Henry Lennon, Petit Pretre, May 2017
Posted on 15th May 2017 at 16:09
The Petit Pretre complex, situated in the Champagne-Ardennes region of France, has been ever-present in my carp fishing life. Living in Switzerland, it was one of my closest carp fisheries, and when Uwe asked if I would like to join him and 4 other team members for a week session in late April, I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately, the trip was only a week before my end-of-year exams for University, but I decided that I would be able to squeeze some revision in whilst on the bank, so when April 29th rolled around, I joined Uwe, Joe, Charlie and Mark on the journey to France.
With this being my fourteenth trip to the lakes, I had a fairly good understanding of how they fished and where the hotspots were for each swim. There would be six of us in total fishing Cloisters lake (the larger lake on the complex) for the week, which is close to the lake’s maximum capacity of 7 anglers. I knew that the fish would not respond well to the heavy pressure, so getting a swim where the fish felt confident enough to feed, despite the angling pressure, was paramount. Luckily, I came out second in the draw, and picked the double swim of 6/7, which gave me access to an area of open water, the main island, as well as the old stream bed channel, that I knew the carp used as a highway of sorts, and, if fished correctly, would offer the opportunity to pick up a few fish as they swam through.
After flicking a bare lead around the swim, I confirmed what I already knew about the area and soon had my spots picked, fishing the channel and the island. I decided to hold off fishing a third rod for the first night, hoping that the highly-pressured fish would settle in front of me, due to there being fewer lines in the water than other areas of the lake. Bait-wise, I was equipped with our new VNX+, a bait I had heard fantastic things about, but had yet to use. Furthermore, I brought Red Hot Bullet Enduros and a selection of Calafrutti shelf-life in 14mm and 18mm, as I knew from experience that these baits produced on Cloisters lake.
The first night consisted of everyone having a few drinks, as we were celebrating Charlie’s retirement, who had worked his last shift the day before. Happy retirement to Charlie! As a result, it took me a few too many casts to hit the spot and the night passed uneventfully. Following breakfast, I was dying to get a bite, as I hadn’t caught a carp since I last went carp fishing in September. I spent an hour after breakfast on the soon-to-be-opened Temple Lake, and managed to land a small common. Happy that I’d caught, I went back to my swim and cast out. Within 20 minutes, my rod in the channel ripped off. After a hairy battle, in which the fish tried to get round a small island that sat to the left of the channel, I had a pristine low-20 common in the net. Following a few quick pictures, I slipped the carp back and re-cast to the same spot, followed by a few handfuls of VNX+. An hour passed, and I was in again, this time a 23lbs common being the victim to my take on an IQ D-rig with an 18mm VNX+ topped with a piece of fake yellow corn. As I was redoing the channel rod, my rod by the island screamed off. Although it was only a mid-double mirror, I was happy to see that the bait and spots were producing.
The 23lbs mirror from Sunday
I still wasn’t confident in fishing three rods, but I baited a few more areas in anticipation for later in the week. Shortly after dinner, at around 9pm, I had another mid-double mirror, but the rest of the night remained quiet for me. It was interesting to see that bites had come during the day, as the lake used to predominantly be a night water. However, saying this, the following day remained quiet for me and I was worried that the fish had moved away from me. I gave my spots a good topping up of bait in the hope that the carp would return for the night. With the weather conditions being extremely favourable and the fish only a month or so away from spawning, I knew that the carp would be up for a big feed on a high-quality bait, and hoped that a few kilos of VNX+ would draw them back into my water.
The heavier baiting approach had paid off, as I had two fish in the night, both from my channel rod. A 28lbs 8oz common and a mirror of similar size had seen the bank, and it looked as though the carp had returned. I was relieved that they had, as with the lake fishing near capacity, it would be difficult to jump into empty swims to try and chase the carp around.
The following day I gave the swim a rest, as I was intending on fishing 3 rods that night for the first time. I spread around 2kg of Calafrutti and VNX+ in various sizes around my spots, and spent the day on Temple Lake with Uwe, where I landed a scraper double. As night approached, I had the rods in position for barely 10 minutes before the rod fishing the spot that I had been feeding for the previous 4 days ripped off. It proved to be my biggest fish of the week so far, a 32lbs 8oz mirror shaped like a football.
A very fair 32lbs 8oz mirror
As morning came around I was exhausted, and I spent most of the day asleep, after dispatching a few kilos of VNX+ around the swim. Night time approached, and I was confident for more success. However, Uwe, who was struggling in the open water swim, wanted to change swim and I told him to go into swim 5 to my left where I had heard plenty of fish rolling throughout the night. Worried that the area would now be over fished, I decided to only fish the one rod for the night. I continued to fish the channel, as most of my fish had come from this area so far anyway. The one rod tactic paid off, as by the time morning came, I had a new PB common! I was after a large common, as my biggest previous to the trip was only 31lbs and I was keen to improve on this. The angry common went 37lbs on the scale, and Mark managed to get some cracking shots for me. Cheers Mark if you’re reading this! I also managed to add a nice upper 20 mirror to the night’s capture list, which put me on over 300lbs for the week, although I was just pleased to be out on the bank after such a long break from fishing!
My new PB common – thanks for the great pictures Mark!
A few hours later, it was the turn of my channel rod, but I unfortunately lost the fish round the small island, although I wasn't too concerned as it didn’t feel too sizeable. The rod was recast, and it was soon off again, this time a scraper 20 mirror falling victim to my set up. Knowing that I was in for a sleepless night, I got the kettle on and drank cup after cup of coffee. Staying awake and alert paid off, and I had a screaming run on the channel rod at around 2am. The fish spent the majority of the battle chugging back and forth in the margin, and I was sure that I had hooked into one of the lakes bigger residents. When the fish finally faced the mesh of my landing net, I could see that I had landed on 40. On the scales, she went 41lbs 8oz and I was over the moon. I topped up the swim with a few handfuls of VNX+ Enduros, as I felt that this range of bait would be most effective in attracting fish into the swim without over feeding them, making them ideal to sneak another bite before sunrise. This approach was successful, as another low 20 fell to my channel rod before I decided to try and grab a few hours sleep before breakfast.
The biggest of the trip – a 41lbs 8oz mirror
The following 36 hours passed uneventfully, and I think that some of the fish had moved away from the swim after Uwe had moved into the area and increased the angling pressure, as many fish began to roll in open water for the first time of the week. Considering how well the week had gone for me, I wasn’t too bothered that the fishing seemed to dry up and was pleased to see the other’s starting to get in amongst the action after a slow start.
I went back to fishing two rods on the Friday in an attempt to capitalise on the fish that were now in open water, and I landed a nice mid twenty common on Friday afternoon that was excreting vast amounts of VNX+. The amount of VNX+ coming out of the carp demonstrated to me that the fish were up for a feed, and I spread my last few kilos of VNX+ and Calafrutti into open water and down the channel in preparation for my last night.
I had an alarm set at 7am for the following morning to give myself time to pack up my gear before we had to be off the lake at 10. However, 5 minutes before my alarm was meant to go off, I received a screaming run on the channel rod. The carp took me round the small island where I had lost a fish earlier in the week, and soon locked up solid. Knowing that this was probably going to be my last fish, I decided to wade out into the water in my shorts in an attempt to free the fish. The water was extremely cold that morning, but I managed to unsnag the carp and safely land it, making it worth the early morning soaking. Although only a mid-20, I was pleased that the wake up call came from a carp and not my iPhone!
The last fish of the session
The session came to an end much too swiftly, but I was overjoyed with the results of the session, landing 15 fish to a weight of 375lbs, including a 41lbs 8oz mirror and a new PB common of 37lbs. Thanks to Bob and Helen for another great week at the lakes, and thanks to Uwe for inviting me on the trip in the first place, as well as giving me a ride to the venue. Besides the memories of the session, I had one more take away from the week - the knowledge the VNX+ has the ability to absolutely rip waters apart!
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