Saturday, 15 November 2008

Saturday, 15th.November 2008

Temperatures were in the teens when I journeyed to Bysing Wood – it was one of the mildest November days I can remember in a long while, and I thought it was a good opportunity to have yet another go at the big Bream.

I’ve had a few good ones this year - fish of six and seven pounds – but nothing big and certainly nothing near the target of double figures which I have repeatedly tried (and failed) to catch. I got a call from Ted our club bailiff to say that a twelve had been caught and it might be a good time to get over there and have another try.

Lots of members were fishing and there were a couple of ‘parties’ of four or five individuals in a swim either sharing a rod or just ‘spectating’. For once, everyone seemed reasonably well behaved unlike the usual accompaniment to such gatherings which invariably included bad language, shouting, and general anti-social behavior. Call me old-fashioned if you like but I go fishing to get away from such shenanigins.

I decided to try an area of the lake I hadn’t fished much for Bream, the top end known as ‘The Knicker Island’ end (don’t ask). There is a natural subterranean spring which enters the lake at this end; in very cold weather it is the last part of the lake to ice over and always leaves a clear patch even if there is an inch or two everywhere else.
PhotobucketAfter huffing and puffing with my new barrow to the swim, I had to sit down for a minute or two as I was sweating profusely - it was so mild and I didn’t really need the two jumpers and bib-and-brace I’d got on! However I set up with the usual Method Feeders, one baited with two rubber corns popped-up, and on the other rod, a single 8 mm. Halibut Pellet hair-rigged to a nine-inch braided hooklength. When after carp I like to keep this hooklength really short at two or three inches, but Bream need a bit more to take the bait properly.

I don’t mind using groundbait on the Method cage as long as there is some evidence it has been eaten. I like to use as little as possible in the winter to avoid over-feeding and prefer the strategy of casting all over the place to cover as much water as possible rather than to clip up and build up a concentration of feed; all this seems to do is attract the skimmers, fish up to a couple of pounds or so. By casting around over a wide area a lot of the lake can be searched and if there are Bream anywhere and in a feeding mood I reckon I’d get a take.
Things started pretty slowly with hardly anything happening during the first couple of hours. There was the odd snatch and pull – but nothing positive so I stuck to my plan of moving the baits around in a wide arc; I also tried different baits too and swapped between the 8 mm. Halibut pellets, 12 mm. Halibut Pellets, and double popped-up artificial corn at varying distances and locations. Eventually however, I had a drop-back take to a bait cast directly out in front – but unfortunately missed it. This tends to happen a lot on these sort of takes and I wonder whether they are ‘proper’ takes at all and not line-bites. At this juncture I happened to notice a series of dimples on the surface over an area of about twenty square yards, exactly half way across the lake.

These miniscule dimples are impossible to see in anything other than a flat calm and it was fortunate that whatever was causing them was in the one area of the lake which was in fact mirror-smooth. I’ve noticed this sort of thing before in the winter – it can easily be dismissed as little fry or even emergent insects – but experience has shown it is often fish grazing on the bottom releasing minute bubbles. I quickly reeled in both rods and re-cast right into this area; 8 mm. pellet on one rod and 12 mm. on the other.

They’d been out about ten minutes or so when there was a good old ‘bang-bang’ bite on the small pellet, the bobbin whacking the rod in a series of thumping raps. I hit the fish straight away and at once felt a solid resistance on the end – I knew immediately it was one of the big Bream by the feeling of dead weight on the end. Bream may not be the most exciting fighters in the world but you can always tell when you’ve got a good one on. This fish ‘kited’ about a bit before surfacing near the net and when I saw it I could see by its size that if it wasn’t ten pounds – it was near as damn it!

Fate however was as unkind to me as it has been with the other upper nine-pounders I have caught; nine pounds twelve ounces. Perhaps I should have stuffed four one-ounce Arlesey bombs down its throat?!
9:12 Bream
It seems churlish to be disappointed with such a big fish – but those who have similarly pursued their own goals weight-wise (perhaps with other species) will understand exactly how I felt. I was very happy with the fish – but disappointed I had once again missed the magic ten pound mark by only a handful of ounces. The fish was a real ‘slab’ and looked to me to be a young fish unlike some of the old ‘warriors’ I have caught in the past; this can only be good news for the future of big Bream fishing at Bysing Wood.

Out with the rod again and another series of little movements to the bobbin, all of which failed to develop. I did toy with trying to strike them but left them alone believing them to be line bites. There then followed a blank spell right up until dark when I had another fish of three to four pounds just as it was getting too dark to see.

By now things had become very quiet but I decided to stay on a little after dark to see if there would be any more action and re-cast both baits out in front one last time. Unfortunately, not a touch did I have, nor did I see or hear anything and gathered all my things together to load up the barrow. Just as I was about to withdraw the right-hand rod, the bobbin jumped up and down like a jack-in-the-box and I struck into another fish. This too gave the familiar dead weight on the end and for the second time that day I netted another big Bream. Slightly smaller than the first at nine pounds two ounces – but the first occasion I have banked two ‘nines’ in the same session. So something of a ‘result’.

The double yet again remains at large although I know he is there. His capture however I shamefully admit has now become something of an obsession……………….. and I promised myself I’d never get obsessed about a fish ever again!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Friday, 5th. September 2008

My long-awaited trip to the River in Picardy. Phil and I have been wanting to get back and have another go, for ages, but with Phil at The World Carp Classic, this was a solo trip. Big fish were in the offing; we’d had a high average size during the last trip and both of use expected to get a real ‘lump’ before too long. As ever, I recorded everything in my journal.

5.30 a.m
I have just got back from the ‘Boutique’ to get my wine for the session – a bottle of ‘vin rouge’ to go with my meals. The ferry is relatively quiet with few crossing at this hour.

This is a solo trip, my regular buddy Phil away at The World Carp Classic at Lac Madine. He is fishing with his good friend Chris (Lev) Levington and thus far they are fishless, although several fish have been caught including a 56 so far. There is still time yet for him to break his duck and catch his first ever fish during one of these contests – although talking to Phil he doesn’t see it as a competition – more an opportunity to meet fellow carp anglers from all over the world.

There is the usual mixture of excitement and trepidation – ‘what if something goes wrong and I cannot deal with it on my own?’ I try to put these negative thoughts to the back of my mind and concentrate on my Mission Plan for as ever, the trip has been planned with all the efficiency of a military operation…….

The first job is to navigate down to the ‘Target Zone’ – the section of river in Picardy which yielded such promising results last time back in April. The next aim is to get onto the PA (Point of Access) – the place where I can leave the car and get to the swim (which I had previously identified using Google Satellite Imaging.

3.00 p.m
All four rods are out – 2 single baits downstream and 2 double baits upstream, the first lot of feed is in and the kettle is on for the first cup of tea.
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The SatNav got me to the PA ok but I found that access was 100 yards across a ploughed field! Although the satellite imaging had been accurate, it hadn’t shown of course what conditions were like on the ground and considering the huge amount of kit that needed to be transported to and fro, this was unfortunately a no-no; I plumped for exactly the same swim I fished back in April as I felt I could do very well from there.

The local Police have just dropped by although they didn’t bother to get out of their 4 x 4 as it is raining; they just came to have a look-see and then buggered off.

The rain got harder and harder the nearer I approached the ‘Target Zone’ and was coming down in ‘stair-rods’ by the time I arrived at the river. My preferred swim is on the far side of the river so I have had to take quite a circuitous route to get there which of course proved fruitless and involved a detour of several miles to get to where I wanted to go.

There is a very serious issue to contend with which Phil pointed out last time we were here, namely the extreme shallowness of the water in front of the swim. In fact it is so shallow I cannot see how a fish can be landed without going in after it – which is possible – but probably inadvisable. I have the waders with me and I need to make a plan as to how to don them and get out to a fish; doesn’t seem impossible however. We shall have to see how we get on.

7.30 p.m.
More bait into the swim and I am starting to build it nicely; I’ve even had one or two Breamy enquiries so that’s encouraging. Since I don’t expect to catch a carp until the third or fourth night, anything between now and then is a bonus as although the rain has stopped for now, there is a vicious wind blowing, gusting up and down stream making things horrible. Not confident yet.

Saturday, 6th.September 2008
9.00 a.m
It was Bream City here last night with one fish after another, all on the Halibut Pellets. I put up with them until about 2.00 a.m. but simply had to get some sleep so pulled in the Halibut Pellet rods. The rods baited with Matrix boilies were untouched which further leads me to suspect they are lacking in attractiveness. Whether the manufacturer is ‘cutting’ them with cheap ingredients to make them commercially viable I don’t know – they certainly don’t seem to catch as well as they used. I am glugging the single boily in Bloodworm and Molasses to try and increase their attractiveness.

There are no fish here yet – I have yet to see one at all although I might have heard one during the night.

10.20 a.m.
Although it has stopped raining and the sun has come out, there is still that very strong wind blowing which is keeping temperatures down. I have yet to see a carp although this hasn’t dampened my optimism - yet! The regime of regular feeding must be maintained for the scent trail to bring the fish into the swim from downriver and still I do not expect anything to happen at least until tomorrow.

11.00 a.m.
Just been looking closely in the margins in front of me and I have to say it is desperately shallow. I would go as far as saying it is at the very limit of where you can safely bring a carp in and return it. Water always looks shallower than what it is because of the for-shortening effect; there is only one way of finding out and that is to try and catch a fish and see. There are no options here other than to move to a completely different location. I tried putting the waders on and going in but sank up to my knees which isn’t in itself a problem – but netting a fish and getting it back to the bank with both feet stuck fast with rod in one hand, a landing-net in the other, and a thrashing fish on the end – it ain’t happening!

I have decided there is only one viable alternative and that is socks and trousers off and in after it; hopefully I shouldn’t have to go out too far to get it.

3.00 p.m.
As it starts to pitter-patter with rain again I pause to reflect on the ‘pontoon’ I have constructed which I hope might just give me another couple of feet out from the bank.
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All manner of flotsam and jetsom line the banks of the river and I managed to salvage enough materials to build something which might help. I’ve also taken a shower using the solar ‘Camp Shower’ which although does not provide piping hot water, at least takes the chill off the cold. There has been little sunshine and it’s to its credit it ‘warmed’ the water as much as it did.

I feel wonderful! Having showered, washed my hair, cleaned my teeth, and shaved, I feel really invigorated. It is amazing the effect such cleansing has – it is quite symbolic too – a kind of washing away the previous unsuccessful hours and lack of action.

I still feel they will come eventually.

4.00 p.m
All four rods recast. This time I have short, stiff rigs on the single bait downstream offerings; these are accompanied by pva ‘socks’ of goodies. The double-bait upstream rods are the long, flexi-rigs with no socks. Between the four of them there must be something the carp like. That’s if there are any there. They are still not anticipated to arrive until tomorrow.

The Session Wine Choice
This is a Sauvion, Saumur-Champigny (red) costing £4.00 from the ferry shop. Very nice. Recommended. Went well with the beef mince, rice, onion, and pepper ‘thing’ I created last night. Tonight it’s chicken pasta so we’ll see how it goes with that.
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7.00 p.m.
The wine proved an excellent accompaniment………………………………………… in the middle of writing this, the l.h. downstream rod is away! This proved to be a small skinny common of 11:04 to the single pellet and short, stiff, rig. Fish landed without too much trouble although it did get stuck on the ‘ridge’ – where the bottom shelves off into the deeper water. Best make up some more of those rigs!

Sunday, 7th.September 2008
12 Noon

A pretty amazing and drastic turn of events last night as the lateness of the journal entry shows.
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Once again, the weather was horrible, with intermittent rain showers and really gusty winds, in fact I have never known the wind blow so hard in France – branches were coming down off the trees – the lot!

I continued the regime of baiting and put out single baits on all four rods; each rod was accompanied by a pva ‘sock’ and all hooklengths were short lengths of 20 lbs. Korda ‘Hybrid’. It didn’t take long for the Bream to start and once again my swim became ‘Bream City’ with the bobbins dancing up and down like yo-yos! I was really starting to get fed up with the perishers – curiously, all on one rod – the left-hand upstream rod baited with single pellet. Oh how Bream love pellets! Once again I withdrew this offering as I was getting pretty fed up with going up and down the steep bank, all the time attending to the snot-ridden things! Big Bream I like; smaller ‘skimmers – ugh!

At last I was able to settle down and get some sleep although it was little more than dozing, so hard was the wind blowing, the bivvy sides were rattling, kicking up a fair old racket. I must have been half-in and half-out of sleep when I became aware of the drone of one of the buzzers. Stumbling about, I managed to find my bivvy slippers and negotiate my way down the little steps I had cut into the bank to make the descent safer. One of the boily rods was away and in no time at all there was the satisfying lunge of a big carp on the end. I was happy to let it go and yielded line before imposing myself on the fish which was threatening to get far too big for its boots!

The fight was a fairly standard affair – it made it into weed once or twice but was no match for the ‘big guns’ I had brought with me – 3 lbs. TC Harrison Ballistas and 30 lbs. Berkeley ‘Fireline’ braid, ideal for cutting through weed and lilies. There was a certain amount of trepidation however, bringing the fish over the ridge and through the shallows. I knew this would be problematic but the ‘pontoon’ made all the difference and I was finally able to scoop out a fine looking common.
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This fish turned scales at 24:12 and was a very pleasing result after what felt like a lot of hard graft. A quick photograph and it was back in the water – and it was here that the problems started. There wasn’t water deep enough to cover its back and despite pushing it out as far as I could with the landing-net handle, it just lay there, upright, and unmoving in the dark.

I quickly donned the waders and entered the water at the margins – and just as quickly retreated. I sank in up to my knees and test-probing with the landing-net handle revealed it was just as bad further out. What to do?

Back at home I had made a solemn promise to Christine that I would not do anything unsafe – safety first at all times. Whilst I deeply regretted the circumstances of the now stranded fish, I was adamant that risking my own safety was not an option. I could do nothing except hope it managed to find its way into deeper water and home. I must say, I did not anticipate the returning of a fish would be a problem – rather, getting it into the net had been my one and only concern.

I there and then resolved to abandon the fishing from this swim and reeled in all four rods; I just could not risk this sort of thing happening again. In the morning I would move to another part of the river and use the rest of the trip as a scouting mission, exploring other locations.

I was up and about at first light, packing all the kit away into the car. The good news was that the fish was now gone – it had managed to get itself off the shallows and away.............phew! was I relieved?!

A quick look at the map and I decided to investigate the north side of the island, about a kilometre away from where I was at the moment.
Much of the river valley is given over to sand and gravel extraction. The many barges that ply up and down, carry this material to where it (presumably) is distributed all over France. One of the unfortunate aspects of these activities is the extensive riverside works which are an unsightly intrusion into an otherwise beautiful river. I did however, mange to find a very ‘tasty’ looking spot down at the river’s edge with only just enough (and no more) room to set up the rods and all my paraphernalia.
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With baits out (an underam lob distance) I sat back and watched the huge barges throwing up their immense wash as they went up and down in front of me.

What of the prospects? My intention as always is to use the same strategy that has proved so successful in the past – setting up a scent trail and drawing the fish up to the swim. The only drawback to this is that time is required and I have only two nights left to do this. Will this time be sufficient?

3.15 p.m.
There is a curious bright yellow object in the sky; rumour has it, it’s called The Sun! It is the first I have seen of it this trip!

My current GPS:
N **.*****
E *.*****

4.30 p.m.
Everything has gone lovely and quiet. No boats are running, no-one is about save the very occasional dog-walker, there is no traffic or industrial noise. It is very peaceful.
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Despite very heavy leads, there is still a strong current and I am having trouble holding bottom here. The water is very deep – 15 ft. plus I should think, although this I deem, is a good thing. I saw one or two fish topping earlier (not carp but it seems as if they have stopped now.

8.00 p.m.
Another bombardment of bait to try and get the fish up to the swim. On recasting the rods, I found that the pellets were missing; is this due to them ‘washing away’? or are there ‘Ronnies and Reggies’ in the river? I couldn’t see any sign of their usual scrapings on the boilies however. There doesn’t seem much point in leaving pellets out for long periods of time.

Still getting rain showers. The weather has been bloody awful this trip.

Monday, 8th.September 2008
9.00 a.m.

The evening started off with the usual high winds and squally showers, but later cleared to leave a fine, still, and chilly, night.
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I had seen one or two carp in the early evening but as it got dark this activity intensified. Swirling and leaping could be heard in the dark – exciting stuff!
There were lots of yo-yo bites to all rods early on; a succession of Breams were hooked – and duly returned when all of a sudden, the bites ceased. There was a brief pause, and then a screaming take ensued to one of the downstream rods! I was on it immediately and hooked into a fish which tore off downstream. It felt a good fish and I let it go, slackening the clutch to avoid a hook-pull.

This really was a lively fish which was up and down the river like a mad thing! – it felt almost demented in its desire to free itself from its tether, but eventually I slipped the net under a long, lean common which weighed 15:10 but which looked as if it should have been a lot more.
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This was a real result for me as it made all the effort in relocating to the other side of the island worthwhile; I felt really pleased with myself and rebaited all three of the remaining rods. I decided that four were too many for such a confined swim – three adequately covered my baited area and also gave me more room to land fish, as well as move about.

As I lay in my sleeping-bag, I could hear the sounds of the occasional carp rolling or splashing out in the river. Once again, I couldn’t say whether I was awake, dozing, dreaming, or asleep – but I heard two distinct, seperate bleeps of the buzzer, followed by a screaming ‘one-toner’. Without being aware of how, I found myself standing in the dark hanging on to a fish which was absolutely roaring off! This fish really got a trot on and I should think it took a good thirty-forty yards of line against the clutch.

Eventually it slowed and I managed to regain much of what had been lost – but then it set off again on another run – this time upstream and I just had to let it go. Eventually, after slowing it down and regaining some line and then further negotiating runs across the river I eventually netted an absolute peach of a common.
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This fish weighed 25:09 and was one of the ‘chunkiest’ commons I have ever caught. Not fat, or particularly deep-gutted – just solid as a rock, a veritable Arnold Swartzenegger of a fish – total muscle!

Happy days. Or in this case – night!

11.00 a.m.
Just done some sums and the average size of fish caught so far this session is 19.3 lbs. Proving once again that this location has a better than average weight than those at ********. It seems that when you get a twenty they are 24 or 25 pounds – whereas at **********they are 21 or 22; plus, there are always a lot of small fish at ********(single figures).

I have changed the rig on the downstream rod – it’s a short, stiff, rig but I have tied a Dacron Hair to the hook and knotless-knotted the coated braid to the hook. This way there is no ‘joint’ between the hook and the stiff braid although the Dacron braid allows the bait to behave naturally.
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1.00 p.m.
An old character has turned up and is fishing the far bank. He appears to be using three, light, telescopic rods, baited with what seem to be sprats. There seems to be no form of bite indication, the rods have been laid down at the water’s edge where presumably the rod-tips will go or one of the rods will end up in the river! I wonder what he is fishing for? Pike? Eels? They eat what they catch over here so it could be either.

Three EDF vans have turned up and are parked in the car park behind me. The workers obviously know one another as this is obviously their lunchtime trysting-place – it is a typical Gallic scene however. Out came the bottles of wine and the baguettes. Very civilized.

2.00 p.m.
Not a single, solitary piece of action have I had all day – even the Bream have had enough, though I suspect they will return this evening.

More bait has gone in and I have just enough left for a final baiting this evening. Rationing the resources has proved very efficient. One thing that has been a success is catapulting out the 18 mm. Boilies with the ESP ‘Particle’ Catapult. Up to a dozen at a time, landing in small groups gives a very good distribution. Better than putting them out in one’s and two’s and taking all day at it. Will adopt this mode again.

Fishing the French rivers really is an absolute joy. It enables you to blend in and become a part of what is a wild environment, the environment in which the quarry live. These are no commercially reared, fed, fish, designer-contrived to be the maximum weight possible, but pure, unadulterated wild creatures whose domain is the wild river in which they live.

I am tempted to say that size doesn’t matter with these fish such is their allure; it is a fact however that a wild thirty from a wild river far, far outstrips their equal from a commercial venue. This is not to demean the commercial fish because they have an inherent pleasure-providing value. It’s just that these wild river fish possess a Quality that puts them at a completely different level. The numbers that just happen to be their weight are just that – numbers. It is not the numbers that are the value of these fish, but they take on the environment and its purity which is as much a part of them as it is the river in which they dwell. I just love them.

3.30 p.m.
I think it was the insistent flies continually settling on me which suggested I probably needed to take a shower! Up to now I had not had the opportunity to test the ‘Camp Shower’ properly – there being so little sunshine on these French trips over the past couple of years, but today had been such a glorious day it was an ideal opportunity.

I put some water in the bag at about nine this morning and left it flat on the ground in the sun to heat up. Even given that the sun has gone behind the clouds for much of the time, I was delighted to find the water pleasantly warm – not hot, but decidedly warm. A roaring success. Thus invigorated it was time to start thinking about collecting all non-essential items together and putting them in the car ready for a prompt departure tomorrow morning, an unpleasant if essential task. Don’t want to be late for the ferry. [Note - I was!]

4.00 p.m.
Another old gent has turned up and has gone to fish under the bridge with a livebait and huge orange ‘cigar’ float. Bless him; I’ve seen five-year-olds make a better fists of things. Still, I hope he enjoys his fishing......... whoops, as I am writing I see he has taken a tumble down the bank. He seems to be o.k. though and is upright. For a minute I thought I might have to do my ‘entente cordiale’ thing and go and lend a hand.

Some time later I see him running down the bank to his rod and strike – he is attached! Presently, a friend materialises out of no-where and puts together his landing-net which he has left up at his car. In short order, a large fish is landed – and what a fish!
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This looks (through the binoculars) to be all of 8-10 lbs. I can’t see what it is but I guess it’s a Pike; zooming the digital image on the camera however it looks more like a freshwater Bass (?) I didn’t even know there were any in the river – although a closer examination shows it’s probably a Zander. Whatever it was it receives several lusty blows to its head with a short length of steel pipe! It is then wrapped in a towel, and put in the back of the car!

Tea tonight apparently!

6.00 p.m.
There is a sudden mad flurry of activity out on the river as one huge barge after another comes chugging through.
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The tsunamis they send up are massive as first the river is sucked down revealing the bottom – then comes surging back in with tidal waves swamping the banks. I cannot imagine the huge forces at work here, but the immense wall of water being driven in front of the bows of some of these craft is testament to the astronomical numbers which must be involved.

Four or five went through, one after another, each time the bobbins were set going nineteen to the dozen, the buzzers bleeping hysterically in accompaniment. The extreme upstream rod was doing a right merry dance – different to the other two – so I lifted into it on the off-chance. There was something on the end! This was in the form of a 7:08 Barbel, fairly hooked in the mouth.
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Setting a new pb for me I returned it after a hastily taken snap.

Now the question is “does it count?” i wasn’t fishing deliberately for them so I cannot claim any merit in the capture. As a Barbel it was a modest one, but supposing it had been of record-breaking size? (in actual fact it did break a record – my own!) Now there’s one for the philosophers. I shall ‘count’ it anyway.

This fish did not like being out of the water and I held it in the current for quite a long time before I let it go and I wasn’t entirely happy about its welfare when it went. Seems Barbel are not as robust as other species when it comes to hanging about on the bank waiting to have their photo’s taken.

8.00 p.m.
It seems very quiet out on the river now – I haven’t seen or heard from a fish for ages. I’m just anxious that last night’s action was a one-off. I don’t think I’ve over-baited; most of it will be well on its way to the English Channel by now anyway. Can’t help wondering though.

Tuesday, 9th.September 2008
On the ferry home

After the Barbel went back, I busied myself with attending to several preparations for the journey home tomorrow. All non-essential kit was taken back to the car and I made sure the Ferry Terminal was programmed into the SatNav.

I always find this final night’s fishing an odd affair. On the one hand, it can be the culmination of all the hard work done throughout the trip and often yields the best results of the whole session. On the other, I am always missing Christine and know how anxious she gets for my safety; I was really looking forward to seeing her.
It was a lovely evening, the golden rays of the setting sun illuminating the banks of each side of the river in a gorgeous, warm, glow. The temperature however was dropping and it felt decidedly chilly. Fish however began to move as soon as it got dark and it seemed as if some bizarre switch had been thrown – the river suddenly became alive with fish! Carp, and other silver fish species suddenly all joined in a spectacular display of rolling, leaping, and swishing in the darkness. The last of the barges had been through of course and maybe this was the preferred time to feed – when boat traffic had ceased.

As if on cue, the Bream began their activities again, ‘yo-yo-ing’ the bobbins up and down like demented Jack-in-the-Boxes! The year class I was catching were the same size as at the previous location – slightly smaller than those Phil and I had caught back in the Spring. There must be a very high density of Bream in this section of river for they were proving to be a confounded nuisance. Future trips must allow for this and bait-wise I’ll probably bring extra large ‘donkey-chokers’ to avoid them.

I caught a couple of these nuisances, quickly dispatching them back into the water, wondering whether all the feed I had put in had done the little more than attract them and hold them, in which case, they could bloody well clear off!

At this point I started to get very fast, jerky sort of bites, some of which pulled line from the ‘clutch-runner’ – much too excitable for Bream! When one finally turned into a full-bloodied take I thought I had hooked into a small carp – the fish fighting like a little terrier, giving numerous rod-jerking wrenches; most un-carp-like (or Bream for that matter). When I slipped the net under the fish and banked it in the darkness I could see it had the glorious silver flanks of another Barbel!

This one was slightly bigger than the first and weighed 8:12, thereby breaking my pb for the second time that evening! Again, did it count though?

Bites were more or less unremitting for most of the early part of the night, the only interruption coming when a series of lifts turned into a proper take resulting in a small common of about 8 lbs. No sooner had this fish been returned to the river than there was yet another series of jerky lifts followed by a ‘proper’ take. Again, the fish fought in a most un-carp-like way and when I finally netted it, yet another Barbel graced the net – it was even bigger than the previous two and I couldn’t contain my astonishment uttering the familiar expletive. When I weighed it, it was dead on 9 lbs. Like the previous fish I didn’t take photographs as I didn’t want to risk the fish – it went back straight away. I wish Phil had been on hand to do the honours, for it was a great fish.

Further action followed during the night and my plan for getting much needed sleep before the long drive home tomorrow went right out of the window. Three carp picked up my boilies this time, the ‘shoal’ of Barbel seemingly having buggered off. Fish of 14:12,
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and 20:00 dead were all weighed and returned to the river in what had been a now very productive night. Curiously, of the eight fish caught during the trip – all were commons; not a mirror or leather amongst them. Perhaps this demonstrates the dominant nature of the gene giving rise to common carp scaling within wild fish spawning naturally in the river.

One final fish was hooked just as I was taking the other rods down; unfortunately, this was lost due to a hook-pull near the net amongst the rocks lining the margins. From what I saw it wasn’t a huge fish – although it would have been nice to put another score on the score-sheet.

And so into the car and head for home.....................

Monday, 25 August 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Murston nr. Sittingbourne, Lake 4

SAC, Murston, Lake 4

My first session at Murston on a cloudy, grey, overcast, windy afternoon. Access to the Fourth Lake was easy and I was able to fish secure in the knowledge that the car was safe – I could see it from where I was fishing and this was a great reassurance.
As expected, the lake was extremely weedy and it was obviously going to be a tough job finding somewhere fishable. There were two characters fishing on the far bank and I went round to see how they were getting on; both were fishing poles with sweetcorn as bait and lots of small fish were reported. One of them said however he had caught a Rudd of about three pounds! Could this be true? We are talking National Specimen size here and I don’t doubt it as I’ve heard similar from Phil. My appetite was whetted for them immediately.

My walk along the near bank revealed all the swims weeded up so it was a case of far bank or nothing. Fortunately, there was a ‘Secret Swim’ between the two old geezers and I set up there.
The 'Secret Swim'
The area to the left of the pitch was almost completely weeded right up. There were some clear spots in the margins but I suspect this was where members had been dragging; where I was and to the right of me, the water was a bit clearer although weed was still present underneath. I managed to find clear-ish water in front of me an under-arm lob out and I set about baiting-up this spot with the Vitalin; I didn’t over-do it too much as I suspect I have done so in the past – particularly on School Pool and I suspect this contributed to my failure. Better I think to build the swim gradually and only lay down groundbait by re-casting the Method Feeders. One rod was baited with artificial corn, one with Crab Pellet, and the other with Pineapple Crush boily. I was very interested to see the response to the boily following the conversation I’d had with Phil regarding bait and my own thoughts on attractiveness.
The corn had been out about ten minutes or so before there was a Breamy-type take and I hooked a fish which shot off into the weed. There wasn’t a thing I could do about it on the John Wilson and it took a good deal of heaving, humping, and hand-lining to get it out. Get it out I did however and landed a five and a half pound Tench! I was absolutely ecstatic with this fish as it seemed as if the plans had at last come to fruition. It was a long-ish, lean individual and I should think had the capacity to go over six on a good day.

Back out with the baits and it’s a long wait for the next fish. This was a rip-roaring take I was convinced was a carp as it shot straight into the weed and came to a dead stop. Initially I couldn’t move it and was convinced I’d have to pull for a break, but by careful handlining I was able to shift a big clump of weed towards me and to the bank. I had no idea if the fish was still on – all I could see was the weed so I just put the net under the whole lot and heaved it onto the bank. Parting the mass of weed, there lay a fish of about four pounds – so it had stayed on after all!

There was one more fish after this – another of about four pounds odd and although I stopped on after dark there were no more takes.
Tench Catch
The Fourth Lake at Murston is a fantastic water. Rich as a Sultan’s horde, the water exploded with fry every time the feeder hit the water – they were on it in a flash; the water is alive with fish and I am greatly looking forward to some winter action on here. Some tactic to beat the small fry will be called for – probably a largish particle like Chic Pea and perhaps similar tactics used at Longshaw Farm to beat the tiddlers might succeed. There are also Pike present and I am looking forward to having a go at them with the spinning rod when conditions allow. What with the Tench, Rudd, and Carp there is a wealth of fishing here.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Saturday, 19th.July 2008

Bysing Wood

This summer has been fairly horrendous. What with being made redundant, we had launched into re-decorating the kitchen just before I found out I had lost my job and were committed to not only a mountain of work – but hefty expensive into the bargain. Although I had managed to find employment, there was work to be done at home in every spare moment so consequently, fishing has had to take something of a back-seat. On the few occasions I had managed to get out, the lake was either full, conditions were dreadful (gale force winds and driving rain), or like this weekend, matches were taking place and the venue was off-limits.

My target lake is the School Pool in Faversham and the aim is to catch one of the few big Bream and Tench – but things just haven’t gone right. With work now coming to a conclusion on the kitchen I decided to have an evening session on Bysing Wood where there were several things I wanted to try out.

My tactics had previously focused on Method-Feeders and boilies for bait with corn and maggots as alternatives on float-fished and quiver-tipped rigs close-in to the margins. By burying the boily in the method ball I found I could consistently fish down through quite weedy swims and still have a good presentation, but I was still concerned that the bait would end up under the feeder (despite using Korda feeders with the lead on one side of the cage so that it ‘always’ settles bum-down as it were on the lake bed). I came up with the idea of fishing the method feeder Helicopter-style. Now this is not my idea – I saw Matt Hayes using it for carp on one of his programmes, but it occurred to me that the hooklength could be hidden in the method ball, much as a ‘Stick Mix’ hides the hooklength on a carp rig. The very short dangling hooklength would be very unlikely to tangle and if it did, could be folded up inside the groundbait.

I nearly lost out on my chosen swim. I left the car just inside the gate and went off to have my usual gander at the lake before starting fishing and as I was returning from The Dead Tree Swim (which I was very pleased to see available) someone passed me on the track in his car obviously making for the same place. Now the question arises here – “who gets choice of the swim?” was it ‘rightfully’ mine because I was there first – or was it the chap in his car because he’d got his tackle with him? I regret to say I rather pressed my case and asserted my claim although I am still uncertain whether it was legitimate or not.
This is one of the most popular swims on the lake and is very productive, offering many options for bait positioning. My plan was to fish across to the far reeds as close as I could cast and build a bed of Vitalin and Layers Mash groundbait on which hopefully, the Tench and Bream would eventually settle on.

I was immediately struck by how seriously, a member fishing opposite was taking Health and Safety issues – as a Health and Safety Officer myself I applauded his risk assessment skills in wearing a ‘Hi-Viz’ vest during fishing! Perhaps there were low-flying Pteradactyls, Eagles, or Flying Fish about the place. Being seen by such hazards is an important part of Health and Safety!
I catapulted several balls of the groundbait mixture out in front, just short of the reeds and cast two rods onto the feed. One rod was equipped with a Tutti-Fruitti boily and the other, popped-up Enterprise corn anchored by a number 6 shot, half an inch from the hook. I have caught carp on this bait but never Tench or Bream and I was keen to 'get off the mark' with them on it.

My Method balls were squeezed onto the cage with the hooklength between the groundbait and the cage. The idea of this was that the groundbait covered the line, disguising it, much like the carp-angler's 'Stick' rig. Almost immediately I started getting bites at the start of the session which was to produce more Bream than I have ever had in a sitting at Bysing Wood. The fish all seemed to be of the same 'year class' - fish of between two and two-and-a-half pounds, not a few ounces more nor a few ounces less. I was getting them one after another and when I changed to a 16 mm. Cotswold Baits drilled Crab Pellet the catch rate increased. Bream (and Tench for that matter) absolutely love pellets and the difference in catch rate between them and the boilies was quite marked; I think I shall make the pellets my front line bait in the future. I also had fish on the popped-up corn too so avid were they feeding.
My Rig
Then there was a blank spell and the bites suddenly fell right off. I suspected that a Pike was about as there were a series of swirls and a period of small fish leaping out of the water followed by the familiar slashing vortex but it wasn't long before I had another positive bite on the pellet rod...........

As soon as I hooked it I knew I'd got one of the better ones; although Bream hardly fight at all, the dead weight on the end of the line signified a decent fish - which it proved to be at seven pounds eight ounces. I slipped it into the keepnet to see whether I could catch some others to go with it.
7:08 Bream
I suppose the rod had been back in the water about five minutes or so when there was another take - unfortunately I was away from the rod having a pee - but got back in time to hit the fish (and pee down my trousers at the same time). Again, this too felt a good fish although unfortunately it came off after having been on for only a few seconds.

I have noticed this with Bream and Method Feeders. I think you must hit them very quickly as they seem most adept at shedding the hook. Some takes will see the bobbin hopping up and down like a Jack-in-the-Box and if left the fish will get off. Theoretically, by the time a bite is registered on the bobbin, the fish is hooked (by the resistance of the rig); they do however seem to be able to shed it quite readily. Probably, this is something that varies from water to water and happens more on some venues than others. At Bysing Wood, the dominant activity is carp-fishing with resistance rigs and I imagine that the Bream have got used to being hooked with carp angler's rigs and have learnt how to shed them. The carp certainly have learnt such tricks. In future I shall try to be far quicker 'off-the-mark' than I have been in the past at striking these bites.

The Bream fed on and off for the rest of the afternoon and if I had put all of them in the keepnet I would have had a fair old weight. I hung on however for another decent one and some time after dark I had another of 6:14. Not big, but good-ish. These bigger Bream are almost like a different species. Whereas their smaller bretheren are pale, insipid, slimy individuals, fish of over six pounds or so are bronze coloured and virtually slime-free, an altogether different kettle of worms.
Perversely, the hours of darkness saw a fall-off in sport - the complete reverse of what normally happens and there was just the odd twitch and smaller sized Bream at intervals.

At some point, just before eleven o'clock in the evening, I had a more positive take. When I struck and hooked the fish I at first thought I'd hooked into a snag. I knew I wasn't in the reeds as I was 'clipped-up' to get the distance in the darkness. This fish however was completely solid.................and then eventually, very slowly, it moved and started coming towards me. At this point I was in a fair old state of excitement - the fish felt massive and was undoubtedly the biggest Bream I'd ever hooked - I vaguely saw the commotion in the water in the light of the full moon that was shining and it looked simply huge! For a long time my ambition has been to catch a 'double' and at last it seemed I was going to do it! It was far and away bigger than the 7:08 I'd caught that afternoon.
As I put the landing-net in the water and crouched down to net the fish....................the hook fell out.

To say I was gutted is an understatement. I have fished a long time for my double and having come so close on more than one occasion I am well deserving of it. This loss of such a big fish however was not the first time such an event has happened and I dare say it won't be the last. It doesn't make it any easier to bear however. It was horrible. Loss and heartache.

Although this disaster was awful to suffer, there was a positive aspect to it. It meant that the loss of the fish mattered. It had me thinking that the minute such a loss meant nothing - that it was just a mere inconvenience, then the meaning of what I was doing - the position that fishing holds in my life - is still the same that it has been all these years.

The minute the loss of a big fish means nothing, is the time to hang up the rods and don pipe and slippers.........

Friday, 23 May 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In the interests of honesty and faithful reporting, I am about to recount what amounts to the most embarrassing event in all my years of carp fishing; it’s making me cringe as I recall it!.........

I decided to have another session at Bysing Wood – this time after carp. For many years, reliable ‘hot-spots’ around the lake have consistently produced fish and all the old-timers in the club know exactly where they are and what they must do to produce a take. One of these spots is in a swim known as ‘The Compound’, a dug-out situated right in front of the old gravel-washing plant which used to be used to clean the diggings in the days when gravel was still extracted. To the left of the swim and a little way down the bank is a willow tree which now grows out over the water – and a few yards out in the water is the hot-spot from which the carp are caught. At regular intervals, summer and winter, carp swirl in this spot, and a well presented bait at some point during a day’s fishing almost always produces a fish. It’s a poor day when nothing shows in this spot and if they can’t be caught here, they probably can’t be caught anywhere.
The Hot-Spot
You can always tell when the fish are active by tell-tale swirling; curiously, this action is confined to a small area the size of a coffee table and you have to be pretty accurate in placing your bait right on it. Quite what it is that makes this few square feet of lake so appealing I have no idea, there don’t appear to be any snags, depressions, plateau, bars or any other feature, no change in the bottom such as soft or hard mud, mussel bed, bloodworm bed, McDonalds Burger Bar – nothing. They have always liked it though.

I wanted to try something different today. Due to my unemployment, I have spent a lot of time watching the fishing channel 274. Matt Hayes demonstrated a Method Feeder fished ‘Helicopter’ style with plastic corn as bait at Horseshoe lake catching loads of Tench. Since I had never caught a fish on artificial baits before I wanted to give them a serious go under propitious conditions rather than a last gasp last resort. I decided to try and emulate Matt Hayes’ Helicopter Method Feeder style using two grains of pop-up corn with a number 4 shot an inch away from the hook and milled Vitalin as the groundbait.
Matt's Method Rig
I have found burying the bait in the groundbait to be very successful at Bysing Wood – I think the fish prefer to see hookbaits right in the groundbait as distinct from on their own outside of it; it also makes the rig 100% anti-tangle.

I threw out some balls of Vitalin before lobbing the rig right ‘on the money’ and fished the second rod (rather half-heartedly I must say) out towards the middle of the lake in the faint hope of one of the big Bream. This was daft really as conditions were bright and sunny, not at all what I would prefer for the species; I’d have done better to have fished something else for the carp – but there you go. This was a silly decision on a day of silly-ness which proved to get silly to the point of humiliating embarassment!

There was lots of activity on the part of the carp which weren’t really feeding on the bottom – they were cruising around just under the surface and the sensible thing to have done would have been to try for them with Chum Mixer on the surface or pellet fished just under (or come to think of it, the floating feeder – now there’s a method worth a go). Today however wasn’t really about hardcore fishing, it was a relaxing day down by the lake getting away from the troubles of unemployment. I have never been unemployed in my life, and at age 57 it takes some coming to terms with i can tell you!

It was whilst I was fiddling about with something that the hot-spot rod roared off! I didn’t have to strike as it was just a case of hanging on while the clutch screeched and the fish powered off up the bank. The Shakespeare Mach 2 Barbel rod was not only remarkably sensitive to the lunges of the fish but had enough power for me to impose myself on it – the fish swung out towards the middle of the lake and I knew that barring the unforeseen she’d be mine.

The scrap was intense with the fish coming to the top and thrashing the water to a froth. It was a really active common that was all over the place and fought much harder than the fish I’d had in France recently. Eventually however I got it over the net – and just about managed to scoop it up it was so long! My Korum circular net is 26 inches across the frame and the fish overlapped by some way! I had to use a scooping action to get it in and even though the fishs’ tail folded in, there was a real danger it could hop out! I dropped the rod and managed to get hold of the frame to prevent the fish getting out and hauled it up the bank onto my unhooking mat. My first reaction was that the fish was enormous! The length of it was tremendous! There was a distinct possibility that after thirty years of fishing at Bysing I had at last caught one of its thirties!
22 lbs. Common
I quickly got out the ‘Avon’ scales which I don’t really like using as it is easy to make a mistake counting the revolutions of the needle to mark the correct weight – but after zero-ing I popped the fish in the bag and watched the needle go round to thirty-two pounds exactly! I was overjoyed with this and yelled across to my good friend Stan fishing opposite to come round and help me take photographs which he did whilst I waited at the margins with the fish in the water (in the net). I could tell by the wry look on Stan’s face when he arrived that he was circumspect,

“A thirty? You sure!”

He had come equipped with his digital scales and we re-weighed the fish there and then……

“I can’t be absolutely certain And’, but I don’t think it has lost ten pounds in weight in the time it’s taken me to walk round!”

“What!... It can’t be!..... Oh no! Don’t say I’ve read me scales wrong!”

Yes dear reader – today’s prize for Plonker of the Week goes to – yes! It’s Andy Spreadbury! For failing to read his Avon scales properly and not being able to see at a glance that a twenty-two pound fish wasn’t in fact thirty-two!

Even as I write this I hang my head in shame. To be adrift by one or two pounds in estimating a fish’s weight is understandable; to be wrong by five pounds you could put down to poor judgment, but ten pounds?!

Seduced by the prospect of a thirty I allowed my ambition to override my common sense……..

My excuse is that the fish was exceptionally long and lean, and hollow; and oh yes – was sucking its stomach in at the time; and yes – was on the Atkins diet and must have a size zero obsession.
That’s my excuse anyway………

Monday, 19 May 2008

Bysing Wood - Sunday, 9th.March 2008

I decided to get away from the worries of my recent unemployment and have a session at Bysing Wood after the double-figure Bream. I expected that because it was a Monday I would have the place to myself and the pick of the lake. Wrong. A lot of the swims on the Road Bank were occupied so I had to go round to the far side and fish my old favourite – The Beach.
The Beach - 19-05-08
With recent heavy rain, the water levels had risen somewhat and there was now an extra six inches of depth on the very shallow bar that runs right across the front of the pitch – a distinct advantage when trying to get deep, slab-sided Bream towards the net.

Spring is my favourite time of year to be out fishing and I often think that some of the best fishing of the whole year is to be had at this time. Temperatures were reasonable (if a bit cooler than of late), and the whole place had an air of freshness and renewal; blossom bloomed on the trees and there was a wonderful sense of newness and purity.
Spring Blossom
My plans this year involve an assault on the large Bream and Tench of the nearby School Pool, but I wanted to use sessions at Bysing Wood to test a different approach I intended to use this summer. This involved the use of Method Feeders, short, very supple hooklinks, and the hair attachment method I had found so successful in France recently.

This involved the use of a very short shanked hook (ESP Raptor pattern, size 10) and a hair so short you can just about comfortably get the hair-stop through the loop. The hooklength material was 8 lb. BS ‘Fox Supersilk’, an extremely supple braid that looks like a string of weed when wet. It is the most supple braid I have yet found, although can be difficult to use in terms of tangles. So supple is it that it is rather prone to wrapping back around the anti-tangle tubing – yet offers advantages over conventional braids which still have an inherent stiffness, which worsens with increasing breaking strain.
Boilie Presentation
Feeders were a new lightweight version; I didn’t want to overload my Shakespeare Mach 2 Barbel rods and fished them very tight with no ‘drop’ on the bobbins, consequently, as soon as they were picked up off the bottom I’d know about it.

My plans involve the use of ‘Vitalin’ groundbait although I had none with me today. I had some white crumb and VDE Method Mix however which I wanted to use up so I mixed the two together. The resultant stodge however was a sticky, gooey mess, and quite unsuitable, although I had tyo go with it as I had nothing else. This was a reminder that a good knowledge of groundbait ingredients and how they behave when mixed together is a distinct advantage and I made a note to self to investigate this when time allows.

Baits were 12 mm. boilies in ‘Tutti-Fruitti’ and Pineapple flavourings. This was a change to my normal fishmeal offerings as I had ‘got wind’ that sweeter flavours were catching Bream on Bysing Wood. Twelve millimeters is about right for Bream I think; they are big enough to avoid the small fish such as Roach and Rudd, but not too big for even relatively small skimmers.
I began the session by mixing the groundbait and leaving it to stand for ten minutes while I rigged up the rods. I had planned to introduce the groundbait as catapulted balls with my ‘ESP Particle Pouch’ catty since it was the only one I had big enough to handle the balls I was using. In practice it was quite unsuitable and a specialist ‘groundbait’ catapult is obviously required; perhaps someone could recommend one?

I got groundbait out in front by means of a spod in the end although I wasn’t happy with the horrendous splashing that accompanies such an activity; it was that or nothing however. The skimmers didn’t mind though because I had an almost immediate response to the ‘Tutti’ – a fish of about two pounds bouncing the bobbin up and down like a yo-yo! This was quickly followed by another and further action for the next half-hour, all of which I missed for some reason. Don’t know why; just didn’t connect.

There then came a blank spell as the shoal moved off elsewhere and I can’t say I was all that sorry. Small Bream are not my favourite; I find theydon’t become interesting until they reach six or seven pounds or so when it’s almost like fishing for a different fish – and herein I think lies the essence of the approach to fishing for big Bream. You have to treat them like a different species altogether, for tactics which produce the skimmers – don’t necessarily produce the big ones and an approach designed to avoid the lesser fish is vital.

Feeding (as in all fishing) is vital, and in the case of trying to catch big Bream on Bysing Wood is essential to get right. Filling in the swim at the start of the session definitely encourages the fish to feed – but if a shoal of skimmers are present it adds nothing to the fishing to keep feeding them as they will just hang about, getting to the baits before their grandparents do. Far better to hang back on the feed and let them move off. I have more than once had bigger Bream after a shoal of skimmers have been through and it may well be a strategy of these larger fish to hang back and detach themselves from the youngsters and remain as a small group, ‘mopping-up’ what the ‘children’ don’t eat. It is often commented that Bream congregate as ‘year-classes’ of fish and move around with similar sized bretheren, consequently, large Bream will form only small groups, whereas skimmers number hundreds. Get stuck into a shoal of skimmers, and feed them and they will be with you all day – while the ‘daddys’ stand off with smiles on their faces and a “you can’t catch me” attitude!

In mid afternoon, and out-of-the-blue, I had a positive take to the ‘Tutti’ rod. As soon as I hooked it I knew I was into one of the big ones and I had just started to get it coming to the bank when my mobile rang! Now normally I would have ignored it, but since it might have been a job offer I took the call only to find it was an employment agency who had seen my CV on-line and could they talk about what sort of job I wanted! I had to explain that whilst important – I was currently attached to a very large Bream and could they call me back in ten minutes! This produced hoots of laughter from the young girl on the other end who thought it was histerical (??)!
9 lbs. 1 ozs. Bream
This turned out to be a fish which looked close to my target (which I have been trying for years now to catch) of ten pounds – but which on weighing fell short at 9:01. No matter, I was chuffed to bits, and no sooner had I photographed and safely returned the fish when I had another take! This fish felt even bigger and was a real dead weight on the line and I was gutted when it inexplicably fell off! I was really disappointed with this for I feel sure this one might have been the fish to crack it.

Such is fishing, and is all the more reason to go back and have another try.

I fished on until darkness but had no further action of any kind.

Friday, 2 May 2008


Phil and I felt that we had really started to get to grips with the River and had begun to string together ever-improving catches; Phil’s pioneering spirit however was gnawing at him like an itch and he desperately wanted to explore other stretches of the 500 long kilometer river. Although I was content to continue to return to ‘our’ stretch (where I felt an overwhelming confidence), there was always the thought – “I wonder what’s around the next bend”. So it was we decided in the winter of 2007-2008 to look for – and fish other parts of the river. As usual, the project was approached with all the planning efficiency of a military operation:

Intelligence Gathering

I gave myself the task of finding new potential locations by means of visiting Internet sites to get clues as to where promising locations might be. Google was the search engine of choice and by using keywords such as ‘carp, fishing, peche, carpe, bouillette’ (the French word for boily) and the name of the river, I got ‘hits’ for both English and French sites. By using the “translate” facility in Google I could scan the French ones with ease and spent the next few months investigating the hundreds of ‘hits’.

Another technique I used (which yielded the most promising results), was to use “Google Earth” and zoom in on the river and pan upstream and downstream looking for anything unusual in the way of changes to the river topography such as barriers, side-streams, islands, channels, lagoons, in fact anything that might be a draw to the carp. One feature in particular I thought might have potential was anywhere carp might get out of the way of the main current and the disturbances created by the huge barges which ply up and down stream and after months of searching, following several ‘dead-ends’, I suddenly came upon this section of river:
The main channel flows from right to left at the top of the image – the bottom ‘U’ being exactly what I was looking for – a place where the carp could get out of the way of the barges since they would not bother to go the ‘long way’ round but would use the main channel. Phil thought it was a great location – especially for this trip which was scheduled for early Spring; he had fished our previous location in the Spring and had done better in the main flow than anywhere else so with me preferring the back-channels and Phil the main we were nicely situated to experiment and see which was the most productive.

The left-hand end of the island looked particularly ‘sexy’ as it was obvious eddies would be created by the right-to-left downstream flow and this should be a natural holding area.


We held several meetings to discuss tactics and make a plan of attack; such things as route to the target area, obtaining Carte de Peches, and bait were all considered and evaluated. We were like Generals planning a military assault and began the process by making endless lists of requirements for the trip – Rations, Navigation equipment, boat access, ‘assault kit’, and survival needs. A month before the ‘Go’, Phil booked the ferry whilst I printed off the maps (should TomTom let us down for some reason), and three weeks prior, I ordered my bait – boilies in eighteen and twelve millimeter, and twenty millimeter Halibut Pellets for feed. The boilies were put up in the loft to air-dry and hardened.
The week leading up to the trip was total chaos. Christine and I decided (on the spur of the moment) to gut the kitchen and replace it with a new one so it was a trip to MFI and reluctant use of the credit card, and frequent trips to ‘The Dump’ to get rid of the old carcasses, doors, and cabinets of the old one. This upheaval couldn’t have come at a worse time – but ‘She’ [who] must be obeyed! Christine did contribute however by shopping for me so I was well rationed-up for the four day ‘Assault’.

As usual, I made notes during the trip:

“There was a delay of over an hour at Dover due to ‘technical difficulties’ which saw us board the filthiest, most clapped-out tub on the high seas. The ferry was a disgrace – goodness knows where they resurrected the old barge from but the toilets were overflowing and the toilet floor was awash. A real ‘rust-bucket’ is being generous and added to its deficiencies were an inadequately stocked cafeteria and no cutlery. We were more than pleased to be off and on our way heading south.


We located the ‘island’ target area but had considerable difficulty navigating the locality. Anticipated access routes turned out to be non-existent and we had to go miles out of our way to conduct an adequate reconnaissance. The anticipated ‘hot-spot’ area on the tip of the island at the downstream end turned out to be twenty feet above the water, covered in thick vegetation, and quite unfishable although further round in the other arm of the river was fishable as well as inviting. Having decided this was where we would fish it was back into the truck and off to find somewhere to buy the ‘Carte de Peche’ needed for fishing all the rivers in France.

We looked everywhere – bars, shops, cafes; we even stopped people in the street and eventually found out we could get them from a branch of Decathlon, several miles away. This took some finding and some astute navigating, but eventually we were ‘legal’ and headed back to the river. This was not without difficulty as we got lost and simply couldn’t find the remote track which led to our ‘secret location’ we were sure had rarely (if ever) been fished.

By the time we had stopped off at a bar and had a glass of Stella, got to the river, unpacked the truck and set up the camps it was nearly dark. Hastily getting all rods rigged and cast out we sat back to watch hordes of Bream congregating in the margins giving us constant line bites to all rods! We were determined however to try and kick things off and set about baiting-up the middle of the river. Things looked promising too – the occasional fish moved at long range and we eagerly anticipated what the night would bring.
The last couple of hours were spent sitting under the stars and drinking wine (a rather nice Cabernet Sauvignon) until we collapsed into our pits.

Saturday, 26th. April


I awoke late to a glorious dawn; birds were singing, the sun was warm on my back (when I finally emerged) and all was right with the world.

I set-to and had a sort out, rebaiting and re-positioning all four rods. Feed which I had introduced the night before was topped-up and necessary housekeeping activities in the bivvy attended to. Phil and I had an early morning Conference:-

It was obvious the near bank was ‘infested’ with Bream and other unwanted bait-scoffers, the flow eddying back from right-to-left against the main flow of the current. It was also very shallow close in too – possibly too shallow to net a very big carp. The far bank conversely held the main flow of the river and was much deeper; it was in this deeper area we had seen (and heard) the odd fish moving. Already (and at an early stage) a crude understanding of this stretch of the river was evolving and during the day we hoped to expand our knowledge with further investigations and observation.


I stopped fishing at lunchtime to a) have a shower, shave, and sh*t, and b) to assist Phil out in the boat in conducting a survey of the river.
We were both circumspect as to the depths in front of us and their ability to hold the very large carp we sought. The fish-finder is mandatory equipment for this sort of activity and on this occasion enabled us to produce a rough profile of the bottom contours:


This was good news indeed and was a real boost to the confidence; this enabled us to further develop our understanding of the river and pursue other strategies:
1. Rod 1 - ¼ of the way across on a bed of mini-boilies
2. Rod 2 - ⅓ of the way across on a bed of boilies on a short link
3. Rod 3 - ½ way across on a bed of boilies on a long link
4. Rod 4 - ¾ of the way across on a bed of boilies (?)

Due to cooking duties and re-tying rigs I did not in fact achieve this arrangement until tea-time which although was late, was I hoped in time for an evening feeding spell (should there be one). At 5.30 p.m. Phil and I decided to have a siesta so we could stay up late into the evening.

Evening, 7.30 p.m.

The final pangs of doubt begin to creep in as evening comes and we have yet to have any sort of a take from carp. Earlier on we saw two boats with what were obviously carp anglers laden down with gear chug up the river in front of us. This is the first time either Phil or I have seen any local carp anglers; at least we are on the right track location-wise as it appeared they were interested in fishing near our camps.

Invasion of the Ants!

They are everywhere, running around inside the bivvy! In clothing, bedding, and food containers. Ugh!

Sunday, 27th.April


The evening was calm and beautiful with bats flitting in and around the trees and Tawny Owls calling to one another. There was a decided increase in activity on the part of the carp as swirls, leaps, and other water disturbances evidenced. These manifestations of carp presence boosted our confidence and the pessimism which had begun to set in during the afternoon waned a little. Phil and I sat up until gone midnight drinking wine and eating pasta and a tomato and cheese concoction conjured by Phil on the ‘Coleman’ (stove). At around two-ish we both retired to our pits – I fell into a fitful sleep wondering what our new location tomorrow would yield for we had more or less decided that if nothing happened during the night we would up-sticks and look elsewhere.

I awoke to Phil muttering…….

“I can hear a baitrunner……………….is it yours Andy?”

“No, all my alarms are on – I’m certain”

“ P’raps I forgot to turn mine on?”

In the dark I heard Phil stumble down the bank and squelch his way through the mud to his rod presently, I heard him cranking a reel and the distant swirl of a fish. He had forgotten to turn it on and what he heard was the spool revolving at a rate of knots!

The fight was relatively undramatic although the landing of the fish was not withoutits difficulties due to the shallow-ness of the water in the margins, but eventually Phil slipped the net under a pristine common which weighed twenty pounds on the button.
This was a great result for Phil and was just reward for a lot of effort in surveying and scatter-baiting on his part. We stayed up for a while to listen to the fish swirling and ‘lumping’ but eventually succumbed and went back to our pits.


I decided to re-organize and switch tactics; all rigs were re-tied for single baits (I had been fishing ‘doubles’ since these were the most successful on the other stretch of river we fish) and PVA ‘Funnel Web’ socks holding a mixture of Halibut Pellets, boilies, and mini-boilies, and these accompanied the rigs half-way across the river. This brought an instant response in the form of another 3 lb. Bream, quickly followed by another. We had been catching these from the start and had become more or less convinced these were the major inhabitants of the stretch – hence our lack of confidence there were enough carp about to make fishing for them worthwhile.

No sooner had I re-cast than I had another up-and-down sort of take which on lifting into was obviously yet another Bream. I was getting a bit fed up with them as there were obviously hordes of them out there and they were getting to the baits long before the carp had a chance. I’d got the fish a good way into the bank and could see it was another one of about three pounds or so – when there was a massive swirl in the water and several yards of line were ripped from the reel!

“That ain’t no Bream!” exclaimed Phil……….it certainly wasn’t and my first reaction was that it had been taken by a Pike; in actual fact we believe it was a Catfish. I was attached for perhaps two or three minutes before the 25 lb. ‘Silkworm’ hooklength was shredded near the lead. The catfish had taken a three-pound fish and over a foot of hooklength into its massive mouth – some mouth! How big was the catfish?!......


Yet again we are blessed with glorious sunshine. After recent arctic weather back home, it is a joy to feel the sun on our backs. Lunch was a confection of eggs, sausages, and bacon, wrapped up in a bun, all washed down with the excellent Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wind got up and provided a blessed relief from the hot sun which was heating up the bivvy like an oven. We pitched-up down at the water’s edge in the shade of the trees to seek refuge from is the unaccustomed heat. The breeze is cooling as we sip wine, munch biscuits, and watch Bream cloudying the water at our feet. No carp have show for hours and quite frankly I don’t expect to see any until this evening. Past experience has shown that the chances of a fish improve with every day that passes – it seems to take these fish a long time to a) realize there is food to be had, and b) actually get around to trying it. Every day that passes should mean the chances of a successful outcome are better.

I am sure there is a general feeling amongst those who have never attempted it that one has only to arrive in France and chuck-out and fish will be fighting each other to crawl up the rods! In actual fact nothing could be further from the truth and the carp in these wild river systems are as hard to catch as carp everywhere for the simple reason they could be anywhere along the literally hundreds of kilometers of the river’s length.

It is benign, peaceful, and quiet, and nothing disturbs the the absolute stillness of the ambience. At the moment it feels as if it doesn’t really matter whether I catch a carp or not; it is quite enough to just be here and play my part in the scenario in which I find myself.
4.00 p.m. – a slow stutter take produces another Bream of about three-and-a-half pounds. This was to one of the 20 mm. Halibut Pellets I have put out. At least it’s a fish. I really think we should move now.


One Bream this afternoon to a different tactic – 20 mm. Halibut Pellet over a bag of pellets and boilies – Phil and I worked hard at our baiting for the action we anticipate will come during the hours of darkness. Unless we do well tonight we have decided to move to ***** - the scene of former successes. We are agreed that although the past three days have been very enjoyable, the location has failed to come up to expectations. There are odd fish in this arm of the river but they are passing through and are not in sufficient quantities to make setting out our stalls for them worthwhile.

Although I am disappointed my results have been poor, the session has been a welcome interruption to what has been a very stressful few months. Still, there is still the night to fish and an opportunity for the fish to do the right thing and play ball!

Monday, 28th.April


Banks of cloud gathered from the west and it was obvious we were going to be in for some rough weather. There came however the increase in air temperature that cloud cover confers and we sat out in shorts and tee-shirts eating Phil’s tacos and fajitas.

I re-cast all four rods. Single boily on all – bar the extreme right-hand offering which was the single 20 mm. Halibut Pellet that had interested the Bream during the afternoon. Phil remarked how little Bream action there was now, now it was getting dark, and no sooner had he suggested it might mean the carp might have pushed the Bream out than he had a blinding take to one of his rods!

I was helpless to give assistance – Phil was up to his shins in mud in his ‘bog hole’ and I just stood back and watched events in my bivvy slippers. Phil had the fish in the net in fairly short order and I helped him carry the fish along the bank to his unhooking mat. A mirror carp in very good condition weighing 21¾ lb.
I was very happy for Phil for it was a lovely fish but I secretly hoped my turn would come soon…..I didn’t however have long to wait!

As soon as I got inside my sleeping-bag, the pellet rod was away! – a spirited fight from a very energetic common that weighed 18 lbs. I was overjoyed with this and pranced up and down the bank singing “ I got one………I got one!”
This rod was re-cast to the same spot – way downstream to the limit of where I had previously introduced bait, and half an hour after we had settled back down, Phil had another fish, also a common, of exactly the same weight.

At this point, flashes of lightening rent the sky and the distant rumble of thunder could be heard. Time to batten down the hatches and zip-up the front door. The rain when it came was typically French – excessively huge amounts of rain accompanied by a light show of dramatic proportions. This was the start of a wet night, a night of wet, mud, slipping and sliding, and tumbling down the bank.

I lay in my bivvy with both the front door and my sleeping-bag zipped-up when suddenly there was the drone of one of my bite alarms! Line was being steadily drawn from the reel of the left-hand rod. I was down the bank (and nearly headlong into the river) in a flash and lifted into what seemed a good fish. With what was very shallow water in front of me, I had formed a plan involving the donning of waders to enter the water to net the fish. With all the rain however I was slipping and sliding in the dark, balancing on one leg with the rod in one hand and a wader in the other – desperately trying to maneuver my leg into the wader. The fish meanwhile was headed straight for Paris….

When I finally got myself sorted, the fish had unfortunately found a snag and as I heaved and humped to get it out, the hooklength parted at the point where the outer coating had been stripped back near the hook. This was bad news indeed and I was gutted – but I quickly re-tied the rig and got the bait back into the water. Wet through, I retired to my bivvy to dry out and hopefully get some shut-eye. No chance of this however as the re-cast rod was away again! This time I played the fish to the bank before attempting the waders – although on this occasion I fortunately didn’t have to as Phil was on hand to perform the netting operations; another common, slightly larger than the first at 19 lbs.

Back out with a fresh boily and it’s back to the bivvy to try and get some much needed sleep. Phil and I had both developed severe headaches – a combination of a lack of sleep and an enthusiasm for the Cabernet Sauvignon! I did at least manage to drop-off and was just succumbing when the buzzer was going yet again! This was a real screamer of a take – what carp-anglers call a ‘one toner’ and as soon as I hooked it realized it was a good fish.

It made off determinedly for the far side of the river and I had to let it go, albeit against steady pressure. Mindful of the snags however I did my best to hustle him back towards the near bank and I found Phil beside me ready and waiting with the net.

The fish thrashed around a good deal in the very shallow water and Phil made a couple of abortive attempts at scooping it out. For a minute I thought he was going to knock the fish off – but he managed to get it in the net and it was ours!

This was a really impressive looking fish, the scales showing 31 lbs.! to say I was pleased is an understatement; I had gone from an anticipated blank with its attendant despondency – to total joy and elation in the space of only an hour or so! Fantastic!
Out with the bait again and back into the bivvy. This time I did manage to sleep although I awoke on a couple of occasions to assist Phil with fish of 20 lbs., 19 lbs., and 21 lbs. a very high average size and most encouraging for the future prospects for this new stretch of the river.

A grey, cold, dawn greeted us as we emerged from our bivvies and midway through the first cup of tea of the day – I was away again, this time with a lovely common of 19½ lbs. almost a carbon copy of the previous night’s captures.


Further thought and consideration. We have decided to stay here of course instead of moving to **** and I re-rigged to fish boily on the two rods, with pellet on the other two. All rigs were now short, stiff, hooklengths with size 8 ‘Carp-R-Us’ Longshank Nailers. Boy was it cold though! What a change from yesterday when I had to sit in the shade out of the sun!
More bait into the deep channel on the far side; we hope the carp are going to stay with us today rather than clear off as they did yesterday. Things don’t look that good however as there is little indication fish are in front of us at this point.


1.15 p.m. Phil kicks off the afternoon with a 19 lb. common taken on a hi-viz Rosehip boily.
We decide to hold a ‘Council of War’ and decide it is appropriate to try for a really big fish. To this end we are both going to try our respective versions of the Big Fish Rig. For Phil, this means two 24 mm. boilies fished in tandem with a size 2 hook; for me, it’s three 18 mm. boilies boilies fished in-line with a size 4 Korda Hybrid Longshank. Mine goes on immediately whilst Phil is choosing to wait until the evening when he believes the main body of the fish will move in.
One of the benefits of the Long Stay with friends is the opportunity to discuss and debate the various merits of rigs, baits, and other matters to do with angling. Of particular interest to me are the rigs which Phil is using and with which he has been successful all over France. He has an extremely simple approach to rig-making – just a hook and a hooklength, and that’s all; no bits of rig-tubing, sliding rings, eyes, swivels or other paraphernalia. The only essential requirement of the rig is that the bend of the hook must be touching the side of the boily – in essence, the thing is side-hooked, but when you hold the thing up and exam it, you can see that it must hook any fish that so much as sneezes at it – the point of the hook standing very proud and in the best position to take hold. Phil catches more than I do and his justification that they work, cannot be disputed. My little job for the afternoon is tie up several of these rigs for the coming (and final) night of the session.

Phil and I were both in our pits grabbing forty-winks when the Police Municipale arrived. Three characters dressed like rejects from the SAS arrived with side-arms and flak-jackets! For some reason they only wanted to check Phil’s Carte de Peche and not mine (must be my look of innocence). Phil said he was convinced they had Carte stubs with them and were checking against the details. The one who questioned me wanted to know when we arrived, when we were going, that sort of thing. After looking very serious and intimidating they left with a cheery “Au ‘voir” and “bonne peche!” They seemed decent types and unlike the stereotypes we had be warned about. Just goes to show people’s experience of fishing in France is very different although I believe a lot of it is how you treat them and address them. This was the first time Phil or I had had our ‘licences’ checked by Police and I think the message is as long as you’ve got one, and try to speak to them in French you won’t have any trouble at all. There are of course English idiots they have to contend with and without doubt this is where the ‘horror stories’ originate.

A bank of black clouds came rolling in and it was obvious we were in for another downpour. Phil decided to do some more baiting-up before the heavens opened and I went down the bank to attend to what looked like a Bream bite. I lifted into the little rascal with the intention of giving it a good telling-off – but was amazed when the rod was dragged down and the fish set off! This fish scrapped like a terrier, taking me all over the river; I was convinced I was attached to a very good fish indeed and played it gingerly. It turned out to be yet another common of 19½ lbs. which seems to be the average size for the stretch. I was very pleased because it came to Phil’s Rig which I now have full confidence in; so efficient does it seem that I think I shall try it back home in the UK.


Thunderstorms again – typical of the weather in this river valley seemingly; we’ve had them every time we have fished. The cold rainwater in the river will not be good for the fishing.
Big effort this evening, putting out the rest of the bait we have; I am genuinely frightened however about getting down the bank safely to respond to a take, in the dark. The bank is treacherous and it is impossible to maintain a footing; I’ve cut some steps in the bank but fear I may not find them with my feet in the darkness and the panic of a take!


11.00 p.m. a stuttering take amid heavy rain sees me negotiating the ‘Mud Slide’ that is access to my rods. Despite the fact a take is in progress I have to measure my steps very carefully to avoid a certain dunking in the river. By the time I get to them the take is still in progress and I lift into what feels like a small fish. On netting however it turns out to be another of the commons of 14 lbs.

No sooner is it back in the water than one of the other rods is going! – a real screamer of take this one – it keeps going and going until I get to the rod and lift into it. A better fish this I tell Phil as I find him at my side ready to do the necessary with the big net. It turns out to be a real corker of 25 lbs. a mirror in lovely condition.


The night was terrible weather-wise with persistent rain throughout, turning the mud-slide into such a perilous descent I had to borrow Phil’s shovel and dig more steps down to the water.

At dawn I could hear the drone of Phil’s buzzer and the scrabbling about as he exited his bivvy – with the attendant cursing and swearing as he negotiated The Bog Hole. This fish turned out to be a 10 lb. common which had picked up Phil’s bait intended for a big fish – two 18 mm. boilies and one 24 mm.! the smallest fish of the trip I’m afraid it’s back to the drawing board on that one Phil!

No sooner had Phil returned his fish than one of my own rods was away. It kindly allowed me to get down the bank to the rods despite a lengthy negotiation of the mud. This fish was obviously not a big one and came to the bank like a lamb whereupon it took a sudden fancy to the margins down to my right and became hopelessly entangled with the adjacent rod and line! A right old mess ensued which took several minutes to sort out the least of the difficulties being getting the ensnared fish plus an attached line and rig from the other rod into the net and onto the bank!

As the end of the session came it was time to think about packing-up and right on cue – the heavens opened! Oh the joys of French carp-fishing!

In order to catch the return ferry we had to be on our way by nine o’clock at the latest, hence an early pack-up; on this occasion, a drenching to go with it!

As is our custom we left the rods out until the very last possible moment and it was while I was half-way through packing down the bivvy that there was a real screamer of a take! Paddling through the mud in my bivvy slippers I lifted into the fish which set off determinedly up-stream. It felt heavy and powerful and I knew immediately it was one of the better ones. This was the same rod I’d re-cast only a short time previously. Another common, and the biggest I’d taken on the trip weighing 23¾ lbs. – a smashing end to what had been another fantastic session on our River in Picardy.