Angling can be very hard at times, and at others very easy, seeming that you can’t put a foot wrong. Then at other times just impossible and no matter what you try, the species you have chosen to target, just will not bite. The point I am making is we either learn from the blanks and the hard times or we don’t, and that can mean a really good session or a feeling of stuck in a rut for future trips. I personally learnt from my last winter session at Jonchery 7, as I tend to learn from most sessions, but this one in particular really got the brain going, making me change a few things in the way I approached my angling, and my thought process prior to going to any lake.
In a way it gave me a kick and showed I had become a little lazy, and needed to a kick start again. We all go through it at some point, it’s how we deal with it that counts and move on, to better ourselves and the way we go about targeting the chosen species we fish for. Angling is about learning every time we go and using what we learn to best achieve our goals.
With that in mind, and a sort of freshness of the mind, a very late opportunity came up to fish a lake which is situated within picturesque woodlands in the Champagne region of France, created and run by the prominent fish farming Bachelier family. The complex consists of 2 lakes, Brocard Large and small. The larger of the two Brocard Lakes is 39 acres, picturesque and abundant with wildlife. It holds a good stock of carp to over 58lb and 15 sizeable catfish and you have the choice of several double swims. You can book this through Angling Lines. Brocard Large looked the one for us, a few days later my Dad and I were on our way. The lake is just under 4 hours drive from Calais, so we travelled over night to get there for a early morning meet with Mark Slade who is bailiff and guide on all the lakes the family owns and runs.
We met Mark Slade at Jonchery’s main lake as he wanted to take us over to Brocard Large, show us around the place and give us a bit of information about the lake and how it had been fishing over the last few weeks.
So with Mark’s advice and having a good walk around, plus seeing about six fish showing off and making a huge commotion by leaping out, making some real loud noise, it wasn’t hard to choose peg 5. Within the hour we were set up and after a while found a few hard clay spot’s at around 120 yards and 140yrds, which is roughly were the river bed in the lake is, and goes to about 6 to 8ft deep, with lots of silt around those hard spots. With the fish also giving themselves it was easy to get to the spot’s and know that we were bang on, as didn’t really want to go casting out marker rods and ruining any chances of a few quick takes. I started the session with small 10mm wicked white/pastoral yellow pop up’s from Mad baits, with size 4 Anti-eject barbless C425 and size 4 indispensable carp barbless C415 hooks on Ashima braided hook links, with the Micro beads and very small swivel’s on the hook which the bait was tied to with a little uncoated braid finished off with Ashima’s short line aligners.
The rigs were then threaded through Castaway PVA’s 18mm long chuck which had a combination of crushed Mad baits Pandemic and Carp particles Ultimate spod mix inside. These were then cast to the hard clay spot’s, we didn’t have to wait very long and my Dad was in and had a succession of fish. I knew it wouldn’t be long and my ATT’s would be bursting into life. I wasn’t wrong and with my first run I was into a big fish. It was a common and a huge one at that, it would of easily gone high 40’s if not 50lb and just as I was getting it to the net it quickly turned and run straight towards the swim front and turned last second and the hook popped out!! Barbless hook’s have there draw backs and I was truly gutted. It’s hard to try explain the complete and utter devastation when losing a fish of that size, and so close to the net cord. It took a little while before I could compose myself after re-baiting and getting the rod back onto the spot. Just sat there a while in a little disbelief. It took a few hours but again I was in, this time a common of 22lb banked and safely put back. Relief washed over me as I had the first fish of the session.
Over the next few days, the weather went from 80mph winds to absolutely freezing conditions, but we were still catching fish no matter what the weather was throwing at us. The next few fish I had were all commons, my second of the session went 27lb, feeling a bit better now, and the next one topped the scale’s at 34lb 8oz, rods back to the spot in the dark and another common of 34lb hitting the spreader block.
Getting the rods out in the dark on the spots at Brocard Large is not at all easy, yes we had the distances stick out to make sure we were getting the right distance, but it is absolutely pitch black out on the lake. There is no light pollution, so picking the tops of the trees across the lake during the day was pointless, as we just couldn’t see them, to use as markers. So to over come this problem we set down bank sticks, and used them for marker in the swim so that we cast from the exact same spot every time. As long as the cast was straight the other two rods were easier to get into place as all three rods were fished out at the spot’s in front of the swim. Very tight together and the width of the area was only about 4ft so it had to be spot on. Now they were on the spot’s I sat down and went WOW 4 fish to 34lb 8oz , this was turning into a cracking winter session and I just didn’t think it could get better, but it did!!
My next four fish just blew me away entirely. Especially when the weather decided to go into the minus numbers! The lowest we recorded was -5, freezing cold I worked hard and the four fish that graced the bank for me were just unbelievable. I mean the first mirror of the session gave me a good 30 minute fight in utter freezing conditions so I knew from the off this was a good fish, and as much as I didn’t want to think that common earlier, it was in the back of my mind and I was really apprehensive that I could lose what felt a really big fish. It stayed very deep right up until it got very close to the front of the swim, but I won the battle, first Mirror of the session went 48lb on the scale’s and I was left a little speechless for a while.
Wow huge mirror and once the picture were done and rods back out, it was a huge feeling and one that I was very happy to have shared with my Dad, who was just as happy as I was, and we did jump around a little like small kids. But I don’t care what we looked like, angling is fun and about sharing special moments together, and that was a very special one.
With not much time to digest what had just happened my ATT’s burst into life again, this time with a mirror of 26lb, then two hours later again the alarm’s sounded and I banked a cracking 30lb mirror. I was now on 7 fish for the session, the blood was pumping and the thought’s were what a session so far. If I didn’t have anything else I would be going home happy, I mean winter, and I had had 7 fish to 48lb, surely it couldn’t get better could it??
Oh boy did it get better, the ATT’s screamed a tune we all like to hear and I was clearly bent into another big fish, how big would soon become apparent. Again a very hard fight but after a 25 minute battle but I finally won and in the net was a huge unit of a mirror!!
As we had done for every fish so far we made sure everything was zeroed and sorted before we weight the fish, we lifted the fish in the sling and the needle went straight round to 49lb!!! Oh I was dancing a jig, gave my dad a huge cuddle and hand shake and a “well done son” from him and the photo’s were taken. Releasing the mirror back into her watery home, the buzz was massive and it took a few hours to calm down a little, before I was back into another fish.
The commons seemed to have again taken a liking to the wicked whites pastoral yellow popups I was using and I soon had a 34lb common on the bank. The cold finally got a hold of the lake and it started to freeze up a little, so for a day and a bit the fish shut off totally. We worked hard and it paid off with two more fish a 25lb Ghosty common and a lovely scaled Mirror of 19lb 8oz.
What a winter session and it just goes to show that sometimes just one really hard trip can give you the kick in the right direction, and make you make the right changes to your angling. Don’t sit on your hands when out on the bank, work and change things until you get the bite, don’t be afraid to move if that’s what required, and above all never go home with regret, thinking that you could of done more. Again although this trip went right for me in every way, there was never a time I wasn’t watching the water, or making slight rig changes or bait colour changes, which allowed me to come home and know I did all I could and tried everything I could to maximise the fish landed. The four lost fish was another learning curve when using barbless hooks, and I again learnt something new. Always try and learn from everything you do and you will find catching those fish all the much easier on your next trip.
If you want a venue that is full of surprises then Brocard Large is definitely that venue. I would like to thank Mark Slade and Frank for the great hospitality all week and to Ashima Tackle UK, Castaway PVA, MAD baits, Carp Particles UK and Advanced Technology Tackle for such great products which enabled me to have such a great winter session, know those products wouldn’t let me down in whatever the weather chucked at us.
Still buzzing now and a winter session to remember for a long time. Get out there and do it guys, the rewards are there to be had. Tight lines