Part 1 A week on La Horre by Paul Hatton

Etang De La Horre is a two hundred and fifty acre lake in the Champagne region of France close to Lentilles. I’m told that there are two hundred fifty pound plus fish now with the biggest reaching nearly eighty. Dense woodland surrounds most of the lake and because it is a nature reserve and fishing is only allowed along one bank. Myself and a mate of mine Phil, were booked in on peg number five for the week. There are only fifteen pegs on the lake, each with it’s own wooden platform where there is ample room for two sets of rods with the bivvies setup on the bank behind. The lake itself is shallow, averaging four or five feet in most places and the bottom is very silty. Crayfish and nuisance species can cause problems so that’s worth thinking about before fishing here, there are crucian carp in La Horre that go to double figures!

Making the long castI had never visited the lake before and couldn’t wait to get there to be honest. Anglers are not permitted to use a boat on this lake unlike many waters in France so it’s casting from the bank which I really liked the sound of. There are two markers in each swim for the anglers use, when you have found the spot that you want to fish you can have them moved into position by the fishery manager Rob. He will use his boat to bait them each day for a small fee if you wish and if you plan to bait heavily, this saves hours of work with the spod. Everyone I spoke to before the trip said that fishing accurately at range is the way to go at La Horre and that suited me down to the ground but when I stood and looked out across the lake, I decided not to fish to my limits. It’s a big old lake and if the wind were to get up, could I still reach my marker with good enough accuracy? I wanted three rods on an area the size of my bivvy for the whole week so I decided to fish at a hundred and forty yards as this is very comfortable for me.

Pauls BaitA few casts around with a marker revealed no real features on the lakebed, it was soft but clean and it shallowed up a little to my left towards peg number six. I used two bank sticks in the ground twelve feet apart to measure one hundred and forty yards which is thirty five wraps round, I then clipped up the marker and my three fishing rods to this distance. Out went the marker, Rob then dropped the conduit marker next to it from the boat along with ten kilo’s of Relish boilies in mixed round and barrel shapes.

To be honest I don’t think you can go too heavy on the bait here, if these fish turn up in numbers they will clean the spot in no time at all regardless of what you have out there. Like I mentioned before, there are cray’s and nuisance fish out there constantly whittling away at the baits so it’s more about making sure there is enough bait there to get you some bites when the fish do arrive.

Because the lake is shallow and silty, it is extremely coloured so I opted for bright pink toppers on my hardened hook baits. In my experience, pink is by far the best eye catcher in coloured water and I really wanted to catch the fishes eye with something when it was approaching the bait. If I could get the fish to take one of my hook baits first, it would leave more freebies out there to draw more fish in meaning more bites; that was my theory anyway. The hard sixteen millimetre bottom bait and twelve millimetre popup went on two rods and I put a hard bottom bait with bright pink plastic corn on the other rod. This was soaked in a flavour combo that I’ve been messing with at work and the plastic seems to take it really well.

As far as rigs go, it was kept pretty simple really. I used a helicopter style arrangement with the stopper bead set around six inches from the lead, this would allow my five ounce lead to plug into the silt a little without taking part of my hook link with it making it stick up at a funny angle.

25lb Sly Skin and Wide Gape Talon Tip hooksI decided to use the twenty five pound Sly Skin hook link which I really like, it’s stiff enough to prevent tangles but soft enough to allow it to settle really well on uneven ground or chod. A little blob of Critical Mass will keep this pinned down even if there is a group of big fish feeding hard on the spot. La Horre is barbless hooks only so what is my choice? The no nonsense hook that is the Covert Wide Gape Talon Tip in a size six, there is no doubt that beaked points stay in better when you have to use barbless and I like to strip quite a bit off these with a file before touching up with the Point Doctor. On the twelve inch hook links that I’m using here, I like to use a hair that gives at least ten millimetres separation from the bend of the hook to the bait. This setup was to be cast on a forty pound Slinky leader with twelve pound Hydro Flo main line, sorted!

Slinky leaders and Hydro Flo main lineThe lake was flat calm and it was around twenty seven degrees, way too warm for the end of October! The baits were out there and they were on the money but what use is that when the fish were miles away? OK, it may not be miles but put it this way; I sat watching them crash out close to the far margin and it took maybe four seconds before I heard the splash so it was a long way! The hours seemed to pass by so quickly, the warm, still conditions were obviously to the fishes liking in the shallower water on the far side of the lake and all we could do was wait. We checked the forecast and it said that the weather was going to change, an easterly wind would surely shift the fish from that far margin and it also promised us that temperatures were going to drop dramatically.

Thank god the forecast was right! The easterly wind came and although it wasn’t very strong, it blew straight at the far margin and the fish stopped showing there. Our confidence grew straight away and it wasn’t long before the odd fish could be seen maybe half way across, they were getting closer!

A stunning 32lb 8oz mirrorThe first bite came early Thursday morning, a stunning thirty two pound mirror graced my net after a great scrap and I was made up after waiting so long! Roughly half an hour went by and another of my rods was away, it was a reel one toner on the ATTX receiver and I was forced to give some line as soon as I picked the rod up. The fight from this one went over twenty minutes easily but a good common eventually rolled over the net cord, it tipped the scales at forty four and although I really wanted one that was maybe thirty pounds heavier, I wasn’t exactly complaining! The fish was nailed dead centre of the bottom lip and even with a barbless hook, it was never coming off as long as I kept the pressure on.

Paul with a cracking common weighing 44lb 7oz