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...

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Iain Macmil­lan

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

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