Following my enforced absence for the past 18 months due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions which saw me miss three trips to the mighty ‘Bow’, I was really looking forward to getting back this June, not only as I’d missed the place but because I was getting the opportunity to fish Peg 17, a swim I’d never fished in the past. Fishing with me in Peg 18 was longtime friend, football legend and half-decent carp angler to boot, Lee Bowyer!
Due to the length of the journey, we decided to overnight in Bordeaux and met up with my now regular fishing partner, Jasper Berkulo where we planned to have dinner, chill over a beer (or two) and discuss tactics for the coming session.
Come Saturday morning, breakfast was had and we all set off to do our shopping en route prior to arriving at the gate to wait for 2pm, the arrival time now following changes that were implemented during the pandemic to help social distancing and bring some order to the old Saturday morning melee where general mayhem ruled as departing anglers mixed with those arriving!
Following our briefing from Pascal where we were all reminded of the new rules, we headed off around the lake to begin the big set up which generally takes me the best part of the day and with a shorter first day now I decided to get my house and cook tent up, have a quick scoot about in the boat with my ‘donking’ rod, locate four likely starting spots and put 2-3kg of Mainline’s High Impact Essential IB’s and Salty Squids, 20mm and 15mm’s along with some halved baits coated in Cell Smart Liquid onto each spot before retiring to bed with rain forecast overnight to get my head down ready to start the following day.
Sunday morning and I was up and about as it broke light to see if I could see any fish having heard several in front of me during the night. With four rigs baited with 24mm Essential IB Dumbell wafters that I had been soaking in Essential IB dip (or to give it the correct name – Hookbait Enhancement System’), I set off to position my rods, all set up with double lead set ups on the spots baited the previous evening. With all rods carefully positioned on the dancefloor, I returned to finally sit down and look forward to what the session might hold.
As Sunday came to a close without any action I made dinner and turned in for the night for a well-earned rest only to be woken at 2:30 in the morning with my rod bent over, the swinger hard up against my Freespirit 10’ Hi-S and my alarm announcing how unhappy it was as a carp was attempting to rip my rests out of the ground! Leaping out of the bed, I proceeded to walk back up the hill in the swim to pull the fish away from the snags and into the open water, all of which went perfectly to plan until as I coaxed it back across the open water it went solid and the fish found an old tree stump in 30’ of water where it proceeded to deposit my hook before going on its merry way leaving me feeling somewhat deflated…..
With the rod rebaited, I made my way back into the darkness where the rig was repositioned before returning to bed.
Tuesday came and went pretty much without event apart from a single take in the evening resulting in a mid-forty common which was weighed and returned before the rod was put back for the night.
As day broke once again, I was up and sat behind the rods at 6am waiting for Pascal to do the morning bread run. However, all remained quiet and nothing occurred until mid-morning when the swinger on my rod positioned over in the right-hand set of snags dropped back and I bend into what felt like a reasonable fish so after ensuring it was out over the open water I took to the boat to go and land it to ensure the events of the first night didn’t repeat themselves!
Following a short but spirited fight lasting maybe 5 mins or so, a huge ‘grassy’ popped up and was quickly netted. Now anyone that knows me will know that I would not normally net grass carp as they can be an absolute nightmare, instead choosing to bring the fish to the side of the boat and quickly pop the hook out however this fish looked huge….I was thinking possibly 70lb+ so I decided it merited a visit to the scales so I proceeded to slowly move back to the bank with the fish rolled up securely by the side of the boat to put the fish on the scales.
After quickly wetting and zeroing the sling, my ‘seventy’ was quickly reduced to 62.15, still a respectable grass carp by anyone’s standards but not one I was about to attempt to take any self-take pictures of so back she went soaking me in the process for good measure!
Apart from a hook pull later that afternoon, that was the end of the day’s activities and Thursday came and went in much the same fashion.
First light Friday morning and things were starting to feel different. Overnight there had been a marked increase in activity and sat watching the water with my first coffee of the morning I’d already seen several fish show in and around the snags so I presumed that a number of fish had arrived overnight as this was the most activity I’d seen since arriving!
Shortly after 7am, my first take of the day came resulting in a mid-30lb+ common followed mid-morning by a 45lb common. Two bites before lunch meant things were certainly looking up.
Just after 2pm, I had the first take from the snags on the left of the swim and after a short battle of wills, I prevailed and the fish was away from the snags and into the deep water so into the boat I hopped and went off in search of my prize. This battle went on for some 10-15mins as I tried to subdue what was now obvious to me was going to be a decent fish as it kept deep until I got my first look of it a couple of feet below the surface by the side of the boat things which is when things became somewhat more serious as I could see this was a huge common! A few anxious moments later and then I slipped my net under this enormous fish before heading back to the bank to conduct the weighing and take some pictures.
Back at the bank, with the sling soaked and zeroed, I struggled but finally managed to lift this bronze leviathan onto the scales where I was gobsmacked to read I’d just banked this ‘two tone’ common at 80.09, a fish known as ‘Mr Taylor’ named in memory of a late great gentleman of our sport….Alan Taylor, who was taken from us far too early just under two years ago now.
With Jasper up at the clubhouse having a shower, a quick call was made to him to ask him to come quickly and take some pictures and the fish was slipped into the retainer sling for five minutes whilst I prepared the camera waiting for his arrival.
Jasper was there in a matter of minutes where we decided to only take water shots which were subsequently taken and this magnificent creature was returned safely to its home then we sat for a few minutes to take in the events of the last few minutes before cracking open a beer and celebrating.
The following day saw the action continue with a couple of low 40s and my first proper 60 of the session in the shape of a common of 61.04. The action was now steady as I was averaging three takes a day which in the circumstances was more than respectable as the weather was in the mid-30s and the fish were starting to spawn again for a third or fourth time which had resulted in the lake fishing very slowly with several swims not even producing a bite in the past week or so.
Sunday and the start of my second week were well underway, again three more fish landed including a scrapper 40, a 56.07 common and my third sixty of the session with a 63.10 common landed just after midday.
Monday saw the action continue with a small ‘cricket bat’ common which was followed by another mid-twenty grassy and then my fourth 60lb+ common in the shape of a heavily spawny 60.15 common and ending with a cracking 51.04 common.
The second week was now well underway and, as usual, it was starting to fly by now. Temperatures were rising quickly with forecasts giving the mercury rising to 40° by Friday which inevitably saw the action start to slow however I still managed two more bites on Tuesday resulting in commons of 45.00 & 59.02.
Wednesday was disappointing to say the least with a hook pull at 7:20am followed by my second take resulting in my rig being dumped in a small underwater stump I could see two feet below the water… Not how I’d hoped the day would play out so I decided to give the swim a rest, take a break and wind in, go have another shower and regroup before ‘Big Fish Thursday’.
BFT didn’t live up to its name either as my first take at 02:50am resulted in a low 20+ common however it improved somewhat at 08.25 when the lefthand snag rod hooped over and I coaxed a 58.10 common out of the woodwork and into my waiting landing net.
By now, the heat was becoming unbearable so once again, rods were brought in to take a shower before putting the rods out again early evening for the night.
Friday morning, was all quiet until just after 10am when I had a take which once again saw me take to the boat before being towed around in the open water up towards Peg 16 for some 15 minutes before I netted another huge common… which subsequently registered 73.14… my 21st fish of the session which completed my full house, having now landed fish of 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 & 80lbs!
The remainder of the day was uneventful which was a blessing as I spent the day packing everything away barring the bivvy, bed and rods as the following morning I needed to be packed away and up at the clubhouse for 9:30am and departing the lake by 10:00am.
Saturday morning, and as I consumed my morning coffee, 06.50 saw my final take of the session with a 46.01 common so with my most productive rod now out of the game I decided to call it a day and bring in my remaining three rods and head up to the clubhouse to say my goodbyes and hit the road and my eight-hour hike to Calais.
As I drove out of the gates with my session now at an end and with 1 x 80, 1 x 70, 4 x 60s, 4 x 50s 6 x 40s and some change I reflected on what had been one hell of a session which only served to heighten my anticipation for my return next year…
My tactics remained the same throughout baiting with 2-3kg of Mainline High Impact boilies in Essential I.B’s and Salty Squids in 20;’s, 15’s and halves which had been put through the RidgeMonkey Choppa. This combination of shelf lifes has become my go-to bait for all my foreign trips now, not just for convenience but simply because they’ve caught fish wherever I’ve taken them and as they say if it isn’t broken… don’t fix it!
Rigs consisted of a double lead’ set up with a 10oz lead on the front and a 6oz on the rear set 5’ apart on 50lb Sub Zero Leader with 6” of 50lb Sub Zero hooklink set up as a ‘Slip D’ on a RidgeMonkey Ape-X Medium Curve 2XX Size 4, a simple but highly reliable rig I’ve got 100% total confidence in.
Finally, I must say a huge thank you to Pascal, Max & family for the opportunity to fish this totally unique piece of paradise called ‘Rainbow Lake’ which I’ve had the privilege of fishing for the past 14 years now, the friends I’ve made along the way and special mention to Kevin Garrett aka ‘Kev the Lead’ whose help and advice over the years has played no small part in the success I’ve enjoyed at this amazing lake…
Until next time…