Carp Holidays with Angling Lines

About carp angling lakes in France – through Anling Lines

I received an email from Steve asking if I would be interested in contributing to a monthly feature based on the approach to French commercial venues. The answer didn’t take much thinking about, so here I am writing the first of many articles based on just that, how to approach French commercial venues of all types, small well stocked to large expanses of water. The articles will be encompassing trip preparation, swims, features, baits, tactics and a mention of onsite facilities, emphasis being on a successful approach. This will be achieved through my findings at the lake and other’s fishing the venue at the time of the trip.
At present one trip overseas per month has been pencilled into my diary, the July trip being to the popular Etang Rue in Belgium and the August trip to mirror pool fisheries focusing on Mayflower lake, I am open to offers from October?

Angling Lines – Fishing Holidays in France

The length of time spent at each venue will vary from 4 days to a week, within that period I hope to get a bend in the rod, however bear in mind that this is real time journalism where I am writing notes as it happens, fishing various tactics and methods on each rod until I have found a successful one for you to adopt – pressure angling at its best! The limited time spent at a lake may not lead to the capture of the biggest fish but hopefully I will catch at every venue through a successful application. Visiting France to write these articles is expensive so failure to catch is not an option; I must succeed in finding successful methods for you to employ! My recommendations will inevitably vary due to several factors, nuisance species, features, stock, conditions and lake rules.

The aim is to provide you with enough information on the approach and how to succeed prior to your trip. If there are any negative points I will mention them in a constructive manner, I tell it how it is and will explain the ups and downs of a session. Wish me luck in this pursuit of information that will benefit you!
In a nutshell there you have the terms of reference, a down to earth approach for the series. Without further ado lets get on with the first article – Angling lines etang marcusan.

General info – Angling Lines venues

Marcusan is in the champagne Ardennes region of France and only 3 hours drive from Calais or the Belgium border. The lake is approximately 25 acres in size and typical of a picturesque Marne valley gravel pit. There is an ash track surrounding its perimeter that gives good access to the seventeen swims. Cars can be parked immediately behind the swim which means you can take a mountain of gear and not worry about carrying it more than 15 meters.
It is encircled on 3 banks by the mighty river Marne that has produced carp to well over seventy pounds, if my memory serves me right, a common carp of nearly 80 lbs was landed from the at Fault Yonne area some years ago and fell to a French day ticket angler, sadly it was knocked on the head and taken as a trophy fish, permits can be purchased from the bar in the village at a cost of 30 euro for 2 weeks. This entitles you to place a maximum of 4 rods in the river during the day and 3 rods in the lake. Wow, a possibility to fish 7 rods in total!
The lake is very peaceful and set in woodland a few kilometres from the nearest habitation. If you are looking for a nice peaceful lake out of the way then this is one of the quietest I have had the pleasure to wet a line, you can hear a pin drop!
The route is mainly motorway and very easy to find using Angling Lines directions that are provided upon reservation, tolls for the return trip will cost around 40 euros (£28)
The lake owner Jean Luc is one of the friendliest lake owners I have met and went out of his way to assist us. The champagne that he purchased on my behalf was amongst the best bubbly I have had the pleasure of sampling. Initially I presumed his friendly attitude was due to him knowing that I intended to write an article, however after speaking to other anglers present they all agreed that he is accommodating, they weren’t writing an article but every day customers, your every day nice guy.

Carp swims and features

The lake has a multitude of features with many gravel bars, humps and bumps; these are only a few of the features present. The bars are not the severe type that will cut line like cotton, more of the gentle sloping variety; 15 lb mono will cope in any area of the lake. The eastern end of the lake has a large plateau from where I took quite a few fish, placing baits on the top through the day and at the base as the sun descended behind the distant woodland.

A large island is the predominant feature in the central part of the lake, but did not produce during my visit, most of the carp caught came from the eastern side of the lake, and the wind was blowing into this area.
Several small lily beds are dotted around the margins, which give the lake character and a good place to present a boilie, when the wind blows towards them I would be inclined to place a hook bait in the vicinity.
At the eastern part of the lake near the entrance the depths vary from 6 ft at the top of the plateau to 13 ft at its deepest point. The features are easy to find with sonar, however it was noticeable that the fish moved out of the area as I made a bad impersonation of Steve Redgrave (on the water with a boat.) In the past I can recall European anglers mentioning that fish can detect sonar and sometimes spook to it, I have not encountered this but worth bearing in mind, can fish detect sonar? It is quite possible that they can but I don’t think they spook on the lakes I’ve fished, as Jim Gibbinson would say food for thought.
On arrival I walked the lake looking for signs of carp prior to choosing a swim, it did not take long before a shoal was found lying high in the water near the island, within 30 minutes I had hooked and lost my first Marcusans carp, stalked from within 10 yards of the bank using zig rigged plastic sweetcorn. The other fish lying nearby spooked to open water due to the commotion.
The lakebed is primarily a mixture of clay, gravel with the odd pocket of silt, the silt areas didn’t produce, most of the takes came from the base of gravel slopes. Carp like to visit such areas in search of food that has rolled from the plateau and gathered at the base of the drop off, such spots are, “cord en bleu” to a hungry carp.

Baits and tactics

I went armed with a number of baits including maple 8, essential opal and some Nash Euro boilie’s. In addition to these I took along 25 kg of hemp and 15 kg of tigers, for a total weight of over 100 kgs. You do not need to take anywhere near this amount, most of the bait now sits in my freezer ready for the next trip.
I recommend essential opal or maple 8 air dried to the consistency of rocks, both baits caught well fished over a particle mix that the lake owner sells onsite. I have to say that Jean’s mix is very good and well prepared, containing a mixture of groat’s, hemp, beans and maize plus a few seeds that I did not recognize. It was well fermented, dripping in syrup and oozing with juices, just the way a particle mix should be, discharging! 25 kg will cost you 35 euro (£26.) Due to it going in the lake on a regular basis the fish recognize it as food source so why experiment during your short trip with various baits, jump on the band wagon and use the particle’s onsite on at least 2 rods and experiment with the third.
Angling lines website and brochure state that poisson-chat are present, these being a small nuisance catfish that can devour a boilie in a milli-second (exaggeration) but nonetheless an undesirable in many French venues, some lake owners will admit to there presence others don’t make the angler aware until arrival. They are little bait robbers and a problem at lakes located in river valleys, don’t most fisheries have problems of one type or other, whether it is snags, rats, crayfish, silly rules or too many anglers? Overcome them through a little preparation – read on.
Poisson-chat are the only undesirable of this lake but one that can be overcome with a little fore thought: pre-prepare your boilie’s by air-drying them, place them in one of the commercial air-drying sacks or trays and leave them in a warm dry area until rock hard. Once you have your required amount of boilie rocks, place them in a breathable sack. Don’t place them in a sealed bait bucket, as the build up of moisture in the airtight container will encourage absorption.

I would not boycott a lake just because it contains poisson-chat, I may even steer towards it due to knowing that their presence may deter other anglers, resulting in a less pressured fishery for the likes of myself to exploit. The rock hard boilie’s will increase the time in which it takes the catfish to whittle them to an apple core.
Precautions should also be taken with hook baits: there are several companies selling netting specially designed for this. I recommend you purchase a couple of packs and net a selection of baits prior to your trip. It is a simple operation that will save time on the bank, in a few words wrap a selection of boilies in the net and tie it off, then use as you would standard hook baits. I am midway through writing an article on avoiding nuisance species; you should see it within this magazine within the next few months.
My most successful method was small amounts of 16 mm boilie’s placed in PVA bags and cast or lowered from a boat onto small scatterings of particles, followed by a few baits fired out on a regular basis, every 2 – 3 hours. This little and often approach ensured that there were always freebies in the area keeping one step ahead of the chats, it is a method that I adopt on lakes where nuisance species are present. This continuity of feed gives piece of mind that boilie’s are present in the swim. At last light bait a little heavier and the same again at first light, follow this simple procedure and you will win the fight.
Successful rigs were fairly basic consisting of line aligned size 4 teflon’s to a length of X line. The 8 inch hook length was fished semi fixed using Ultimate quick release clips. I saw no need for complicated rigs, however if you miss a few runs as I did, try increasing the hook size, the typical hump back mirrors of this region have very large mouths that can engulf a boilie, run and eject with ease, I had several runs which I failed to connect with, don’t make the same mistake, forewarned forearmed! Air-dry those baits.
There is no need to upgrade your tackle, carp rods of between 2.5 – 3 lbs test are adequate. Big pits or bait runners loaded with 15 lbs mono will suffice in all swims.

Carp stock

The venue has been stocked with around 7 ton of commons, mirrors, koi catfish and sturgeon with the average size being 15 – 25 lbs. There is a good head of 30 lb (15 kg) plus fish present and few of the better fish graced the banks during my trip including a nice hump back mirror that is typical of that region, weighing short of 36 lbs.
The previous day I was chatting to the proud captor on how to approach lakes that contained poisson-chat, I mentioned the little and often principle, lone behold within 24 hours he was the captor of a 36 lb mirror and several other 20s.

The current lake record stands at 54 lbs (24 kg) and common at 43 lbs (18 kg), I was informed that the fish are packing on about 6 lb per year and the lake record is expected to be broken in the near future.
The big cats do have a liking to boilie’s and have been known to take unsuspecting anglers on a lake tour for several hours!
Something else rather unusual occurred in the first 24 hours: We placed 3 marker floats on features in open water, the following day only one was visible, a quick trip out in the boat to locate the missing markers was unsuccessful. Another two were positioned where the previous had vanished, as we sat wondering what had happened, there was a huge swirl and my new marker was history, engulfed by a catfish or large sturgeon, Trev’s remark was quick and astute, do we need more barrels (reference the Jaws movie!)
In total we had 14 runs in 5 days fishing with the largest being just short of 30 lbs, anglers opposite us did well using the little and often approach, taking approximately 20 carp during the same period, the warm wind was blowing into their area, the fish weren’t far behind, most of my fish came via picking the odd one from the back end of the zone in which they resided.

Anglers Facilities

Most pegs have a sun canopy made from natural timber; we found them a godsend during the heat of the first few days. Trev my partner in crime, is light skinned and not exactly a sun god, an ice god to be precise, he spent most of the session adjusting his chair under the canopy as the shade advanced throughout the day.
Its not easy for me to make an assessment on the quality of the facilities as most of my French fishing is done on lakes that have less than basic toilets, being a soldier for 17 years I am used to living with no sanitary means except a shovel to dig a hole. So when I was shown the facilities I was suitably impressed, they are basic, clean, tidy and do the job, I would not say that they are 5 star and maybe not suitable for your other half, but the shower was piping hot. I was impressed by the quality of the shower gel that the previous occupant had left behind, better than the fairy liquid that was in my wash bag, thanks for that, whoever left it – I owe you some fairy liquid.
There are a number of shops the nearby village, approximately 10 minutes drive with the main food shop being Ecomarche (a medium sized supermarket.)

Conclusion – Angling Lines Lake

By far the best method on this venue is stewed mixed particles with a few handfuls of hard boilie’s fired out every couple of hours. Successful approaches differ in accordance with the changing seasons; so don’t be afraid to experiment, but do take a leaf out of my recommendations!
The fish follow the wind and so should you, moving swims is allowed but clear it with the lake owner first. If you are blanking try new areas at the windy end of the lake. Netted hook baits are a must or risk waking to bait-less rigs.
Avoid soft fishy boilie’s and pellets as the poisson-chat love them, they don’t seem to be keen on fruit or spiced flavoured baits. Giant maize works well as a couple of French anglers proved with a number of good carp to their rods, I have found this to be the case on many of the lakes in the region.
The lake was not busy during the period I fished it, only 13 anglers are allowed at any one time which meant there were free swims to move to. It can be fairly easy fishing for the 15-25 lb carp and the bigger fish come out on a regular basis. In a sentence: It’s a nice lake and very clean with a good head of medium sized carp with a chance of a bigger fish. For a commercial venue you can do worse.
Next months approach will be on angling solutions etang rue.

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