Shaun Harrison On His Sapphire Carp Trip

I guess it could be the years creeping up but these days I really can’t be doing with a long drive through the U.K. (I live in Nottinghamshire) to the ferry, then a long drive followed by setting everything up for a weeks stay by the waterside.

Sapphire – June 2010

 I find after a long journey I’m not at all tuned into the job in hand so these days prefer to have a very leisurely (rush hour free) morning drive down to the ferry with a meal on board followed by as long a drive as we feel like doing before laying off to find a suitable place to book into for the night then another meal and the odd glass of wine etc.

So after loading the gear onto and into Ron Keys Jeep we had a brief stop over at my local tackle shop before pointing the bonnet south. By the time we had made the Dartford crossing the trip had been much quicker than expected so as usual we pulled off for the customary visit to The Tackle Box where I found a couple more ‘must have’ items to buy.

The ferry went without incident and the drive through France was as clear as ever – in fact we had cause to celebrate as some of the toll booths were closed and on strike – thus free passage for some of the way!

Soon the time came for finding a place to book in and sleep for the night – mistake! We should have pre-booked somewhere but not wanting to be tied to a particular location we had decided to take pot luck not realising it was Le Mans week-end.

First three places we tried were all fully booked and the 4th place only had a room for 4! We took it.

Following morning after feeling refreshed and showered etc we made our way the last few miles to a Super U near the lake where we stocked up on wine and cider and the odd item of food, then it was off to the lake.

A big shock awaited us!

We knew there were three other anglers due so would have to wait until they arrived for a fair choice of swim/draw for everyone. The problem was that swims 1 to 4 had what looked like a mini market set up through them taking a big percentage of the bank up.

A panic phone call to Angling Lines and a little inter correspondence later we were informed that they would be gone by mid-night if we could bear with them. The owners had allowed what was a ‘Blessing of the Lake’ at very short notice and Angling Lines were a little powerless to be able to over rule what was obviously a big event. Fortunately we were confronted with this after an hours drive and feeling fresh rather than a 12 hour through the night slog.

The other party arrived and the atmosphere wasn’t great which was understandable as they had been on the road since the previous afternoon and all they wanted to do was find a swim and crash out.

We heard a motorbike engine and suddenly Gerrard the amazing Colonel and resident bailiff turned up on his motorbike standing high on his foot rests with his two fingers in the victory sign held high above his head whilst shouting something joyous. This we later found was quite a tame introductory – wait until you get to know him!

During the short time between us telephoning Angling Lines they had spoken to Gerrard and managed to get the far bank ‘out of bounds’ swims opened for our use due to the ‘Blessing of the Lake’. A right result I would say – Thanks Bridget!

We did the draw and I came out 3rd whilst Ron came out 5th. I opted for Pitch 6 and Ron slotted in next door as there appeared to be loads of space – definitely a double swim with ample room for 4 rods each without even worrying about getting in each others way.

The other anglers ventured over to the other side where Ron who was with me this trip and Paul Cooper had both enjoyed big hits whilst test fishing the venue earlier in the year.

Back in our swim I was in the main area of 6 whilst Ron set up in the Gate part the other side of a overhanging bush to my right which would be a separate swim anyway here in the U.K.

After the usual marker work I found I had the natural ‘sump’ in front of me. This is the deeper area you find on many French lakes where they congregate the fish during drain down ‘Vidange’ whilst sorting stock.

Although I had around 170m to the far tree lined bank to go at in front of me I purposely wanted to start with short’ish lines to keep things easy and to not put fish off moving around. I prefer to do this when I have a few days ahead of me and purposely fish relatively slack to try and pick up line bites just in case I am still fishing too far.

There was a natural ledge between 45 and 50m depending where I cast so decided this would be a good start with three baits fished in one baited area at slightly different depths dropping into the sump.

A 4th rod was used as a roamer with a pop-up on it that I would fish around with hoping to find something or for casting at showing fish. Again something I always like to do in France – have at least one rod none committed.

Sunday morning came and all the bobbins were in place. I hate that the first morning. I was happy with everything so had already decided I would leave my rigs in place until at least lunch time. So many anglers in my opinion wind in and re-cast far too prematurely and often at times when the fish are about to feed.

When I did wind in though I was shocked at what I discovered. My patience had gone against me. The baits and leads smelt putrid! Obviously I had fished too far into the sump and the collection of all the rotten silt and leaves was there. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed the smell whilst doing my marker work but hey ho – I guess we are all capable of making mistakes.

I had a bait in shallower water and that was fine. The Chilli Chocolate smell was still evident and the lead was fine.

Back to the drawing board and I moved the rigs back even closer to the next shelf up – problem sorted.

Incidently Ron’s rigs came back smelling the same and he felt he needed to find a less stinky area to fish.

Eventually I was settled back down with renewed confidence but it wasn’t until the following day when I was to receive our first take and what a take it was, it absolutely flew from the left hand margin and carried on stripping line at an alarming rate to the left until it ran out of lake and the line could be seen to be cutting across into the lake following the contours of the margin.

Ron was busy snapping away with the camera and I am sure we were both as equally surprised when a mid double figure mirror popped up in the margins – we had both anticipated a much larger fish. Boy did that carp scrap!

I won’t go into a blow by blow account of each capture that followed as they all followed a very similar pattern. The Sapphire carp are amongst the hardest fighting carp I have been lucky enough to hook. Talk about fit with stamina!

After listening to the customer feedback from the previous few weeks it became obvious that quite a lot of fish were getting up in the out of bounds area where the ducks are fed (they are grown on for shooting) so Angling Lines had requested that the fish be chased off of the shallows and a net be purchased and ran across the mouth to the out of bounds to save this continuing to happen thus frustrating further customers. Talk about acting on feedback. I can’t fault Angling Lines in this respect doing everything they possibly can to keep their customers happy.

Now the out of bounds is a large area and you couldn’t expect anyone to be able to remove all the fish without draining the lake first which wasn’t possible at the time. The new net arrived on the Thursday before we arrived and with no anglers booked on that week it was decided to go ahead and scare as many fish out as possible before putting the net across. Undoubtedly there were a few fish then stuck on the wrong side of the net but certainly a lot more were forced out into the open lake. Ron and myself walked the shallows twice seeing no carp the first time but a few the second time.

Although the fishing was difficult I don’t personally think there are a lot of carp stuck behind the net – the weather was very hot and I’m sure we would have seen more. I even had a wade around in chest waders on our last day for self satisfaction.

I ended up hooking 8 carp which was more than the rest of the lake put together. I have not stated this as any kind of a brag but to purely illustrate how stubborn the fish were being but never the less they were still catchable once you had an area sorted.

I guess with the chasing out of the shallows on the Thursday, the banging of scaffold poles and the erection of the marquees Friday then the hustle and bustle of people and concerts on the bank Saturday until mid-night. Then the breaking down of all this the following couple of days then it’s little wonder the fish were a little out of sorts.

The fish I caught all fell to Quest Baits Chilli Chocolate with a twist! I like to have a few different food signals in my swim as well as a little bit of visual stimulation as well so had mixed myself the following blend to use as my carpet feed….

10kg Chilli Chocolate (brown)
1kg Rahja Spice (dull red)
1kg Surf ‘N’ Turf (pale orange/yellow)
1kg Fruity Trifle (red)

As is often the case in France I elected to fish small 10mm baits as experience shows most anglers take larger baits and being naturally stubborn I don’t like to follow trends. Although I did do a much smaller mix of 15mm baits to the same ratio. This enabled me to offer a few different sizes as well as nice half bait ‘flutter downs’.

Interestingly all of my takes came to just one rod despite having other baits only feet away. The most successful presentation for me was 10 mm snowman set ups on my home tied combi links with quite long hairs with the baits glugged and each evening just as the light was dropping (to avoid duck attention) I baited with around 1.5kg of 10mm’s and around 250grm of 15mm’s on an area around 12ft square. As I said the takes were all on one rod and this was the rod in the shallowest water – only around 3ft deep.

The fishing had been extremely hard but as always with a bit of effort and being willing to try different areas and methods the bobbins started to dance around.

Thanks Angling Lines for turning around what could have been a total disaster into a fishable week.

Ooh – I nearly forgot! The Shower was the best I have known at any fishery, the toilets and wash basins very clean and next door to those was a fridge, a freezer and a microwave along with free UK 3 pin sockets. What more can I say?

Shaun Harrison, June 2010

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