A Rare Trip To France by John Holloway

A Rare Trip To France by John Holloway

Hi, I’m John Holloway. I work as an agent for Gardner Tackle, Richworth Baits and a small wholesaler. I’m your average weekend angler (trying to be a good one) and have my highs and lows for success. Most of my customers have become pals over the years. Last April I was on a call to Steve of Leigh Tackle and Bait. He told me his mate had booked Juvigney Lake in the Marne Valley, but was unlikely to be able to go and Steve said would I like to go with him. It was all paid for so I jumped at the chance (as you would). I would only have to pay travel and bait expenses. Steve also invited our pal Mike of Monton Bait and Tackle.

As the trip loomed, I made a call to Bob at Richworth for some of the new S-core range of boilies and pellets. I’d already been using these for a few weeks and catching well so confidence was high. Next I made a call to the lads at Gardner Tackle, “Hi lads, I’m off to France and need some of the new bits and bobs” so Covert Mugga’s (best hooks in the world), leads, Drop Off Lead Inserts, PVA bags and H Bloks were soon cadged!

Covert Mugga’s, the best hooks in the world.

I re-spooled my reels and made up some leaders with inline drop off leads, then packed ready to go. Ray, who had booked the lake originally was now able to go, bringing with him his nephew Steve. The two Steve’s and Ray travelled together and I travelled with Mike. Before long we were pulling into the Channel Tunnel, I’ve never crossed this way before and it’s certainly quick!

On the other side Mike and I couldn’t keep up with the other van, we got a bit lost, so we didn’t arrive until late afternoon. We all met up with Chris the lake owner for all the do’s and don’ts. I really punished him for information – the lake has an average depth of 16-17 feet, but had 3 feet of flood water on it. That meant that only five pegs were available – 7, 8 and 10 on the far bank and 3 and 4 on the near bank. Swims 7 and 8 were on a point and were chosen by Ray and his nephew. Steve from Leigh Tackle chose 10, so Mike and I had to decide on 3 or 4. We both liked the look of 4, especially as the owner had said that a lot of fish were along the margin between 4 and 10. After much debate and as I’d already had a reasonable season I said to Mike “Go on you have 4”.

I sat and scanned my water in peg 3 to plan my approach. I was opposite 7 & 8, the point as it is known, which is the narrowest part of the lake. I had quite a bit of water down to my right, but a lot of it was blocked by nearside trees protruding. The lads opposite had put a quite few lines down there – the normal three rod rule had been dropped as there were only five of us so all the other four lads put out four rods. I felt that the lake had become line city so opted to fish just three as I only wanted one line on each area. I put my left hand rod on a small bar about 30 yards out halfway between Mike and myself and the middle rod to a similar feature short of the middle of the lake (I didn’t fancy this one too much as was close to the opposite peg). I found another bar approximately 30 yards out in front of peg 2, so now my spots were all sorted. The owner Chris had said to fish for a bite and that’s exactly what I did.

That evening I put just a handful of chops and a PVA bag on each rod. The first night passed and no one had a touch – we weren’t too bothered after our rushed start. We spent Sunday settling in properly and out in the boats redoing and confirming our spots. Early afternoon I rowed out and put another handful of chops on each spot. None of us were fishing during the day due to the heat wave we were NOT enjoying! Early evening out came all the rowboats again – it was like a scene at the local park! I let everybody finish as I thought I’d have the quietest water for the fish to back into if they were spooked. An hour later I quietly dropped PVA bags of pellets with a couple of chops and a chop on the hair onto each spot.

I carefully returned a new PB Common weighing 44lb 10oz. I could go home happy now whatever happened.

We all settled down for a chat and a couple of beers. Bedtime came and finally the temperature started cooling down. I must have nodded off because at about 1:45am I was woken up by some liners on my left hand rod. Twenty minutes later it was away and I picked up the rod – I was ‘in’. I made sure I landed it so that I didn’t need to worry about the BIG BLANK. I bundled it into the net – Yessss I was away! I notice some commotion on the far bank – they’d caught too. I drove a bankstick into the spreader to secure it, got the stuff I hadn’t needed so far, scales, sling, camera and then woke Mike. “Eyup buddy, I’ve got one. Giss hand.” Weighing and after the pictures were done, I was off the mark with a 31lb Common. It was still dark so that was that rod finished right up until that evening. At 3:30am the right hand rod was away and immediately it felt different; slower and more dogged. I could see reasonably well now as it had got much lighter. I gave the fish lots of stick to keep it out of any weed and the lines of the others and eventually I managed to slip it into the waiting net. Bankstick in the block, weigh sling blah, blah, I woke Mike. “Mike got another one. Think it’s a good ’un. Giss hand again”. Once the pictures and weighing were done, I carefully returned a new PB Common weighing 44lb 10oz. Wahey! I could go home happy now whatever happened.

It was quite late when I woke again after the early hour antics – about 10 am. It looked like a sunny day in the park again with the row boats out. I decided to make a brew and some brekkie, I chatted to Mike – he’s was still blanking whilst most of us have caught – he remained patient and confident. Evening came round and I repeated the procedure I believed was working for me. I felt I was definitely in the fish’s patrol route. At 1:45am the liners start again – you could set your watch by these. The left hand rod produced a 22lb mirror. I started dozing until Mike woke me up saying he’d got one. His patience has been rewarded with a magnificent Common of 54lb. Weighing, lots of pictures and handshakes done, I heard my alarm scream so ran back next door and landed a 20lb mirror on my middle rod. That was the end of the action for the day.

We continued to do our own thing and I kept things quiet and disturbance to a minimum. I got into bed and waited for the liners to start. I couldn’t believe we were half way through the trip already! Time flies even when your rods aren’t in very much. I was determined to carry on with my routine and not get distracted. I was really nurturing my spots to keep them working.

The left hand rod produced a 41lb Mirror...

I soon drifted off to sleep and my fishy alarm friends woke me at their usual time. The left hand rod produced a 41lb Mirror (I like it here) then it all went quiet. At about 9:30am, I was thinking about reeling in and making brekkie when the right hand rod screamed at me to pick it up. I was in and it felt like a lump. After it played me for a while, I eventually managed to slip the net under it. I really wasn’t sure how big it was and called Mike. Whilst we were getting ready Mike said “It’s an upper thirty maybe forty”.

I said “It feels quite heavy – kin hell Mike it DOES feel heavy. Pull me up the bank mate”. I unhooked her in the sling, we both had to hoist it up on the scales. Mike said “might have underestimated that!” With the large weigh sling it bottomed out my 60lb Reubens, so Mike went off to get his digis which recorded a super, long Mirror weighing 58lb 14oz! Wow! I normally read about these stories but this time IT’S ME.

Wednesday evening I got ready to lay my traps once again. After I had finished and went to bed thinking if I could keep this up I could have over ten fish by the end of the week. At 1:45am was in action again – a nice English looking Mirror of 24lbs. An hour or so later I was away again, this time with a 30lb Common.

Thursday evening I had a feeling in my water that it wasn’t going to happen, which is weird considering the way the week had been panning out. I went through the routines, but made a couple of amateurish mistakes. I tried to shake some weed off my left hand rod and felt the lead slide down the bar. It had got dark and I couldn’t replace it. If that wasn’t stupid enough, I did the same with the right hand rod!

During the night I got a take on my middle rod and when I lifted into it, it felt strange. It turned out Ray in the swim opposite had taken a while to get to a run and it had gone right through my lines. I Bet that doesn’t happen to Terry Hearne or Dave Lane, so on Friday I packed away all the things I didn’t need and really concentrated on getting the rods right for the last night. My efforts were well rewarded in the early hours with a 44lb mirror. We wrapped up and set off for home very happy. I think I fished like a proper carper 90% of the time leaving room for improvement. Everybody had caught fish to 40lb+. A big thank you to Ray, Steve, Steve, Mike and Chris. What a great week!
John with a super long mirror weighing 58lb 14oz!

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