The Lure of a Cross Channel Carp Fishing Trip to France
For years carp anglers have been drawn to making the trip across the English channel in search of new and exciting fishing experiences...
For years carp anglers have been drawn to making the trip across the English channel in search of new and exciting fishing experiences, full of hope, anticipation and expectation of the unknown. In the 1980s, Kevin Ellis and Rod Hutchinson were amongst the first anglers to embark on trips to France, enduring some epic sessions on Lac de St Cassien. Kevin Ellis’s capture of a huge 76lb mirror in 1986, put Lac de St Cassien and France well and truly on the map, as a place where carp can grow to enormous proportions.
Today, the lure of fishing in France still evokes feelings of excitement and anticipation of the unknown, however the carp fishing landscape is dramatically different to the 1980s and its popularity has exploded in the last decade. With social media playing a huge role in the sharing of information across the carp world and French carp fishing specialist websites, there is a huge amount of information available at anglers fingertips.
Whilst there is a plethora of information available, it can still make the brain of even the most experienced angler spin. France is a vast country and there are hundreds if not thousands of waters holding big carp to choose from.
For instance, Are you in search of a water which is less publicised and has an air of mystery about it, such as the types of lakes you may have seen Gaz Fareham target? Are you interested in fishing one of the many well stocked pay lakes which are fantastic for socials with friends? Or does an Alan Blair Urban Banx style road trip fishing public canals, rivers and park lakes appeal to you.
When you have decided where to fish, then there’s the question what rigs to use as well as your baiting approach, to ensure that you give yourself the best chance of putting a few fish on the bank. There are many factors to consider and preparation as it is with UK carp fishing, is critical to your success.
Select a water that suits your style and ability of fishing
When researching potential waters to fish, keep to waters that are within your fishing capability. If you usually fish lakes where you don’t need to cast more than 70 meters, or are not experienced at using a boat, now is not the time to fish a lake where most of the fish get caught at 120 meters. Carp in France behave just the same as carp in the UK, if you are after big carp it does not mean that they will only be found in large waters, where you have to fish at distance. Fish to your strengths and utilise the skills that you have honed during your UK carp fishing.
If you are looking for an experience a bit off the beaten track and are considering tackling the one or more of the vast amount of public lakes or waterways that France has to offer, you will need to obtain a fishing permit from the Carte de Pêche. Permits can be purchased online in advance of your trip and are quite fairly priced at just over 30 Euros. It is important to note that you will need to purchase a permit specific to the region of France you intend to fish. Using Google maps in conjunction with the Carte de Pêche website is a really good way to locate lakes and waters which you can fish on your permit. Not all lakes can be night fished so make sure you check this as part of your research.
There are hundreds of pay lakes in France ranging from large waters where bookings are usually on a per angler basis, to more intimate smaller pools which can be hired exclusively for the duration of your trip. To help you narrow down your search, use a good quality online resource such as Dream Carp Holidays which has useful tools that allows you to filter lakes by criteria such as location, carp size and lake size.
Find the fish before wetting a line
With the excitement of a fishing holiday that you have been planning for months, it is natural to want to cast in as soon as your arrive at the lake. Don’t fall into the trap that so many anglers do with holiday fishing and chose a swim based on factors such as distance from the toilets and showers or your mate without first taking the time to find the fish. In most cases you will be fishing the lake for a week, so you have more than enough time to watch the water and chose a swim based where you think the carp will be feeding.
Whether you are catching fish or not, try to be up for first light to watch for signs of carp showing themselves. Once you’ve set up camp and are fishing comfortably it can be tempting to stay put. But, just like carp in the UK, French carp move around the lake especially when pressured, so if you want to maximise your fishing potential then don’t be afraid to move swims.
Stick to what you know when it comes to rigs
When it comes to rigs, stick to those that you have confidence in and have caught fish on before. Just because you are fishing in a foreign country it does not mean that the carp will behave any differently. Of course, you may need to change or adapt your rig depending on the topography of the lakebed to effectively present your hookbait.
Whilst you should use rigs you have confidence in, you may need to beef up your tackle. 40, 50 and even 60lb carp are not uncommon in France and the last thing you want, is to not have adequate terminal tackle. To avoid hook pulls you may wish to increase your hooksize to a size 4 or even 3. Make sure pack some high breaking strain hooklink material and leaders, as until you arrive at the venue you may not know if the lake is free from snags or has other dangers that may cause a cut off.
Don’t put too much bait in
It’s important that you take enough bait with your to last the trip, but it’s even more important not to over bait at the start of your session. The old adage, that you can’t take it out once you’ve put it in, could never be more appropriate.
If other anglers have been fishing the lake before your trip, then unless you happen to arrive prior to the previous anglers leaving, there is usually no way of knowing how much bait is in front of you. There is also the risk that upon departing, the previous anglers have disposed of unused bait into the lake. Once you’ve located your spots, apply 5 or 6 Spombs of bait or even fish a PVA bag. If you are confident you are on fish, then assuming they are feeding it should not take long to build up an idea of how much bait is in front of you. After your first bite apply a little more bait, but not too much. See how the fish react and if you continue to get bites you should then think about increasing your bait application.
Be prepared for nuisance species
Unfortunately, French lakes can hold a range of nuisance fish as well as in some cases coypus, which are best described as large water rats. If you go unprepared these nuisance species can ruin your fishing trip.
Bigger baits and harder baits can help to avoid the attention of some of the smaller nuisance species such as roach, rudd and the infamous poisson chat. Take 22 or even 24mm boilies with you and if you are using freezer baits, a couple of weeks before your trip put enough boilies in an air dry bag for hookbaits. The air dry process will reduce the moisture content in the boilie and make them rock hard. Double hookbaits of smaller sizes are also a good deterrent. Bigger baits are harder for the smaller fish to get into their mouths and when the outer layer is hardened they will be less susceptible to being pecked away.
Coypus can be a nightmare not just for the anglers, but also the lake owners as they burrow into the lake bank which can cause significant erosion. If coypus are present in the lake, you are more at risk if you are fishing marginal areas, in the close vicinity of their burrows and nests. If the coypus start to trouble you, the best way to combat their attention is plastic baits or to fish slightly further away from the margin.
This section of the article would not be complete without mentioning crayfish, the cockroaches of the lake bed. Crayfish are becoming a common issue to deal with in the UK and in France they are even more prevalent. There’s various tactics you can adopt to reduce the chances of crayfish spoiling your fishing, so it you don’t know if they are present in the lake before arriving, make sure you are prepared. Shrink wraps will help to protect your boilies and plastic baits will also withstand pretty much all crayfish attention. Whilst your bait may be intact, crayfish can on occasion tangle your rigs so it is recommended to recast your rods every 3 to 4 hours if this is becoming an issue.
Finally, make sure you enjoy yourself. We are all passionate about carp fishing for a variety of different reasons, whether that be catching large numbers or enjoying the tranquility of nature as you sit it out for a monster.
In addition to taking the right tackle and bait with you, make sure have everything you need to remain comfortable the bank. Pack plenty or warm clothes as well as a good set of waterproofs. Make sure you have a comfortable bed and sleeping bag too. You are likely to be fishing for a week long trip which is a long time if you haven’t brought sufficient clothes, or the right clothes and you are not getting a comfortable sleep.
So, do your research and find the right venue for your angling ability and style, leave enough time to prepare for the trip, use your head when selecting your swim and then sit back and enjoy one of life's greatest passions.