Happy Summer Days at Mas Bas

Happy Summer Days at Mas Bas

by Bridget Dawson

I’d like to say that the day started early but in fact due to time constraints with the tunnel crossing it started for us around 5pm as we dropped off the dogs in Chesterfield and headed south to pick up our friends. We had chosen the tunnel crossing as our friends live only 40 mins away from there and the idea was to leave around 12.30am, catch the 2.13 am crossing  and begin the long drive down when the roads were less busy. I had recently invested in a Sanef toll system www.saneftolling.co.uk so we had the electronic device attached adjacent to our rear view mirror and odd as it sounds the joy felt when it worked was quite alarming, it meant a steady drive straight through each toll , no fumbling for cash or credit card, and no queuing. Bliss! If you use the French motorways regularly I would recommend it. It’s particularly good if you are on your own in the car as it saves having to climb in and out at every toll station.

The sat Nav took us around Paris something I normally try to avoid, but hey 5am wouldn’t be that busy would it? In fact of course it was busy as every other car seemed to be of Dutch or Belgium origin, all with roof boxes or camping trailers, jostling for position , all obviously had the same idea, but we were lucky and busy as it was, the traffic ran smoothly and we were soon clocking off the miles. I usually like to take an extra day and extend the holiday to Mas Bas to break up the travel but circumstances had prevented this and so it was be a long  slog driving down all in one go, sharing the driving.

After a couple of comfort breaks we finally hit Cahors at 12.30 and opted to stop for a leisurely lunch. I have to say the cold beer went down rather nicely and sitting on the pavement cafe in temperatures of 85 degrees with the waiters bustling and the sun dappling through the trees, I finally appreciated my holiday had started and what better place could I be?  With only just over an hour to go, we hit the road again and arrived in Laroque Timbaut just 10 minutes from the lake to visit the supermarket and gather our fresh provisions for the weekend, the Monday would be a bank holiday so we didn’t want to be caught out.  Overhead banners announced a flea market (brocante) on the Sunday and Monday in the village… great news for me! Though the rolling of the eyes and wry smile of my husband made me chuckle.  Anyhow, bags on knees and bottles on the floor, we uncomfortably did the last few minutes and arrived into the complex, relieved and happy… The steps were there…  and the bit I like best is climbing up them to remind me just how lucky I am.

Kettle on and wine box open, we were soon sitting on the terrace with the lake vista spread in front of us yes, it was all well worth it! Gilles and Lesley were soon there and a four rod set up stretched in front of the terrace. A discussion with Gilles soon sorted out the best spots and within 10 minutes amazingly, the first alarm had sounded, with the willow tree swim producing a lovely 17lb mirror.

Much to the amusement of my non fisher friends the fight didn’t limit itself to the rods and the fish gave me a few slaps in the face on the unhooking mat. (One of the downfalls of catching so close in)

A quick change of clothes, (you’ll notice as we go on I change clothes more often than even Trinny and Susannah would advise, as I do hate being slimed! )  & rod returned to its spot, we chilled and chatted until again the screeching of the second rod alarm meant yet another carp had taken the bait. A longer fight this time and a 28lb carp weighed in… I can tell you the smile on my face (slapped or not slapped by a carp’s tail) could not be wiped off.  By now the other non anglers were wanting to get in a little on the act so four rods became 1 rod each and they insisted on casting their rod, which at times was funny and even after regaining one from the willow tree itself, remained mildly amusing.

Carp lakes with accommodation Carp lakes with accommodation
17lb 28lb

I figured the more they were interested the more time the rods would be in the water, so it was in fact win, win, for me and I have never been precious or serious enough for it to worry me. I also knew though that at no point would any of them want to actually deal with the carp once netted.  We ended up with three carp the first evening another of 17lbs and one of 24lbs came to say hello but with no sleep the previous night, and a few glasses of red and some lovely bread and cheese later  we called it a day and headed for bed to catch up.

The following morning as you might imagine, was a late starter for everyone, Breakfast became brunch and we put out the rods again and played cards under the terrace in the afternoon, the weather was undecided and showers and sunshine jostled for position. The carp were active showing all over the lake and a few more came to the net, one of 28lbs, a real beauty and a couple of low twenties. We also had two Tench, both  beautifully golden and well behaved.  The first one was 6lbs but I didn’t weigh the second one and put it back then realised I had hurt the feelings of the ‘angler’ whose fish was dismissed as not worthy for weighing! I guess you can’t win them all.

Monday started with a trip to the flea market and boulangerie, it was so busy in the bakers and we worried as we looked upon the empty shelves but gloriously after only a 5 minute wait we had it. Straight from the oven, the smell whetting the taste buds how wonderful to take it out toasty warm in your arms.  The market was not just contained in the square but threaded down the side streets. Such an eclectic mixture of professional market traders and locals house clearance.  I had soon sniffed out a little  olive pot which set me back all of 50 centimes! And then some individual handmade Moroccan tiles they were nearly hidden in a cardboard box under the table Suddenly I was caught in that twilight moment… wanting to get them all out and view them all individually, but scared in case someone else came along and offered more. Already a woman was looking over my shoulder,’ they’re sold’ I said what I hoped was my best ‘it’s not up for discussion’ tone. She moved on, and I paid without even haggling and walked away clutching my prized possessions.

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Another lovelly carp! 32lb

To top it all Monday early evening accounted for a glorious 32lber. It came near with ease but that was just a fluke that it headed our way, then hugging the bottom, followed by some short hard fighting runs as it really felt the pressure and wanted none of it.  Finally the relief as it was guided over the waiting net, the week just could not get off to a better start! We then enjoyed a lovely evening with friends , 15 of us in all sat under the terrace, all bringing contributions to the meal, the BBQ was superb , Gilles duck breast cooked to perfection, Sandra’s fresh garden produce and tomato salad, set our taste buds racing and the prawn starters marinated in chilli and ginger and garlic, steak strips also marinated & chicken deboned and stuffed with pork and herbs Italian style… A culinary feast was enjoyed by all.

Tuesday and Wednesday followed fishing wise in a similar pattern, the rods didn’t go in until sometimes mid morning and were brought in as we headed out for lunch. We didn’t fish any nights and therefore only intermittently during daylight hours. The carp kept coming even a 9lb golden koi graced the net at one stage, but mostly the doubles and mid  twenties.

We had real disappointment twice on Wednesday when what was the biggest carp of the session was lost at the net, we almost had it; almost … So, it wasn’t all perfect and with the next fish lost too (a little further out this time) a change of rig was made on that rod, just in case. Gilles had advised me to fish slack lines which we did all except for the rod positioned just off the willow to our right, too easy otherwise for the carp to quickly head to safety.

Carp lakes with accommodation
The carp kept coming…

But this is a place to relax and Mas Bas offers plenty to do, but no rides on the bikes or Badminton for us though, with a high of 35 degrees on the Tuesday, the pool came into its own, being the preferred method to cool off and relax. We had a few storms too,  a few nights when the sky lit up and thunder surrounded us, but it cleared the air and the sunshine followed again. Only Thursday was a miserable day with showers on and off as the weather seemed unable to make up its mind, so we headed off to the market at Monpasson de Libos, (one of the biggest markets in the area) in search of dinner and 3 kilo of Bouchot mussels iced and bagged soon sorted that out.  Now to find some breakfast… we drove a further 8 miles to Penne D’Argenais, one of the prettiest villages I know and enjoyed coffees and crepes. Then strolled around the picturesque alleyways with occasional purchases in the craft and wine shops, before returning and casting out the rods. Around 5pm the left hand rod sounded and we were in the process of netting a nice 24lb carp when the third rod erupted, I must say these carp put up one hell of a scrap and what seemed a bigger carp to start disappointed at 22lbs. We were to have entered a local boules competition in Laroque in the evening but rain deterred play and we sat and had supper under the lake house veranda watching the rain fall again, despite this the temperature was still very warm and remained so all night.

Carp lakes with accommodation
Penne D’argenais  

So here I am sitting here on Friday morning, it is beautiful again and the pool beckons. A small mirror carp of 16lbs has just been waved goodbye with a swish of its golden tail.

There is nothing like the early mornings here, the cuckoo is calling on my left, the mallard family preen in the early morning sun and every couple of minutes the carp are crashing out all over the lake. I have been here many times and the fishing currently is  more prolific or so it would seem. There are so many options. If I cast to where the carp are crashing this morning I would need 20 rods not just 4! When I wander around the lake in the heat of the day I can see scores with their backs in the sun. The increase in catches is down to a number of things, the aerators on the lake putting in more oxygen, the competition for food  from small species, the increase each year in the number of carp and also to the missing Lotus flowers this year. In order to reduce the growing weed the other year, Gilles put in grass carp which have all but seen off the lotus flowers. His plans to reduce their numbers later in the year should hopefully get the balance right for the Lotus flowers were stunning.

Tactics wise I have followed Gilles’ advice, bottom baits, slack lines and larger than average hooks. I have not used an ounce of particle on this trip and the reason is because of the large number of nuisance bream and grass carp in the lake. So far my tactics have worked and only decent carp have been caught. I can’t be doing with constantly unhooking bream. Gilles intends to net the lakes later in the year but that does not help me now. Some anglers will still come and pile in the particle I’m sure but I think it’s important to ask for information on a lake and fish accordingly. It’s easy to fish ‘as you always fish- because it usually works’ but every lake is different and next year’s tactics, I’m sure, will be different again.

Our group this year is just 4 friends, here for the peace and quiet and beauty this area offers. It’s a huge drive to get here, but if it wasn’t worth it… well I wouldn’t keep coming back would I? This place is great for chilling, great for extended families and small groups alike, but there are some rules

Don’t expect the fishing to be great if you create huge amounts of noise in the garden area close to where you are fishing, don’t expect the houses to be like English houses, they are rustic, old and constantly need some work or other… but they have an endearing charm all of their own. Do keep the shutters closed when facing the sun, else the room will become too warm… there is no air conditioning. All the bedding is white and crisp and clean upon arrival. The furniture is adequate but basic. The dishwashers are great and the water pressure for the showers are remarkably good too. But it is the setting… this wonderful valley, that makes its ambience, its poetry absolutely complete.

Carp lakes with accommodation
Time for a dip…  

Bridget Dawson ( bridget@anglinglines.com )


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