For reasons that have never been made clear to me, it has been over two and a half years since we last visited Le Queroy. Come to think of it, there was a similarly long gap between our November 2010 visit and our return in March 2012.
Now, however, new owners were in place and a quick tip advised me to look on Facebook, where they were offering their final weeks of the season at less than half price. Needless to say we bit their hands off! The first two weeks of October were ours. Yes! A return to my all-time favourite lake – the Main Lake, which we like to remember by the name of Penny’s Lake - was now a reality.
I don’t know of any lake anywhere, either in Europe or the UK where you can catch so many lovely large carp with such comparative ease, and that’s not to demean the carp for being easy, they aren’t and you have to have your wits about you, but any angler with a bit of imagination and a few ideas of their own should be able to catch pretty well there.
We first fished the lake in 1998 and over the years we have watched the lake mature, the fish grow and the venue become one of the most luxurious anyone could wish for. The lake itself looked like this on our first visit:
Now it looks like this:
Quite a difference I am sure you’ll agree. Fish-wise the years have been pretty kind to Carole and I but to be honest we don’t only go there for the fishing. Frankly the Lodge – the accommodation - is far too luxurious to spend hour after hour at the lakeside, regardless of the size of the fish. In fact, in all the years we have been going to Le Queroy I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have night fished the lake. Add to the luxury of the Lodge the beauty and warmth of the area and the locals and it is no exaggeration to say that fishing is not our sole priority.
Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with going for it but we look at it much more as a relaxing holiday than as a crash, bang wallop fishing trip where every moment has to be spent glued to the rods. When you have this waiting for you just a short stroll away, why knock yourself out?
Le Queroy is situated about 40 miles south of Poitiers in the Charente region of France It is about 450 miles door to door for us and being over a certain age we tend to take it easy and stop overnight in a hotel on the way down. This year we stopped at a lovely little Relais just outside Parthenay and so we arrived at le Queroy in the early afternoon.
We were greeted by Dan and Jodie and the two kids Bella and Beau who are charming and a joy to be with, as they always seem to be smiling or giggling. We chatted for a while and they brought us up to date with the news since they had taken over from the previous owner. The lake had fished its socks off to Nick Burrage the week before we arrived so we just hoped he had left some fish for us!
The Lodge was as welcoming and spotless as ever and while Carole sorted out the unpacking I went down to the lake to unload the car and set up. To save space in the car I had agreed to hire one of Le Queroy’s ‘house’ bivvies, a couple of low chairs and a very good JRC mat/cradle. Here you can see the bivvy, which is from a new company (to me) called Advanta, as are the two chairs. The bivvy is quite low and compact but it is roomy, very stable and more than adequate for most anglers’ comfort and shelter. The chairs too are pretty comfy, if not a bit on the low side for us aging carpers!
The mat/cradle is a superb bit of kit and it coped admirably with all our captures. It is deep and extensively padded offering excellent protection even when the carp plays up a bit. We always felt completely confident when handling fish in the JRC item and if anyone is in the market for a good mat/cradle then you could do a lot worse. Here is the mat awaiting its first visitor.
I set up on the south bank of the lake in the first swim in, looking at the dam wall off to my left. I fished this swim in 1998 and have fished either this one or the swim immediately opposite every time. I like the dam wall! Before leaving the lake for the night I walked along the path that runs over the dam and baited up a section of the deeper water that lies about 12 – 20 feet off the wall itself. I have found that this is a much more productive area than tight to the foot of the wall but it seems too many anglers are seduced by the structure and as I was to find out later in the trip, the wall area is not always the best place to put a bait.
One little area that has always done well for me is the corner of the dam’s NW end. It is quite shallow and yet pretty silty and the carp seem to love to get in there in the morning when the sun first hits the water in that spot. A handy fallen tree currently marks the area but I believe this will be removed in the winter. However, it acted as a very handy marker and guide for the bait boat (and later for the rowing boat after the Legacy broke down!). A bait dropped a couple of yards off the end of these branches produced a glut of fish for us over the course of the trip.
After baiting up I drove back up the short distance to the Lodge and was soon relaxing on the terrace with a glass of something cold and watching the sunset, which as is often the case at le Queroy in the autumn was spectacular, as you will see later.
I eventually ran out of the mixed shelf life and so I scrabbled around in the bait holdall and eventually dug out a couple of 400g bags of 15mm Techni Spice shelfies so I chopped these, added 400g opf the 10ml-ers and glugged the losy in neat Trigga Liquid and Blue Oyster flavour.
Adding the heavily glugged Techni Spice chops to the barrels seemed to give the bait carpet an extra boost. This does not surprise me as TS can catch carp anywhere. When even they started to run out I found that yet again adding a few pinches of paste to the bucket of free offerings kicked the whole area into life again.
"I cannot allow Nutrabaits to take all the credit though. Naturally I took some Haith’s Baits products with me, not least a bag of their top hempseed. However, top of the list of priorities came the new SuperSoft Robin Red Pellets."
I had been working with the testing team of these pellets all summer and the Haith’s development team had come up with loads of prototypes based on the ProBase base mixes. I used a combo of the three now on sale, Robin Red & Fishmeal, RR & Chilli and RR and Garlic. Their rapid breakdown makes them idea for a special tactic I have amended from the old Boilie Soup days. I call it Pellet Soup.
I used the pellet combo both as loose feed in the bait boat:
…and in PVA mesh parcels, which were again glugged heavily in Robin Red Liquid and Trigga Liquid.
Incidentally, when you find yourself at a loose end at home or even on the bank it is not a bad idea to tie a whole heap of PVA mesh bags. These can be stored in a bucket until a week or so before they are needed at which time you may chose to give them a good glug of your favourite attractor package. I generally have at least two buckets of pre-tied bags at any one time, so I am never caught short for a good bag! I attached a bag of the glugged pellets to the hook each time I took out a rod or sent out the bait boat.
This photo shows just some of the bait I used to keep the Le Q. fish feeding, and boy, did they feed!
I’ll mention the rigs briefly, not because they are not important – they are – but because I think most of you get fed up with rig talk. As previously mentioned I used both pop-ups and bottom baits and both did well. For bottom baits I used a 14-inch section of 25lb Hydrolink with all but the final inch of inner fluoro removed. This creates a very effective Reverse Combi Rig with a long supple section and a stiff section at the eye of the hook, which is a size 4 Fox SSC. I used both Snowman rigs as shown here:
…and nailed on bottom bait set ups using glugged Blue Oyster hookbaits straight out of the glug pot
I used my favourite tactic each ‘cast’ namely a 1.5oz Paste Bomb on a running rig using the Snag Safe system, which was covered in a thick coating of home made Blue Oyster paste. I took five frozen 6-egg mixes of this paste with me and it came in very useful.
This is the rig I like to use when fishing pop-ups (note the attached PVA mesh bag of Robin Red Pellets). This is not the customary way of creating a 360 Rig as you can see. Here I have used a Korum S5 hook with the barb flattened. The swivel is a size 8 stainless steel barrel swivel from Solar, which is infinitely more effective than the more usual size 11 ringed swivel.
Written by Ken Townley