Henry Lennon - Benelux Trip Part 1
Posted on 3rd November 2018 at 14:18
After passing my driving test in early September, I was desperate to take some time off work and go on a Euro trip. I hadn’t fished on the continent for nearly 18 months, and as I was yet to catch any decent sized carp in 2018, a trip abroad was definitely required. I wasn’t feeling a French holiday, I was up for a bit more of an adventure, but also didn’t fancy a huge amount of driving. I eventually settled on the Netherlands, and with a plan to move over there next year, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with Dutch carping.
A 4-am start saw me drive down to Harwich to catch the ferry over to the Hook of Holland. The Stena Line crossing was easy, and to be honest, I slept most of the way and spent my few waking hours preparing rigs in the restaurant. I was getting a few strange looks from the freight drivers, who seemed to make up most of the passengers aboard – I don’t think this crossing was popular amongst carp anglers!
I had purchased my Vispas (Dutch fishing license) prior to the crossing and planned to spend my first night on a large public water, around a 30 minute drive from the port. I arrived just before dark, after having navigated on the right-hand side of the road for the first time and was surprised to only meet a single other angler on the lake. We got chatting, and he told me that the lake was a typical Dutch water – very low stock, very tricky, but can be very rewarding. He fishes approximately 4 nights a week, from March until October, and averages 4 fish a year. As a result, I wasn’t holding out much hope. He was fishing at 300+ yards, his braid-filled spools looking very low. I wasn’t really prepared to fish in this way, which was a mistake on my part. I should’ve predicted that a lot of the fishing would be like this, and come with braid, a boat, an echo-sounder etc. Oh well, this trip was all about gaining an understanding of Dutch fishing, and there was no point moping around about it, there was nothing I could do now. The Dutch angler told me that the fish do spend a bit of time against a reed-lined margin that was about 80 yards from a swim I could fish. I decided that this would be my best bet and launched a solid bag and a choddy into the area, with a scattering of VNX+ boilies up and down the 50m long margin. I wasn’t expecting a bite, this location was more a place to get my head down before I set off to my first main venue in the morning, so anything would have been a bonus.
Upon arriving at my swim, I quickly unloaded the boat, and set up my deeper pro and a rod for leading around. I got back in the boat and spent about 5 hours searching for spots. I ended up with 5 different spots, and I was planning on rotating them based on their performance.
For the first night, I had one rod at 130 yards in a deeper margin, one rod in a deep, silty hole to my right, just off a bed of lilies, and the third rod in the shallower margin. I baited most of my spots with a particle, CalaFrutti and VNX mix, but baited an open water spot heavily with Red Spice Fish. I planned to fish this spot for the last 24 hours. After finally getting my rods into position and my camp set up, I sat back to admire the view and relax.
At around 9pm, I had a screaming run from the silty spot. I lifted the rod and was met with the unmistakable heavy weight of a carp. After blanking on my previous 6 nights, this was a welcome feeling. I quickly pulled the fish away from the lilies and was able to play the fish with ease in open water. I slipped the net under a beautiful, clean leather, and let out a sigh of relief – the trip wasn’t going to be a blank. I set up the self-take and managed to get a few decent shots. I couldn’t have asked the angler in the next swim for a hand with the photos, as he was a boat-ride away. On the scales the fish went 26lbs 8oz, so it was a great start to the trip, and on the first night at Het Plashuis.
The rest of my trip at Het Plashuis proved to be difficult. I had a lot of runs, but only from bream and the solitary tench. It was hard work hauling in bream at 130 – 150 yards, but I persevered, hoping to wade through the large numbers of slabs until I could get into a carp. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, I think the plummet in temperature at night and the high day temperatures put the fish off the feed. When I left on Monday morning, I was informed by the owner that very few fish had been caught, and most anglers had blanked over the weekend, so I was relieved to have at least landed a carp. I said my goodbyes over a coffee and some breakfast in the clubhouse and set off to my third Dutch venue.
It's never fun at 150 yards
I met a few strange characters on my Dutch trip, and the first was at this venue. An old guy, around 60, high as anything, with a parrot on his shoulder, came cycling up to my bivvy after dark. We chatted for a bit, and he told me some of the swims and locations that produced fish. He was a nice guy, but as barmy as they come. As he was telling me about how his parrot had learnt to mimic the sound of the bite alarm, I had a run on my solid bag. I lifted the rod and felt a weak resistance – bream. I was told that there were a few shoals of bream in this lake, so was concerned that I was now going to spend the night hauling in slabs. The bream dropped off before I could net it (what a shame), so I retied a rig, remade a solid bag, and chucked it back out. I made some bacon and eggs, and fell asleep, excited about the prospects of my trip.
I was up early the next morning, alarms silent throughout the night. I wasn’t surprised, so quickly packed up to get to my first proper venue.
After a McDonalds stop and an hour of driving, I arrived at Het Plashuis. I was greeted by the owner, who welcomed me into the pub/restaurant/clubhouse for a coffee and a run-down of the lake. The water was around 80 acres and had been a fishing lake since the 1930s, he informed me, and held carp to nearly 50lbs. There were also large shoals of bream, tench, eels, pike to 35lbs, perch, zander, and just about every other freshwater species that swam in the Netherlands.
I would be fishing swim 6, only accessible by boat (which I could rent), and gave me a shallow margin, a deeper margin, a back channel and a lot of open water to fish to. I was pretty excited by this point, so quickly got the boat packed and set sail to swim 6. Although the lake hadn’t been fishing well, with only 2 carp out to 10 anglers over the midweek, I was still hopeful of a bite or two.
Het Plashuis, Swim 6
I was planning on spending the midweek fishing another pay lake further south, before spending my final weekend on the canal systems near Rotterdam. However, upon arriving at the pay lake, I found that it was fully booked, and I wouldn't be unable to fish.
I wasn’t entirely disappointed, as it didn’t look like the most exciting venue to fish, more a typical UK day ticket water – I hadn’t come to the Netherlands for that. After messaging a few guys who fished in Holland, I was given a bit of advice and settled on trying to find a few lakes in the Arnhem area.
After a day of driving around, exploring lakes, I settled for the night on a small water at the back of a housing estate that I was told had some big carp in. I flicked out a small white pop up on a Ronnie rig with a scattering of VNX+ 14mm, and a double tiger nut bottom bait rig over a small spread of particles. I failed to land anything that night and set off early in the morning in search of a new venue.
I spent the afternoon fishing a park lake, but didn’t even see a carp, let alone land one. It was proving to be difficult fishing, and I was beginning to get a bit despondent about my lack of success thus far. I decided to head over to Belgium the following day and fish a lake that had been recommended to me by a few anglers I had been messaging, as well as a local tackle shop owner who had put me onto the park lake during that day.
I still had one night left in the Netherlands, so I decided to find a lake that I could come back and properly fish for next spring. After searching around on the VISpas app and speaking to a few guys, I found a few potential venues. The first two didn’t interest me too much – one looked far too large and featureless, and whilst the other looked amazing as an old quarry with all the old mining machinery left around the lake, I was told by a passer-by that a recent algae bloom had killed a lot of the big fish in the lake.
The third venue I arrived at looked promising; around 60 acres, a few islands and channels, nice reed margins and very secluded.
As I was making a lap around the lake, I stopped in a swim and took a moment to enjoy the view and scout for signs of fish. As I was doing so, an absolute lump of a common head and shouldered out in front of me. I was looking directly at it as it happened so got a great glimpse of it – it looked to be at least 40lbs and was a proper dark fish.
In that moment, I knew that this was the venue that would bring me back to the Netherlands. I ran back to the car and hauled my gear to the swim as fast as I could. I cast a pair of choddies in the direction of where the fish showed and sat back to enjoy the setting sun. I was excited by my first carp show since arriving in the Netherlands, and fell asleep half expecting a bite, but at the very least knowing that I had a venue to sink my teeth into for a fortnight-long session come April time.
As morning rolled around, I was regrettably woken by my phone alarm and not my bite alarm and began to pack up whilst the sun rose. I got in my car and set off towards Belgium.
Although I had only landed the one carp in the Netherlands, I had learnt a lot about this new style of fishing and had a great venue sorted for next year. Hopefully I would get more success carp-wise in Belgium.
The 'Dark Common' water - I'll be back in April.
Tagged as: Henry Lennon
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