Normally when travelling to France on a field test trip I write my article as soon as I return. It’s straight into my notes and then onto the PC to write and to download and pore over hundreds of photographs of the carp, swims and facilities. This trip shouldn’t have been any different but I had spent most of this year working on the new British Carp Study Group book and the print deadline was looming. I’d also got the groups magazine to edit and the pressure was definitely on.
This trip was also different because my friend Shaun Harrison was joining me and there would be two writers on this trip. Safe in the knowledge that Shaun had a comprehensive article planned I got on with the work that was piling up. When I finally got around to starting my piece; it occurred to me that looking back with some distance from our visit to Brocard Large might provide me with an alternative view.
When we were packing to leave Brocard Large my overwhelming feeling was that I didn’t want to go home. I would have quite happily stayed for another week. In over twenty years of French fishing I think it’s fair to say that I’ve visited hundreds of waters. Wet, dry, hot and freezing cold at every time of the year I’ve enjoyed it all. That said there are some waters that have that indefinable something that makes you want to go back. Brocard Large is like that. It has some much of what I’m looking for. Its spacious (39 acres), its not crowded (only eight swims), and it’s beautiful and peaceful (surrounded by forest in deep in the Champagne region. Add to that the usual quality Bachelier carp, with commons, mirrors including their incredibly beautiful scaly fish and grass carp and you have a winning formula.
It is remote and because of that does not have the usual facilities of a French holiday venue. The toilet facilities are basic; there is no running water or showers onsite. There are showers offsite a few miles away. We did not find this an inconvenience and combined the shower run with our shopping trips to top up with the essential local food and wine. After all you are on a French holiday and it would be a shame to miss out on all that’s best about the region. The wildness and tranquillity are part of Brocard Large’s attraction and we thought a short journey was a small price to pay.
So what is the lake like and how did we fish it. As I said earlier the lake is around 39 acres with an island in one corner. There are eight very well spaced swims giving every angler plenty of water, and providing lots of variation with dense overhanging tree lined banks, open water, reed beds and island margins. Depths vary from a couple of feet to over six in the bowl between swims five and six. A little work with a marker rod will soon locate silt, clay and some clear hard patches on the bottom. Location was definitely not a problem while we were there with the carp launching themselves out of the lake on a very regular basis. It wasn’t a case finding fish but narrowing down the possible spots to place a bait! In fact as the week progressed a number of good carp were caught sometimes very quickly by just casting pate wrapped hookbaits at showing fish.
After some debate Shaun and I decided to fish swim 5 a double swim at the end of the lake. We chose this as it seemed to give us many more options to fish. It covered the shallowest bays, the deepest water open water, a distant island and sheltered corners, a perfect place to start.
I don’t like filling in the lake with bait on the first day. I prefer observing the fish in the area I’m fishing and making an assessment on numbers, if they are feeding and how heavily. You can always adjust the level of feed to match your results. My right hand rod went on a lightly baited area shared with Shaun, the left rod on the far edge of the deeper bowl in front of a Norfolk reed bed. My last rod went out to the left hand side of the island cast straight at the area where we had spotted a fish roll only minutes before, the hookbait and the lead were wrapped in boilie paste to enhance the attraction as there were no other offerings in the area. I didn’t have to wait long and after about an hour the line tightened, the rod tip twitched to the left, and then a carp decided it was time to leave the vicinity in a hurry and headed for the island. I love fishing shallow waters; the fight is so visual. The carp are soon on the surface with bow waves running off their backs, zig zagging left and right at speed. This one put up a solid fight but pretty soon a muscular 27lb mirror was slipping over the net cord. What a great start, the first of many I hoped and as you can imagine my confidence was pretty high.
|I’ll be back||30lb 4oz||Martin getting creative|
Nothing happened for the rest of the night which did come as a surprise. Shaun had a fish early next morning but my rods were motionless, and continued that way throughout the next day. I found a new location for my successful roaming rod. There was a hard spot to the right of the island at 88 yards, which I lightly baited with Naked Hemp and Quest Baits Magnum Duo. I’d noticed that the baits were smelling silty and started rehydrating the boilies in the hemp liquid to stop them absorbing the smell. I spombed the mixture out, the hemp would also I hope preoccupy the carp and keep them in the catching zone a little bit longer. It seemed to work and at three the following morning I landed a 25lber. At four there was a drop back, but I didn’t contact with the fish and wound in a rig with no lead. At eight a 31lb common sprinted towards me faster than I could wind in, it had covered fifty yards before I caught up with it. The fish were all hooked on what I was now calling my “ugly rig.” I knew before the trip it was a barbless only venue and ordered some wide gape short shank hooks online. Unfortunately I’d not looked at them before I set off. The wire thickness was incredible and would pull a barge, I tied up some size 4’s and they looked almost comical so I tied up 6’s and fished them with a wafter to try and counteract some of the mighty weight of the metal. Amazingly they were working.
The wind was WSW and the heavy cloud cover was keeping the conditions mild. Fish were showing on my left hand rod now and I felt confident enough to start baiting. A short walk to the corner and the hookbait was in easy catapult range and a dozen large pouches of Magnum Duo were spread loosely around the area, followed by a few more from the stick to spread them further. The rain started today consigning us occasionally to the bivvy. Through the doorway I could see by now that autumn was closing in and the forest around us was starting to gain its almost New England reds and golds. I flicked on the radio and scanned the stations eventually landing on an English language station that ironically wanted to teach me to speak English. C’est la vie, I could think of worse places to be.
|It’s fair to say we enjoy our food||Our spectacular chicken curry|
I think it’s fair to say we do like our food and tonight was a belter. We created a spectacular chicken curry in a couple of pans, then satisfied we relaxed and watched and waited. That evening and the following morning can only be described as manic! It rained and boy did it rain. It battered us continuously for hours. Shaun started off the action with a 40+ PB common, which I followed with the first of three thirty plus commons punctuated by a very long and very angry grass carp when the rain was at its peak. Shaun was there choreographing the whole event plaiting and unplaiting rods and lines as the carp rushed from left to right in the shallow water. The highlight for me though was a brute of a mirror that weighed in at over 42 lbs, drenched but what an amazing night!
|32lb Grass Carp||33lb||33lb 12oz|
On Wednesday Martin the Angling Lines cameraman turned up to shoot some video for the website. The deluge had stopped although it was still incredibly dark and cloudy and we still had the stills to shoot for the website. Not an attractive look; we really needed the sun to shine. Point a camera at an angler and it’s usually guaranteed that he won’t catch a thing. The fishing gods were thankfully on our side today and Martin was there to film the capture of a brace of mirrors, one each for me and Shaun. If I remember correctly Shaun’s was an upper twenty and mine was a slate grey scraper thirty with a ridiculously large tail giving one hell of a scrap.
Our cooking tends to get a bit imaginative on the bank and tonight creation was a chorizo sausage pasta concoction washed down with the obligatory red wine followed by Normandy pear flan and crème freche. Martin did seem to enjoy it!
Six a.m. the urgent cry of my buzzer wakes me only for the hook to pull, but later that day the disappointment was sweetened by yet another thirty plus common. My day quietened somewhat with only liners for me. Shaun continued to catch with two more thirties and a twenty coming to his rods accompanied by a spooky owl’s chorus from the surrounding forest.
On the last day we managed to sprint around and photograph the swims and film a video tour of the lakes swims for Martin which is on the site now (you can watch it here). Shaun continued to catch, with a fish from our shared central baited area and one from the shallows to his right. Strangely the shared baited area didn’t work for me at all. So looking back what do I think of Brocard Large? I love the location, the carp are stunners, its spacious with only eight swims on 39 acres, there are no “hot pegs”. I think you could have a great weeks fishing from any swim on the lake, and I want to go back there; which really says it all.
For more information on Brocard Large follow the link – Carp Fishing France