Ever since I was a kid, eagerly devouring the works of such anglers as Jack Hilton and Chris Yates, reading every article penned by Rod Hutchinson and knowing off by heart the account by Richard Walker of his famous record, I have been obsessed with catching carp and all that goes with it. The mystic, the cloak that seemed to cover carp fishing for all of my formative years was like a magnet.
With the passion for angling I always nurtured the idea of having my own lake, my own Redmire with leviathan carp. Until January of this year this remained, as for most people, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Until, via a fellow photojournalist, I came to hear about a group of lakes up for sale. It started as a bit of a joke, but the more I thought about it the better the idea seemed to me. This revelation had my mind in a whirl, maybe , just maybe this was my Redmire pool.
On a cold, rainy January morning I pulled up outside the fence that surrounds the "Etangs" which were buffeted by the wind and covered in a layer of mist and drizzle - they didn't, in all honesty, look too inspiring. A few minutes later the owner showed up in a large top-of-the-range Peugeot. He showed me around the property. I discovered two large waters of around 7-8 acres each, and a smaller pond as well.
A small chalet had been erected near the entrance on top of a concrete bunker that housed an kitchen, shower and toilet. This was in fact, the Peugeot man's weekend garden, his own little Eden, where he could come and relax, swim and entertain, in his leisure time. But he no longer came here, and wanted to sell up.
A few minutes passed and a second car pulled in through the gate. A young man descended holding a photo album. He then proceeded to show me some of his carp captures from the last two years, and tell me about the waters and their fish. What fish they were, large broad mirrors, which even from the mediocre photography looked enormous. The largest over 40 pounds.
I parted company with these people sure that I had stumbled on a jewel in the French countryside, fished only by a handful of people since it was excavated and already producing huge fish. I just had to have them. This could be my chance to get out of the rat-race that Paris and journalism had become, and do something I'd always wanted to do. So we did indeed acquire the lakes, my wife as enthusiastic as myself.
The work involved only became apparent as we got into it. Only one proper swim existed, where the young man and his friends used to fish. I set about cutting pitches out of the willow jungle that surrounded the edges of each water. The waters themselves just got more and more beautiful as the seasons progressed, the water aqua green, tinted with blue, typical of chalk pits, and the green foliage of willows and birches that surrounded it.
The urge to fish was great though, and I started regular sessions, initially starting on the only swim. One of my first three-day stints saw me pulverise my personal best, three times in three fish, each one getting larger. The best over 36 pounds. By way of the Internet I was slowly getting word around about my lakes and a few people wanted to come to fish. The first of these arrived at my swim on the customary "walk round the lake" and my right hand rod tore off. A nicely scaled 27-pounder came to the net, my guests had been at the water for less than 15 minutes and were impressed. That night, better was in store. As darkness descended my right hand rod was off again and after a hard, arm aching fight, a mint forty pound mirror lay on the unhooking mat. I was, needless to say, over the moon, PB smashed to smithereens again!
And so things progressed, swims were cut, a few eager beavers came to "field test" my waters, some went home having blanked, some with large fish under their belts. But that's carp fishing, even in France. Then a chap from Hemel knocks out a 43 and a half, after a difficult week. Wow!!!
In all so far, 30 fish have been caught, 11 thirties to 37lb 8oz (ten of which I've been lucky enough to catch) and 2 forty pounders. The rest have been good twenties, with just 6 doubles the smallest 16lb 8oz. This gives an average of nearly 28lb. I think you'll agree the fish are quite outstanding.
I plan to stock more fish in November, not loads of doubles (some yes) but mostly good twenties and thirties and some giant catfish to spice things up a bit. If these fish do half as well as the original fish in a couple of years the average will be superb.
So this is where I'm at, right now.
The waters will open officially in January 2000, an new millennium and a new beginning for myself. Prices for 2000 are £15 - 24 hours; £25 - 48 hours; £75 - 1 week.
Anyone wanting to fish can contact me direct to book telephone: 00 33 3 23 22 12 58 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://home.worldnet.fr/gareth
Trips will be organised too, from March 2000. For these contact Martyn in Essex on 07932 223002 or 0181 590 6987 or 0958 703306 e-mail: email@example.com The price will be £350.
I look forward to seeing you next year,