Article - Coarse

The Diary of a Lake - Part Six

By Mike, added on 18/06/2007

Stardate Captains Log 7th May 2007

The Regular’s Return

Ian & Paul’s fishing trip to the lake this year was going to be a little different. Instead of me picking them up, splitting the ferry costs with them & driving them over, I would be greeting them when they arrived. My family had now settled here & had become one of the many cross channel commuters, courtesy of the low fares airlines. Its surprising how many French commuters there are. A like for like job in the UK, will earn you double a French salary. Plus if you have children, with the pro-child tax rules in France, your quids in, it’s a win-win situation for the French.

I was actually a little excited on the morning of their arrival, after all; I had shared some very enjoyable times with them down at the waterside. For example, one of the many great privileges I get to enjoy with my guests here, is midnight mass. Allow me to explain….before it goes dark, we decide in whose pitch midnight mass is to be held. Once it is dark, after which time floats can no longer be seen, we assemble sitting in plastic chairs waiting to be entertained hopefully by a night feeding carp. While waiting for the bleeper to bleep, waiting empty glasses receive a tipple of the golden nectar – of course whiskey! Sitting by the waterside, looking up at the clear night sky looking for shooting stars, in good company, having your pipe & stomach warmed by one of Scotland’s finest – wow, its good.

Paul was one of my very first guests here back in 2002. I took the place on during the winter of 2000/01 & after my first works of getting electric & water sorted out on site & building suitable accommodation, I was ready for visitors in spring 2002. Since then, Paul has returned each May. He has always caught plenty, as many or more as most guests, but has just been unlucky with the bigger carp here. I have known for some time that there have been fish considerably bigger, than those that have graced the mesh of Paul’s landing net. Things were about to change. Ian, on the other hand, had taken carp to over thirty pounds. He is one of those anglers who takes a very methodical & thought out approach. I’d call him a gadget man, keeping himself up to date with the latest fishing gismo’s. I always look forward to what he will catch, while he is here.

They were here for a week. Sunday, the day of their arrival was spent setting up, drinking tea & generally taking their time, adjusting to the pace of the week ahead. Baits did go into the lake on Sunday but all remained quiet. First thing each morning is my ritual walk around. I check the Coypu traps, toss half a bucket of fish meal pellets into the stock pool, keep an eye on the wildlife, one eye always on the water, another eye on the relentlessly growing vegetation & enjoying a morning chat with any fisherman. Both guys were fishing through the night, but all had been very quiet.

If anything did happen, because Paul & Ian had been here several times, I wanted to witness & share their experience. I dropped my walkie-talkies onto the charger & said to Sally that I would sleep in the hut for the week, not with my family. This way I had an excuse for a few very late midnight mass’s, plus I could get up & go down to the lake if I got the call during the night.

The next morning, after we dropped the children off at school, Sally & I went out. We came back late morning. Paul was sitting on the grass outside the hut, cup of coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other. I am a non-smoker but I could see he was enjoying it – something had happened. ‘At last’ he said. He had caught a thirty four pounder. This is where I so often climb aboard the soap box. I see & hear so many anglers planning or already en route to France for a carp fishing trip, all expecting thirty pounders to come jumping up the rods with ease. Well, I’m afraid it ain’t always like that. Dry landing nets don’t make the pages of the fishing magazines, so you only read of the success stories. There are far more anglers who come to France who struggle & go home disappointed than those who do well. Surely, to come & have a relaxing fishing holiday but go home disappointed & downhearted is absolutely bonkers. When I ask anglers on the ferries back to the UK how their trip went & they reply ‘crap’ or similar comment, it really breaks my heart. If it is all about numbers & weights, how long will you remain a contented, happy & fulfilled angler? This is why I sometimes get a little disgruntled about the current carp scene. Anyway, back to current events, this said, I was absolutely delighted Paul had exercised his ghost & caught a big thirty pounder.

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Paul’s next fish was a big one, then the next & the next, again the next. Then we all enjoyed a fabulous surprise. Later in the week, late on Thursday afternoon, he landed a magnificent carp. Last year two commons weighed twenty pounds dead, the commons were growing steadily but these two were the biggest to date. This fish weighed 29lbs 12oz.

This fish was clearly carrying spawn, but even still, I think this is very healthy growth. Ian took a grass carp a few ounces under twenty pounds, then a 2lbs catfish. He struggled but remained very positive, keeping his mind on the task. Thursday night I snuggled up into my sleeping bag in the hut & snoozed off. I opened my eyes & lay awake blinking. The radio crackled ‘Mike, are you there?’ I realised what had woken me up. ‘Got a big fish ‘ere you might want to see’. I croaked back to Ian to give me a couple of minutes while I got dressed. When I got down to Place d’epines, Paul was already there. The stumble along the bankside in the darkness had brought me round & I watched as Ian hoisted out clearly a very heavy sack. The carp was the biggest I had ever seen as it lay glistening in our torch lights. The needle on the scales went passed forty pounds & beyond. We didn’t say much really, we just muttered our own thoughts out loud. To be honest, I was astonished. It had been as if the carp here had been eating miracle grow or something for the last year or so. ‘Come on then, put the kettle on’. It was quarter to three in the morning & we all sat drinking a lovely hot cup of coffee.

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The next morning I woke up to see daylight through the window & lay listening to the birds singing for a while. I went round to see Ian & Paul again. It was really as if this strange dream had taken place in the night, my tiredness however, reminded me that it wasn’t. It was like we had to do a reality check to make sure we were all there & it did happen.

We said goodbye to the guys on Saturday evening, then everything was strangely very quiet. This was something new, which we did not expect to be of any significance. But greeting friends & bidding them farewell at the end of their holiday, was a new phenomenon for us.

On a footnote; I buy Carpe Record, which is one of the French carp magazines over here, which incidentally are very different to our UK carp magazines (no ads!). In the June mag, the editors introductory paragraphs discusses the ‘false’ winter; no frosts, very mild & wet. Following the hot spring, there has been excessive weed growth with a huge abundance of natural foods. Difficult fishing but big growth rates being reported all across France. It appears La Morinais had just been following suit.

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