Mark Jordan, French Trip
Posted on 16th July 2017 at 22:53
I'd planned to go to bed for a couple of hours before I made my way to meet up with team member Charlie Pitt but the sheer excitement and anticipation of my first trip to France had kept me awake, just as it had on the previous two nights.
I had been preparing my gear for what had seemed like a month. I knew I had everything packed but I still had to check it over one more time. I had been reading up on tactics and baiting and it seemed that the Carp in France were super powered boilie munchers and needed a massive amount of bait to keep them interested. This was totally opposite to the tactics that I normally employ here in the UK, where I normally use small amounts of bait and get the fish fighting over it.
I remembered a conversation I had with Uwe the owner of Successful Baits UK and Team Captain, he told me to 'just do what you normally do in the UK'. Remembering this I didn't pack too much bait. About 3kg of VNX+ and about the same of Nasty Shrimp in both 18mm and 14mm including Pop-Ups and Wafters in both flavours. I had the ever faithful Dips and Activator Liquid in both flavours too.
29th May we arrived after crossing the channel and a 4 hour car journey, chauffered by my very capable companion and team member Charlie Pitt. On arrival, I was greeted by two bouncing dogs and a bottle of beer from Bob, the owner of the lake. Our venue for the next 7 days was Petit Pretre, Little Priest lakes and what a great little venue it is.
We had the draw for pegs and since I was the only French virgin on the trip, Charlie Pitt who pulled out first choice, very kindly gave me first choice, what a lovely man he is. I chose peg 4 at the far end of the lake on the nearside bank. I had an island with a cut through straight in front of me as well as a channel to the right of the swim right up to the far dam wall. Lots of options for me to attack in the next 7 days. I set about getting my rods set up and in the water. The first rod was set up with a coated braid hook link, stripped about a cm from the hook to give a little more movement to it, ending with a size 4 hook and a VNX+ 18mm Wafter. I also had a VNX+ Stickmix, which I threaded onto the hook link before casting out to the cut through. The second I set up exactly the same but had an 18mm Nasty Shrimp Wafter with Stickmix to match. This one I put into the channel, towards the end of the island where I thought the fish would be patrolling as they came around the top of the island and moved back towards the main body of the lake.
I was only going to use two rods in this swim because the swim was only about 15/20 meters wide and I didn’t want too many lines in the water to push the fish into the main part of the lake. I set about putting up my bivvy and making camp before dinner was served in the cabin. 20 mins after the first rod had been set, it tore off towards the cut through. I was fishing fairly locked up as I couldn’t allow the fish to get the jump on me and be through the cut through before I was into it as I would have been on a loser straight away. I lifted into it and immediately knew that it was a good sized fish. I tightened up the clutch and started to walk backwards, easing it away from the dangerous snags. The fight was on!!! 20 mins in and I still hadn't seen it when suddenly the hook pulled and I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. I reeled in and checked the hook and noticed that it had a very slight curve on the point. It was blunt!!! Lesson learned....... Basic rookie mistake that in my excitement to get fishing I had forgotten to check my hooks. I now use a sharpener before each cast.
Dinner came and went and I set my rods before settling down for the night. Just as I was dozing off it started to rain fairly heavily and I tucked myself into me sleeping bag and prepared for some shut eye. I was rudely awoken at 1 am to a screaming run from my right hand rod, I was out of the Bivvy and lifting into a stunning 29lb Mirror. Such a wonderful scale pattern on the wrist of its tail. This little beauty was the first of the session to fall to the ever faithful Nasty Shrimp. I reset my rod with a new hook link and 18mm Nasty Shrimp, Stickmix and a few pellets that I had soaked in activator liquid. I sat listening to the wind and the gentle rustling of the leaves as they whisked me off to a dream filled night of sleep.
I was awoken about 7am by a single beep from one of my alarms, I stuck my head out of my bivvy and saw a gorgeous Kingfisher sat on the end of my rod. The sun was shining so I got up and made coffee and then pulled my rods in to let the swims rest until after breakfast. I put out a carpet of 10mm and 6mm activator pellets soaked with Nasty Shrimp. I put about half a kilo out over an area bout 3 x 3 m on the point of the island where it came round into small channel. I then made my way around the lake to catch up on the others and see how they'd done. Several fish had been caught through the night which gave me hope that I would start pulling into a few more lumps after breakfast.
Breakfast was a full English and copious amounts of coffee, followed by a quick shower and then back to the swim. I sat watching the water for a little while and could see fish kicking up the bottom around the area that I'd baited up with the pellets before breakfast. I set about getting my rod on the right spot with the same terminal tackle on the business end (Nasty Shrimp). I cast it out, perfect!!! Right on the money. Set up the alarm and my next rod went onto the cut through with a VNX+ Stickmix and pellets, exactly the same as my right hand rod. The day passed without incident, apart from a little rain and lots of noise from fish crashing about in the cut through and on the opposite side of the island where Henry was fishing.
An uneventful night followed an uneventful day, though the signs were encouraging due to the amount of crashing fish I could hear as I lay in my bivvy. A new dawn brought a new day, a full English and coffee, a renewed vigour and the decision to alter my tactics slightly. I set up using the same spots but this time I put a snowman rig on the right hand rod and single 22mm bottom bait on the cut through. At 10:36 my right hand rod ripped off again almost taking the rod into the water. Luckily I was not in my bivvy but was actually stood close to the rod. I grabbed onto it and then lifted, realising as I did that the fish had managed to make it to the apex of the island and was on its way around the corner. I gently applied pressure to the spool, slowing it down enough for me to start walking backwards and try to coax this monster back around the island. I was getting ready to get in to the lake when all of a sudden the line pinged and I felt slack. Feeling sick I started to wind down and retrieve my terminal tackle when I suddenly felt the fish on the otherend again. The line had obviously got caught on some reeds and just pinged off. 25 mins later I had a fantastic PB 36lb 9oz Mirror in the net. What a stunning fish, with its starburst scales on the wrist of its tail, amazing. I weighed, treated the hook wound and then got into the lake to put her back gently.
All set up back on the same spot, a brew and then another screaming run from the same rod. The fight was again a treacherous affair and after a slight dalliance with the reed bed and an overhanging branch, I bagged another 36lb Mirror. Two of the best fish I've seen. Both scale perfect and not a mark on their mouths or bodies.
The night brought a thunder storm and my prayers to the fishing gods were answered as I had a night of deep sleep. I really didn’t relish the task of playing a fish and waving a carbon rod around with lightning in the air. Nothing else exciting happened during the day until the sun started to break through around two o clock. A single bleep from the rod by the cut through indicated that there was a little movement around my bait. About 30 secs later there was a second single bleep and I could see the line slacken considerably. I couldn’t miss the opportunity of another fish so I gently picked up the rod and wound down until I had retrieved all of the slack line. I lifted into it and the fish shot off towards the cut through. Within seconds and with my heart in my mouth I could see reeds parting as this monster ploughed its way through the reed bed leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. I tightened the clutch and slowly started to walk backwards hoping I could ease it back through and into open water. It was either that or I was going to end up wet. After what seemed like a lifetime, I had the fish back in open water and not long before it was in the net. A stunning mirror of 26lb 2oz, was sat there staring back at me with an 18mm VNX+ Wafter in the corner of its mouth. After the obligatory photos I settled in for the afternoon. That was it for the rest of the day. It was quiet all over the lake with not many catching, even though they were still continuing to crash about through the night. The following day brought a small Mirror of 14lb 2oz, and a 21lb 2oz Mirror with beautiful scale pattern ending in a gorgeous starburst on the end of its tail.
More thunder storms through the night saw us greeted with a stunning misty morning. The mist just sat over the lake suspended as if it were on delicate strings of spiders silk. It was quite enchanting if I'm honest, very peaceful and for the first time in a very long time I actually felt very far away from the everyday stress and strain that modern life brings. I wish I could have bottled it and brought some home with me, but at least I still have the memory and that feeling of being at peace. At about 9 0 clock I made my way round to the hut for breakfast. Whilst sat there going through the normal ritual of being abused by Bob and waiting for my chance to deflect it onto someone else, normally Charlie Pitt or Joe Biggin, (they were both older than me and I knew I'd be able to out run them if they got upset), I mentioned the fact that all of my fish up to this particular point had been Mirror Carp. It was as if the carp gods were sat eating breakfast with me, little did I know what was to come during the day.
Breakfast done, showered and ready for battle, I set the two rods up in the usual places and set about watching a film on my tablet. Well that didn't go to plan! Ten minutes in and just as I was getting comfy, Bang!! My right hand rod smashed round into a massive arc and the alarm started to scream. It seemed like an eternity before I managed to get there and halt the fish from making its bid for freedom. A 20 minute battle turned into a 26lb 4oz Common Carp, its downfall, Nasty Shrimp 18mm bottom bait and a 12mm Neonpink Nasty Shrimp Pop-up presented as a snowman rig.
Throughout the previous day I'd been trickling in handfuls of activator pellets in a carpet around the area and it seemed these fish really liked it as they were leaving it all over my unhookingcradle. Pictured, returned, cleaned up and back on the spot with the same rig on the business end, I made a coffee and then sat down to resume the mornings entertainment. About an hour had passed, and the alarms were telling me I was into another battle. The same rod as previous. This time the battle was a little more cagey. The fish wasn't making mad dashes for freedom, it was just staying deep and I could feel each powerful flick of its tail as it just slowly went where it wanted to. It felt like I was attached to a submarine with hardly any control over it at all. Eventually it had the decency to show itself in front of me about 10 yards out and I couldn't believe the size of it. Up to this point my biggest Common had only been 19lb (the first carp I'd ever caught). What was in front of me was huge in comparison. I yelled to Henry, who was fishing the next swim around from me and he kindly trotted round to help net it and take the photos. What a beautiful fish!!! Scale perfect, not a mark on it and in perfect condition. I had some superb photos taken by Henry and then said goodbye as I watched her powerful tail slowly shift from side to side as she made her way back to the murky depths as if nothing had happened. She weighed in at 35lb on the nose, I was absolutely made up with that, what a fish.
2 Common Carp in quick succession and it was only around 11am. The carp gods were definitely sat next to me at breakfast listening to my conversation. The remainder of the day saw another two fish hit the bank. A 23lb Common and a 20lb 1oz Mirror.
Dinner done, showered and rods set for the night, I settled down with a coffee and watched the mist start to roll in again from the far side of the lake. As the sun went down, once again I found myself in that mystical place of peace and tranquility. It’s a place that I'm sure we all find at times, but fishermen know and understand that its part of the reason we do what we do. Escape, time alone, a time to reflect and clear your head from life's drudgery and brain filling nonsense. I was happy, very happy indeed. I woke up at about 2:30am still sat in my chair with my empty coffee cup in my hand. It was eerily quiet and mist danced around as the trees played their leafy chorus. I tucked myself into bed and slept like a baby.
Rudely awoken by a scream that sounded like a cat being skinned by an East end market trader, I jumped out of bed, only to realise that it was the dulcet tones of Bob shouting everyone in for breakfast. This was unusual as I was normally waiting for Bob and Helen by the hut, (I like my food you see). This was our final day fishing, before we had to pack up camp and make way for the new arrivals. My tactics had worked up till now so I decided to change nothing and leave it all alone, if it's not broke don’t fix it right?
I had already decided to let the swim rest until midday so I grabbed my stalking rod and set off with a hand full of boilies and some activator pellets. I was using Nasty Shrimp as it had done the damage for me all week so why change it now. Squeezing my way through some very tight bushes and undergrowth with only profanities to use as a machete, I finally reached the bank at the point I wanted to be. It was a small bay about 25ft wide and 40ft long. I fed a few handfuls of pellets and a couple of chopped boilies and waited to see what if anything was going to happen. About 5 mins in I could see the reeds being knocked all over the place and the water started to turn cloudy. "They're on it" I said to myself. I gently flicked out my trap, standard blow back rig with a Nasty Shrimp Wafter, and waited with anticipation. I wasn't waiting long. BANG!! Fish on, and it wasn't happy. It tore off through the reeds and headed for the main body of the lake. It suddenly dawned on me that I really didn't have much room at all and this was going to be a proper battle. I ended up in the water just to give myself space so that I could land the fish safely without damaging any equipment or the fish. A gorgeous mirror of 22lb 3oz, the hardest and hairiest battle I'd had on this trip. This was swiftly followed by another Mirror of 19lb on the nose. I don't do much stalking for some reason, but have to say that it was exceptionally enjoyable and brought back memories of my childhood,not sure why, but I was grateful for the memories anyway.
After our last supper came the obligatory 'Buckets' for those of us that had got PB's on the trip. Since this was my first trip, every fish had the potential to be a PB. Luckily I caught my two PB's early on so it was just the two buckets for me. Before the 'Ceremony' I went and got changed into my best ceremonial outfit, A brand new, bright luminous yellow, Mankini............... I could tell from the look on everyones face that they were jealous they didn't have one. I was expecting some requests to borrow mine for their own ceremonies but they were going to be disappointed as this was my outfit and no one elses. I waited for my coveted trophy of two buckets of lake water. I greeted them with arms open wide, and just as I was opening my eyes, Bob the lake owner decided he was going to give me one more bucket with an added ingredient. Stinky, sticky almond flavoured goo, bright red in colour and tasting like S**T, straight in the face. I can only think that he was that impressed with my ceremonial outfit that I deserved an extra prize, either that or he was jealous !!
Showered, changed, still smelling like a block of marzipan, I made my way to my bivvy for the final night under canvas. It was a quiet affair, interrupted by a solitary fish of 24lb 6oz. A mirror that couldn't resist the tempting Nasty Shrimp feast I had left out for it.
Morning came, the sun rose and I started to pack up base camp and head for the car. I was the first packed, so I made a coffee and started my way around to see who needed help packing up. I got over to the far end of the lake to find Henry In a pair of shorts, no top on sat in the middle of the water in his swim attached to good sized carp. That boy just can't resist bath time!!!! He's always up to his waist in water at some point in a session. Excellent memories were made. Goodbyes were said, and promises of a return trip in the future. Cars were loaded and the trip home was started. As I wasn’t driving I was able to rest and reflect on what a fantastic experience my first trip to France had been. It was made all the more enjoyable by the company. Uwe the team captain, the boss, the organiser. Charlie Pitt the chauffer and the one who very kindly gave up his swim for me (to his own detriment) as it was my first time fishing in France. Joe Biggin, for keeping my mind active trying to decipher the thickest Yorkshire accent I've heard since listening to the ever disturbing tones of the 'Chuckle Brothers. Henry Lennon for his ever willingness to help others with netting fish or taking photos for them.............. I've got to say we have a superb team at Successful Baits UK. Real characters, down to earth, honest people that aren't hung up on the secret world of carp fishing. Why would they be when we have one of the best baits? Successful baits has turned my fishing around. 4 PB's within a year......... This is not just any coincidence ....... This is a Successful Baits UK coincidence.
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