Carping Abroad

Virtually every angling magazine you pick up nowadays includes, somewhere in its glossy pages, reports of either a big haul of larger than average carp or a suntanned angler holding a monster from foreign shores.

How often have we said to ourselves, "I wouldn’t mind having a bash at that," or "Can it really be that easy?" Well, for those of you who are interested, this article will hopefully, give a step-by-step guide on how it’s done. From visiting the travel agents and planning / preparing for the trip to knowing what permits to buy and using a fish finder / echo sounder.

Unless you are fishing a privately owned lake then a permit is a must. These permits vary, region to region, country to country, throughout Europe but are available from most tackle shops, so it’s best to wait until you get to your chosen destination so that the correct area permit is purchased. A lot of local bars, post offices and café’s adjacent to the water also sell permits.

If you require some more detailed information about permits, rules and the like it’s worth contacting the relevant country’s embassy, they should be able to help.

Licence fees obviously vary from place to place so it’s worth trying to speak to someone in the know before you set off to get a better idea of what funds need to be set aside for permit purchase. Your local tackle shop is not a bad place to go, they’ll be sure to know someone to put you in contact with.

Night Fishing

Despite a lot of unfounded rumours night fishing is not now legal on all waters overseas. France, in particular, is leading the way to allowing night fishing on a number of waters in various regions but there are still a large amount of waters where night fishing is strictly not allowed. In fact, a lot of venues where night fishing is allowed have limited fishing to only a few swims or certain areas only. These areas will be clearly signposted or marked on your permit. Please observe the rules, a few can spoil it for everyone.

Selecting the Correct Venue

Now if you know what type of permit is required and a few of the ground rules, next comes the most important part. Where do you fish? In fact, where the hell do you begin?

Firstly, I would suggest going back through all those angling magazines stacked in he corner and reading everything available on fishing abroad. There are loads of articles which give destinations, from pretty line streams to the enormous reservoirs.

If you really fancy some pioneering, then open up any European map and take your pick of many thousands of lakes and rivers, most of which hold fish of some shape or form. You never know what you might catch from some of these venues!

Extremely detailed maps are available for all regions of Europe from most good book / map centres. Maps are available mail order from the address below:

National Map Centre, 22 – 24, Caxton Street, London SW 1H 0QU.
Phone – 0207 222 2466
Or fax – 0207 222 2619
E – Mail –
info@mapsnmc.co.uk
Website – http://www.mapsnmc.co.uk/

If you can help it try not to go on rumours, or be used to try out a lake for someone as it is a long and costly way to go blank!

Picking the right water is essential, so if you really don’t fancy finding a water for yourself, or just haven’t got the time available to go in search of waters, or just fancy going with a crowd, then an organised trip is definitely the bet.

There are some excellent trips on the market, travel agents can organise a ‘family’ type trip or, indeed companies such as Fishabil in France (00 33 296 252766) and Anglers World Holidays (01243 221717) are both good choices.

It it’s purely bankside carp fishing or an escorted trip you’re after then the following is amongst the best bet:

Les Quis (0208 302 1553 / 0208 857 1244)
Dave Plummer (01933 442404)
The Dream Lake (01206 767576)
Les Etangs de la Croix Blanche (07923 223002)

In the case of three trips mentioned above an experienced carp angler/bailiff is actually with you from the off and will stay with you during your stay on waters they know well. No secrets are held back as it is in his own interests that all catch.

All the trips mentioned have proven track records and I am sure even if you are not planning to go immediately, they will be prepared to have a chat with you and share some of their hard-earned experience and offer invaluable advice.

There are also self drive / sort yourself out trips to some established waters (Beaumont De Lomange, Vaumigny, Peigneux, Boux, Margot etc. etc.), such as the those offered by Simon Horton. You can contact Simon on 0033 243 709839 or fax 0033 243 709566.

Brochures are available too, such as ‘Holiday Carp Waters’ by Simon Crow of Carp Talk. Cheap too, at a cost of STG 5.99 including postage. Contact Carp Talk for details.

The Travel Agents

If you’ve decided it’s an organised trip you fancy, then skip this bait as it is all about ferry bookings, insurance and breakdown cover.

Personally, I prefer to fish abroad from the end of January to the end of May and from the end of September to the end of November as the weather is far cooler than in the hot, summer months and, for me, these months have been far more productive both during the day and at night.

Normally I travel at night, thus avoiding traffic on roads such as the dreaded Peripherique (Paris Ring Road). Believe you me, this road is a combination of race track and car park!

Don’t forget whilst in the travel agents to make sure you‘ve got your Overseas Vehicle Breakdown Cover. Both the AA and RAC do good comprehensive cover policies which cover you in virtually every eventuality.

Also make sure you get your motor insurance policy extended to overseas cover for the period of your stay. Normally a quick ‘phone call to your insurer will suffice, with a nominal charge for you to pay.

Make sure you take plenty of cash for the tolls as most motorway routes across Europe are subject to toll charges along the route.

I would recommend staying on the motorways rather than attempting ‘short cuts’ across country as the smaller roads will add hours on to journeys and the roads are not particularly well signposted.

Petrol in Europe is generally a little more expensive than in England. There are Service Stations well signposted at regular intervals along the motorways (most open 24 hours) all with food and toilets, even showers if required.

Take your time, there is a lot of beautiful countryside to be seen whilst on route and don’t leave your car parked anywhere with gear on the roof unattended or it might go walkies, keep in sight.

Bait Requirements

From my point of view, if you’re going abroad for a few days, a week, or even longer, then you need plenty of bait. You might not use it all, but it’s certainly better to have too much bait than to be in the embarrassing position of running out, especially if you’ve got hordes of fish munching down your freebies.

On a lot of waters the fish aren’t going to hang about looking for one or two offerings, they’ll be off scouring the rest of the lake in search of a decent meal. Even worse on rivers if you don’t hold or at least attract their attention, you might not see another shoal for the rest of your trip.

Now I’m not saying here go wild and tip in hundreds of kilos of bait. The best thing is to start sensibly and build up the quantities going in as the carp get their heads down.

With the quantities involved, the cost is of paramount importance and therefore is a major factor in influencing the choice of bait.

There are obviously various basic types of bait to choose from – or indeed, have all, namely particles, boilies and pellets. Let’s take a look at particles first.

Particle Baits

When I refer to particles I mean seeds, nut, pulses etc. With so many particles on the market nowadays, how do you know, or should I say where do you begin to start when choosing a particle o use abroad?

Good question. I normally start out by finding out as much about the place I’m going to fish as possible, I’m referring not to the lake bed. Has the lake got a muddy, soft bottom, is it a pit with a hard bottom, is it weedy on the bottom?

By finding out the above you can begin to start list of an appropriate particle. Obviously many people have favourites which they are confident in, indeed my favourite is oat groats and I always take a sack in the car when going on any session abroad regardless of venue.

On lakes with a soft, muddy bottom, particles with a flattish side such as black–eyed beans, maize, pinto beans, lupins, tiger nuts, will settle softly on the bottom and be easily taken by the carp.

A hard bottom is ideal for the more dense rounded particles such as soya beans, maples, chickpeas, where sinking out of sight is not a problem.

With weedy, silty type bottoms I prefer to use very small particles such as Partiblend, oat groats, hemp, and pearl barley which all sit on the weed nicely and don’t sink out of sight.

Cost is an important factor, particles such as tiger nuts are far more expensive than a sack of maize so you will have to look at this when making your choice. For the record, when fishing with particles I prefer to use pop-ups or indeed fish a pop-up boily over a light scattering of particles. It must be stressed that sacks of particles need to be stored correctly in a totally dry, cool environment or their quality will start to deteriorate.

Anyway, hopefully, that’s given you some idea on what particle to choose, but before we take a look at boilies please make sure your chosen particle bait is well prepared.

Detailed below are the basics of particle preparation and should be used as a guide line.

Dehydrated particles require soaking in water, normally overnight or for at least 12 hours. Most swell up to at least double their size so you’ll need to consider this when selecting bucket size and level of water in it.

It is also worth adding a flavour to the liquid at this point so the bait absorbs it during the soaking process.

Once you’ve soaked your baits they then require cooking, generally one of two methods, in a normal cooking pot or in a pressure cooker. Personally, I prefer the pressure cooking as it does not allow so much of the natural smell to escape.

Boilies

Unless you are fishing a commercial fishery then it is unlikely you are going to have freezer or refrigeration facilities, therefore shelf-life boilies or air dried boilies are a must unless you’re going for a really short weekend session.

If you’re buying ready-rolled boilies in bulk, then 99% of shops or direct outlets will do you some kind of deal. I normally but in quantities of 10,000 baits-plus and have had some amazing deals but don’t be shy of asking about for the best price you can get. If all the people participating in the trip use the same bait and you buy it together in one lump, or even if you have a couple of thousand baits for use at home, all get together and go for one big order.

I tend to use milk protein based baits with fruity type flavours, like Strawberry Jam, Plum, Nutrfruit, Ester Cranberry etc, as I find fish seem to respond to them far quicker than fishmeals or bird foods.

If you intend rolling all the bait yourself then a number of companies now offer shelf-life preservatives which can be added to the mix, I’m not happy using these unless I know exactly what it is. Potassium sorbet is my personal preference in very low quantities so as it is fully disguised by other additives.

Air-dried baits are rolled, boiled and allowed to totally cool simply put them in an old pillowcase or breathable fabric and either put them in an airing cupboard for a few days or on low setting in the tumble dryer until they are totally dried out or just hang them in garden if it’s warm. The baits become extremely hard and are as good as shelf-life baits.

Pop-ups can be made in the same way by simply inserting a poly cork ball during
the rolling process and drying out as mentioned above.

Pellets

There are loads of different types of pellet type baits available, detailed below are some of the better known:

Essex Bait Services – Madine Seed Ball Pellets
Mainline – Crumball Pellets, Response Pellets
Maddocks – Carp Nuggets
Mistral – Rosehip Pellets, 1SO Pellets
Nashbaits – Monster Carp Pellets, Match Carp Pellets
Rod Hutchinson – Monster crab Pellets
Nutrabaits – CSL Pellets
Richworth – Carp Pellets
Hinders – Hemp Pellets, Hi Betaine Sinkers
Solar – Carp Pellets
Essential Baits – Active Breakdown pellets: Shellfish B5 and Creamseed CSM

Pellets are designed to breakdown once in the water, becoming an attractant but, not necessarily, an additional food source. A great attractant and well worth considering.

A lot of the above mentioned companies sell carp ‘groundbait’ too, this is well worth a look at! ‘Method’ rigs etc., have been well documented in the UK angling press and work well overseas too!!

For long range work, where you can’t use a boat, then the ball pellet will be a good bet. Or, any of the smaller pellets, using a spod.

Essential Equipment

I won’t bother going over every single item of equipment to take with you on a trip, I’ll just mention items which I consider are of paramount importance and perhaps not items you’d generally take with you on a session in the UK.

Echo Sounder/Fish Finder

Using an echo sounder / fish finder, such as the excellent Lowrance and Eagle versions, is simple and will enable you to map out areas in a few hours, the bottom contours and snags etc. will be clearly identifiable.

You’ll achieve more in a few hours with an echo sounder than a week with a plumbing rod so if you don’t own one, hire one.

Before you actually go abroad it’s essential you know how the machine works, in fact I would suggest if you’ve never used one before you try it out on a local pond so as you fully understand their capabilities.

Below are a few brief notes on how to use one.

All you need is a basic fish finder, a small suction cup transducer (that’s the bit that goes in the water) and a battery pack.

The fish finder I use is a Lowrance X25 with a 20 HS-WS High Speed Skimmer transducer, all powered by a 12 volt battery pack. It’s so small it fits nicely into the bottom section of my rucksack.

Stick the suction cup transducer to the back of the boat with it’s ‘head’ submerged about ten inches into the water.

The transducer lead is plugged into the back of the fish finder which, in turn, is plugged into the battery pack and away you go. Just press the ‘on’ button and the unit will do the rest; you don’t need to do anything if you just want its basic functions other than row and look at the screen.

You will be amazed, when you use one for the first time, the amount of information you have been missing out on, it’s really like having a pair of underwater eyes!

The depth of water is shown in feet or meters (as you wish), the bottom is clearly detailed, showing any holes, snags, bars etc, and the fish show up as fish symbols in varying sizes, depending on how big they are. (Beware of alleged ‘fish’ appearing, this could well be floating debris, weed, or a shoal of smaller fish!)

If you can’t use a boat then plumbing will have to be the answer, there are loads of good feature finders available on the market now.

Marker Floats

Once you’ve located your spot with your echo sounder or feature finder it’s important you mark it so as you can put your hook-bait onto the baited area / feature.

The dumbbell-shaped markers I’ve found best, they come with 60 feet of nylon cord and lead weight attached, they unroll themselves once put in the water and are affected very little by wind / current.

These are available through all good specialist tackle centres.

Don’t forget to remove your marker from the water when your session is over.

Boat

A good boat is essential, a lot of the larger venues hire boats but if in doubt take your own.

Of course it goes without saying that the use of a life jacket when in the boat at all times is essential and should be common sense. Fox International produce an excellent life jacket that inflates when it hits the water automatically and is designed to turn the angler on his / her back until help arrives, a good investment.

Generally

As a general rule it’s better to step up the strength of your tackle where at all possible. Don’t be frightened to use significantly stronger lines and hook-link arrangements than you would normally. Remember, there are some really big fish swimming around allover Europe!

Conclusion

If you’re planning a trip abroad in search of carp I wish you the very best of luck.

It’s not easy and most of the big captures you read about are the result of a lot of hard work. It’s essential to make sure your trip is fully planned before you go and everything thoroughly prepared.

Good Luck.

Chris ‘Essex Man’ Woodrow