Generally speaking the bulk of tackle used for UK carp angling is perfectly adequate for the continent, but it is worth bearing in mind that many of the French waters are much larger than the UK and more importantly, you will be faced with bigger fish for the most part. Here then I propose a list here of my recommendations, drawn on the experience of over 15 years Carping in France.
The tendency has been for more and more powerful rods. A few years ago a 3lb test was a very powerful rods. But as carbon fibre compounds from the top rods manufacturers have improved so has the responsiveness of these blanks. A 3lb rods is no longer a stiff broom handle. While 2.5lb or 2.75lb rods are fine for many waters I personally prefer the 3lb to 3.5lb category for their versatility. I’ve used these rods, in my case Bruce Ashby Mirage’s in every type of situation, from the mighty Orient to small two acre pools. I find a rod of this test curve excellent for PVA bags and Method Feeders as well as fishing at ‘mega’ long range. The extra clout certainly helps when you have a bigger kipper on…
There are rods for all budgets on the market. Century and Free Spirit are two companies that produce excellent rods. But with the range of far eastern rods available these days, the angler is spoiled for choice and even the budget rods preform pretty well compared to blanks from a few years ago.
If you are tackling a bigger water reels of the ‘Big Pit’ variety are to my mind an advantage. The smaller ‘baitrunner’ reels have much narrower spools, whose diameter drops rapidly on a long cast and therefore cuts down on distance. A wider spool will help you get extra distance more easily. On the bigger venues, I have found reels such as the Shimano 8010’s have a hard time taking the punishment and soon start to show signs of weakness (particularly the spindle that holds the spool, I have bent these by placing them under too much strain). There are a number of these ‘big pit’ type reels on the market, from the top of the range Tournament and Infinity models from Diawa or the Technium and Ultegra models from Shimano, to the more reasonably priced reels such as the Okuma’s, Europe’s largest selling fixed spool reel manufacturer.
I don’t really want to get into the braid vs mono debate here, suffice it to say I prefer mono. So I’ll axe my comments on this type of line.
I don’t drop under 12lb for any of my normal fishing. The only exception being when I have to really go for a big chuck in clear, snag free water. Then I go to 10lb with a 50lb braided leader. Generally then I’ll use 12lb or 15lb for the bulk of the fishing. For years I used Berkeley Big Game or Daiwa Sensor in the 15lb versions. Both are excellent monofilament lines, tough and abrasion resistant and won’t let you down. They are cheap,which allows you to respool as often as you need to. Recently however, Shaun Harrison got me to try some Nash Bullet 12lb, and I have to say I’m impressed. It casts well, being significantly finer than the tow rope thick Big Game, it looks great on the spool with its dark green colour, and seems so far to be pretty tough and reliable.
Whatever line you chose continental carping calls for it to be tough. Personally if I get lucky and hook a fifty I don’t want it to be on 8lb line. Lastly, if you are paying your money for a foreign trip, don’t forget to respool with new line before you leave and bring a spare bulk spool just in case.
Ok, now this is a thorny question!! There are as many preferences for hook pattern and sizes as there are hooks. I’ll just tell you what I’ve used and what I’m happy using.
I’ve tried loads of patterns over the years but have nearly always come back to the Drennan Continental Boilie hooks in a size 4. I’ve lost count of then number of fish I’ve landed on these outstanding hooks. They fulfil all my criteria for a hook. Strong, wide gape pattern, forged steel, beaked point and sharp. They are also readily available in France.
I’ve used sharper hooks I have to admit, but most have very fragile points, that turn over or blunt as you reel in.
The in-turned point I find picks up less debris, and blunt much less quickly. I’m not one of these anglers who changes his hooks after every fish. I give them a quick once over and if the look and feel OK and can still scratch the surface of my finger nail I whack them back out.
I do like big hooks, I see lots of guys come over using sizes 8’s and even 10’s, well each to their own.. I have a similar thought to the line situation, I wouldn’t want to have 50 on with a size 10 in its mouth.
The Drennan’s I can get only come in barbed so I crush the barb for 90% of my fishing. Where lakes insist on barbless and not crushed, I’ve used models from the ESP range, like the T6 and from the Korda range. The Wide Gape being my favourite..
Unhooking Mats & Weigh Sling:
Finally, two items of tackle I see loads of anglers skimping on are
a) a decent sized unhooking mat and
b) A proper Weigh Sling.
Some of the models of mat on sale in the UK are more akin to table place mats than proper unhooking mats for carp. Big fish need big mats, to avoid unnecessary damage. They need to be thick enough so the fish can’t hurt itself if it starts to thrash on the mat.
A weigh sling needs to be big and long enough to support the fish without folding it in two. The models with the zips on the side are excellent and allow to carry the fish and release it properly.
You might get lucky and land a monster, or a big catfish for example. So please get the right gear! For the fishes sake.
So there you are these are the items and type of tackle I have used for many years and they have stood me in good stead. As I said, your regular gear can serve you well, but if you are looking to kit yourself out specifically for France these are the items to check out.