Every year, a few of my mates and I have a trip to Lake Serene in the Champagne region of France, and this year was no different. Having been there a few times, and as we always rotate the swims to make it fairer, I knew it was my turn to fish the Back Bay from the right hand ‘Beeches’ swim.
This swim always produces the goods! Even though all the swims on the lake fish well, this one always seems to hold the majority of the fish. On arrival, and after a cup of tea and a catch up with the owners John and Mave, we drove round to the swims and started getting all the gear out. Straight away I could see a load of bubblers out in front of me, so I quickly chucked out three Manilla singles in the hope of mugging a passing carp. Alas, despite there clearly being a lot of fish in the swim, this tactic failed to produce a bite. Once I had sorted out my swim properly, I brought the hookbaits in and got in the boat. Thankfully on Lake Serene you can use a boat (that is supplied in every swim) and they are a massive asset! The fish do not seem to be spooked by them at all, in fact there have been many times that we have caught fish there within minutes of dropping off a bait from the boat.
Once out, I motored about the far side with an echo sounder, and soon found a few suitable spots. From previous experience, we knew they don’t like feeding tight to the bank, but prefer a couple of rod lengths off. Searching these likely areas, I discovered some lovely silt troughs at the bottom of the gravelly marginal shelf in about 8ft of water and after prodding around with a long pole I found a few small hard spots within the silt. Those would do me fine…
Once I had marked my spots with H-Blocks, I returned to the swim (about 140 yards away) and set about sorting out my bait mix. This mix consisted of equal parts of ‘Sticky’ Baits Krill and Manilla in mixed sizes 12, 16 and 20mm boilies; along with a few chopped ones, some pellets, hemp, corn and live and dead maggots. This concoction was all mixed up with a very liberal dose of Sticky Manilla liquid and lovely gloopy hemp juice that I had saved from cooking up all my hemp the night before. I wanted a really sloppy mix to leave a big cloud of smell and flavour in the water to draw the fish in and hold them in the area.
With this all sorted, I boated back out and carefully placed my rigs on each of the spots and lolloped in a good portion of loose feed. I didn’t want this on my actual rig though, as these fish get fished for week in week out, so I wanted a slightly different baiting approach. My main baited spot was on the slope, about 6ft away from my rig, with just a light smattering of gloop joining that to my hookbaits.
Rig wise, I was 100% confident in what I was using, as it is pretty much the only rig I use for all my carping in France. A 20mm Manilla bottom bait, on a longish hair coming straight off the bend of a size 4 Dark Continental Mugga, with a short length of shrink tube completing the hook set up. This was attached to a 5” length of 25lb Silt Ultra Skin and a 5oz flat pear lead. The whole lot was then tied to my 16lb Mirage fluorocarbon mainline. Again, I have 100% confidence in the Mirage, as not only is it bulletproof, but it sinks like a brick so I knew it would be well out of the way of any feeding fish.
After all the work was done the swim was quiet then until the following afternoon, when at 3.30pm, my middle rod pulled up tight and the tip started nodding. Lifting the rod, I was soon attached to what felt like a decent carp, and after a fairly slow plodding fight, I soon saw a substantial sized lump of a common carp on the end of the line. After a few more minutes of playing the fish past, eventually my swim partner, the diminutive but perpetually chirpy Jack Funnell, slipped the net under her…
Initially we thought she might go to 60lb, but once up on the scales, the needle settled on 58lb 13oz. Not only was it a new PB Common for me, but also an outright PB of any species! Obviously I was more than happy with that. Jack soon rattled off a few fantastic photos, as he always does, and she was returned to her watery lair. This was followed very shortly afterwards by a pretty little 26lb 1oz mirror.
With the rods redone, the rest of the afternoon passed quickly until dinner time, when we had to reel in and go for food. On Lake One here, the food is all supplied, and fantastic food it is too. Everything’s fresh and home cooked, and the food certainly makes a week on the bank more enjoyable. Luckily, as I said earlier, with the fish totally unfazed by the boats, there wasn’t an issue as they weren’t spooked by us replacing the rigs, and this was wonderful as we could be 100% sure that our rigs were still working perfectly each and every time.
The next day, just after midday, my middle rod was away again, and soon a big framed 53lb 12oz mirror was soon in the net. For the pics of this one, I thought I would be ultra ‘carpy’ and just get in the water with her. I wasn’t worried about getting soaking wet, as 20 minutes previously I had managed to fall in whilst helping Jack land a mid-30 mirror – so I was already soaked to the skin! With the obligatory photos done, I quickly wound all my rods in and nipped round for a nice hot shower and to change into some clean dry clothes.
On my return, and with the rods quickly back in position, my right hand rod was very soon off, shortly followed by my middle rod! That one turned out to be a lovely long common of 39lb, and the other carp was another smaller mirror of 26lb 8oz. Then, after a lovely evening meal, I had a fairly uneventful night, apart from a brief disturbance of a 39lb 8oz mirror just before bed.
I was then awoken at 3.30am by a 36lb mirror, which was followed by a frantic 24hrs, during which time I landed mirrors of 40lb 6oz, 42lb, 44lb and 32lb. I also landed a brace of 55lb 12oz and 53lb 4oz the following dawn.
Thankfully, it then went quiet for another 24hrs so I was able to catch up with some much needed beauty sleep. The fishing slowed down quite a bit, with just a couple of mirrors that weighed in at 42lb 6oz and 25lb troubling me. That took me to Friday with an early morning awakening by a 32lb 12oz mirror that rudely disturbed my sleep, this was followed later on by a mid afternoon immaculate linear of 46lb 6oz. Lovely!
After a quiet night, I thought that was going to be it for me, as we had to be packed up by 10.30am. But at 10.25am, with just about everything sorted and put away in the car and just my rods laying on the ground, my middle rod suddenly burst into life with one last fish, a final mirror carp of 47lb 02oz rounded off my tally nicely.
All in all we enjoyed a very successful week. I took 19 fish, with 7 x 40’s and 4 x 50’s, with the other anglers on the trip all catching good fish as well. After a last goodbye to John and Mave, we set off back on the long drive home to England.