The perfect French carp fishing holiday

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The Making of Dreams

The Making of Dreams

By Brian Skoyles

We go through this daft ritual every time we go abroad on a fishing holiday. We throw a coin over the back of the ferry for the “Queen of the Sea” and make a wish for the trip. So friends Graham Drewery, George Sinclair and myself had a leisurely meal in the ship’s restaurant, then made our way out into the night air and stood looking over the rail at the white water streaming from under the stern of the ferry. Three coins were flipped out into the darkness and three wishes were made! 

For once the journey down was uneventful and the Paris peripherique kind to us. We stocked up at the local Supermarché in Rilhac-Rancon and then made the last bit of the journey to the lake. Slowly down and round the short gravel slope for our first glimpse of Etang Meunier in the September sunshine. As usual it looked stunning, flat calm water, surrounded by lush green trees, beautiful. We drove across the dam wall and pulled to a halt behind the gite, our home for the week. We stood on the balcony with our own private thoughts, then it was down to work, unloading the usual mountains of gear, clothing, bait, food etc. that go with a week’s holiday carping. I could almost imagine the trailer sighing with relief!

As there were three of us on this visit we had thought long and hard about how to allocate swims. A lot of lines in the water does not always equate to a lot of fish on the bank, so how and where we fished was the subject of a lot of discussions on the way down.

Basically we thought there were three main swim options, plus stalking in the shallows ...

1. Right side of house swim, fishing the middle and long to the trees. From past experience a very consistent area but could be badly influenced by left of house angler stopping fish moving down the lake.

2. Left side of house swim, again fishing open water and long to the trees. Again a very consistent area with lots of water to cover.

3. In the woods, fishing short right into open water and left across to the trees. Lots of undisturbed water to the left, so fish coming off the shallows would have to cross this area to get to the main body of the lake. With the right weather conditions could be the top swim.

On their day each of the three swims can be very productive, but a perfect trip is one where everyone has a great time, which on a fishing holiday basically means everyone catches, so in the end we decided to try a rota system, with each of us having two full days/nights in the three main swims. We had a draw to see who started where, then helped each other get set-up. Our plan was to leave bivvies, brollies, bed chairs in place for the week and just move rods and a few basics so it seemed sensible to organise each swim together so we were all happy with the layout etc. By mid afternoon we were completely organised and got down to the fishing.

Weather conditions were what you would call perfect holiday conditions, but not necessarily perfect fishing conditions. A hot sun shone out of a cloudless blue sky, and there was not a breath of wind. The fish were sun-bathing and all over the middle area between the house and the woods we could watch large carp just lazily drifting about. Lovely to watch, not ideal for catching, hopefully during the evening and overnight they would go down and feed, but only time would tell.

Tactically we were all doing our own thing, but bait wise we were team fishing with a mix of boilies (Nutrabaits Trigga ATS and Trigga Ice ATS both flavoured with the new Blue Oyster additive, plus Trigga Ice Pellets and Hinders ready prepared French Mix)

Session one… (George in the woods, Graham left side of house swim, Brian right side of house swim)

With the rods out Graham and I sat and discussed the conditions. We’d had the odd fish top out in open water, and several patches of bubbles. We’d been out in the boat and lightly baited an area between us, it all looked good, so it was wait and see time. The evening passed and darkness fell with no action to any of our rods but that was to be expected, first night getting settled in and all that.

46lb 4oz common for Brian Skoyles... Not a bad start to the week

2-00 a.m.  and a couple of bleeps on one of Graham’s rods had us both awake and looking out into the lake, but the bleeps came to nothing and the latched l.e.d. went out. No sooner had I settled back into the bag than I’ve got a one toner, no doubts about this one, as I scrabbled out of the bag and grabbed the rod. Some time later and Graham lifts the net round a large common, 46/4 on the scales, my idea of a perfect start. Now Graham has a dream, he really wants to catch a forty pound common, and this is the second trip where he has netted a forty pound common for me on the first night of a trip, somehow between gritted teeth he said, “Well done” and only half the pictures were blurred!

Nothing else happened overnight and the morning was quiet. George had had no action to his rods, other than one small cat, but reported loads of bubbling all over the area in front of him. Late morning, just when you think your chances are fading, Graham’s rods burst into life and he had two on at once, a 29/8 common and a 48/4 mirror. A short while later a third fish came to Graham’s rods, another mid forty, to say we were well pleased with the first twenty four hours would be something of an understatement. George in the meantime was becoming more and more confused by the large amounts of bubbling in front of him which didn’t convert to any action on the rods. The afternoon passed uneventfully as did the early evening until at last George was into a good fish, 43lbs of lovely mirror…. I love cold barbequed food!

Nothing else occurred overnight and again the early morning was quiet. Late morning again produced fish to Graham’s rods, 41/0 and 49/6, then with midday arriving it was time for the first change round.  

Session two … (Brian in the woods, George left side of house swim, Graham right side of house swim)

When I took over from George in the woods swim I think it’s fair to say he left the swim with reluctance. Not because he was unhappy with the rota idea, but more from the fact that he thought there was loads of potential in front of him, and I could see why, because as I stood looking out into the lake the bubbling was awesome. Huge patches of bubbles everywhere as the fish were obviously ripping up the bottom. George could not understand why he’d not had more action to his rods, and in truth nor could I, anyhow it was my turn to try. We settled into our new swims and got organised.

Evening came and went, the bubbling continued, and eventually we settled into the bags. I was awoken by a rumble of thunder, nothing special I thought, and laid there looking out over the lake. Lightening and another rumble of thunder, this time a bit closer, I did a mental check that all moveable gear was under cover and sat and waited. Over the next hour the storm got nearer and nearer, huge jagged forks of lightning followed by ear shattering claps of thunder, then the torrential rain, we were being battered. It was one of those moments when you think that stamp collecting is a sensible hobby and wish you’d not had that extra cup of tea before falling asleep in the first place!

Eventually the storm moved away, and I fell back to sleep, my last thought being that I’d forgotten to get my scales off the weigh pod before the storm started.

Morning, and the bubbling was back, good style. The gear was drying out, but the hangers were motionless, I was beginning to understand George’s frustration. I had the classic dilemma did I leave the rods well alone so as not to disturb the swim and hope for a take, or did I try something different. I decided to leave two and change one. The change was to prove productive. My thinking was as follows. Normally I like to fish with relatively long hook-lengths (12 inch plus), but at the moment I had lots of fish grubbing in the bottom and not moving a lot so could they be “getting away with it”? I thought that a much shorter rig might give me a better chance of a hook-up. In came one of the rods, I cut off the hook-length, cut it in half and re-tied it. Out it went back into the middle of the area of bubbles. I didn’t have long to wait and the re-cast rod was away, 33/4 lbs of mirror, I was well pleased, especially as the same change produced a second fish (29/12) a little later.

Join the over fifties club George 55-12

Whilst I’d been trying to come to terms with my bubblers, George and Graham had not had any action, but early afternoon George had a take, and I watched from the side of the wood swim as he played what was obviously a big fish.

Now the rules on the ferry say that you cannot reveal your wish, but I could make a very good guess at what George’s would have been, as I knew he had long dreamed of breaking the 50lb barrier. Graham arrived in my swim, and said, “You might want to come and see this one”. I did, all 55lbs -12 ounces of it. Magnificent, George had his dream fish. “Was that your wish?” I asked. “You bet” said George.   

Session three … (Graham in the woods, Brian left side of house swim, George right side of house swim)

We made our last change round Wednesday lunchtime, as I joined George in the house swim and Graham settled into the woods. The weather had changed with the hot sunny weather being replaced with a cooler cloudier period. The bubbling continued off the wood swim, but overall the lake felt fresher and there was more topping, particularly off the far tree line, so we felt confident of a good last couple of days, and so it proved.

Overnight both George and Graham had a forty, and mid morning Graham had a 22lb mirror. I finished the morning spell with a mid forty, so we were all well pleased. Again the afternoon and evening passed without any further action. The clouds drifted away and the night was one of bright twinkling stars, and a new moon but no brightly glowing l.e.d.s.

Morning was one of those that make Etang Meunier very special as the mist swirled above the flat calm water. George and I sat under the balcony and watched as the first rays of the sun sent shafts of orange light through the far bank trees and just enjoyed the moment.

41-4 and a dream come true for Graham

Mid morning and we had a run each. I started the ball rolling with a 41lb mirror, soon followed by George with a 48 pounder. George had decided to go close to the far bank trees, lock up, and sit very close to the rods, and it had paid off perfectly. Whilst George and I were busy with his 48 we could hear Graham’s alarm and knew that Graham was into a fish.

Odd bleeps of two other buzzers in Graham’s swim suggested a bit of knit one pearl one going on, so I went to help. By the time I got there Graham had sorted out the tangled lines but had still not seen the fish he was attached to. A while later we did, and all went quiet, it was a big common.

The perfect end to a week of dreams 46-12

“It’s a big common”, I said. “Shut up”, said Graham. There were no mistakes as the net surrounded Graham’s common. 41lbs – 4oz, on the scales “Was that your ferry wish”? I asked. “You bet” said Graham. Another dream comes true I thought.

That was to be Graham’s last fish of the week, but he didn’t really care. George and I had a great last day with George having a 39/12 and myself a common of 31/8 and a final mirror of 46/12. I’d started the week with a 46lb plus common and ended it with a 46lb plus mirror, yes you’ve guessed it, my ferry wish had also come true.       

Thank you Etang Meunier

Friday afternoon was a leisurely pack up. We’d had the perfect fishing holiday. George had had his first fifty, and Graham his first 40lb common, as for me I’d just wished for a perfect fishing holiday and once again Etang Meunier had delivered… Well worth a few coins over the back of a ferry I think!

Early Saturday morning with the car and trailer packed we were ready to leave. I went and stood for a moment in the now empty house swim and looked out over the lake where again the early morning mist was swirling up from the water. So many happy memories of wonderful hard fighting fish and good times shared with family and friends… Thank you Etang Meunier.

Brian Skoyles (September 2012)

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