I got it very wrong this winter and this place bit me… hard!
First of all, I want to let you know that we have 1 week that has become available this year due to unfortunate circumstances: 8 July 2023. This is a prime week and it’s available with 20% off at £1,200 for the week for up to 4 people. Get in touch with me at matt@frenchcarpandcats if you’re interested.
So, following our partial drain down and netting at the end of last year, by the time Christmas came around, Beausoleil was already brim full which was great to see. I didn’t do any fishing in January with all the jobs that needed doing but I took the time to experiment in the kitchen and create a syrup that’s been nicknamed Syrup Suzette. The recipe was inspired by the awesome Nash Citruz range of baits but I wanted to create something of my own, that anyone can make at home for not a lot of money.
Needless to say, with the first batch made I was dead excited to get fishing. Unfortunately the weather gods had other plans and the conditions were some of the toughest I’ve ever tried to catch them in with temps down to -5 at night, then shooting up to 15 degrees during the day. The air pressure was through the roof at 1035 – 1042 mb and I knew it was going to be tough. On any other water I’d have been on the zigs but they are banned here due to the catfish and I wasn’t going to bend my own rules.
I plugged away solid for 3 weeks and I couldn’t even manage a bite. I wasn’t fishing 24/7 but I was giving it a fair go. Some nights I didn’t even receive a single beep! During this time there were windows of opportunity when I felt I should have nicked one but it just didn’t happen. This would be the longest blank of fishing life.
A trip to the UK was a welcome diversion and I used it to reset my head. I knew I needed a new plan as plan ‘A’ wasn’t working. During the winter there are no signs to go on. No shows, no fizzing, no nothing. The last sign of carpy activity I’d seen was back in January.
I’d given my usual spots a really good go but they just weren’t dropping down for a munch. The areas I hadn’t paid much attention to were the deeper, softer areas. I did have a few goes with a longer mono rig I was using but it didn’t change the result. In the past I’d done better in soft silt with shorter, softer hooklinks such as Armourlink. Combined with a 2oz inline lead, this could sit in the upper layers of the silt rather than drag the whole lot down into the gloopy soup. The other key to the setup was the baiting strategy. Small PVA traps are wickedly effective at this time of year. I could have fished solid PVA bags but they are time consuming to make so I opted for some 37mm diameter PVA mesh. Despite the fact that I’d not caught anything I still had absolute confidence in my Citruz hookbait and homemade citrus syrup. I mean what carp could possibly resist?
I dropped the traps from the boat and slung them down into position. This way I could judge the kind of drop I was getting which (if I actually had a take) would be useful information for the rest of the session. When lowering a rig from a moving rowing boat I need something simple and quick. I didn’t want to faff around and PVA tape a blowback multi rig hair into place for example. So I went for a classic slip D rig which works great with any hooked-on PVA mesh bag.
I was happy with my new plan but that didn’t mean it was going to work. It was time to re-boot my session and open my 2023 carp angling account.
48hrs after I got back on the bank, just a few hours after setting the traps, I had a massive drop back bite on the Siren and I was on it! The fish had come back towards me a number of metres but after a bit of pumping and winding I made contact and my little 9ftr assumed its battle curve. It was a nervous fight (for me), I mean no one wants to lose a carp ever but losing one after blanking for 3 weeks (coming on 4!) would be hard. Thankfully all went well and I’d broken my duck. The joy and relief was palpable. I think Ren was just as happy as I was, she’s not used to seeing me struggle! On the scales we had a 36lbs mirror.
After breaking my duck I went on to put together a very nice winter session. Particular highlights included Magnum at 48lbs 8oz and Jess (the other big common) at 44lbs. Both of these were at new top weights by a few pounds which was great to see. We also saw a new top weight for a home grown carp (named Moby) of 27lbs 8oz.
When conditions improved I went back to my longer mono D rig and caught off the hard, clean spots as I was doing last year.
It’s always a challenge knowing what to change and when. Even after all these years at this lake I still get it wrong and this place will bite you… hard! It was a humbling experience for sure. The bottom line is that even if you are doing everything right, sometimes catching them is very hard. The trouble is the line between doing it right and doing it wrong is very fine here but it’s the way we like it. The rewards are there for those with the dedication, patience and skills but underestimate this little piece of angling heaven at your peril!