Our annual trip to Le Queroy had come around at last. This would be our twentieth visit to this wonderful fishing venue and our second in 2016.
Our annual trip to Le Queroy had come around at last. This would be our twentieth visit to this wonderful fishing venue and our second in 2016. In May we had enjoyed a fabulous trip to Lake Elba, the newer lake on the complex, and had experienced some wonderful fishing and ultra comfortable accommodation in the newly built Lodge. Now, after what seemed like aeons it was time to re-visit the other lake at Le Queroy, the quaintly named Napoleonic Lake. This is the original lake dating back hundreds of years to the pre-Napoleon era - hence its name - and it is "Nappy's" that holds the bigger fish on the complex.
Nappy's has the look of an old English estate lake with towering trees, overhanging willows, thickets of berries of all kinds, and rich, very productive lake water. It lies in a beautiful valley deep in the French countryside not far from the town of Confolens.
As the lake is very rich in natural food but being surrounded by farmland, it is inevitable that nitrogen-rich run-off water from the fields finds its way into Nappy's. In one respect this is good news, as it allows natural food to thrive and the carp to grow and grow. On the other hand, it can promote the growth of Blue-Green Algae in the summer months. Thankfully this is of no consequence, as Dan and Jodie - the owners since August 2014 - have purchased various devices that knock the algal bloom on its head before it has a chance to get a hold. These devices include a powerful water pump/aerator and a unit that delivers a series of sonic pulses into the lake that destroys the bacteria that cause the blooms. Very farsighted people are Dan and Jodie!
The western end of the lake is dominated by the dam wall across which runs a small unmade road. This carries very little traffic, mainly farm equipment and so on, and I am certain that even the heaviest tractor lumbering across is regarded as part and parcel of every day life by the carp. I have actually had takes when a huge caterpillar-tracked earth mover was crossing the dam.
The dam wall has acted as a magnet to anglers ever since the fishery first opened in 1998. While it is true that the fish do certainly patrol the whole length of the dam, it is a mistake to try to get too close to it with the cast as the slope of the wall simply means that your bait will end up a couple of yards off anyway!
I have always found that a bait some three meters off the wall is far more productive and over the years I have located several hard patches of gravel. These are definitely the areas where the fish seem more willing to pick up a hookbait. They are all located about three meters off the dam. I generally find the spots using the boat and a prodding stick to locate them and then I put a pole marker on the spot.
This year the area has suffered blistering heat waves and a bad drought and there was hardly any greenery to be seen. The fields and pastures were burnt a light brown, as was the lawn in front of the Cottage.
The rest of the year the lawn looks like this! Incidentally, the newly installed swimming pool, which can just be seen on the left in the previous photo, was a Godsend to us during our first week as temperatures hit record September levels of around 38 degrees. We cooled off in it every evening as the sun went down. Simple bliss!
The Cottage is luxury itself with all the mod cons you could wish for including a TV with a full Sky package. It is warm in winter and cool in summer, but this year summer was exceptionally hot. Even on late September afternoons it was 35 degrees and more so it was great to have the pool (not shown here) which abuts the terrace right next to the steps.
In addition a hot tub provides luxury solace for aching limbs, shattered after playing too many carp!
Let's now look at the baits I used and the way I used them. First and foremost I have to say a huge thank you to Matt Powles who used to run UB Baits. I had used Matt's baits before at Le Q in 2014 to great effect and by grovelling and pleading I managed to get Matt to roll me some of his specials as a personal favour to me. I am certain that the hookbaits played a very major part in my success on the trip so thanks again, Matt! These are some of the little beauties that did the trick.
Of course, Haith's Baits products played a massive part in my campaign not only for the groundbaits I used but also the pellets, pastes, boilies and additives. My main bait attack was based around the new boiled bait mixes. Primarily I used Robin Red and Fishmeal, boosted with Cranberry Nutrafruit and a hefty dollop of Feed Stimulant's Green Lipped Mussel Concentrate (full fat).
I also used five kilos of Robin Green and Garlic, the first time I have ever used a green boilie! Remembering what Hutchy said about green baits I was a little hesitant, but I need not have worried; the fish took to it with gusto!
High on my list of attractors have always been the Robin Red-based SuperSoft Pellets. I like to give them a bit of a glug in a really good fish oil with added GLM Concentrate (Feed Stimulants) which slows down the breakdown rate a tad. I will also add some of Feed Stimulant's excellent Oyster Extract; not to be confused with the cheap Oyster Sauce that is found in supermarkets and delis, which is nothing more than salt with added flavour.
The Supersofts are then bagged in PVA mesh to create small parcels that can either be attached to the hookbait or used out of the caty as freebies.
I supplement the SuperSoft Pellets with similar sized parcels of Nutrabaits Trigga Ice pellets, one of the best commercial pellets on the market thanks to the inclusion of Paprika oleoresin in the recipe.
The Trigga Ice Pellets can be boosted still further by glugging them in a decent food liquid such as Trigga Ice Liquid.
Naturally, as in previous years Nutrabaits products also featured heavily. This is one of their more recent releases, a shelf life high attract paste. They offer several flavours but in my mind the Blue Oyster is the best.
I use both bottom baits and pop-ups on Nappy's. For bottom baits I create a very simple rig comprising 25lb Supa Nova, a size 6 Gripz barbless hook and Blue Oyster double hookbaits.
The Blue Oyster paste is then moulded around the hookbaits.
I also like to mould paste around my lead and one of the best designs for this is a Fox Paste Bomb. Its triple flanges allow the paste to adhere firmly to the lead so that it will not come off on the cast. Note the Enterprise Snag Safe Run Ring system, very useful if the lead becomes snagged, as it will pull free with only mild pressure.
This is the Paste Bomb fully loaded with Blue Oyster Paste.
While on the subject of pastes I also made up a mega-powerful high attract paste using Haith's Bait's Robin Red and Fishmeal base mix to which were added:
• 25g GLM Concentrate (Feed Stimulants)
• 10g Betaine (Feed Stimulants)
• 20g Liver Extract Powder (Feed Stimulants)
• 10g Milk B (Feed Stimulants)
• 50g Brocacell (Feed Stimulants)
• 60ml CSL (Feed Stimulants)
• 10ml Blue Oyster (Nutrabaits)
• 2ml Caproic (Nutrabaits)
• Salmon Oil as required (Feed Stimulants)
This proved to be an astonishingly effective attractor paste, often picking up fish on the drop. It was almost as if they were waiting for it to touch down!
First offer up some paste to the Bomb like so…
Next begin to mould the paste to the Bomb squeezing so as to compress the paste into the holes in the lead.
This is the loaded Paste Bomb ready to do the business.
I had some unused Blue Trigga bait in Dan's freezer that had been rolled for me for my the previous visit by Rollin Baits, as well as some fresh 15mm Trigga with Blue Oyster rolled in France by Andy Bernard of Priory Fishery. Andy rolls all the Le Queroy house baits and Dan sells it on site. Pre-ordering is greatly recommended. Note the Blue Oyster Liquid Booster, which is added to the baits as they are defrosting. This draws the attraction into the bait, which is then released when it is introduced to the lake.
The 'hard' bait (boilies) was supplemented with chopped and whole Blue Oyster shelf life boilies and these were treated to a generous helping of the Blue Oyster Booster Liquid.
I used a two-part approach to my 'soft' bait. The first part was my own recently designed nut-based groundbait called SuperNut. This is (naturally) based on Robin Red but with added crushed nut and seed components. My field tests has been amazingly successful. Beyond my wildest dreams in fact.
The second part was good old Haith's hemp seed. There are some simply dreadful batches of hemp seed on the market these days, due in no small part to the fact that the really good stuff has increased in price, so to keep the price low sellers buy the cheap and nasty stuff. Haith's only supply the best so while it may cost you a bit more, you can be sure their hemp seed is of the highest quality. As always the hemp was prepared overnight in Thermos Flasks and to round it all off Blue Oyster Bait soak Spray was used to add still further to the overall attraction.
Small PVA mesh parcels of SuperNut were also used to draw fish into the baited area, the 'up and down' nature of the groundbait being very useful in attracting cruising fish both on the surface and in midwater.
I made up a wet, sloppy groundbait of SuperNut, hemp seed and Blue Oyster shelf life boilies with a generous glug of blended Squid Liver Oil and Liquid Goose Liver (Feed Stimulants) to add extra attraction.
Finally no bait strategy of mine would be complete without some Frolic dog biscuits. Don't ask me why but for some reason carp adore them! They also have the big advantage of breaking down to a soft mush after about two hours, adding to the overall 'soft' bait carpet.
To give the Folic an extra kick, these too were doused with the blend of Liquid Goose Liver and Squid Liver Oil. This blend is very powerful giving off a highly stimulatory attraction.
TACKLE and TACTICS
Unlike many le Queroy clients I am not one to make a beeline for the Point Swim. It's a good swim, don't get me wrong, but I have always had greater success by fishing either of the two swims that cover the dam wall area and the gravel patches and the deeper water to be found there. As I did in 2014, I chose the first swim on the north bank, intending to fish two rods on the harder spots off the wall as well as using one rod as a rover to cover the water between my own swim and the one immediately opposite, as well as the area shown in photo two which proved to be something of a hot spot.
After setting up the tent I then used the rowing boat to have a prod around to find out if the hard spots were still as I remembered them. They were, so I put the pole marker in place and then scattered a pint of hempseed over an area the size of a tennis court. This may sound a bit sparse to you but I have never forgotten the wise words of Rod Hutchinson who advised just such a tactic when using hemp.
As always I used my favoured braid main line with a 1.5m leader of 30lb fluorocarbon line to act as a safe leader to protect the flanks of a hooked carp during the fight. I fished the lines as slack as I could get them, hanging limp from the rod tip. I have been fishing ultra slack like this since 2006 and am 100% certain that it is far more effective than heavy leads and bar tight lines.
To bait up I used my tired but ever-functional Viper Legacy bait boat. With a lipo battery and the baffles removed from the impellers, this old girl really flies, and she can carry a fair load as well. Initially its cargo was minimal, a pinch or two of hemp seed, and a pellet parcel on the hook, that's all, and to start with it was enough to get me bites. However, as the trip progressed and the fish became more and more confident, I increased the amount of bait in the hopper, adding a baiting spoon full of hempseed, some boilies, a few pinches of paste, a scattering of Frolic and two or three parcels of pellet, both SuperSoft and Trigga Ice.
I use an awful lot of paste when I am session fishing and the mega-powerful High-Attract Robin Red & Fishmeal paste I had made up was used not only on the Paste Bomb but also added to the free offerings (boilies and pellet parcels).
It was clear by the end of the week that they were really up for a feed and after a hell of a storm that dropped many gallons of rain on the lake, they went mad. At one stage I was getting takes as soon as the hopper had emptied! Matt's baits are so hugely attractive that the carp just seemed to home in on them instantly.
I am not going to bang on and on about rigs as I have used only a handful of different ones over the years. I started using the much-vaunted Ronnie Rig, but I wasn't happy with the way it sat in the testing bucket. I was happy with my standard bottom bait rigs (see photo 17) so for pop-ups I switched to my favourite Le Queroy rig, the amended KT version of the 360 degree rig. This involves using a hook with a totally fused eye, a Korum S2 pattern, so there is no chance of the landing net mesh getting caught in the eye and possibly tearing the carp's mouth.
Incidentally, I have also used the standard long shank hook patterns with the 360 (Fox LSC and Gardner Long Shank Nailer) and while both patterns don't have a totally closed eye you can get around the problem of the eye getting caught in the mesh by adding a blob of solder at the eye. No gap: no catching in the mesh…Simples!
And so to the nitty-gritty, the fishing itself. Well to say I had the session of a lifetime is putting it mildly. In total I had eight fifties, twenty-six forties and three thirties. Fishing beyond my wildest dreams. My very first fish, which picked up a bait placed a couple of meters off the pumps was a personal best! Ever since I caught my previous PB at Angel Lakes in 2005, a fish of 51lb, I have always hoped that if I were to catch a fish to beat that one it simply had to come from le Queroy…which it duly did! The scales gave me 62 lb so after deducting four pounds for the sling my new PB now went 58lb on the nose.
Here she is! I had caught that fish (strangely enough also in 2005) at 36lb 5oz, and another client had caught it at 48lb in 2015. Now I held her in my arms at 58lb, a ten pound weight gain in a year!
This is one of the nicest looking fish I have ever caught and it too weighs 50lb+. The following two photos show two more fifties. I won't bore you with photo after photo. That just gets boring. Suffice it to say I had a total of eight fifties, twenty-six forties and three thirties during the trip that'll do for me. Tommy!
Before I close can I quickly tell you about a strange occurrence?. I had a take, played and landed a fish, unhooked it in the net and under-armed the lead and rig - still pasted and baited - back into the margins just a couple of yards out in a couple of feet of water. I weighed the fish, a low forty, did the pix, put it back and was clearing up when the rod I'd played it on, which was resting against the front boards of the swim bent over. A guy who was fishing Elba and had come down to chat, pointed at the rod, which was about to launch itself into the lake and said, 'looks like you've got another'. At the time he had no idea that the hookbait had been lying so close in. I picked up the rod and after a brief struggle put the net under what turned out to be the same fish I had just landed and returned, hooked fair and square in the lip!
Whether it deliberately took the bait ... again! or simply blundered into it, I have no idea. I like to think it was the former.
The weather for the most part was blissful, hot and dry, almost too hot, but the pool was a huge comfort at the end of a hot afternoon and after a quick dip we both liked to quaff a few 'sundowners' on the terrace. All in all, it was the best holiday we have ever spent at Le Queroy in 19 years of visiting the venue.
Only once did we experience the full might of a French summer storm in all its fury. We had hail, torrential rain and tornado-like winds. So fierce as the brief down burst that it blew two bed chairs that were lying against the barn a full fifty yards, over a five foot fence and into the field below. It also was the kiss of death on this old tree that is rumoured to have been over 200 years old before the storm took it.
So there we have the story of my 2016 trip to Le Queroy. So successful have Dan and Jodie been at promoting the lakes and their associated accommodation that we will have to wait until November 2018 before we can return. If you want to savour some of the best fishing and accommodation France has to offer I'd get in quick!
Finally can anyone offer a non-sexist, sensible explanation for this sign on a unisex loo door that we saw at one of the hotels we stayed at en route to Le Q? Odd in the extreme, if you ask me.