Back in late April, myself and four friends all set off for another trip to Lodge View Lake in Vailly-sur-Aisne, France, to celebrate my 60th birthday… and I don’t look a day over 61! We had been there a few times previously, and we had always enjoyed our visits, so we were really looking forward to a return trip.
Upon arrival we were warmly greeted, as usual, by the owners Roger and Tracy Bennett, with a very welcome cup of tea and a beer. After all the usual chatter, we eventually bimbled round to our swims. I had opted to fish the main lodge point swim, as this was where the lion’s share of the fish had usually come from on previous jaunts, but I had never fished it, so I blagged birthday rights to it.
Unfortunately, our trip coincided with a nasty cold spell coming in too, and during the first couple of nights it dropped into sub-zero temperatures. Not ideal conditions when you’re on a shallow lake, but with the lodge right behind us (there were three of us on the point), the food and company was top quality and the time literally flew by.
Having been out in the boat to look for spots, I had baited one area next to a huge submerged rock, about 50 yards out, with a couple of kg of Sticky Manilla. On a previous trip, Craig (who was fishing opposite this time) had caught a lot of fish from here, but after a couple of days and despite the area being cleaned off, I just couldn’t get a bite off it!
With this in mind, and after seeing a couple of fish show at long range over a silt gully that we knew. I also decided to blast a couple of single hookbaits to the horizon. Naked chods, consisting of a size 5 BCR Rigga hook and a 14mm washed out yellow Sticky Krill pop-up, running on GTHD 18lb main line were the weapons of choice.
Eventually, after a couple of nights still without action (although Martyn to my left had landed a couple of mid 30’s), I finally had a run on my long-range left-hand rod fished to the silt gully. A slow plodding fight ensued, unfortunately involving the fish kiting left into some snags. I left the rod on the rests for about 10 minutes, and eventually the line started peeling off the reel again, as luckily the fish had managed to swim back out into open water. An uneventful fight followed, and I soon had the culprit laying on the mat. Not the biggest fish I’d had from there, but at 43lb 12oz it was a lovely scaley start to the week, and it was nice to get a fish under my belt.
Later that day, a rather disheveled looking Coypu appeared in our swim. It was swimming around bumping into the bank etc, looking almost totally blind and acting very sorry for itself. It seemed completely oblivious to our presence, and once it was out on the bank, it seemed quite content to just sit there eating daisies and dandelions. Having never seen one so close, we all took loads of pictures of it, and I even managed to get it to take a daisy from my hand. We named him Colin.
Nothing further happened (apart from the consumption of more wine and cheese), until the following morning. The sun was just rising behind us, bathing the far bank in a golden glow, and I was just laying there watching the water. The water was starting to warm up now after the first few cold days, and with it, the crusty algae scum was starting to pop up off the bottom. I noticed I had about 50 yards of this lifting my line, so I hopped out of bed, and picked up the rod to flick it off. With that done, I went to sink the line again, but something had picked up the bait and was slowly moving off. Whether it had been on there all along and not registered a bite, or whether my moving the line had made the bait waft and attracted the fish’s attention, I don’t know, but either way it was fish-on!
An almost identical fight followed, with the fish also finding the snags, but as before, after leaving the rod, it eventually came out and plodded all the way back to the net. In the net, I could see it was a bigger fish, and possibly a ’50’! I was more than pleased when the scales bounced round and settled on a reading of 50lb 8oz! With all the obligatory photos done, and the rod cast back out into the silt gully at range, once again we sat back to enjoy the glorious weather, wine and cheese.
Another pretty uneventful night followed for myself, although Martyn managed a new PB of 47lb 8oz that afternoon and Colin merrily ate more flowers, until when at first light I had a couple of bleeps. Opening my eyes, I could see Colin was sat right under my left-hand rod, and I assumed he had just nudged the bobbin. Ignoring him, I closed my eyes again, only to be interrupted by a couple more bleeps. Once again Colin was just sat there having his breakfast, and I told him in no uncertain terms to ‘go away’, before dozing off again. A third time I was disturbed by a couple of bleeps, and I was just about to throw one of my DPM stilettos at Colin, when I realized he wasn’t there.
The bobbin wasn’t moving, but I could see the line was just plinking in the water, so lifted the rod and tightened up. Straight away I could feel a fish on the end and amazingly, yet again, it gave an identical fight, kiting left across the swim on a long line towards the snags. This time I applied a bit more pressure and managed to stop the fish just short of its twiggy destination. From there it was an easy-going fight. Nothing spectacular, just a slow heavy plod around.
After a few minutes, I was able to see it in the clear water, and soon slid the net under a big bronze flanked mirror, that clearly looked a lot bigger than the other ones. I had previously held the lake record at the lake, with a mirror of 54lb captured a few years earlier, though that had recently been beaten by another carp of 57lb, so I was amazed and more than happy to see the needle spin round and stop at 57lb 8oz! I had taken my lake record back again*.
(*I should add at this point though, that this record has since been beaten another three times, and all by different fish, inching the top weight up by a few ounces each time. Surely it won’t be long before Roger and Tracy have their first 60 from the lake.)
By Friday morning, unfortunately three of our party were still fishless, Craig and Gary opposite, and Andy to my right. So, Andy swapped swims with Martyn, and later that day managed to get a lovely deep bodied mirror of 40lb 8oz, although by the end, Craig and Gary stayed fishless. Next time chaps, next time.
Apart from a bit of fun, chucking lures around for the numerous Perch, nothing else really happened until the final morning. Just as we were packing away I had a blistering take on my right-hand rod, and after a short battle I had an absolutely scale perfect ‘woodcarving’ of a 34lb 8oz common on the mat. It may have been the smallest one of the week, but it more than made up for it with its looks.
It was also pleasing to note, that after looking so ill when we first saw him, Colin appeared to be looking healthier every day, to the point where at the start of the week we could get close enough to touch him, he now wouldn’t let us get within 25 feet of him. I think maybe he had picked up some poison or something from somewhere, and had been suffering with that, but eventually it had cleared his system. He was still in our swim when we left, and I know Roger and Tracy the owners were fascinated to see him at such close quarters.
Eventually though, everything was loaded into the cars, and we headed home once more. All in all, a difficult but rewarding week and we’ll look forward to a return in the not too distant future.