Iggy's latest diary piece from the past year of crazy times!
The transition from the old year to the new does not bode well. We are still in the grip of the pandemic and the laws imposed by our governments. The curfew virtually restricts public fishing. Foreign fishing trips are becoming almost impossible because of the many tests, documents and papers you have to fill in. Even then, you are in fact committing a criminal offence, and for what, to be alone or, at best, in pairs at the water's edge. Losing yourself in it is of no avail. The plans I had made for the approaching season I can partly fold up and put away. Hoping that it soon all will turn in the old normale again.
King Winter did not miss his entrance this year. In fact, the cold front continued into spring, with all its consequences.The first few months of the year, I fished only short day sessions. All order to get the best out of my swim and my baiting up campaigns. I always return to the same winter syndicate that I have been fishing for years now. Not the most difficult place but after a while, you know where and when to expect action. About a week before the planned day sessions, I choose only a few handfuls of top banana boilies. Both 20 and 15 mm and halved baits find their way to the chosen spots.
Not much, but enough to get the fish moving. Every time I went out, at least one fish came to shore. What struck me is that the colder the water gets, the shorter the baiting period becomes. To give an example, at one point the baiting period for this particular swim was shortened from a few hours to barely 30 minutes. It sometimes happened that three bites followed in that short period. The shorter the feeding period, the more difficult the swim becomes, the less likely it is to catch fish. If you can gather this knowledge, it will be a lot easier to plan your fishing trip.
21 March marks the beginning of meteorological spring. Even though there was not much of it. A few warmer days were the exception. The urge to visit other waters with better fish stocks grows by the day. After a few fishless sessions on a large and deep water, I resolutely opt to return to the small tricky syndicate water where I caught that big sixty-pounder last year. There are still a few residents on the wish list that I want to embrace. On arrival at the water, the crowds weren't too bad also this time. Only a few fellow carp anglers were present.
One of the intended places is still free and I do not hesitate to claim it. The competition here can turn up very quickly. In no time at all, bivvies rise from the ground like mushrooms. As predicted it was no different this time. The spot I choose offers me the opportunity to fish with one rod in the direction of some large trees that lie in the water. This is what the fish like, it is one of the few safe areas where they can do their thing quietly. Fishing against such a brutal branch jungle requires a certain approach. A lock-up back rest system, braided line and reel slip fully closed are unthinkable in this situation. As rig set up I keep it simple. Semi stiff rig, 15mm hardened club hookbait with half a pineapple pop up on top and of course the all well trusted stronghold 101 hook size 4. This all together gives me a perfect balanced hookbait. The session that i have in mind will last 48 hours. The end result is that I cashed in 4 bites with a 13kg+ dark-colored common as the largest. Not the big mega's but very satisfied with the result. In the weeks that followed the information came in that the top layer, the A-team was out. I would not be returning here any time soon. Due to the ongoing workload at work, there will be little talk of fishing in the coming weeks. Not that I need to mumble much, because a rainbow trip is planned for the beginning of May. I'm really looking forward to this. Finally, back on the road in France with good friend Bart Machielsen. But nothing seems to be what it is. France will lift their strict lock down rules on the weekend before departure to Lac Du Curton. In other words, these measures will determine whether or not we will be allowed on the property. A week in advance we are told that the owner will keep the complex closed for an extra week to be able to prepare everything properly to receive the guests. This is the 2nd year in a row that we have to cancel our trip. Very disappointed, but again we can do little about it.
In the back of our minds, we have a plan B ready to go which just has to be implemented. Normally the choice would be public waters, but as the curfew is still in force in France, it's going to be a tough one. We were told by a very good friend and solar team member that he knows a nice complex with 5 lakes where it is not too busy at the moment. This sounds like music to our ears and so we can still start our France trip. No sooner said than done. The necessary phone calls are made, documents are collected and the negative PCR test is obtained. What a hassle to travel to the promised land and all of that to find our piece of mind in nature.
We decided to make it a 5-day trip. On arrival, we immediately noticed that, apart from three cars that the car park was almost empty. In other words, few fellow anglers. After having spoken with the baillif, the hardest part came: the choice of the swim. We have a range of possibilities and each water has its own specific characteristics. It is as if they let a child loose in a sweet shop and then say to you: you have to choose now.
Which one will you take first? The populations of all the waters are extraordinary, to say the least. After discussing it together for a while, we decide to fish the first days of the trip separately. Bart resolutely chooses the biggest water on the estate. For the time being, this is where the best fish are caught and it is also the busiest. I choose a smaller but more difficult water where there is a lot of vegetation. When I arrive at the spot, I see a couple of fish making their presence known in the middle of the lake. The first is to find the small clean spots between the weed beds. With the help of the baitboat this becomes a lot easier. After finding the right spots, I provide them with pre-prepared food. It consists mainly of chrushed club mix boilies mixed with various types of pellets varying in diameter and finaly soaked in marine 17. Just as the twin rib bivvy is setup, I get a call from Bart that he already landed the first carp and that it is a good one. Bart has not missed his start and can immediately tick off a mirror of 48+lb. By 4pm I am back at my swim, time to put the three rods in to place. Against all expectations afew houres later, I get a bite on my middle rod. The first bite on a new lake is always exciting and this one is no different. After a calm drill without too much resistance, a common that looks fresh out of the package is landed. A few hours later same scenario, the middle rod comes alive again. This time it is a slow bite and the battle is completely different to its predecessor. The fish in question swings all the way to the left. The new rods are tested thoroughly. Once the carp slides over the net, I can welcome a big-bellied mirror of just under 50 pounds.
At night, I lose fish in the abundant weeds. When the morning sun comes over the hill I get my second chance. When leaving the warm sleeping system, it strikes me how cold it is outside. Everything on the ground is covered in a layer of ice. I quickly grab the body warmer and wriggle into it before taking the rod in hand. Again, the fish moves all the way to the left side of the lake. I suspect that this is a weighty fish and some 10 minutes later this is confirmed. A huge mirror lies in the inflatable unhooking mat, ready to be photographed. After Bart has taken the necessary photos, we give the carp back its freedom. Bart tells me that he is well into the fish and that he gets a bite regularly. However, the big ones are still not coming. The next 48 hours there is little to tell from my side. It remains frighteningly quiet. I decide to fish some other spots on the lake during the day. Unfortunately, apart from a few tench, it is frighteningly quiet here too. Later in the evening we both decide that we will move tomorrow. There are also other lakes where we might both be able to fish our last two nights together. Around 5 am, I get a hesitant bite on my right handed rod. After some hesitation, the line tightens and I find myself with a curved rod. The same pattern repeats itself over and over again. The fish moves to the left and then I have to pull it through 2 large weed fields. Fortunately, this goes well. A heavy mirror with a massive body disappears into the landing net. While looking at it, I know for sure that this is the best one so far. The scale confirms this and the needle sticks at 56.5 lb. The next morning, Bart was kind enough to do the job as photographer. Bart himself had caught a handful of fish up to 43lb. Nevertheless, we decided going to one of the other waters. While we are packing our gear, out of the blue I get two more bites. Both fish are in the 30lb weight class. This again makes me doubt whether moving to another lake is the right decision. Thinking to myself, maybe I should come back here tomorrow during the day. Before I leave, I pick one spot and feed it generously with tunamino E12/ club boilies. It is a gamble, given the circumstances.
When we arrive at the next lake, I let Bart choose which swim he prefers. His choice falls on the shallow part of the water. Later he would prove to have been right. I take the place next to his swim, about 50 metres away. This way, we can maintain the social aspect. After some surveying, I quickly place one rod on the other side of the lake before setting up the rest of the camp. After all, you never know what can happen. The chosen spot turns out to be worth its weight in gold. While sinking the line (I was completely occupied with other things), I wanted to hang the indicator in position. To my great surprise, the direction of the line had completely changed. When I picked up the rod it became clear that this was a very fast take and there was a fish attached on the other side of the line. The fight was very harsh and my opponent did not want to give up easily. After a lot of back and forth under the rod tip, Bart is finally able to slide the net under a beautiful two-tone mirror. All in all, just 44lb. We could not have wished for a better start. During the rest of the evening and night, we both landed quite a few fish, including some big ones. Fairly tired in the early morning, I packed up my rods and gear. I convinced myself that I should go back to the first lake that I fished. Anyway, to stand still is to go backwards. About an hour later, both rods were in the desired spots and the waiting game could begin. There is not much time to put food into my stomach as one of the bite alarms decides to scream it out. Immediately at the first contact I feel the line rubbing against something. You are obliged to fish with nylon, so that doesn't give you much room in such situations, especially when the weed is full of razor-sharp little zebra mussels. I immediately feared the worst. Before I could think of anything, the line had gone slack and the fish was lost. Dismayed, this is too good to be true, what a pity. I had not counted on this scenario. With my courage in my boots, I prepared my rod again. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that this was the missed opportunity to catch a fish at the last minute on this lake. On top of that, the cloud cover is getting very dark and the weather gods are not kind to me. An enormous thunderstorm breaks out with strong gusts of wind, hail and lightning.As if it couldn't get any worse. I am looking at the water, defeated, when suddenly the left handed rod bounces on worldwide pod. Without any hesitation, I am standing without my raincoat in the pouring rain, with a curved rod in my hands. This absolutely cannot be allowed to go wrong. Everything goes as planned and a beautifully builted mirror slips into the net. Just when I wanna to look into the landingnet, the bobbin of the other rod bangs against the carbon. Yes, this is why we put all the effort . Again, everything goes well and I can tick off 2 fish of 38lb. They could be brother or sister, they are so similar looking. I don't have to tell you that i'm well pleased with the result. The hard work has been rewarded.
Fulfilled, I travel back to spend the last night on the other lake. Also here, I deceide only to fish with two rods. Firstly, to keep the line pressure to a minimum and secondly, to avoid fiddling with the other lines at night while playing a fish. In the morning, a message comes through from Bart that he has caught 2 beautiful 40lb mirrors and whether I want to assist to take pictures. I texted him that I was on my way but that one rod had to be moved first. Against all expectations, it was dead quiet. I had a bad feeling that i misplaced it last night.Thats why I want to reposition it for the last few hours. After all, definitely worth the gamble. Just when I am about going to Bart's place, I get a bite on the newly repositioned rod. But its seem to be Murphy's law. I only have a few seconds contact and the the whole set returned lifeless. It turns out that the 35lb rig has been cut off. In all likelihood, these are those damned mussels again. This is not how it all should be.
After having immortalised Bart's fish, I tell him all about it. The rain has stopped for a while and we decide to end the session. Whilst walking back towards my swim i convince myself to put down one more rod and hoping at one last chance. Whilst folding up the twin rib bivvy, the bite alarm produces a couple of bleeps. Indicator against to carbon could only mean one thing. In the meantime, Bart has joined in to lend a hand. Like no other, this battle takes longer then previous opponents. After a while we both see huge bubbles coming up at the surface, followed by a large carp body. Not much later, a well-proportioned carp slides over the net cord.. We both look at the fish in the landing net and notice that this fish is huge. Quickly the recovery sling is slid under the net to lift the carp out of the water, saftey first. Its only now we realize that this is a very weighty fish. The unhooking mat is filled with carp meat . The weightunster makes us wonder about the weight. We couldn't believe it at first. We have to weigh it twice to be sure. The needle sticks at 61lb. Talking about at the end it all comes good. This was not what we had expected. Ok, you never know what you are going to catch and that is what makes this hobby so exciting. But it does make up for all those previous missed opportunities. As we drive home, we go over the past session. Since we fished the first few nights separately, the fishing trip did not bore us for a single second. Better still, we both feel exhausted and that can only mean one thing.
It just goes to show that sometimes it's the perseverance that wins the day.