It seems that everyone I speak to lately is either just back from France or just going there. Every summer carp anglers flock across the channel in their thousands for a week of uninterrupted hauling, eating, drinking and relaxing in the French sunshine.
I have recently returned myself from just such a week and, although we didn’t get much of the sunshine part, the other elements were plentiful.
Every year a small group of us book up a lake for a week, pack the motors high with bait, fishing tackle and supplies and set off on a ferry. Traditionally we have visited a new lake every year, figuring that there are so many to try we will never get around them all anyway but, this year, we decided on our first ever return trip. Of all the lakes we have fished in the past we’d decided that Sky Lakes was probably the most memorable and worth another go, especially as the bigger were spawning on our last trip and we fancied putting the record straight with a few big French lumps.
Because we all had been before we had a rough idea of where we fancied starting out but all our plans were instantly scrapped when we rolled into the gates and found a big wind had condensed most of the stock onto one long bank of the lake, just big enough to house the five of us. I knew where I wanted to start, in a small bay at the top of the windward bank as I could see fish after fish topping in the margins. We usually have a draw to start with, just to keep it all fair and, luckily, I ended up exactly where I wanted to be, for the first night at least.
On all these French venues the fish tend to learn fairly quickly and I think it can be a real mistake to just plot up for the entire week in one swim. Obviously there are lakes where you do not have a choice but Sky has plenty of little corners and tucked away bits where stalking is always possible. Of course there were only five of us there this week which is a big bonus and I intended to make the most of the extra room.
The first night however was better than I could have hoped, the fish were only twenty yards out into the bay and, even in the dark, I could accurately cast and bait up after each fish. By the first morning I had caught an incredible eight fish, including a real clonker of fifty four pounds!
The temptation to stay put and just catch as many as I could from the bay was obviously huge but, by lunchtime, I could tell that most of the fish had moved off so I began a week of mobile angling that was to see me fish ten different swims during my six night stay.
Once I had figured out which areas the fish visited at different times of the day and night it all fell into place and I managed to catch from all ten swims, sometimes re-visiting the same one for a few hours each day.
The carp in Sky Lakes seem to respond well to bait and I was baiting quite heavily over each rod, topping it up after each fish and pre-baiting the areas I would be fishing later each evening.
As well as some fantastic fishing we were well looked after by Andy and his wife Bernie; the food was excellent and plenty of it and, on the Wednesday we went into town for a Chinese to celebrate Andy’s fiftieth birthday.
Although the trip is more of a holiday for me than an exercise in catching as much as possible I still couldn’t resist fishing as hard as I could, just to see exactly what the lake is capable of and to make up for the last trip when the bigger fish were too busy spawning to feed properly.
By the end of the week I’d managed to bank 32 carp with at least seven over forty pounds, including the fifty.
The whole trip had been a roaring success for all of us and our grand total was over one hundred fish between the five of us with three of them over fifty pounds, which is pretty good angling by any standards and a testament to just how prolific the lake really can be.
The highlight of the trip for me though, was when I decided to spread my wings a little further and fish the lake next door for a few hours.
I had seen a few fish showing at range on a big and wild gravel pit that backs onto Sky Lakes, a lake that hardly gets fished and contains an unknown small head of carp. After a bit of reconnaissance in a rowing boat I managed to find a nice clean gravel hump surrounded by forests of weed and during the heat of the afternoon my efforts were rewarded with a mid thirty pound mirror. The fish was not big by the standards of the Sky carp but he was a truly wild one, unknown, un-named and fought like a tiger, the icing on the cake as far as I was concerned.
I did see a much larger fish cruise under the boat at one stage, and there are rumours of some real monsters that have been spotted over the years. Who knows, maybe I’ll return one day and fish the whole week on this lake, in fact the more I think about it, the more appealing it sounds.