A long time in planning, (mostly thanks to Mark sorting it!) as trips abroad often are, by the time I set off on the very short first leg of the journey to pick Mark up, I was giddy with excitement at our trip to Brie. The famously stunning ‘lake in the woods’, I couldn’t wait to get there!!
Fully loaded up with all our kit, Mark and I headed off south, via Norfolk to pick Dom up, the final part of the Beechwood trio on our French adventure. Quick stop for a brew, some fish and chips, and off we went again, blazing the trail to Dover, now three strong, the car brimming with all our gear, and now a trailer stacked way too high with carpy goodies. When I say way to high, we took the trailers roof off, and stacked our bed chairs around the sides to hold everything inside, and tied a tarpaulin over the top. Perfect(ish).
We had to stop a couple of times to re-tighten the tarpaulin ropes, and buy a few extra because the original (nicked washing line from Dom’s) wasn’t cutting it. Stopping again for the umpteenth time at around midnight, we bought some heavy duty tow ropes form a local garage. Though we all had a niggling feeling something was missing from the trailer, we lashed the tarpaulin down really well with the tow ropes, and were all really happy it was now solid as a rock, and we cracked on to Dover.
Arriving early, I took the chance to grab 20 mins shut eye after the long drive, and the nice folk at Dover port squeezed us onto the earlier crossing, which was great as it meant we’d be flying straight through once into France and onto the lake. We were rather pleased with our progress, even if we did look like something from the Whacky Racers!
The crossing was a breeze, and once in France we locked the coordinates into the satnav and flew down the French motorway system, stopping only for coffee and the occasional ‘technical stop’. The satnav took as to within 5 minutes of the lake, at which point the road system had been transformed into a cycle path, and blocked to vehicles. We were so close, we could see the water on the satnav screen, but we couldn’t get around the cycle system! Almost a full 24hrs in the saddle, and we’re so close, we can taste it almost. At this point a friendly French farmer pulled up, and started to question us and point to somewhere in the distance. His tone of voice and smiling face let us know he was friendly, but other than that we gleaned absolutely nothing what so ever from what he was saying. He cast a knowing look across his face, and beckoned us to follow him, but did he know where we wanted to go? He clearly did, as we followed him a very short distance, taking us to the local town and on the road we were trying to get to, beyond the cycle path! Let’s hear it for the friendly French farmer!! I gave him a very thankful toot of the horn, waved, and we cracked on, until we saw this sign two minutes later…..
We’ve made it, Brie, our home for the next seven days and nights! The rain was pouring down, but that didn’t stop us walking around the water to have a good scout about, and it certainly did nothing to dampen the beauty of the lake, the woods and the surrounding area. It really is a stunning place.
We decided that Dom would fish peg 1, and Mark and I would fish peg 2. We’d seen a lot of fish activity up at peg 1 on our scout about, so the general feeling was that Dom would be on fish for certain, so that’s a tick in one box, and with both Mark and I on peg 2, we could team up and search out the vast slab of water to find some fish on peg 2. That was the plan.
Then it all became painfully apparent why we all felt something was missing off the trailer, Doms bivvy was gone!! A quick call to Mark, the very helpful bailiff on Brie, and thoroughly nice chap, and he sorted us a spare out no problem at all, top man indeed!
We all cracked on setting up in the rain, and it wasn’t too long before Mark and I had our camp pretty much in order. We hatched a strategy to fish a real spread of areas around the water we had in-front, to the left and the right of us. We’d also fish a big concentrated area of bait directly in front of us, over the the far margin. It was an easy cast at this point to the far bank, so we baited it heavily. We’d also picked out some areas to the left, where I was fishing, and some areas in the large bay to the right, where Mark would target.
With the rods out we all settled in, took in the glorious surroundings and enjoyed a beer over a wonderful curry Mark had prepared ahead of the trip.
The first afternoon on the lake came and went in a flash, Mark and I saw a few fish showing, and heard loads crashing out up on peg 1. We were confident Dom would see some action through the night, and Mark and I eagerly watched the water trying to glean some clues.
The night passed with only a dropped run for Mark on peg 2, Dom however on peg 1 had banked two, including a stunning common!
The following day the same story continued. We all struggled to get a bite during the day, however at night Dom was consistently picking a couple of fish up. The going was tough on peg 2 for Mark and I, and as it does, the old grey matter starts going into overdrive. We knew a lot of fish were at the dam end of the lake by peg 1, and were holding there. And on arriving we’d seen fish show out into the large bay to our right. However, now the signs in the bay were distinctly infrequent, almost non-existent. From the onset we’d decided to fish a heavily baited area between the two of us, baited with Partimix and Boilie, at the narrowest point on the whole lake. Hoping we could draw the fish onto it, hold them there, and get a big hit. Whilst we had a rod each to either side of this area, we used our other rods with loose scatterings of bait roving around left (me) and right (Mark) fishing for single bites, and any liner indications.
Monday beemeded into life, Dom was having a ball up on peg 1 by now, and was catching enough fish for him to be confident enough to try a few different things over the next couple of days; popups, zigs, different areas and such which was great. Peg 2 was proving to be a tough nut to crack though! There hadn’t been rain in the area for some six weeks prior to us arriving, and the lake had even been closed at one point due to low oxygen levels. Having mapped a lot of the water in front of us, we knew it was shallow all around us, and we wondered if it was just that bit too shallow to hold the carp and get them feeding confidently.
It was becoming really stressful. We’d worked a lot of water around peg 2, and remained focused on the heavily baited area, sitting a rod each either side of it. But it just wasn’t happening. Mark had lost a fish through the night, but wisely decided to make a move and follow the fish up to peg 1. I stubbornly vowed to remain on peg 2, and stick it out. Mark did suggest we swop around after a couple of days, but my mind was set, the challenge was on and I was determined to get a fish out of the peg. We saw fish show first night out in the bay to the right, I’d had a couple of knocks, and Mark had lost one, those were the hints from the first couple of days I had to work with, for now.
Tuesday, and I was still pretty up beat, despite not landing a fish yet. I had lost two though, which meant I was getting closer! One fish on the new bait (as yet unreleased) and one on a yellow Musselberry popup. Being on the peg on my own, I was now fishing quite a wide area of water. There are only two pegs on Brie, both doubles, so I had a lot of water to go at now! I fished one to the left, which I moved about quite a lot. Fished with a PVA bag of stick mix matched to the popup bait, with a few baits sticked out over the top. I waded out to a shallow plateau on the left of my swim, and cast to likely looking spots, or showing fish. The middle rod I fished into the far side of the channel straight out in-front, which I’d continued to heavily bait with boilie and particle twice a day since arriving. I had a theory that some fish were moving from the bay to the dam during the day, and back again at some point. So the heavy baiting I hoped would stop some in their tracks and nab me a couple. The right hand rod was the most exciting. I fished it way, way down into the bay on the right, around 300 yards away. Wading a long way down into the bay, then casting the rest of the way, I could reach the area the fish were showing in when we arrived. Though there had been minimal fish showing since, and some days none at all, it felt right.
After losing the two fish the day before, on the Wednesday I got up early as normal, but set my sights on getting my act together. Wednesday is a mental hurdle when thinking about a week, its the mid point, and if your in work, its the down hill stretch to the weekend. When your on a week long fishing trip, sat on a blank, on seemingly no fish, its a tough hurdle to get over, because you just don’t want to start the down hill decent to the end of the week! It felt like the week was slipping away, and I needed to sort it fast. Dom had continued to bag a couple a night, and since moving Mark had started to get amongst them, though been desperately unlucky with losing fish at the net, or on the aerator halfway between him and the area he was fishing on the far bank.
I vowed to try harder, I was determined to get a fish from peg 2…….
I went up for a shower and shave early doors, had a good breakfast of a full baguette filled with bacon and egg, stripped my pants off, and went wading out all over the water.
The facilities on the lake are just what you need, toilets, showers, sink, mirror, bait freezer and fridge, and some power points.
This is carping guys and girls, you don’t need anything else, just enough to freshen up and get yourself together and away you go!
There is also a loo in the woods, in-between the two pegs.
I waded out straight in front first, right across the deeper channel, and out up the other side to the far bank. when I got to the back edge of the channel, I left a small stick poking out of the water, so I knew 100% I was on the spot when I cast out later. Onwards to the left had side, and two things were becoming clear; the silt was a few inches deep, and quite firm. There were some harder areas to, generally shallowing up. On the far bank the water was very shallow along the line of lilies, with a gap of a couple of feet between the bank itself and the lilies. Off to the right I initially made my way to a big patch of lilies, which viewed from the peg was screaming carp. We’d also heard that anglers a couple of weeks ago had taken fish from the spot, though Mark hadn’t had a bite from it first night when he fished it.
As i drew closer to the lilies, i slowed my pace to nothing and stopped. I watched for a good while for signs of fish, but I saw none, not a single fish spooked, no swirls in the silt, no knocking of the lilies. Nothing. I waded all around the bed of lilies, no signs of fish here, so I went on further still.
Then, with this slightly different angle on the water, I noticed a couple of very ‘sneaky’ shows. The fish were still in the bay, but a little further down. I hurriedly waded all the way back to my peg, loaded a rod with the test bait, PVA bag, and my pockets with a couple of handfuls of boilies. I waded all the way back down, then cast into the heart of the bay where I’d seen the fish, sticked the baits out, and waded back again, slowly, ensuring the line lay was as good as I could get it over such a distance.
Having felt the silt, first hand with my feet, I wondered if the two fish I’d lost might have been something to do with the line sitting deep into the silt, preventing me getting a strong hook hold. So I changed my set up to have my tips pointing to the stars that night, to take some of the line lay out of the silt. As Wednesday evening approached, I was knackered, but confident again, which is saying something after driving for nearly 20hrs straight, followed by four days of blanking!
Then, with traps set, I waited, again.
Then at just before 8pm it happened, my rod down in the bay ripped off!
My first Brie fish felt so good, I can tell you! It gave a really good account of itself, and I was really pleased Dom had decided to pay a visit as I was playing it so he could help me ensure a safe landing.
Wednesday evening onwards, it all started coming together, and I had a further two fish on the bank, and lost one that night
So the plan was coming together for me finally. Giving my head a wobble Wednesday morning, and getting stuck in and focused had paid off. Dom was still picking the odd fish up each night, and now Mark was into fish too. Oh happy days indeed!
The following day, Thursday, the plan remained the same. By that evening I’d had confirmation of my theory that some fish we’re spending the day in the bay to the my right, and traveling up the lake to the dam end by peg 1 in the evening. Twice now I’d witnessed the ‘migration’ of lots of fish moving from right to left in the channel around 5pm. Some very big fish amongst them too! Though I had yet to land a fish from the channel, I felt that the heavy baiting of particle had a good chance of holding a few, or at the very least stopping some from moving all the way up the lake. Whether it worked or not, I was getting more action and indications from the bay to the right, and I certainly think it had an effect on the fishes movements around the water.
The ‘migration’ was awesome to witness, and it gave an insight into how the fish moved, how big the groups were they traveled in, how quickly they moved and so on. It also gave me some magical time watching the lake, and its wildlife!
That night however, wasn’t as successful for me as the previous, and I only managed to land one fish, a small mirror in the middle of the night.
I was treated to some more wildlife activity that night, but I didn’t manage (read dare) to take any pictures. I heard some snuffling off in the distance well into the dense woodland. Thinking nothing more of it, I sat on my bed chair and waited for some fish activity. A little later on, whilst snoozing, I was awoken by more snuffling and broken branches under foot, this time though the noises were a lot closer. So close in fact, I could hear the occasional splashing about as whatever it was took a quick dip in the lake. It sounded very much to me like a small group of pigs. Did central France hold wild boar? I knew there we’re Coypu in the area, but I;d seen them in the distance on the far bank, and whatever was making this noise was significantly bigger, and there were a few of them. A quick bit of research on good old Google, and sure enough Wild Boar we’re present in the area! I researched them a little more to see if my bivvy, with me in it, was in any danger. They’re quite an interesting creature it turns out, and after reading about them for half an hour or so, I wasn’t worried, thought the noises they make in the dead of the night in the middle of dense woodland deep in central France do peak your interest!!
So, the final day and the late afternoon was upon us. We’d all really enjoyed our time on the water, and just a couple more fish would really cap it off! A bit of bank side ‘surf and turf’ for tea to set me up, and I was more than ready for the final day.
We’d had hardly any fish at all during the day, however after seeing a fish roll on the edge of the area baited with Particle in the channel, I cast a bait over to it. A Musselberry Red, with a PNBA Adjust Plug in it to balance the bait out in the silt. No sooner had 5 minutes passed, and it was away! A short but satisfying battle later, and I had a lovely mirror in my arms. You’ll notice from the pics, I’m pretty worn out by this point, but I was really pleased to have caught it in the afternoon, as it gave us a chance to really enjoy the capture in the glorious sun shine that had blessed us throughout the week, apart from the day we arrived.
That evening I reflected on the week we’d just enjoyed. Testing to the extreme at times, we’d all had personal battles with the water, picking away over the week at the lock on its secrets. Through the night I added another common to my captures, again taken on the new bait down in the right hand bay, it certainly proved successful accounting for most of our fish throughout the whole week! Keep your eyes peeled for more on the bait in early 2016…. My biggest problem going into the final stages of our trip was getting a bait on the spots. Wading half way around the lake and casting into the bay was fine during the day, but out of the question on my own during the night!
Over on peg 1, Mark had scored a blinding final night, bagging no less than three stunning fish! Working hard as always he landed them all from the far bank, just off the lilies on the new bait tipped with tigers, fished over beds of particle. I was so pleased he’d had a decent hit on the final night, it really rounded the week off beautifully!
And so the adventure came to a close, and what an adventure it had been! A long journey full of anticipation, a lost bivvy along the way, framed beautifully by the stunning picturesque landscape of the water as we arrived, drenched in rain. It had been a bumpy journey, and a healthy challenge, but the rewards we’re superb and we caught some incredible fish. Perfect.
I’ll sign off the blog with a quick shout out again to Mark, the bailif on Brie, amongst other waters in the area. He was the perfect host, ensured we had everything we needed, including a bivvy, and pretty much left us to get on with it, which is exactly how a fishing trip should be.
We will be back on Brie one day I’m sure, until then, here’s why….