Mark Lambert explains how he found the right combination to catch carp on a very tough week out in France recently…
Recently in mid August I had an opportunity to spend nearly a full week fishing Lac Du Villefond. This is a hard lake with some very large fish and August on any lake is one of the hardest times of year so I knew it would be testing.
I had the company of a friend for two nights at the beginning and one more friend who like me would all but a couple of days be fishing the whole week. I had chosen swim 7, a mostly shallow water swim with great margins and firm bottom that I knew the fish loved to visit. Because we had spread right out I could fish a rod to a patch of hard ground in amongst the silt in the deeper water.
I knew on hot days the fish liked to sun bathe in the overgrown margins and so I used the onsite boat to drop my bottom bait (14mm dumbbell boilie) tight to the bushes. When I got back to my rod I noticed the line was moving and quickly realised a fish had instantly picked my bait up. Unfortunately it was on momentarily as the new bottom bait rig I was testing had failed to hook the carp properly. I wasn’t too disheartened as this was a great start and I hoped a sign of things to come.
That night past quietly for me but my friend who was here for the short stay had a huge catfish called Dan – the middle one of the three cats in the lake. As he wasn’t fishing for the cats we didn’t have the correct size sling and equipment to weight it accurately but as it happens the following week I caught the same catfish after targeting them and got an accurate weight on it of 91lb 12oz – a new lake record.
After really hot weather we had some really heavy rain which we hoped would liven the fish up but the following night and day produced nothing, except the same friend who had the catfish did have the smaller of the three cats at 34lb on his final night.
I was working two carp rods, I had began by baiting one spot with just boilies and the margin spot was a hemp, maggot, and chopped boilie mix. Neither was getting me a take. Now just me and my friend remained and other than my quick take we hadn’t had a sniff of a carp and now the weather was scorching hot again. With the hot weather the carp came to sun bathe on the surface of the lake. We could see shoals of monster carp and could only wait for the evening and hope they put there heads down to feed.
I was now trying a combination of only sweet corn on my rods with a small amount of freebies around. Monday night passed again no take but still lots of signs of feeding and we saw plenty of monsters crashing out. Being the fisheries manager I know the lake well and I knew not only were we competing with the natural food in the lake but the fish at this time of year could afford to be fussy as we have no other bottom feeding species they have to compete with like tench or bream.
I hadn’t really spoken with my friend much as we was on opposite sides of the lake and neither of us liked to reel our rods in. But that Tuesday night my phone rang and my friend was into a nice common and needed a hand. I went round a photographed a common, although very skinny and down in weight after their second spawning this year, still a welcome sight at 38lb 2oz.
After speaking with my friend about tactics I realised he had gone down the same path as me and realised the fish were not touching beds of baits and were on naturals. He had also tried boilies but not a touch. This carp had come on two bits of green corn over a small bed of just hemp in the margins.
That night passed quietly for me and the following day he had a couple more fish on exactly the same tactics, one more 38lb 2oz mirror and a small Villefond baby at 21lb 6oz.
This tactic carried on catching him a steady amount of carp and although I had tried many colour variations of fake corn I hadn’t tried green. Thursday night came still I hadn’t caught and I suddenly realised I could blank. By now I had completely stopped putting boilies in and was feeding a mixed blended particle mix consisting of a lot of hemp. I decided a change in hook bait was in order and I decided to copy the two green corn approach especially after my friend had two on at once using this tactic.
Over the last two / three years I have shown nearly every angler a rig I call the Villefond rig, this is a pop up rig and nearly all the wise carp in the lake had come out on variations of this rig. I knew the carp had learnt to avoid the Pop ups as recently as this year but catching them on a bottom bait is very difficult.
I switched back to pop ups and now using three rods I decided two were to be on the double green fake corn over my blended particle and one on a maggot rig were I glued maggots to a cork ball – something I had success on it in the past.
Thursday night and now I needed a fish, my friend had now taken about 7 since Tuesday. That night I finally had a take and it was on the fake green corn, over the same bed of particle I had been using after I had worked out they were not feeding on boilies. I managed a 33lb 4oz mirror, a very welcome fish and although I had tried every other type colour corn it showed how such a small detail could make a difference.
I had a take on my maggot rod also during the night but I lost that fish and I began to see clearer the picture now. We had discovered the carp were spooking off any boilies or maize or even pellet put into the swims. We had discovered they were picking up only green coloured corn and one had cautiously picked up a maggot ball. My friend at this point had caught 8 fish and lost a couple also.
Going on past experience I thought the bigger fish were likely the ones that had gotten away with picking his bait up and the same for my maggot rig as they pick up food more cautiously and are far harder to hook. Also we had now 9 fish in total, 6 of which were thirties and the rest twenties, I knew for this lake these are the smaller fish. Granted they were down in weight from spawning but still these weren’t any of the named bigger fish (with the exception of the first common caught that was massively down in weight).
Putting all this information together I summarised the big fish were picking bits up cautiously unless we could get them feeding and grubbing around on the tiny particles. Even then I realised they were most likely feeding on our spots but avoiding the pop ups. So Friday day time I went into town in search of a green bottom bait and luckily in the tackle shop they had in fact green sweet corn. I arrived back at the lake and our last night I put all there rods onto the new green bottom bait corn.
That night all three of my rods I had a take on, losing one which I tried a different hook pattern on. My first was a 23lber linear but with round scales and not the bigger fish I had hoped for but the smaller ones would take the bottom baits too.
My other fish was finally one of the bigger ones at 43lb 6oz and switching to the bottom bait felt like it had paid off. This was a fish formally 49lb but again they were down in weight from spawning and I was happy with that.
This week showed that even at the hardest time of year there is always a combination that will work it’s just down to us anglers to find it. We finished the week with my friend having ten carp, me the three to 43lb and my other friend a couple of catfish to 90+lb. We all were really happy and it was a shame we didn’t have more time as now we had cracked the code we felt we could really start to haul some big carp.
Every lake is different and every lake at different times of year is different, there is no winning combination. No one combination works on every lake or on one lake forever, so what I took from this hard but rewarding weeks fishing was never give up and keep searching for the right combination. Other than maybe spawning there is no time of year when all the fish are not feeding and are not catchable. The skill of fishing is finding exactly what and where the fish want to eat by hook or by crook.
Fishery manager at Villefond
Find out more about the lake here – Carp Fishing in France at Villefond