The Art of Es­cape

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Robert Gib­son

Part two of Rob’s writ­ing on his trav­els and es­capades, sees him once again swap the rivers and low­lands of north­ern France for the tow­er­ing peaks and vast ex­panses of wa­ter on his jour­ney back down and across south­ern Eu­rope...

Part two of Rob’s writ­ing on his trav­els and es­capades, sees him once again swap the rivers and low­lands of north­ern France for the tow­er­ing peaks and vast ex­panses of wa­ter on his jour­ney back down and across south­ern Eu­rope...

At first I wasn’t sure, the sound fright­ened me. It seemed low but strong – a faint rum­bling that vaguely stirred me from my slum­ber. Within a mat­ter of min­utes it was di­rectly above, the wind howl­ing, forc­ing rain through ev­ery crack in my shel­ter, the flashes from the light­ning ig­nite my sur­round­ings and I sit up, forced to take no­tice. Pan­ick­ing that my boat may come loose, I look out­side, us­ing my head torch to see in the dark.

A small blue flicker brings me back to earth, the rods are still out on the spot. My re­ceiver is hum­ming and it seems that I have sud­denly be­come aware. I strug­gle to put on my life jacket and get my­self into my boat. The storm is howl­ing over this ex­posed area of wa­ter and I am ac­tu­ally fright­ened but, none­the­less, de­ter­mined. The small mo­tor strug­gles against the waves, try­ing to reach my area. Al­though I wouldn’t con­sider my­self stupid, there comes a point where one must take into con­sid­er­a­tion what is ac­tu­ally sane. Ad­mit­tedly, I would have pre­ferred not to have lost the fish but on this oc­ca­sion af­ter what seems like hours, I give in, turn the boat around and re­treat to wait for some calmer weather. The waves crash over the tran­som of my Rap­tor boat as I rush back to shore. The fish can wait, life is more im­por­tant.

The morn­ing dawns, bright and hot. The air that sur­rounds me is seem­ingly clear now and I feel as though I can ac­tu­ally think straight again. Un­for­tu­nately, the storm has caused some dam­age, rip­ping my an­chors out of the ground and drag­ging the boat ropes up onto the shore. To­day is to be spent re­set­ting and pre­par­ing. In last month’s ar­ti­cle I was fish­ing the rivers of cen­tral France, this new en­vi­ron­ment couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent. I find my­self on a never end­ing ex­panse of vivid blues and greens, depths range to over 280m deep and bites are hard to come by. Moun­tains com­mand my field of sight yet I’m fes­tooned on a well-kept grass lawn.

Wild straw­ber­ries lit­ter the sur­round­ing area, be­neath the trees sur­round­ing the grass lay beds of wild gar­lic and small mush­rooms. I spend many an hour col­lect­ing small items to eat. My rods are po­si­tioned on a jetty, out of sight as seem­ingly the fish are pa­trolling the mouth of the river to my left. For this part of my jour­ney I am not alone. My good friend Alex and I ex­plore this new par­adise to­gether. We po­si­tion rods in the mouth of the river and the sur­round­ing area and while the time away, chat­ting and cook­ing, en­ter­tain­ing vis­i­tors who seem sur­prised to see peo­ple fish­ing in this lake! We sit chat­ting on the lawn – and we have an­other vis­i­tor this evening, a friend of Alex’s who brings with him prod­ucts from his nearby or­ganic farm.

Sit­ting to­gether on the wall laugh­ing and eat­ing, en­joy­ing the early sum­mer evening warmth, time ebbs away as the day­light slowly fades into the night, tiny stars start to be­come ap­par­ent, flick­er­ing softly above. The rods are

The waves crash over the tran­som of my Rap­tor boat as I rush back to shore. The fish can wait, life is more im­por­tant

some five me­tres away, so not far but to ac­cess them I must run around a tree-line and out onto the jetty. This is ex­actly what I find my­self do­ing as we sit to eat. Alerted to my alarms I run to the rods af­ter a few, sub­tle beeps, aware that I’m fish­ing tight to a snag.

En­ter­ing the boat from the jetty, whilst try­ing to keep a fish out of the snag, is amus­ing to say the least. I step down into the boat gin­gerly whilst try­ing to avoid other lines. As I head in the di­rec­tion of the river mouth, the fish stays deep in the wa­ter, mak­ing slow moves around the snags. As I ar­rive over the top of the fish I see it in the gin clear wa­ter, twist­ing and turn­ing be­low the boat. I make ready the net in an­tic­i­pa­tion and it’s not long be­fore the crea­ture is glid­ing over the draw cord. Feel­ing ec­static I head back to our base, with my prize safely en­sconced in the net, ex­cited to see it in all of its glory. I start to let out lit­tle whoops and cheers of ex­cite­ment to make my re­turn an­nounced! We lift the fish up out of the wa­ter to ex­am­ine our prize and I am in­stantly in awe of its size and beauty – a true gem of the lake is my first re­ward and I could not be hap­pier.

Af­ter weigh­ing the fish we set up for some pho­tos. Alex is wicked with a cam­era and the shots per­fectly sum up the mo­ment. It is truly spe­cial and eter­nally-etched in my mem­ory. Thank you, brother. We go on to catch a few more fish through the course of the ses­sion and spend our time play­ing with cam­eras, chat­ting, laugh­ing and meet­ing and es­tab­lish­ing friend­ships with the lo­cals. I be­lieve this is highly im­por­tant to my an­gling and ben­e­fi­cial in the long run. We are, af­ter all, just guests. Af­ter our time on the wa­ter it bears a spe­cial place in my heart, not a mo­ment went by where I was not con­tent. I’ve even vis­ited since just to camp, en­joy­ing a night un­der the stars with my girl­friend. We ate good food and spent a bliss­ful night in each other’s com­pany – all the more rea­son to re­visit then.

Re­cently my at­ten­tion has been else­where, look­ing out at a true go­liath, with fish stocks and sizes un­known. At 76km long and al­most half as wide, with around 280,000 acres of wa­ter: where to be­gin was the pri­mary con­cern?

I start again with Alex – slightly un­ortho­dox we drive to the Swiss bor­der, the sun is high in the sky with tem­per­a­tures hov­er­ing around the 30 de­gree mark. Not good weather to be out in the open on a boat, but ob­vi­ously we con­tinue. Af­ter a hard time in­flat­ing the boat in the heat, we set off on our ad­ven­ture with just the bare es­sen­tials on board. The small mo­tor pushes us along the seem­ingly never end­ing mar­gins of the lake.

Just five me­tres out the wa­ter reaches depths some­times rang­ing to over 100 feet. Daunt­ing to say the least but noth­ing good is ever easy! We con­tinue to travel to look for likely areas, trav­el­ling around 5km all told. Watch­ing a wa­ter this big is ob­vi­ously very dif­fi­cult and with no prior knowl­edge, lo­ca­tion is ab­so­lutely key.

Ar­riv­ing in a shal­low bay we moor the boat up and spend the rest of the af­ter­noon scan­ning for fish, a few rods are put out just on the off chance but this is more of a re­con mis­sion. By the time we ar­rive there un­for­tu­nately, we only have a cou­ple of hours to sit and watch be­fore re­peat­ing the jour­ney back. By this point the bat­ter­ies are both flat, so we have to row – in the heat! Back­break­ing work as any­one will know I’m sure. This venue re­quires a lot of time and I fully in­tend on

spend­ing as much time down there as I can in the com­ing months.

An­other piece of wa­ter has cropped up on my radar too. Tow­er­ing moun­tains sur­round an idyl­lic lake, vast gravel bars can be seen from the banks and in the hot weather I wit­ness shoals of large carp sun­ning them­selves. It seems too good to be true! The day­time heat is in­tense as I ar­rive for a short ses­sion and af­ter a lap of the lake the carp are to be found on the deep mar­ginal shelf around the trees on the near mar­gin. I place two rods, mere feet out in the clear wa­ter – snow­man rigs with a small scat­ter­ing of Trigga are the or­der of the day for both and I sit back and wait, not ex­pect­ing much in this heat. To my ut­most sur­prise, within an hour I’m away on the left han­der. I scrab­ble down the steep, loose bank to get to my rods, made even more dif­fi­cult by my de­ci­sion to take off my shoes five min­utes be­fore­hand. A strong fish pow­ers away from me un­der the sur­face, tear­ing line from the spool in long pow­er­ful runs. I ap­ply side-strain to keep the fish away from the snags and a fu­ri­ous bat­tle en­sues, the wa­ter erupt­ing in front of the net. Fi­nally it’s beaten and I have tamed one of the most beau­ti­ful fish I have ever seen. A dark grey mir­ror, with beau­ti­ful scal­ing, lies in the un­hook­ing mat. The sheer beauty of th­ese carp from the moun­tains never fail to sur­prise me. The self-takes are made dif­fi­cult by the drop from the bank to the wa­ter and as I deem it un­safe for the fish, I opt to go for a wa­ter shot. The fish swims away pow­er­fully into the clear depths and I re­po­si­tion the rod straight af­ter, hop­ing that an­other may come my way.

Luck is ap­par­ently on my side as just on dark I man­age a fur­ther three com­mons. None are very big, but they are spe­cial and ap­pre­ci­ated all the same. Any fish from new wa­ters are a prize and on this oc­ca­sion I just sit, smil­ing, pleased with my re­sults. The stars above be­gin to shim­mer as I pack my kit away into the van. I think when you start to tune in to na­ture in this way, is when you ac­tu­ally stop and ap­pre­ci­ate what ex­actly is hap­pen­ing around you. Even in the dark, the huge peaks and cliffs are vis­i­ble in the moon­light. I can hear the sounds of in­sects and frogs by the wa­ter. The air smells of na­ture’s var­i­ous nat­u­ral per­fumes.

Ear­lier in the year I trav­elled across the coun­try to meet a good friend of mine, David. Upon ar­rival the wa­ter was still a mys­tery, an ap­par­ently end­less stretch of blue con­tain­ing struc­tures and plat­forms. Turn­ing up on dark, I opt to flick out a few rigs and sit back on the sandy beach, sur­vey­ing my own pri­vate par­adise. The shim­mer­ing lines of light cast upon the wa­ter trans­form into na­ture’s veins and ar­ter­ies – by watch­ing th­ese shards of elec­tric light I can gauge the sheer size of this wa­ter. Lo­ca­tion is al­ways key on th­ese, so af­ter 48 hours of ‘camp­ing’ we take to the boats.

My bed­chair fits per­fectly within the frame of my boat. We mo­tor across the wa­ter for an hour, look­ing for signs. Even­tu­ally an op­por­tu­nity presents it­self as we emerge from the dense trees and reeds of a small man­grove-like chan­nel. We emerge into a to­tally over­grown piece of wa­ter with lit­tle or no bank ac­cess, teth­er­ing the boats to an old na­ture hide. The far mar­gin looks so invit­ing, dense trees cov­er­ing a deep mar­ginal shelf, weed is abun­dant but clear spots present them­selves through the scope. I place my traps in the small holes, with a scat­ter­ing of bait around each rig, just enough to get a bite.

The sun­set drops onto the tree line, the deep reds and or­anges turn the trees from green to black sil­hou­ettes, loom­ing on the hori­zon. We know that our rigs lay un­der­neath th­ese trees, and we sit and watch, en­joy­ing a cold beer in the twi­light. The night passes, quiet yet ex­cit­ing. Fish can be heard crash­ing some­where in the lake, the only form of light are the bars, glim­mer­ing against the black of the night sky. I drift into an easy sleep, with the

gen­tle move­ment of the boat rock­ing me to sleep. First light dawns as the buzzer sounds, the Neville bursts into life and I find my­self at­tached to an an­gry carp. I get in the smaller boat, drift­ing into the mist play­ing a wild fish. Na­ture is breath­tak­ing in the early morn­ing light. The rod hoops over as the fish lunges un­der the boat, tow­ing me around, in the sweet sum­mer air. I slip the net un­der rows of golden scales, and even­tu­ally re­mem­ber to breathe. As soon as I fin­ish re­tain­ing the fish, the re­main­ing two rods are away! A dou­ble take! Dave plays one from the plat­form, as I play one from the boat. The whoop­ing and cheer­ing is some­thing I will never for­get. They are com­mons from up­per 20s to mid-30s. What an epic morn­ing. We get some pho­tos done on the only piece of ac­ces­si­ble bank, fight­ing our way through the trees. As Dave and I head back to the vans, shoals of bream bow wave through the shal­lows in the af­ter­noon sun. It is won­der­ful to watch.

In all it has been a great sum­mer for me, I’m ex­cited to re­visit some of th­ese wa­ters and I look for­ward to the au­tumn, hope­fully mak­ing more mem­o­ries, and friends, along the way.

ABOVE Search­ing for carp in mari­nas

ABOVE A hard-fight­ing mir­ror

LEFT A clas­sic-look­ing com­mon

RIGHT A beau­ti­fully pro­por­tioned wild carp

ABOVE TOP A quick pit­stop com­mon be­tween venues


BE­LOW Mak­ing new friends with man’s best friend

RIGHT Liv­ing in my 270

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