with the least pressure so they are often at the far end of the lake to the angler. If you see them feeding or crashing there you must act on it because they will happily sit on the far end of the lake all week. I am not saying its always a good idea to move your whole setup, but generally a walk round and spending a few hours fishing will result in a fish and hopefully, at worst, it will move the fish on and they will (with luck) then find the beds of bait you have been working on in front of your swim.
6) Blame; Some anglers when struggling look for something to blame, be it the weather, a bloom in food, a bloom of algae, fish not feeding that week etc. This is a fatal mistake because the moment you look to blame something else you stop changing what you’re doing. If its not working now chances are it won’t suddenly start working mid week. If I am not catching I know its something I am doing because Villefond is not a massive lake (just under 8 acres) so there will be fish feeding in front of you at some point. Fish can be caught all year round if you get everything right so if you’re blanking chances are the fish are either spotting something or getting away with picking up your rigs so its time to change.
7) Bites; when fishing for our spooky carp back leads are an absolute must, tight lines without them will scare fish away all day long and slack lines will lose fish consistently. If you have your rigs and bait right you will hook our carp but that’s not game over for the carp, the have one more trick up their sleeves. They sit still and shake their heads, with slack lines you won’t get indication and given long enough the fish will use the leads to get rid of the hook. Even on tight lines the indication can be so delicate.
When back leading (I don’t fish without them) line bites are very rare and only occasionally do I get just a single beep. What I have learned over the years is just how often the carp are getting away with picking up baits. If I receive two beeps on my bite alarm I know I have had my rig ejected by a wise carp and I reel in and bin that rig as I know the next carp will do the same. When I get just one beep on my alarms I am out watching my rod tips, I have caught many fish on one beep or sometimes I have just seen the rod tip bouncing as the fish has picked up the rig and is sat still trying to shake loose the rig. A lot of times we get fishermen getting beeps all during the night and day when back leading and I know exactly what is happening. Its easy to blame either line bites or a small fish pecking the bait because this is again not something easily discovered, I have only learnt this after years of study these tricks.
Sometimes it’s hard to explain that those two beeps and slight lift on the swinger is in fact a big carp ejecting the rig that has worked on all the other waters that angler fished and they need to change but this is the exact tricks I see the carp using every week. Its not often now you will get a screaming run on our lake, normally a screaming run only happens if it’s one of the less wise smaller 20/30lb carp picking up the bait or if a big carp got hooked and after trying couldn’t eject the rig.
I would say these are the most common mistakes made on our lake and as I have said I have covered rigs in other articles (see here) so hopefully the above will give an insight into how our unique carp behave and how best to avoid time spent on the bank pulling your hair out trying to work them out.
Most importantly I hope it will help people enjoy their holiday while posing for pictures with some of our massive carp.
Mark, Villefond Fisheries Manager
For more information on Villefond follow the link – Carp Fishing in France