I have recently returned from a somewhat chastening experience at Carp Quarry's lake in France, where I blanked (lost three but that doesn't count!). I say 'chastening' as I was quietly confident about my chances prior to the trip due to my prior experience of fishing deep lakes.
The lake, run by Carp Quarry (https://carpquarry.com/), is very deep with cliffs plunging straight down from towering heights. Roughly a rod's length out it's twenty feet deep and the bottom falls away quickly to up to fifty feet in places. It is also drop-dead gorgeous, nestling as it does in a quiet corner of the Brittany countryside not far from the town of Carhaix.
Like I say, I felt fairly confident that I could deal with the depth as some of my local club lakes are very deep. I had also fished a very similar lake in Devon where the margins were twenty-feet deep or more, and of course, many of the French lakes I have fished over the years are deep water-supply reservoirs…Indeed, it was on just such a venue that I caught my first forty!
It was 1992 and I was fishing a French Category 2 public lake, a reservoir in the east of the country, where an echo sounding of the lake showed that the bank sloped gradually and evenly away to a depth of about sixty feet in the middle before rising again as it neared the far bank. (The photo above shows how steep were the banks of this reservoir). The lake bed was mostly soft mud or silt with only a few hard patches, which were covered by a light layer of silt.
On arrival, I had set up on the west bank and then spent most of the morning rowing back and forth trying to keep the depth below the boat at around twenty-eight feet. I remembered what Rod had said about this depth; according to the Maestro it was the 'magic' depth to fish in really deep waters and I guess he had based his findings on his fishing at St Cassien. Talking to Rod I asked him about this and he reckoned that he had caught too many carp at bang on twenty-eight feet on several different lakes both home and abroad for it to be mere coincidence.
Who was I to ignore his wise words?… I have therefore always used this depth as a starting point on any deep lake I fish. What is it about twenty-eight feet? Don’t ask me as I have no idea. It could be due to pressure, or perhaps temperature, but one thing I know, if I can find twenty-eight feet I will happily fish it.
So at the ressy, I concentrated maximum effort at baiting and fishing this 'magic' depth. The lake bed seemed to be almost entirely made up of soft silt about six to eight inches deep. However, I found one area of really hard gravel situated a long way out in, you guessed it, twenty-eight feet. I 'donked' about using a spare rod and the reassuring thump confirmed that the lake bed was hard and harsh beneath the boat. I dropped a marker on the feature so that I could find it again, for it was very small, no more than a couple of square yards or so.
The fishing was slow but what fish I did manage to put on the bank came from the hard spot so I kept plugging away. It was lovely weather, perhaps too lovely with temperatures hovering in the mid-thirties! The sun blazed down and its glaring heat took my fading hopes with it. The lake looked dead as it sweltered in the heat but as so often happens when things are slow, the take came out of the blue and once again it was off that special spot. After an amazing scrap, the fish dropped into my waiting net. It weighed forty pounds exactly. That's why I like twenty-eight feet!
Sadly past experience let me down at Carp Quarry but it wasn't for lack of trying. It's a few weeks past now but those in the UK who were similarly affected, the terrible rain, storms and floods that affected much of the UK in early to mid-June may sympathise when I tell them that the Breton Peninsula suffered identical weather for the whole of our two-week visit. Indeed Storm Miguel that blew us across the Channel on our way to the lake sadly accounted for the loss of a French SNSM lifeboat and its crew that went to the aid of a fishing boat in difficulties in the Bay of Biscay.
(I have lived by the sea for nearly fifty years and have worked on it for many of them. I have friends who have served on a couple of Cornish RNLI boats and have first-hand experience of the hazards of going to sea. The RNLI and its equivalent services throughout the world such as the French Societe Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer - SNSM - have my total admiration and I'd just like to thank Gordon at Carp Quarry for his generous donation to the RNLI after we spoke at the lake while I was on holiday. For anyone who wants a prime example of the astonishing bravery of the RNLI crews here is a link to one of the most outstanding examples of bravery ever.
We were kept awake that night by the ferocity of the storm that sank the Union Star and the Solomon Browne, and so fierce was the wind that we actually feared for the structure of our old house and her sash windows that shook, banged and rattled as the Force 12 S.E. wind battered the Cornish coastline. How the eight crewmen of the lifeboat found the outstanding courage to put to sea in that storm beggars belief, and they will forever be remembered for their heroic bravery by the Cornish coastal communities and by sea-going folk far and wide.
I want to talk about tiger nuts for a moment…I doubt if there is a carp anywhere that would be able to turn its nares up at a tantalising tiger nut. As I have mentioned in these Blogs before, I am a huge fan and have caught some righteous good carp on them, As I mentioned last time, I never go on a trip without a jar or two of Dynamite's Frenzied Tiger Nuts, which I used for the first time in 2003 in Romania. I did really well on them out there and my experiences with them have only served to back up my confidence in them. This is a mixture of their Crushed Tigers coupled with the Mini Tiger Nuts. Irresistible!
While on the subject I'd like also to mention a company that is new to me called White Tiger Fishing. Whilst it is new to me, I am sure the name will not be new to the guys and gals that fish the fabled Rainbow Lake in France, where the world record common was caught by, Eric Smith the owner of White Tiger Fishing. Not surprisingly the huge fish quickly became known as Eric's Common. Have a browse of his website for some eye-opening products he has to offer.
Eric carries only fresh stock brought in from his contacts in Spain where he lived for eleven years until returning to the UK only recently. You can be assured that the bait you get from Eric will be fresh as a daisy and will not have been sitting around in a musty storeroom for months before you get them!
One of the company's products that has intrigued me for some time is Skinned tiger nuts. These are the original brown-skinned tiger nuts that have been treated in Spain by a special treatment that removes the brown outer skin. This allows them to absorb more liquid during the soaking process and if you add a touch of your favourite flavour to the water, this will also be absorbed. Eric advises that this is the best way to use them. Yes, they can be soaked and then boiled but this appears to remove a fair amount of the natural sugars, which is the key to the success of tigers.
All tiger nuts will absorb a fair amount of water if they are soaked for 24 hours but being skinned Eric's tiger nuts soak up considerably more, as these before and after photos show.
Eric suggests that boiling these tiger nuts is fine as long as you are aware that some of the sweetness will be lost. This may not be a problem should you wish to add a savoury flavour but as tiger nuts are well known for their naturally sweet attraction it seems a shame to lose some of this by boiling.
The only benefit I can see from boiling skinned tiger nuts is that the process softens them still further. This may or may not be what you are trying to achieve. If not I'd go with Eric's advice and use them after a 24-hour soak in water…Flavoured or unflavoured…? It's up to you.
While I have always been a big fan of tiger nuts, I have always used them sparingly; some would say too sparingly, as I reckon 100g of prepared nuts is ample for a day's fishing. The lovely thing about White Tiger's Skinned nuts is that they can be prepared so easily and can be prepped at the lake or well in advance and frozen in small batches. This is a batch of 100g that has been prepped by simply soaking the nuts in water to which 1ml of Richworth Tutti-Fruity flavour has been added along with a gram or two of Feed Stimulants' Summer Amino Compound.
I think tiger nuts are best fished on a bolt rig. By hard by their very nature carp automatically throw the freebies straight back to the throat teeth so a rig that draws in the hook to the back of the mouth will be very effective. A Multi Rig using a sharpened size 4 or 6 curve hook pattern is ideal. I prefer to use barbless hooks at all times as I believe you get a better hook-up to pick-up ratio. This is my current favourite hook pattern a long shanked curve (barbless) from JPrecision.
You can fish double tigers side-by-side using this rig. Here the nuts are connected on a short piece of 100lb b.s. nylon line blobbed at each end after being threaded through the eye of a small ringed swivel. I like to use a heavy hook link material, as this aids pricking as the rig is ingested. This is Gardner's Camflex Lead-free.
I have noticed of late that some anglers on social media are once again extolling the virtues of allowing seeds, pulses, cereal and indeed, tiger nuts to soak for weeks. The assumption, I guess, is that this allows fermentation to be taken to the ultimate level. I would suggest the opposite. They are not fermenting anymore but are rotting! Believe it or not, I saw a fisherman in France last year who was using a bucket of very manky-looking particles. I asked him how he was doing. "Nothing" he replied. I was not surprised. I asked him if I could take a photo of his 'bait'. This is it!
Back to the Quarry for a moment…I believe that there is not a carp alive that can ignore a well-prepared tiger nut…apart from the ones in the Carp Quarry lake, that can and do! However, that is not the fault of the bait; more it is the fault of the angler! Wrong rig? Wrong cast? Wrong place? Who knows? All I can tell you is that on this occasion I couldn't buy a take on them! Curious!
I did get three takes on UB's Tutti-Fruity pop-ups fished on a Multi Rig on a size 6 using Fox Tungsten Coretex and 3oz Grippa lead in a clip. Sadly the fish either found a snag or slipped the hook. I was able to bait up the only shallow area on the whole lake and watched them feed on it. They picked up whatever I threw at them but could I get a take off the area? Could I ****!
All of which should tell you that I was having an off-day (week, fortnight) but this should not detract in the slightest way from the quality of the bait, rigs, lake or accommodation. It was the angler that was at fault…He would have loved to have caught one of the fabled Carp Quarry monsters like this fifty for Gordon's son Luke. Gordon is the joint owner of Carp Quarry, by the way, a very knowledgeable angler in his own right. He worked tirelessly to try to get one of his fish to my net, but it was not to be. Hey ho! That's why it's called fishing not catching!
I first saw unleaded leadcore (I know; it an oxymoron) being used as a hooklink while watching Kevin Ellis's youtube vids on Rainbow Lake when one of the featured anglers - it may well have been the aforementioned Eric Smith - demonstrated his rig that used Solar Tackle's 40lb Contour as the hooklink. At the time I thought that this would be a bit to thick and thus pretty obvious on the bottom but I soon came round to the idea when I used a similar product myself. Several firms offer this type of material and for a while, I used Fox Submerge. However, this stuff is even thicker than Contour, as are many versions from other tackle companies. However, after a chat to Lewis at Gardner Tackle, I decided to try that company's Camflex lead-free material, which is thinner than the other brands I have used, and exceptionally supple. It thus makes a very decent hooklink material, one I have been using for most of this season.
Though quite noticeably thinner than the alternatives I have tried, the Camflex is nice to work with. It knots well using a Tucked 2-Turn Blood Knot and is easy to splice. I like to fray the free end of the material prior to forming the splice. This seems to make it easier to pull through.
I use the Fox splicing needle, which is in effect an adapted bobbin threader similar to those used in fly-tying.
This little gizmo makes splicing all kinds of braids a doddle.
The finished splice is neat and tidy. I have seen many folks recommend that it should be super-glued. I disagree: the splice is actually stronger if it is not glued as it self-tightens whenever force is applied to it.
Finally down here in God's own county we are enjoying this heat wave, however, carp can suffer oxygen depletion when the water warms up. So it is not a good idea to place them in so-called 'recovery' slings for any length of time and certainly, they should NEVER be sacked up in shallow water, as it will be several degrees warmer than the deeper water and holding even less oxygen. Get them in as quick as you can, do the business with the scales and the camera, and get them back a.s.a.p.
Have a great summer!