Carp Fishing - Preparing for France
Adam Garland looks at some of the practicalities and pitfalls to help ensure that your continental angling holiday is a success.
In recent years more and more anglers have taken the short trip across the Channel in search of monster carp and with usually only seven days to turn the trip into a holiday of a lifetime, preparation is essential!
The big mistake many anglers seem to make, particularly if they are new to travelling abroad, is to go armed with a range of new or untried baits and tactics.
For me the golden rule is to stick to what I know works, or at the very least use that as a basis and then adapt to the angling situation as it evolves. Local knowledge is important, any advice or guidance given by bailiffs or staff at the venue will prove invaluable.
With so many venues to choose from selecting the correct one for you is essential. It often amazes me how some anglers I’ve met on my travels put little thought into how difficult the water may be and assume they just need to turn up and catch big carp - unfortunately the reality is somewhat different.
Targeting the monsters in a typical UK venue can be tricky, so why do anglers think it will be easy on a similar foreign venue? Yes there are some small foreign venues that are stocked with an amazing number of monster carp but in most cases a more realistic approach is definitely required.
Just as in the UK there are waters on the continent offering varying levels of difficulty that suit various levels of angling ability. Finding out the number of carp present in the venue and comparing the stock levels to the waters you fish over here is a good starting point. Looking at regular catch reports from the venue over a period of time will also offer an indication of how many fish tend to get caught in an average week.
Doing your Homework
When researching a venue it’s a good idea to identify the presence of hook bait demolishing poisson chat or crayfish. This shouldn’t put you off a water, but being aware of them enables you to take the necessary precautions to deal with the problem. Netting your hook baits or using the various shrink wrap bait covers available is one idea, but when confronted with these underwater pests, I prefer to rely on artificial baits in the shape of Nash Mutants.
Mutant corn, maize or a boilie soaked in one of the Nashbait food dips creates an indestructible artificial hook bait that oozes attraction. There’s a dip for every boilie in the range so if you are a Nashbait fan, the hook bait can easily be made to match your freebies, safe from pests but at the same time incredibly attractive to Mr Carp.
Once the venue is booked, thoughts soon turn to bait and the possible choices available. With so many baits on the market today making the right choice can be far from easy. With possibly just seven days to make it happen bait choice is not something to be taken lightly and although I’m lucky to have access to a huge range of proven Nash products, for me there is only one choice and that’s Scopex Squid.
Some French venues have a lake bait, that the fish eat virtually on a daily basis, and this option also needs to be carefully considered.
Personally I don’t want to fish the same as everyone else, because if I do I’ll catch the same as everybody else. I believe using a well proven bait that the fish have seen less of gives me a certain edge that may well bank me a special fish!
Mixing it Up
Despite the fact you are in France if you are on one of the popular destination waters then the chances are you’ll be fishing for heavily pressured carp that will be regularly visiting potentially dangerous baited areas and hook bait avoidance will be all part of their daily routine. French fish are not ‘easy’ and unless you are going ‘off piste’ for virgin fish on unexplored, or lightly fished, waters then you have to face up to the fact that they may be just as, if not more, pressured than the fish you angle for back home!
Mixing well proven baits is a fantastic tactic that never seems to fail for me. My favourite mix consists of Scopex Squid with a few handfuls of shelf life Amber Strawberry in a range of shapes and sizes. The white colour and boosted smell and taste of the Amber really gets the fish focussed on my spots. Fishing a white Amber pop up as the top bait on my snow man presentation usually produces a fast response.
The carp always feed really confidently on my mixture of baits, the mix creates competition for food and prolonged feeding and as a result the fish have no concerns in picking up a hook bait placed within the activity; well it certainly works for me!
Keep them Occupied
On pressured waters I want to keep as many fish in my swim for as long as possible so it often surprises me that the most common bait used in France is a 20mm boilie; I’ve always found that complex bait mixtures work much better and 10mm boilies and chops combined with the matching Monster Carp Pellets soaked in food dip for example works well for me.
The pellets have a really high food value and contain the same key ingredients and attractors used in the boilies, the food dip leaves a kind of food smell residue behind which keeps the carp coming back even when the bulk of the bait is gone. Because the pellets give off the same food signals as the boilies this creates a kind of link between the two baits. Therefore I believe there is less chance of the fish becoming preoccupied on the background feed which can happen. Adding a small amount of particle is also a great tactic that again keeps the fish grubbing around on the lake bed.
Bait and Wait
Some anglers will disagree, but for me ‘the bait and wait’ tactic has been by far the most successful method. Chucking out a Hi-Viz single is a good way to get started and a quick result gives the confidence a boost but as a general rule, continued success has come from sitting it out on a baited area. The first 24 hours of any trip are usually slow with the changeover of anglers taking its toll, but as things settle the fish are soon happy to feed on a well prepared spot.
Gaining an Edge
Most venues offer some form of food package, so at certain times throughout the day anglers will often reel in and evacuate their swim. Planning you’re baiting up around these times can often prove beneficial, the majority of anglers follow a consistent pattern of returning to the swim after dinner and baiting up ready to put the rods out. Applying the bait earlier in the day enables the thinking angler to position his hook baits on the baited spots at ‘bite time’ with minimum disturbance, so there’s less chance of putting the fish on edge. On waters that don’t offer food you can still put this tactic into practice, by watching the routines of others and simply making sure you’re always one step ahead and sitting behind baited rods at the right times.
Out of Sight
Pressured fish are constantly on their guard, so anything you can do to lower the level of suspicion has to be a good thing. Slack lines and the often underused back leads are a great option.
Main line needs to be carefully chosen too, not only should it be strong and reliable, it also needs to be low spook. There are lots of products available that should fulfil these needs but I don’t think there are many that better the NXT D- Cam from Nash, I’ve been using it for a while and I’ve been well impressed. The 12lb is an excellent and dependable all-rounder with great casting potential but I’ve recently switched to the 15lb to give me the extra strength I‘ve required. NXT D-Cam sinks like a brick but, unlike other products I’ve tried that sink well, this one also casts extremely well too. Diffusion Camo also means that it virtually vanishes against any lakebed colour or shade.
The Final Yard
End tackle is also of huge importance and again for me it has to be Diffusion Camo.
Solid colour components just don’t work for me on the multi-coloured lakebeds we all fish. Solid weed green, silt or gravel colours never seem to effectively blend in and in any case, even if it looks good in the margins how can you be sure it’s OK when cast further out into the lake?
I often find the ‘seam’ where the gravel meets the silt to be a really hot area for a bite and this is where Diffusion components really score, fished over both a dark and light area they vanish, in my experience solid colours just can’t do this.
Fishing to land them is crucial and losing the lead on the take is important to me. Some lead clips I’ve tested in the past fail to do this reliably but the small ultra stealthy Nash Weed Safe Bolt Bead does this perfectly. Are you sure yours does?
The Sharp End
Some anglers think ‘big French fish = big hooks’, although the theory certainly seems to make sense in reality I have found the situation to be totally the opposite. For me a sharp strong hook is essential after all, if you are fishing well enough to get those bites you don’t want the fish to fall off.
For the last two years I have put my faith entirely in the Fang Twister size 8, I started off with the 7’s and although I found them to be very effective, they didn’t create quite as good hook holds as my favoured 8’s. My requirement for any hook is that it needs to turn exceptionally well and take hold and stay in during the fight. With a long sticky sharp straight point and in turned eye the Twister does this perfectly.
I find the addition of a small section of Diffusion Camo shrink tube maximises the hooking potential, fished blow back style it’s a simple well proven deadly combination that works everywhere I go.
I have a small selection of rigs that work for me, they keep working too so there’s no need to change so as you’d expect this is what I take to France. Most of my fishing is done with combi rigs that consist of ten inches of stiff fluorocarbon and two inches of the new tough and ultra supple Bullet Braid. If I feel the fish are extremely cute, I simply change to Triggalink - an amazing hooklink material as the elasticity of the material creates an ever changing resistance that gives the carp an unfathomable mouthful to deal with.
It’s widely accepted that carp learn by association, but they don’t poses the mental capacity to deal with the unexpected, Triggalink seems to create panic which usually results in a screaming run and another fish on the bank. I know for a fact that on a good number of pressured foreign waters that are getting progressively more difficult Triggalink is producing the goods for an ever increasing number of anglers who have realised the potential of this unique product.
But there is a downside to Triggalink, it’s not the most user-friendly material and it can be prone to tangles if not used correctly. Adding a few Chain Reaction pellets before casting solves most of these issues, but to be honest because most anglers just can’t be bothered to master the idiosyncrasies of Triggalink it remains a major edge for those in the know.
If you do take a trip across the Channel then I wish you luck, remember be confident, stay focussed and stick to what you know and most important of all – enjoy!