Les Etangs de L’Abbaye
For the past few years I have taken a fishing holiday for carp in France, some have been fully organised trips, and some have been to campsite waters in France.
One thing for sure, the enjoyment of being there has always been the main objective.
Perry, one of my mates from the ‘old firm’ doesn’t carp fish much these days, in fact apart from holidays doesn’t fish for any species throughout the year, but when it comes to a week in France he seems to make the time available from work. Perry’s brother in law Pete has come along in the past and can be described the same as Perry in the way he looks at his fishing. That doesn’t mean they can’t handle a rod they both fished for carp nearly twenty years ago, it’s just that they have had other priorities in recent years.
It was left to ‘yours truly’ to organise the trip, which I didn’t mind, so where do we go? Both of the guys fancied a few fish, somewhere with good facilities, not too much driving and let’s face it we wasn’t going in search of monsters. The size of the lake wasn’t a problem but being the start of October perhaps some of the really big waters were not that inspiring as the weather can change very quickly at this time of the year. I started to check out some old magazines and some web sites on the Internet, after a few phone calls and getting back to the lads we decided on Les Etangs de L’Abbaye and I was to book three swims and the ferry to commence 30th September.
Rob Hughes' adverts and write-ups of Abbey described it as a ‘twenties factory’ great I thought the lads will catch a few; the facilities were described as the best and not a massive distance from Calais. What could be better!
I sent a cheque for the full amount, three times £230 for the fishing and £169 for the ferry. £859 in total.
I better just add at this point, we only had a couple of weeks before we were to go, all a bit of a last minute thing, but not to worry I had a few boillies in the freezer all we needed to do was to get the rest of the bait sorted out. This again was left to me; very helpful lads are Perry and Pete. We were to use Pete’s Nissan cabstar truck as transport so weight was not a problem, plenty of room for three lots of kit including bait and food for the week. Back to the bait, Perry had about 5k of boillies, Pete had about the same, these were ready mades that had been stored for a while, I had some homemade baits and pop ups in the freezer it was just some particle and pellets that needed to be purchased. 50k of 8.5mm trout pellets, 25k of 6.5mm trout pellets, 25k of 14mm salmon pellets, 25k of Red Band and 20k of Vitalin. I did have about 5k of 21mm halibut pellets, just in case!
OK, we now only had a few days to go the bait was sorted, the vehicle was insured for the trip all the gear had been checked, problem was we hadn’t received the confirmation back from Rob Hughes, therefore no ferry tickets, no directions to the lakes etc. After phone calls to his main number and mobile, messages left on his answer phone the documents arrived, shame it didn’t say which ferry company we were travelling with? Any way that was sorted too so there would be nothing left to stop us, Friday night arrived with the lads picking me up at about midnight.
Pete drove us all to Abbey safely and we arrived bright and early Saturday morning before the other anglers had left, this of course gave us the opportunity to check out the place and see what had been caught the previous week.
After checking in with the bailiffs we were shown where the lakes were and left to do our own thing. Although the lakes had access all the way round they were not as we had expected them to be. We had expected some bankside trees that would separate each swim, rather than one continual grass bank round the entire lake. We had a chat with some of the anglers that were leaving and was shocked when they had only caught a couple of carp each during the whole week, but then again perhaps the fish were waiting for us to arrive, you can always hope!
We decided to fish swims four and five with me setting up pitch between, three rods each fished at staggered distances starting with one bait at the bottom of the nearside slope, we had checked for any variations on the bottom using a marker float and braid but it seemed uniform right the way across, but as we had seen a couple of fish show themselves we decided to start here, the guys who had left that morning had been fishing different areas of the lake but said they had seen movement in this area over most of the previous week. Our confidence was high, as always, the weather conditions looked ideal, by the time we had set the bivvies up and baited the area in front of us with trout pellets via the spod we were fishing by 3pm.
6pm Saturday evening Perry’s alarm sprung to life with that tell tale beeeeeeeeeeeeep
After a short spirited fight I slipped the landing net under a 21lb 4oz mirror. ‘Twenties factory’ here we come………….
Then, nothing, for over 24 hours, had we put too much bait in? What, for a ‘twenties factory’ can’t be. We had cast our hook baits amongst the baited area with one each just off the edges. Perry’s take had come from his middle rod right in the centre of his patch. Perhaps not enough bait? Surely we would have had more than just one fish, we had put in about 10 - 12k of pellets with the spods, so between nine rods that’s not a lot, but then again we had put a few boillies over the top along with a few bits and pieces.
Sunday evening saw the carp start to show themselves in front of us, we had added a bit more trout pellets and red band during the day with the spods. The weather still looked good, we had consumed a feast of an evening meal consisting of steaks, chops, etc cooked on the barbeque, a few beers and the all important banter about who was to catch what over the next few days. We normally have a small side bet on who catches the first carp, who catches the biggest and who catches the most.
Between 9pm Sunday evening and 7am Monday morning we had caught six carp, three doubles, two twenties and a thirty, the thirty weighed 38lb 12oz and came to one of my rods fished on the edge of the baited pitch. I was smiling………..
We met a couple of Dutch lads who had been fishing the Heron lake behind us, although they had received plenty of action they had suffered break offs from the numerous tree stumps in the water that were covered with Zebra mussels.
They had a bait boat with them that contained an Eagle fish finder built into it. Now, I’m not a lover of these bait boats, I wouldn’t go as far and say they are cheating but, they do offer an edge. I think the main problem with the boats is that some anglers abuse the use of them by fishing at too greater distance with no control over a hooked fish and by placing their hook baits in snaggy areas where there is little chance of landing a fish. These lads were not doing this, I’m glad to say. However they were losing a lot of carp on the snags. Another English angler who had booked through Rob Hughes, was also fishing Heron lake and suffering the same problems, getting plenty of takes and then losing the fish, he was using Fireline main line which was as strong as you like when tested on the bank, but against the snags it parted like cotton.
Anyway back to the plot. We asked the Dutch lads to run their boat across our baited area just for a look see, as the marker float had shown, there was very little change on the lake bed, but also very few carp present, the readout on the Eagle was very clear with different fish being shown in differing sizes on the screen. The price for this piece of kit with the fishfinder worked out to about £1000. Rather expensive I would say, but if that’s what you want then why not. I’ll stick to my marker rod thank you!
To cut a not too long story short, I won’t go through the other catches giving the all the weights, I’ll just summarise on the totals for the week.
One thirty, nine twenties, eight doubles, that’s between three anglers for a full week, fishing three rods each. I think you will agree not a fantastic result for a ‘twenties factory.’ We actually achieved the best on the lake during our week, not all the anglers fishing caught, I understand another thirty was caught during the week, but quite a few of the other anglers caught low to mid doubles also.
Although we had a good time I would only hope the advertisers of these fisheries advertise realistically. We went to enjoy ourselves and with the realistic expectation of catching say two carp per 24 hours each, we were not expecting monsters so the thirty eight was a very welcome surprise, however we were not expecting eleven and thirteen pound carp either!! The facilities on site were of a good standard the toilets and showers were always clean, the staff at Abbey were helpful and the carp caught were in good condition. The location and distance from Calais makes the journey very easy, so there are a lot of positive things to say about the lakes.
All I ask, is to say it how it is, if the fishing has got harder throughout the year fine, explain that when a booking is made, lets keep it real.
I have sent some ‘feedback’ to Rob Hughes detailing the ‘goods’ and ‘concerns’ I even made a few suggestions, although after a month he has not responded, but that’s his choice, I won’t be going back, that’s my choice!