A magical week in France
I recently returned from my first-ever foreign fishing excursion, a week on Old Oaks fishery in France. I spent weeks buying bits and prepping for it and, I have to admit, was quite daunted at the prospect of targeting fish of such size.
We were armed with 75kg of 18mm Switch boilies and 25kg of particle mix, while I also had a range of DNA pop-ups that had worked for me back home.
I went with a target of catching a carp of 45lb or more and felt like this was a realistic target for me and a fish I would’ve been more than happy with for my first-ever carp session overseas. Prior to the week, I looked through countless pictures and catch reports from the venue, some of which contained photos of the Long Common, a stunning fish that often came out between 67lb and 69lb. It was something I could only dream of catching.
I arrived at the lake and met the owner, Medhi. He explained the lake was fishing relatively hard and the previous anglers had struggled due to the weather. I felt slightly disappointed and prepared myself for a tough week’s fishing. We walked the lake and picked swims. I saw a lot of carp in peg five, so that was my selection sorted, while Ollie and Rick chose pegs two and three respectively.
I put my three rods out towards large patches of fizzing, each with a kilo of Switch boilies over the top. I had different hookbaits on each rod to see which was more productive, initially going in with Milky Malts, PBs and the Switch.
To my disappointment, I woke up the next morning to motionless bobbins. Upon winding in, I found I had no baits left on any of the rigs due to the large presence of poisson chat in the lake. I knew then I had to find a way to combat these nuisance fish, with plastic baits seeming like the obviously approach. Now that I had my rigs and hookbaits sorted, I walked around the lake to investigate where the fish might be holding up in the hot conditions. I found the majority of the stock to be in close to the far margins seeking cover from the sun, so I repositioned the rods for the day in the hope of some action to start the week off.
By the end of the day I had caught two fish, but neither were my intended target species, as firstly a tench and then a good-sized grass carp gave themselves up to my rigs.
Ollie in peg two was the first to open the account with a 37lb 3oz mirror, but I went on to endure another quiet night, and by morning it was dawning upon me what Medhi had said about the fishing being hard.
Finally, however, a carp gave itself up to me on the third day in the form of a very hard-fighting 18lb common. Admittedly, it wasn’t quite the size I had hoped for, but it was a start and I felt much more positive for something bigger at some point in the week.
At first light on Tuesday, I was awoken by what felt like a decent fish on my middle rod. After a 20-minute battle, I slipped the net under a new personal best of 37lb 7oz. Even though it wasn’t a monster carp, I was buzzing nevertheless, as I’d never seen a fish this size on the bank before! I managed some great photographs and got the fish back, but little did I know I was about to have possibly my most memorable day’s carp fishing ever!
Over the course of the day, the three of us shared eight more fish to 46lb 4oz, four of which were landed by me on peg five. I broke my personal three times and landed some amazing creatures of 38lb 13oz, 39lb 2oz, 41lb 6oz and 42lb 6oz. The three of us were up and down the bank weighing and photographing fish non-stop all day whilst trying to reposition our rods and keep the Switch boilies going in with the bait boat. I can’t believe the boat continued to plod on all day!
After the previous day’s action, I slept on until mid-morning and was awoken by a take from what initially felt like a good fish. I estimated it to be an upper thirty, but the scales actually settled on 42lb 15oz, giving me yet another new personal best. I couldn’t quite believe it; the week was just getting better and better!
Then the conditions took a turn for the worse and we saw temperatures of 38 degrees without a cloud in the sky. I decided to reel in and take a walk around the lake again to see if the fish had moved out of the swim due to the pressure and disturbance of the previous days. I was happy to see a large amount of the lake’s stock were still holding up in the area and hugging the tree line. I got them feeding and competing for the Betastim Floaters, but just couldn’t safely get a floater rig out to them.
A large fish caught our eye when we were searching the tree line and straight away we called it out to be the Long Common. This was supposedly its hideout, so I couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw this unmistakably long fish cruise past and under the cover of a nearby bush. I had been presenting a bait here all week, so it felt like it was only a matter of time before it decided to feed on the spot. This was just the proof I was looking for and from here on in I was just hoping for a run on the left-hand rod.
Largely due to the hot weather and high pressure, the alarms were silent until midday the following day. Out of the blue came a 38lb 4oz mirror as a bit of a wake-up call when we thought the fish just weren’t interested in feeding. This fish acted as another little confidence booster for us all.
The Friday turned out to be a very quiet day followed by more hot weather. As the night slowly started to draw in, I knew we’d be leaving the following day and felt this would be my last chance to bank one of the real giants. To our surprise, we noticed large fizzes up and down the lake, which suggested to us the fish had moved from their far-margin hideouts into open water, so I repositioned my right-hand and middle rods to open water. Deciding whether to move my left-hand rod or not was a really tough call. How could I move it from the spot where I had seen the big one earlier in the week? I waited and waited in the hope I would get some sort of indication before committing to the last night of the session.
About 20 minutes later, a frenzy of fizzes appeared about 6ft off the spot I had been fishing. This was the sign I had been waiting for, so I piled a generous amount of bait – a kilo of 18mm Switch coated in NuttaS Liquid Food and a kilo partiblend – into the boat for one last time. I set my bobbins in anticipation of a bite in the middle of the night, thinking it would take them a while to get through all that bait.
To my total bemusement, just 30 minutes later my left-hand alarm sounded and the bobbin began to pull up tight. I struck into the fish and was met with some heavy thumps. This felt like no other fish I had hooked so far. It continued to plod around before making darts for both my left- and then right-hand margins. I remember Rick standing by the side of me saying, “This could be the Long Common.” I instantly dismissed the comment, mainly to save any heartache if I went on to lose it. The fish started to tire after 15 minutes or so of hard fighting, before finally a huge common popped up on the surface ready to be netted. I walked backwards slowly, all the while trying to keep my cool when inside I was a complete mess. As Rick attempted to slide the net under it, the fact he had to make a second scoop to fit the fish inside suggested to me it was something special. Of course, as you may have guessed, it was the Long Common, weighing in at a colossal 62lb 3oz, a PB that could quite possibly remain for the rest of my carp-fishing life. I was absolutely ecstatic as I paced around the peg trying to get things sorted, but in all honesty, I had completely lost it; I couldn’t believe what had happened.
I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to an amazing week fishing in France. Between us we landed 19 fish on top of the few that go away. The fact we managed this in difficult conditions really speaks volumes about the bait we used and the tactics we adopted.