A Foreign Affair – Richard Austin

I am going to start this months article with one word…
WOW!
Ok, over the next few paragraphs the reason for the ‘WOW’ will become clearer and you will understand that in all fairness a ‘WOW’ really wasnt enough of an expression.
I have been fishing over in France for quite a few years now and every time I have made the journey across the channel I have had a great time, in all the times I have ventured over I have luckily or skillfully I prefer the latter, blanked only on two occassions, once in very cold conditions, where out of 6 anglers only 1 fish was caught, and then the total opposite, extreme heat with the water levels right down, and a summer temperature that went through the roof, not ideal for the fish, and certainly not ideal for me as I much prefer fishing in the cooler months – because I am happier on the bank when its colder, and also out of the heat of the mid-day sun I believe the fish feed harder, unless obviously you have got them going on the top which is a whole different style of fishing altogether. I have been to what we call runs waters over in France, which turn out to be very enjoyable, and a busy holiday, catching high teens and twenties through the week on a regular basis with the chance of a thirty or fourty pounder gracing your net, and then theres the other end of the spectrum lakes that have very few teens and twenties on offer, but cater for the bigger fish angler who are after thirties fourties & the chance of a big girl, and then theres the specialised waters, lakes that are known as hard waters, that the average weight of a resident is a thirty/fourty pounder with a good handfull of fifties and sixties and then your getting to the jewel of the crown with lakes that have inhabitants of seventies, eighties, nineties & amazing specimen fish and true wonders of the carp world. Nobody likes to go to France or anywhere else for that matter and blank so we have to weigh up the pro’s and con’s of each trip and what you want from it. One thing that makes me very angry is the ignorance of some people when they say “France is easier than the UK or your French fish don’t count” are you serious jog on, what a truly ignorant point of view and they are usually from the people who have never fished abroad before, whether its jealousy or just plain ignorance who knows but you are very very wrong. There are easy waters just like the UK, there are also some very rock hard waters just like the UK and to be perfectly honest I think that France is now in general alot harder than UK en mass, as the lakes in France are hammered 365 days a year full to the brim with anglers and masses of bait going in to the water so think about it in those terms, the lake Ive just come back from was 15 acres with 300 fish, some would say thats a good head of fish, and in general I would agree, 20 fish per acre, now lets add in another parameter, this lake goes to 24ft deep, so now thats 20 fish per surface acre but you now have to go 24ft deep also in that acre now imagine 20 fish in that acre 24ft deep square, and that is if every fish in the lake is in their acre quota which we all know they are not, lets add in another factor, the air pressure was high 1030’s OUCH huge effect on the water and feeding habits, now lets add in the weather, in the day time we had cold easterlies but with sunshine that pushed the daytime temperature up to 18/19 deg and at night the temps plummeted to 4 deg now you add all that in together and tell me that wasnt hard fishing. My French fishing partner and very good friend Terry Clayton was at one end of the lake in his shorts in the daytime, and at the other end of the lake where the sun made a daily appearance for one hour the guys were in their winter thermal suits all day because of the easterlies it was a crazy scenario.

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When we arrived at Lac Des Lesmont now owned by ex Prem’ Footballer Lee Bowyer I could see it was a special place and also knew by looking at the water that I had my work cut out this week, not only through all the research that I have done, but also the top name angler friends of mine that have fished here, and some of whom have blanked for the week so I had to be on my A game that was for sure. We met the bailiff Louis who was a great host as was his misses Rachel, making us feel very welcome and always on hand for information and help if we needed it in our party of 6. He walked us round the lake and straight away once passed Peg 1 which we had agreed to take out of the draw to open up the water for everybody we could see fish fizzing quite heavily up the top end of the lake (the cold end) Pegs 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 all had lots of fish movement in front of them and my initial thoughts of wanting Peg 4 was waivering and I was looking for reasons to change my mind as I could see fish feeding, and crashing cleaning their gill rakes, the thing that was worrying me was that they were all in a line from Peg 11 to Peg 8 then a little spread out and I knew there was a silt gully there so I got it in my head that they seemed to be pre occupied with naturals, bloodworm etc. There was speradic weed in the lake so I knew there wouldnt be lots of snails etc but alot of silt so bloodworm were def on the menu, anyway we continued around the lake and got back to the communal area, where we had a nice bacon roll and cuppa rosie waiting for us which was a nice touch as we all chose to drive and survive and not take the food package as there were supermarkets 10mins away, I prefer bankside cooking anyway, as it breaks up your day and is an excuse to push the boat out and get the steaks in the Ridgemonkey haha. Our group consisted of a Father and Son, and 2 pairs of good friends, Stan and Kev and Terry and myself, well Terry had visited Lesmont before and had in his mind the swim he wanted which was one he had not fished before, I wanted swim 4 because of all the snags, it definately is the snaggiest peg on the lake and right in the corner also so it was definately a gamble right up the other end to the fish we had seen feeding, on discussion with the others, they wanted to double up in swims 5 & 6, and 9 & 10, it was just a matter of who was going in each, Terry and myself didnt want to pair up as we wanted to cover more water at the other end of the lake (and he snores like a bear so I wouldve made my excuses anyway)!!! The two pairs flipped a coin for the two doubles and Father and Son Paul and Dave got the high pegs with Stan and Kev in the low double. I stuck to my guns with my gamble of Peg 4 and Terry went round the other side of the bend to Peg 3 (of which he decided to vacate 2 days later in to Peg 2).

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I got all my gear sorted in the peg and was just looking constantly at the water for signs of fish, of which there were none forthcoming had I made the right choice it was a struggle for the first couple of hours not to beat myself up a little and a tiny percent thought Id made the wrong choice after seeing so many feeding up the top end, but I do love my snag fishing, and the challenge for me on that type of fishing is more than if I were fishing open water. I didnt have to change much of my tackle from what I usually use at home etc as I fish snags predominantly so I just stepped up the hook size to 4’s. I knew by speaking to a good friend of mine and the previous owner Andy Stevens who owns Carpe D’or that there were the usual snag resident fish who always inhabit the area and make an appearance every now and then. So after my initial doubts my confidence started to flow again and my mind was back in the game. I brought 30kg of CC Moore Pacific Tuna & Live System boilies with me and 10KG of CC Moore Trout and Belechan Pellets. When Im fishing in France, I dont usually start getting itchy feet until the Tues/Weds and barring anything silly wont consider a move til the Thursday if I have too, so I was relaxed and prepping my bait, I had chosen 3 spots and was going to fish them religiously building beds of bait which is my normal long stay approach, the water contains big fish and I want to keep them in the area if and when they decide to make a feeding appearance. Spot 1 was 40 yards out on a gravel bar dropping off to 21-24ft and the bar itself rose to 13ft, I baited the top and the right side, Spot 2 was a margin snag in front of a tall fir tree in front of the shower block, the margin there was itself 7-9 feet and I baited that heavily with around 3kg boilie and 2kg pellet to start with, Spot 3 was a margin snag again a little further to the right in an indent, under a willow and some dead branches I baited that the same as spot 2 in similar depths.

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First couple of days the boys at the top end where the fizzing fish were had a few nice fish to high 40’s and the guys in the first double had a 30lber out so there were some fish feeding, Terry nailed a nice 40 after his move, and it was just me left to catch, Terry’s swim went silent as did Stan and Kev in the first double but Paul and Dave were still pulling out 1 or 2 each a day. Tuesday came all so quickly and I started thinking about various options and changing this n that, I had in my mind thought about a move on Thursday for a night, but I wanted to persevere with this swim, Tuesday morning my Spot 2 rod ripped off and what a battle that ensued it took a couple of moments to get it out the snag with walking back in my swim and dropping the lead helping for sure, it came out and went straight for open water, across my other rod which didnt hurt as it was so deep it missed the lines, it reminded me of my sea fishing trips, pumping the fish through the water column pulling a lump through 24ft of water was incredible and my arms were burning when he came across the chord. I was over the moon and so glad I didnt change my tactics, my confidence was right back up there and moving was the last thing on my mind again. The fish which I call ‘Mr Pecs’ for obvious reasons weighed in at a healthy 33lb 15oz it was a long mirror of supperior power. After the usual rituals of weighing and pics the fish was returned and after a new J Precision size 4 hand sharpened Katana hook was attached to my Rigmarole Skinfull I reset the rig back on the spot with its twin 15mm Pacific Tuna boilies. I put another 2kg boilie and 2kg pellet back over the spot and topped up spot 1 & 3 at the same time. In the mean time the Crayfish had started becoming a pest so after a visit up to Gigantica and some new armour it was time to protect some baits, so I did about 20 or so to tied me over. It was the second time I had visited Gigantica for a walk round the first being 3 years ago when I fished Napoleon Lakes, nothing really changed except they now farm and bring on their own fish which was great to see, I caught up with carping legend Rod Hutchinson and had a brief chat, unfortunately he was blanking and the week was running away with him.

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With the boys at the top end still picking off the odd fish it had slowed down a little and we had a 24hr lull with only 1 fish out between us. Wednesday morning saw me lose a fish from my Spot 2 rod again in the snag to a hook pull, I think I hit in to it a little early and bullied it too quick as I didnt want to risk losing it hahaha karma hah! after another reset and another 2kg of the faithfull CC Moore going in, I settled down for the night after recasting spot 1 and spot 3 which still had nothing to report. Terry had a nice upper 20lb common so although slow he was still picking the odd one off. After cooking up some bankside tucker and washing it down with a cuppa my spot 2 rod tore off again this time after a pleasant fight I banked a stunning long mirror weighing in at 42lb 12oz which was a new Pb for me beating my previous of 41lb 6oz. The evening came and went uneventful in my swim but left to me and the top end had a couple more, the mornings were so cold dropping over 10 degrees from the day before, I set my alarm on my phone for 4am everyday so I could be awake for the early morning stillness and to see if anything was moving around, I did through the week try moving my Spot 1 rod and fish off the back of weed and gravel etc but nothing was interested what so ever it was strange that so far Id had 2 fish banked and one lost to spot 2 and nothing else. It didnt take long for the sun to come up and the mist to start rising off the water with another couple of kilo of bait gone in on my number 2 spot I felt confident I would have another, and I was hoping for one of the big girls as nothing over 48lb had been out and for a lake with a nice selection of 50’s and a couple of 60’s we were all itching that the next take would be a biggun, I wasnt to be dissapointed, SPOT 2 rod AGAIN melted off even though she was locked up to just under breaking strain it had gone in the snag enough for me to have to take a deep breath and utilise my skills in trying to get it out, after about 10mins I had movement and then all of a sudden it powered off out to open water and took line like nobodys business I had to loosen the clutch a little before things started melting, diving deeper and deeper and then with a bit of finger pressure I managed to slow it down, and eventually turn it, I started to pump the rod and retrieve very slowly the line that had been stripped off, it was a bit back and forth for a while through very deep water, I knew it was a lump and then you get that sick feeling everytime it starts to peel line off, please stay on please hook hold, please link etc etc I managed to get the fish to the surface my veins were bursting my arms burning, I was shaking – I managed to get in my Vass Waders and get in the water up to about 3 feet to give myself some space, I was still on my own as I didnt call the others as I didnt want the pressure of being watched with such a big fish, I managed to get her across the chord and Im not gonna lie I did shout out “YES YES YES” and slumped down on the decking for a moment to gather myself. I thought yes a definate new PB, I took the rig out which was nailed perfect centre bottom lip, I still didnt grasp what I had in the net to be honest I just thought maybe a fifty as one not been out all week, I knew it was biggest so far though, I got the fish in the retainer and couldnt get my arms round it, when I lifted it I knew it was a lump but still didnt realise who it was, I got my Fox Digitals on the weigh station and zeroed, Kev had arrived and said “[email protected]*$ me boy thats a biggun” we hoisted her up to the scales they bottomed my Fox’s out at 66lb!!! I rang Terry for his Ruebens and he wound all his rods in bless him, Louis the bailiff arrived and said “You’ve got Masson Im sure of it” oh I said errrrrrm I was in shock shaking, the lads took overy the weighing for me and she went 69lb 2oz er yeah a New Pb and a fish of a LIFETIME also the biggest fish in the Lake and current Lake Record of which it stands at 69lb 8oz so 6oz short but who cares wehhhhhhhey and thats where my WOW comes from, I am still buzzing now a couple weeks later still not sunk in what I have actually had.

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I had fed over 10kg of boilie over spot 2 up until Thursday night and 5kg Belechan and Trout Pellet it was the only spot that produced for me all week, I didnt have anymore fish but I certainly didnt mind that, I had the biggest fish in the lake, I wound in all my rods, had a shower, went for a social with Terry for a while and tried to reflect on what had just happened, its hard to describe the emotions and only a Carp Angler would understand, I was shaking quite bad at one stage, I was in shock at another stage, I had a tear in my eye after I settled down, it really is a magical moment in your fishing journey, we all strive to catch a stunner or a Pb and to have a fish of a lifetime well thats something else, and something that I worked very hard for, I perservered when others were all catching around me, I nearly moved, so all those things, correct baiting strategy, correct rig choice, bait choice, hook links, they all matter and they all give you confidence. I think we finished the week with 25 fish – an average for that water in good conditions of which we certainly did not is about 20 so we rocked it to be honest and Paul and Dave did very well with Paul busting out another low 60 final knockings. Thank you to all the guys it was a pleasure sharing my special moment with you all, especially my good pal Terry I know it meant alot to you to see me catch that fish and that means alot to me buddy.

Til Next Time
Rich

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