Touring our French Carp Venues – just another day (not) at the office!

by Bridget Keep
Being part of the Angling Lines team is a challenging but enjoyable job. We get to meet lots of new and many repeat clients each year… some of whom go on to be real friends and we also get the chance to share our passion with other like-minded people. We love this business because we are arranging holidays, something that we know people will enjoy – so I think we are really lucky in that respect. But I guess one of the most interesting parts of the job is the lake visits. Its important that we try to visit all our lakes on a regular basis – it gives us real perspective and updates us on changes so when we are talking to people we know exactly what we are talking about.

So it was that three of us headed out to France to visit around 13 of the venues including 5 new ones! Our first port of call was Genets, where we had been promised a big English breakfast to start the tour. Heathers breakfasts are renowned and we definitely needed the walk around the lake afterwards to get us moving again! Genets is a lovely lake and is going from strength to strength as the carp are growing on very quickly. The swims were in superb condition with the main bulk of the fishing from the wooded bank onto the far margins and talking to our hosts and the anglers on the lake everyone was very happy despite the unsettled weather, they were catching well.

Our next port of call was Malvoisine, a new lake to our portfolio with huge potential. What a great lake this is going to be. A great size and perfect for groups who wish to socialise without cramped fishing – the nature of the lake means that everyone fishes from inside the lake on the big Island. Well not really an Island as it’s joined to the main bank by a solid causeway turning the island into a mushroom shaped peninsula. You are only 200m from the furthest person but fishing from the peninsula out into the main body of water which gives every angler maximum casting space, rather than the usual scenario of all fishing to the middle of the lake. There are two brand new mobile homes also on the lake along with the usual well appointed anglers room for Fridge, bait freezer and battery charging.

The stocks at the moment are high but it incorporates currently too big a ratio of small carp. This will be addressed later this year as the smaller carp are being removed and many further 20’s and 30’s introduced. It’s a fantastic lake for larger groups of 6 to 10 and fishing clubs or school trips. The two mobile homes on site are pristine and there is a separate room for battery charging and fridges and freezer space. The owner is also setting up a tackle shop on site. For generations these owners have been involved with a successful tackle shop in Le Mans so I reckon it will be very well stocked. He and his wife Gigi live just up the road and despite little spoken English, they were very welcoming and proud of their venue. We enjoyed a superb meal with them… at the little restaurant down the road – which doubles up as a PMU betting shop! Did I mention how much weight we put on during these trips?

Of course we try to plan these trips with much thought but as we are always trying to fit in as much as possible we usually end up stressed and en route across France during the wee hours mainly due to someone’s extended hospitality pushing us behind our schedule. This trip though was going to be different! This time we were not travelling huge distances but were visiting the many lakes we have in the Mayenne region and around Le Mans.

Our visits the next day were centred around Michel Bigot’s lakes, Margot, Morgane and Commons Lakes… These venues are all in close proximity to each other. As we travelled en route though, we heard a knocking noise coming from the offside wheel. So we made a mental note ‘VW garage needed’ However, we had RAC European assistance so were not unduly worried!

We called around to Margot first of all and spoke to the guys fishing on the venue… They were catching well and very happy with the lake, but bemoaning the lack of kitchen utensils. Michel puts new utensils in at the start of each season but they just seem to creep away presumably into anglers rucksacks (why oh why?) and Michel refuses to buy new ones after theft! So a mental note made to inform all the anglers to bring their own! Margot remains a very special lake with superb catch rates and big carp, the biggest a 66lb monster common usually comes out 2 or 3 times a year. I like this lake though, because of the variety it offers, sturgeon, catfish and beautifully scaled carp not to mention the huge Koi. A few years ago it suffered with low water levels but wholesale changes and bank re-structure have removed this issue and it’s rare to find a venue anywhere of this quality! By chance one of the anglers (Rob Allen) on the lake asked if he would be in the next brochure as he had sent in some great photo’s from his last visit there. (Pleased to say Rob you are in it!) So that should put yet another smile on his face.

A mile down the road we came to Mr Bigots fish farm – where we were welcomed with a cup of coffee and took a look around the stock tanks. It’s always an interesting place to be.

We took the usual tour then of Morgane lakes where one lady angler Sue Sibley was causing embarrassment to the rest of the men, for catching the biggest carp. Nice one! Morgane Lakes remain, whilst not stunningly as pretty as some of the other lakes we have visited, fantastic waters for the number and size of carp that seem to want to be caught each week. The catfish lake too has huge cats to 120lbs and the repeat bookings each year on this lake is phenomenal. Commons lake – Morganes’ sister lake is also building its reputation in the same mould. Only ¼ mile apart, these well stocked lakes offer a real treat for small groups of 4/5 anglers.

Michel also informed me of a new lake he wanted to set up, a lovely 20 acre lake with a huge house on the side with 6 double bedrooms so we planned to have lunch and make the trip to see it. It was at this point that we had to take desperate measures and ring the RAC. The noise shifted from a knock to a grating noise… So it was with humorous abandon I left Linda and Fran (non French speaking) on a country lane to await the RAC – Whilst I went with Michel to the new lake. I did consider obviously the danger to ‘all comers’ in leaving them together. But felt that after all considered… France should be able to cope!

I returned hours later to find them at a garage in Chateau Gontier. They were in fits of laughter after the pickup lorry had ‘abducted them’ after reams and reams of fast French garbled through the van window to expressions from them of total confusion. Fran, assured that they could be being abducted had even memorised the route in case she needed to tell the police later!

It took all of 5 minutes in the end to locate and fix the problem (loose wheel nuts) and I arrived just in time to see them all happily kissing the mechanic a big thank you (as he wasn’t charging us) and we happily headed back to Oakview. An eventful day topped only by the amazement shown as we drove through the next village and Fran shouts proudly – This is it… This is it…. this is where he took us!! See I knew I would remember. I had to stop the tears from falling as we entered once again the village of ‘RAPPEL’. Rappel (For those not in the loop yet… this is a sign that merely acts ‘a reminder to slow down’ It appears at the start of most villages and towns. Fran unhappily was going to get ribbed every time we saw that fateful sign again. (Usually every 10 minutes driving on average)

We awoke early the next morning – to my mobile ringing… Could I come and take a photo of her fish! Yep, you guessed it; the irrepressible Linda had been up and out on the lake early and landed her first carp from Oakview… What a cracking start to the day and not bad considering at this point only half the carp stocks were in the lake. The second major stocking is booked in for Sept 08 – in order to be well settled in for the 2009 season.

Our visits today were now set as Laroussi and Old Oaks to begin with. We arrived to be greeted as usual by Mehdi’s enormous smile. Laroussi as always, was a picture, but it has matured hugely since we first took it on. The young saplings are now real trees… I spoke with Bruno Pallain who was fishing at the time. He had already caught some great forties and was in the process of moving swims. A cracking angler he is always in the French Carp magazines… He was wanting a 50! We walked around all the swims with Medhi taking a few minutes out to admire Mehdi’s huge Pumpkins! 068 Yes, it really is a passion for him! We walked down the 400 meters or so to Old Oaks and yet again the lake was looking very well. The water levels this year had been up above and onto the swims themselves earlier in the year and it was still touching the front edge of the swims now… 070 Mehdi explained how he was going to deal with this and had a pile of gravel etc ready to further extend the swims back up the bank. The numerous fish photo’s in the lodge are testament to the high number of thirties this lake produces. Yes, all was looking very well indeed!

We had no sooner left heading out towards Beaute lake then we received a call from Mehdi… Bruno had his 50!!

Bletiere ever really been hugely jealous? Ever wondered about living the dream of your own venue and home in France… well, envy was piling up as we stepped out of the car at Bletiere. Stunning, quirky, it’s ‘the good life’ all over but with plenty of runs. From the ancient walnut trees, the lawns sloping down to what in places looks like a wide lazy river, with a lovely BBQ area, not to mention the superbly appointed gite on the end of the barn… Yes, I was eating my heart out! & sadly (because deep down it’s just not right for someone to have everything) …they are such a lovely couple too. Not a big fish water, but runs galore means this venue is virtually guaranteed success. The ambience is great and it will undoubtedly fill up fast. Joking apart it’s just fab!

At the risk of sounding twee – We pride ourselves on quality within our lakes and I am pleased to say no one was letting us down. The owners are just as important believe it or not as the lakes and the stocks. A good owner makes all the difference – between a holiday and a great holiday!

Tonight was time to thank Martyn and Sheila of Oakview for their hospitality and we just scuppered back in time to take them out for a meal in Laval around 20mins drive from the venue. Martyn was eager to discuss the rest of his stocking and had decided on the numbers and weights of the carp to go into the lake this September. Never, have I met anyone with so much attention to detail, fish, chalet, planning, I’m sure the two of them could set up the London Olympics if you asked them! Everything in the chalet was spot on even down to a digital camera left for the use of guests. So with gusto we ate and ate with the odd bottle or two in between until with bellies the size of the planet, we headed back and snuggled down for another night. We had to be away first thing as we still had some more lakes (and of course several more towns called Rappel) to look at before the ferry home!

Time now, as with most trips anyone takes in France for a quick call at a main supermarket, to replenish the wine stocks at home. If you are buying wine in France before you return –take a tip from me. Don’t call at the tourist cheap shops in the port. If you want reasonable wine at un inflated prices call at a main town away from the port – buy what the French buy, not what the French want you to buy!… So van & credit cards loaded… we finally departed for the ferry. Another trip completed but still many more lakes left to visit.

Definitely not a usual day at the office – but I wouldn’t change places with anyone… well almost anyone!

Best Fishes – Bridget

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