Being an Angling Lines field tester has its ups and its downs. New lakes are coming on to the French angling scene all the time, with new owners purchasing lakes or lake owners needing the helping hand of companies such as Angling Lines.
The huge inaccessible part of a magnificent lake
After the initial enquiries or negotiations a lake owner will have with AL, it is important to get the lake tested. This is where I come in.
Angling Lines try to ensure that the fishing experience that its customers get, will keep them coming back year after year, either returning to the lake that they have already fished or trying out different venues with varying challenges. To ensure that their experience is at its best, Guinea pigs like myself need to visit and try out the venues to give an honest feedback report on fishing stocks, that includes estimated weights and the numbers of carp present, along with a report on the facilities.
It is not always possible to get the best results out of a water due to weather and the time of year that I visit, but I do take this into account. One of the most important factors on a approach to a new water is to research the internet, forums and blogs and gather as much information as possible prior to a visit. Often the best information comes from the lake owners themselves. This coupled with my own research hopefully gives me the best chance to obtain a truthful picture of the venue.
Over the last few years I have tried and tested a number of the Angling Lines venues available to its customers along with numerous others that were not suitable.
The long track down the Eastern bank to our swims
At the end of October this year Jim Kelly and I made a visit to a 64 acre lake to the East of Paris that holds some huge carp. It was our job to once again establish if this lake would suit Angling Lines and its customers and obviously to see what we could catch.
We had with us a sufficient supply of bait to get us through 8 days of fishing. Our main bait was Quality Baits HG42 along with a new bait that have put together over the last couple of months.
We travelled on the Saturday morning to Folkestone, arriving at the Euro Tunnel around lunchtime. With a pre booked hotel some 20 minutes from the lake, we set off from Calais around 2pm. As we drove our first few yards into France we entered into an almighty thunderstorm, with hale, sleet and gale force winds blowing. This lasted for around 70 miles of our initial journey South with temperatures dipping to below zero, making driving conditions horrendous. It looked like the whole of Northern France was getting pounded by this storm, flooding fields, roads covered with inches of hale and sleet on top of iced roads, with vehicles sliding off the roads and hitting the centre barriers. Eventually we left the storm behind and took refuge in the hotel later that evening.
The islands stretch the length of the lake down the left hand side of the lake
Sunday morning was crisp and cold and Jim and I took the short drive down from the hotel to the lake to be met by our hosts for the week. The lake was breath taking, a huge expanse of water which was evidently used for other water sports such as water skiing. 70 yards off the Eastern bank is a row of islands, stretching from the northern bank right the way down the lake to within 150 yards of the Southern bank.
After our introduction we set off along the dirt track down to our swims. Two swims had been made available to us, which were around 20 yards apart. Both swims were at the foot of a steep sloping bank, flat at the water line but there were some difficulties in setting up the bivvies.
The left hand swim gave access to the island which is around 70 yards from the bank, with lovely tree lined margins. The difficulty that I could see in this swim was that I would have to wade into the water in order to cast due to the low tree canopy above.
The right hand swim was very similar to the other one with a lovely tree lined island margin which was again around a 70 yard cast. Again this had a low canopy of trees which created a problem for casting. The bank here was slightly higher off the water, however we had the use of a small boat which if tied to the bank directly in front of the swim, a cast could be made.
I had a pair of waders with me and Jim just a pair of boots, so the decision was made, the old crock would fish the left hand swim and Jim the right hand one.
The kitchen and my bivvy
Jim was bivvied up down the slope
By lunchtime the camps were set up, 2 bivvies and a piece of tarpaulin for our kitchen. Rods at the ready we set out to scan the waters in front of us. Jim had his ever faithful echo sounder with him, so out in the boat we went, fully life jacketed up and electric powered motor to drive us around.
The waters range from 3 foot, down to 20 foot, with huge masses of weed beds made up mostly of hogwart, a very thick and virile weed. Between our swims was a raised spit that came to within feet of the water surface and was covered in weed from the top down the slopes to the bottom.
Just a small clump of the weed retrieved
Our public convenience for the week
Out to my right were 3 bars which stretched from the corner of the island to the Southern bank, all covered in weed with weed ridden channels. Half way between the islands was another heavy weed bed in some 15 foot of water. This was going to be a challenge… & certainly not for the faint hearted!
View of the bay to my left with gravel bars running off the island
I began my campaign by first leading around an area in front of the island, marking up two rods to within a couple of foot off the island margin tree line. I positioned the other two in an area in-between weed beds to my left. The island margin rods were baited up with a throwing stick and the rods to my left by catapult from the left hand bank.
Jim positioned all his rods off the island margins and started off by putting his boilies out with the spomb or by boat.
View down the channel from the Southern bank
View from Jims swim
By Monday morning we both had a carp each, mirrors of around 15lb. I felt that we were drawing carp into the swim so I too went out in the boat and hauled in around 5 kilo of HG42. Jim did the same and we settled down for another night of action, hopefully from some of the larger residents of this magnificent lake.
My 23lb 13oz mirror
By Tuesday eveningI had landed another 3 carp to 23lb 13oz, but Jim did not have a single run, things were not looking too good. All the carp that I hooked, came through massive weed beds and brought huge clumps of weed to the landing net on each occasion. There was no pleasure in landing them in this manner.
Not what we had come out to France to catch but that was all that was in front of us. We had a maximum of 3 acres to fish out of a possible 64 acres; the larger residents could be any where in the lake but unfortunately not in front of us.
Kitchen under the canvass
Due to the steep banks and heavily tree lined bank we were unable to move to any other swim and the Northern, Western and Southern part of the lakes were totally out of bounds. We had to stick out with what we had got. The other side of the islands was a massive expanse of water where no doubt the fish had retreated to and we couldn’t get any where near. Our only hope was for a shoal of carp to swim down the channel and visit our feeding areas.
The water clarity was getting clearer and the temperature remained low and to top it all we had clear skies over night with a huge new moon.
I’m out in the boat trying to retrieve a snagged up fish just off the island margins
Prior to coming on this trip I purchased 1000 metres of a well known line that usually has a breaking point of around 18lb, spooling up three of my rods with it.
Now on the Wednesday morning I had a fish run into weed off the island margins, so out in the boat and as I was over the top of the fish, I applied a bit of pressure when the line parted. I put this down to something sharp in the water.
Later that day I had another run from a different area on the lake and the line broke as the fish took off with very little pressure being applied.
This has never happened before so we tested the line. The line broke at 10lb 7oz which is the equivalent of 8lb line.
To be honest, I don’t know how I had managed to land the other four carp, with the amount of weed that I had brought them through, on such a weak strength of line. It just shows; don’t always believe what it says on the packet, this line had obviously been labelled up incorrectly.
Fortunately I had a spare spool of Pro-gold with me, so I stripped off the other line and replaced all three reels with the pro-gold. I shall not name the faulty line as I have raised a complaint with the company and shall be pursuing it further.
Watching the motionless lake
Following these two fish losses we did not see another carp. Any remaining fish had spooked out of the bay. Two nights later, neither Jim or myself had a single run, other than a few bleeps off roach that were pecking away at the baits. I could not see where we were going to get another run from, and Jim had received a call from home that required an early return to the UK, so a decision was made. First light on Friday we began a slow pack. A call to Julie at Angling Lines, and a change of shuttle times was made. By 4pm we were back in the UK.
The week before our arrival the temperatures in this area were up into the mid twenties, and by Saturday morning they were right down to zero. The temperature picked up slightly during the week but the damage had already been done. I believe that the fish had turned to winter mode and were shoaled up in some part of the main lake which we had no access too. I am sure that if we had fished this lake prior to this cold spell we would have achieved our aim and landed some large specimens, however we failed to draw any decent fish into our small section of the lake.
Due to amount of water that is inaccessible from the swims provided I cannot see that this lake is a viable proposition for the Angling Lines team and their customers. I am sure that our hosts, who have the fishing rights to this lake, will be in a position to achieve their aims in the near future. There is some scope to making this into a growing concern but more work is needed to improve and create additional swims and to somehow get better access to other parts of the lake.
I have since spoken to the owners of the lake and they are in full agreement with my conclusion. At some point in the future it may happen that this venue comes onto the books, but for now it remains on the back burner. Best of luck for the future.