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It was that truly exciting time of the year again. With the car packed to bursting point and setting off from home before midnight to head to the coast it could only mean one thing – French Fishing Trip!! 
This would be a return to an amazing venue in Normandy for myself and my regular fishing partner Andrew Murchison. We both managed PB’s last year on our first visit. It would also be our first venture abroad since becoming Successful Baits team members. 
Ed Hawes Successful Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
With the knowledge of which baits had worked well previously at the venue I had decided months in advance which products I would be taking with me. Due to my successes during the winter months and into spring on my local club waters using the mighty VNX+ these baits from the Traveller range in both 14 & 18mm were always going to come. In addition to this I also wanted to take a fishy smelling bait as an alternative. Despite the rave reviews and awesome achievements that the recently released Seafood range has been producing, I opted to take the Red Spice Fish, again in both sizes. 
 
The reason for this decision had two parts, firstly it is very similar in colour to the fishmeal baits sold and regularly used by anglers at the venue, and secondly this bait range has a very powerful garlic content. From following online news and reviews from the venue since our last visit, some anglers had been experiencing difficulties with Crayfish attacking and, in some cases, removing hook baits, particularly in the warmer weather. As our trip was at the end of April warmer temperatures were very much a possibility. I had previously read in a few different publications that Crayfish do not like garlic so are less inclined to attack garlic flavoured baits. The Red Spice Fish fitted the bill perfectly and would hopefully enable me to still be able to fish with boilies should the crays be active. 
 
One of the major benefits of being in the Successful Baits team is the sharing of knowledge and experience between team members. Steve Ball had recently returned from an incredible French trip where he caught a remarkable number of large carp using the Seafood whilst everybody else on the lake struggled for action. Steve had prepped his boilies in advance so I followed his regime to add extra smell and attraction to my baits using the match VNX+ and RSF Activator liquids. 
 
This is done by placing your desired amount of boilies in a sealable bucket and pouring in boiling water and firmly sealing the lid for 10 minutes. This water is then drained off (I bottled mine for future use in spod or ground bait mixes as its full of flavour) and a generous amount of the Activator liquid is then added to the bucket, with the baits mixed and rotated to ensure even coverage, and the lid replaced. I carried out this prep 2 weeks before departure, returning daily to rotate the baits, but some of the team do this 6-8 weeks before a trip. The end result is a bucket of beautifully glazed and powerfully flavoured boilies as they absorb a large amount of the liquid content. During my 2018 trip I had good results using Tiger Nuts as hook baits which are regularly used at the venue, so I also had a pot of tigers soaking in the VNX+ Activator liquid to enhance their attractiveness. 
 
Arriving at the Eurotunnel always builds the excitement. For anybody considering a fishing trip into Europe I’d highly recommend the train as it’s really quick, easy to use and you also have the security of staying with your vehicle full of your prized fishing possessions. With it now being the early hours of the morning it was a hassle free 3 hour drive down to Normandy which was almost devoid of traffic, arriving at the venue just before dawn. The gates aren’t opened until 9am so we retrieved the strategically packed brew kit bag and enjoyed a cuppa watching the gorgeous sunrise over the hills in the distance. 
 
Deux Iles is a fantastic venue which has a maximum of 4 anglers each week. There is a small island at each end of the lake which houses a wooden cabin containing 2 single beds, fridge and power sockets which provides a very comfortable place to call home for the week. Each island also has the fishing rights to its half of the lake which affords each angler plenty of room. As Andrew and I had fished island 2 last year we were keen to give the other island a try, we accompanied the week’s other 2 anglers who had just arrived on a walk around the lake. It was now 11am and the temperatures were already in the high teens with the sun high in a cloudless sky. With the polaroids on there were plenty of Carp to be seen in the margins and shallower spots, some of which were very large. 
 
The other guys had been to the venue a couple of times previously and were also keen to fish island 1 so it came down to the obligatory coin toss. After working out what was tails on a 1 euro coin I called it correctly and we were soon walking our gear onto our preferred island and setting up home for the week. 
I’ve always believed that when starting in a new swim you should take your time to watch the water for any signs of fish giving away spots and also take time to find out the depths and make up of the lake bed to help decide on potential fishing spots. By making all of your disturbances with marker floats, leads and depth finders in one go you will hopefully only scare the fish once during your stay. Equally as important is local knowledge, so any advice that you can gather from a lake’s owner or bailiff can massively boost your catch rates. The lake’s owner, Bruno, is a great guy and it took him all of 3 minutes to point out a number of spots that regularly produce fish. The majority of these spots are located in the far margins, meaning that you have the options to cast across to the far bank and place your rigs by hand or utilise a bait boat if one is available to you. 
 
With 3 rods allowed I had decided prior to the trip that I would like to find and bait 4 different spots during my stay to give me fishing options and also allowing me to rest spots and relieve them of line pressure for periods of time which would hopefully allow the carp to build their confidence levels and feed in these areas. Following Bruno’s advice and some lead/marker float work I was satisfied with my chosen 4 spots. I had 2 on the far margin where I had seen fish patrolling on the walk round and there was a hard, gravelly area on each spot with prominent trees on the bank which could be used as casting markers. My third spot was a clear, sandy plateau off the corner of a small island where the depth was shallower than its deeper weedy surroundings. The 4th spot was to the rear of the island where a bunker had been built into the bank during the lake’s previous life as a duck shooting venue. As a result there is a flat wall about 10 metres long as a margin which rapidly shelves down into a gully, approximately 4 feet out – I was confident that this would produce a bite or 2 during the week. 
 
An important fact to remember when fishing holiday venues is that they are often fully booked from early spring through to early winter so there is every chance that your chosen swim could have somebody fishing it every week. As a result, it is worth considering the amount of bait that could already be lying uneaten on your chosen spots from the previous angler as a lot believe that fishing in France means that you have to hoon in the bait in large quantities. The last thing that you want to do is overfeed a swim so I always start with a small amount of bait. A week is a long time in fishing so there is plenty of time to build a swim and it also leaves you with the option of increasing your baiting should you get a spot regularly producing bites. 
 
It was now a very hot and sunny day with the temperature at 25 degrees and a further wander around the lake afforded me plenty of opportunities to see Carp cruising in lines along the margins. With the water temperatures rising after a few hot days in a row I was hopeful that these were not the pre spawning of the resident carp and they could hold off such ideas for at least a few days when some cooler weather was forecast which would hopefully suppress their urges. With the current weather I wasn’t expecting much action until the evening so I pondered my hook bait and rig choices for a short time and decided to try a different option on each spot. My 3 choices were a glugged VNX+ Wafter on a KD rig, a VNX+ Snowman made from a 18mm Traveller and a 16mm Pop UP on a Blowback rig and the last being a critically balanced VNX+ glugged double Tiger Nut (made by drilling their centres and adding cork) on a KD rig. I got the rods out and baited each of the 2 margin spots by hand by walking round to the far margin and firing a few pouchfuls of VNX+ Travellers around the Snowman rig on the sandy plateau by catapult. 
 
The plan was to leave the rigs in situ and to top up each spot with a small amount of bait if required later in the day. After a night without sleep due to the journey it was now time for a much deserved cold beer and a snooze in the sun before an early night to bed. 
My first run came at 4.45am the following morning which awoke me from a very deep sleep. In my usual fashion I neglected to put on my awaiting shoes next to my bed and instead leapt out bare footed and raced to my middle rod which was peeling away from the spot on the sandy plateau. 
 
I lifted into a very powerful fish that put up a strong and sustained fight before finally a prime carp lay in my net, it seems very rare to me these days to see that it was almost a true leather.  
 
I was a very happy man to see the scales pull round to exactly 38lbs which had fallen to the VNX+ Snowman, with the photos taken and the fish safely returned it was back to bed to finish off that much need sleep…or so I thought. 
 
 
VNX+ Successful Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
The morning mist quickly cleared and another very hot day with high pressure was upon us. It was a great opportunity for some sunbathing, we were on holiday after all, and with the rods brought in a wander around the lake soon revealed that most of the resident carp were also intent on catching some rays themselves. As a result it was a fishless Sunday and with similar weather conditions on Monday it was a quiet day again until the evening when, with the BBQ fully loaded with dinner, one of Andrew’s rods tore off and as I slid the net under a very large Common my rod to the rear of the island also ripped off. I had changed the hook bait and freebies to the Red Spice Fish after 2 days without any action and it had paid dividends. With both fish briefly sacked to allow us time to catch our breaths and also clear away the charred remains of what was once our dinner from the BBQ we set about weighing and photographing our catches. Andrew’s proved to be a new PB but I will leave it to him to tell that story and the others of his week’s catches whereas mine was a chunky Mirror weighing 31lb 6oz. We managed to get a great double photo before the fish were safely returned. 
VNX+ Successful Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
The rig went back out on the same spot and it was time for bed. I was woken up by my receiver screaming shortly before 6am the following morning and it was the same rod away again, with another powerful battle played out and another decent Mirror safely in the net and then weighed at 35lb 8oz it was only when readying the fish for its photo that I recognised a familiar looking healing scale on the top of its back and realised that it was a recapture of my 2nd fish of the week. 
 
I couldn’t believe that after having a couple of repeat captures during the winter on my club lake at home where there is a low stock, having the same thing happen at a French holiday venue was the last thing on my mind. 
VNX+ Successful Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
It seemed like my head had only just hit the pillow (it was in fact an hour later) that I was woken again to my left hand rod peeling away and my bite alarm screaming.  
 
I was straight back out of bed to hit into another powerful fish and a strong, slow and methodical fight ensued that made me think that it was another reasonable sized fish. 10 minutes later I slid the net under a Mirror that pulled the scales round to 35lb 8oz, a brace of 30’s inside 2 hours was a great start to the trip and with dawn beginning to break and the morning mist rising off the lake it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a photo in the lake with the fish. 
 
As ever with Andrew behind the camera it’s a great picture that I’m delighted to have in my collection. 
 
Red Spice Fish Successful Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
With no more bites on Monday night and into Tuesday, I was pondering a change so spent a prolonged period watching the water during the afternoon and saw a number of fish show on the same spot towards the edge of our fishing boundary, carp tend to show over their feeding areas so this seemed like a good spot to try. 
 
Not wanting to disturb the area with a marker float set up, I made use of our bait boat and positioned a VNX+ soaked double Tiger Nut rig with the bait hopper and filled the rest of the available space with a hemp and tiger nut mix. Dropping the rig and free bait on this spot using this method allowed me to bait an area with minimal disturbance. 
 
It had been a mild evening so Andrew and I were still up enjoying the surroundings when my receiver burst into life just before midnight indicating a take on the recently repositioned rod. With the battle played out in open water it was a relief to get the net under a fat Mirror and have another fish on the bank which weighed in at 27lb 8oz. 
VNX+ Successful Baits UK Ltd Carp Fishing Baits
Frustrating and despite my best efforts I couldn’t add any more fish to my tally so I ended with the 5 fish landed all between 27-38lb so a fairly decent average weight for the week for a trip to France and something that wouldn’t be easy to achieve fishing on UK waters. The hot weather and pre spawning rituals (which were confirmed by the lake owner) did make the bites harder to come by but by taking the time to build spots and swims and using the great products of Successful Baits I had a thoroughly enjoyable fishing holiday and will definitely be returning to fish European waters as soon as possible. 
Tagged as: Ed Hawes
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