Etang Rue is a carp fishing lake situated in southern Belgium near the town of Mons that is close to the French border and only 40 minutes drive from the German border.
The mature gravel pit covers an area of some 28 acres (12 hectares) with depths to 25 ft (8.5 m), slopping up to an average of 6 – 10 ft at the southeastern part of the lake. The numerous bays, islands and diversity of its character present opportunities for many different approaches, including stalking, medium and extreme range fishing plus everything else between. The irregularly shaped gravel pit pleases the eye, especially when in bloom during the warmer months.
It was the selected venue for the Army Carp competition in 2003. The results were well publicised, with the largest fish being over 50 lb (22.5 kg) and the biggest total weight surpassing 600 lb (approx. 265 kg.) A total of 22 anglers fished the match and no one blanked. I have mentioned the results of the match to give you an idea of its potential; if you find the fish and adopt the right approach a big catch may become reality.
Due to the Rue being open 12 months of the year it would be a good choice for both summer and winter sessions. I recall a trip in January 2002 where I had several chances in 2 days fishing; I am not aware of many lakes where this is achievable during the depths of winter.
Rue Swims and features – carp fishing Belgium
The lake is fairly scenic in its entirety, however there is a railway line lying close to the southern bank that creates the odd breaking of blissful silence on a not so regular basis. The remainder of the Blegium lake is peaceful with swims etched into the tree, shrub and gravelled surroundings. Some swims located along the railway bank are a little close together and slightly tight if an angler resides in each one, but can be fairly productive in the right conditions. Rather than take you on a journey around the lake and the ins and outs of every swim I will name the areas that I have found productive and attempt to identify the reasons why. Let’s start at the main entrance and move around the lake in an anti clockwise direction:
Swims 1-3 are located nearest to the gate, the best spots to place a bait are towards the large reed/tree lined island at a range of approximately 100 yards at its closest point, alternately the plateau leading of the island at 120 yards is also a known spot. This island margin is a favourite haunt of some of the lakes larger residents but is not renowned for multiple catches and not my first choice unless the amount of surface activity indicates otherwise.
The point swims to the right of the main gate along the road bank and at the entrance of the first main bay are very productive. There are many features in front of these swims including 2 pronounced bars at 110 yards range that can be located using a feature rod cast directly out towards the central part of the lake. They are often the best swims where multiple catches are common, especially when the wind is blowing in a southerly direction.
The southern bay swims can hold numbers of carp when the wind is hacking into it or early summer due to it being the chosen spot for the carp to carry out their frolicking antics.
Let me digress whilst on the subject of wind direction! Most carp anglers visiting for a holiday session will take a long range forecast with them, if not you should do! That forecast will give you the direction which the wind is coming from, in my opinion amongst the most influential factors affecting the carp’s habitual movements. On Rue the majority of the stock tend to be in the windy half, therefore it stands to reason that a carp angler that has a forecast printout with him has the ability to forecast the rough whereabouts of the bulk of the fish? If you happen to carry a button compass as I do, it is a case of noting the wind directions for the week and plotting the possible whereabouts of the carp, its not definitive answer to location, but a possible guide. If you are not a proud owner of a compass then let me explain how direction can be found with a simple glance at the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and at midday the sun is facing due south! Probably the simplest compass available and a good means of direction finding that is worth remembering.
The swims midway along the railway bank are a reasonable option and are also known for their consistency with the bulk of the fish coming from the humps and bumps at 60 – 80 yards. On a warm day the carp enjoy a cruise along the bars and plateau’s in the centre of the lake, a range angler can take advantage of this with a single hook bait.
Swims 21 – 22 are fairly consistent with swim 21 known for producing many of the lakes larger inhabitants. During the competition it was this swim that produced the most 30s (14 kg) and a scrapper 50 (22.5 kg.) Although the island directly in front of these swims looks the most inviting to intercept patrolling carp it is not the most productive, by far the better spots are to the front left looking out from swim 21 toward the bay on the opposite bank at approximately 100 yards range.
Finally we move into the back bay which is not a numbered peg but a small bay of approximately 1.5 acres and lies to the back of the large island. The swim is a bit hit and miss but the fish do get in there in numbers from time to time, especially when the main lake is busy and the back bay has been left un-fished for a while. Prior to considering it I recommend you find out from the owner/other anglers if anyone has fished it during the week prior to your arrival.
In general there are many features of all types, including some fairly sharp bars and one or two areas of sunken debris, what I believe to be steel cable left when the pit was excavated. If you are loosing tackle and fish on sharp objects adjust your approach to suit.
Baits and tactics for this Etang in Belgium
Time spent on location is seldom wasted and none truer than on etang Rue, the angler who finds them prior to wetting a line is likely to succeed. Due to boats (including radio controlled) not being allowed location is carried out using the mark one eyeball and intuition! There are several good vantage points from where the lake can be scanned for tell tale signs, my preference is from the bank near to peg 6, I have sat in this area on many occasions looking and listening, often for many hours. You may not see them right away but eventually they will give away their presence. Upon successful location choose a peg from where you are best able to intercept them, do be aware that swims can be pre-reserved so clearance should be sought prior to making camp.
Once in your well-chosen area it is worth trying to sneak an early fish using the stick method, PVA bags or single hook baits. If they are crashing to your front, I would probably not start feature finding until I feel it is safe to do so – to avoid spooking them. It is difficult to gauge when the time is right, the only help I suggest is to wait until a quiet period between feeding spells. More often than not is a case of going with your past experiences and feelings (sound a bit like a character from star wars – use the force, I presume that means go with your instincts!) In the same breath I will say that the Rue carp don’t seem to mind the odd spod landing in the vicinity, but do react to prolonged baiting.
When the fish are feeding well I would expect to use 2 kg of pellets and a kilo of maple 8 per 24 hour period. If they are cleaning your baited area then top up the swim as necessary, this will help maximise your result in the given situation, but don’t overdo it! These fish don’t seem to respond well to very large beds of bait (5 kg or more per 24 hours) I have experimented with mass baiting on a few occasions with lesser success. In fact mass baiting resulted in a carp exodus, which meant a lot of effort and bait was wasted, I had no choice but to move swims. I do not recommend sitting in a swim with 20 kg of bait lying to the front with only a few fish to clear it up, slightly detrimental to your results. Its a case of structuring your baiting in accordance with the severity of them feeding and the amount of fish gauged to be in front of you.
A good quality 15 lb (7 kg) abrasive resistant mono will suffice in 90 % of the swims, however there are a few areas that require going slightly heavier and use of an abrasion resistant leader, ensure you carry some amnesia or mussel braid with you should the need arise.
I used fairly basic rigs on 3 out of the 4 rods consisting of knotless knot or line aligned size 4 Teflon to 8 inches of Armaled kic-bac. The fourth rod was used as a searching rod and rigged for range, encompassing an emblem loaded with 12 lb (5.5 kg) fox steel and tapered shock leader with a lead attached to a large bore run rig. This ensures that should I crack of, the 4 oz lead easily pulls over the shock leader knot. Should I see a fish pop its head out of the water at over 135 yards, a rig with either a bright pop up or a dipped maple 8 would soon be laying nearby.
Successful feed consisted of my old favourite Maple 8 fished over a combination of mixed betaine pellets and high life dog food. This mix has caught on just about every occasion that I have used it. It’s a winning formula that has enticed numbers of Rue carp and would be confident using it in summer or winter. Due to the success attained with this mix I saw no need to experiment with other baits.
When in session I often watch and analyse the approach of others, I’ve noticed that maize is used quite a lot but those anglers catch fewer carp, it has past its prime and not what I would recommend for this lake.
Carp stock – carp Belgium
The large stock is conducive to alarm activity whilst knowing that there is a reasonable chance of a 40 plus making a mistake. The fishery manager has stated that over 15 ton of carp has been stocked, with the majority being mirrors in the 18 – 30 lb bracket. From my findings I would say that approximately 1 in 12 carp are over 30 lb and during a fairly busy week I would expect to see at least one 40 lb plus specimen grace the banks.
The lake record is a mid 50 but have heard rumours of a 60 lb (27 kg.) mirror to a Belgian angler, I don’t know how true this is therefore will reserve judgement until I have seen the photos.
There is a healthy head of sturgeon present and are often the culprit behind aborted takes and missed runs. They are more difficult to hook than carp due to the manner in which they feed, often picking up a boilie without taking the hook inside the mouth, the resulting strike pulls the boilie out of its mouth without the hook making contact.
Earlier this year approximately 50 carp were lost to the carp god in the sky, although it is sad loosing any fish (except poisson chat) it is not going to make a great deal of difference to the fishing, considering it is said to hold over 800 carp.
Facilities on this lake in Belgium
Facilities consist of an English style shower and toilet located in a small building within the lake grounds and approximately 150 yards from its margins. In addition there are several thunder box type toilets dotted around the banks which are good for emergency use, probably not suited to a lady, but useable for us gentlemen.
The local town is a five-minute drive and has a multitude of small supermarkets that sell just about all you will need to stock up your bivvy pantry. If you, like I have an over active knife and fork then take note of the telephone numbers of the kebab and pizza shops, they provide a Titan delivery service (very large feasts direct to the bivvy.) Enough to satisfy the strongest of appetites!
Etang Rue is a pleasure to fish and has a nice relaxing atmosphere; it is well stocked and good for a few runs where a big hit is always on the cards. There are so many fish in the lake that I would expect to catch during a week session using the approach prescribed. A long-range roaming rod is worth using and will put a few bonus fish in the net.
Most anglers hang up their rods during the cooler months – I don’t understand why! Many lakes are still open and can be productive over this period, if you are one of the few anglers that do indulge then we may meet on Rue this winter.