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Carp Fishing in France
As carp fishing gets ever more popular each year, so more anglers look to Europe for their fishing and in particular - France. Most of the waters in the UK which hold fish over 35lb are either exclusive syndicate waters or cost a small fortune to fish. France then, can offer the chance of large carp for everybody. A word of caution however, not all French lakes hold giant carp, many struggle to produce a 20 and they are not all easy either. The photos in the UK Carp Magazines give the false impression that you just have to turn up and cast out and you'll haul in 40 pounders, this just isn't the case.
So how does one go about planning that first trip to France?
For the less adventurous or for those with limited time, the numerous Organised trips on offer are a good place to start. These are basically divided into two categories the All-inclusive and the Guided trips. The former will generally pick you up in the UK, usually at a ferry port, and transport you to either a private day ticket water or one of the more renowned circuit waters, such as the Orient, Chantecoq or St. Cassien. They will in most cases also supply your food and bait as well.
Alternatively you could try a guided or accompanied tour that will simply take you to a water and point you in the right direction. The rest is up to you. The guide will generally have good knowledge of destination water and will be able to help you choose a good swim.
These are the simplest options, as everything is taken care of, all you have to do is concentrate on your fishing. Check out those available on this site as we work with one or two such firms running trips to some of the better and most famous French waters including St. Cassien and Chateau Lake.
A second option is the Self-Drive session. Here you can book on one of a number of French day ticket waters, such as those lakes we represent. These waters are well run with good stocks of fish and secure premises, we vet them closely to make sure they have the fish and facilities advertised. All have toilets and showers on offer. Some will have onsite bars and restaurants too. These waters are a sound place to start as your ticket will include night fishing and in all cases the use of the onsite facilities. As many of you will know night fishing is still not permitted in many areas of France. They take the risk out of the do-it-yourself holiday and because you book prior to your trip, you are guaranteed a swim.
Otherwise you can pick from one or more of the many hundreds of public fisheries or rivers in France. Check out books like the Beekay guide to 2000 Carp Waters for example to find a suitable venue. This last option is perhaps more risky as you never know whether the chosen venue is going to produce, or even whether you will be able to get a decent swim.
From the UK you have a number of alternatives for getting to France. By far the fastest is the Hovercraft or more modern Seacat from Dover to Calais. These boneshaker machines will get you and you vehicle across the channel in around 35 minutes, but both are often subject to cancellation in rough seas.
Secondly you have the good ol' ferry. There are several companies operating. SeaFrance, Sealink, P&O, Brittany Ferries & Stenna. All depends which ferry port you travel from. They are slightly dearer than the hovercraft or Seacat, but less prone to cancellation, especially in the summer.
Finally there is the Channel tunnel. It is the most expensive option but very fast and convenient and hardly ever suffers from delays.
Fishing in France
If you come with us you don't need a licence to fish on most of the waters we run. If you do we'll sort it out for you. If you venture out to France on your own here are a few tips on the licence you'll need.
As I said, on the private day ticket waters these are normally not necessary as they will be on private land, or the owner will be able to supply them. To fish private waters such as ours you are not obliged, unlike the UK, to get a rod licence.
For fishing on the public waters, such as St. Cassien you will need your "Carte de Pêche". These can be purchased in the bars, tabacs or tackle shops near to your chosen water. Again if you use our tours this will be arranged for you. You will pay for the National fiscal stamp at around 150-200 francs, valid for the whole of France for one year starting in January, and the local "department" regional stamp 100-150 francs. If you change regions during your trip or you return to fish later in the year in another region, the National stamp will still be valid, so don't pay it twice. You will only need to buy the regional one. During the summer months you can get a "Carte de Vacances" which is cheaper but only valid for the holiday period.
You may be asked to pay extra for some waters which are controlled by local clubs and fishing associations (AAPP). This is particularly the case if they allow night fishing on the water. The local tackle shop will be able to help. All this will set you back around £50.
In most of the smaller waters your regular UK carp tackle will be fine. Personally I use Bruce Ashby Mirage rods in a 3lb test curve and Diawa Emblem 5000 reels. This tackle has been adequate in 90% of the places I have fished. On the larger reservoirs, where it is necessary to row baits out, the larger reels such as the Diawa Emblems or Shimano Biomasters are indispensable, however on the smaller waters reels such as the Shimano baitrunners 8010 etc are more than adequate.
Line wise I very rarely go lighter than 15lb BS. I use Berkeley big game or Diawa Sensor which I find very strong and abrasion resistant. I'm a fan of Drennan hooks especially the Continental boilie hook and the Long Shank Nailors in sizes 6 to 1 depending on the swims and baits used. I usually use a size 4.
It is worth bringing everything you're likely to need tackle wise with you, as French tackle shops don't usually have a very good choice. Many of the large towns now have branches of the Fishing tackle supermarkets such as Pacific Pêche or Monidal Pêche or general sports goods supermarkets such as Decathlon and GoSports. They usually have a good supply of basic carp gear if you should run out. Some well known marques of tackle and ready-made boilies are often cheaper than the UK. So it's worth a look should you come across one.
Other items that I would say were extremely useful, or on some waters indispensable, are a boat and an echo sounder. Many waters require baits to be rowed out and particles to baited at distance. Where it is allowed a small boat is a real boon. A word of caution however, life jackets are essential, every year anglers are drowned on waters like the Der - so do be careful!!! An echo sounder is very useful for finding out what you have in front of you and is much faster and more precise than a marker rod.
French carp are getting more and more clued up on bait, while a few years back they were anything but fussy over the bait, now with the growing use of food baits by both English and French carpers it's a different story. I used off the self ready-mades by Nash, Mistral, Hutchinson and Starmer for years and it is fair to say they caught everywhere I've used them. Now however on the pressured waters you'd be struggling to catch as well as the guys on a quality bait. I would suggest taking fresh bait, even though the cost is higher. This should be air dried before the trip or frozen and transported in cool boxes. Many of the venues we promote have freezer facilities available (check this out before you go). Any of the main bait firms will be able to sort you out a good bait. Go for firms like Mainline, Nutrabaits, Carp Company or Nash etc.
I will generally use trout pellets as my main bulk attractor - carp love them and due to their high oil content and strong smell, they pull the fish in from a long way off. They represent an economical and effective bait that keeps well (six-eight months or so).
Particle wise cooked maize, hemp and parti-blend seed mixes seem to work in most waters I've fished. Particles such as maize, wheat and groats can be purchased very cheaply at the "Cooperative Agricole" usually located close to grain silos, or in rural supermarkets in 5 kgs bags.
How much should you take?
This is a question I get asked a lot. I would say 10 -15 kilos of boilies is ample for a week's fishing. As I mentioned ready-mades are very practical as you can store them in your car until you need them, just taking out what you need, but the fresh bait certainly has the edge, so would be my preference where it can be applied. I would say a 25 kilo sack of Trout Pellets and some hemp on top would give you all you need to catch well on the majority of waters. On some of the larger reservoirs greater quantities of bait is required but this is the exception rather than the rule. On some of the smaller waters a 5kg bag lasts me a month.
Many French waters suffer from nuisance species such as crayfish or Poisson chats. The worst are the horrible "Poisson Chats". These small catfish will rip a boilie to bits in seconds. Even extra hard baits will rarely last for more than 30 minutes. The use of braided hook links in waters infested with these pests is a waste of time. They can tie the whole rig into a knotted mess in no time. I have used Amnesia with a lot of success, but will be trying the new ESP bristle also, this coming season.
Tigernuts are a good alternative to boilies as they generally don't attract poisson chats, or as I have done on a number of waters, put a boilie and a tiger nut on the hair together. If the nuisance fish succeeds in getting your boilie it hopefully still leaves the nut in place, so you don't spend all night sitting behind baitless hooks..
Crayfish too can be a real pain. They can cut braided hairs and elastic bait bands and are experts at removing the boilie stop and pinching the bait. Super glueing it in place is a good tip.
Another trick if you want to stick with boilies is to net up your hook baits. This works very well and keeps them at bay for long enough to allow the carp to find your baits. I used a variety of nets, either thick hairnet, wedding veil, mozzy netting etc. I then glug the baits before tying to the rig. Click here to read an article describing how.
As far as approach and tactics goes, well a carp is a carp even if they smell of garlic over here! Your normal tactics, if they work at home will certainly work on French waters. The most important thing as always in carp fishing is to include a good measure of confidence in your tackle bag.