I can put my holidays into three categories:
- Fun times where hoped-for fishing did not happen… for whatever reason.
- Full-on fab fishing and beers with mates in Ireland, Denmark, Holland etc.
- Forgettable breaks, alright at the time but firmly at the back of the memory.
This spring I trawled the internet to find a perfect blend for a week away in late June, far from the crazy concrete city I work in and the lively seaside town I live in.
Sun plus a pool or nearby coast would be vital for the missus. Fishing – quality fish and nobody else around, for me. A few local places of interest and places to eat would be handy so we felt we’d been abroad!
Angler’s Mail – the magazine I edit – showcases all kinds of interesting locations, mainly in the UK, that offer tempting fishing breaks. But having independently booked cross-Channel trips to rural France several times, that was my first choice for this year’s early-summer escape.
Nothing opens when you expect in France – as regular visitors will know – but other than that the slow-paced country’s a winner for most busy British anglers, if you ask me. Having travelled the world over the years, I’ve grown to love France. It has hidden treasures that can keep you going back.
After several evenings web-surfing I stumbled across Mas Bas, 22rd of 35 venues listed alphabetically on the list of Angling Lines venues and deeper down on the map due to its most southerly location. But if you demand sunshine, and my solar-powered other half certainly did, travelling a fair distance south is your safer bet.
So… sun? Tick!
Swimming pool? Tick – a real bonus!
Quality fish and not just carp? Tick.
Nobody else around? Tick… I saw you could get the main lake exclusively, and the venue’s been low on bookings anyway for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. I know the competitive French fishing holiday market has been slower since the recession hit angling.
And without a long boring holiday diary, to the week…
Aside from nearly crashing in a torrential deluge and at one of too many roundabouts (shouldn’t have set the Sat Nav to ‘Avoid toll roads’), me and the other half thoroughly enjoyed a happy, relaxing escape.
As with any foreign venue, it can help if you can have some basic communication with the owners when you arrive. In this case there were no worries – the farmer Gilles could not only speak decent English but he speaks the international language of angling too, and his equally welcoming partner Sharon hails from the East End of London.
Of 34 chunky carp, almost half were the lake’s ‘original’ commons, some of which were at Mas Bas when it was formerly a family restaurant with a swimming lake. A couple of grass carp, and a few other species including a zander, came by design too.
My biggest mirrors, 41 lb 4 oz and 43 lb 13 oz, arrived early in the week – first in the evening and second when I re-started the next morning! Those proved to be the best times – breakfast and dinner time – as daytime temperatures soared to 35 Celsius. And with this being a trip with a partner who’s no serious angler, I didn’t fish all night, instead sleeping at sensible times, in a proper bed!
I’m no ultracult carp angler, and rarely fish for bigger ones back home. Although my magazine’s news pages show paint a different picture on a national and international scale, a mid-20 is actually still a big fish near where I live, so Mas Bas’s average size was very satisfying.
Most of my carp fell to Dynamite Baits’ The Crave 20mm boilies with a regular scattering of boilies or pellets, with simple 3 oz leads on safety clips and standard carp gear. Nothing beyond what would catch on most English waters.
Of course, Mas Bas has bait available to buy at reasonable prices, and offers tackle hire – I was grateful to use owner Gilles’ giant carp cradle and sturdy weighing tripod. He told me some anglers come gunned up with sonar and bait boats but to me, on an intimate water with depths from a foot to 7 ft, that’s hardly necessary. But each to his or her own, I say.
One of my early fish, just under 30 lb, took a scrap of boilie under a pole float with 5 lb line and size 14 down the edge – that arm-aching battle was a lesson to step up.
I even had a 36-pounder on raw French garlic!! Yes, a hair-rigged peeled single clove. I’ve heard people suggest the magical powers of this stinky stuff, beyond a bit of garlic salt or oil in cheesepaste, so it was fun to prove it works.
Given I was in a ‘what the hell’ holiday mood, I tried a hair-rigged prune off a tree too – they look just like 20mm boilies. It brought a run eventually, but the fish came off. Next time, eh?
So this picturesque, well-run venue totally fitted the original holiday brief. Spot-on, and I’m keen to return. Mas Bas suits couples as well as mixed groups and families too.
Before this sounds like an advert, I did pay for my holiday. And I’ll enjoy seeking my next one whenever that may be!