Fortune and misfortune. part 1

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My relationship with luck can be very testing at times, although our angling life seen through the very narrow view of instagram can seem like we have all the luck in the world, I can assure you in reality fortune isn’t so kind. For us it would seem for every bit of good luck we encounter there is also a equal measure of bad luck lurking around the corner, waiting for us to walk into. Now Claire would say this is to do with balance in the world, yin and yan, with their interaction is thought to maintain the harmony of the universe and to influence everything within it! To be honest for me, that all sounds a bit far out there, preferring to define good and bad luck in more logical terms. Good luck is when opportunity meets good preparation and bad luck is where poor preparation meets reality! Our summer angling would have a flavour of both perspectives of luck, it would get me thinking about how one action follows into another and how fortune would define the outcome.

It All started at he back end of August with cancelled Euro tuition, I had just finished a  2 week film shoot in the UK with my French buddies and had a 4 days to prepare for the tuition. The day before we was due to depart the client cancelled due to family illness. With the van already packed and the train booked there was really only 2 options. One was to unpack, stay at home and crack on with editing the backlog of footage stored on my hard drive’s. Or the second option was to go fishing with Claire and worry about all that other stuff another day. Obviously we chose the latter.

Once again, things turned well. We were on the road

The original plan with the client was to leave late afternoon and drive through the night, arriving in the south of France for first light. Now that it was our own trip and we wasn’t constricted to the client agenda, we decided to go explore new waters we hadn’t fished before, starting in the east of France at huge barrage. Arriving a little after 9pm we began unpacking the van, setting up and loading the boat like Tetris by torch light. Cramming myself, Claire, the dog and all our kit into one 3m boat, by the time we was out on the water the sky was pitch black, exploring the bays, weed beds, rushes and other interesting structure, we lit up the water with a powerful lamp in search of carp. Five and a half hours later, with sunrise just around the corner we had only seen small carp and hundreds of catfish. Choosing to call it a night, or morning so to speak we dropped 3 lines and crashed out for a few hours before making the return 2km journey back to the van.

Back on the road heading south it would be 3hrs before we would arrive at the second venue. A drinking water reservoir that looks pretty stunning on google maps but because of the lack of rain that year the level was very low making the lake look dry, rocky and desolate. Despite the coarse look of the lake and a few anglers on we set about taking a good look around with our limited options, choosing to set up camp near the slipway fishing across to broken submerged road at varying distances.

The night was quiet, to be honest the sleep was needed after the previous nights activity, Claire popped the kettle on and we sat back to watch the sun rise while contemplating our next move. During our discussions we was interrupted a series of beeps from the longest road spot, Walking to my rod to investigate I could see I had a drop back, reeling down to take up the slack I eventually connected with a carp, a brief but sum what intense battle ensued in the shallow water and after a couple of aggressive short runs she was in the net. No monster but a lovely dark long mirror and a fantastic start to the day. We took some pictures, packed up our kit and sat in the van going through google maps once again trying to decide where to go next, settling on a group of barrages 2.5hrs from our current location. Making a call to few friends who knew the region better than us, confirmed there was carp in the lakes and that was enough for us to hit the road once more in search of new horizons. Arriving at the first lake it was public, like really public, at over 2km long and 600m wide, with sailing, swimming, kayaking and water sports activity’s across the lake it was a very busy venue! Immediately behind this lake was a second lake, very different to the first, twice the size, quiet, wild, with lots of arms and bay but the water level was very very low. Leaving the van behind and heading out on foot for a good look around the first lake we immediately gravitated to a quite corner full of large lily pad beds, sitting up on the barrage wall of the lake behind, we had a good view looking down at this area of the lake. It didn’t take long for Claire to spot a few shapes lurking amongst the pads, deciding that was enough for us to act on we walk back grab the van and set up on the pads. We cant of been gone for more than 25mins but upon our return there was a coarse angler in the swim setting up, I was gutted, the area looked perfect, we had seen carp and it was quiet, but hey that’s luck for ya!

With all of the accessible bank searched it was time to pop the drone up and take a look at the far margin. I know a lot of people have a hang up about the use of drones in carp fishing, but for me I don really see the problem, for sure its over kill on a lake you can walk around in the UK but out here on the continent the venues are big and I want to be able to work things out quickly as a very rarely spend more than few nights on one venue of late.

After searching a third of the far margin I had exhausted my first battery, I had seen very little to move on, with two thirds still to go I wasn’t giving up yet and as I came round the corner from a large rush lined bay there they were! Approximately 50 carp sat round a huge weed bed, all sitting on the surface mouching around in groups, this was it, we found them and there was no doubt in our minds that we would catch that night.

Setting up camp under a large tree in the shade out the way from the scorching sun, we tackled up ready to hit the water in search of spots. I would have loved to have towed 3 rods strait over to the weed bed where we had seen the fish, but there was so much activity on the lake, we had zero chance of getting those lines out with out being picked up by a boat or some other vessel on the water, opting instead to  position 3 rods in our own margin first. Approximately 130m to our right there was moorings for the sailing boats, fishing under boats had always been good to us in the past so logically this would be the first trap we set, heading up the margin the weed was thick, but fortunately ending 5ft before the first boat. Dropping a lead on a bottle for a quick donk around, the bottom was solid, introducing a couple handfuls of scopex squid before dropping my rig this seemed like the perfect spot. Our second rod would be positioned behind a big bed of weed directly in front of us in the thick silt, this time using Tuna and Garlic as the pungent smell in my opinion cuts through the dank silt odour much better than the squid.

The last margin rod would be dropped tight to some snaggy brambles in less than 1m of water, we always like a chance rod, something a bit different to the rest and often can end up being a very productive spot.

Tranquilty on earth

With all the margin rods out sweet we would have to wait until 8pm for the lakes activity to calm down before heading to the long spots, when I actually arrived at the weed bed it was a lot bigger than I initially thought, only a fraction was visible on the surface, in reality it actually began 50m further out into the lake than I had seen on the drone. Spending over a hour plumbing around we eventually found a area 2mx1.5m smack bang in the middle of the bed, my donking lead was covered in black sticky silt that had a foul odour but this spot was in the zone. I was going to bait this one heavy, 3kg of tuna and garlic along with some flake soaked in liquid before dropping my blow back snowman rig over the top. The other two long rods would be dropped on the flanks of the weed beds where the bottom was surprisingly hard, butted up tight to the weed I introduced around a kilo of squid complemented by a few handfuls of flake before towing our rods over 500m back to our swim, using the gps on our lowrance fish finder to insure our line were as strait as could be (something that’s very important when fishing long distance.)

Claire got the dinner on for a well earned meal, sitting back to watch the sun set once again while eating our food, we was very confident our sleep would be interrupted by carp. At just after 11:30pm the first interruption came, a savage one toner from the middle long rod, Claire picked up her rod and tightened the clutch but the fish continued to take line. Soon everything had gone solid, it was clear the carp had buried its self deep in the weed ,so we took to the boat in a attempt to dig it out, arriving at the spot Claire steadily applied pressure while I removed the weed from the line, it would take some time but eventually the fish popped up and the fight was back on! 10 mins later after a intense boat battle a dark chestnut 40lb + mirror slipped the cord, a mega first carp from the most public of public venues. We quickly unhooked the fish in the net, attached a fresh rig, lead and re dropped back on the spot before towing the fish and line back to our swim. On our return we safely retained the carp, followed by a quick brew and bed, but the silence wasn’t to last long!

No more than 20 mins had past and one of the long flank rods was away, This time it was my rod, playing the carp in from over half a km away, a golden low 30lber broke the surface in the margin, deciding to wake up at this point, with all the lines in close proximity it wasn’t long before the fish had picked up the bramble rod! Getting in quite a mess I must say it was a relief to see him eventually sulking in the bottom of he net. Untangling the twisted and entwined leaders we sacked him up next to Claire fish. While I was out in the boat doping back on the spot Claire had a take, after making my drop and arriving back in the swim Claire had a mint mid 20 common in the net, we unhooked him and let him go, we was only saving the cream for the camera in the morning. That night would turn out to be very busy one with 8 runs and 6 fish landed from the long spots, needless to say we were exhausted by first light.

In hindsight we should have clipped on some back leads before we grabbed what we thought would be a couple of hours sleep, a hour into our snooze we was awoken by the first long rod screaming off, followed by the second and finally the third! obviously this wasn’t a triple take, a large sailing boat had picked up our lines with its dagger board and was peeling line off our spools at ridiculous rate! We screamed and shouted at captain pug wash in French ” Attention Regarde lignes de pech” but he just kept on sailing oblivious to the carnage he was causing. Eventually 2 of the lines cut and the other pinged off the dagger board. A total disaster with over 1km of severed lines out in the lake attached to live rigs, we couldn’t just leave all that line out there, what if a fish picked it up and was trailing 500m+ , it would be morally wrong and fishing this kind of distance comes with responsibility, we would have to retrieve our lines no matter how long it takes! Spending half the day fishing for lines with a grappling hook we managed to retrieve both and wind them back onto the spool. Not the kind of angling we had in mind for that day!

Reeling in our remaining rods we jumped in to our sleeping bags for some much needed shut eye, waking late afternoon to start our preparation for the forthcoming night.

Fresh bait, leaders, rig were prepared, at 7pm we began the task of resetting our lines for the night, but this time we would leave out the bramble rod so to avoid any close in disaster when playing fish to the bank. All the rods went out the same as the night before with the exception of the soft weed bed spot, it had actually become harder, clearly the carp had cleared the spot out with this being the most productive rod from the previous nights angling, choosing to re bait heavy again we was sure this would be our hotspot for the session.

At 10pm the first run came, surprisingly it was the boat moorings spot and not long after I landed a low 20lb common. 45mins later the hot spot went into meltdown and the same as the night before the fish almost instantly was buried deep in the weed bed. We both jumped into the boat and powered out to the spot, dinging the carp out the weed on arrival Claire was soon in battle with the carp. The fish stayed low in the water, towing us some distance off the spot, we hadn’t seen it once in 15mins and was sure this was going to be a big carp. Eventually to our surprise a low 30lb mirror broke the surface, not the giant we envisaged after such a epic battle but a pretty carp all the same.

That night would see us land 5 carp in total, 3 for Claire from the hot spot, one for me from the moorings and finally one from my flanking long rod with Claire 30lber being the best of the bunch.

Claire and her 30’s black mirror

Not wanting to make the same mistake as the day before we clipped back leads on to all the long rods before we went o bed but unfortunately this wasn’t to work either!

At 10am all the long rods went into meltdown once more, the back leads hadn’t worked, it had to be our lines were sitting up in the water as they strewned across the weed bed in front of us, but the how and why didn’t matter at that point as it was carnage once more ! We held our rods with the clutches tight, to our surprise the boat stopped moving, I said to Claire jokingly ” lets try to reel it in” so we began cranking in sync so to applied even pressure and to our amazement the sailing boat started to move in our direction! We both found this highly amusing, the boat gathered pace moving towards us, the crew couldn’t work out what was going on for a while but after dragging the boat 50m backwards, spotting us reeling them in from the bank they finally realised and raised their dagger board releasing our lined intact. People often question me on the strength, durability of scopes but after reeling in a sailing boat I can categorically confirm that scopes can cope!

One of the mirror hooked far from the shore

By this point it had become obvious that we weren’t going to be able to fish the long spots during the day, but as we were catching 5-6 carp a night it didn’t really matter and it certainly was not worth the drama. With the long rods in we was set for a peaceful day, we chilled out with a cold beer from the sailing club bar in the 30 degree heat while catching up with some work on my laptop, when unexpectedly the alarm on my margin rod bust into life but it was no carp. A pike angler had cast across my line and reeled it in, no drama I thought, these things happen but then he whipped out his knife and cut my line right in front of me ! I couldn’t believe what i had just seen! I challenged him in English but he just muttered something in French and walked off! I was pissed, I rarely get angry about lines getting picked up as these things happen on the public lakes and if your going to get upset about it then public angling isn’t for you! But this was different, he cut my line and now I had to go waste hours trying to find it so not to leave a baited rig in the lake. luckily it took about 20 mins to find , but now I realised we wouldn’t be able to fish at all in the day without a drama. We had caught well on the previous nights and with us departing back to the UK in the morning I wasn’t majorly fussed about the day angling. The evening came, like a well oiled machine we got our rods deposited back out there, Claire hotspot had now really toughened up with a clear thud as she dropped her lead, we just knew it was going to throw up the goods for the final night.

Come 10pm we were poised ready for the first run, 20mins later the hotspot was away with Claire playing a low 20 common to the bank. Next up it was the mooring rod, a un relenting run that snapped my rod out of the rear rest, arriving just in time to save the rod from going in! The fish was peeling line off the spool at a phenomenal rate, I could feel the line grating against one of the buoy chains that marked the start of the moorings, it was at this point I shouted Claire to grab the boat. Rapidly motoring in the direction of the buoy, unwrapping the line from around the chain on arrival the fish had kitted out into open water, closing the gap as fast as we could I was soon above the carp with my scope bent double and line ticking off my spool. This fish was putting up a hell of a scrap, 15 mins later we was out in the middle of the lake and we caught our first glimpse, followed by the netting of a solid mid 30lb mirror. Returning to the bank we sacked him up for the night, again re dropping back on the spot, we waited for the next run and none of us could have predicted what happened next! Two rods rattled off at the same time me and Claire grabbed a rod each and then a third rattled of 30 seconds later! At first we thought one of our fish had picked another line up but they were both heading out in different directions, realising this was actually a third take we took turns on taking up the slack on this rod while playing the fish we all ready had on. Total carnage! I managed to land my carp first, another small common, I picked up the third rod and began playing it in while Claire landed her fish, a Long crusty old carp knocking on for 40lb, meanwhile the fish I had on decided to wake right up in our margin, a couple of big runs later and the line went slack. It was off to a hook pull, with 2 in the net we was still buzzing especially as Claire was a proper banger!

We decided not to put the rods back out again that night as we had to be off early to get the dog to the vets so we could travel home to the UK the following day.

In the morning we woke somewhat tired from the nights events, we packed up our kit and took some pictures of my capture. A lovely mint mirror with great proportions and colour, a real gem of a carp. After returning my prize it was time for Claire fish, as she lifted her capture from the water could instantly see it was a really really long carp, as she lay her prize down on the mat it virtually filled it end to end, dark colours and with a few battle scars you could tell this was a old fish.

Now with all our pictures done, our kit packed it was time to head off to the vets for a dog wormer and a stamp in her passport for the return journey. This is normally a strait forward procedure but within a few mins of being in the vets I could tell there was something wrong, the vet then explained to me there was no rabies vaccination stamp in my dogs passport, “impossible” I said we checked with our UK vet before we left, “NO its not here, impossible to travel for 3 weeks” he said! This was a major problem for us! we had commitments, back in the UK we needed to attend to, meetings, work and not to mention our son. I tried to pay the vet double to back date the vaccination but he flatly refused, We was royally F****d!

We wasn’t really sure what to do next, 101 different scenarios rattled through my head but non of them really feasible, we was stranded with no real options for the next 3 weeks!

Was this a case of  balancing yin, yan and inner harmony in the world ?  Or a case of  where poor preparation meets reality!

Join us in next months issue to find out what happened next! And if you don’t have already watch our last summer trip to France, here it is :

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