Fishing on the continent, a beginner’s guide to French carp fishing
Like many, with restrictions lifting across the continent, I found the anticipation of my first French fishing trip almost unbearable. With the PCRs were booked, final deposits paid, the usual 5 or 6 repacks of my fishing tackle and before I knew It, I was catching up with the ClubCarp team before we made our way to Dover for what will go down as one of my most memorable fishing trips.
In this feature, I highlight some of the tips and experience I have gained from fishing in France and what you should take into consideration when planning your first French trip…
How to research for French holiday fishing?
With so many lakes advertising their venues, researching fishing can often be overwhelming, with Google stacked full of French fishing holidays, offering the chance to catch huge fish in a variety of different lakes and locations, it can be rather daunting. Firstly, I would think about the type of lake you would like to fish, from acreage to stock, what is it that you want from your fishing trip? Create a shortlist before heading to social media. You may want to think about the type of venues that suit your angling in the UK and try to look for similar in France. You do not want to turn up to a lake in France and be out of your depth; a venue similar to one you are used to fishing will mean you are confident and fish to the best of your ability.
With social media playing such a large part in angling, it seems now, more so than ever, that gaining information is at its easiest. From searching Instagram, Facebook for friends or connections who recently visited France, YouTubing fishing lakes and in session films to dropping a quick DM to an angling consultant, information on fishing is now always at our fingertips.
I was fortunate to be heading to France on an organised trip with ClubCarp to Valee Lakes in the northern region of France. Whilst the hard work in locating a venue was done, this didn’t deter me from researching my venue in advance. Studying their social media feeds, reaching out to friends who had previously fished the venue, I started to build knowledge on a lake I hadn’t even seen with my own eyes. Although, I would note whilst information is incredibly valuable, you should always arrive at a venue with an open mind.
What type of bait should I take on a week-long French trip?
As with your English fishing, confidence in bait is essential, go armed with what you have faith in. Personally, having exclusively used Odyssey XXX boilies for the last 18months I looked no further when loading the van before heading to Dover. Taking into account I would be on the bank for 7 nights and not knowing what facilities would be available for bait storage, I opted to take a mix of freezer and shelf-life baits in various sizes, utilising the Freezer baits in the first few days before falling back on shelf-life towards the latter end of the week.
Listen to your guide! On arrival you will often be met by a lake owner or bailiff who will take you around the lake updating you on the recent catch reports, hot pegs and going baits. If your chosen lake offers prepared particles, maize or pellet, it’s more than likely the fish are confident on these baits and will be the perfect additive to create a highly attractive mix with your chosen boilies.
As with your free offerings, confidence in your hook baits is imperative, with french fishing often resulting in multiple hits of fish, make sure you have enough of your favoured pop ups, wafters or bottoms baits. Before making your way across the Channel, check out recent catch reports from your venue, you may find a certain colour of hook bait will outperform others. Equally, take hook baits you are confident in using!
What type of rigs should I use?
Use rigs you are familiar with and have previously had success on in the UK. Fishing venues holding big carp, you want to be sure you have the upmost confidence in the rig you cast out and ensure its up for the job of possibly landing you a new personal best.
Don’t be afraid to use a big hook, a size 4 or even bigger, with many 40lb fish swimming in these venues, a thicker gauge hook will only increase your confidence when playing what could be a fish of a lifetime.
Personally, not knowing what substrates I would be fishing over when arriving at Valee Lakes, I opted to take tackle to construct Spinner rigs and German rigs, having caught plenty of UK fish on these rigs, coupled with the simplicity in their construction I knew that should I be lucky of catch several fish I could quickly tie up fresh rigs.
Do I need a bait boat to catch?
There is no denying that around four days into my trip and at the beginning of daily pre dinner ritual of topping up my spot at 28 wraps with 5 kilos of bait, I couldn’t hide the jealously I had towards friends who were casually relaying the bait boats to their spots, but were they essential to catch? In short, no.
Yes, a bait boat will make bait deliverance to your spot even easier, but they definitely are not essential. Fish at ranges you are comfortable with, and definitely don’t forget the margins. During my trip to France, out of the 6 of us fishing, half opted not to take bait boats and attributed to over 70% of the fish landed.
How to avoid nuisance species?
French lakes quite often hold a range of nuisance fish, crabs etc, If you go unprepared these nuisance species could end your fishing trip before it has even got going! Bigger baits and harder baits can help to avoid the attention of some of the smaller nuisance species such as Bream, Rudd and Poisson Chat.
Double boilies on the hair or big 20mm snowman rigs would definitely help overcome those smaller species coupled with fishing a rig designed to reset itself, using a stiffer hook link on a helicopter set up would ensure that your rig would reset after any unwanted pickups.
It would also be worth taking some back up measures to tackle any problems you may face, either some dedicated Hard Hookbaits or some shrink wrap or mesh for baits in case the nuisance species are bad.
Should I rest my swim?
I get it, you’ve spent a lot of money on your trip, booked time off work, the last thing you will want to do is not fish, but trust me, resting your swim could be the difference from making it a dream session. Allowing the fish to visit your baited area without being caught will only increase their confidence, during my trip I would whip the rods in after breakfast, top up the spots with a good hit of bait and then start the daily ritual of photographing friends fish as I made my way round the lake. Don’t forget you are on holiday, a trip out from the lake to the local Super Marché or to a local pizzeria not only gives the fish a chance to build confidence in feeding on your spots, but allows you to visit the local area, enjoy your surroundings.
So, there we have it, a few tips and pointers to French fishing which may help you put more fish on the bank during your trip. Remember to enjoy your holiday, take in the surroundings and fish with confidence.