Following 13 months of waiting the time had finally come for me to experience my first French fishing trip, The chosen venue was an all inclusive affair in northern France called Cretelakes it holds a reasonably good stock of fish along with some potential whackers not even known to of graced the banks before.
With 10 hours of travelling out of the way we finally arrived at the lakes tired and battered but buzzing to get started we quickly set off for a tour of the 5 lakes and to note a few fancied swims ready for the draw.
As with all previous draws I had ever been involved in the same trend of luck seemed to of continued for me, Leaving me coming out the hat 3rd from last meant that my first choice lake was well and truly full up and out of the window.
When it came to my choice I was surprised to find that my second choice lake was still an option along with my first choice swim (result)
The lake was around 8 acres in size with huge weed beds and a lot of marginal features to go at.
Once my gear was taken round to my swim I took the opportunity to pick the brains of the resident bailiff and try to gain as much info about the lake as I could and also to find out how the party the previous week had faired?
With regards to swim choice info I didn’t really gain much as he informed me not many people opted for the swim I chose and he wasn’t to familiar with it, as for the previous weeks anglers most were lucky to of caught 2 – 3 fish in the week mainly due to the intense heat they had experienced making the conditions tough.
Most of the more fancied pegs were in the corners of the lakes where as fishing tight to the marginal snags with a bait boat seemed to be a favoured option.
With regards to my swim choice I opted for a swim that would command the biggest amount of water almost bang in the middle of the lake which also held some big weed beds and some marginal options to go at also,
I set about with the marker rod for the 1st couple of hours with the hope of mapping the swim out and getting all the noise out of the way on the first day, I initially found that up to the first weed bed around 40 yards out it was pretty baron with a fairly flat bottom that seemed mainly silty but as I moved further out to around 75 yards I found a consistent 8.5 ft of water leading up a very steep slope onto a 5ft deep plateau of about 10ft around then dropping back down to 8.5ft again.
This was pukka I thought to myself if the weather continued to stay hot through out the day time the fish would definitely come across this area when cruising up in the water it was also big enough to fit 2 rods onto it comfortably.
The 3rd rod was going to initially be used as a roving rod where as I would cast to showing fish through out the day and keep trickling some bait into the margins with the option of dropping this rod onto it for the night.
As for any other features in the swim it basically came down to fishing in the channels between the weed beds.
Now to the bait, the limit for taking your own bait was 20kg and I personally didn’t feel this was going to be enough so with some cheeky bargaining I managed to persuade another angler who wasn’t taking much of his own bait to carry another 10kg for me
(Its amazing what a few biscuits can get you).
I opted to take the on test equinox with me due to the fact I had been using it over the past few months with some good results in the UK and I’m also becoming addicted to the smell of the boillie dip (its awesome) 20k of 18s 10k of 15s just to give them something more to think about and also it would give me a different option with hook bait presentations.
On the rig side of things I decided I was going to keep it simple and fish the same way as I would in the UK, so for the 2 rods on the plateau I would fish 2 identical rigs consisting of 8”of coated braid leading down to a size 7 Nash fang twister hook tied knotless knot with only the hair being supple and a loop knot the other end finished off with a tidy lump of putty 3 inches from the hook.
For the roving rod I would keep the same rig only reduced down to 4 inches as I planned on fishing it inside sticks of the same length to aid presentation in the weedier areas.
The hook bait for the first rod on the plateau spot was going to consist of an 18mm Equinox hard hook bait soaked in the matching dip and then drilled out and critically balanced with cork and finally wrapped in a thin layer of Equinox paste and for the 2nd rod a 15mm Equinox hard hook bait again soaked in the matching dip and balanced snow man style with an Equinox 10mm air ball pop up the roving rod would also be fished snowman style too.
Remembering what the bailiff had told me about the previous week’s anglers struggling through out the week I decided to initially bait cautiously on the plateau spot with 1.5kg of both 18 and 15mm baits that I had been soaking in 10ml per kg of Equinox boillie dip.
By this time it was 17.00 and time for dinner so the bait was spodded out and the swim aloud to rest for a while.
On returning from dinner an hour or so later both plateau rods were buzzed out 75yards to the spot and the roving rod had a 4” stick threaded on and was cast out in between 2 weed beds at around 50 yards range.
At around 9pm I had my first take off the plateau spot and after a 10 minute battle through 2 weed beds I finally netted my first fish of the trip a lovely mirror of 29lb 8oz with the fish falling to the snowman hook bait.
After a few trophy photos I managed to re position the rod just before darkness and set about getting my head down after what had been a long day of travelling.
I awoke the following morning with no further action to the rods over night and decided to reel the rods in an hour before breakfast and spod out a further 2kg of mixed size baits in the hope the fish would move onto it whilst I was away.
I returned to the swim about 9.30 am after a pukka full English breakfast and a bucket full of tea, I sat there watching the plateau spot and as I had hoped I saw 2 – 3 fish in quick succession show over my spot, by 10.30 am all rods had been cast back out to the spots.
It was 12.30 when I received my next take yet again to the snowman rig this time a 30lb 2 oz mirror graced the net.
The next 4 days followed a very similar pattern I would spod out to the spot an hour before both breakfast and dinner and return to see that the fish had moved in on the spot usually receiving a couple of takes shortly after, the only real change I made from the 1st day was I had now upped the amount of bait I was introducing per day to 5kg ensuring that it had always been soaked in the Equinox boilie dip the previous night ready for the following day.
By the Thursday morning I had landed 8 fish up to 33lb all on the snowman rig.
At midday on the Thursday I received a screaming take yet this time the fish decided to weed me up in all 3 weed beds in front of me but by applying steady pressure after a 20 minute battle I was lifting the net under my biggest fish of the trip so far a stunning 36lb mirror.
By now the weather was scorching hot so the pictures were rattled off and she was slipped back into the lake.
Know longer had I put the fish back and I was preparing the rod to re cast to the spot I received a few single bleeps on the other rod on the plateau spot with the 18mm bait wrapped in paste, following that I saw the rod tip slightly bouncing followed by a another few short bleeps I lifted into the rod and immediately it started to strip line from the tight clutch and felt like a heavy fish from the off yet again the fish tried to take sanctuary in the weed beds but with steady pressure the fish was back out in know time,
I first saw the fish roll at about 40 yards and the first thing that was apparent was the size of its shoulders which were huge, It was gradually eased closer to the net and finally she was mine I immediately peered into the net and the width of the fish was immense, straight away I joined the fish in the water and transferred her into the retainer ready for weighing, once the mat and scales were sorted the big mirror was hoisted up with the crook and she spun the scales round to a very welcome 48lb 4oz I was over the moon an awesome fish..
I immediately made a call to a friend on the other side of the lake and asked him to come round and take some photos for me and I even managed to persuade him to join me in the lake for some stunning water shots before she was slipped back.
I was buzzing after landing my biggest fish of the week and what would also turn out to be the biggest fish from the lake for the week.
So far the roving rod had received no action and I was beginning to think that the fish were only really happy to feed over beds of bait so for the final day of the trip I managed to just about squeeze all 3 rods onto the plateau spot and I introduced my last 6 kg of bait in the mid afternoon before dinner, that evening I had my last 2 takes of my France trip resulting in one hook pull and a cracking 25lb 2oz mirror.
Overall my first French trip was a great experience resulting in 5 x20s 5x30s and the big girl at 48lb 4oz although I was happy with my 11 fish caught and several lost I cant help thinking that if I would have had more bait I would of caught a lot more.
As for the Equinox the on test fruity, spicy, twangy bait accompanied with all the matching treats served me extremely well as expected and I believe it’s going to be massive in 2014 upon its release! Get on the Equinox