School Easter break, and for the last four years we have travelled to France with another family. Two Dads and two boys go fishing; two Mums and two girls go shopping, meeting up in the evening for good food and lots of wine. We have fished various lakes and rivers, mostly in the Loire valley. This year we have taken a house overlooking the seven hundred acre Lac du Eguzon. Scene of a recent eliminator of the French National Carp fishing competition, and home to Carp of over sixty pounds and catfish to over one hundred pounds; the chief problem being where to find them in a lake of this acreage that is a hundred and fifty feet deep.
On arrival we swiftly unpacked the car, left the ladies to unpack cases and store socks and set of for the lake, located the areas set out for night fishing and the areas used for the Carp matches and selected our line of attack for the coming week. On returning to our gite we stopped to chat to two Carpistes situated at the end of the night fishing section, Geoff and his son Françoise, had all the gear, and had been in position for eleven straight days without a fish. Geoff was a convivial chap and as he stirred that night’s culinary creation, we struck up a fisherman’s rapport in pigeon English and broken French that soon resulted in Geoff breaking out a bottle of Whisky and detaining us for longer than we had originally planned. Despite the buoyant mood prevailing among our international gathering by his bivvy and suspicious stew, the dark thought remained that they had been in situ for eleven days without a fish.
Well, we had a go! We fed an area of the lake that had been fished by Carp fishermen over the previous week, with various hook baits and feed. On our initial “baiting up” foray in a boat powered by an electric outboard motor, our engine failed on the return journey washing us into Geoff’s swim just as a wall of hail and snow approached across the lake. Frantic rowing by the two-man crew getting us away from Geoff’s whisky soaked refuge and back to our home port.
After four days of fruitless fishing we gave up, and had a go at catching some of the smaller fish in the lake. Throughout the week the level of the lake had risen and fallen by as much as twenty feet as the hydroelectric company conducted tests on the barrage at the lake’s end. This may have had some influence on the fishing in the lake, and completely wiped out our plan B of fishing the river Creuse that emerged from the lake. The cold weather also had a hand in our fishless week, on a lake containing huge Carp that The Anglers Mail would definitely term “ultra hard” As is often the case with all types of fishing be it Carp, Salmon or Bonefish “It will be much better in a few weeks time”. You enjoy the good days all the more for having experienced the bad days, we will return to the area later in the year when things may be different.
Carp fishing on the continent, in particularly in France crops up a lot in the angling press, often with pictures of huge Carp caught from privately owned lakes; these fisheries often require you to take the lake exclusively for a week, usually for a four figure sum. For the past few years we have fished French public waters on a “Carte de Peche vacances” a two week licence that can be obtained for between twenty and thirty Euros. The fishing can be a little more hit and miss, but when it all falls into the place the rewards are undoubtedly greater. Eighteen months ago we fished a tributary of the Loire for four days, the river was in perfect condition and throughout our stay, using simple swimfeeder tactics with six pound line we caught over a hundred pound of Chub, twenty or so Barbel to Five pound, heaps of Bream and Roach and the finest looking Common Carp I have ever seen. Two fish in particular of seventeen and eighteen pounds, having grown up in fast flowing water, were immaculately toned and had never been caught before. The pool we fished, if it had been in the south of England would have twenty plus anglers around it for much of the year paying twenty pound a day. We had it to ourselves, bar a few Charolais cattle, throughout our stay.
While away, my parents had kindly moved into our house to look after the dogs and feed the fish and pheasants. The river had risen slightly through the week; temperatures had been low, over an inch of snow falling at the start of the week. Everything, from trees and birds, to weed and riverkeepers is waiting for a raise in temperature and for spring to really start.