My First ever trip to France in search of carp was way back in 1992, when along with some friends I travelled the 619-mile journey to a little known lake in the Limousin region. Between us we caught numerous fish up to a respectful 42lb, which was a very big fish at the time. This was a real drive and survive trip with no guarantee of what we might find or catch on our arrival. Fishing in France has changed a lot since then with a lot of lakes catering for angling holidays, offering a nice shower block and a warm meal twice a day along with some very big fish to be caught. During that first trip I fell in love with France not just for it’s fabulous fishing but also as a country, it has some very interesting culture, very friendly people and some incredible scenery. One can only wonder at the amount of waters you see as you travel through the different regions. I have been back religiously every year since that first trip and still enjoy it as much as I ever have. For me, going to France once a year keeps it special and I don’t think I would enjoy it as much if I was constantly back and forth across the channel in search of our wonderful quarry. For the first time ever, this year was to be different with the added bonus of two trips instead of the usual one. Each trip was to be different with the first venue having fabulous facilities and amazing hospitality with a hot meal thrown in, and the second venue being relatively unknown with the drive and survive approach required.

Trip one: Moorlands Fishery May 2012

The venueOccasionally in fishing we are lucky enough to see or do things that stay in our memories forever, be it a red letter day where it all comes together, a new personal best, sharing a friends success or simply arriving at a venue and being astounded by it’s sheer beauty. Until recently the latter had really only ever happened to me on one occasion. That was when I first set eyes on my current syndicate water and I remember being stunned by its incredible beauty and the almost immediate sense of peace and tranquillity that greeted me as I entered via the private gate. On arrival at Moorlands Fishery I had a distinct feeling of “de ja vous” as I stood with the rest of our crew (Steve, Ryan, Martin, Paul and Jim) and looked across a lake that immediately had me gasping at it’s sheer beauty. It really was a “joyau de la couronne” (jewel in the crown) of the French countryside and was to be home for the next seven days and I just couldn’t wait to wet a line. Moorlands Fishery is a 300-year-old French estate lake of 14 acres in size surrounded by trees and reeds with a forest running along one bank. And is home to some stunning fish up to the high fifties with it’s first sixty almost inevitable at some point in the very near future.

We had travelled up the day before we were due to fish so that we could start afresh on day one of our weeks fishing. On arrival we were greeted by an extremely warm welcome from Fishery owner Keith Moors and his Daughter Sharon who invited us into the “Gravel Bar” for a plate full of chicken curry followed by a substantial pudding and a few glasses of the “red stuff”. As well as being our annual fishing trip this was also going to be Steve (Max’s) stag week and after a few more glasses of Red and a chat, Ryan presented us with our stag week t-shirts (with nicknames on the back) which we put on for a group picture before heading off to bed in our pop up tents for a decent nights kip in anticipation of the week ahead.

On the first morning we all appeared from our pop up tents a little worse for wear after the “vino” we had consumed both during and after dinner. We also couldn’t decide if Max had been in a tanning booth prior to the trip, but finally decided it was the bright sunshine hitting him through his orange pop up tent that was to blame for his fake tanned appearance. It also explained why Paul looked a tad green when he first appeared or had the wine affected him a little more than he was admitting. After a few laughs it was down to the serious stuff as we headed off around the lake for our first proper look. There were around twenty swims to choose from all of which had numerous features to fish too. We all decided that after breakfast we would have another walk around the lake with Keith and decide between us where we all wanted to fish. This worked out really well and after a substantial “Full English” and another lap of the lake, we all had a chat and between us fancied different parts of the lake which eliminated the need for a draw. As we all loaded barrows ready for trips to our swims you could sense the excitement and enthusiasm to get fishing on what was a truly magnificent lake. Once everyone’s kit was in their respective swims we all set about clearing areas in the weed to fish to, this was something the lads had done the week before, creating feeding spots for the carp, where they had churned up the bottom and removed the weed. After a couple of hours the job was done and we were ready to set up and get fishing. Unfortunately my weed clearing exercise proved to be rather an expensive one as I had “gone swimming” with my passport in my pocket!!!!!!

TackleThe only thing that concerned both Keith and us slightly from a fishing point of view was the change in weather (it was very hot) and the fact that there appeared to be some fish spawning along the Southern arm. This didn’t dampen our excitement though and we all remained confident. The swim I had chosen to fish was known as “The Boneyard” which had a good amount of water in front of it with plenty of features. The far bank was treelined; this was where the forest came right up to the edge of the water. On closer inspection the bottom was of a hard gravely nature all along this bank, which in places came off the trees for up to a rod length, so I decided to put a rod on a spot tight to the trees along with a few scattered freebies. My second rod was to be fished to a weedbed in the centre of the lake, it became apparent after a couple of days and some excellent feature finding by Ryan that this spot was in line with the old stream bed that ran through the lake. This was about two thirds of the way across the lake and also proved to be an area that the fish patrolled along, with Ryan taking some fish from this spot throughout the week. My third rod was to be cast to a spot at the end of a channel of weed I had cleared with my choice of bait being Mistrals Rosehip in a mixture of sizes fished in conjunction with a bed of hemp, various other particles and Mistral Baits Ten Pellet.

Rig wise, I had decided to fish simple running rigs made up of various Gardner Tackle components. This consisted of a 1.5oz Pear lead attached to a ring swivel via a Covert Easi clip, with a silicone sleeve over the top creating a “boom”. This was attached directly to my mainline, which was GT80+ in 15lb. At the business end I had a simple knotless knot set up using a Size 4 Covert Continental Mugga in conjunction with 15lb Subterfuge Super Soft hook link attached directly to the mainline via a size 8 swivel, with a Covert Anti Tangle sleeve and Buffer Bead either side creating an anti-tangle effect. This worked very well and at no point did I reel in a tangled rig despite fishing running leads.

At 2 a.m I had my first bit of action when the rod cast to the trees ripped off, but unfortunately after a couple of minutes the fish “fell” off.

However, my efforts weren’t to be in vain and the following morning Ryan and I stood in my swim waiting for the breakfast bell when another memorable moment/talking point evolved. Ryan had pointed out some bubbling in my swim and before I could finish explaining that it was on a spot where I had put a bait, my middle rod ripped off and I was into my second Moorlands carp. After a decent scrap and a few hairy moments spent hoping that it wouldn’t fall off, I landed a pretty 25lb 4oz mirror. The rest of the day didn’t produce any action and it was becoming apparent that the fish were still spawning. On top of that we were experiencing some very hot temperatures, not the greatest conditions for carp fishing. However, spirits weren’t dampened and we were already having a fantastic week with plenty of banter, good food and most of all some outstanding hospitality from Keith, Jan and Sharon.

As the week continued a feeding pattern emerged and due to the weather conditions it appeared that early evening, through the night and early mornings were likely to be the best times for a run or two. On the second morning I was pleased to see Ryan had managed to land another good fish. He had put a lot of effort into his swim and created a hole in the weed, which he had fed with chopped boilie, hemp and mixed particles and it turned out that most mornings this spot was fizzing with fish activity. On the scales she went 40lb 2oz and much to the delight of both myself, Ryan and Keith he was officially a member of the forties club. Another highlight of the week was when Keith the lake owner who fished with us for a couple of days came along during the night to say he had landed one of the biggies, it was a common known as “The Pipe-smoker” and weighed in at 51lb 2oz. It was great to see such a colossal fish, despite the fact that one of our group hadn’t caught it.

Due to the hot weather it did turn out to be a tricky week and by the end of it I had landed three fish and lost one, with the biggest weighing 38lb 10oz.

Ryan was top rod with nine fish and on the final night he somehow managed to land a 120lb catfish in a 42”Gardner Out-reach landing net so hats off fella! I still don’t know how it went in (more luck than judgement I’m sure) but it was good to see such an impressive creature on the bank.

Everybody caught fish apart from Martin, who despite moving swims on two occasions and putting in a lot of effort still blanked. He is relatively new to carp fishing and although he was disappointed, he had learnt a lot and it only made him more determined to put things right next year when we return in September. We certainly hadn’t “ripped” it apart, but we left in a good mood after a fantastic week, so if you’re looking for somewhere to fish look no further than Moorlands fishery. Lessons were learnt and I feel we will all be more prepared for the next time we visit. One very important thing I learnt was not to get into the water with your passport in your pocket, I did eventually get back into England after some light hearted banter and some leg pulling from the Customs Officers at Calais, but nearly fainted at the cost of a replacement passport !!!!!!!!!