Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Grey Lady of Lac Serreire

The Grey Lady of Lac Serreire
Duncan Charman and Chris Petter

When my fishing buddy and fellow Nash Ambassador Chris Petter asked if I was interested in an all expenses paid trip to France to celebrate his 50th birthday I could hardly refuse. The target for him was to up his French personal best to hopefully a fifty, for me being an all-rounder, I was just happy to get away, spend some relaxing time in good company and hopefully bag a couple of thirties if I was lucky. 

Our destination was Lac Serreire in the Coussac region of France, south of Limoges and some 450miles from Calais. It was 11.30pm on Friday April 21st when the doorbell rung and after a quick coffee we were on the road heading to the Eurotunnel in Kent, both not looking forward to the drive through the night, especially after a day in the office. Arriving in Calais in the early hours we hit the toll roads and with an 80mph limit we were soon eating the miles up,
listening to Pink Floyd turned up load and trying to keep each other awake so that our estimated time of arrival of 1pm would be met.

Arriving just before one and after an informative tour of the lake by the owner Simon Mansbridge we drew numbers for swim choice and yes you guessed it, I pulled out the last one! Fortunately Chris’s hand was slightly better and with the Shallows and Outlet swims going first we were left with a choice of the Middle, Woods or one of Tim and Mary’s. Chris decided on the Woods as this is the only swim on the far bank, one that has loads of options going for it and a swim that is good to double up in without reducing each other’s chances dramatically. Chris had choice of sides and amazingly went for the right hand side which is far shallower and generally provides more fish but usually smaller, yet it had done a seventy the previous week. I was left with deeper water, one that does fewer but bigger fish and the thought of blanking was going through my mind, especially knowing that the swim had only done two fish the previous week. Totally knackered from the lack of sleep and food, and with brains not functioning correctly we simply got a couple of rods out each, all on snowman rigs, cooked a curry and then hit the sack not expecting any action until the following day.
            It was 2am when we were awoken by a one tonner which saw Chris bent into a fish which just plodded away not doing allot, something that big fish can do on occasions. In the net I could see that this carp was going be close to Chris’s goal as it was massive compared to anything I had ever witnessed. On the scales we could see it was agonisingly close to the fifty pound mark but both agreed that she, although a personal best, wasn’t quite there and settled at a weight of 49lb exactly.
Morning dawned and
conditions didn’t look good as a ground frost greeted us along with clear blue skies and no wind what so ever. Over a brew we made our game plan and for me, who is often referred to as the ‘impatient angler’ it was going to be difficult as all I could do was place two rods in deep water at distance and wait along with working the other down the edge of the lilies to my left. Chris had opted to use 3.25lb t/c NR Toro rods loaded with 18lb NXT D-CAM line and also decided on placing two at distance in the hope of a big carp along with placing one on a green marker that lived in the lake, a consistent producing mark and where his night time capture had come from. With all rods refreshed come midday it was time to lay back and catch up on some sleep; however three hours later I was awoken to a single bleep on my middle rod and watched as the tip on one of my Pursuit rods silently pulled round. Winding like hell I finally caught up with the culprit which was by now had kitted some sixty yards to my left and was close to piling through the pads. It was make or break time as I knew if this fish found the pads then my chances were limited so clamping down on an already tight spool I tried to stop it but this fish had other ideas and just ripped  15lb mainline of the spool. I was now convinced it was a ton-plus catfish as the fight was that brutal and on looking at the line coming of the reel knew I had another problem as it had taken a serious battering either on an underwater obstacle or simply from the friction off the reel. I needed to get this line back on the reel, yet this fish decided to head straight back where it was hooked and just stripped line again. Finally after maybe fifteen minutes the fish was tiring and slowly coming closer and convinced it was a catfish almost fell over when the mother of all carp surfaced, shoulders out of the water, just wallowing slightly out of reach of the waiting net. It will be a sight I will never forget as I can’t really recall the rest of the capture, but the man hugs saw Simon racing around the lake on his bike to identify her as The Grey Lady, a carp usually around the eighty pound mark! On the scales the needle settled just shy of 79lb and we agreed a weight of 78lb 14oz, OMG! 
             What was so rewarding from this capture is I had actually thought about bait and rig so instead of using a snowman rig had drilled out a 20mm Scopex Squid boilie and plugged it with 7mm rig foam so that it would counterbalance the weight of the hook and act the same as the freebies around it, very similar to what I try to achieve when crucian fishing. I’d also dropped the weight of the lead from a 3oz to a 2oz Long Ranger as I hoped that the length and weight of this wouldn’t sink into the heavy silt within the lake. The rig itself was copied from one which my good friend Jake Lund made up for me, specifically for this trip, and is what he classifies as a go-anywhere bottom bait rig. All I did was use Nash TT components which included an eight inch 20lb weed Comblink hooklink, size 6 barbless Fang X hook, a couple of blobs of Cling-On tungsten putty and a 1mm Blow Out Tube to make the bait come straight of the top of the hook.  

            The next two days followed in similar fashion with Chris and myself taking two carp each. Chris’s went 42lb 14oz and 38lb 12oz the following night and myself one of 56lb 6oz at first light and a 39lb 12oz mirror in the early hours of Wednesday. Three of these carp fell during a short period when the wind changed from a chilly north to a warmer south westerly.  All these carp came to rods fished in the shallows or alongside the lilies, which wasn’t surprising as the carp were getting ready to spawn and nothing was coming to any angler fishing at distance to open water. Things then went quiet, probably due to the wind swinging once again to the north and after a day of constant heavy cold rain. The best part of three days past before we received anymore action with Chris taking two twenties, 21lb 12oz and 28lb during Thursday night when the temperatures plummeted to -5, a 32lb 7oz during Friday night and then one of 38lb 12oz on one of my rods just minutes before winding in whilst I was briefly away from my rods!

The fishery has a ban on the use of plastic and foam baits as these if lost create a 24/7 hookbait for a carp to pick up and if tethered easily damage or at worse cause a fatality. I consulted the owner so I could use a non-threatening counterbalanced bait using foam and try something different. The reason for my thinking was that most anglers seem to be using snowman rigs with bright pop-ups, and although they seem to produce their fair share of carp, I wanted to get away from this blatant obvious hazard and if a clued up carp did enter my swim then needed a bait that looked and acted to the freebies surrounding it. It might have only caught me one fish and the question whether it played any part in the downfall of ‘The Grey Lady’ but the reward in thinking about the situation, being slightly different whilst keeping with the rules was suitable satisfying.   

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Monthly Report April 2017

Monthly Report April 2017

To be honest, did I ever think that I would reach all my deadlines before heading off to France? No. But everything went to plan and the fish needed to create a couple of features fortunately came along. The only downside was any planning for a week’s carp fishing pretty much was left to the last minute, however things went really smoothly and some fantastic fish graced mine and fishing buddy Chris’s net (sorry about the victory ritual image). I’m going to do a separate write up in a couple of weeks as its only fair that my sponsors Nash Tackle and Bait get the images first and do what needed to be done with them, so keep checking their website www.nashtackle.co.uk (Nash Knowhow and News/Article section) and official Nash Face Book page for updates. We also took some video footage, our first attempt which is with my good mate Tom Aldous who is doing the editing. Once again I will post a message here as well as on my Face Book page when it’s ready, but be warned, it does contain scenes of nudity!
Apart from the French trip I did manage to get out for myself three times, all to Johnsons, however I can’t say that I enjoyed it that much as once again it was rammed with anglers, probably due to the unseasonably warm weather. Crucians to 3lb 14oz came along plus a few tench, so this was the second on my spring targets ticked off the list, along with the golden orfe taken earlier. A couple of anglers also tasted the delights of Newdigate, Neal Webb who I posted a separate blog and Barrie Edwards who enjoyed catching his first orfe plus the odd tench.
We are now into the month of May, late spring/early summer but the weathers doing its best to tell us winters not yet gone. All will change very soon, well that’s if this horrid north east wind buggers off!

Day to Day Events.

03/04/17 – Having to work ahead of myself for my ‘Where to Fish’ column due to Easter so spent the day writing this before grabbing the kit and heading to Johnsons for a spot of crucian fishing. Although the odd crucian is showing, they are still few and far between and only three modest tench came my way.
04/04/17 – Another day in the office finishing off the ‘Where to Fish’ column before getting the kit ready for a trip to Newdigate tomorrow in the hope of a customer catching a golden orfe.
05/04/17 – Up at 5am and on the road come 6am heading towards Newdigate to meet my customer for the day, Neal Webb who wanted to see if he could catch his first golden orfe. First cast and a tench turns up, quickly followed by two 2lb orfe before the lake dies. Another tench around 5lb slips up late morning before a 20lb mirror is coaxed in on a size 16 hook! A five pound plus orfe would have been the icing on the cake but instead Neal had to take his first ever golden tench before losing an even bigger carp. Not bad on a day of no cloud and a chilling north wind.
06/04/17 – Spent the afternoon proof reading a number of Carp Crew articles for Anglers Mail.
07/04/17 – Up again at 5am this time to meet my dad at Johnsons in the hope of a big crucian. The weather man had forecasted a cloudy day but it should have been a cloudless day as blue skies greeted us once the mist had risen. Temperature down overnight to 4 degrees and a wind that couldn’t make its mind up meant we were in for a gruller but I managed two bites come midday from crucains weighing 3lb 2oz and 3lb 14oz; however dad couldn’t buy a decent bite, payback time!
08/04/17 & 09/04/17 - Two days spent on the Nash stand at The Big One at Farnborough. Saturday was quite, probably due to the Grand National; however Sunday’s attendance certainly made up for things as the place was rammed. As always it was great catching up with all the punters, lots of my customers as well as doing the rounds and meeting up with lots of friends.
10/04/17 – A day in the office writing another AM article, getting the kit ready for a day’s guiding tomorrow as well as doing loads of fishy paperwork.
11/04/17 – Arrived at Newdigate for just after 7am and once again greeted with a bright blue sky, chilly north wind, high atmospherics and temperature down to just 2 degrees! Luckily the fish seemed undeterred early on and first cast saw one of the lakes biggest orfe grace Barrie’s net at 6lb 11oz, bigger than when I had her at 6lb 5oz. A tench soon followed before things went quiet. The wind was really cold so Barrie headed to the van to get a coat, bad move as whilst he was gone another of the big girls turned up, 5lb 8oz. Bites were from then on infrequent with another tench falling, one getting away and two missed.
12/04/17 – One very long day in the office, however managed to get a ‘Where to Fish’ spread done in a day!
13/04/17 – Once again trying to get ahead off myself so spent the morning phoning fisheries and updating my fishery database, before taking my mother out for nine holes of golf then getting the tackle ready, hopefully for a few hours crucian fishing in the morning.
14/04/17 – Knew Johnsons was not only busy but fishing badly, not surprising as not only has the weather turned cold the amount of bait thrown into the lake over the last ten days has been incredible. Saying this though some very big crucians have come out, the biggest 4lb 9oz along with numerous back up fours so always worth a go as one bite could change everything. Unfortunately none came my way or to most others but a 3lb 14oz was taken whilst I was there. With the lake fishing so slow and with work commitments pending I packed in early and headed home before spending the rest of the day writing articles.
15/04/17 – 17/04/17 – Spent quite a few hours in between family and house projects completing a couple of weeks ‘Where to Fish’ pages so that some fishing time is freed up later this month.
18/04/17 – Awoke to a frost this morning at 5am, great as I’m off to a fishery with my dad that we have never set eyes on before to create an Anglers Mail ‘Where to Fish’ opener, and we have just one chance to get the job done, great! As it happens everything went to plan, however with just an hour to go we looked doomed to failure but when it was needed I pulled a proper fish out of the bag! Keep buying your Anglers Mail if you want to find out more about a fantastic venue, hardly ever mentioned before!
19/04/17 – Writing up yesterday’s feature, sorting kit out for tomorrows feature as well as the tackle for France.
20/04/17 – Arrived at Newdigate Lodge Lake at 7am. Conditions not great but managed to get the feature sorted. It certainly wasn’t easy which included three swim moves but finally found a few fish. Keep an eye out on AM for the Catch More Tench on the Waggler article coming soon.
21/04/17 – Up at 5am, article written and curry for France cooked by 8am then spent the rest of the day getting the tackle ready for a week in France. Left home at 11.30pm, details to follow.

22/04/17 – 29/04/17 – On the road come midnight Friday with a long drive to Lac Serriere in France. Through the Euro Tunnel around 3am and straight onto the French toll roads. Had a good journey, albeit knackering with no sleep and not much to eat but arrived right on time come 1pm. After an informative tour of the lake by Simon the owner all six anglers, which included Steve Briggs, picked a number out of the hat and guess what I chose number six! Chris who I was with chose better with number three and with the shallows and outlet swims taken he decided on the woods, on the far side of the lake as it allowed us to double up along with still having loads of options to go at. We knew that the left hand side of the platform produced less fish but generally bigger as this is where deeper water was with the right seeing shallows and more fish but usually smaller, although it did produce a seventy the previous week! Totally drained come that evening and with the sun baking down we finally managed to get a couple of rods out each come 8pm and with a good curry inside us settled back with little expectations for the night ahead. The reason for the trip was a holiday to celebrate Chris’s 50 birthday and what he wanted was to catch a fifty during the trip. Around 2am one of his rods ripped off and we thought that the challenge had been achieved but he came agonisingly close with a mirror weighing 49lb!  Come morning and still buzzing we made a game plan and with rods out come midday settled back with high hopes. Two other carp had come out, one from the outlet, the other from the shallows so things were looking good and when my middle rod fished to open water let out a single bleep and slowly pulled round come 3pm we were both thinking big fish as this was an area noted for producing the big girls. In all honesty throughout the whole of the fish, which lasted a good fifteen minutes I thought it had to be a massive catfish, the fight was that brutal, so when a carp surfaced I was shocked. In the net it looked massive and Simon who had seen the man hugs was already on his way and straight away said it’s the Grey Lady, a carp that is usually around 80lb. On the scales she went 78lb 14oz, a fish of a lifetime and one that left me with mixed emotions as I know how long some anglers have fished the lake without having the honours of witnessing such a magnificent creature. With a lump in the throat and after a few photos she was gone, will this ever sink in? The next couple of days followed in a similar fashion with Chris landing two more of 42lb 10oz and 38lb 12oz with myself taking another two weighing 39lb 12oz and 56lb 6oz. Three of these fish came during a short period when the wind swung round to the south west but this spell was short lived as once again the wind swung to the north and the lake fell dead. It wasn’t till Thursday night that the next fish came, a night when the temperature plummeted seriously below freezing, but two came to Chris’s rods, 28lb and a 21lb 12oz common. The last evening came and again it was Chris that bagged one, this time a low thirty but come dawn and after more than three days my rods remained silent. The 7.30am alarm never awoke me as I was up earlier and not expecting another fish with just thirty minutes to go headed for the toilet on the other side of the lake. Bad move as looking across the lake I saw Chris bent into a fish and yes it was on my rod! As they say ‘it's never over until the fat lady sings’ and landing a fish weighing 38lb 12oz that should have been mine was immaterial as we had worked hard together for some seriously stunning fish, a joint effort that nether will ever forget.

Tight lines and be lucky!