Carp fishing in northern France started for me when I first became aware of abbey lakes in 2000. I was fishing some other waters in France in those days. I used to fish and travel alone which gave me the freedom to move from swim to swim or even new lakes. This was the case with Abbey. I had been told about Angling International who were operating some French locations at time. They had taken over the UK bookings for the new venue, so a quick call to them explaining I was in France and would like to call in on the way home for a couple of nights. John shoes I believe as I remember said it would be ok. As I came through the gate there was a lake to the left of the entrance that I don’t think was part of Abbey at that time. I was surprised to see a couple of English anglers fishing on there, who were as equally surprised to see me rocking up.
France Angling Etiquette
The secret French grapevine was very active around that time, so a polite wave and I moved on to the lake I had come to Fish known as Fox lake. This was a new lake that had some fast growing Carp with fish around the 30 to 40 pound mark which in those days wasn’t as abundant as they are today. The whole complex looked totally different to how it looks today: long lush grassy banks covered every swim so you could just choose a nice area to fish from without being in a so called swim. So not knowing the makeup of the lake, the first job was to find some areas to fish to and find where the fish were likely to be. Apart from one French angler at the other end of the lake I had it to myself, on some other waters I had gone carp fishing in northern France with electric pylons above the lake; these areas had been very productive. So when a couple of fish showed near to where the pylons were running on Fox, this was a good place to start. It was mid-July, very Hot with no wind and high pressure. Weather conditions not conducive for catching big carp, which was why I had moved from my other venue.
Best Carp Bait from Mistral Baits
My chosen bait in those days was rosehip isotonic from Mistral baits. I had met Alan Parbery several times on Lac Der who owns and runs Mistral, we had several discussions around the rosehip in regard to it being very robust with the passion chat and other resident pests that use to demolish a bait the minute it hit the water in France. Rosehip was the only bait that would keep them at bay and give the carp a chance to eat it and in my opinion is one of the best baits for carp fishing in northern France. The pylon theory paid off with the first take coming at 2 o’clock in the afternoon in the hot sun. A lovely Mirror of 25lb on the first day.
I had 48 hours to make the most of my good fortune of being one of the first English Carp Anglers to Fish Fox. Had a very pleasant evening alone on the lake, the French angler was only fishing the day. Just got under the brolly into the bag and the same rod was away again with another lovely looking mirror of 22lb, to say I Was pleased was an understatement. At 1 o’clock in the morning I was in again with yet another 21lb mirror, at 6 o’clock yet another mirror of 28lb visited my landing net. The best came just before I had to pack up and head home a lovely pristine common just over that magical thirty pounds. After that session I’ve never fished Fox lake since.
Return to Carp Fishing in Northern France at Abbey Lakes
Two years later I returned to the complex in early May of 2002 with good friend and fishing companion Simon. We were on Heron this time which was also gaining a reputation for some big carp. We set up midway down the left-hand bank as close to the pylons as we could get. Abbey by now was getting very popular with the English anglers as it’s only an hour or so from the ports. It was all very busy with Anglers coming and going. This was the norm then with anglers doing a long weekend of carp fishing in northern France for a couple of days. One thing that had crept in was the use of the dreaded bait boat enabling some anglers to fish where they probably never able to cast to.
The landscape still hadn’t changed that much with a few saplings being planted around the lake. The fishing was slow at first until I found a nice margin spot down the bank to my left away from the now crowded middle areas of the lake. Simon did the same to his right, the bait was once again the good old Rosehip isotonic. These changes worked with the first bite coming from my spot to the left at 4 in the afternoon a 15lb mirror, then the same spot produced two nice commons of 17 & 18 respectively in the next hour. Then Simons spot to his right was away with a nice 20 plus Mirror. The next day was calm with no action until darkness and again two more doubles to the close in rods. Then just before light that same rod down the margin to my left was away with the biggest of the trip, a mirror of 26lb. I never returned to Abbey again until 2015.
Winter syndicate Abbey Lake
It was a post on Facebook from a friend fishing on the winter syndicate asking if anyone was interested in joining that winter rekindled my interest in the lakes. That was the first year that I never got to fish over the winter, for personal reasons. The management knowing my circumstances offered me the next year for free, a very nice gesture on their part.
December 2016 was the next time on Abbey, Simon came along as a guest for a four day session, this time we opted for a lake at the back of the complex a new addition known as Kingfisher Lake, it was traditionally the predator lake with some big catfish, but more recently had produced some large carp previously gone under the radar. We had the whole lake to ourselves. Simon was a non-fishing guest on this occasion as he wasn’t a winter member. His help from the bank when out in the boat was invaluable in this weedy water. The trip would have been a nonstarter on my own. We chose swim 5 right by the railway line.
The noise from these fast moving trains with no leaves on the trees behind has to be experienced to be believed. You have to stop a conversation because you can’t hear anyone speaking next to you. The only respite is for a few hours overnight when the trains stop running. But would you believe our luck, the track laying repair team turned up for two of the nights we were there. This time the bait was crushed richworth S core. Rigs and bait boated to holes in the weed, the fishing was slow, but the unusually mild weather made it more comfortable. We did manage one nice leathery looking carp of 38lb on the second to last day. We did have to take to the boat to land it, as the fish had gone straight into the thick weed that surrounded the area we were fishing. We made our way home the day before Christmas Eve happy that we had at least caught one decent fish while carp fishing in northern France.
We did return for a couple of Nights on Attila in early March as this Lake had been productive through quite a tough second half of the winter. We turned up to heavy rain and very cold. no fish had been out from most of the lake for a couple of weeks so we were hoping for a break in the weather. This didn’t happen, the weather just got worse with snow, hailstones and fog throughout this short trip. So not much to report on, no boat use on this Lake was allowed, which made it even more difficult to find any fish.
Back to Heron
2017 saw us back at Abbey at the end of November this time. I really wanted to get on to Fox Lake, but the winter ticket is very popular with European carp anglers who also go carp fishing in northern France, so we couldn’t get anywhere near a decent swim. Since my first visit many years before, the lakes have changed dramatically with hardly any grass in swims on fox and mature trees and bushes between each swim.
So it was over to Heron for a four night session, we opted for the first couple of swims on the left hand bank as high winds and low pressure was due to blow right in there. The wind did pick up to almost storm force, branches from the trees were blowing into the water and ending up right in front of us, making it difficult to keep lines in the water. This made Simon’s swim very difficult to fish. Around midnight he emerged from the darkness into my swim with his rod and rig in hand. He had just lost a fish and there on the hook was a large scale from the carp that had eluded him. He won’t thank me for this but his expression as he showed me was one of disbelief. Lady Luck just wasn’t on his side as a couple of hours later he again emerged from the darkness again rod and rig in hand, another fish had gotten away with it. This time the hook had shaped at the gape, unbelievable. The only positive I could give him was the fish were feeding in front of him. I on the other hand hadn’t had a touch for twenty-four hours. Not a good day to be Carp fishing in northern France.
Carp Fishing in Northern France – Change of Tactics
A change of tactic was needed for me. I recalled the captures from many years before where I’d caught from a spot down to my left. So out with the marker rod to find a spot in the weed about 30 yards down the bank to my left. Another tactic that has been working very well for me for a while is hemp mixed seeds and ground bait with an added up and down mix used when zig fishing. So out with the spot and twenty or so spods dropped on the clear spot between the weed beds. So that took up most of the day repositioning my baited spots, time for a catch-up with Simon and a good meal as it was now getting dark. The wind by now was dying down but still in our favour. 9pm and all the work had paid off with a nice slow take on the new spot to my left. It was a Tench of 12lb, I didn’t know there were big tench in the lake so was a bit surprised. A good start though.
Catching big Tench in France
The next hour produced two more bites: a leathery looking carp just under 20lb and the biggest tench I’d ever seen of 14lb. To say I was pleased would be an understatement. The next day was uneventful, more spod went out on the spot ready for hopefully another eventful night. 9 o’clock on the dot again another double figure Tench and then a different type of take with the rod lurching round to the left nearly riding over the bite alarm ears before I could get some sort of control. It seemed like ages before the fish was in front of me ready to net after going through several weed beds. Into the net it went in the darkness. I was struggling to lift the fish back on the bank so left the fish in the landing net and waited for Simon to get round to me to help. This is when you can enjoy the moment even more, sharing a capture of a great fish with a good mate. So we weighed and photographed the fish: a 55lb Common Carp, well pleased, cup a tea then Si! All from the same spot over the ground bait to the left. Next morning, we headed for home very happy.
Last trip to Abbey
March 17 saw us head for more Carp Fishing in Northern France over at Abbey once again. Hoping to get on Fox Lake again, we arrived with a good part of the day still left before dark, but my heart sunk as Fox and Heron were really busy. My problem with this is fishing has to be on my terms and squeezing in for the sake of being on a particular lake with anglers all around me is not my idea of fun or being at one with the country side around me. The only option was to go over to Kingfisher lake where we had fished previously. Sadly, we couldn’t go in swim 5 below the train track again, so we opted for a nice double swim instead. Opposite that, we had full view of the whole lake. We tried every spot we found with all the tactics that had worked in the past with no luck for three nights straight. The Lakes and Fox in particular are producing some very large carp and as a result it’s attracting the long stay anglers to the complex on the winter ticket. So I’ve decided not to renew my winter ticket and concentrate on some English winter fishing in the near future until something else gets my interest. I may go to Abbey during the holiday season where swims are easier to get on to with anglers not staying for weeks on end.
That’s all for now – tight lines, Trev.Carp Fishing in Northern France: Abbey Lakes by Trevor