Now that winter is knocking on the door and the carp and preparing for their winter slumber, I wanted to share a rather good week I had a few years ago, when I was out in Austria with Nash Tackle.
At this time, I had only ever been to France once in my angling life and when the opportunity arose to go to Austria with Nash Tackle I jumped at the chance. At the time, Simon Stobie was in charge of all the Nash events and he also ran my local tackle shop, so when I popped in to get a packet of hooks Simon nonchalantly asked if I fancied a week abroad with Nash, delivering a load of the latest products and demonstrating them at an event held on an Austrian syndicate lake! Talk about right time, right place!
Joining us was long time Euro angling expert Andy Chambers and we had planned to meet at Nash HQ on a warm September evening so we could load all the gear into the van and pick up our bait and tackle for the week. At the time, the Purple Monster Squid was the new bait so we had orders from Alan Blair to take all the Monster Squid baits (Red, Purple and natural) and go and catch some carp!
We loaded the long wheel base van with all the gear for the show, mountains of tackle and a load of bait and tackle for us to use as well. I am sure the van was well over weight when we set off! Now, Simon doesn't drive so Andy and I would be sharing the driving duties of about 16hrs so instead of swapping over every few hours, we just agreed to change over when we were tired, I took the first stint and we set off with the sat nav chirping away as we sped through the Essex countryside towards Folkestone where we would catch the 8.30pm tunnel to Calais and then drive through the night across Northern France, into Germany and then down into Austria. We were heading to a town called Villach near the Austrian/Slovenian border, the lake was in the foothills of the Triglavski National Park so at least the scenery should be easy on the eye.
We arrived for our crossing and we were allowed on to an earlier train so we trundled onboard and settled in for the 35min crossing. It's a bit strange driving onto a train, sitting in the van and then driving off 35 mins later into France but we were ahead of schedule and the weather was clear and dry so I put my foot down and set about making a dent into the 1265km journey!
We continued through Northern France and as the light faded the traffic became non existent and we were making really good time. With the van being full to the gunnels of fishing gear, it was only a few hours before we needed to refuel so we swung into the services and filled her up with diesel. We took the opportunity to have a refuel ourselves and we tucked into baguettes and croissants, as you do when in France! Andy offered to take over and we swapped seats with me keeping an eye on the sat nav allowing Andy to concentrate on the road.
Before long we were crossing the border into Germany and although there was a physical border with lanes and border control staff, they waved us through and we carried on the journey, by now we were all feeling the tiredness, Andy and I swapped more and more often and Simon snored pretty much all the way, hard life eh?!
As we drove on through Germany the sun was beginning to poke its head above the horizon and we hit Munich as rush hour was just starting to come to life! We passed the incredible Allianz Stadium and battled the traffic and soon we were clear of the city limits and the countryside returned. Before long we were in Austria and with an hour to go, the scenery changed to lush green hills and ski resorts that looked a bit odd in the late summer sun! The sat nav was telling us we were close and finally after a monster 17 hour drive from Essex to Villach, we had made it!
We were greeted by the Nash lads from Austria and Germany who shoved a beer into our hands as well as a warm hand shake, I checked my watch it was 10am, oh well! I sank the beer in a couple of goes and it felt like a just reward for the long drive! Arno Bergler who was the main main in the Austrian Nash team showed us the lake and ran us through the rules, barbless hooks and fish from the dedicated swims, no stalking allowed.
We decided to unload the van and we then paired off with an Austrian angler in the many double swims that lined one bank, Simon ended up on his own in a little bay 100 yards to my left, Andy slotted in between us and I was on the end peg in a big double swim with Austrian angler Thomas Haderer. Luckily he spoke decent English as my Austrian/German was a little rusty!
He had been there a night already and caught 1 fish of about 30lb, so I rigged up a couple of simple snowman rigs and attached a 4oz lead on a lead clip, nice and simple. We then all met up and set up for the show that was starting on Saturday. It was now Thursday evening so we had a bit of time to feel our way into the place. The lake was stunning, really deep with a light blue colour that was very clear, I guess it was about 20 acres in total and you kind of fish from one bank.
You can just make out the swim I was in on the right hand side of the picture, I planned to cast across to that bushy area that sticks out into the lake, an obvious fish holding spot in my eyes.
Just before dark I went for wander, we had a huge area to our right of about 3 acres that nobody else could reach, I walked round to the bushy area and it was actually a point, a spit of land that stuck out into the lake with a few marginal bushes, this was definitely the spot for me and I planned to cast over as tight as I dared as I expected the fish to use the point as a bit of a patrol route. I ran back and grabbed a few bags of bait, we had hundreds of kilos with us and I chucked 5kg of each of the monster squid flavours into a bucket, there was the original monster squid which was a brown colour, then there was the red version which basically had added robin red and the purple version that was just mental! I had no idea how the fish would respond to the purple but in went 5kg of that as well. I glugged the whole lot with the monster squid dip and glug and then gave it a good shake. On dark I wandered back round and deposited the 15kg of boilies all around the margins of that spit of land that jutted out into the lake, Thomas and I decided not to fish that night but to get a good nights rest and let the fish have a good feed without any angling pressure, hoping we could bag a few for the people that turned up for the Nash Weekend at the lake on Saturday.
The spit of land that stuck out into the lake, I positioned a rod on either side of the very tip of the point.
It was about 9pm and I crashed out on my bedchair, I was only under a brolly so I expected to be woken by the sun rise in the early hours. Of course both Thomas and I then proceeded to sleep in until gone 9am! We were awoken by Arno offering us breakfast at the lakes clubhouse, we staggered across to the clubhouse which was great, lots of undercover seating, a brilliant kitchen and BBQ area and toilets and showers, perfect! We devoured the bread, ham and cheese and washed it all down with a cup of Austrian tea, which to be fair was not half bad! We were just about to head back and get the rods out when the fry up arrived, oh my goodness it was immense, sausage, bacon, potatoes, baked beans and what can only be described as a kind of black pudding, I think. It was delicious and we offered to pay our way but the Austrian lake owners and syndicate members were having none of it, we were their guests and the hospitality was incredible.
As we left the clubhouse I offered our hosts a cup of tea in the swim later that morning and we left them to clear up the breakfast, despite us offering to help, our offer was kindly declined and we headed back to the swim. We passed Simon who had been kept awake by carp crashing out in the bay all night, he had also decided not to fish but was just sorting his rods out as we wandered past, we wished him good luck and headed back to our swim. It wasn't long before we had the rods ready but I had another job to do first! I had seen a brilliant stalking spot the day before right in the corner of the lake tucked away, the overhanging trees shrouded a crisp, clear strip of gravel literally a foot off the bank in about 6 foot of water, I could see the odd fish drifting through obviously having fed on the handful of bait I dropped in there the day before, sneaky! I dropped in a few more boilies and left them to it as I went to get a stalking rod rigged up.
Now, despite being told not to go stalking I had to have a go and went to see Arno who was clearly the go between for the syndicate and us. I showed him the spot and he grinned 'go for it just don't get caught' and the words had barely left his lips and I was sprinting back to the van, I grabbed one of the new 9ft Scope rods and begged borrowed (stole) a Daiwa SS2600 reel from Simon. It was rigged up and ready to go, I crept into position with the rig and I could see 3 fish tails up chomping on the remaining boilies, I dropped in a few purple baits onto their heads to get them to move off the spot but they just ate those too! Hmmm ok I threw in some more the fish took the hint and drifted away up the margin and out of sight, I lowered the rig in and slackened the line right off, I was fishing 12 inches from the bank so line lay was very important. Satisfied that I was presenting the rig as best as I could, I dropped in 10 baits around the hook bait, watching each one as it hit the gravel, it was crystal clear and I could see the snowman hook bait clear as day. I turned the alarm on tightened the clutch right down and sprinted back to the swim because typically I had forgotten a landing net! Thomas was busy mixing up some bait and I told him I had the rig in the water, grabbed a net and headed back. Now, previously Thomas had said that the fish don't get caught from the margins, nobody has ever caught one from the edge etc etc. So he was very sceptical about my chances, based on what I had witnessed I thought it would be worth a shot at least, especially as two of the carp I had seen looked massive!
You can find out how I got on and how the rest of the trip panned out in part 2!