I have just come back from an interesting weeks fishing with Paul Cooper on the Angling Lines Venue, Island Lake.
Island Lake is a mature looking Gravel Pit of approximately 25 acres in the Champagne Region of France; roughly 3 ¾ hours drive from Calais. As the name suggests it has a large island and 4 or 5 bays along with a lot of weed and underwater features.
The lake is totally different to most commercial French fisheries as it is relatively lightly stocked for the size of the venue. Most commercial French Lakes are overstocked and so the fish become virtually dependant on anglers’ baits, which more or less guarantees you catching plenty of fish. The fish in Island Lake are of an excellent average size and it would appear that they have reached and are maintaining these weights by feeding on the abundance of natural food in the lake. This can lead to very challenging fishing, but to me this makes it all the more interesting and rewarding.
Shaun Harrison had fished the lake a couple of weeks before us and after a couple of e-mails it became apparent that the fish were very ‘spooky’ and would only be caught on very small beds of bait. Shaun also stated that the fish moved about a lot and would not tolerate being fished for in one spot for very long. It proved to be exactly the same the week we were there, as the following narrative shows:
We arrived at about 8am on the Saturday morning and were met by Sandra who let us in and showed us around the lake. There are 14 swims on the lake, of which 4 are double swims, so there are actually 10 different areas to fish from.
At the moment only 3 of the cabins have an electrical supply (all bar no.1 and no.14 will have electric by next year) and as such we decided to take the comfort route and start in 2 of these swims. Paul started off in swim no.8 and I ended up in swim no.5.
The first couple of days were very quiet, in fact I only saw 1 carp in this time (with Paul seeing nothing at all at his end of the lake.). When you are fishing a water for the first time it is hard to know if the water is just being ‘moody’ or if it is always like it, which can make formulating any sort of plans very difficult.
I had my first fish at about 7.30am on the Monday morning, which turned out to be a long mirror of 37lb. This fish fell to a double bottom bait consisting of a 15mm and a 10mm Liver b8 shelf life boilie fished in the margins with about 15 mixed sized baits around it. After catching this fish I decided to do another night in swim 5 which turned out to be the wrong decision has nothing else happened.
I checked the weather forecast for Bray Sur Seine on my mobile and it was predicting 30mph South Westerlies for the next 2 days. This would mean the wind would be pushing smack bang into swim 3 & 4. This seemed perfect to me so I upped sticks and moved all my gear around to this bay at about midday on Tuesday.
Whilst having dinner with Paul in peg 1 on Tuesday evening I saw 4 fish show in front of swim 14 (on the back of the wind). With this in mind I decided another move would have to be on the cards if swim 3 & 4 produced nothing. Tuesday night produced nothing even though the wind kept on blowing straight into where I was fishing (it felt ideal).
By midday on Wednesday I was moving again, during which time i broke 1 of the poles in my bivvy as i packed it away in the teeth of a 30 mile an hour wind. I really was having one of those days when i couldn’t do anything right, you kow the kind of thing, everytime i put something down, i couldn’t find it, hooking my clothes with rigs etc. I put it down to tiredness, having had very little sleep and a constant headache for the best part of three days which was caused by an infected tooth. Although a week seems like a long time to be fishing it can soon pass you by, especially on a water where you know you are not fishing for many runs so you really need to try and mae the most of every day.
I decided to fish swim no.13 (it’s a good job I’m not superstitious as I would be fishing swim 13 and on the 13th day of the month) which meant I could cover both tips of the island, a really fishy looking tree lined margin and the open water close to swim 14 where I had seen fish the previous evening. I didn’t go on swim 14, as with the ‘spooky’ nature of these fish I didn’t want to be fishing right on top of them and I didn’t want to spoil Paul’s chances by fishing too close to him (swim 14 is next to swim 1). I saw another couple of fish Wednesday teatime and so it was looking very promising, and the penicillin seemed to have last cleared my tooth of it’s infection so i was feeling more human again. This promise was realized when at about 10.30pm a slow take on the tree lined margin rod produced a really fat common of 41lb 2oz. This fish again falling to the 15mm/10mm shelf life Liver B8 combination. Again about 20 mixed sized baits were fed along with 3 handfuls of 4mm pellet. After a few self take photo’s the fish was returned and the rod re-baited. I heard another couple of fish crash in the area and so was confident of another take.
This take came at around 1am on the open water rod. After playing this fish (at full pressure to avoid the weed and mussel beds) for about 10 minutes I was convinced I was into something special. After a further 10 minutes the longest carp that I have ever seen was in the bottom of my landing net.
I weighed the fish as best as I could (holding the t-bar, there was nothing strong enough to hang the scales from) and settled for the lowest weight it was reading, which was a mighty 55lb 4oz. The fish, which was a lightly scaled mirror, was approximately 44 inches long. After reading Paul’s article about cheating with fish weights on this website, I did a quick experiment and weighed the fish by holding the scales underneath their body. The fish now went just short of 59lb. So it is really easy to see how the weights of fish can be exaggerated. This fish came to the same baiting method but on the Rahja Spice Shelf Life’s.
Paul did the honours with the camera and left me to come down from cloud nine (I had been after a 50lb+ carp for a good while, having stuck at 49lb 14oz a few years ago.) It was at this point that I had a close encounter with one of the wild pigs that roams the area as it stumbled into the wooden bench I was sitting on. I don’t know who was more shocked, the pig or me. It really had been an eventful night!
Thursday was a bit of a disastrous day has I lost a fish to a hook pull after a few seconds at about 3pm and then at about 11pm I suffered a cut off from a mussel after playing another large fish for about 10 minutes (a bit soul destroying when runs are few and far between and the fish are such a big average weight). After having 4 takes in just over 24 hours I decided to stay put.
Friday was uneventful with no fish showing in my area. If it hadn’t been the last night I would have moved again but I decided to leave the baits in from Thursday afternoon (so as not to disturb the swim again) and to see what happened. At about 3am Saturday morning one of the island rods was away and it turned out to be a near leather with a massive paddle for a tail, which again fought really hard and was still fighting me whilst on the bank. This fish weighed exactly 46lb.
That was the end of the action for me has we packed away at about 6.30am. So what a week I had, had. Only four fish caught but at an average of 45lbs I wasn’t bothered at all. Paul had also had an excellent week taking 6 carp between 39 and 44lbs, he also moved 3 times (for a more detailed account of the rigs and methods used, see Pauls article on the venue homepage on the Angling Lines website). Plus the weather had been good with daytime temperatures of between approx 74f and 82f.
Island Lake is a cracking venue if you are prepared to work for your fish. It certainly won’t cost you a fortune in bait either!
There is an abundance of wild life at the venue, we saw or heard, wild boar, herons, kingfishers, red squirrels, snakes, coypu and a various types of birds, so even if the fishing is slow there is plenty to watch.
A couple of things worth bearing in mind if you visit the lake:
There is a fair bit of weed in the lake, but by fishing without the bait runner, using in-line leads and playing the fish quite hard with the rod held high no fish were lost due to weed. The weed was solid in peg 13 up to about 30 yards out.
Make sure you take some anti-mosquito stuff with you and don’t bivvy up under the trees (as I did in swim 13, and ended up sleeping with my cap on to stop them biting my head) as this seems to attract them. I used citronella oil but it didn’t work that well.
With the fish being as wary as they are, move around if possible. If you can’t then it is worth leaving your baits out for as long as possible so as to try and avoid spooking the fish. A couple of my fish were caught on baits that had been in the water for 36 hours.
As an aside to all this, a couple of the fish were suffering from a skin rash on their heads and gill covers (maybe a parasite). This takes the form of tiny little red dots and is something that I have seen on weedy waters in this country. Does anybody know what causes this?