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.