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Articles about VauxAn Autumn Week at Vaux
Oct 2016 by Mike Linstead
Early autumn is one of my favourite times of year to head over to fish for Carp in France as the sport can be quite spectacular at times, as the fish prepare to bulk up for the colder months.
Having been presented the opportunity to fish at Vaux in mid-September I was inevitably filled with excitement, as this intimate little pool has a reputation for holding some really special fish.
Making my way down through the French countryside I arrived in a peaceful corner of rural Brittany, a short drive from the historic town of Fougeres, and to the lake where I would be joining fellow field tester Paul Cooper and his wife Dianne for the week.
We were met by Vaux’s owners Chas and Josie Cook and also their very friendly dog Buddy on a perfectly still, warm, late summer day.
The lake glowed in the afternoon light and looked superb, as we all stood on the dam wall and mused over the plans for the week.
Chas gave us the guided tour and filled us in on the previous weeks captures and the spots and methods where some particularly hefty fish – up to 56lb- had been taken.
After the pleasantries were concluded myself and Paul had a quick discussion before setting up in our agreed spots.
Paul, who was mainly only fishing the days, would take the first swim on the lake which had access to the deeper water of the damn wall.
I, on the other hand, would be mainly fishing the nights and the few hours either side of darkness, given my filming commitments. That meant I opted to head to the centre of the lake, where I could fish in the deeper water whilst also having a good view of the shallows.
Settling in on the first evening it was wonderful to be under the stars again and surrounded by total peace and tranquillity. I must have drifted off shortly before midnight and was awoken by the sound of the nearby church bells signalling 7am.
That first night in the open always acts as the best sleeping pill and a good night’s sleep after travelling the day before was very welcome.
Off the Mark
Paul cast out just after 7am and, as we sat enjoying a coffee and talked tactics, a huge fish crashed in the middle of the lake in front of him.
Wasting no time he instantly wound a rod in and flicked a bait to the showing fish. 20 minutes later the indicator locked up and his bit of opportunism delivered the first bite of the week.
As always in these circumstances the camera wasn’t immediately to hand so, by the time it was set up, the fight was almost over as Paul slipped the net under a beautifully marked Vaux mirror carp.
At 26lb it wasn’t a monster by Vaux standards, but it was a stunning fish and the first of the session so we were both pleased to have one on the bank so early.
Capturing the Scene
Sunday slipped by far too quickly as I spent the day milling around the lake and surrounding woodland with the camera, filming the incredible array of wildlife that call the lake home.
Red squirrels, numerous birds of prey, song birds, Kingfishers, Dippers and Wagtails all went about their daily routine and, in amongst catching a glimpse of one or two on film, I was fortunate to film and observe some of the wonderful carp in the shallows.
It was a scene almost reminiscent of those that I first watched as a boy at Redmire Pool on the revered series A Passion for Angling. The carp, quite passive to my presence, sat and enjoyed the late summer sun as it’s warmth penetrated the shallow water.
One fish in particular looked truly enormous amongst all the others and I later identified it as one that was last caught at over 48lb.
With plenty of great film already in the bag the focus returned on trying to get a few fish on dry land!
Monday was a slow and lethargic day, as the fish adjusted to a recent change in water temperature and Tuesday morning slid into view with an eerie monochrome mist on the lake, before a dazzling sunrise burned off the morning chill and set the scene for a truly atmospheric dawn.
The sun was short lived however as the forecast was for overcast conditions.
Nicking a Bite
As the light levels were not conducive to filming I decided a spot of stalking was in order, as I had observed some fish close in on one or two occasions.
Prepping one or two spots in the margins with a handful of broken SLK boilies from DNA Baits, I sat back and observed as a small group of fish slide into view.
None of them looked particularly switched on to the feed but every now and then one tipped up for a few fleeting moments, to steal a morsel of the free offerings, before hastily departing into thin air.
Feeling there was enough of an opportunity to nick a fish, I quietly lowered a short rig with half a 14mm SLK bottom bait, fished with a 3oz in-line lead, primed to drop off on the take.
From past experience I know that it can really pay dividends to give the stalking approach a good go, as on quite a number of previous occasions, a bonus fish or two has been taken in double quick time – if a good dose of stealth has been applied.
Bedding myself into the undergrowth I watched the slack line flick and lift from the rod tip as I fought the urge to ease the growing numbness in my legs.
As pins and needles began to set in I glimpsed a really big mirror glide effortlessly into view before sitting directly above the bait.
Willing into it to tilt over the spot and make a mistake I sat there for what felt like an eternity, hardly daring to breathe, for fear it would sense my presence.
Sadly this fish was no fool and must have figured something wasn’t quite right because no sooner had it appeared than it ghosted away again.
Cursing my luck I sat back again but within a minute another fish appeared from the right. I couldn’t make out it’s size but the vortex from it’s tail wafting a few inches beneath the surface film told me that this one was interested in what was on offer, before the line pinged taught and the screaming clutch confirmed that it was indeed in a feeding mood and had tripped up on my little trap.
As is often the case when fishing in this manner, the fight was short-lived but explosive. There is no room for error in these circumstances and I had to play the fish hard as it made every effort to evade capture.
After a few heart stopping moments a beautifully proportioned common slid over the draw string and into my grasp. I was off the mark.
I quickly grabbed a few moments of film and a couple of stills against the perfect backdrop of the lake before a shout from Chas informed me that I was required in Paul’s swim as he had notched his second fish of the week.
Hastily re-organising my kit I made my way to see what Paul had caught and was greeted with the sight of an immaculate 32lb mirror.
Two fish in less than 20 minutes was a welcome relief to my filming schedule!
Contrary to what Chas and the previous anglers had experienced, Paul had taken this fish in around the same area as his first fish; mid-way out in the swim fished into silt on a Quality Baits Squid and Orange bottom bait.
Normally it is the far margin spots and pop-ups that are the undoing of the majority of the fish, however for some reason we were experiencing the opposite so far.
A Change in Behaviour
The change in behaviour had extended into the evening as the spectacular show of carp crashing that Chas said normally happens come last light, had so far failed to materialise.
It’s funny how with all the will in the world sometimes you just simply cannot account for the carp’s sudden switch in behaviour and this trip was no exception!
We spent the next couple of days altering our tactics to try and suss out what might fool the fish. But, whilst it was quiet on the fish front, we were able to enjoy the perfect surroundings and also the facilities that the house has to offer.
With a very large living room and fully equipped with British Sky and a brand new LCD TV, it would have been easy to have a bit of R&R and enjoy some down time.
However I was determined to do battle with one of Vaux’s biggies so persevered.
It was whilst filming in the shallows over the course of my trip that I stumbled upon what would eventually account for my best catch.
During the week I had primed one or two spots in the shallows with a few whole and halved SLK bottom baits in an attempt to localise the fish, so I could get some close-up shots of them feeding for the camera.
One or two of the spots were cleaned out nearly every time that I paid them a visit but a couple were being ignored for a couple of days before the bait vanished.
This gave me the idea of baiting a spot in the middle of my swim, into the silt and reserving a handful of both 14mm and 18mm bottom baits in a tub of lake water, allowing them to wash out for a couple of days.
As the week neared it’s end I had all the film I needed in the bag of the house, facilities and surroundings, I just needed another decent fish to round of the film.
What a Wash Out!
As darkness crept over the water on the final night I flicked out one of the washed out 18mm bottom baits to the mid-water spot and decided to drop a small back lead off the rod tip, to ensure there was no line penetrating through the swim.
I hoped the combination of an innocuous hook bait and the lack of line pressure would be enough to deliver one last bite.
As I was settling down to catch up on a bit of social media on my phone at around 11pm (the WIFI in the house stretches as far as the middle swim which was a real luxury!) I had a single bleep on one of the rods.
It wasn’t until I realised that it was the rod with the back lead that I began to get excited as it was almost certainly not a line bite.
I then watched as the indicator locked up, the rod lurched forward and the alarm screamed into life as a carp had been fooled by my final trick.
The battle was savage, easily one of the most fraught and tense that I have had in all of my year’s carp fishing.
It wasn’t hard to tell that this fish had some weight behind it and was obviously a seasoned fighter. It twisted and turned as it worked hard to wrap me up through my other lines, before charging up and down the margins and back into the middle of the lake.
After an age, I could eventually feel I was gaining the upper hand so flicked the headlamp on to get my bearings. Seeing the fish roll on top confirmed it wasn’t small which set my heart racing as I uttered a few silent prayers for the hook to hold.
It duly obliged as the fish raised it’s head to the surface, took a greedy gulp of air and was led into the waiting net.
What a rush of adrenaline! My trick had worked and caught out a really good fish.
Glancing into the mesh my prize sulked beneath me.
It was a broad framed mirror with a really thick set of shoulders and the kind of fish I’d journeyed all this way for.
I was brimming with excitement as I prepared the unhooking, weighing and filming kit, ready to document the moment.
On the scales it was agonizingly close to a 40 at 39lb 2oz but I couldn’t have cared less, as it was reward for a huge amount of effort on both mine and Paul’s behalf.
Had Paul not taken the two fish in the silty area and had I not observed the behaviour over the baited area in the shallows, I doubt whether I would have caught this fish.
Allowing the fish a few moments rest, I released it back into the gloom and immediately set about getting another bait on the spot.
Far from content with catching this one, I wanted to see if my theory was a fluke or whether I’d cracked the method to deceive them.
An hour or so later I knew without question that it had worked as the same rod ripped off again, this time the fight was no less explosive, but it was a small, angry common that had tripped up on the washed out bait.
I quickly slipped the fish back and re-positioned the rod, as I had only a few precious hours remaining in which to make the most of this opportunity.
At shortly before 5am the washed-out bait was away again, as another equally annoyed common was the victim of my ruse.
Three fish in the final few hours of the session, sometimes you just can’t make it up!
It just goes to show though that in fishing you should never, ever give up and keep working hard until the last minute.
By sharing our experience and observations, those last few hours yielded some very hard fought captures.
A Great Week
Looking back at the catch reports before our trip, we can certainly count ourselves unlucky.
The usual returns for a week on Vaux far surpass what we achieved but then I’m reminded of the time-honoured adage that “it’s called fishing, not catching.”
There are some wonderful fish to be caught from Vaux and the surroundings are certainly some of the more pleasant I’ve experienced during my adventures on French soil.
Chas and Josie went out of their way to make us feel welcome, as they do to all anglers, so I can thoroughly recommend their little corner of carp fishing heaven to anyone.
Whether you want to pit your wits against their really big carp, or just take the family for a relaxing, secluded week away in the Brittany countryside, this place is certainly worth some serious consideration.