It’s that time of year again when we start dreaming of our summer holidays in France. The days are starting to draw out and it’s time to start dusting down the rods and think about planning our trips. I have been to La Bletiere four times over the last four years and have booked a two week stint for the first two weeks of April this year (I also have a further week booked in July) much as my family and I love this place.
On my last visit, which was the same week in April last year, I had a phenomenal result; fishing part days only I had 37 runs and landed 35 carp, which included 2 at 40lb plus and a further 10 at 30lb or more. I even managed to catch a 30lb carp every day, which is something I have never achieved in over 10 years fishing in France.
As an appetiser for the forthcoming season, I thought I would share with you my thoughts on La Bletiere and my approach as a single angler in Spring time. Much of what is written in the Carp magazines is based on full time, hard core anglers and there is very little about “family” type holidays, where you have to balance the needs of the family against your desire to fish 24/7, and just snatch the odd few hours when the rest of the family are happy sleeping or eating! And that is very much the case with me as I tend to fish from first light until about lunchtime, then again in the evening until dusk. I very rarely fish nights so I adopt a “short session” approach to my fishing and I don’t believe that I miss out on many fish because of this. It just requires a little bit of common sense.
La Bletiere is located a short distance east of Le Mans and is run by John London (and his two dogs, Daisy and Wisper). The lake is about 2 ½ acres and is long and narrow in shape with an island at one end. This is not the ideal shape of lake I would normally look for as a single angler as the carp can “disappear” at either end of the lake or behind the island. However, you can fish from the Middle swim which is just below the gite (less than 50 yards from the water’s edge) and be able to view (very important) and fish to three quarters of the lake from there with the use of a bait boat or a small degree of casting ability. This means I don’t end up trying to chase fish all over the lake, it is after all supposed to be a holiday!
The key, as they say, is in the preparation and I am the type of person who likes to be as prepared as possible before I go to venues; particularly if the venue is a new one for me. I also find that much of the pleasure I get out of fishing holidays (and fishing in general) is thinking, researching and planning my trips.
It’s an old adage but speaking to the lake owner beforehand (in this case John) is a must. I will make contact with John a couple of weeks beforehand just to see how the fish have been feeding, what they have been feeding on (boilies, particles or pellets), weather forecast and what anglers have been doing the previous weeks etc, etc. This information is invaluable and enables me to come up with a basic planned approach. You only have a week (or two if you are lucky) and it is so easy to waste the first few days offering the wrong bait in the wrong location with the wrong baiting approach and John often tells me that people only start listening to his advice on the Tuesday or Wednesday when it’s almost too late to salvage a decent week. Why do this? John, and all lake owners, want you to catch fish and they are there to help you if you listen.
However, always bear in mind that one week is invariably not the same as the other, so what worked last week might not work this week so by all means have a plan but be prepared to change according to what’s happening in front of you and don’t panic!
Firstly, take your time! If it’s your first trip to Bletiere then have a chat with John and a good walk round the lake. Saturday is changeover day and the carp can be a bit spooked by all the noise so it is probably not going to be your best fishing day. That being said, if you are quiet in your approach and don’t start banging in tent pegs and generally being noisy whilst setting up then you can nick one or two out, especially if you don’t start piling in the bait.
On my first day I will be as quiet as possible and cast out stringers, pva bags or even single hook baits until I can sit down and start watching the lake and try to find out where the carp are that day. It is surprising how much you can glean from that first day if you watch the water intently. Let the carp settle down and determine whether the plan you had before you arrived is suitable for what you see in front of you now. Ask yourself questions like, “What are the conditions like?”, “Is there high or low pressure?”, “How will this affect the carp’s location and feeding?”, “What’s the weather forecast?”, “Will this affect how and where they are feeding later on during the week?”, “What is the Moonphase and Moontimes?” (more on this later).
Above all, just take it easy and don’t make any hasty decisions.
Big subject this, ask any angler their opinion and you will get a different one every time. My view is simple; use a bait they are used to, which means use what normally goes into the lake. John offers various Quest Bait boilies (superb quality), house pellets and particle mix. This is what the carp are used to seeing/eating week in week out so why use anything else? I have tried over the years (and mostly failed I have to say) to take my own favourite bait that I use at my home water and believe that it will work anywhere. There is no bait that will work at every lake and you have to remember that if you take your own bait, the carp have to recognise it as a food source before they start eating it. Best bet is to talk to John beforehand as I said before, see what the “going bait” is and give that a try first. If it doesn’t seem to be working after a couple of days (not a couple of hours!) then try different bait.
I believe that at this time of year a boilie is the best to start with. Particles and pellets have their place and can be devastating in the right conditions but my experience is that these are best in the warmer months. Therefore, I will pick one type of boilie and stick with that, at least until I am sure that’s not the one for this week and try something else.
Basically “little and often”. I will not fire out a big pile of bait and hope for the best (unless the conditions look right for a big hit and even then I wouldn’t do it in the first couple of days). This can work, but in most cases it may work against you. I also don’t do this because I don’t fish 24/7 when I’m on a family holiday. I normally fish from first light until lunch time then have a break and return late afternoon and fish through till dusk. In April this means I am fishing from about 7am to 12.30pm then 4pm till 9pm, about 9 to 10 hours a day. That gives me time to spend with the family, get out on sightseeing trips and explore the area.
My thinking is therefore to approach a week as a series of short sessions. Most of my fishing at home is sessions of no more than about 4 hours so I am very used to the approach required for this type of fishing. As stated before, on Saturdays, I will watch the water and just use single baits, stringers or pva bags and try to build up a picture of how the fish are feeding and, more importantly, where. The next stage is to try a little bait (about a dozen boilies) around one or two of the rods and see how that goes. If those spots start producing more than the others then I will do the same around the third rod and start slowly increasing the levels of bait I put in. If it doesn’t produce and the single bait/pva bag is working then I will continue with that. It really depends on whether they are “having it” that week.
I will normally put bait in before I start fishing, if I catch a fish and at the end of each session, just as I would do when short session fishing at home. However, this really does depend on the moontime………
Moonphases and Moontimes
I am a massive believer in the effect of the moon on the fish and their feeding times.I have recorded all my catches over the last 10 years and can honestly say the results speak for themselves. I have “converted” many a critic by being able to predict best times for the capture of many a big fish and believe that it is an
edge that gives me the chance of a capture or two more than the norm. A full explanation would require a complete article in itself but the basic principle I follow is as follows;
The majority of anglers recognise that the moon has some effect on fishing but most only look at the moonphase (New, First Quarter, Full, Last Quarter). This does have an effect as this is when the moons “pull” is at its strongest but it is not the full picture. What I study is the moontimes itself, in other words when the moon rises, its high orbit point (when the moon is at its highest point from the Earth) the moon set and its low orbit point (in between the moons set and rise). The 3 to 4 hours around these times are the most productive and give you your best chance of a run. I therefore, put together a chart of the moontimes for the whole week and base my whole baiting approach around that. For example; if I plan to start fishing at 7am and it’s in the middle of a moontime then I will not put any bait in and just use bags, stringers or singles. If it’s not in a moontime then I will put some bait in. I will not put any bait in or touch the rods unless I get a bite during a moontime.
Set up/rigs etc
I keep things very simple and use only one or two rigs. I am extremely confident in a slack line, light lead running rig set up incorporating flourocarbon main line and a simple flourocarbon “blow-back” style combi-rig. I use the same set up and rig wherever I go and whatever time of year as it is so effective and all my bites result in screamers. If you want to know more about slack lines and running rigs then take a look at the Angling Lines video section on the Oakview venue homepage or on YouTube by following the link:
In summary, here is a list of the kit I use and the reasons why, starting from the hook;
- Hook – size 5 E.S.P Curveshank. Despite John’s advice (lol) I always use a large hook as I have no faith in small hooks and don’t believe using them would lead to more fish landed
- Rig Ring – small size to fit over the shank of the hook to create the “blow-back” effect.
- Hair – 22lb braid. I always tie on my hairs and use a supple braid as I believe the suppleness helps to turn the hook (tip from Shaun Harrison of Quest Baits)
- Shank Stop – pushed over the hook point and slid up the shank so the rig ring and hair sits opposite the point of the hook. Again, the positioning of the hair aids the turning of the hook
- Combi-link – a very short piece of 22lb braid tied to 12lb Flourocarbon. The rig is approximately 9” in length which is a length I feel confident with but don’t believe it makes a lot of difference
- Rig boom – pushes the hooklink away from the lead thereby reducing tangles
- Quick change swivel – this enables me to change hooklinks very quickly if the need arises
- Helicopter sleeve – pushed over the swivel and acts as a stop for the lead
- Light lead – I use as light a lead as possible, and usually 1.1oz on Bletiere as you don’t need to cast very far
- Snag safe lead clip – great pieces of kit these from Enterprise Tackle. You remove the swivel from the lead and attach to the clip and a sleeve pushes over the top to make a neat, tangle free set up
- Flourocarbon main line – 16lb and “pure” flourocarbon, not the coated stuff. This line is heavy and sinks fast and is perfect for a slack line set up with a running rig
Keep things quiet when you’re on the bank and listen and watch for signs of fish movement. This will give you the clues as to where the carp’s favourite feeding places are that week.
Bait wise, be careful. Remember that you don’t really know how the anglers have fished it the week before and what bait they have put in. Unfortunately a lot of holiday anglers don’t end up using all the bait they brought with them and decide to throw it in on the Friday as they can’t be bothered to take it home with them and you could be fishing over a pile of uneaten bait and chucking your own bait over the top will not do you any favours.
Patience – bear in mind you are there for a week and don’t start panicking if you haven’t caught anything by Sunday!
Keep things simple. Remember, if you put a bait that the carp like, in a place they feed, then you will catch carp. I focus on location first, then bait and lastly the set up.
Above all – have fun!!!
Duncan De Gruchy