The Dream Week - Shaun Barlow
After such an amazing first week having caught 19 fish including 3 singles, 3 doubles, 2 x 29's, 6 x 30's, 2 x 40's and a 60 , I was expecting the fishing to be quieter for our second week. Kate was planning more book reading time at the pool and I was watching the weather closely, as the initial forecast of heat all week, had been changed with a slight dip in pressure on Wednesday & Thursday, meaning overcast, cooler conditions. The fish had so far been responding very well to a heavy baiting program, which had meant I’d gone through nearly 22kgs in week one, twice what I’d usually use for a week in France. I was expecting to slow the baiting down in line with the anticipated slowdown in feeding activity. I certainly wasn’t expecting the week that followed.
I’d been having success on single 16mm smoky mackerel hook baits, but for my second week, I’d asked Jon if he had anything larger. He had 6kgs of 20mm smoky mackerel, which I bought immediately. Two reasons for 20’s. The first being I was fishing into a northerly breeze, and the air dried 16mm's weren’t reaching the spot I was fishing with my middle rod, so the 20’s solved this issue. Secondly, I like to fish a larger hook bait surrounded by smaller freebies’s, so switched 2 of the rods to the larger morsels !
Saturday started as expected….well, actually worse than expected with my first blank day, oh no I thought!
Sunday started with a bang, literally around the face! A beautiful common of 28.3 that fought like crazy out in the lake, decided to give me the biggest slap I’ve ever seen, or received! (It hurt and Jon just laughed….) 3 more fish graced the net, including another 2 commons or 12.13 & 24lb, plus ’Two Tone’ again at 36lb. Not a bad day at all…
Monday 13th July will stay with me for a while. First off at 9.45am with a beautiful little common of 6lb, followed at 10.30am by a mirror, this one weighing nearly 11x the common’s weight ! Emma at 65.8. She came in pretty easily but then decided to go crazy on the mat, so we left her under the wet sling to calm down for a few minutes before getting some lovely pics. Single 16mm smoky mackerel at close range did the trick, with a lot of free offerings close to the hook bait. What a fish, immaculate condition and just stunning.
Tuesday was quiet with just one fish - a little common of 7lb 5oz, beautifully proportioned and a crazy fight for one so small. With Jon’s predicted growth rates, these are going to be a real menace in a few years !
With the fish still appearing to be feeding, I continued applying more free bait than I normally would. I was fishing from 7.30am until lunchtime, and then again later in the afternoons to give the fish some rest. I baited at the end of each session, and I think this helped the carp relax around beds of bait. Nothing quite prepared me for what was just about to happen over the next two and half days!
On Wednesday, as predicted, the weather changed to cooler, overcast conditions, with a short spell of heavy rain earlier in the morning that finished around 7.30am - perfect conditions, will the fish respond? In short, yes!
First off was a mirror of 42lb 7oz. This was followed by:
Mirror 34.9, Mirror 40.10, Common 36.10, Common 5.12, Mirror 34.4, Common 6.3, Common 7lb, Mirror 36.8, Mirror 19.13.
What a day, I was knackered. This isn’t normal carp fishing, but I’ll take it! The day went down as the best days carp fishing I’d experienced in 40+ years of fishing for them. Little did I know that the following day would surpass even this day ! The weather was overcast all day, as Jon pointed out, these conditions at this time of year are quite rare, but when they do arrive, they always provide an opportunity for fantastic fishing. All but two fish came to rods fished at close range either 16mm or 20mm hook baits doing the trick. It’s worth noting that at this stage, I’d changed my leaders from Nash Cling-On leadless, to the nylon Nash Diffusion, as the RH rod that I’d fished all week with Diffusion, was easily out - fishing the other two. Coincidence or not, my catch rates on the other two rods increased after this change, and also Jon and I felt that the nylon Diffusion leaders are kinder on the fish.
Thursday started with similar conditions to Wednesday, although the cloud base was higher, breeze lighter and warmer temperatures. The sun started to make some appearance and it was just the perfect day. The fishing was beyond words really, it was the dream coming true.
It started at 8.30am with a repeat capture of the fish known as "Mad Graham", and after taking me around the lake for a second time in 2 weeks, I managed to get a picture with him this time - what a specimen this carp is - 41 lbs of solid male carp muscle ! I have great respect for this fish, and it’s probably up there as one of my favourites. The strength and effort it requires a fish of that weight, to launch itself off of a soft unhooking mat and escape is just incredible. ‘Mad Graham’ was followed by:
Mirror 31.15, Mirror 53.8, Mirror 38.8, Mirror 64.8, Common 54.2, Mirror 42.0
I wound my rods in after the 42.0 and tried to take stock of what had just happened. Not just the weights, but the superb condition of these fish and how they fight. I’ve not really experienced the battles like that since I was a young lad, fishing for 7-8lb ‘wildies’ on light gear…took me back to that part of my life, and I just soaked it all up. Incredible ! Simple fishing techniques, nothing complicated, safe rigs, light leads, good bait and hungry fish…
Friday was brighter and warmer again, and the overcast conditions of the last two days were moving away, being replaced by longer periods of hot sunshine, which my wife in particular was very happy about ! I ended the two week holiday with my final days catch being:
Mirror 42.7, Mirror 37.8, Mirror 36.7, Mirror 34.14
I lost a fish mid fight with not much persuasion being applied at around 1.30pm. Taken by itself, anyone would be delighted with a mornings fishing that included 1 x 40 and 3 x 30’s ! I wound in shortly after and started breaking down my gear. The sun was now hot and the breeze dropped, so now was the time to take the pressure off the fish and wind in.
I ended my second week capturing 28 fish, for a total weight of 922lbs and an average of 33lbs and that included the few small fish that had come in the early part of the week. In total, I caught 47 fish over two weeks, losing 4, so 51 takes overall! This included 3 x 60’s, 2 x 50’s, 8 x 40’s, 16 x 30’s, 4 x 20’s, doubles and some singles. Staggering, especially when you take into account that these fish will be at their lightest weights due to recent spawning. I think ‘Emma’ at her top weight will be nudging the 70lb mark, possibly around April when I return! :-)
We chose Les Croix because Kate and I wanted somewhere for her to be able to relax, have a private pool and a well equipped, clean, comfortable Gite, coupled with a small lake with some large fish that was properly managed, with sensible rules and high fish care. I’ve been to many French lakes, and this one is the best I’ve ever been to. It won’t appeal to everyone - no overnight fishing, playing and handling fish in the water only and no drinking by the lake side. However, if you’re the kind of person who loves nature, wildlife, peace and quiet, quality day time fishing, catching pristine, unpressurised carp, then give Jon a call. This lake will suit very experienced anglers, or those that are willing to be taught what and how to catch and handle large, fit carp.
If you do visit Les Croix, please, please be respectful of the environment you’ll be in, and take great care of the fish. No short cuts, no risk taking, no fishing too near the pads…keep everything simple and you’ll be successful.
Final word from me. Massive thanks to Jon for allowing me the opportunity to fish Les Croix and to Lisa for the exceptionally well equipped and clean Gite. We’re looking forward to our next trip in April.