I arrived at the gates of Domaine Des Iles at around 7.30 on Friday 16th August following a two hour drive from Calais, and after a short wait (not wanting to wake Bernard, the Estate owner, too early) pulled up outside Bernard’s house and spoke with him regarding the previous couple of weeks fishing. He informed the three of us, being myself and two friends Mat Keates and Martin Currie, that the previous week’s fishing had been fairly quiet but the week before had been excellent with 30 or 40 fish coming out from all over the complex. This news seemed to give all three of us a boost of energy and the sleep that we had all planned seemed to be the last thing on everyone’s mind.

Domaine des Iles
As we sat in the van and looked at the mist rolling off the water we decided to pull straws as to where we would fish for the week, we had booked swims 14 and 15 as Bernard had explained that there would be plenty of room for three of us in these two, we thought it would be the only fair way to call it. I won the toss and pulled first, picking the left hand side of swim 15, next up was Martin who managed to wangle the increasingly looking fishy 14, and finally Mat in between us.

Bernard drove down as we began to set up and gave us all the recent info on the pegs that we had drawn, I was pointed towards the overhanging tree out in front of me, Mat, the inlets from the back lake and various overhanging trees, and finally Martin who had an island and a lovely fishy looking set of pads to aim at, where we could see fish topping constantly. We thanked Bernard and began to sort ourselves out.

At 10.30am, a single bleep stopped everyone and we all looked round just in time to see Martins middle rod roar off. After a ten minute battle I slipped the net under a lovely looking 21lb mirror, and we all wondered if this might be a taste of what might be to come. By the afternoon the temperature had hit around 35-plus degrees and is great if you are in the water but not so great if you are sitting next to it without any sun cream!

At around 3pm, Mat had his first bit of action and shortly afterwards landed a 22lb Grass carp, then at 5pm he had another slow trundling run which he leant into and just could not do anything with, the fish took him straight in to a small set of tree roots on the opposite bank and promptly shed the hook. Finally the sun dropped and we all ate and decided to get a bit of shuteye.

We were all awoken at 6am the next morning by my middle rod, and after a 10 minute scrap I pulled a 22lb Mirror over the draw cord. There was then a few hours of peace and tranquillity until Martin’s middle rod went again and after a couple of minutes of beasting around the pads the hook pulled. We all put it down to bad luck and he re-baited and re-cast. Unfortunately for Martin this was not to be the only lost fish of the week, he went on to pull the hook in another two fish that afternoon and we could not work out what was happening.

Ben with his 30lb Common
Mat then had another fish at around 5pm, a lovely looking 20lb Common, an hour later my middle rod was off again on a slow run. I bent into it and realised that it might be slightly larger than the first fish and 15 minutes later I was unhooking a lovely 30lb Common. The fish seemed to be getting a taste for the Cream Cracker baits that we were using, nearly all of the action so far had been on a Snowman version of the aforementioned bait.

The following day saw our third day of nice weather and Martin’s rods started the action off, and once again after a minute or two the hook pulled. By this point martin was beginning to pull his hair out. Between three of us we sat down and went through why we thought this problem was happening. We all seemed to come up with the same conclusion; nearly all the fish we had landed seemed to be hooked deep inside the mouth, possibly due to the snowman set-up (being critically balanced) possibly due to feeding habits.

Martin decided to try different methods on all three rods, keeping the same set-up on one and changing rig length and hook size on the other two. Typically the rod that was kept on the same set-up went again and once again the hook pulled. This time, however, on retrieval, the hook had opened out. Martin called the Samaritans.

Mat had another two fish to the Snowman cream cracker an 18lb and 15lb common, and after those two, things seemed to calm down. The weather had by this point taken a turn for the worse, and just after 8pm the heavens opened, and we were caught in, without doubt, the worst storm any of us had ever been in.

The next morning could not have come quickly enough and at 8.30am, a belting run to my open water rod produced a 20lb catfish, on Assin-8. The weather was then overcast and spitting for most of the day until the sun came out in the afternoon and Mat’s rod burst into life; 20 minutes later he slipped the net under a lovely looking 29lb Common. The evening was quiet until 2.30am when Mat’s rod again flew off and this time another small Common was landed of 12lb.

Mat and 29lb Common
As day broke the weather was still raining on and off and despite baits being placed exactly where all the previous fish had been taken from we had no action all day or night. We began discussing why we thought this may have been when we all realised how many fish seemed to be at the waters surface almost gasping for breath. After a brief call to Bernard he came to have a look and when we arrived at the pads we could see most of the lake’s residents sitting high up in the water.

Bernard put it down to the two nights of bad weather, the initial storm being the main culprit to the loss of oxygen in the water(?) He decided to open the sluice to the river and get some better oxygenated water through the lake and also turn on the aerator at the end of the lake. This seemed to do the job and within five or six hours the fish seemed to be lower in the water and not so distressed.

The rest of the day and night pasted uneventfully and we all got up the following morning and the weather seemed to be picking up slightly. The fish seemed to be on the move and a light breeze was pushing into the pads again. Even though things seemed to look good we again had no action during the day or night, more than likely due to the low oxygen levels in the water.

We were all up early on our final day, everyone wanting to bank a final fish before leaving the lovely set of lakes, and after some unsuccessful attempts to persuade some very large French carp to take floating crust, Martin gave up and headed back to his rods. Ten minutes later his middle rod again lurched into life and after some graphic language and a 15 minute tussle, I finally slipped a new personal best 33lb common into his net, this made up for all those lost fish and Martin was over the moon, last day, last fish (for him) and a new personal best.

Mat had the last fish of the trip at 2am Friday morning, a lovely looking 25lb Mirror, and that ended our trip to DDI. This was our third visit to DDI, and by far our most successful and as we left we spoke with Bernard about re-booking for next year, same swim, same time of year.

I just look forward to the draw!