Angling Lines field tester and videographer Mike Linstead was recently sent on assignment to one of our newest venues for 2018, Forest Lodge. Here is an account of his visit.
Having spent a good amount of my spare time over the last few years visiting many of the Angling Lines venues to film on their behalf, I think I’m fairly well qualified when it comes to saying what is a special lake.
And, having been told of Forest Lodge by the team, they certainly felt that it would fall under such a category.
Information (as is usually the case with new waters) was fairly limited, but the odd photograph made its way through to me over the month’s leading up to the trip.
First of all some pictures of the fish being stocked arrived in my inbox, as Guillaume Roussoulet – the man behind the operation – was relocating a part of his stock from his well renowned lake Nautica, which sadly had to close due to an irreparable dam wall.
Nautica’s loss was certainly Forest Lodge’s gain, as some stunning big carp found themselves a new home.
Not long after, a few images of the lake itself and the lodge (for which the lake is named) pinged into my inbox. These tantalising glimpses kept raising the level of excitement as I prepared for my visit.
Fast forward to the end of April and the pro-longed winter weather back in the UK was long forgotten as I wound my way through the sleepy towns and villages of the Allier region and to the secure gates that keep the lake hidden away from the rest of the world.
Greeted by Guillaume, we made our way into the dense forest of the Domaine de St Augustin estate and down the track to the lake.
The journey took us deep under the tree canopy to what felt a million miles away from civilisation, a point which was further heightened when a herd of some 50 or more fallow deer forced our vehicles to a standstill as they made their way across the road and melted into the undergrowth as if they were never there.
After this magical introduction we turned a corner on the track and the first glimpses of the lake began to reveal themselves.
The lodge had been booked by two visiting Dutch anglers for the week and I was due to be filming the neighbouring Augustin lake, just a mile or so deeper into the forest on the estate, so I wasn’t intending on setting up camp on the lake.
However when I finally had a full view of the water I was suddenly thrown into two minds as to whether I should reconsider.
It’s fair to say that the pictures that I’d seen of the lake didn’t do it justice, especially as it was now bursting with an array of greens, as spring had arrived just a few days prior to my arrival.
The lake looked tantalising, with a shimmering ripple pushing across the water. It was every bit as beautiful as I’d been told by the team.
Guillaume showed me one or two spots and we discussed the filming agenda for the days to follow before I made my way to the other lake to set up base camp and rest up before a busy week of filming.
The plan was to film the lake during the main part of the day, as well as try and wet a line when possible, in the hope of nabbing a fish for the camera.
The two Dutch anglers were fishing from the swim adjoining the lodge and had a bay all of their own, so I had the option of fishing the lion’s share of the lake should I wish.
After a good night’s sleep and an early morning capture on Augustin, I made my way back to Forest Lodge to do a walk-around and scout out all of the possible angles to film, as well as the little details that help to paint an accurate picture of a venue.
The place was virtually silent, save for the rustling wind in the new spring leaves, the muffled calls of cuckoos in the surrounding trees and the odd crashing carp punctuating the peace. It certainly looked promising in terms of the fishing and I couldn’t wait to get a line in the water.
However the priority was to get as much filming done as possible so, after a bit of test filming, I made my way back to the other lake, with the plan to return the following day and do a full day of filming.
Loading the gear up in the car the next morning I made my way through the forest between the lakes and was able to witness an abundance of wildlife going about its daily business. For a nature lover like me it was paradise and I hoped I could capture on film as much of the magic that I was experiencing in the flesh. Deer abound on the estate and wild boar are a common sight, in addition to an array of bird life.
Time very much alters in a place like Forest Lodge.
One of my angling icons, Chris Yates, once spoke of the legendary Redmire Pool that “time here doesn’t pass, it simply collects”. I think if he had joined me, Chris would have agreed that his sentiments would extend to Forest Lodge.
With filming underway I was inevitably due to film the lodge itself. Having seen it from a distance it looked spectacular.
The setting wouldn’t have looked out of place in an episode of Grand Designs as the lodge stands proudly over the lake on its wooden stilts, as if we were in the heart of Alaska rather than France.
The two Dutch anglers, Marcel and Hans, welcomed me with freshly pressed coffee to join them on the balcony over the lake and, with a gloriously sunny day unfolding out on the lake, it was pretty much perfect.
Inside the lodge was equally as impressive as its exterior. The attention to detail was staggering and you could quite comfortably live there 365 days a year.
Two modern logs burners, a kitchen fitted with all integrated appliances, two double sleeping quarters on the first floor and a brand-new bathroom completed the most opulent fishing accommodation I’ve certainly ever seen.
It’s the kind of place you’d buy in a heartbeat if you won the lottery, it really is that good!
Having completed my filming duties inside the lodge, I focused on the lake itself and made my way down to the swim that adjoins the lodge, where Marcel and Hans were busy preparing their rods for the day ahead.
Their trip had started out really well and they caught almost immediately upon arrival, however the fish were proving to be a little camera shy and with a similar story playing out on Augustin we were left musing as to whether or not the sudden climactic shift from a cold and prolonged winter to a suddenly gloriously warm spring had somehow knocked the carp out of their usual rhythm.
Making my way around the lake with the camera it certainly appeared to be that the fish were more intent on soaking up the warming sun, as a huge shoal of fish congregated just a few inches beneath the surface at the opposite end in the shallows of the lake.
Wandering around gave me the opportunity to observe some of the carp that were willing to feed and I noticed that there were a few fish using the far margin of the shallows as a patrol route so decided to set a few small baited patches tight to the marginal vegetation and revisit these spots over the next few days to see which, if any, were being used as feedings spots by the carp.
After a hot and muggy day of carrying bags full of camera equipment, I made my way back to the lodge to thank Marcel and Hans for their assistance earlier in the day.
Hans invited me to join them for a cold beer and returned from the lodge a few moments later with an amazing selection of antipasti and a few chilled bottles of beer to wash it all down.
I have to say Hans and Marcel’s generosity was a little overwhelming and it was a brilliant reminder how fishing can transcend language barriers and cultural differences, especially when old fishing tales are shared with a few cold ones!
(Marcel and Hans – If you ever read this article, thank you! I hope one day to return the favour if you venture across to English shores to wet a line!)
Sitting enjoying the peace of the lake, we were privileged to witness two magnificent fallow stags appear on the paddock adjacent to the lodge and watched them lazily graze on the lush spring grass, unperturbed by our presence.
As the days wore on and with more filming completed I couldn’t resist getting the rods out and seeing if I could conjure up a fish. And despite my best efforts and pre-baiting a couple of spots in both swims 3 and 4 the alarms remained silent.
I had however noticed that one or two of the baited patches on the far side had been visited over the few days so I opted to sneak around to the far bank and try my hand at stalking a fish out.
This bank is absolutely tailor made for stalking as it forms a channel of around 20 yards wide behind the island directly in front of swim 4, so not only are you able to fish a number of little breaks in the margin, you can do so knowing that if you hook any fish the disturbance won’t hamper any chances in the main swim.
After a couple of fruitless hours in a couple of the spots I carefully positioned a bait in one last area before laying down and sinking back into my unhooking mat so as not to give away my presence to the clearly wary carp.
The odd dark shape passed over the rig and for 30 or 40 minutes not a lot happened. With the feeling of cramp slowly creeping up my legs from sitting in a quite awkward position, I was beginning to think it might be time to admit defeat when suddenly the rod lunged into a violent ark and a fish had fallen foul of my subtle little trap.
No sooner had our tug of war begun than a sickening kick and slackened line signalled that the fish had given me the slip.
Cursing under my breath (or possibly out loud) I sat and contemplated what might have been. You can’t win them all and on that occasion the carp got the better of me.
A few days later I returned to meet up with Angling Lines Sales Director Bridget Dawson and Guillaume to do a little more filming and to catch up and discuss the lake in general.
It would have obviously been rude not to cast a line or two but once again it turned out to be a quiet few hours. Nevertheless, it was really pleasant to spend the afternoon enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the lake and it surroundings.
Forest Lodge is a venture at the beginning of a very exciting journey and Guillaume has plans to continue to develop both the stock of carp and the lake itself to further enhance what is already a truly special place.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to spend a bit of time in such an amazing place and I’m certainly eyeing up a stay in that lodge before too long!
Want more information on Forest Lodge Lake? Follow the link – Carp Fishing France