The Tale of Two Match Anglers & A Carper In France

Many of you will have spoken to Linda over the phone when organising your holiday with us. She took a week out in July along with partner Bill and friend Alan to fish Lillybelle. Here’s a humorous round-up of the week’s highlights from Bill…

We arrived late morning after the overnight crossing from Portsmouth to Caen, to see Richard paddling about in the boat, thinning one of the lily beds down for us. After a brew and a walk around the beautiful 5.5 acre lake, we were itching to get the rods out and get started, so we chose our swims.

Alan was on his first French carp trip, and as a match angler of 50 or more years, he was anxious to get a bigger carp than he’d ever had, so we let him have first choice. Rich said that the fish seemed to have moved away from the cabin area, to the far bank, and Alan chose his spot smack in the middle of it, giving him options to fish straight across to the lilies by the island, or to the open water or lilies to the left, and a margin rod to his right, all good likely spots.

french carp fishing at Lillybelle

A favourite stalking spot from the week

Linda chose the swim to his right, leaving me the rest of the lake to choose from, and I opted for the corner to Linda’s right, as Rich said that the previous anglers best had come from here, fishing across to the end bank trees, (although mainly at night, as it had been hot).  Amazingly the lovely Linda did not believe I just wanted to be near to my beloved betrothed.

Alan had taken advantage of hiring the set of 3 Shimano rods and reels, along with the pod loaded with Delkims, which at 60euros for the week, works out very reasonable for anyone just doing an occasional carp trip. We sorted out his rigs, as he was new to this grappling hook and towing rope gear, and left him to it.

Linda got her new spod rod out and proceeded to try and build another island with the excellent particle feed that Rich supplies. There were so many flying spombs and spods flying that I swear I saw some locals running for cover.

lillybelle stalked mirror carp

Linda’s stalked mirror of 23lb

After settling into my spot, and putting some of my special fruit and nut boilies over to the corner trees, I settled back in the chair to enjoy the lovely late afternoon weather.  As a match angler as well, waiting is something I’m not good at, and on my now 4th carp trip with Linda, I had to remind myself that I’ve got to take my match head off, as in a five hour match, I’d be expecting quite a few fish, whereas here, you might have to wait a lot, lot longer. Afternoon turned to evening, and we’d not had a sign, then we noticed Alan stood up with rod bent, but not winding in. He’d hooked a good fish which had buried itself solid in the lilies way over to the left bank, so we left Linda with the rod, and went round to try and free it. It was shallow enough, (and warm enough) to wade in, in shorts, and try to rescue the fish, but once Alan got to his end rig, it wasn’t there anymore.  It never ceases to amaze me how fish can lose a hook and leave it in a snag.

The rest of the evening passed quietly, well apart from the frogs that is. Someone had advised Linda to take earplugs because of the noisy frogs, and I thought “that’s a bit racist”, but they’d meant the amphibians, which have conversations that get all the more raucous and excited as the evening wears on, turning into full blown arguments by dark. Which is when I retired to the lodge to make the evening meal “boeuf vieux pape”, or beef casserole with a good splash of local supermarket carton vin rouge. Linda arrived to tell me Alan had got the first fish, a chunky mirror or 21lb 4oz, which was his first ever twenty, so we celebrated dining al fresco next to the lodge, washed down with a very nice red. The facilities were better, and roomier, than I expected from the pictures, and Rich had put his skills to good use to convert the bunk into a double for me and Linda, and it proved to be surprisingly comfy too.

I returned to the corner peg to have one last cast, which went straight into the trees. WARNING! Do not drink and fish.

A dawn start, and with a mouth feeling like the bottom of the chicken coop, I was taking on water like a camel in the Sahara, but after a full English (better than a plein Francais), things were all right with the world.  Later that morning Alan’s Rahja topped with pink krill snowman rig (sounds like a proper carper now), hooked into a lump, which after a bit of heave-ho down the inside  to keep it out of the tree, turned out to be another giant leap for him in carp fishing, a thirty! In fact a 32lb mirror, so the veteran novice was showing us the way.

lillybelle carp lake in France

Alan – 32lb

It was however the only fish on this hot day, and after talking to Rich, it was generally agreed that night fishing should produce. Now I don’t do nights of any sort, and reckon they’re only for rats, cats, bats and tw*ts, but I gave it a go in the cabin swim after dinner, so I was only a few yards from bed.

Alan sat with me after dinner and I said I was staying here until I hooked a fish, and on that cue my alarm screamed and I hooked into something I still believe was bigger than any carp I’d ever hooked before, just a big heavy slow pull that just kept pulling, then it was gone, there was no weight on the line at all, no rig, all gone, a horrible feeling after 2 days of nothing, why had this happened? I’d tested my knots, it hadn’t snagged me, I was just left with a limp line hanging in the air and a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. Chateu neuf du pape! Nobody likes to see that happen! Linda’s always up for night games, and she stayed out as I wished her “bon nuit et bon peche” and retired. She had 2 doubles and a 22lb from the deep end, which is where they seemed to move to at night, spending the day at the shallower end, but in the cover of the lily beds.

scaley carp lillybelle french carp lake

Lovely scales on one of Linda’s night time captures

She then had a 19-6 in the morning, and I moved to the swim that I had earmarked even before leaving home, at the top right hand end of the island. At 12:30 in the middle of the day I broke my duck with 29lb mirror, and I was so pleased that I honestly really wasn’t bother that it wasn’t a 30, just satisfied that I’d done things right in the end and been rewarded. It was still hot during the day, and so I decided to fish on a bit after dinner, as long as I could see. At 10:15p.m. I cast my little 9ft stalking rod down to the edge of the lilies on my right, and as I was clipping the back-lead on, the line shot through my fingers, and I found I was attached to a lively linear mirror of 22lb that could have been one of the wildie original stock, as it was long and thin. As I’d dropped the back-lead somewhere in the dark, I just plonked the little rod and 1oz lead next to the lilies again, with the same rahja boilie on, and as I was putting the rod on the alarm, it was nearly pulled out of my hand, straight in again!  and another mirror of about 11lb was soon in the net. Then Linda had a 20 at 11:15, and carried on into the night, with another of 17lb. Alan stuck it out in his chair all night, and was rewarded with 4 fish between 13lb and 20lb, fair play to a guy in his 70’s. He also picked up another at 21lb after breakfast, so now had the first, biggest and most fish, which was winning him all three side bets!

french carping at Lillybelle fishing lake

An evening mirror for me weighing in at 32lb 8oz

All of Alan and Linda’s fish had come to 15mm Quest baits Rahja, which we have found seem to work everywhere we’ve been, and so I also chose to change from my fruity dip and nutty boilies to Rahja, and David’s fishy brown ones, not sure what they are exactly, but they pen and ink! I also glugged some in a fish oil dip, and this started to work. 6 fish came to these for me that day, up to a best 30lb 4oz, and I also lost a couple. So Rich had said the wise words,  just put a good bait in the right place, and you’ll catch, and now I was doing just that.

carp fishing in france at lillybelle bill 30lb

My tea-time mirror of 30lb 4oz

Linda fished through the night again, and I was rudely awoken from a Cotes de Rhone induced slumber to help weigh and photograph a 34lb 7oz mirror at a time when only prostitutes and burglers are abroad.

french carp at Lillybelle

Linda’s midnight mirror of 34lb 7oz

I managed another couple through the next day, while Linda had one and Alan was  fishless. Then I followed up with 4 on the last day , including a very nice looking 34lb 8oz, all falling to David’s stinky fish boilies, while Alan had 2 and Linda stalked a nice 23lber from the shallows.

So that was it, we only had 6 days, and after a terrible start, I ended up with the most fish, 14, but I was terribly disappointed to have lost 10 as well. Alan had 11, and Linda 10, but she had the biggest, and Alan had caught the first one, so honours were even.

carp fishing in france at Lillybelle


We reluctantly packed the van bleu with vin rouge and all the gear, and pondered what the week had left in our memories.

Well it’s beautiful, serene and secluded, and an ideal size, as you can move around to different types of swim, and it’s all very natural and fishy looking.

There’s  loads of wildlife around. We saw kingfishers regularly, buzzards were constantly calling overhead, and we even had a black kite visit one day. There are lots of dragonflies and damselflies flitting about.

The fish are superb, although I was a little disappointed that we never had a common, all mirrors, except for one ghostie, at 9-13, the only fish under double figures we had.

The accommodation and facilities are actually much better than the photos on the website appear.

Rich the part owner/bailiff is worth his weight in gold, and nothing is too much trouble, plus the bait he supplies is excellent.

So it was with heavy heart that we left, and I’m sure better carp anglers will continue to be rewarded with good catches over the coming years, and the fish are still young and lean, so still have plenty of growing to do.

Would I go back?  Bien sur, absoloument!

For more information on Lillybelle follow the link – Carp Fishing Holidays in France




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