A fishing trip to France in search of big carp is more popular than ever before. With regular ferries taking you across the English channel as well as the Eurotunnel, you can be in France within hours of setting off. When it comes to choice, you are spoiled. There are hundreds of carp lakes across France, ranging from intimate small pools with luxury lakeside accommodation to large drive and survive lakes, where it really is man against nature!
With so many lakes to choose from and so much information available on the internet, if you have not previously fished in France or abroad, booking your first trip can be a daunting experience. We’ve put together some top tips to help plan for your first fishing trip to France.
Selecting the right lake?
Selecting the right lake is probably the number one factor in ensuring that you have a successful trip. It is vital that you go to a lake that suits your fishing style and your fishing ability. If you are used to fishing at 120 yards and using boats to drop your rigs and bait up, then look at some of the larger 10 acre plus waters. If however, most of your fishing is done within 60 yards from the bank, then make sure you select a lake which is within your casting capability.
Once you’ve decided on the type of lake that you are looking for, you should then consider how far you want to travel to get to the lake. France is a big country and if you are only there for a week, ideally you don’t want to waste more time than necessary traveling. If you don’t want to spend too much time driving then you may want to consider going to one of the many carp lakes near Calais. Despite the weather being similar to the UK in northern France, the carp still grow to huge proportions with 50 and 60lbs fish not uncommon.
If you have managed to persuade your other half to join you on the trip then you may wish to consider some of the lakes further south, where the weather is generally warmer and more stable. You will find that many of these lakes offer good quality lakeside accommodation as well tackle hire and airport collection, meaning you can be fishing with hours of setting off!
As with any session, when you arrive at the lake spend some time scanning the water and walking around looking for signs of carp. It is likely that you will be there for a week so it cannot be stressed enough how important swim choice is.
When it comes to selecting the swim you need to have a strategy in mind. Many anglers will opt to set on the fish or close to where they have seen signs of activity. If you are struggling to find signs as to where the carp are, do not be afraid to move swims if fish start to show in a different area of the lake.
If you are not setting up on the fish, which could be down to personal strategy or because there is not a swim available, then you may choose to opt for a bait and wait strategy. If this is the case then select an area of the lake where you think the fish are likely to turn up. A good option is a central area of the lake, as you should never be too far from the fish and this is usually a good interception point.
The old adage, ‘once you’ve put it in you can’t take it out’ is worthwhile remembering when it comes to your baiting strategy. Many lakes in France are heavily fished and there is a good chance you may be following another angler into the swim. With this in mind, unless you are lucky enough to see the departing anglers, you will have no idea how much bait may be sat on the lake bed in front of you.
Start of with a light baiting approach, such as a PVA bag, stick, or even fish singles for the first day or so. If you pick up a fish or two, then start to increase the bait application. If you apply too much bait too early on, there is a risk that there is too much bait in the swim. If this happens then firstly the fish will not be competing for the bait, which is when they are most likely to slip up and take your hookbait and secondly you may have to wait a long time before getting a bite.
Stick to rigs that you have used before and that you have confidence in. The carp in France behave just the same as the carp in the UK, so there is no need to use the latest fandango rig if you have never used it before. When it comes to rig choice, know what you are fishing over and then select a rig that allows you to present a bait with effective hooking presentation.
The carp in France grow larger than they do in the UK with 50 and 60lb carp not uncommon. Whilst you should stick to rigs that you have confidence in, you may wish to beef them up a bit. If you are fishing a big fish water then use size 4 hooks as a minimum and at least a 20lb hooklink material.
Finally, make sure you take the right equipment with you and the right clothing. If you are fishing for a week then this is a long period of time, so you want to make sure that you are comfortable.
Take some good quality waterproofs with you. The weather in France can be unpredictable and rain is common even during the warmer times of the year. Make sure you bring enough clothes with you as well as warm clothes. If you are not comfortable then you will not enjoy your trip and this will also mean that you may not be fishing at your best. If you are going with a group of you, you may want to consider hiring a shelter that can be used as a cooking, eating and social area.
Mike has over 30 years of fishing experience in carp fishing and general coarse fishing. He is always looking for the latest fishing kit to try out and talk about and needs a bigger shed due to all the fishing tackle he owns. You can read more about him here.