Now read on…
I am not the only angler to rave on about the SuperSoft Pellets. Both Adam and Brian have written about them and I have seen a copy cat version recently. Indeed, there was some blurb about it in a magazine that quotes the reviewer as saying: "I have to say that these (High-Attract Pellets) are quite unique and very different to anything I have seen." Well you clearly must have your eyes glued shut as Haith's SuperSoft Pellets (ultra high-attract by the way) have been on the market for two years. Still, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so we'll leave it there…!
As I mentioned, when I sent off my final blog I was just about to depart for a late-winter visit to my favourite French venue, the Napoleonic lake at Le Queroy. Here I would take up again my ongoing search for the biggest fish on the complex, a mirror carp called Triad. I had come close in the past. I swear I was just one take away from putting Triad into my net when I had to leave last September and Dan, the owner, said it was just a matter of time before I landed the old girl. However, it was not to be and I ran out of time on that occasion. That session is described here:
So March 3rd 2017 saw Tat and I depart from Plymouth for a very early season visit to Nappy's. I have very fond memories of that particular date as thirty-four years ago to the day I landed my first ever thirty from College Reservoir in Cornwall, and I have always regarded that date as a lucky one for me. Crossing the Channel was hairy in the extreme as a howling gale made the ferry rock and roll like crazy and this same weather followed us from Roscoff in France - our port of arrival - all the way down to le Queroy. It was freezing cold and the wind blew a hooligan for the next three days. Dan and Jodie lost a bit of their roof, we had floods and power cuts and once again I lost my brolly. (Le Q. has a habit of eating my umbrellas; this would be the third one to go west over the years.)
I was in no hurry to start fishing in all that rubbish weather and with the water temperature hovering around the five degree mark, I was not exactly brimming with enthusiasm.
That said, I have full confidence in my baiting strategy which, as I sure you will have guessed, included glugged SuperSoft Pellets. I also took a few kilos of SuperNut groundbait mixed up with water and a cocktail of attractors to form a paste. Five kilos of Haith's Hempseed was also a vital part of my baiting approach and as always I would prepare this in Thermos flasks overnight, adding a goodly dollop of Liquid Robin Red to add still further to the attraction.
As is always the case wherever and whenever I go fishing, I employ an array of different baits and techniques. My aim is to create a wealth of attraction that both spreads widely over the lake bed and also provides a more powerful source of attraction in the immediate vicinity of the main bait carpet and the hookbait. These next few photos detail my (some may say) complicated bait strategy:
As mentioned in my previous blog, using a liquid attractor to help bind together the SuperSoft Pellets can be hugely effective and the SuperSofts form one of the mainstays of my bait application for the simple reason that they break down so fast and leak instant attraction onto the lakebed in the area of your bait. This shows the Pellets being glugged in Liquid Robin Red and Tamari.
I would not go anywhere without some hemp seed. You don't need much, especially when the water temperatures are at winter levels but it is probably the most effective micro seed bait there is. As always I prepare my hemp by soaking it in a Thermos flask or two in boiling water. After 24 hours it is ready to use, but I like to tweak it with a dollop of Liquid Robin Red.
These are Optimum boiled baits made for me by Rollin' Baits of Thirsk. Optimum is without doubt the most effective milk & fishmeal base mix I have ever used. It was designed by Dave Moore and John Hallett, and what they don't know about making truly incredible and effective baits is not worth knowing. The bait is brimming with pre-digested ingredients and is thus highly soluble. While it does tend to go soft quite quickly, I see this as a positive aspect rather than a negative one, as the attraction simply pours out of the baits as they start to break down. I can thoroughly recommend Rollin' for all your bait requirements, as they roll all the better bait mixes including those of Haith's Baits.
One trick many French anglers use is to soak stale bread overnight before mashing it to a puree prior to use. The bread can then be laced with other bits and pieces such as boilies, pellets, hempseed and so on. This shows left-over French bread, hemp seed, SuperNut and Optimum barrels. The little pot of baits is from the incomparable UB Baits stable.
Optimum boiled baits with Blue Oyster Booster Liquid. I used this on both the free offerings of Optimum and on the Frolic biscuits. I tend not to use flavours so much these days other than on my hookbaits as a booster, but there is no getting away from the fact that Blue Oyster has something really special going for it. It is best to apply a booster liquid to frozen baits allowing them to absorb the attraction as they thaw.
Here you can see the small Optimum barrels glugged in Tamari. I use liberal amounts of Tamari Soy Sauce each and every time I go fishing - though I find it hard not to drink the stuff neat out of the bottle, as it tastes sublime. It is rich in natural attraction and disperses widely and freely once introduced to your swim. Though the Optimum probably doesn't need any help in attracting carp, I gave the boilies a bit of a glug in the stuff anyway!
What more can I say about this stuff? Sanchi Tamari Soya Sauce is the gen-kiddie stuff. An incredible and almost instant attractor that is water soluble and draws fish to the baits like a magnet. I use it by the bucketful!
Frolic dog biscuits are an important part of my baiting plan. I have no idea what they contain that so appeals to carp; all I know is that they love 'em! Here I am glugging them in Tamari using enough of the Sauce to kick-start the breakdown process of the biscuits.
I also used this liquid attractor from Feed Stimulants to add extra attraction to the Frolic biscuits and slow the breakdown process a little. This combined with the Tamari-glugged Frolics instilled in the bait carpet a progressive and wide-ranging breakdown process.
The water temperature was very low when we arrived but by the fifth day the sun had come out and the water level had dropped. This allowed the water to warm up quite quickly, until it reached what I consider to be the optimum winter temperature of ten degrees. Nevertheless, I felt that the carp would not be up for a big meal so I kept the baiting on the light side. This is a typical bait boat hopper's worth. Here you can see Optimum boiled barrels, Frolic biscuits, hempseed and some SuperNut paste. On the right hand side of the hopper is a Fox Paste Bomb loaded with Optimum Paste. I use the Bomb each and every time I cast out or drop a hookbait.
These are parcels of Trigga Ice Pellets. I made a couple of 10kg buckets-worth for my trip last September but did not use them all. What was left over was doused on Tamari and brought back to Le Q. for another go! I generally attach a single parcel to the hook point prior to casting out but I also fire then over a wide area of the swim to encourage the carp to browse the general area more confidently.
As any sensible angler should do (but I'll bet many don't!) I make sure that the water is not so cold as to prevent the glugged PVA mesh from melting. A parcel dropped in the margins will soon show if you are likely to retrieve an unwelcome surprise when reeling in eight hours later!
If you have read my previous blogs you will need no reminding that I put great reliance on paste wraps and free offerings when carping. Rollin' supplied me with a pot of Optimum paste and I used this until it ran out! I also used some of Nutrabaits Blue Oyster Paste, as I did in September 2016 when it helped me to land eight fifties, no less! Here are the two pastes with Optimum moulded around the Paste Bomb. To add still more attraction (probably gilding the lily somewhat!) I also blended a couple of grams of Green Lipped Mussel Concentrate into the paste.
In addition Thereafter I used a fair amount of water-based SuperNut paste both on the Paste Bomb and as free offerings in the bait boat hopper.
And now to the crème de la crème of the bait strategy, the hookbaits. On each and every trip these days I use pop-ups from UB Baits. I have used these now for four visits to Le Q. and they have accounted for over 130 carp including a dozen fifties and a sixty. Say no more!
However, I am a constant tinker man and am never happier that when messing about with baits. Again you could argue that this little wheeze is over-egging the pudding but what the hell? If it gives you confidence when the east wind is freezing your nuts off, then anything that boosts it must be a good thing. The photo is self-explanatory. (Next time I am going to ask Matt to make me some GLMC 14mm pops…watch this space!)
As for rigs (and I know how much you lot love a bit of rig talk!) I used my old standby, the 360 Rig tied using a size 6 Gardner Longshank Mugga hook. You will note from the photo that I have positioned a bit of shrink tube over the eye of the hook. This prevents it from getting caught in the mesh after the fish has been scooped into the landing net. The hookbait is from UB Baits and the boilies are barrels of Optimum and the round baits are my own Trigga/milk boilies.
I also used a Gardner style Ronnie Rig, again tied with the size 6 Longshank Mugga and incorporating their size 12 link swivel. It is hard to know which of these two rigs was more effective as they both accounted for an equal fair share of the fish landed.
Initially the water temps were very low and the water was high and coloured. This is the swim on the Wednesday of my first week. You can see how the level is well up, creeping over the first (lower) board . In fact, at one stage it was even higher than this, coming up over the rear feet of the pod, a good nine or ten inches above normal. The water was very coloured thanks to the big inflow of wash-off coming from the fields and all in all, what with the cold and the rain and the high water, it was pretty miserable. However, by the weekend of our first week the sun was making an effort, the rain had stopped and the level was dropping nicely, allowing the lake to revert to something resembling its usual colour.
There is not much more to tell you about tackle and tactics. As usual I used braid on my reels, switching from the ultra-fine 0.16mm Fox Submerge 25lb (too fine in my opinion) to the more robust Gardner Hydro-Braid. At 0.35mm this line is as tough as old boots and it sinks like a brick. I also reckon that when tied using George Sharman's 100% reliable Two-Turn Slip Knot I was more at risk of cutting my fingers off than I was of ever breaking the line at the swivel!
As ever I fished my lines ultra-slack, much to the astonishment of the Elba anglers who came down for a chat, while things were quiet on their lake. When they saw my lines hanging straight down from the rod tip, their eyes almost popped out of their heads.
The point about slack lining with braid is that it is so sensitive that if a fish so much as breaths on the hookbait you get an indication at your end that something has occurred. It's something to do with fluid dynamics but don't ask me to explain. All I can tell you is that I have been using light running leads fished ultra slack on braid reel lines for eleven years now and I would not dream of using any other method. Other anglers are gob smacked when my indicator slams into the butt as the line is still tightening. They then go back and try it with either heavy fixed leads or mono line and wonder why the method does not work for them! It MUST be braid reel line and it MUST be a light running lead for the technique to work correctly. (Note too how much the water level has dropped in a few days.)
I fish the south side dam wall swim in much the same manner as I do the one opposite, as detailed in the 'Trip to Die For' blog. However, it is not really possible to fish tight into the gate (north) corner of the lake from the northern swim whereas it is not only possible, it is (was!) highly recommended to have at least one rod tight to the far bank, right in the corner when fishing the south bank swim. The fish have always loved that area but they don't hang around for long when one of their number is caught so it's usually best to leave it alone for a while after you have landed one from there. I am not sure if they will show up too well in the low resolution shots used for web pages, but you should be able to see a patch of bubbles across there, immediately below the fence. That is where Triad came from as well as two other fifties.
And so to the nub of the matter, dear old Triad. As you will have read in my Blog about the fish, I have been after this gorgeous creature since 2006 after it graced the bank for the first time in the arms of my missus at 41lb 5oz. Year after year I returned in the hope that I would land this very special carp but sadly I was to be thwarted in my search. Unbeknownst to me the previous owners had moved the fish up to the stock pond in the annual vidange in 2007. In effect I was fishing for a fish that wasn't there! When I did find out where she was living I was no nearer getting her into my net as the stock pond is a tiny little puddle of about half an acre, way to small for my liking. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel! Then when Dan and Jodie took over they moved the fish in the stock pond back into Nappy's…Now had a chance!
I had opened my account more or less straight away after waiting for the weather to settle down. It blew like crazy and a lot of damage was done locally, but after setting up on the Monday, I soon caught a 43lb mirror, followed the next day by this 53lb fish. I had another forty that day as well so clearly the Optimum was all that Rollin' had claimed it to be. They say that on a lake that has seen it all, Optimum is a bait that will sort out the bigger fish almost straight away, and that claim certainly seemed to be paying off.
The following day was fairly quiet (by my Le Q. standards) with only a couple of mid 30s coming to the net but with the level dropping by the day things were looking pretty good. The water temps climbed closer to the magic ten degrees, the birds sang louder and the catkins on the willows grew in bright profusion. The sun shone, God's in His heaven, all's right with the world. I wandered back up the hill to the Cottage a happy man.
The next day a mid twenty and a thirty came to the net but I felt full of confidence that things were going to get better. And so they did the following day in the shape of a couple of forties and another fifty, this one going 51lb on the nose. I made a mess of the pix but I here's the best of a bad lot!
The weekend was spent sight seeing and wining and dining in the local hostelries but I kept the bait trickling in, predominantly boilies and pellets with a scattering of Frolic. I made up a couple of Thermos flasks of hemp for the Monday morning and woke to find a nice warm breeze blowing into the far corner by the gate. A fish stuck its head out to greet me as I sent the bait boat out with the first bait of the day. I had intended to drop the bait at the mid way point along the dam but you don't look a gift horse like that in the mouth. I steered the boat across to the corner and dropped the light load into just a couple of feet of water and no sooner had I got all four rods out than it was away. I landed the fish, which looked to be a high thirty, and got ready to do the business with the scales when the second rod, also dropped in the far corner, went off. There must be quite a few fish over there, I thought to myself, popping the first fish, still in the sling, back into the water for a later photo.
I picked up the rod showing the take and bent into the fish. A huge splash churned the shallow water to foam as the fish took off toward the opposite comer, going like a bat out of hell along the dam. I stopped it short of the snags to my right so it then ploughed back the way it had come: in five minutes it had travelled the best part of 150 yards from one corner of the lake to the opposite one and back again!
Bit by bit I worked the fish back towards me. I knew it was big but then, most of the fish in Nappy's are, but when it finally rolled into the net I realised that my hunt for Triad was over. I did a quick weigh in the sling but her belly was still resting on the mat. Fat lot of good that was. I was giggling like a fool and jumping around like a mad man but I got myself together long enough to pop the huge magnificence back into the water, then drove up the hill to the Cottage to fetch Dan and family and Tat of course, who was also looking forward to seeing her old friend. Ten minutes later we were all gathered on the bank in my swim where two full recovery slings awaited our attention.
Dan helped me lift the first sling from the lake and we placed her gently on the mat. Opening the zip on the sling I saw for the first time just how big a fish she was and Dan kept remarking the same: "That's a big fish," he muttered a couple of times. I extended the tripod's legs as far as they would allow and then moved the mat, sling and Triad under it. Then I hooked the scales into the rings on the sling and then up onto the tripod's crook. (I find this makes life a lot easier than trying to get two separate rings hooked onto the crook.) We waited for the needle to settle while Jodie, Dan and Tat danced attendance firing off photos of the scales. The needle showed just under seventy pounds.
I punched the air in delight. Now for the hard work…My back is dodgy enough at the best of times and I knew lifting the huge fish for the camera would probably put it out of whack (it did…badly!) but the crowd gathered around firing of shots by the score.
Here she is, in all her glory. Triad! After an eleven year wait the hunt was over. At 65lb 8oz she was mine!
Just look at the girth on that fish!
And look at the shoulders!
It was almost an anti climax to weight and photograph the other fish but I am glad we did, as she was a sleek and beautiful low forty. The far corner had been very good to me!
Those of you who know me will not be surprised to hear that I packed up for the day as soon as both fish had waddled off safely. I had caught my prize, was happy as a sandboy*** and was far too excited to fish properly again today! And I needed to celebrate! We drove into Availles and had a pint of three (me, not Tat) and did a shop for nosh and some bubbles; Bolly! What else!
(***Publicans used to spread sand on bar floors to catch slops, spills and so on. The sand was delivered by sandboys. Hauling sand was thirsty work, and they were part paid in drink. This kept them happy hence the saying.)
Next morning I awoke with a sore head and a stupid grin all over my face. I was briefly tempted not to bother fishing anymore but my passion for carping soon overcame that. I finished the trip with four other fifties, backed up by some forties and thirties and a lone twenty-seven pound mirror, the smallest fish I have caught from Le Q. in five years. Here in are some of the other fish I caught on the trip.
And so it was time to leave Le Queroy's wonderful Napoleonic lake, the scene of many of our favourite and most cherished memories. As always I could not have had one tiny fraction of the enjoyment without my soul mate, wife, friend and fellow carper Carole (her nickname is Tat). Bless you, darling.
So where next? Where else could come up to Le Queroy's standards? We have got a couple of trips booked for 2017 to other lakes with nice accommodation planned for 2017, but we will be back at Nappy's and the Cottage in July and November 2018 and to be honest, we can't wait!