The lake in the forest.
When I moved to France, 6 years ago now I was here there and everywhere looking at every bit of blue on the map. Getting chased off of some places, being given duff information from the locals, hearing stories about this lake and that stretch of river and generally having a bloody good time trying new places and every now and then catching a carp or two.
After 6 months or so of being here though I was nearly ready to open Lac Du Coron for the very 1st time. Sharon and I hadn't bought a ready made fishery, we had bought a neglected
forgotten farmers lake and as such spent 7 months stocking it, reclaiming it from nature, extending the lake, installing the cabin and building swims; it was a real labour of love and had been my dream since I was a kid, so although I did do some fishing here there and everywhere work meant that I didn't get stuck into anything properly.
That theme carried on for 5 years believe it or not! I was still fishing, plenty on my own lakes, Coron and my newer one Solace and I had some great little trips, testing bait and hookbaits and catching wild fish, nothing big, but all wild and rewarding. Late last summer though, 12 months ago really I was itching to get stuck into somewhere properly, a proper campaign and because of this 🤬 virus I thought to myself it's now or never.
I had a water in mind that I had fished twice over the previous years. It's days only which suits me as I never fish more than 24hr sessions anyway. The whispers were that it once held some nice fish, it wasn't to big which helps when you are on limited time and it wasn't far from home, so it ticked all the boxes, that's if the few whispers I had heard were actually true and there were any left in there, I would just have to find out!
So I think it was late August time, the van was packed, bait ready, dogs and the misses tucked up in bed and I was sneaking out the house in the dark ready for my 1st session. It was probably about 4am because it was pitch black when I got there, made even darker by the fact the lake is in the middle of a centuries old forest. I had gone down a little track and wound my way down to sort of a lay by at the far end of the lake from the car park where the dog walkers and family's picnicking would park, thinking I'd prefer to keep my presence as quiet as possible. Not because I'm well known or anything, but a "serious" carper on any public lake in this region stands out.
Anyway, I grabbed the fags and phone and slowly made my way onto the path to start walking the lake and hopefully hear something to go on rather than having to wait until light. To my amazement as I put my foot on the path I heard the unmistakable crash of a carp. Surely not! I had been told this lake was rock hard and was well left alone by carp anglers. Surely with only a handful of carp in the lake I hadn't been lucky enough to find them that quickly. I tentatively made my way a few hundred meters down the path when a again, badooosh out to my left in the inky darkness. I definitely wasn't hearing things, it was bloody carp! That second time I was close enough to Kind of make an educated judgment as to where the bosh was from, about 200m further up the path I thought and 100 or so yards off the bank, so off I trotted.
When I got in-line with where I guessed I'd heard them I propped myself against a tree, lit a fag and settled in for the long wait to hear one of these carp. During the couple of fags I had propped against that tree I must have heard 15 shows, all a little further down and all about 100 yards out.
The darkness was just giving way to the morning, just, so I made my way back to the van to get loaded up. It was probably half a mile walk so I had packed light as I usually do. Small rukki, rod bag, chair mat and bucket were loaded onto my shoulders and I again made my way back into the darkness of the woods heading back to the area I'd heard the fish.
As I made my way through the gloom I had an odd feeling, like something wasn't right, or didn't add up. I'm not sure what it was, but there was definitely something "odd."
When I arrived at the hoody I'd left hanging on the tree as a marker I dropped my gear on the path and sat on my chair for 5 minutes as the sun slowly lit up the sky above the forest, that's when the "odd" feeling became a bit clearer. There was no water!
The path that I was on that had been the margin 2 years ago was now just a step down onto the sand of the old lake bed. It had been another very hot and dry summer, but not this hot, where had the bloody lake gone!?
I grabbed my gear, jumped down onto the sand and walked through the 8ft Reed beds, still well and truly on dry land. At this point I heard another good show and with a bit of light in the sky I could just make out the ripple lapping into the margin. I was bang on them!
I set up my rods with a couple of multis and one on a D, waited for another show and put all 3 in the rings of showing carp. As I sat down I rubbed my hands together, this was going to be easy!
Over the course of the day I must have seen 60 shows up and down the lake and probably moved 5 times. I just couldn't get a bite! I did speak to a fella though that we later named wadey boy. As the campaign progressed Ross and I actually decided he lived under the dam like a troll, we never once fished that lake and didn't see him. He was freindly enough though when he realised I'd make an effort to speak the lingo and I spent half an hour getting Information from him and making a local friend. It turned out that the year before the dam had cracked and the lake had lost nearly 2m of water, there were plans to fix it but he wasn't so sure and just shrugged his shoulders in that very French way. He didn't give too much away about the carp but he didn't deny their existence either, so I put that to the back burner for next time.
What the low water level meant to me now was that everywhere was accessible. I could wade 30 or 40 yards out and with a big hit could pretty much reach the middle. I'd heard carp, there were less places for them to hide, there wasn't another carp angler in sight and although I packed away fishless that first evening I had seen enough to know that I was going to enjoy it here.
My second trip was almost a carbon copy of the first. This time Ross was with me though. Another blank, but plenty of shows and a few more pieces of the jigsaw in place.
My third trip though was the game changer. Again I'd got there in the dark, but this time had decided to fish the opposite bank right up the other end by the dam wall. I hadn't actually seen carp show there, but I hadn't caught them when I was on them either! I hoped that maybe the shows were the fish on the move, and the reason there weren't any shows by the dam was because they had stopped and were feeding. This time I'd also decided to get some Maize out there as well as the boilie. So I found a likely spot and spombed a load of gear out there. Not really my thing to be honest, certainly not a strength of mine but I thought it was worth a shot.
After 20 or so chucks with the spomb I heard a beep. All of you know that feeling when you hear a buzzer that isn't yours and that you didn't expect to hear. It was still pretty dark but it sounded far way away and on the other bank. Not long later I could just make out a boat in the margins. It was positioned pretty much half way between where I had fished the previous 2 weeks and where I was now. Not an area I had seen a huge amount in but probably the widest part of the lake. By about lunchtime I was still fishless and had seen very little to go on. The fella opposite had also packed up and was slowly making his way back to my bank and I guessed the car park. We had a chat and exchanged pleasantries as you do. But what I really noticed was that he was a "proper" carp angler, you could just tell by his gear and straight away I knew there was at least something worth fishing for.
An hour or 2 passed and I was getting itchy feet. A few hundred yards up to my left was a load of huge old rotten tree stumps, root balls and all that had obviously been in there since the original stream was flooded and had been uncovered with the low water levels. Anyway, I grabbed the receiver and had a wander up there to investigate. As I was wading around in the margins one poked its head out about 60 yards out, I thought sod it there's nothing going on up there, I'm moving.
I rebaited the 3 rods and put them out to the area and settled back down. No more than 20 minutes had passed when one of the rods went into meltdown, and I don't mean a one toner, I mean the alarm can't keep up with the spool! I was actually scared to pick it up!
I lent into this fish and it basically pulled me into the lake, it was so powerful I kind of had to follow it. Good job I did really as later we would find out that there was a fair few of these tree stumps out in the middle too!
After a rediculous battle a long, golden common was eventually shuffled into the net and the ball was rolling!
A dog walker had seen me out in the lake and had made his way around with his little Staff for a look. After securing the carp, having a play with the dog and smoking a fag I was ready to see my prize and get the dog walker to take a photo for me. I hardly ever weigh fish before anyone asks but I estimated about 24lbs, and I'm normally pretty close.
After releasing the fish and saying goodbye to the dog walker I sat back in my chair chuffed to be off the mark and already looking forward to coming back the following week. This time I knew where I'd be starting.