May 24, 2011

France 2011

Now I don't want you lot thinking I was carp fishing. Nothing could have been further from my mind and that I caught a barbel, some chub, lots of bream and even more bream hybrids, then it was exactly what I was after and, as a look at my set up will show you. Three 3.25 rods on a Euro pod is exactly what we all use when targeting those species isn't it?

Right, that's got that out of the way, now I can tell you all about it.

When travelling abroad to fish it makes sense to have a game plan. We (Bunny and his son Phil), had one and that was blown, literally, out of the water when we arrived at the tackle shop. The woman who served there did her best to explain but unfortunately, she kept talking in French and no matter how hard I try, I listen in English. The upshot was that the night fishing zone was closed. Closed? Why? We never found out but a couple of smaller areas were pointed out and we headed for one of them.

Now, many of you will have fished rivers such as the Trent or Severn, you know, about 50yards across, quite deep. Have a look at the following pictures and it will explain why I shall complain less about canoeists in future.

These barges were 90 yards long and 10 yards wide plus the boat that pushed them! There were even some slightly smaller ones that went past being pushed two at a time. To give you some idea of the water displacement, when this boat was still 200 yards upstream of me, the push of water ahead of it made my bobbins drop. How does that effect your carefully laid loose feed?

I didn't like this spot, I never felt close to a carp but was way too familiar with a billion mozzies that lived in a small, lily and frog strewn pond behind us. I got mullered by the bitey little bastards.

We moved to a gorgeous spot where a long, broken island 3/4 of the way across was full of lily beds and snags and which looked very promising. We heard a couple of big fish crash out behind one of the islets but again, nothing stirred.

Bunny had his birthday on the bank. I adorned his bivvy and presented him with a thoughtfully chosen gift which he opted not to wear to the shops, pity, it suited him.
On our last evening here Phil managed to get a catfish of about 10lbs, although it had about 3lbs of boilies in its belly.

We moved again, this time to a more prolific part of the Seine - allegedly. Again, the game plan was thrown out when all of the locations that had looked so good on Google Earth, proved either inaccessible or impossible to fish. We did settle in a wide section that was away from the boats (which may have been a mistake), as some of the barges here were the size of small countries.

Here we started to see carp moving, usually way too far to cast to but they were close. I decided to bait heavily and hope for them to come in but it had the side effect of drawing a few bream along too. Well, not too - instead of. I caught loads and, despite Bunny's claim of a 5.8 roach, there were a lot of hybrids amongst them.

It all became a bit of a chore. Not being able to provoke action and being so restricted as to where we could fish was very frustrating. We spoke to some local carp anglers and they told us that the river's been right out of sorts this year. The swim we ended up sharing had been the scene of a catch of 33 carp in a night at this time last year (I think, language difficulties and all that), but they had been struggling in their spot despite prebaiting for three weeks with over 100 kgs of maize. If that seems like a lot, they have another swim that they keep topped up and have put in over 1000kgs of maize plus a mass of boilies. They were keen anglers.

Bait robbing bream apart, the only fish of note was another, slightly smaller cat to Phil. After all of our efforts we had to come home empty handed. I packed away all of my mountain of kit and returned to see if Bunny wanted a hand. As I did so, right over my bait, a bloody great carp rolled! Isn't that just typical?

So that was that. A very hard effort for very little return. I should be sat here with tears in my eyes, beating the keyboard in frustration but I'm not. I enjoyed most of the trip and have learned more about the French rivers and about myself along the way. Within an hour of getting home Neil and I were discussing our next trip.

You will no doubt read about it here.

May 09, 2011

France 2 - The Return

Coming to a blog near you soon, the adventure continues.

A Man - alone against the elements.

His goal - to catch the impossible.

Can he succeed?

Last time he faced adversity, this time its personal!

See how he deals with the toil, the tumult, the tantrums, the technical trials....

Appearing here, on this very blog - France 2 - The Return

Here Thursday May 26th for one week only

May 05, 2011

Noises in the Night

My post yesterday was all about the fishing which is not surprising as I was on something of a high at my result. But there was so much more to the trip. Sitting in a little tent in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by wood and fields, it brings you right into nature and the wildlife was bountiful and at times, surprising.

As I walked the lake, looking for a swim to fish, I heard my first corncrake. This is a bird that I wanted to see or hear ever since I got into birds at the age of 7 or 8. I remember hearing a raucous call from my house on the edge of Taunton and I poured through the big bird guide I'd had for Christmas, to try and identify it. After much reading and interpreting the ornithological language of descriptive terms for bird song, I settled on a corncrake. My mother wasn't so sure but it made sense. Imagine my disappointment when, whilst walking toward town one day, there, at the top of a tree was my bird, a bloody crow!

With modern computer discs and the Internet, it is possible to identify bird calls very easily and one of the first I looked up was the corncrake so, the second I heard it the other day, I knew exactly what it was but I double checked on my return, just to make sure.

That was good enough but at night I was entertained by a passing nightjar and the eerie barking/howling of Munjacs. Laying there I couldn't help but let my imagination try to add pictures to the sound and, no matter how hard I tried, my mind could not attribute this unworldly sound to a tiny deer! It was the sort of sound that, in a movie, would be followed by the local saying to the back packer "Don't go onto the moors tonight", only to be ignored and end up..... well, we've all seen An American Werewolf in London haven't we :-)

Many of the other noises came from creatures moving in the dry undergrowth. Every now and then the dog would rush off to investigate and would chase something off be it badgers, rabbits, rats or whatever. But oddly, he ignored the bipedal footsteps that approached from my right. I fully expected another angler to appear but, when I stood to look in the direction of the noise - nothing! It was obviously one of the many pheasants but I never did see it.

The last noise woke me from a light sleep. As I said, when I hear a sound I instantly know if its new to me or not and attempt to either identify it or at least give it a mental picture. So there I am, bemused by the sound of what my mind has attributed to a minute space craft spinning past the bivvy. A couple of 'ticks' as it headed across the lake gave me a different image but when it returned a few minutes later, it was still a space ship!

On the Intergoogle I confirmed my suspicions. One of the few bats that I can still hear nowadays is the greater horseshoe and this one was sending out a barrage of sonar pulses as it flew beneath the trees, (check it out on Pity really, a spaceship would have been even more exciting.

May 04, 2011

Pinch Me!

When I arrived at my secret lake (shhhh!), I had a feeling of trepidation. Would it live up to my expectations? Was it all show but with a hidden flaw - like admiring a beautiful girl only to find she has an Essex accent?

It was blustery and my six month absence from a carp water was apparent from the off as I made a complete mess of everything. I moved from my first choice swim to a point where the lake narrows. I have seen plenty of fish basking on both sides here and I also expected cruisers to visit morning and night to feed on the stream bed. Plus, it meant some shorter casts which, in a swirling wind, was a bonus.

I took ages to get sorted but eventually had three rods sensibly placed to cover fish moving or browsing. I sat back and relaxed only to be rudely awoken by a run! I made a complete hash of it and brought back a straightened hook. That wasn't in the plan.

Nick and Neil came out for a picnic and, as Nick and I sat in the sun, Neil went fish spotting and assured me that there were fish quite close to my bait. When they departed I had the place to myself - no road noise, no voices, just me, the birds and the wind above - bliss.

It got chilly but, due to the snug nature of my swim, my rod butts meant I couldn't close the bivvy door. I led there, in my bag, dozing when, at about half ten - beeeeeeep! I was away on the middle rod but, as I lifted into the fish, my right hand rod was away as well and gaining pace. This was hectic enough but to add to the confusion, my head torch was shining directly into my eyes. Not quite understanding what was happening I lifted the bit that aims the beam but it fell back and blinded my left eye. Was it on upside down? I changed it but to no avail. I had tightened down on the running fish to stop an overrun and bent into the distant fish which promptly fell off. Oh well, still got a smoking reel so I lifted into the other rod and pulled.... into nothing!

I sat down, my swim a war zone. The head torch had broken and was hanging by a wire. Luckily I carry a spare so that was job number one, to swap the batteries then get everything back how it should be.

I was jolted from a cold night's sleep by an alarm at 3ish and landed a bream. Not what I wanted but a start. Soon after, the nearside rod shot off and I landed a very hard fighting mirror of 20.7. Not a bad opener. I was ecstatic and losing another fish later on didn't lower my mood.

Not me at my best -20.7

The second day was quiet but I spent it reading, dozing or watching the lake like you do. It got cold in the shade so I sat up in the sun behind my swim and threw a stick for Buddy. I had a run, again on the right hand rod. This one also fought hard and was another mirror of 22.4 - Fantastic!

I decided to eat some tea and listen to the footie so, at 7.15 my ravioli has just got to the switch off point when, off went the left hand rod. Again, I was beaten up my a scrappy fish which, miraculously, went 22.14! Am I dreaming? Three twenties!! Reheated ravioli tastes great in some circumstances.

It was really cold at night and I didn't really want to be disturbed, a good sleep would go down well but alas, it was not to be and I had to climb out into the chill, dressed in pants and T shirt, to land yet another fish. It was 3am and the fish came in doggedly . I was shivering when it rolled, at last, over the net. What a brute - 25.9 and a glorious specimen. I rattled off a quick picture and slipped it back. Leaving that rod on the rest I jumped back into my bag and shivered some more.

At about six, with mist rolling across the water, I had my last run, a 'tiddler' of about ten or twelve pounds. What a session, four twenties, five carp for over a hundred pounds. Pinch me, I think I'm still asleep!

The only hiccup was the remote on my camera gave up the ghost so I've only got a couple of terrible snaps of the first fish and just unhooking mat shots of the rest but who cares, I've had the trip of my life on the loveliest lake I've ever fished.

To add to the sense of elation, I was on a new bait that seems to be of liking to carp, another lad on it had five twenties from another water. The success of the bait will add to my confidence as I'm taking a load of it to France next week for a go on the river Seine with the Bunyans. I've set the bar quite high but confidence is a vital a ingredient and today, I have it in spades.