I’m sure many of you will have seen that there are Carp anglers that just seem to have the knack of getting on the fish and catching them. No matter where they go, they have a sixth sense and can tune into the water. I’ve seen this on a number of occasions and have been in awe of the talent… because you do have to talk about this in terms of talent. Carp fishing has been democratised and is now accessible to all, but this doesn’t necessarily make it easy! How many have gone to France with huge aspirations only to have them shattered once there. So not only can Carp Fishing be difficult, you have to be good at it to succeed.
Selecting the right swim and fishing it in a logical way will help stack things in your favour. So where does one begin?
You’ll most likely come up against three types of venue in France. Assuming that the carp aren’t boshing out all over the place, where should you start looking to place your baits on a new water?
Lakes: The classic French lake is a dammed river with gently slopping sides, a river bed running down its length, with an inlet at one end and a damwall at the other.
- Margins: With this type of venue the margin is probably the largest and most over looked feature. I’ve lost count of the number of fish I’ve caught by dropping a bait at my feet or just down the bank a few feet off the margin. You get the cover of vegetation and the fish naturally patrol this area of any lake.
- Weed, lilies, etc: Many of these lakes have weed beds and lily pads that just abound with food for carp. Placing a bait in proximity is a good bet for a take.
- Overhangs: As with margin reeds the branches of overhanging trees are an excellent place to start. Weeping willows are my favourite and can be real holding areas for carp. They offer shade and safety as well as harbouring food. I remember once landing over 40 carp in a few hours from under a weeping willow. I was only able to fish one rod such was the action… a Method feeder was the successful technique.
- Halfway down the slope: I don’t know why, but I’ve always done really well baiting an area just half way down the slope on a classic dammed type lake. Most have these sloping sides and carp seem to patrol up and down them. A steadily baited area can often be productive.
- The River bed: I’m not sure actually in the river bed is the best spot but if will certainly hold food in its silt. I guess it depends what type of silt it holds. I have done well fishing close to these. In fact the first time I fished La Horre I have a rake of fish casting to the stream bed landing some 68 carp in a weekend.
- Silt: I’ve never been a fan of fishing in the silt. I’m always afraid my bait will be buried or that the silt will put the fish off feeding. (Some of it smells really foul). However if I can find a firm area next to the silt I feel confident that my rig is presented well and that it will be found. The natural food in the area will attract the fish. Also any harder spot on a silty lake bed is almost certainly caused by feeding fish.
Gravel Pits: Dug out for sand, gravel and chalk these holes in the ground can vary in size form a few acres to many tens of acres. I have always found them the most interesting places to fish. Perhaps because I grew up fishing on them in the Harefield area as a boy, but I enjoy their varied and unpredictable nature.
- Margins: Often deep and steep, they can be excellent areas to start. I’ve had countless fish from under the rods. The same basic rules apply as with a classic lake. The margin is the largest feature. I always start with at least one rod close in. If you can combine it with a feature so much the better, ie. Reedbed, gravel run, lilies, gully… These areas are easy to bait accurately and get a bait right on top. When I first got the Croix Blanche my favourite method was to walk a bait down the margins and drop it in the edge. Margins can also be the far margins.. often quieter and less disturbed, a far margin rod will always be high up my list of spots to try.
- Gravel Bars/Patches: Most pits have really uneven bottoms, and the use of a marker rod to give you a good idea of the variation is essential to my mind. A bar will be a natural larder for the carp, so you can bet that a bait on or near it will get picked up. I like to use a marker rod to find gravel, as I know it is likely to hold food for the fish. This is particularly the case if its near silt as it not only offers a close by natural food supply, but and area the a bait can be presented on effectively.
- Gullies: I think it was Rod Hutchinson who wrote that he had more success fishing in the gullies as opposed to on the bars. I suppose that a bait placed smack bang on the top of a bar gets to be a bit obvious after a while, the fish are therefore more likely to spook off it. By placing a bait in the deeper water nearby you can often get pick ups.
- Islands: I remember reading in an old carp mag that if there is an island in casting distance, fish it. Well this has worked well for me over the years. I’ve always managed to get fish for island margins. I guess the rules that apply to the general margins are the same for islands.
Rivers : More and more anglers are coming to France to fish the rivers. Wateways like the Seine, the Moselle and the Lot are now famous for their large carp. Many anglers have difficulty getting to grips with rivers, especially if they have grown up fishing uniquely stillwaters. I was a bit like this until I started fishing the Seine regularly in the 90’s.
- Bends: Anywhere that the river slows is worth a try. A bend will naturally slow the current and here the fish will find food. Bait a slow run on a bend and you’ll get fish coming onto your baited area.
- Bridges: Bridges offer shelter and less light. I have always down well fishing close to these river crossings. I usually fish close to the pillars, dropping bait in the slack water to the rear of these.
- Locks/Weirs: Again these offer an artificial brake to the running water and one that holds food and therefore the fish. I imagine most of you have seen how, unfortunately, rubbish can accumulate near a lock or weir, so then do food items that the carp will feed on. Weir pools offer eddies and slack water that allow you to hold the bottom and bait an areas that won’t see your free offerings washed away.
- Backwaters: Often silted up and overhanging with branches and fallen trees, the backwaters offer a safe haven for fish and one that usually holds a few lumps. I have found that too far in to these areas the silt can be a real problem, and as rivers are not the cleanest of waterways, it can often be quite foul smelling. However the entrance and exit areas that still offer slack water can be hotspots. This is particularly true at night when the fish come out to explore the river.
- Islands: As with stillwaters an island offers an obvious feature to try. Overhangs and fallen trees again would be a good choice. The downstream end of the island will have slack water that will almost certainly hold fish.
I hope these tips will give you an idea how to choose a swim when you first walk around a new venue. But don’t forget, use your eyes and look for signs of fish. These will be particularly important. If you see a fish crash out get a rod on it… you’ll have time to plumb around during your week to see where you think it may be feeding. I’ve had some cracking sessions simply by fishing to showing carp.