We finally reached the end of April and with that came the much anticipated ‘FLE Tour 2016’. We were once again heading out to the fantastic Carp Connections Fishing Resort Du Der in the Champaign region of France. This year we had both JRC and Berkley lake exclusively hired for our trip, meaning there was going to be lots of space on both lakes giving everyone plenty of options to move if it wasn’t happening. An excited group of anglers all met at the FLE site early on Friday morning and we were soon loaded in to the minibus making our way down to the Tunnel crossing. The trip went smoothly and we were soon in France making our way to the lake with a supermarket stop along the way to break the journey up. Everyone stocked up on beer, wine, cheese and French delicacies and we made the final leg of the journey to the lake with everyone in a rather upbeat mood.
We finally arrived at the lake around 6pm and after a very warm welcome from Hans Sissingh and Graham we all set about having a look around with a view to deciding where we would hopefully be fishing. I was going to be fishing with Graham and 13 year old Harrison Beale for the week, and we managed to get into a swim we fancied on Berkley Lake.
The trip started well with quite a few fish being caught over the complex but on our lake the fish were stacked up in one area of the lake and totally in-accessible to me and young Harrison. Graham was catching a few fish by fishing to the extreme right of our swim boundary and this enabled him to pick off the odd fish as they were bouncing between the two pegs that were catching. This situation remained the same and after 48hrs both myself and Harrison were a little despondent having not had so much as a liner – so we decided we were going to move rather than sit there hoping the fish might turn up at some point during our stay.
We went for a good look around both lakes and eventually decided the best plan was going to be to move over to peg 2 on JRC Lake. The swim covers a lot of water and looked bang on with a fresh warm wind trickling in – plus I knew this area of the lake pretty well from previous trips. It didn’t take us long to move with the assistance of the van and both myself and Harrison felt much more confident as we were setting up even seeing a fish show out at range. Harrison set up on the left fishing a bay on the teeth of the wind and I set up fishing straight out to the open water in the middle of the lake. We both had a lead around and put just a small amount of bait out with the Spomb before dispatching solid PVA bags over the top. I always prefer to try and get a few bites before committing too much bait to the swim as you can always give them a bit more but can’t take it away!
The rods had been out for around an hour and I was just stood trying to have a conversation with a French angler I had met on a previous trip when my left hand rod started to slowly pull away. On picking up the rod I was pretty certain I had something fairly big on the end; it was just one of those fights when you just know. I eventually got the fish in to the edge and that’s when the real battle commenced as the fish powered around in the deep margins. I must admit that I was absolutely bricking it at this stage as I had seen the size of what was attached to my line and all I could feel was the fish twisting and turning, rubbing up the main line as it did so. Everything held strong (as I knew it would) and eventually a huge mirror lay beaten in the folds of my Outreach Net and it was certainly the biggest fish I had ever seen in the flesh, let alone caught! I sent a few messages to friends around the complex and they all came around to help with the weighing and photos and we settled on a weight of 55.08lb before having a few beers to celebrate.
Eventually we got everything sorted again and settled down for the night and by morning I had managed a few more fish to 38lb on the solid bag tactics. Harrison however was still without a bite and rather despondent so I moved him from where he was to my right so that he could walk up the right hand bank and cast his rods to the same area I was fishing before walking them back down the bank to our new swim.
I really wanted him to have a great week and he deserved to as he was fishing extremely well too. I was sure it wouldn’t be long before he got in on the action I was enjoying. I had also decided to start giving them a lot more bait as I had noticed the bites were coming in clusters each time after baiting before it went quiet again – so each time it did I gave them another bucket. I was using a fairly simple mix that consisted of mixed sized pellets, chopped and whole Carp Company ‘Icelandic Red’ boilies and sweetcorn. The mix was all given a good coating of Aminol + and Golden Corn Oil to help kick up a slick and create a feeding response.
The plan worked a treat and a couple of hours after baiting the fish returned and the first bite came to Harrison’s rod. I could tell he was buzzing whilst playing the fish which turned out to be a mid 20 mirror. We quickly unhooked it in the net so he could get his rod back out straight away; something I always try and do to capitalise on feeding windows. To enable us to do this we both had spare solid bags pre-tied on leaders that were ‘loop to looped’ on and off the rods to save time and the proof that this works came just as we were releasing Harrison’s fish when his re-cast rod was once again in meltdown. The fish put up one hell of a scrap and we all knew that Harrison was attached to something pretty special, so I decided to jump in the waders to net the fish which I eventually did first time. Understandably, Harrison let out the biggest cheer before jumping around the swim totally elated at what had just happened and he was convinced he had a 40+ which he had been dreaming of for months leading up to the trip. However I knew it was much bigger, but didn’t let on so that he had the surprise once the scales swung around and settled on 51.08lb!
Many hands were on deck to help with the pictures and my favourite moment was when I unzipped the retainer and Harrison exclaimed “What do I do with it?!” whilst looking totally gob smacked at its sheer size! He did however manage extremely well, getting some brilliant pictures of the fish whilst treating it with the up most care and respect.
Once everyone had calmed down we sorted out the mess that was our swim that was littered with empty beer bottles and wet clothes before sorting the rods back out and re-tying the spare leaders. I was extremely confident with the set up we were using as it had always worked well for me on the venue and the hook holds that we were getting with the size 6 Covert Longshank Mugga hooks were incredible! We were using simple 6” blow back rigs tied with Trickster Heavy attached to a drop off in-line lead on a 30lb Mirage Fluorocarbon leader with blobs of Critical Mass putty moulded up the line at 1ft intervals to help keep everything pinned down at the business end. The hookbait was one of my home made 14mm pink pop-ups and the bag was filled with a mixture of small pellets and most importantly a good dose of Pure Pellet Oil that always gave a massive slick just before each take.
We both caught a few more carp that evening, even managing a brace of 30’s as part of a double take. The next day we carried on with the baiting and the results kept on coming. The action would always come in small windows a couple of hours after baiting and it would usually always be carnage with the action thick and fast whilst they were on the bait. It would always eventually stop though and this would signal the fact that we had been cleared out so just before the afternoon BBQ social at the bar I stood spombing for around an hour to really top up the spot, and as our swim was right next to the bar we were allowed to leave the rods out which was a bonus too. The BBQ social was brilliant, with a fancy dress theme and lots of happy carp anglers celebrating their PB’s getting rather merry along the way.
After around two hours people were just starting to disperse back to their swims when my rod went into meltdown. I was there in a flash and as I bent in to the fish Harrison’s rod also roared off and we soon had a crowd watching as we both played in our prize. I had foolishly agreed that I would wear my mankini for the pictures so we got a group picture with everyone in their fancy dress before I disappeared to get some clothes on again as it was freezing!
The following morning I was going to have to leave the lake for a few hours to drop Graham off for the England Team Six Nations match, so I baited extremely heavily at first light. Around an hour later I could see Graham making his way around the lake saying goodbye to everyone at which point my spot started to kick up the biggest slick I have ever seen! I knew it was only a matter of time before one of the rods would rip off but I literally had about a minute before Graham would reach my swim and I would have to reel in. The van was about thirty yards away from my swim when my middle rod pearled off resulting in a 43lb mirror and I was well happy the bite had happened in time.
Needless to say whilst I was away they went mental on my spot with constant slicks coming up off the bait and fish showing over the top of the spot, so more bait was needed on my return. Both Harrison and I enjoyed a few more fish that afternoon and I even got to witness an incredible fish of 61.08lb that was caught by another angler on the lake.
Around 3AM on Thursday morning I was awoken by a take on my left hand rod and once again I had the distinct feeling that something special was on the end as it plodded from left to right using its weight. I tried to wake young Harrison but he was completely shattered from the previous few days, so left him to sleep whilst I tried to net the fish myself. This wasn’t as easy as I had hoped as the fish kept powering off from right to left and then back again which involved me weaving my rod in and out of my other lines to avoid becoming tangled.
I eventually netted another colossal mirror and quickly got the rod back out before weighing and retaining the fish properly. I struggled weighing the fish alone so placed it in a retainer until it was light enough to call upon some assistance. By this point my re-cast rod was once again away and I was playing another fish when Harrison came around and realised what was going on. He was just putting his shoes on when his rod also ripped off. As luck would have it we both successfully landed our fish with another 30lb’er each!
It was now only around an hour until first light so we sat excitedly drinking tea and I called upon some assistance for first light. By the time a few people had gathered I had had another bite and Hans, the lake owner, arrived just as we were doing the pictures. I must say a massive thanks to Rich Butler as he got some epic shots of the 52!
The week had already been amazing for both Harrison and I, and with only one full day and a night ahead of us we decided to really go for it. We both worked our socks off and were constantly rewarded throughout the day, even having a quadruple take during the afternoon! All three of my rods, plus one of Harrison’s decided to go off in tandem and I think I landed fish of 42lb, 39lb+ and 34lb+ and Harrison had an upper 20. By the early evening I was shattered and with the long drive back ahead of me in the morning I decided not to re-bait once the action had dried up to make sure I would be feeling fresh for the early pack up the next morning. I did manage one final fish, just before bed, then enjoyed a full night of sleep happy with the results of my week.
Once all of the kit was loaded we all met back at the bar to settle our bills and say our thanks before leaving. There was a definite buzz in the air that morning as so many people had enjoyed a fantastic week’s fishing and I really couldn’t recommend the venue highly enough.
In just five days and nights I had managed 27 bites landing 23 including two 50’s to 55.08lb! We finally set off for the long journey home but not before stopping at Maccy D’s for a big scran up. The journey went smoothly and everyone was home safe and sound by around 7pm Friday evening. Facebook then went in to meltdown the following day as everyone started to upload all of their pictures from the week and some of the lads were already out fishing again!
I really enjoyed fishing with young Harrison and sharing all of those special moments and he’s an exceptional young angler that is in the sport for all of the right reasons. We had a real good giggle too and I’m sure we will head out together in the near future too.
Since we have returned Harrison has continued his good run and landed his target fish from a small local pit the other week, a new U.K PB of 29.08lb! Big up mate!
I came back to the good news that the purchase of my first property with my Mrs had finally gone through so it looks like my fishing might have to go on the back burner for the next few months as I’m going to be busy moving and decorating!