Avid Carpers Jason Umney and Tom Forrester overcame poisson chat, and some serious weather, during a trip to Villedon in France.
I could hardly contain my excitement when Rob Hales asked me to join him on his 50th birthday session to on in France. The trip was scheduled for the beginning of September, 2015, but it wasn’t until August that I actually started thinking about the trip and, more importantly, what to expect from the venue.
A couple of phone calls and several messages to lads that had fished the venue in the past and it quickly became apparent the 100-acre lake was going to be just like fishing in the UK only with much, much bigger carp. It sounded incredible!
The next thing I knew I was meeting Rob Hales and the rest of the gang at the Avenue Carp Fishery in Shropshire. We frantically loaded the vans at 3am before making our way down to Folkestone in convoy. Young up-and- coming carper Tom Forrester jumped in the van with me for the journey and would be doubling up with me in peg 20 for the week.
The drive through France was long and tedious, but this was quickly forgotten about when we were greeted by the Villedon staff, who looked after us from the moment we pulled into the car park. We spent the evening socialising, drinking beer, and were even treated to a Michelin Star meal by the on-site chef Damien David. We couldn’t actually fish the venue till the following afternoon so we threw up our bivvies in the car park and hit the sack for the evening.
The initial plan was to employ an all-out boilie approach because Tom and I are huge fans of this style of angling, but after a quick chat with Paul Armfield, who organises all the UK trips, it became apparent that this approach might cause us problems.
Poisson chat numbers in the lake had gone through the roof, meaning soft baits like boilies just weren’t going to cut it. If you’ve never seen a poisson chat before, it’s basically a small catfish that will eat virtually everything in front of it, especially boilies or pellets.
The previous week Tom Colloff from Foster’s of Birmingham had fished the right-hand side of the swim we were in, banking 20 carp during his stay. Young Tom and I both obviously fancied this side of the swim and decided to toss a coin to settled the score. I’ve never had much luck and called it wrong, so I ended up setting up in what I nicknamed ‘Duffers’ Corner’. Deep down we both knew we had an incredible chance of catching because the conditions were bang on. The air pressure had plummeted, there was a massive wind sweeping across the lake and torrential thunderstorms were coming. If those conditions didn’t get the carp stirring, nothing would.
Knowing we had a full week ahead of us, we both agreed that having a lead around with a marker rod was a good idea, because it would give us an idea about the lakebed and what features were in front of us. The last thing we wanted to do was rush getting the rods out, only to regret where we’d put them later in the week.
After a quick lead around in the swim, it became apparent that the lakebed was quite soft close in, but generally firmed up towards the middle area of the lake, which was 80-100 yards out. The fish are known for moving a lot and we both figured that if they were going to move past us, it would be down the middle zone of the lake.
The first job was to head out in the boat and drop a couple of Avid Marker Poles in the lake on the areas near where we were going to be fishing. As well as helping to get our rigs back in position using the boat, they also let other anglers know where we were fishing so they wouldn’t drive over our spots in the boat when they took to the water to visit the shower blocks or on-site shop.
Tom and I opted to fish very different set-ups. I went for a longshank blowback rig tied using 15lb Captive coated hooklink and a size 4 LSK hook. One benefit of using a boat is being able to use large leads, so I opted for 6.5oz flat swivel leads on simple lead-clip arrangements. Tom, on the other hand, went for a subtler presentation, opting to fish German rigs with size 6 CRV hooks and a coated hooklink.
We’d originally opted to fish boilie hookbaits on a couple of rods just to test the water, but they lasted about five minutes with the chats. A few people told us they don’t like creamy sweet-smelling boilies, but this is absolute rubbish. Tom had a pick-up from one within a couple of minutes of getting his first rod into the lake.
Now there are a several ways you can deter poissons chat but the easiest is certainly to just use tiger nuts. Alternatively you can use tights or Super Wrap from Korda to wrap your hookbaits. They are sneaky little blighters that will eat pretty much anything you cast out, including hardened hookbaits. Plastic boilies and Avid High Lites work too, it just depends on your personal preference.
At 5pm on the first day the alarm on my left-hand rod screamed into life and line started tearing from the reel at an unbelievable speed. Tom was actually in the water at the time, adjusting his bobbins, so he kindly grabbed the rod and struck it for me – it was like having my own gillie! As soon as I grabbed hold of the rod I knew I was into a good fish.
I waded out up to my waist and delicately played it for a good 15 minutes or so. When it was a few yards out I tried to pump it towards the waiting net, but I couldn’t get it up the marginal shelf. It was at this point I knew I was into a very, very good fish.
Tom kindly did the honors and waded out to his waist, and after a few twitchy moments he bundled a stunning 52lb 8oz mirror into the net. What a first fish! We sank a couple of beers that night, I can tell you.
The following day the action really started to hot up and Tom and I were catching fish every couple of hours. It seemed like they were moving around in large shoals and when they rocked up, double and triple takes were not uncommon. They’d move in, eat all the bait and then move off for a couple more hours.
The average size of the fish was well over 30lb and the great thing was, there was a good mixture of strains. There were long lean fish, short fat fish and even big scaly carp. You really didn’t know what the next bite was going to be, for really exciting fishing. We hadn’t had any problems from the possions chat either, indicating that our tiger nut tactics were working!
The first couple of days of the trip went extremely well and Tom and I both caught a couple of fish each day. We were having a little bit of a competition with numbers of fish and surprisingly Duffers’ Corner was producing the most bites. I’d had the fifty, along with a couple of forties, while Tom had banked a number of 30lb-plus up to 47lb.
Because I’d caught a large fish so early on, my fishing took on a more relaxed approached, but I could see Tom was desperate to catch a fifty. I was secretly praying that he banked an absolute whacker too.
Wednesday was the night we celebrated Rob’s birthday and we were due to reel in at 5pm and head around to the restaurant for a slap-up meal. As I got ready to head back to the shower block for a well-earned wash, Tom’s right-hand rod sounded and he lifted into a very good fish. Tom delicately played it in the afternoon sun – you could see he was desperate not to lose it.
After a couple of lunges under the rod-tip, I managed to bundle a large, clean mirror into the net that went on to weigh 43lb. As Tom ogled his catch pictures on the camera, his middle rod let out a flurry of beeps and his mainline tightened ever so slightly. Knowing he’d have to reel in shortly to head up for dinner, Tom had no qualms hitting the occurrence. The rod-tip doubled over instantly, indicating he was into another Villedon carp.
Thinking it was a small fish, he opted to net the carp on his own, while I went about reeling in all my rods. Funnily enough, as the carp surfaced a few yards out it became clear he was latched into a very, very big common. Luck played its part and Tom was soon cradling an absolutely incredible fish that ipped the scales to 52lb. Epic stuff!
After the flurry of action at the beginning of the week, things slowed down ever so slightly and it appeared the fish had moved up to our right, in front of the hugely talented Shaun Jones and Ed Matthews, who were both also on Rob’s birthday trip. On one morning towards the end of the week the pair landed seven 50lb-plus carp on the bounce. That’s some angling feat!
By the end of the week Tom and I had banked 30 fish, with three fifties, half a dozen over forty and stacks of thirties. More importantly, though, we hadn’t experienced any problems from the dreaded poissons chat and they hadn’t interfered with our fishing at all.
A couple of anglers around the lake had turned up with sweet-smelling boilies, thinking these would deter the chats, but they didn’t. They absolutely mullered their boilies and caused them no end of grief.
When it comes to targeting lakes that contain these little critters, my biggest bit of advice would be to come prepared. If they are in the lake you are fishing, take mesh, plastic bait and hardened hookbaits. It’s well worth taking a couple of tigers too, because they are easy to use, relatively cheap, and big European carp adore them!