Never been abroad angling? Our resident blogger Wayne Box has all the info you need on how to choose, plan and enjoy all that foreign carp angling has to offer!
It's that time of year when thousands of anglers across the UK board ferries and cross oceans searching for monster carp. For anyone who has never been angling abroad it can be quite a daunting prospect but hopefully I can give you a few ideas, tips and pointers to get you on your way.
First up is choosing the right venue. This is probably the hardest decision you will have to make and I always say that it is best to go on recommendations from friends or other anglers you know. Another factor will be how experienced you or your group are, there is no point venturing onto a 300 acre gravel pit with 50 carp in it if you are relatively new to carp angling, so bear this in mind when selecting a venue. Most lakes are booked up a year in advance so you need to get organised and book well in advance, you can sometimes pick up late availability but you won't have a lot of choice of where you go!
There are basically 3 types of packages available and which one you choose will depend on the personal preferences of you or your group; you might choose what is known as a 'drive and survive holiday' where you literally get to fish the lake as you would if you turned up at a day ticket lake in the UK, you drive to the lake, you go to your swim, usually following a draw and you self cater on the bank. The second option at some venues is very similar to the drive and survive but with addition of a food package where breakfast and an evening meal are included in the price, this is a popular choice for some as there is no need to pack cooking kit, cool bags full of food etc. The last of the most common packages is the 'fully inclusive' these are packages where as it suggests, everything is included in the price. You will be picked up from a designated point near the ferry port and driven to the lake via mini bus or coach, when you arrive all your food is included as well. Which package works best for you is your choice but personally I prefer to drive myself as motoring in France is much nicer than the UK with less traffic jams and nice long, straight, smooth, pot hole free roads!
Remember if you are driving in France you MUST be prepared with the necessary equipment required by law. Items such as a warning triangle, spare bulbs, hi vis vest for every person in the vehicle etc, plus the new driving permit. If the French police pull you over and haven't got the necessary bits and pieces, then a hefty fine may follow and possibly even confiscation of your vehicle. In days gone by any UK vehicles picking up speeding fines from fixed cameras were often overlooked but not anymore!
Lastly on venue choice remember this, when a lake states it has carp to over fifty pounds, it might have one 50lb fish in it. Have a read of the catch reports, they are the best indicator of a lakes stocking. You also need to decide if you want a runs water where you might catch a bunch of 20's and 30's or do you sit and wait it out for the fish of a lifetime.
Planning your trip need not be a stressful experience and preparation is the key. A lot of anglers struggle when choosing bait as many fisheries sell their own and they state that the fish are fed these boilies all year round and the fish are used to eating them. This can also backfire and any bait that is regularly applied to one venue might be treated with suspicion by the fish, have a check of the catch reports and if they state what bait the fish were caught on then you will soon see any patterns that emerge. I tend to take a bait I have confidence to use in the UK, but I would urge all your group if there are more than one of you going to club together and get the cheapest deal possible when ordering in bulk.
On the subject of bait, check the lake rules before you go to see if there are any bait restrictions, every lake is different but where allowed, I like to take a selection of the following;
- A good quality boilie in different sizes (30 kilos for a week)
- Hemp and maize (tiger nuts if allowed)
- Tins of sweetcorn (frozen if freezer facilities available)
- Fluro hook baits in a few different colours
- 6mm and 10mm pellets
- Mini pellet mix for solid bag work
The above may sound like a lot of bait but I have rarely used more than 20 kilos of boilies over a week period on the majority of venues I have fished in France, my ethos is I would rather have it with me if I need it and I can always take it home. What I don't want is for the fish to be turned on to small particles during my trip and all I have is 18mm boilies! Likewise, running out of boilies when the fish are feeding would be a nightmare, so take what you think you will need for a red letter session, the rest can come home if not required.
Tactics in France need be no different to how you would fish in the UK. Again, do your research and see what the fish seem to prefer, check the social media accounts of the venue and ask questions if you are unsure. As a rule of thumb I always go very easy on the bait for the first few days, I ease myself into the session and gauge what's happening. The one issue you have is that you will never know how much bait the anglers before you have put into the lake. I will often fish single hook baits for the first 24 hours just to see how the fish respond, as with any fishing session the key is to watch the water, showing fish, bubbling fish and clouded up areas of the lake are all signs of feeding fish, if you are catching a few then by all means give them a bit of bait but as the old saying goes, you can put more in but you can't take it out!
Rig wise just stick to what you use in the UK, make sure the rigs are suitable for the venue in terms of abiding by the rules but most importantly they need to be suitable for the presentation you are tying to achieve. For me, if I want to fish a pop up and the lake bed is anything other than thick weed I will always reach for the ronnie rig or the stiff hinge rig, if its a snowman, bottom bait or balanced/wafter type bait then I tend to steer towards a combi rig, usually some coated braid with a stripped back section by the hook, size 4 or size 6 and a hair trapped in place by a piece of tubing on the bend of the wide gape pattern hook. I haven't fished solid bags much across the channel but I always the components I need with me just in case. Stick to what you know, tie the rigs well and make sure the hook is sticky sharp, the rest is all down to putting the rig in the right place, which brings me nicely on to my next subject.
Watercraft in France is the same as any other country, the only challenge is will you be able to get near the fish if they start showing in a certain area of the lake. No doubt there will be a draw for swims and you might end up at the other end of the lake to where the fish are but fear not, it is unlikely that once fishing commences the fish will stay put, in my experience the fish tend to shy away from angling pressure. Choosing a venue and the number of anglers allowed is key, on a lake with 10 swims that allow 10 anglers to fish every week, you are not moving anywhere! I always tend to book a lake exclusively where myself and my group can have the lake to ourselves, the venue we are off to this year has 10 swims and there are 5 of us going on the trip, we can spread ourselves out around the lake and if the fish move there will be room for everyone to have a good crack at them.
PLANNING! As I mentioned before planning is absolutely crucial so 3 months before your trip you need to start thinking about ordering bait, like I said earlier, get together with the rest of the group and buy in bulk to save a few quid. If you intend to buy any bait from the lake, then put your order in now to allow plenty of time for stock to be ordered if required. With 4 weeks to go you need to start ensuring your tackle box is topped up with all the essentials that you won't be able to get while you are out there, tackle shops are few and far between in France and the venues may allow carry stock of the bare essentials. Make sure you have plenty of hooks and leads for starters, a spare spool of mainline in case you need to re-spool for any reason, make sure you have plenty of hooklink material for your rigs, spare batteries for head torches, bite alarms and cameras, spare gas canisters for your stove and plenty of spare clothes in case the weather takes a turn for the worse. I gather all my spare tackle, batteries, gas canisters, clothes etc and place them in a plastic storage box and leave it in the van in case any of it is needed.
Lastly with a week to go before you set off, you need to organise all your kit and clothes, make sure you have your ferry or tunnel crossing details and a copy of any medical insurance and breakdown cover, but most importantly don't forget your passport!
So there you have it, a brief but hopefully helpful guide to planning a trip abroad for a spot of carp fishing! As I write this I am surrounded by a mountain of tackle and bait for my next french trip just two days away! If you are heading across the channel this year then good luck and don't forget, it's a holiday first and foremost, enjoy it and the fish will turn up when they are ready!
Until next time, be lucky.