A week away from the World
Hi, welcome to this month’s feature, I’m going to talk about our long-awaited trip to France this month. Although it was up in the air until a couple of weeks before the trip, the changes in France for those that had bad been double jabbed, meant we could travel there without needing to quarantine. Though some may not agree with me going to France just yet, we really needed to get away for a break. As I have mentioned previously, my wife Sal is still recovering from a year of treatment for Breast Cancer, which has been very tough on us both but more especially her. I had promised her we would get away at the earliest opportunity, so that’s what we did. Neither of us were keen to get on a plane at this point, whereas the ferry did seem a fair option. So, a week’s fishing in France was planned. Part of the issue was that we needed a fair amount of luxury and facilities in the event of the weather not being so great, as it turned out we had some real storms. Some 20 years ago, Sal did travel to France with me on a few occasions, when we really roughed it, in fact she was there when we set the World Carp Match records at Fishabil in 2001. But these days she wants a bit more comfort, nothing wrong with that, this was a break for both of us after all.
As it turned out, I knew just the place to go where we could have the rods out and have good accommodation so we would both be suited. So, I booked the Chalet swim at Etang de Briguiuel, also known as High Mill Lake. A bit about the lake and its owners. Andy and Tracy bought the lake some 17 years ago, they had made the decision to move to France for a lifestyle change and having viewed a number of places, decided to settle here. The lake then was a far cry from what you see now, as at that time it just had one swim which was the Chalet swim. It has taken a serious amount of time, work and money to transform the lake into the Fishery it is now. What’s more surprising is that neither of them were anglers either. Over the years the fishery has taken shape and is now a popular destination for anglers from all across Europe, as well as the UK (now we are not in Europe!), with many anglers been regulars here, returning year after year. The lake itself is around 10 acres and is set in the most peaceful surroundings in rural France, amongst a lot of wildlife, whilst we were there, we saw Coypu, Deer, Red Squirrels, Kingfishers, Buzzards to name but a few species. The lake has around 600 carp, 80 of these are over 40lbs, with 20 going over 50lbs, the lake record stands at 63lb. I’ll come back to the fishing later. You can cater for yourself or take the food package, Andy and Tracey are really helpful, nothing is too much trouble to make your stay really enjoyable and rewarding. Their website is being rebuilt as we speak, but you can check out up to date info on their Facebook page. If anyone requires any info about this lake, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Apart from sorting out the usual travel documents, bait and tackle, we also had the Covid tests and extra travel paperwork to sort out, both going and returning home, which was lengthy to say the least, but we were determined to get there.
We sailed from Newhaven to Dieppe, I prefer this route rather than the tunnel. The main reason being that I can get a cabin and get my head down for a few hours, the Ferry sails at 11pm and arrives in France around 4.30. As we have a 260-mile drive down to Newhaven from Yorkshire, and the drive from Dieppe down to Briguiuel is around 5-6 hours, the break on the ferry is needed at my age. Also, Dieppe is further along the coast, so we can bypass Paris and travel South much easier, arriving relatively fresh and not having to have driven all night. We stopped at a supermarket on the way down for a few supplies and arrived at the lake around 1pm. The weather was warm and sunny but there was rain and storms forecast. Having got unpacked and the bivvy up, it was time to sort the rods out. whilst we had the chalet behind us, I planned to sleep in the Bivvy, whilst Sal had the option of the bivvy or a proper bed in the chalet.
I have fished this swim before, so I had an idea of a couple of spots to fish. I had six rods to get ready, so once I had rigs and baits on, Sal helped with putting the rods out. We had three rods each, Sal’s rods, which were the XK3 13ft 3.5lb, accompanied by the ICON Q, were going to be put along the Dam wall with the bait boat. My rods, the XK1 13ft 3.5lb accompanied with the ICON Qi, were going to be cast to a spot around 90 yards or so to a marker and baited lightly with the X-Spod. All the alarms were zoned into one Hubb for ease of operation. I also knew from previous trips that Crayfish can be a problem on here, so I planned to use a mixture of air-dried N-Blend boilies and Giant Tigers from Monster Particles, these would be glugged with the N-Blend DNA liquid. I also knew from previous trips to go very sparingly on the bait, less is more if you get my meaning, I feel that a lot of anglers ruin their chances when using a bait boat, simply by putting in far too much bait at the start, you can see from the boat picture how much bait was used over each rig. What I do is drop the rig on one spot with a handful of bait and then move the boat slightly a yard or so and drop the other hopper. I have found this to be very effective when boat fishing especially where boats are used a lot. Even though it’s a small amount of bait, there is a lot of attraction coming from it. I had some extra hard hookbaits from DT Baits and I had also dried out the frozen baits as well at home for two weeks, prior to glugging, hopefully they would last the night. I always keep my rigs simple and strong at home and abroad is no exception.
I was using a Giant Tiger with a small piece of cork on some rods and alternating with an 18mm N-Blend Boilie on the others, just to see if they carp showed a preference. I would change during the week as needed. It was on the first day I realized there was something wrong with the boat, it was showing no power after a couple of trips, marvelous! This was going to make searching out those important dinner plate spots during the week much harder, especially when fishing at range, oh well…one day at a time.
We got all the rods out in the evening and settled back to watch the water for a while, having a nice supper of Wine, Bread, Cheese, Pate, and a few other delicacies we had picked up at the supermarket. The other bonus of the chalet swim was that it has a TV! What was on that night? England! So, a few drinks and watching the footie was the plan for the rest of the evening, no doubt the other anglers on the lake could hear the scores as well from my yelling! We settled down for the first night, it had been a long day and we were both tired, I was woken just before dawn by the middle rod in open water tearing off.
Sal was on it before I was! She played the carp in with some coaching, and I netted the carp, just over 34lb, that’s a good start I thought. We were just waiting for first light to get some pics of the first carp when at first light the middle rod on the dam wall ramped off, I got there first. This fish fought much harder but eventually Sal netted the carp, just over 42lb, what a great start to our week I thought. Sadly, the fishing got much harder after that, the remaining carp seem to melt away, we had a few smaller carp in the next couple of days and then it went dead. I knew from past experience that this swim can be peggy, the other end of the lake has large lily beds and out of bounds areas, so naturally that’s where the carp stay a lot of the time, it also means the pegs at that end tend to be the more productive ones as well. Both anglers in pegs 8 and 11 caught consistently through the week. The carp do spread out in the dark, and travel down the lake, especially if there is a wind coming down this way, but I think in these short summer nights, they don’t get so far if there are a lot of lines in the water, which there were. I had hoped I would have the option to move swims during the day if needed, but it wasn’t really an option, so we had to sit it out, still we had caught some carp, so I was okay with that, as it was a bit of a holiday as well, we had some day trips out to see around the area. A lot of anglers don’t do this and miss out on some great local attractions and also some real history, especially in France. I think it’s good to be away from the lake as well for a while, clear the mind a bit.
One of the places we visited was Oradour Sur Glane. During the second World war, the entire town (over 600 people) were massacred in one day on the 10th of June 1944 by the SS. There was a book about this and whilst not wanting to dwell too much on fault, as there are some discrepancies about orders that day, it really does bring home the horrors of warfare. All the women and children were locked in the church, (you can see the picture), and then killed, when you see the size of the church it is difficult to even try and imagine them crammed in so tight and the fear they must have felt. The men were rounded up into groups in buildings around the town and met the same fate. The French have left the whole town as it was, building a new town alongside to live in. There are signs to say what each building was, café, hairdressers, garage etc. Everything is left as it was, there is also a Centre underground as a Museum. It was very thought provoking walking the streets of that desolate town and despite being a lot of folk walking round, it was eerily quiet. It was a reflective drive back to the lake that day. Personally, I feel it’s important these things remain to be seen for the future generations, not to apportion blame but to show the horrors of war and hopefully trying to avoid these things for our future generations…
By mid-week I could feel that we were not going to catch anymore carp, so we just chilled out and enjoyed the break. All too soon, the week came to an end, we had been waiting from an announcement from the British Government and hoping we might not have to isolate upon our return, even half planning on staying another week if it was needed to fit the dates to travelling back, it wasn’t to be, and we had to make plans to return home. We had a great week, though the fishing ended up being a bit hard, now I say that I think there would be a lot of anglers who would be happy having a nice break and catching carp up to 42lb and having some quality family time as well, so maybe we didn’t do so bad after all, we certainly weren’t disappointed. Andy and Tracy looked after us really well, as they do all their visitors, which is why they get some many returning anglers, I guess. I can definitely see us returning here as Sal enjoyed the time out and I got to have the rods out.
The drive home wasn’t too bad, the drive in France is always ok. It’s that last trip up the M1 in the middle of the night that is always a bind especially late at night. Which is why it’s a good reason to have a nap on the ferry. As I’m writing this up, we are having to Isolate until our five-day test and hopefully we can get out then. It’s a small price to pay for a great week away. Me, I’m already planning my return to France for some Public water fishing in September, I’ll let you know how I get on, meanwhile the rods are re-rigged for my own fishing back on the Pits next week, don’t you just love Carp-Fishing!
Catch you next time.