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Nov 2014 by Roy Wretham
My son in law Nick Wood and I had been to the French carp venue Laroussi as part of an exclusive booking on 3 previous occasions. Nick had caught well, with 14 Carp to over 50 pounds on the first occasion. I on the other hand had to be content with a sturgeon on each occasion apart from the last when during the last night I must have had the smallest carp in the lake at 3 pounds! With these memories in mind we set off for Portsmouth and the overnight ferry to Caen on the 14 November 2014...
The journey was brought to a halt by an over turned car on the A3 and the resulting grid lock around Guildford. Having left with a 5 hour window for a 2 hour journey we were not too bothered. However after 2 and ½ hours to cover 2 miles some anxiety crept into the fishing tactics discussions we were passing the time with. The maps were out and we were calling home to check on the internet for any information when the cork came out of the bottle neck and we poured down the A3 to check in at Brittany Ferries with 10 minutes to spare.
Once on board a nice meal and a couple of pints just left the small matter of the beer supplies, before some shut eye. At the shop we couldn’t find any. On asking we were directed to the only 2 slabs of Lager on Board. As we are both bitter drinkers this was not good news. (We later remembered being caught out by this on the first trip!!)
A few hours disturbed sleep (madam turn the torch off I am not your Husband), a couple of coffees later we disembarked and followed the Sat Nav to Laroussi with only one pretty route diversion from the main drag. We realised on the way back this was to avoid a second Toll charge. Having diverted to Super U for essentials – Guinness, Desperados, and Merlot – we rolled up to the famous gates to find Mehdi with mobile to ear as usual.
Pleasantries exchanged we set off on a tour of the lake which was looking as inviting as ever with Mehdi telling us about the work that had been done since our last visit. A few fish were seen topping about 50 yards out in front of Le Bouleau, Le Chene and La Plage. We were told that the previous week had been very hard with few fish showing until this morning. As we were the only booking we settled as planned to double up in Le Chene that would give us access to the main body of the lake.
Mehdi, when asked, advised us to have 2 rods on the far gravel bar at about 100 yards and one rod on the near bar at about 60 yards as we had seen the fish topping in this area. The party blend we had ordered to be used little and often with a few boillies over the top.
Bivvies, field kitchen and home comforts in place we decided some rest was needed, therefore we just found the gravel bars, marked up the rods and cast out the first hook baits of the week along with a scattering of a few freebies. We left exploration of the swim until daylight next morning.
I had made up 2 rods with a helicopter set ups off of 5 feet of lead core with a 3 ounce distance lead. Original rigs were 8 inch fluro D rigs with small swivel on the D size 6 curvy shank, 15mm Crafty catcher boillies balanced with yellow korda plastic dumbbells.
I had seen Mehdi’s winter tips video and made up the other rod with a 2 ounce flat pear in line off of 2 feet of lead core with a 5 inch heavy braid rig size 8 curvy shank knotless knot with a 12mm yellow Northern special dumbbell wafter in a small solid bag with 1,3 and 4mm pellets and 5ml of Tesco finest Hemp oil.
Nick was with 3 helicopter setups off of 6 feet of lead core.
The night was punctuated by butt slapping bobbins but with no contact on strike. Noticing on occasion these came in sequence across some of the rods we put these down to passing sturgeon as on our previous visits.
The following morning we had a good session with marker floats to give us the layout of the swim and I lined up a spot on the far bar in front and one on the near bar but in front of La Plage. Baits were cast to the spots and 10 spombs of party blend with the addition of a few chopped boillies and hand full of krill ground bait were put over each.
The rod with the solid bag was launched somewhere in between the other 2 at about 100-110yards range.
Nick similarly lined up 2 spots on the far bar and 1 on the near bar
At 7 am on Monday morning the Delkim signalled a steadier bobbin rise from the solid bag and a healthy bend in the rod occurred after strike with line taken at a good rate. After a 15 minute fight with several close to eruptions, and some tangled lines, a 56 pound Sturgeon was tailed and slid onto the mat.
There was a deformity of one of the pectoral fins and I think I have caught this fish on 2 of the previous visits and at a similar weight. Pictures taken, the fish was held upright in the water until recovered enough to swim away.
We persisted with these spots leaving the rigs in place for either 12 or 24 hours topping up occasionally with a few spombs of the spod mix. Various flavours and sizes of boillie were tried along with KD and hinged stiff rigs.
It was difficult to sit on your hands when the Delkims sounded and the bobbins rose to slap the rod when the false runs occurred as they did throughout the week, day and night. We were both striking occasionally and only on one occasion each did we feel that momentarily some contact was made with a fish.
On Friday Morning I met Mehdi at the hut and chatted about the week so far, he suggested some changes to the rig in the solid bag.
Returning to the swim I prepared 2 rigs with the changes that Mehdi had suggested and one of the other helicopter rods was changed to the solid bag rig. A bag was prepared and dropped into the margins to check that the change had the desired effect.
The 2 bags were destined for the far bar in front, one at about 100 yards and the other a little farther at 115 yards. At this time a breeze from right to left got up and I had to cast and make up bags 3 times for each rod until I was satisfied with the placement as I was going to leave these alone until we left.
There were false runs on both rods during the night but I sat on my hands and left them alone only adjusting the bobbins afterwards.
At 7am Nick and I drank coffee, chatted about the week and started to pack up and so it was that at 8 am I was in the back of the Zafirra struggling with the bed chairs when there were a few Delkim blips from the rig 115 yards out. Another false alarm I thought but on inspection the bobbin raised slowly to the top then dropped back 3 or 4 inches then pulled back up and the rod tip curved and I struck to a steady plodding pull.
Managing to steadily gain line there was an eruption on the surface at a distance of about 60 yards and the fish took off at a faster but steady rate. By this time I was tingling and hoping it would not shake out the barbless size 8!! The fight proceeded with steady pulls taking line against the clutch, and me nervously regaining line until there was a violent swirl around 10 yards out and we realised it was not the 3 pounder of the last visit. The fish took off to the left under my other rods but I managed to get it back under control and Nick was ready with the net and at the second attempt managed to scoop it in. What a tight fit. We both looked at each other and shook our heads. What a beast. Neither of us had seen the likes of it before.
I managed to get the beast on the mat and into the weight retainer sling that was only just big enough. The hook hold was in the upper scissors and on inspection the hook had passed right through to the outside, so I cut the braid to release it. Phew!!
The fox scales bottomed out at 66 pounds!! We tried doubling up 2 sets but that didn’t work. Both said 66 pound. Seemed like a good idea at the time, might have worked with mechanical scales. We have got to get this weighed we both agreed and Nick set off to get help from Mehdi while I stood in the water with the fish in the sling. After what seemed like an eternity they both arrived with scales and after some heaving and puffing the final weight was to be 71 pounds and 12 ounces.
The fish had a width that was thicker that my forearm. This and the weight made holding the fish for the pictures difficult. It was also still a little gloomy so the pictures are not the best but we are anglers not photographers!!
The fish had a few large scales at the tail end on both sides, a small red mark on the left of the face and a cut across the fin on the left side. Mehdi said it was one of the 2 largest in the lake but had no name. Probably stocked about 2004 at 30 pounds.
The fish was returned uneventfully and invited to return to the bank on another day.
The capture had put us a bit behind with our pack up but we couldn’t hurry now as we savoured the moment. Mehdi met us on the way out and was buzzing. We were stunned.
It wasn’t until we sat on the ferry that the full story of the capture evolved. 3 previous trips with only the smallest carp in the lake captured, just making checkin at the ferry, only one other fish out in the week despite near perfect conditions, lots of false takes to knock confidence and the most worrying of all we had previously struggled to make the ferry back on time so I had booked the later one and if I hadn’t, the rods would have been out of the water before 8am!!!!
Sometimes I think it is just your turn so keep at it till the end.
I would just add a thank you to Mehdi who, on a previous trip, spent a long time teaching me to cast so that I could drop a bait on a showing fish that I could not reach. He did not leave me till I could cast to the fish. He knows the lake like the back of his hand and suggested the winning formula on this occasion.
For more information on Laroussi follow the link - Carp Fishing in France