I finished off my last blog by saying that I was just starting to do the final packing for my latest trip to France. To save you the time of reading all the way through this I’ll tell you now that, whilst it wasn’t a disaster, far from it, things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped. If you want to find out why, read on!
My angling pal, John, and I have been to the French venue Petit Pretre for three years now. It’s a great place with some fantastic fishing and in peaceful surroundings. However, like everywhere in France during late May and early June it’s quite possible to have your week’s fishing spoiled by the fish spawning. This is what happened to John and I last year when we went for the second week of June. This year we thought we’d catch the fish out and go three weeks earlier. Guess what? The plan didn’t work and the fish were spawning again! I can’t believe we had such bad luck two years on the trot but that’s life I guess. Anyway, here’s the story.
We’ve been travelling to France now for holidays for around 15 years and each year we seem to get stuck in the most awful traffic on the way down to Calais. Seeing as we’re travelling down at midnight it’s amazing how so much can go wrong. We’ve never arrived in a happy mood with road works, motorway closures, accidents and just about everything being thrown at us. The difference between the UK and France is amazing as we’ve never even seen a traffic cone on our way down through to the venues!
This year was no exception with mile after mile of 50mph limits and a delay on the M1. All was well once we got off the ferry and, I have to say, the drive down through France is wonderful and we arrived bang on time.
A quick hello to Bob and Helen saw us setting up on our own little piece of paradise around midday Saturday and, by 2pm, we were up and running. It was at this point that we noticed the reeds moving in several places around the lake. Not wanting to say anything to John I just thought I’d keep quiet for a while. It was not long before he said: ‘I don’t want to worry you but have you seen the fish in the reeds?’ I just nodded in reply, trying not to sound worried.
Remarkably, John started off with five fish to 51lb that afternoon and evening and I managed one. Such was our excitement that we forgot all about the fish in the reeds and turned in with our rods by our bivvies to catch up on missed sleep.
The next morning we awoke full of the joys of spring. We were fully expecting the good start to continue and already we pictured ourselves with armfuls of lovely carp. But all was not to be. The movement in the reeds was certainly looking like the first signs of spawning and, true to form, within the next 12 hours all hell let loose and before long the surface of the lake was covered in broken reeds stems and thrashing carp.
This went on for the next two days and we didn’t even have a bleep! I’m not that happy about fishing when the fish are spawning and in the UK I would just go home. Of course, you can’t do that in France realistically so we just fished where the carp didn’t appear to be spawning. It was beginning to look grim though.
The weather was lovely, not too hot, with a gentle breeze, and although I’m not a sun worshipper I found a spot in the shade to sit and read whilst waiting for another run – which didn’t materialise!
Finally, the spawning seemed to stop and we sat back hoping that the fish would start to feed again after all the effort of spawning. John noticed that several fish were tucked away behind an island right in the far corner of where he was fishing. By using the bait boat we could sneak a bait into the area and walk round to bait up in a wider pattern.
We were using a mix of Skrettings Halibut and Protec Carp carp pellets in 6.5mm size. We’ve found we can catapult these a fair distance and they’re not that big that the fish will fill themselves up on them before losing interest. On top of this we put out a few handfuls of boilies and some hemp.
The tactic began to pay off and soon John was getting feeding activity around his rods. Meanwhile the rest of the lake was just flat calm. You’d swear there wasn’t a living thing swimming in it!
The little corner turned out to be the only part of the lake where we could catch fish and we took it in turns to fish this spot. During the next few days John’s total went up to 10 carp from 23 to 51lb whilst I managed to bag four more including two 40s. Not the result we wanted but sometimes luck just deserts you!
Next year we’re going to take our friends Paul and Sue with us and, just to make sure we really don’t get caught up in spawning again, we’re going in September. I really don’t want to rely on luck again!
The fishing may not have been what we were hoping but, once again, we’d had a great week with good food and weather plus good company. We drove back home slightly disappointed but, in the way of all anglers, by the time we got back to Dover we were already planning our next session!
On arrival back in Dover we were greeted by the Radio 2 traffic report. The M1 was closed with 15 miles of standing traffic and the M25 likewise. We’d just travelled hundreds of miles in France without one single problem and within two miles of Dover we were stuck! Welcome home!
Using pellets is a great way to attract fish and, once they start to break down, every fish in the lake, large of small, will get feeding on them. Sometimes, however, you just need to make the attraction a little more instant and scalding pellets is a cracking way to do this.
All you need to do is put your pellets into a bucket and just dampen them with some boiling water. Not enough to soak them, just wet them a little. Leave them for a few minutes and you’ll see that they hot water has started to break down the pellets on the outside to a mush. At this point you can mould the pellets into balls, perhaps adding a few broken boilies or other baits, and the result will be a ball of bait that has instant attraction and can be thrown or fired out using a strong catapult. You can get the balls of pellet out some remarkable distances if you get the mix right and the harder the ball the better.
Don’t be concerned about the ball of pellet not breaking down – the drier and harder it is the quicker it will start to explode once in the water. Try it in the edge and you’ll see that within a minute or so the water will start to break the ball apart, releasing a cloud of attraction which rises and falls through the water column.
This technique can be used on a rod too and is called Method feeding. Use the scaled pellet to mould around your lead and hookbait and heave the lot out into the lake. It’s great fun if you get it right and you can fish up to around 80 yards once you get the hang of it.
It’s one of my favourite ways to fish and you’ll end up with a perfectly-placed rig surrounded by a pile of pellets. Perfect!