Like most carp anglers I am always on the look out for new and possibly virgin waters, stocked with leviathan carp that have never seen a hook or line. This is the pot of gold that many of us search for, perpetuating the monster myths quest, so eloquently and beautifully filmed in the “Passion for Angling” television series. Being fortunate enough to live in France my task is perhaps somewhat easier than it would be in England. Last autumn I came across a group of such lakes which were up for sale, reputed to hold some very big fish, that were rarely if ever fished. And so it was I set out to see if this was finally my angling utopia.

After a few telephone calls arrangements were made to view the waters. I arrived at the waterside on a bleak January day under a constant drizzle. I found a site of 30 acres with three very pretty lakes surrounded by willows of 8, 7 and & 1 acres. At the entrance to the property stood a wooden chalet. The place just seemed ideal, I couldn’t believe the previous owner had never run it as a fishery.

The lakes themselves are maturing sandpits covering around 17 acres in total, excavated in the late 1970’s. They are comprised of three waters, a 7 acre lake (the Carp lake) stocked with mostly mirror carp. An 8 acre lake (The Catfish lake) which has a much lower head of carp to mid-forties, and a 1 acre stock lake.

Research revealed that the last stocking of carp took place in 1991 comprising of some 200 to 300 carp of around 1 to 3lbs. The fish that remained were largely unfished for up to this date, apparently left unhindered to grow big in waters rich in natural food. In the late eighties the site was run by a club for a few years, (stockings were totally unknown, but due to the size of the biggest fish it would seem carp were certainly stocked).

A discussion with a local carp angler, in fact one of the three anglers to have permission to fish the lake for its carp in the last five years, revealed a good head of very big fish, his personal best from the water going an impressive 39 pounds. Even more impressive was the average size of his catches at around 25 to 32lbs. Proof of further catches of 30lb fish, and a lake record of 40lbs 7oz, was provided later by another young angler who had fished the lakes occasionally over two years. As the purchase went through I too was granted permission to fish the lakes and my first sessions were more than encouraging with fish between 27lb and 40lb coming to my lines. Despite containing large fish my plan has been to stock the water with more carp and catfish. A number of large specimens have been sourced and will be stocked in October 1999. These fish will be mostly mirror carp in the 15lb to 35lb bracket, plus catfish from 20 to 50lbs.

The banks are mostly flat and grassy with trees around most of the margins. Weed growth is so far only minimal with no obvious underwater obstacles or snags. The water itself is crystal clear with a bluish taint characteristic of sandpits. All the lakes are relatively deep, varying from 5ft at the shallowest to around 14ft at the deepest in the carp lake, and from five to 17ft in the catfish lake. The level of the lakes often rises markedly in winter as the water table becomes saturated. Winter depths sometimes reaching 20 plus feet in the deepest corners.

I have been working hard to get them ready for opening next year. The number of pitches has been kept to a minimum. I personally don’t like fishing crowded waters, so the carp lake only has seven swims, with eight pitches on the catfish lake. Access is excellent with a track around the whole property, so anglers can park their cars adjacent to their swims. The banks are grassy with ample space for bivvies to be pitched. The property is entirely closed with a fence around the whole perimeter. As mentioned above the facilities on the water are very good.

The small chalet / bureau at the entrance to the lakes also has a kitchen with cooker, fridge and freezer, shower and English style toilet in the cellar. This will be entirely at the disposal of the visiting anglers. A second toilet cubical will also be installed at the far end of the lake. Shops are fairly thin on the ground in the region, there is a small grocers and butchers in the nearby village, the nearest supermarket being in the town of Fismes, some 10 miles away. The local baker, however, makes daily stops at the lake, so everyone up early enough, can get fresh bread and croissants. The kitchen is always stocked with tea and coffee.

Various bait making equipment will also be available in the kitchen for those who prefer to make their own bait at the water. This includes bait gun, rolling tables and chip pan for boiling. There is also a freezer for those who want to store bait or food during the warmer weather.

The lakes are situated in the heart of rural France, near the Champagne capital of Reims. From the ferry port of Calais, you take the A26 autoroute south towards Reims. From Paris the A4 towards Eurodisney, turning onto the A26 just before Reims. You leave the A26 at junction 14, signposted Berry-au-Bac. After the toll you turn right on the D925, going straight on at the crossroads with the N44. The hamlet of Cuiry-les-Chaudardes is some five miles down the road on the left after passing through Pontavert. On arrival in the village you take a right turn at the only crossroads. The lake is around 100 yards further on, on the left. The prices for next year are as follows.

24 Hours – 150 Francs (£ 15) 48 Hours – 250 Francs (£ 25) 1 Week – 750 Francs (£ 75).

Fishing is by reservation, with half the fee payable on booking and the balance on arrival at the water. Contact: Gareth or Malvina Watkins, (00 33 1) 47 37 27 84, E:mail:

The acquisition of these lakes is really a childhood dream come true. I always wanted my own water stocked with huge fish. Well, now I have, and it will soon be open to everyone to share. I have tried to create a welcoming, natural fishery in unspoilt surroundings, the sort of place I would enjoy fishing. And to provide a chance to catch big fish while unwinding, in a relaxing environment. The waters will be open from January 2000 so anyone wanting to come along contact us at the number above. Further information and more pictures are available on our website: