Arezue Wright - My First Taste Of French Carping!

Well I’ve just got back from a week’s fishing in France, which saw me land the fish of a lifetime!

Having been fishing for just over two years, I have been fortunate enough to catch large fish, both home and abroad; however I have never set foot on French soil until now.

Over 18 months in the planning, having been invited by my husband and friends, I was to finally cast a line on our chosen venue, namely Le Fearnes lake.

Le Fearnes is situated deep in the heart of the Champagne region, close to St Dizier and the shores of the mighty Lac du Der-Chantecoq .

The lake was previously a working gravel pit of 12 acres, and has matured into a truly stunning fishery, stocked with some truly monstrous fish; most notably, Le Fearnes is home to some truly epic commons, topped by the legendary “Swirly” which is approaching the 80lb mark!!!!

Finally the time came for us to head out, but, having experienced a long, cold winter, conditions in France were not favourable, with lower than average temperatures for this time of year and heavy rains; however this did not dampen my spirits, and late Friday the van was loaded and we were off!

Travelling from Manchester it took us a little over 4 hours to reach Folkestone; a short train journey via the tunnel and then a steady drive through France via the toll roads saw us arrive early afternoon.

Once inside the gates we were met by our hosts for the week, lake owner Frank, his wife Fearne, and their two pet Rottweilers Ronnie and Reggie, making for a truly colourful collaboration!

Looking at the lake, even with the grasp of winter still holding on, was truly stunning, and as a strong south westerly pushed down to the right corner of the lake, I imagined how amazing it would be to land one of its residents.

The cursory bank walk and swim choice followed.

With heavy winter rains in France, the lake was full to the brim and, owing to the ground being saturated, water levels were up, kissing the lip of each and every swim.

With the strong SW wind banging into the right corner and a single show that was all the indication I needed, my swim choice was made, with Dave dropping in next to me.

The remainder of the lads opted for swims which gave access to the main body of the lake and the shallower left part of the lake was left free from pressure, on the advice of Frank, as, having fished that area in recent months, he had not had a fish from there since January!

Swim choice made and with the late afternoon ebbing away, I chose to initially fish for a bite using small PVA bags and a small handful of free offerings.

Two rods were fished to my left towards a set of marginal snags, and the other in slightly deeper water of around 5 feet, where I had earlier seen a fish show.

Traps set in eager anticipation, I sat back with a well earned glass of wine, wondering what that evening would bring.

With a strong SW wind banging into my swim a bite looked favourable, but as I settled into my sleeping bag that night my alarms remained silent

At 03:30 the following morning I was woken by the sounds of a screaming alarm - sadly not my own; my husband Dave would shortly land an immaculate common!

As the wind grew stronger, by Monday I had seen no action, and my swim looked devoid of fish, so I contemplated a move, as a few of the lads fishing the main body of the lake had managed to bank a couple of 40+ commons from open water.

With the constant, battering rain, everything was sodden, but I decided a move was a must.

Packed down, stuff in the van, a short move two pegs down found me fishing open, and slightly deeper, water.

I knew at this time of the year that things were never gonna be easy but no matter what I tried I just couldn’t buy a bite...

By Wednesday I was literally bivvy bound, and the weather quite simply too wet for ducks!

Not even a liner or single bleep, and I was questioning everything, as I’m sure many of us have at those low points in our fishing careers. The boys rallied round to convince me that it was just a matter of time; stick to what you know, and be patient.

These words of encouragement did little to dispel my low mood, and I began to enter into a “midweek crisis”; things were looking ominous and a FRENCH BLANK was on the cards!

With the wind now swinging round and the temperatures increasing slightly, I wound in, and went for a wander down the bottom of the lake, towards the cabin and shallows.

As I stood looking out into the first bay near the island a huge common leapt clear of the water, followed by a second show!

Without further ado I raced round to my peg, and, despite everything being sodden and covered in mud, I had to act!

Into the van once again went all the tackle but the ground had become so saturated, I found myself unable to turn the van around; after me already getting the van stuck in the mud and nearly ending up in the lake I left reversing the van right round the lake to the boys on this occasion!!!

An hour or so later we both doubled up in the first swim, Dave to the right and me to the left.

Was it going to be third time lucky? Only time would tell...

That night, with the rain still battering down outside and the water from the lake breaching our bivvy doors, I prayed to the carp gods more than once that my efforts would be rewarded...

At approximately 04:00 on the Thursday morning my prayers were answered as my left hand rod, fished towards the canopy of an overhanging willow on the far bank at 60 yards, came to life, my Delkim letting out two intermittent bleeps followed by a heavy drop back; my indicator hit the floor!

I wound down fast as the fish swam quickly towards me, but then stopped in the middle of the lake as I applied gentle pressure, and my rod arched over!

Finally was this to be my chance?!!

Initially I could not move it as the fish just sat mid water and pondered hard and heavy, left and then right!

Pumping the rod slowly the fish kicked and broke surface about twenty yards out, and, in the light of my head torch I saw that it was a common, and that it moved a tidal wave of water!

My heart began to beat faster and with the rain lashing in my face, not that I noticed, I eased the fish back towards Dave with a waiting net.

One last surge in the margins towards a sunken,flooded tree and the fish kissed the air, its head bumping the spreader block!!

With a single attempt of the net, and much to my relief, the prize was finally mine!

Soaked to the skin, covered in mud, I truly didn’t realise the size of the fish, but peering down into the net I could see that she was huge! Nearly a foot across its back, and its depth just went on and on!

Taking a moment to gather myself, Dave did the honours and gently unhooked her in the water before slipping her into a retainer while I gathered the troops to offer some assistance.

Moments later the word was out, and Dave’s mates came to assist.

As we heaved it up onto the scales I could not believe what I was seeing! Forty, fifty, sixty and beyond!!!!!

Shaking with excitement, I watched as the scales swung round to 66.5lbs! I couldn’t believe it!!

Not only was this my first French fish, but I’d done it in style with a truly monstrous common!! I’d skipped the 30’s and

40’s club and even the French fifties club and had hit the sixties club with a bang! A fish of a lifetime!!

WOW

Well rested, I did my best to heave her up for the camera, and even though I am a little Hercules lol . I couldn’t manage on dry land, she was just too heavy, and my little arms quite simply wouldn’t accommodate her!

I donned Dave’s waders, which are huge on me, but allowed me to safely cradle my prize in the water for some truly epic shots! What a creature!!

Pics done, and my whole body creaking and aching, I limped back to the bank breathless!!

That morning I couldn’t sleep, although I felt exhausted and even more so when I found out that it was one of the lake’s A-Team! A fish known as the SILVER SHADOW!!!

With two days to go, I was in a state of euphoria! and to be honest, nothing else mattered anymore not even the capture of a back up low twenty on the second to last night.

With two fish on my first trip to France, in difficult conditions, I would have been more than happy, but I could never in my wildest dreams have anticipated one of them being a fish of such calibre!

Even now I still don’t think it’s truly sunk in, and to catch a fish of a lifetime despite all the initial setbacks on my first trip is truly amazing!!!

it really is true that effort equals reward and to top it all off I’ve just realised that this is my first fish of 2018! However, I don’t think I’ll be eclipsing this anytime soon!

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