Failing to plan is planning to fail, so follow these tips and advice to successfully prepare for your fishing holidays to France.
At Beausoleil, we are lucky to welcome a large variety of anglers for their fishing holidays. We see beginners who have only been carp fishing for a year through to highly experienced carp and catfish anglers that are making their umpteenth annual trip to France.
I remember all too well all the questions I had before my first French trip! I was lucky enough to be invited by Jon Finch to join him and his mates for their annual trip to Abbey Lakes. It was only with their support, guidance and advice that I ended up a very happy man with five fish to 46lb in the last 18 hours of a 7 day trip…. talk about last chance saloon! I think the greatest lesson I learnt from that trip was that all lakes are different and some can be vastly different to what you have ever experienced!
Whether you’re a regular visitor to France or it’s your first time, planning your carp fishing trip to France is a complicated business. What I want to do in this series of articles is to just give a few pointers that hopefully will help you in preparing for your trip. I’ll be focusing just on the fishing and not on the logistics part of the trip.
Part 1: What to take with you
1. Consider carefully what you are going to take with you.
My best advice? Don’t take too much stuff!
The more you take, the less mobile you’ll be. Believe it or not, mobility is key when fishing a week long session. At Beausoleil for example there are 4 anglers max at any time and 11 swims to choose from. The fish rapidly work out where you and your mates are and after a few days, will avoid these areas. Moving every 2-3 days keeps you ahead of your mates and the fish.
The less gear you have to shift, the more chances you can give yourself. I’ve moved 3 times in a day before now to get it right. If you stay in one swim all week and blank then you only have yourself to blame. It’s not just a weight or volume issue either. Paring down your kit to exactly what you need helps you be more organised and therefore able to react to situations quickly.
Things to consider thinning down include:
► Spod rod. If there is a boat on site or you’re fishing within throwing stick or catapult range then this would be the first thing to leave out. They do make a good choice as a cat fishing rod though!
► Marker rod. While they are a useful tool, many experienced anglers simply lead around to find the features and count the drop to know the depths. Personally I use both techniques as a marker rod, at Beausoleil, is very useful when rowing out buckets of bait for the catfish.
► Leads. Now obviously you’re going to need some but how many? Some weedy venues such as Abbey require you to dump the lead on the take in order to stand any chance at all of landing the fish. At Beausoleil this is not necessary. My personal preference is for 3oz inline pear leads and half a dozen will usually suffice for the week.
► Hooks. French fish are generally larger with big mouths. I would never consider using anything smaller than a size 6 unless I knew I would be Zigging. By sharpening my hooks, I can make a pack of Size 4 Widegape X last for an entire week! Go through your collection and weed out what you don’t need (see more on this subject below).
► Hooklinks. You only need two spools of top quality braided hooklink, one of 25lb and of 45lb. I wouldn’t fish anywhere in France with hooklink lighter than 25lb. I’ve even had that fail on a catfish a couple of times. 45lb is a good choice for catfish. Don’t think that’s too heavy for the carp either. I had one client fish exclusively for carp with 45lb Kryston Quicksilver and he had 8 x 30s on it! If zigging is the order of the day, then 8lb pro clear is a good choice. Leave the rest at home. For my review of the best hooklink materials, click here.
► Pop-ups. As the years have gone by I’ve honed my selection down to one or two sure fire winners. Don’t make the mistake of mixing a selection into one pot either or the flavours will get really messed up!
► Bait. If you have something that you’re confident in, then stick with it. If you don’t then ask the fishery owner what they would recommend. Fisheries want you to catch fish so the advice will be good . We have our own highly nutritional Beausoleil boilies and they are made in small batches fresh for each customer. We also supply 41% protein pellets which have low oil content making them suitable for use all season.
► Carp care. Don’t forget your antiseptic and, before you start packing, check what else the fishery is providing. For example, we supply a euro size carp weigh sling, four carp/cat cradles, 100kg scales, a weigh bar and a 7ft catfish sling as well as carp barrows.
2. Choose the right hook patterns and sizes
Everyone has their favourite hooks.
However what you are used to in the UK could be a poor choice for a lake in France. If the lake you are going to has catfish in it, when they are active they will pick up your carp rig. You need a hook that will give you a chance of landing anything from a 20lb carp to a 90lb cat.
I use a Korda size 4 wide gape X for all my boilie fishing. Now this hook may look insanely large if you’re used to a size 8 or 10 curved hook for example. My logic is simple: the size 4 will land everything you hook, the size 8 won’t. Don’t think it will give you more chance with the carp either as a French 20lber can go like a train!
The size 4 is also harder to eject due to its size which helps converts more pickups into fish on the bank. Forget everything you’ve heard about fish seeing the hook or feeling the weight of the hook, it’s just a marketing myth. Many estate lakes that have silt are quite murky and the fish mostly feel their way about.
The only time I drop a hook size is when I’m fishing smaller baits such as 14mm popup or 15mm boilies, but I still use a size 6 wide gape X. Some French venues are very open but very weedy. At Abbey Lakes I was able to use ESP size 8 Big T raptors on the zigs but only because I dumped the lead on the take. If the lead did not eject then the fish was lost.
3. Is it time to re-spool?
If you haven’t re-spooled for six months then before your trip is most definitely the time!
If you’re fishing a venue where you need to cast long distances, then your line needs to be in tip top condition, fine and supple (0.33mm diameter Pro clear for example). Beausoleil is very tough on mainline but casting distances are short. Loosing fish due to terminal tackle/line failures happens regularly. You need the toughest and strongest gear you can buy (not necessarily the most expensive!).
All lines are designed to do a different job. You need high abrasion resistance lines of around 0.4mm diameter (note I did not state poundage as this varies too greatly). GR60 for example is a personal favourite of mine and is rated at 15lb, it is however 0.4mm diameter and tough although not really up to stopping one of our big cats. In 2015 I trialled P-Line CXX X-tra strong. It’s only 0.42mm diameter but rated at 30lbs. I now use it for all my sub 90 yard carp fishing and on the river where stregnth and abrasion resistance is everything. l When I first fished Beausoleil, I used 20lb tiger line (fluorocarbon). While its sinking properties were to be admired, its price and abrasion resistance were not.
If you have any comments or questions on the above, please don’t hesitate to contact me.