The “Lac de Madine” seems to be the No.1 big water destination this year and as such, has usurped “Foret d’ Orient” at the top of the French carp waters tree. Rumours have been rife in the press of late that “Orient” is finished and no longer holds as many big fish. Well, results by friends of mine over the last 12 months have been equal to, if not better than years prior to the “vidange”. Reports of catches of fish to mid-sixties certainly caught my attention. A more recent capture by a French angler, of a 65lb 4oz fish helped renew my interest in a water where I have never had much success.
So it was with huge anticipation that I agreed to my friend Laurent’s invitation to try an assault on this most daunting of waters. Orient is a veritable inland sea covering some 2600 hectares. Despite its size, and typical of French waters, the night sectors are very limited.
At the agreed time I rolled into the car park at the cafe in Geraudot and sat down with a cold beer to await Laurent. The conditions were ideal with a strong wind blowing and the forecast for some nasty weather for the next 48 hours. You see Orient is not a difficult lake, its the rough conditions and its size that increase its difficulty, the worse the weather the better ones chances of catching. Rotten conditions seem to bring the fish right into the bank, thus increasing the chance of a take.
My friend Laurent has a lot of experience on the water, having already had numerous fish to 54lb. I had yet to break my duck. After a swift “demi” or two, we headed for the Geraudot bay area, a legal night zone and the haunt of the famous “Bulldozer”. As soon as we arrived at the water’s edge, Laurent gave me a grin and exclaimed that there was no need too look at other spots on the lake, here was perfect and we were sure to catch. Such confidence rubbed off on me and I couldn’t wait to get set up. Laurent seems to have an uncanny knack of knowing when the conditions are just right.
We inflated his Zodiac and went out on the water to “echosound” our area. Geraudot has virtually no features other than weed. This stretched out for about 150 yards from the bank then suddenly stopped in 23 feet of water. No other features could be found so we decided to fish just off the back of the weed bed. We placed our markers and leaded around from the boat, finding a hard lake bed and a very fine layer of bottom weed. We went back to the bank to set up.
Rigs were simple, no need to over complicate matters for these relatively naive fish. I set up an amnesia hook link, knotless knotted to a size 2 Continental boilie hook, with 8 feet of 25lb amnesia as a snag leader and 5 ounce leads in Korda line clips.
I then rowed out to bait up with maize, hemp, tigers and boilies. My hook baits were Mistral Crab and Crawfish pop-ups. Four rods were placed in the vicinity of my marker, two to the left and two to the right.
A couple of hours after our arrival we were fishing the Orient. Time for an aperitif!!! As we were sipping a glass of rosé a Dutch angler fishing the next peg came round for a chat. Accepting the offered glass of wine he sat down and talked with us for several hours, by the end of which we’d demolished 3 bottles of the extremely palatable vino. Memories of this first night thus, remain somewhat vague, but I do have faint recollections of venturing out in the boat a couple of times only to return fishless. I awoke with a sore head and fragile stomach. This is not the first time a session with Laurent has ended with me crashed out in my bivvy, some people just never learn!!!
The first 24 hours ended with Laurent landing a small mirror of around 18 pounds an myself losing 2 fish in the weed. The second night I vowed not to touch a drop and concentrate on the fishing. During the early evening it started to rain hard and I had a run on one of my right hand rods, which resulted in a 19lb mirror.
It transpired that during the “Vidange” a couple of years ago several thousand small carp were introduced from the connecting canal. These fish, which are growing fast, now make up the bulk of the catches on the lake, fish varying from 12-25 pounds.
As the weather closed in, the wind increased in force and the rain really lashed down. Sitting under my brolly, drinking coffee we contemplated the night and our chances of more action. Encouragingly fish were showing around the bay. Suddenly I had two beeps on my right hand rod and then it screamed off. A sign of a big fish. I jumped into the boat and set off to combat the fish, with Laurent’s words ringing in my ears,
“Big fish, monster!!!”.
Such fights are always fraught with difficulty, but incredibly exhilarating. As the rain increased in intensity, it only served to heighten the thrill of playing an Orient carp. Within seconds, despite neoprene waders and wet weather gear I was soaked through. But I remained in contact with the fish. After about five minutes I was directly above it and able to apply direct pressure. It felt heavy, a plodding weight pulling my small embarkation against the wind, another sign of a good fish. I had great difficulty in lifting it from the bottom, 23 feet below me. After about 10 minutes a golden flank appeared on the surface in front of me. Some how during the fight it had kited round and picked up one of my other lines. I could see the line running across the fishes cavernous mouth, pulling on my hook hold. I knew I had to get it in the net quickly or it too would be lost. I pulled hard to direct the fish towards my net but the counter weight of the snagged line kept the fish tantalisingly beyond my reach. Panic was setting in, the fish was beaten, but I was unable to net it. This stalemate situation seemed to last for ages. Eventually in desperation I grabbed my amnesia leader and hand lined. Amazingly, as the fish lay doggo, the whole lot moved towards me and I was able to scoop it up in my net. I let out a cry of elation as I lifted the heavy weight into the boat and made my way back the bank. As I accosted Laurent’s first words were
“ Et alors??,”
“I don’t know” I said “Looks a thirty.” As he took the net from me he shouted
“Quoi! Are you crazy? Its a forty at least.”
On the scales it went 42 pounds on the dot. Only a pound off my PB.
After a photo or two we returned the fish to the water and Laurent finally had an excuse to open his bottle of Scotch. I joined him in a quick celebratory drink, soaked to the skin but extremely happy to have finally caught a true Orient fish. Ten minutes later Laurent was away too, but this time it wasn’t to be and the hook pulled on a heavy fish. I finally hit the hay around 2am.
The rain continued to pour, and I shivered in my damp sleeping bag, as I was still thoroughly wet. There seemed little point in changing as everything pointed to further action during the night. A hour later I was in again this time the wind must have been close to gale force and try as I might I just couldn’t launch the boat. Wading out in my neoprene chest waders I pulled the boat with me and climbed aboard. I soon found myself blown back into my battery of rods and the nearby trees, despite the weight of the fish, which was taking line. It was becoming obvious that I wasn’t going anywhere in the boat. What to do? I really had only two choices try to play the fish in from the bank, through 150 yards of thick weed or put the rod back on the rest and wait till morning and hope when the wind had dropped she would still be on the end. Neither option really appealed, but wading out as far as I dare I had a go from the bank.
Amazingly after a heave-ho of about 10 minutes the fish came through the weed and I found my self gaining line and playing it in the shallow water between myself and the bank. I could see it was a common and not a bad fish. I eventually got it in the net and waded back to the bank. It’s length made me think it was a heavier fish than it turned out to be, but at 28lb 8oz was a very nice common carp by anyones standards.
The rain persisted for then next day and a half and we were fortunate enough to experience the most intense action I have ever seen at the Orient. Fish were crashing out and topping all over the bay, and more particularly over our markers.
We continued to get runs and at one stage we were both playing fish simultaneously. At another time I had just rowed out to place my baited rig by the marker, before I could get back to the bank it was away. Laurent struck the rod and as I paddled back towards him he waded out to hand me the rod.
Most of the fish we were catching were commons, around the 15-25 pound mark. Not huge fish by Orient standards, but a good sign that in the next couple of years this famous water will really be a venue to watch.
In the middle of the week the rain finally abated and the sun put in an appearance. Our confidence began to wane as the return of the fine weather generally spells the end of the action. Over the next 24 hours so it transpired and no further action was experienced on our rods. I was due to leave on the Friday, where as Laurent and another friend Thierry, who had joined us on the Thursday, planned to see out the weekend.
As luck would have it, at dawn on the final morning I had a belter and set of to combat what was surely to be my last fish of the session. I pumped my way out to the fish and all went solid. I was well and truly weeded. Try as I might I just couldn’t shift it. Again I resorted to hand lining. I wrapped the amnesia leader around my sleeves and pulled, certain that it was for a break. To my great surprise, the whole lot tore free from the weed and I found myself hand lining the fish directly. I quickly picked up the rod and was once again in control. The fish bored deeply below me. It was akin to boat fishing at sea, as I applied pressure to the fish. It circled around in the deep water then with a couple of knocks came up towards the surface. With surprising ease I was able to enmesh my prize and I was able to let out the now customary “Orient”cry of joy. The fish weighed 36lb.
As predicted it was the last action I was to experience and as midday tolled I packed my rods and loaded my van for the, fortunately, short journey home.
In all we had 17 runs between us, twelve of which came to my rods for 10 fish the best ones going 42lb, 36lb, 28lb 8oz and 23lb 4oz. We did not run into the true giants of the Forest but a Belgian angler to our right had fish of 26lb, 40lb 8oz, 46lb 4oz & 48lb 2oz.
The big fish are still present even if a few were lost in the vidange it was not as serious as we have been lead to believe. The influx of new fish will, I believe revive the water so that it will continue, in years to come, to produce the giant carp we have always associated with it.
For one session though I had been able to crack the water, an inspiration for future trips, and who knows, one day – a really big fish.