A week in the sun
Iain ‘Ting Tong’ Macmillan begins his bimonthly diary series by recalling his week on a crystal-clear, weedy water in France, home to some truly stunning carp...
Iain heads off to warmer climes in search of large, dark carp at a crystal-clear, weedy venue somewhere in France.
II’d only been back home for a couple of weeks from a tough one-bite week at another tricky lake in France when a chance chat with Rich Austin opened up the opportunity of another return to the Continent. I’m not normally one for planning my French adventures in the summer, but with most of the lakes I’d been fishing closed down after spawning activity, it seemed daft not to take Rich up on the kind offer. knew nothing about the lake in question; in fact, none of the other four lads who were going knew anything either, but after some digging on the internet I soon found what I needed. I discovered the lake was about 13-15 acres – so a nice size. There would only be five of us on there, so we’d have plenty of water to fish. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really taking this trip too seriously; I expected it to be a week of R&R with a few fish thrown in the mix too.
Preparations were made in a hurried fashion really, as I had the second episode of the Open-access series to film for DNA up north early in the week, and it was there where I had a quick chat with Jase about what bait to take. I’d taken the Switch to France a few weeks earlier and had just the one bite (albeit a 51lb common). Now, I’d have been happy to take the Switch again, but I basically said to Jase whatever they were rolling at the time, I’d be happy to take. I wanted to gain confidence in all four food baits that DNA produce so I could literally just open my freezer, grab a bag of boilies and go fishing. Jase said to take S7, as
I’d not used it in heavy quantities. The bait arrived the day before we were due to leave for France, along with some of the uber sexy-looking cork ball pop-ups, some S7 Liquid Food, glugs and Corker wafters – basically the whole shooting match! Now, I’ve never been much of a liquid user over the years, whether it’s been too messy or I just couldn’t be bothered, so why on earth I packed the Liquid Food into the van is beyond me (more on this later).
A day later, we arrived at the lake, a tad tired after leaving at stupid o’clock, but full of excitement that a week in France always offers. It was red hot, at around 30ºc, as Mick opened the gates to what can only be described as an extremely beautiful, well-kept lake – I instantly liked the place, if I’m being honest. After a quick coffee, Mick walked us around the lake. All the while I was trying to plot my moves, not based on fish, but on shade! Yes, I know that sounds utterly ridiculous, but I was treating this trip as a relaxing one, not a full-on assault, so the last thing I wanted was to fry in the heat all week.
As some of you know, I always tend to perform terribly in any draw, but this year I exceeded even my own expectations and came out bang on fifth – out of five! Normally, I’d be proper pissed off, but as this was a social affair, I wasn’t that bothered. In fact, following the walk around, I didn’t really know where I wanted to fish anyhow, so I guess it kind of worked in my favour, with me taking more or less what was left after the boys had picked their swims.
Rich had done a bit more digging than I had about the lake. In fairness, we all thought there was a little bit of weed with loads of clear open water to fish – basically easy, weed-free, open-water angling. That comment went straight out the window once I had a couple of casts with a marker, as the weed was heavy! Now, this didn’t bother me one bit, as there were boats on the lake to go after the fish should they weed you up, but Mick said it wasn’t really too much of an issue landing carp. I ditched the marker very quickly; it was obvious you could spend hours finding those small clear spots amongst the weed, so I set sail with the X-boat. I’d only had the new boat for a short time, but with an amazing Toslon echo sounder built in, this would make finding clear spots a doddle. Soon enough I had three rods out with some pellets thrown in the hoppers for added attraction, along with around a kilo of 18mm S7 boilies. Tiredness had set in by early evening so, after a spot of grub, it was time to hit the sack to catch up on some kip.
I had a fair few liners through the night, but when you’re fishing shallow, weedy lakes like this one, that’s always going to be the case. However, when the right-hand bobbin pulled up tight and the line pinged out the clip at around eight o’clock on the Sunday morning, I knew this was no line bite. The fish weeded me up straight away, but with a little tension on the line it soon kicked itself free, and a spirited battle produced
Yes, there’s no doubt about it, fluoros are awesome hookbaits and I use them for a hell of a lot of my fishing, but this was definitely food-based hookbait territory.
a cracking-looking upper-20lb mirror – a great start on the first morning. I followed that up around an hour later with a lovely, long, dark mid-thirty. Very early on in the session I noticed how dark and individual the two fish were, and they had come from two different spots. I love it when I get a bite from a spot early on in the week, as once I know fish will eat bait and visit that particular spot, I simply stick with it. I’m not one for continually changing my spots – I just think that gives the fish options and a free meal, so I knew that was two out of three spots sorted.
It’s worth mentioning here that due to the very warm weather, I’d only brought a few kilos of bait around from the on-site freezer with me. Basically, I didn’t want it to go off, so the plan was to just nip around to get a few kilos at a time. It was then I remembered the matching S7 Liquid Food I’d thrown in the van, so I thought I’d give it a go. I read the label about dosage, but with no measuring kit, I just poured enough in the bag that when I shook it all up it would glaze the whole lot. Plus, as they thawed out, they’d suck in all that heavily amino-based liquid into the bait. If I’m being honest, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing – trial and error springs to mind here – but I tell you something, it smelled amazing. I looked in the bag a couple of hours later and all the liquid was gone, totally absorbed into the S7! Surely this would be an edge to make fish tip up on my chosen spots amongst the weed. I’d also gone all guns blazing on either the soon-to-be-released cork ball pop-ups, or the Corker wafters in a ‘match the hatch’ fashion.
Mick had said the fish loved a white bait, or that whites and colours had been doing some bites of late – but if I’m targeting big fish, I really do like to mimic what I’m feeding. Yes, there’s no doubt about it, fluoros are awesome hookbaits and I use them for a hell of a lot of my fishing, but this was definitely food-based hookbait territory.
The morning had come and gone and it was now very warm. The main job for the day was ensuring I didn’t move about too much and ensured I kept in the shade. There was no way a bite would come in this weather, so it was perfect for relaxing, but it did wear thin after a few days, though, as I knew deep down that once 11am had come, bite time was over until the first light the following morning. This was certainly the case for me and the second morning, bang on time, the next bite came. It was very sociable really, as it meant I could get a bit of shut-eye, then wake semi-fresh with a coffee in hand while I hovered over the rods.
I think the Monday morning produced three bites for me, again all absolutely stunning carp in every way – and they were getting bigger, with a couple of 40-pounders. The day would normally mean me trying to have a little siesta around lunch, but the heat was making it tricky, so I just spent my ‘downtime’ getting prepared on the rig front for any situation. I must have tied 100 rigs that week for my upcoming projects back in the UK, from surface rigs and zigs to solid bags and mesh bags. Basically, I was keeping busy doing loads of prep stuff, as it was simply too hot to kip in the day – so I stayed active and productive. I guess every 15 minutes I’d give the bag of S7 a good shake to re-glaze the bait with the Liquid Food – in fact, everything was going like clockwork.
I think it was the Tuesday morning when things started getting interesting, as I had my first bite on the left-hand rod, a really long, dark mirror of 45lb being the culprit. Now I’d had a bite on the left rod, that was all three spots working. You can use four rods on this venue, but I think it would have crowded things a little in my swim. Of course, there was the line pressure, but because it was a tight swim, the last thing I wanted now that I’d got them visiting my spots, was the carnage of a fish ploughing through my other lines. So I just stuck to the three rods. Talking of carnage, as I’ve mentioned, things heated up on the Tuesday morning: I think I had six bites with five landed,
with some of the big girls making their presence known, including a 47lb common and a truly biblical-looking mid-50 mirror. This was getting ridiculous! Every time I caught a fish it would take my breath away. I’d get a bite and that fish would be even nicer than the previous one; it was hard to believe a lake contained so many varied strains and sizes of carp.
I was now starting to think this could turn into a real red-letter trip. The other lads had all received one or two bites, but I was getting regular action every morning. It was then I mentioned to both Rich and Mick that I was convinced it was either the bait or the Liquid Food, or a combination of both. Terry, a good seasoned angler who was fishing not that far from me couldn’t buy a bite for five days, which made me believe what I was feeding was making all the difference. I even called Jase back in the UK to get his thoughts. The first thing he asked was whether it was a weedy water. “Super weedy!” was my reply. Jase has his theory that S7 really comes into its own in heavy weed, as the natural insects and invertebrates that live in the weed are really attracted to the bait, which I guess in turn will attract the carp. Sounds like a viable explanation, doesn’t it? I wasn’t about to complain anyhow! What was also interesting was that a lot of the anglers who fish the lake lean more on the heavy side of the pellet approach, with a few freebies chucked in the hopper – that’s it! I was going the other way now and really loading the boat up with S7 boilies, with fewer pellets.
I was now starting to think this could turn into a real red-letter trip. The other lads had all received one or two bites, but I was getting regular action every morning
The week was a long one; warm weeks in France always are, as the savage heat makes it seem more drawn out during your stay. But with the last night looming, my tally had reached 20 fish, with a couple of losses, which was down to my own idleness and not jumping in the boat sooner. I was just enjoying the last bit of grub I could scrape off the bottom of the food bag when the righthand bobbin pulled up tight and held there. I was soon rumbling my way down the steep bank to the rods and was met with a solid resistance. Gentle pressure got the fish moving, then I led it like a dog on a lead straight to the waiting net. It felt like a good heavy fish all the way in and at 46lb 6oz, it was a fitting way to end my week. The fish was dark brown with hints of black on its tail. It was just majestic in every way, and as I sit here sifting through the pictures, I can’t stop looking at every single fish and shaking my daft head.
You often find these gems of waters in France, and it’s the thick weed that gives the fish their dark appearance – a bit like the clear lakes back in the UK, to be honest. These were my kind of French carp! I do a hell of a lot of angling in France and search out the kind of fish I want to target now. I want characters: dark-headed mirrors and mahogany commons, not just typical, pale French pigs that the more coloured venues seem to hold. I’m not having a go here, but it’s the nature of the water; if there’s no weed and the water is coloured, the fish are pale, and if there is heavy weed in clear water, the fish are dark, it’s as simple as that really.
I loved my week at the fishery. I loved the lake, the weed, the fish – it was just a great place to spend some time. It’s worth mentioning that Rich was about 100 yards to my right and he had a real bruiser of a mirror at a tad under 63lb – what a carp! Rich helped me so much throughout the week with pictures and weighing fish, etc., so cheers, big man – I couldn’t have done it without your help. However, next time you invite me for some relaxing open-water fishing, check the weed situation first!
ABOVE LEFT I’d decided from the very start I’d be going all guns blazing on matching food hookbaits, whether they were wafters or the new cork-ball pop-ups
ABOVE RIGHT THIS WOULD BE THE FIRST BIG TEST on such a weedy water for the X-boat
BELOW BOTTOM It was starting to become very APPARENT THESE fish WERE NOT your average French carp
BELOW TOP I do think having the S7 with ME WAS CONFIDENCE ENOUGH, but I’m 100% sure one of my edges was glazing it in the matching Liquid Food as soon as it came out of the freezer
LEFT Just before first light would be when my bites started, which was nice, as at least I got a few hours’ shut-eye after the intense heat during the day
LEFT It didn’t matter what shape or size they were, they were all so individual in their appearance. This chunk of a mid-40 with white tips was simply lovely
TOP An almost prehistoric-looking 53lb common. Weed isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it, and for me it gives fish character. This fished oozed it
RIGHT 50lb 6oz of black-headed mirror from a spot to the right of the swim that only did three bites all week, but two of them were 50lb-plus
MIDDLE The big girls had started to make an appearance now, and this perfect 52lb 2oz common was only the start of the run of big ’uns
BOTTOM Rich was a short walk down from me and, to be honest, without his help all week I couldn’t have fished as effectively as I did. It was so fitting he should land the biggest fish of the week with this brute of a mirror at 62lb 15oz
MIDDLE My last fish at 46lb 6oz – what a way to end a perfect week on a new water
LEFT My biggest of the week at 55lb 8oz and my favourite common, not just because of its size, but also because of its looks