Fishing in France -The Beausoleil Carp & Catfish Experience

Well it was that time of year again and a carp fishing holiday to France was just around the corner; with a just week to go it was time to double check the carp tackle and get everything ready for the trip to France, including checking essentials like a GB magnet for the car, alcohol tester, headlight deflectors and hi-viz vest – all these are a legal requirement when traveling to France, so make sure you bring them!

The week had just flown by and the car was packed to the brim with all the fishing gear needed. Our route was via Portsmouth to Caen, with a 125-mile drive to our destination, a lake called Beausoleil, near a small town of Le Pertre which was in the Mayenne region of France.

Beausoleil Lake in the stunning French countryside.

Beausoleil Lake in the stunning French countryside.

After a long journey through lovely French countryside, myself and fishing pal Bo’ arrived at the lake. We were met by the owners Matt and Ren who welcomed us to the venue and showed us into the house.

The house at Beausoleil lake

The house at Beausoleil lake.

After Ren’s quick tour of the accommodation,  Matt took us on a visit round the lake. We started from points A, B and C and worked our way around the water. It was a really helpful tour, as Matt talked us through each swim and all their features. It’s always good to keep your eyes peeled on the walk around a new venue and make notes of what you see as this can lead to banked fish. On the tour I spotted a few feeding fish about forty yards in front of the dam end of the lake. When we walked over the bridge to the island we spooked a lot of big carp that were in the shallows, in front of the home swim and another mental note was made!

Beausoleil Lake Map

Beausoleil Lake Map.

We headed back to the house to be faced with the task of unloading the car and putting everything ready for the start on Sunday morning as we had decided to just chill out with some food and a few beers for the first night followed by a few games of pool as there was a cracking table on site.

Sunday morning was here and we got some breakfast and a coffee before going to the swims to set up for the week, Bo had decided to fish from the big double swim so I had decided to fish from point B and this also gave me the option of putting a rod in point A and C if I wanted too.

Bo's Large double swim

Bo’s Large double swim.

So we got on with the set up and made sure everything was ready for the week, I had put one rod out and moved it around a few times just to try and pick up an early fish from a random spot, until I had sorted the main areas I wanted to fish.

Bo’s rods were out and he was waiting for his first take – he didn’t have to wait long as his middle rod which was placed on a hard spot in the middle of the lake took off, and he was in. I think this rod had only been out about forty minutes and he was playing a lump, it was a catfish and it was giving him a good battle. He did have a dedicated catfish rod but as you have guessed, it never goes to plan and it was on his TF Gear 2.75 test curve carp rod!

He played the cat for about thirty minutes and couldn’t believe his eye’s as the fish just came up like a submarine and he managed to slip the net under her, he was over the moon as his PB cat before this one was about 13lb. I was on my way round to help him weigh the fish, which was 74lb – 6oz and it was now time for some pictures of the beast before slipping her back in to the lake. This was a good start and hopefully plenty more to come.

Bo's 74lb-6oz catfish

Bo’s 74lb-6oz catfish.

I finally got back to my swim and finished getting everything set up, before casting out I decided to have a quick chuck around with the FishSpy underwater camera and found some really good areas despite the murky water. The first area I found was a nice clear gravel spot tight to the island under an over hang which was for my middle rod, the second spot I found was for the catfish rod and this was a soft silty area on the far bank to the left of catfish corner for my left rod, the third spot was in the shallows to my right where I didn’t need to do any marker work. This rod was going to fish a chod rig, as I had already seen fish crashing in this area so I knew where the bait was going.

I started to bait up these spots, beginning with the island and decided to use a mix of the two boilies I had with me cranberry and trigga blue in sizes 16mm, 18mm and 20mm, I also used some particles which were mixed seeds and maize. Then I moved on to the catfish spot, which was baited up with mixed pellets from halibut to shrimp and krill in sizes 12mm to 22mm I also added in some of the boilies as well. The last one will be the shallow bay to my right and all I would do to start with was scatter about eighty of the two types of boilies over a large area just to keep the carp there and keep them confident and feeding; the areas were now ready and all they needed now were the rigs.

My first rod out was the chod rig with a very buoyant 20mm cranberry pop up which had been in the dip for around three weeks.

Next up was the island spot and I used a running rig system which I will explain about a bit later on, hook length was a ten inch Korda N-Trap semi stiff 30lb link in gravel with a Korda krank size 4 hook, I had taken back about two inches of the coating at the hook end to allow the bait to move freely. Bait used on this one was the Trigga Blue bottom bait in 18mm and this was taken out in the bait boat along with a mix of boilies, mixed seed and maize as I wanted this one tight to the island under the overhang of a tree.

Then finally the catfish rod, again with a running rig system and I used ten inches of Kryston Ton-up with a Cox & Rawle Chinu size 1/0 hook, attached to this were four boilies 2x 20mm cranberry and 2x 20mm trigga blue. I also put this out with the bait boat with a mix of pellets and boilies, I also used the TF Gear long handled baiting spoon to spread some more of the same baits over a larger area to try and attract the catfish in.

The running rig set up was a cog system but with a twist as I had the cog flat distance three ounce lead with the cog attachment number 4 which is for the three ounce flat pear lead. First of all, put the tubing on which is a metre of Nash cling on tungsten tubing and then the lead, followed by the Korda run rig rubber and then tied on a Korda cog system no.4 which I would then attach a hooklength to. The twist was that it was a running rig cog system which works like a dream, but for this lake you had to lightly push the swivel into the rubber on the lead other wise these fish would use the lead to dump the hook and get away without you even knowing about it. With the lead pushed in lightly it meant that the first shake from the fish dropped the lead and then straight to free running and the fish wouldn’t know what to do so bolted every time.

My swim - ready for action.

My swim – ready for action.

All the rods set and ready for a take, so it was time to sit back relax and take in all the surroundings. A few hours passed and at 9.20pm on the Sunday I had a screaming take on the right hand rod as the line just peeled of the spool, I lifted the rod and I was into a hard fighting fish, the fight went on for about fifteen or twenty minutes and the carp finally surfaced, I managed to slip the net under her and she was mine. I looked into the net and couldn’t believe my eye as I knew I had a new PB, after weighing the fish I was ecstatic as my first fish banked weighed in at 37lb-02oz and now it was time for some pictures before I slipped her back to the depths of the lake, then put the rod back out for another fish.

37lb 2oz

Simon with cracking 37lb 2oz mirror.

Time for a brew as all the excitement was over for now, I thought I would pass some time by tying a couple of new rigs and nodded off in the chair. I was woken by another screaming take again on the right hand rod at 12.40am early hours of Monday morning, I was into another hard fighting fish but unfortunately a few minutes into the fight and the hook pulled, I was gutted so checked everything on the rig and all seemed fine, so before putting the rod back out I sharpened the hook again and put a fresh bait on. I also spread another eighty baits back in the area before bedding down for the night.

Monday morning was here and I was woken at 7.15am by another one toner, again the line was just ripping off the spool and I scrambled out of the sleeping bag lifted the rod, once again was into yet another hard fighting fish, after about fifteen minutes I had the fish in front of me and it was just moving from left to right keeping deep but after another five minutes the carp surfaced took a gulp of air and was ready for netting. I looked at another lump but not quite as big as the first one but still a thirty as she went 32lb-14oz, all the fish so far had fallen to the chod rig with a 20mm cranberry pop up and I was over the moon because I had three takes in the first night so was looking forward to an awesome week.

32lb 14oz - nice wake up call at 7.15am!!

32lb 14oz – nice wake up call at 7.15am!!

It’s been a lovely sunny day and I’ve seen a few fish moving but nothing on the bank, evening was here and the rods are out so time to sit back and wait for a bite. It was about 10pm and I had a few beeps on the catfish rod so thought I would take a closer look and nothing happened again, so I went back to the bivvy. Another forty minutes passed by and the alarm started beeping again and line slowly started coming off the spool this time so I lifted into the fish and the rod doubled over, I was into a large catfish which started to move very quickly to my right but I only had the catfish on for about ten minutes and the hook pulled, I was gutted and couldn’t work out why the hook wasn’t set properly, so could only put the rod back out to try and get another take from a cat.

Essential fish care gear.

Essential fish care gear.

Nothing else happened that night, Tuesday morning arrived so it was time to wind the rods in and go for some breakfast then to the supermarket to get some supplies for the rest of the week. We got back for about mid day and put the rods out for a few hours before going to sort food for the evening, the rods had been out for a couple of hours or so and the right hand rod took off again – I was into yet another fish with a right battle on my hands. The fish was trying to get to the oxygen pump that was in the lake but I managed to stop the fish from getting to it, the fish was now in front of me just moving from left to right again just holding bottom and I couldn’t get the fish to the surface, the fish then started to move hard to the right so I put some side strain on and the hook pulled. This was the second hook pull on the chod rig so it was time to think of something else because I didn’t want this to happen again!

Before I put the rod back out it was time to sort a new rig out and I decided to use the cog running rig with a hinge stiff link for my hook length, the hinged stiff link was made up from a six-inch section of Korda N-trap semi stiff in 30lb and a three to four inch chod link with a size four chod hook, I used some putty on the ring below the swivel of the chod link to keep the boilie from lifting to far off the lakebed as I only wanted it three to four inches off. All ready to go back out but it was time for the evening meal and a few beers then back to it.

I was back at the swim after food and had put all the rods out for the night, with all traps ready to try and trip up another fish it was time to make some more hinged stiff rigs for back up and then chill out for a bit before bedding down for the night. Wednesday was here and everything was really quiet through the night, not even a single beep from the alarms so time to change the baits on each rod and get them back out for a few hours before breakfast. Whilst sitting and watching the lake the fish looked like they were starting to get ready for spawning as the water temperature was about right, also some movement about thirty to forty foot out in front of the island caught my attention, it was the tail of a catfish popping out of the water and the fish must have been feeding so I made a note of this one so I could put a bait there later in the day. Time had come for breakfast so I headed over to the house to meet Bo and we got started with it, we chilled out for a few hours at the house to rest the swims as it’s good to keep the rods out of the water from time to time, especially on a pressured venue.

Tranquility in the French countryside.

Tranquility in the French countryside – perfect place to chill.

Later that afternoon after resuming fishing I was just about to get up off my chair and wind the rods in for evening grub when my alarms started beeping and swinger slowly started moving up. This was the rod I put out for the catfish I had seen this morning-  the line started pulling off the reel so I lifted in to it, the rod doubled over I felt a head shake from the fish and it just turned and made off with about eighty yards of line across the lake.

There was no stopping this fish as it was not happy at all, it made about four to five unstoppable runs and at one point tried getting behind the island but with a lot of side strain and Bo getting out in the boat to slap the surface of the water with an oar, I managed to turn the fish.  This battle went on for about forty minutes and the fish still had lots to give, we tried netting the fish a couple of times but the fish was keeping her tail down which made it really awkward to do. In the end Bo gave up with the net, and simply grabbed the bottom of her mouth and held on tight! I got the mat sorted and we both pulled the fish up onto the mat. This was another big cat but I wasn’t sure if it was a new PB for me, after weighing the fish she went 73lb–12oz just slightly smaller than Bo’s cat and as I had guessed not a new PB for me this time but still a lump of a fish, I was really happy with the result! After some pictures of her and also getting wet for some water shots, she went back to the depths to fight another day.

73lb 12oz catfish water shot

73lb 12oz catfish – water shot.

That evening I changed two rods around and put the catfish rod in the middle of the lake and took the one off the island to put half way between my swim and catfish corner, about twelve foot off the bank as I had seen a carp top there when I got back to the swim. With all the rods set just as the light had gone it was time to just sit back and wait for another take.

There was no action until I was woken by a screaming run early hours of Thursday morning about 4am, I lifted the rod into a fish which fought hard from the off. The fight went on for about twenty-five minutes; the fish surfaced so I took my chance and netted the carp. I weighed the fish which went 28lb on the nose, not the biggest fish of the trip but a stunning looking specimen, one which Matt had named Dark Night.

Dark Knight at 28lb

Dark Knight at 28lb.

Nothing happened through Thursday at all, but I was woken early hours of Friday morning at about 3.15am to a screaming alarm, the right rod was off again. This fish didn’t seem to be fighting very hard to start with but five minutes into the battle the fish soon woke up eventually the carp was in the net; I had bagged myself another thirty going 33lb on the nose. This fish was taken on the new rig I had tied to replace the chod rig, the fish was nailed in the bottom lip so I was well happy with that. After a few pictures I put the carp back and had a quick cuppa with Bo before going back to bed for a few hours.

33lb cracker at 3.15am

33lb cracker at 3.15am.

Well Friday passed and Saturday morning came around too quickly with no more fish for Bo or myself. It was finally time to tackle the rods down and get the car packed ready for the journey home to the UK, Matt and Ren turned up about 9.30am, we sat down with them to go through all the pictures we had and chatted over a cuppa before we had to say our good byes.

All I can say is what an awesome venue with quality fish which is well looked after and what a lovely couple to be the hosts, you really couldn’t ask for anything more. This will definitely be one venue I will be visiting in the near future and one I would recommend to others.

For information on carp fishing Beausoleil visit their website here.

Bo, Ren, Matt and Myself - what a trip!

Bo, Ren, Matt and Myself – what a trip!

Early Spring Carp Fishing On Celtic Lakes

It is now mid March so spring must have arrived by now.. right? With the weather seemingly on the change for the better, our resident carp and coarse fishing adviser Simon Howells decided It was finally time to break out the carp fishing tackle, and head out for the first fishing trip of the year!

Celtic lakes fishery map

Celtic lakes fishery map

My truck was packed to the brim with fishing gear for the three day outing from Tuesday until Thursday,  and I headed off on a journey to deepest rural Wales. The chosen venue was Celtic lakes resort, near Lampeter. Celtic lakes offers superb fishing on 6 waters of varying sizes, all heavily stocked with carp to 35lb+ and catfish to 85lb as well as a mix of coarse fish including tench, roach, rudd, perch and bream. I reached the lakes about lunch time, and after speaking to Janet the fishery manager had a good look around the lake and picked my swim for the few days fishing.  During the setting up of the bivvie and the rest of the fishing gear it was a really nice day; sunny with hardly any clouds at all and even though it was mid March it was fairly warm. Indeed one or two fish were spotted on the surface, so a mental note was made of where they were, so a bait could go out in that area!

Everything set up and ready for a run

Everything set up and ready for a run!

I decided to fish a three rod set up. I placed my left hand rod out tight to the island with mainline cell as a hook-bait over a bed of robin red pellets. The middle rod was for the catfish into open water, so on went the large halibut pellets, with  mainline halibut syrup to give them some extra zing. The right hand rod was going out on the right side of the island where there was a large cut between the two islands. On this rod I would be using the new Nash TG boilies. To attract the carp I put out a bed of Nash TG stick mix and chilli hemp, then threw in some white chocolate and coconut ground bait, Nash TG flakes and finally tandoori shrimp liquid to finish off! I have to say it smelt really nice and if I was a carp I would definitely be trying some. It made me hungry anyway!

Carp bait all ready to use

Carp baits all ready to use

Well I didn’t have to wait that long really as the left hand bite alarm started bleeping and the swinger started going!  After a short fight a small but lovely common carp at 6lb – 2oz graced the net. The light started to fade and the night drew in. Nothing happened for a long time until my left hand rod went again just after I had got into bed and turned the light out for the night… I shot out of the bivvy lifted into the fish and once again it didn’t feel very big. After another brief fight I landed a common carp of 6lb – 9oz at about 1.20am. After putting the fish back it was straight back into the bivvy to get some shut eye.

6lb 9oz common carp

6lb 9oz common carp

In the morning I was woken up by very high winds at about 5.30am, it was seriously blowing a gale and chucking it down with rain and sleet, the temperature had dramatically plummeted. Poking my head out of the bivvy door I could see fresh snow dusting the hills!  What a change from Tuesday and this would really affect the fishing if the temperature didn’t go back up slightly! Unfortunately nothing happened all day Wednesday, but hey that’s carping for you! Thursday was here before I knew it. There was no change in the weather but the wind had eased a little and to be fair I was thinking of jacking it in early. While pondering this I put the kettle on for a brew and a quick bite to eat, and lo and behold my left rod screamed away with another common carp that weighed 8lb – 3oz.

The final carp of the trip goes back

The final carp of the trip goes back

Sadly this was the last carp of the trip and it was time to pack everything down in the pouring rain, and head home! I will be returning soon as I really want to get one of the specimen cats from the lake and some bigger carp… so in the words of Arnie.. I’ll be back Celtic lakes!