Below is field tester Shaun Harrison’s review of last week’s trip to Brocard Large…
The flames of a soothing fire are flickering away taking the slight chill away from what was an empty house last week. It is the first time I have had to light it this autumn but I guess I have finally admitted that winter is gently knocking on the door.
Outside, the sky is heavy and leaden with rain, whilst the wind blows a storm of leaves from the trees in my garden. Inside I feel a warm glow of inner contentment whilst allowing time to relax in my favourite chair and look back over this last week which has provided me with so many more fond memories. I have had an incredible year this year angling wise and as the weather finally looks as though it could be starting to close in and end another summer of my life I feel I have said goodbye to it in a fine way indeed.
As much as I love my winter angling I think as the years progress I now prefer the warmer months. Summer seems to fly by each year, whereas the older I get the longer the winter months appear to take to pass. Because of this I try to get away from our shores at the end of each winter to start a new summer and again just before the really cold weather kicks in to say goodbye to the warmer weather.
This year my regular angling travel companion Ron Key and myself had messed up slightly with our first week in April trip as the viscous winter weather still hadn’t lessened it’s grip on much of Europe. It was nice to be away from the normal office routine but with constant heavy frosts we were there a little early this year but at a time that in previous years has seen the carp much more active and often with their guards slightly lowered after months of not having to dodge so many anglers rigs.
This last week was much kinder to us though and we both have lots of great moments in time captured with our cameras to make it a week to remember for many years to come. Now it is strange how certain passing remarks stick in the brain and leave a lasting impression. One of these remarks from many years ago has always stayed with me and that is when escaping the normal rat race for a few days away one must remember the break starts the moment your key locks the door to your home. So many times in previous years all I have wanted to do is get to wherever I am going as soon as possible and indeed used to turn up everywhere all white knuckled and far from the relaxed state of mind one should really be in.
Ron is like minded with me on this one so these days when we have fishing booked overseas we like to travel the day before we are booked in so as to get the travel out of the way without worrying if we are going to get there on time. We pre-book a hotel close to the venue then simply arrive when we arrive. Have a meal, get a good nights sleep, fresh clothes and shower in the morning, a relaxed breakfast then off to the last few miles to the venue all fresh and ready to go. I must admit we have both had several quiet laughs over the years when others booked onto the lake have arrived after a shift at work and after driving through the night. Tempers are often a little frayed through lack of sleep when they arrive and we have seen what one would presume to be mates practically fighting with each other the moment they get out of the car.
Possibly something worth thinking about? By travelling the day before it really matters not if you end up losing time in traffic jams, or indeed if you take a wrong turning. Also of course if you pass something interesting along the way there is plenty of time to stop and look.
Anyway, we were due on the lake lunchtime Saturday and Thursday evening saw me pointing the Land Rover bonnet towards the pork pie land of Melton Mowbray where Ron lives so as to be able to load up the night before our pre dawn start. So, again with lots of time for loading and no last minute panic that equipment doesn’t fit in the car moments before you need to be away, we had the rest of the evening to enjoy a glass or two of red. Very civilised.
Friday morning soon came and after a quick coffee and shower we were in Ron’s Jeep and on our way. The sun was rising as we passed the mighty Rutland water as the sky to the east gave that lovely orange glow that I will hopefully never tire of, as the sun gave its first few cloud reflections to let us know once again it was about to turn its light on our world.Lee Jackson at the World Carp Classic
We made great time to the Dartford crossing so as has become almost a ritual we made the couple of mile detour and popped into the Tackle Box where we received the usual warm welcome and a nice cup of coffee whilst sat chatting to Lee Jackson and Kevin Peat. Lee was fresh back from his runners up position at the World Carp Classic in Italy so it was good for me to be able to catch up with my fellow Free Spirit Team member. Dover is usually around an hour from The Tackle Box and only a couple of miles out of your way so with its incredible stock of tackle, it is perfect if you suddenly realise you have forgotten something. That is if you are travelling over the Toll bridge anyway.
The timing to Dover was perfect and we were practically straight onto the P & O ferry without having to wait around. From a personal point with it being a 3 to 4 hour run to Dover from my home on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border I much prefer the ferry crossing to the Tunnel. The ferry gives a mid way break and allows a nice relaxed meal. I must say I have had some grotty meals on ferries in the past but the P & O cod and chips this time around were superb!
Finally on French soil we had all day to cover just a few hours driving, we were both in a totally relaxed mood laughing and joking as we went along until I received a message on the phone. Richard Somerville a joint friend had just lost his battle against cancer at a really cruel age leaving his wife and young family alone and this on the funeral day of carp angling legend Bruce Ashby. Life can be so cruel.
We spared a thought and naturally the talk went over to Richard. I had known him in 1984/85 whilst fishing the same venue. He then emigrated to the U.S.A. where he made quite a name for himself and it was great to meet back up with him when Ron and myself had travelled to Texas to fish for the Small Mouthed Buffalo. Rest in peace Richard and save me a swim close by wherever you are now.
The sky really darkened off as we approached St Dizier close to Lac Du Der where we would be staying in a Camponille for the night. These are very reasonably priced and ideal for a good meal, a good nights sleep and a shower and breakfast before travelling the last few miles to the venue. It really is like getting up in the morning and popping over to your local water.
Indeed the cloud burst and torrential rain had us running from the car to check in. Ron’s bed had been in a new waterproof bag on the roof of his Jeep but only then we discovered his new waterproof bag wasn’t! So, the bed was removed and dried against a radiator whilst Ron and myself went for the ‘Full Monty’ buffet which as always was lovely. Three courses along with beers and wine set us up for the night and it was the alarm clock that woke me, so a good nights sleep was certainly had.
Showered and breakfasted, we were soon on our way to the supermarket for fresh meat and last minute supplies before the Jeep’s tyres ate up the last few miles of roadway and soon we were at a gated wooded track and our first view of water which was Brocard Small certainly didn’t disappoint us. The peace and tranquillity in natural surroundings was just what wee needed for a little escapism where we could forget about the time for a while. Eat when I am hungry and sleep when I’m tired is the way I prefer rather than working to a clock.
We continued along the track moving deeper and deeper into a woodland wonderland and suddenly there before us was Brocard Large.
Immediately I knew I was going to enjoy my time here. We were sharing the lake with 3 German anglers who had pre-booked swims 9 and 10 which commands a whole side at Brocard. It wasn’t an issue as we had the rest of the 39 acres to explore for ourselves before settling on Swim 5 which is a double swim and would give us chance to cover a lot of water as well as enjoy a bit of a social week too.
We returned to the venue headquarters for a prep talk from Franck the bailiff who straight away I got good vibes about, you could see he was up for a laugh and indeed he did turn out to be a great character and always with a cheerful smile.
Back in the swim and the first job was to get the bivvies up as rain threatened. Normally I would do this after the rods were sorted but the thought of starting a weeks angling with wet gear wasn’t particularly appealing so it was bivvy first and then the rods.
It soon became apparent that Ron had slightly deeper water to the left where he was setting up and I had shallower in front of me sloping up to very shallow to my right. I always do my plumbing by counting the turns of line off my spool rather than pulling a foot at a time, you don’t twist you line this way and it shows more discreet depth changes. All I had was 4 to 5 turns from bottom to top with 6 turns between us. I had fished one of Batchillier’s waters a couple of times before, a water called Remy and this had been very shallow the same but it hadn’t stopped me catching a lot of fish so I wasn’t put off by this and sure enough a huge fish left the water in water that you wouldn’t have thought would cover it.
By late afternoon we were settled in nicely. I had found a firm area amongst silt at 85m and baited that via the Midi Spomb and opted to put two rods on it. One on a slow sinking bottom bait comprising of half a pop up and half a bottom bait and one on a 10mm snowman. My third rod I kept as a single hook bait set up, refraining from committing it to an area with bait until the carp had shown me where they wanted to be.
Ron baited jut one rod and kept two on single hook baits casting them at showing fish. This again I feel is important. You don’t need a mountain of bait in the swim to catch a carp and so often I see anglers piling bait in before they really have any idea of where the carp want to feed. I always try and hold back with at least one rod until the carp show me where to put the bait. Showing fish aren’t always feeding fish so I will keep a roving rod and cast at shows. If I get a take, then it could well end up with a little bait introduced to try and hold a few fish.
Interestingly both Ron and my first fish fell to this single hook bait exploring approach. Ron’s before we had got properly settled in and mine in the dark hours just a few hours later. At first light I was rewarded with a second fish, this time to firm spot I had found with the marker rod and had baited the day before with a mixture of Quest Baits 10mm, 15mm and 20mm Magnum White, Chilli Chocolate and 15mm Magnum Duo’s. A 10mm Quest Baits Magnum White snowman set up had produced the take.
Both Ron’s fish and my fish in the night had fallen to a slow sinking 15mm Magnum bait consisting of half a pop-up and half a bottom bait.
The day passed without any more takes but the fish showed well allowing us to start to build up a bit of a picture of where best to introduce bait. We were in no rush to spook them with excessive casting, we had all week to set our plans into motion and soon we were preparing our first big meal of the trip.
Outdoor cooking is something both Ron and myself enjoy and indeed pride ourselves with when we look at what many others eat on the bank. For years now I have tried to eat the same outdoors as I would back at home. The cooking part is very much part of my carp angling.
Then the rain came! It was very mild, great carp catching conditions and indeed the carp really turned on but I must admit I would have been happier without the rain. I have all the gear to keep the rain out but when you are constantly wet and in and out of a bivvy you soon end up with a very damp bivvy inside. I was starting to regret not bringing my extended outer skin for the Titan to have allowed me to have kept a drier area at the rear of the bivvy. But as I say at least it wasn’t particularly cold but for a long period it did make cooking and socialising a bit of a problem until we set up an emergency canopy with my Basha over Ron’s doorway. At least we could sit with a little cover without having to be inside bivvies. Well for a short time we could until I realised just how much my old Basha now leaks.
Ron was catching at a steady old rate but I will leave him to tell his story. I was following up close behind and 10.30pm Monday evening whilst getting ready to photograph Ron’s second 30lb common of the night I had a take over my original baited spot on the half a pop-up and half a boilie on my usual home tied combi rig set up. The Free Spirit Hi S slammed round and immediately I knew this fish was just a little bit special. The brief moments it wasn’t fighting confirmed it had a fair bit of weight behind it by the way the rod dragged back so slowly. After what seemed an age a huge flank rolled near the net and both Ron and myself commented ‘It’s a common’. After a very dogged scrap directly under the rod top I managed to hold the fish on the surface long enough for Ron to slip the net under. As soon as I looked into the net I knew I had finally achieved something that has taken me 36 years of carp angling to achieve. I had just caught my very first 40lb plus common!
I have been very fortunate and landed lots of 30lb plus commons from a wide variety of waters over the years from the U.K. and other countries but this was my first 40lb common. Plenty of 40lb plus mirrors and larger but my name was never on a common. My week was made.
The weather was far from what we had hoped for with lashings of rain but on the bright side this had really turned the feeding frenzy on. I won’t go through each capture blow by blow as the methods we had started the week off with continued to work through the week and the idea of this piece really was to show that a laid back gentle approach with no rush to get things started can work very much to your favour. We had enjoyed a real relaxed journey from home and through France. A proper chilled out evening and then a good sleep before arriving fresh at the lake only a few miles away. Once at the lake we weren’t in a rush to commit to baited spots until the fish showed us where they wanted to be.
For those who ‘need to know’ the methods that worked for me and produced the most takes were as follows…
A Spombed area with around 2kg of mixed boilies consisting of Quest Baits Magnum White, Magnum Duo and Chilli Chocolate in mixed sizes of 10, 15 and 20mm but before baiting these had received a soaking from 1kg of Naked hemp that had been covered in boiling water, left to cool and then poured over the boilies to soak up some of the highly attractive hemp juice. Nice and easy to prepare on the bank but it will give you a big edge over using straight dry boilies.
Presentation wise I caught on 10mm snowman set-ups but most of my takes came to half a 15mm pop-up and half a 15mm bottom bait fished on simple combi rigs.
Brocard large is a truly stunning venue and one which I would most certainly like to re-visit. I have a few ideas I would like to try out there, but for now I will sign off wishing you all the very best fishes.
Here are a few of the fish caught during that wonderful week in October.
And a couple of creatures we saw…
For more information on Brocard Large follow the link – Carp Fishing France