October 11th 2014 saw myself (Ben Hutt) and good friend Richie Eaton head across the English Channel for our first fishing trip overseas at the well talked about Crete Lakes in France. The trip was booked well in advance, which is very much the case for carp fishing over in France now, as the popularity of the sport continues to grow.
We departed from Dover in the early hours of Saturday morning after loading the gear onto the coach and trailer. After a short ferry crossing, followed by a three-hour or so journey, we arrived in the Picardy region of north east France. Arriving at the venue we were greeted by the off-going anglers and after a bit of “to me, to you” we eventually had all the gear off the coach and the departing anglers had theirs loaded back on.
After a quick brew at the venue’s restaurant, we were soon gathered round by the head bailiff Mick for the peg draw. This was the bit we had been dreading the most lol and we were just praying for a good draw. “Number 16” shouted Mick, boom! First out the bloody hat lol. Richie and I breathed an overwhelming sigh of relief and off we went around the complex in search of a swim we fancied. We had originally planned that we would probably end up fishing in separate swims, but as the draw had been so kind to us we ended up picking one of the double swims on Lake 1
We got settled in the swim and got the rods sorted and fishing by mid-afternoon. Just as evening approached my left-hand rod was away and after a spirited fight in and out of the weed, I finally had my first French carp in bottom of the net and was buzzing to be off the mark. We got her up on the scales and at just under 28lb it was one of the smaller residents of the lake, we quickly got a few pics and slipped her back. The night passed uneventful, but the same rod was away just before breakfast the following morning, resulting in what we had come to France for, a big-framed mirror of 41lb and ounces.
Richie stayed with the remaining rods in the water whilst I ran round and got us a couple of breakfast rolls, sausage, egg and bacon crammed into a nice crusty baguette, just what the doctor ordered! The rest of the day passed quickly with nothing showing, then with an hour to go before reeling in for the evening meal, a big grey cloud came over, the wind picked up all of a sudden, it looked really good for a bite. The conditions certainly made them active and it was like someone had flicked a switch and there was fish showing all over the lake, and more importantly, over the baited areas.
With about ten minutes till dinner, my middle rod pulled up tight and I was out in the elements doing battle with an angry carp, getting soaked in the mean time. Once she slipped over the net we got the mat and camera ready and getting her up on the scales she went 38lb on the button, after some quick improvisation we managed to make an umbrella so we could get the pictures done in the rain and get round to the restaurant quickly before we missed dinner.
After returning from dinner the swim was a bit flooded after the heavy flash downpour and after sorting everything out we got the rods back out on the spots for the night. Around 1am I was awoken by a series of bleeps on the middle rod, I poked my head out from under the bag and saw the bobbin held at the top; I jumped out and hit the rod, the fish was weeded up straight away, but I just slowly walked back up to the top of the swim and the fish came free. This was the first fish I had hooked in darkness and it was proving to be rather tricky as the fish had kited a long way to my right, and unfortunately I ended up wiping out two of Richie’s rods, but amongst a massive mess of lines we managed to bundle a decent carp into the net.
After sorting all the rods out and clearing up the mess, we got the rods back out and attended to the fish sulking in the net. We settled on a weight of 35lb and got a couple of flashgun pics, then climbed back into our bags for the remainder of the night.
Dawn broke and bite time came and went, but no further action was forthcoming to the rods. The day turned out to be a dry and bright day with high pressure and it wasn’t looking great for a bite, but at around 2pm (when I was catching a bit of shut eye) my receiver went into meltdown and my left-hand rod was away. The fish knew exactly where it was going and weeded me, but I repeated the same procedure as before by walking up to the back of the swim and getting a bit of height on the fish, and it managed to come free. The fish fought well all the way in, using the deep margins in front of us to its advantage, but Richie managed to scoop her up with the net at the first attempt. She looked a good fish in the net and a nice dark colour as well. Our suspicions were confirmed with the scales and at 43lb 1oz it was my biggest of the trip and new French PB.
Nothing happened the rest of the day or night and myself and Richie decided to swap sides of the swim the next morning as all the bites had come to my side and we hadn’t really seen a lot on his side.
The next few days literally flew by and nothing happened for myself or Richie, which wasn’t helped by the fact two anglers that had now moved opposite us (as they had heard we were catching a few) proceeded to cut us off, and we couldn’t get back on our spots we had invested the majority of our bait on. After a few heated words we eventually came to a compromise, but watching them catching over our bait for the next couple of days was a real kick in the teeth and put a downer on us for the middle part of the trip.
After clearing our heads and going for a walk we felt a lot more confident as we had low pressure and light rain forecast for the remaining few days, so we came up with a plan to combine what bait we had left and after contemplating buying some more we bumped into a kind chap who gave us a few kilos of his bait as he was catching on another lake over just small amounts of bait.
After a hearty meal we headed back to the swim with a second wind and plan B was put into action. As the evening passed into the night we were brimming with confidence as the pitter-patter of light rain started to land on the bivvies. The night was still young when Richie’s middle rod was finally away and after a nervy battle a lump rolled over the net and a massive smile spread across our faces. After getting everything sorted we set about getting some flash photos done and Stephen from the next swim up came down to give us a hand and congratulate Richie on his first French carp. The fish was a nice mottle colour and looked every bit over 40lb. Getting her up on the scales we settled on a weight of just over 44lb.
With the rod back out on the spot, the fish continued to show out in front of us and the wind and rain continued to come, and so did the fish. The early hours of the morning, a couple of hours before first light, produced two takes in quick succession for Richie with fish of upper-30s and a real corker of a fish at 46lb 10oz, which we left both in the nets for some photos at first light. We photographed the fish and went for a big breakfast at the restaurant. Richie was over the moon with the previous night’s results and it was good to see him smiling as we sat there drinking our coffees just taking it all in.
The next night passed without any success and before we knew it we were on our final night of the trip. We packed away most of the gear ready for the early morning pick up the next morning. The final night was a dry and cold one and my decision to sun the stairs proved to be chilly one. The alarm clock sounded at 5am and we got up and packed the remaining gear away leaving just the rods in situ. Just as the bailiff was about to pick us up, Richie’s middle rod roared off and he landed a last gasp upper-20 to end our first trip to France.