IFD: Dan O’Kelly recounts a recent trip to France fishing huge public waters with Davey Phelan. Dan is one of Ireland’s top carp anglers with immense experience fishing in France and this time he fills us in on a trip that didn’t go to plan. All real anglers can appreciate this and it’s a refreshing account of genuine fishing….
Well this year rather than do an Autumn session like I normally do I decided to do a spring session on a big public water in France.
While in France the previous year I found out that a lake I used to fish had, had a night zone reopen. Originally it had been closed due to some clown’s lighting fire’s which made the farmer very nervous, understandable so with the hot summers they get over there and with live stock on the land not to mention the valuable trees, the night zone was closed.
I was delighted to find out it was open again. But there were a few conditions and a local bailiff that would be around to check if we were respecting the area and so forth. Not a problem for us as we never light fire’s and all cooking is done inside the bivvy and we never litter.
One of the other condition’s was that it would be closed after the 31st of July to facilitate the Hunters. So a autumn session was out of the question either way. Anyway myself and Edgey Dave set about getting our selfelves sorted for the session.
In fairness there was not a lot to organise as we’ve done this many times and all we really needed to do was book the ferry and organise the bait. A quick call to Derek in Main Irish Angling and the bait was ordered.
We decided to go with Trigga from Nutra Baits with the flavour been the Blue Oyster also from Nutra Baits also. Then it was just a case of counting down the days to the off.
We planned to go in the first two weeks of April. The thinking was that the fish might not have moved towards the spawning areas that early and we might have a chance of connecting with a few of them before romance was in the water. The other reason was that the pike anglers, who can be a royal pain in the arse when fishing the public’s are not allowed fish til the 1st of May. They have no respect for carp anglers and have no problem dropping anchor right on your H-block and fishing away.
Some areas in France are better and this behaviour is minimal but on this lake it was rife. So the thought’s of fishing unhindered by these Neanderthals made me smile inside and book the ferry.
On the way down through France we dropped into and old friend Fred who was working on a lake in the north of France and it was not to far out of our way. Due to the ferry times early and late in the season it’s nearly impossible to get fishing the first night as it would be well into the night before you arrived and even later before you got settled.
So it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with Fred. After about a three and a half hour drive we found Fred’s place. We had a few beers and a good chat before hitting the sack as we had an early start in the morning as did Fred. We were back on the road by 9am with probably 4 more hours to go. Four long hours when you have the Edgey fella beside you, going are we there yet, are we there yet…
Finally we arrived on the lake and to our delight the swims we wanted were open. There were a few others carpers on the night zone but it is a very big zone 4kms in total so sharing was not an issue. Launching the boat was, but I knew a spot we could slip the boat in. Getting it out again would not have been possible in this spot.
The main harbour would have to be used for that job, which could be worried about at a later date. Right now the main concern was sticking our flag in our intended swim. Once that was done and all the gear was unloaded, taking two trips in the boat. We had the dreaded coin flip for sides, always and area of concern for the eager angler.
Personally I like to let the coin decide, that way I’m not left at the end of the holiday kicking myself for picking the wrong side. I can just put it down to bad luck. Well that’s what I tell myself anyway. In this instance the coin flip when my way and i got the side I fancied.
Not that it really mattered as i had fished this swim before on my own and had equal amounts of fish from both sides. There was a sand bar out about 300 yards and we placed the bivvy spots to fish either side of it and had agreed to fish left and right of it and fan the other rods back to the drop off 60 yards out in front of us.
This way we could try to work out the distance the fish (if any) were passing by at. The lake itself was 10000 acres so it was impossible to predict which way the fish would come.
After a few hours messing around with boats,h-blocks and fish finders we were settled in and all we needed for the party to get started was a fish. At 7 am the next morning my second furthest rod out rattled off. I jumped out of bed and hit it, class I thought to myself first morning and I’m into a fish, here we go.
I was not long into the fight before i began to think I was into a cat. The strong runs with the tail flapping against the main line is a dead give away, but one can never be sure unless it’s a massive cat. It’s the cats in the 20lbs to 40lbs odd range that can catch you out sometimes. But i was fairly sure this was a cat.
I fought it from the bank as long as I could before it got caught in the weed that was on the top of the drop off in front of us. The rod was dropped out at 270 yards and the drop off was about 60 yards out. I’ve found in the past getting into the boat to early with a cat can see you been pulled around the lake like a bubble float for a few hours.
Standing with your feet on Terra Firma gives you a lot more control than been pulled around in the boat. The bigger the boat the better, you will tire the fish out quicker but you are left with the problem of netting it and as I’ve found out in the past to my dismay.
Carp landing nets are not for cats. The clue is in the name really and until your looking at a cat that’s 1.8 meters long and pointing upwards towards the boat (as i have in the past ) you realise this just is not going to work.
The only way is to fight them is from the bank. Not to mention 12 foot carp rods are not great for fighting fish from a boat particularly fish that are bigger than the rod is rated for, theres a good chance of breaking the rod. Anyway I’ll get back to the fish.
As it was snagged up the was no other option but to get into the boat and go after it. Davey skipper the boat out as I kept the line tight. We were soon over the fish, who was buried in the weed and although the water was gin clear we could not see it.
I pulled the line either way as you do to try and free it from all angles until i conceded to grab the line and do the nervous slow pull hoping for a happy ending. Hoping to feel some movement on the other end and not an uncompromising solid snag.
As i put pressure on the line a few bubbles started to emerge where the line was pointed and thankfully a few others away from the line. Then there was movement a few bits of weed snapped and floated up and a cat around 60lbs emerged from the weed. Although not our intended target I still like catching them and to see it swimming around in the clear water is assume.
We were able to successfully steer it into the net as it was not a monster and quickly ferried it back to the bank. With a few quick photos and a weighting of the fish, it was back in the water. It was 60lbs,by no means a big cat but i appreciated it all the same.
After that we were licking our lips, thinking that this was a great sign of what was to come. That night we were full of anticipation, hoping for an early morning run. The morning came and went and nothing happened. OK two nights in and no carp, well that’s normal on the public’s. Usually it’s the third night in before anything happens.
On the morning of the third night I awoke to hear the frantic call of the Edgey fella. This particular high pitched sound is unmistakable, easily distinguishable from any other critter in the surrounding area and can usually be heard shortly after his alarms have indicated a run. It goes like ……DAN…DAN…DAN….I’M IN……I’M IN…. GET THE BOAT….GET THE BOAT !!!!! and that was the end of my lie in!
By the time i got up to Davey the fish had found a snag but not on the sand bar in front of us, it was a good way out.We had placed the boat in the middle of the two swims with the net and mat already in the boat so that we could assist each other in the event of a run. It was my turn to skipper the boat.
The rod had been placed 300 yards out and not much line had been retrieved so it was a long row for me. But i was happy to do it. On the row out Davey was getting nervous that it had got off. It had not moved in a while and was rock solid. When we got over the fish it seemed to be stuck in weed.
We did not even know the weed was there. But again after some nervous pulling and dragging the fish came loose from the weed and the fight began, much to Daveys delight. It was putting up a good fight so again we were undecided on what species Davey was connected to. A good ten minutes later and we seen colour and it was brown.
We were dealing with our intended species a “carp” and a mirror carp at that. Although I prefer to fight fish from the bank, there is nothing like watching a carp swimming around the boat in clear water during the day. A short while later Davey had steered it into the waiting net and we headed for the shore. Then the weighting and photo shoot ensued. It weighted in at 31.8lbs and we had it back in the water shortly after.
Confidence levels were brimming now and we thought we had cracked it. But sadly that was the end of the action and morning after morning passed fishless. There are many fisherman’s excuses as to why a session doesn’t turn out the way you wanted or expected it to.
On this occasion I’m going to blame the Northwest wind that was blowing for a few weeks and the fact that the fish were also going into spawning mode and prespawning is always a difficult time particularly on a 10000 acre water that you are restricted to fishing one or two night zones. So after 6 nights we had to make a decision on wither to move or stay as we had 7 nights left to fish and we both weren’t feeling it.
Anyway the decision was made to move and we packed up and left and headed to another lake a bit smaller at a 1000 acres. But with a move you get a refreshed sense of optimism. I’d like to say we made the right decision and hauled, but we didn’t and apart from one dropped run for Davey that was it for the session.
We came home with our tails between our legs, no open top bus, no bunting and no cheering crowds awaited us at Rosslare. It was a bad session but I will say we’ve had worse. Carp fishing is hard at the best of times but big public water french carping can be painfully hard and very unrewarding sometimes. But it’s like they say it’s not every throw a coconut.