A first time guide for French carp fishing

During the winter months I do the winter show circuit with my own “A” Baits stand or helping out friends. It never ceases to surprise me how many people would love to go to France but feel a bit intimidated by it! The channel tunnel train comes out on the motorway and in most cases nearly all the driving is done on these, there is very little to worry about driving on the wrong side of the road. I never begrudge paying the toll charges on these as you are guaranteed a great road surface and very light traffic. Twenty euros will take you into the Champaign area where there are hundreds of fantastic lakes with only a simple 4 hour drive. You will need headlight deflectors if travelling at night and the French driving laws state you need; high viz vests, a warning triangle and a medical kit.

France does of course contain lakes that hold truly massive fish but if you are targeting fish over 60lbs you will need to fish a lake that contains a number of them and these are exceptional venues rather than the norm. As a rule I would say that the fish average 10-15lbs bigger on average but they are not necessarily easier to catch. In fact some swims are occupied constantly for 9 months of the year and are under considerable pressure. I have been crossing the channel for 15 years now and have definitely blanked on more than one occasion but on the flip side of this I have caught 6 forties in a day before!

French carp

One of 6 forties caught in a day. Catches like these are very rare indeed but can happen!

Drive and survive trips are probably the most common. You book your week and make your own way there and generally sort out your own food. Other lakes will offer food packages and some will even offer coaches to get you there. For a first trip I would recommend taking your car, you will get a better taste for it and I really like to have a look around the neighbourhood. The coach trips are all well and good but it can feel a bit like you are fishing a lake in England and you are also limited with the amount of tackle and bait you can take. Most English owned venues can be tackled with the same kit you use back home on your usual venues; I would recommend using the same bait as well. A mistake a lot of people make is in thinking they need to take a ton of bait and stock up with poor quality “euro boilies”. The fish can tell the difference and I don’t think the fishery owner will thank you for putting them in either. I very rarely put in any bait on the first day as tiredness can easily cloud your judgement, once it is in you cannot take it out again. A week is a long session if you are not used to it and it is a better strategy to build up the swim gradually by introducing just enough bait for a handful of fish. Also keep your eye on vacant swims and if the opportunity arises there is no harm in introducing a bit of bait in these for later on in the week or a bit of stalking.

Carping on French lakes

Groats and maize complement the small barrels nicely

When choosing your first water it might be a good idea to inquire if the water holds poisson chat. These are small almost blind catfish of a few ounces that can make your life difficult. They are common in France and swim in shoals that number thousands and they will decimate a bed of boilies in minutes. To get around them you need to mesh up your baits in tights or use plastic shrink wrap and feed very hard boilies very regularly. At the height of summer when they are most active the only way to fish is with particles in which they have little interest. Crayfish are a lesser problem but once again they can ruin your day if you are not prepared and the summer is when they are at their most annoying. If the lake contains crayfish it is always worth putting a stop behind your bait as they will slide it down the hair toward the hook. Pop-ups are often the first bait to be targeted by the crays as their eyes are on the top of their head looking up and they will have no problem dragging your rig down.

Carping on French lakes

Looks like a lot of gear for 3 people but a week is a long time if you are missing something you need!

As I said before there is really no need for specialist tackle but a bait boat can be an advantage if it is allowed and if the fishery has a boat, make sure you take a life jacket and make use of it. It can get very hot in France and sun block is a definite must take as is cold weather clothing; I have experienced -6 in June before! One thing that I cannot stress enough is care of fish on the bank. If the mat has been in the sun all day a bucket of cold water is not going to cool it down at all. Keep the mat in the shade and turn it over before wetting down, I have seen more than enough dead fish as I direct result of poor care. Make sure you have your scales and camera ready before removing the net from the water and get the fish back as soon as possible in really high temperatures.

France has some fantastic rivers and public lakes that can be fished very cheaply but these are best left until you have a few trips under your belt. The internet and Google earth are great for uncovering these and the various forums can be a goldmine of information.

To sum up I would recommend choosing a water with a good head of fish with some reasonable facilities. Try to find out as much information as you can and if you can talk to people who have been before.  Treat it as a holiday and do not expect too much at the start. A word of warning though, it can be very addictive!

Best wishes, Jason Rider




7 thoughts on “A first time guide for French carp fishing

  1. dror jerushalmi says:

    Me and my son are interested in guided fishing trip for 2-3 days. We are also interested in other outdoor activities if possible.
    What can you offer for April 2015?
    We are 25 and 53 years old.

    Best regards,


  2. David says:

    Hi there,

    I’m afraid we only do week long trips to France to any of our 37 venues. We do not offer guided trips either unfortunately. We do have venues that are suitable for relative beginners.

  3. Ricky barnes says:

    Hi there
    Me and a friend are looking to do a week session in France for our first trip off to you guys. Any recommendations on a ideal lake and how much bait roughly we have to bring for the week ?
    Also how much would it cost for a week session. And we’re looking to drive over and then once we get to the venue. We would be bivvy up on bankside once swim has been chosen .
    Looking to come around in June time.
    Kind regards.

  4. Hi Ricky

    Was it this June or next June you were looking for? I can then recommend a few venues and get you a quote.

    Bait recommendations really depend on the lake, however a single angler would perhaps take around 5-10kg of boilies, then the same of pellet and and same again of particle. But it really is down to personal preference and what works on each lake, we can advise on this once you know the venue you’re wanting to visit.


  5. Ricky barnes says:

    Hi heather
    I’m looking to go in January 2019 me and a friend would be driving over. Would prefer if we could bivvy up on the lake. Looking for a week’s worth of fishing.
    It will be our first time out to France. So I’m trying to get much info as I can to what I need to do /get before our visit.
    Also to find a runs water with some good head of carp.
    If you could get me a quote on a lake then that would be perfect
    Kind regards

  6. Ricky says:

    Hi heather
    We’re looking for the 5th of January 2019
    We’re after a runs water.
    For 1 week. Of fishing.
    2 anglers.
    If you could be able to give us a quote for that week that would be perfect.
    Kind regards.

  7. Hi Ricky

    It would be worth looking at Old Oaks. It is usually booked as a lake exclusive only, however, as you are looking to go in January we could do it as non-exclusive (so you may be sharing the lake with another group of up to 2 other anglers that week). It would cost £714.70 in total for two anglers for the week, this includes a car on Dover-Calais ferry crossings (however if you have a different vehicle or want a different crossing route just let me know and I can price that up instead).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

÷ three = three