My Friend Simon Loved Carp Angling. Here’s Why I Celebrated His 60th Birthday Without Him…
Two Years of Planning Simon’s 60th Birthday Fishing Trip
Been struggling to get my head round writing this piece. Sitting on Abbey lake in winter 2017, Simon asked the question “where are we going for my sixtieth birthday fishing trip”. We’ve been to a lot of venues over the years, we do do like a bit of boating alongside our fishing, well at least I do. So where could we get a big water feel with some big fish? After much deliberation, we decided only one place offered what we was looking for: Villedon situated near Limoges. A long drive, but worth it if our previous trip was anything to go by. We had to book swims beforehand which was not ideal as it was two years away. On our previous trip we opted for the swim at the far end of the lake near the river inlet. We felt that trip had gone well with the weather and wind in our favour. We didn’t think we would be so lucky this time, so we aimed for swim 19 around the middle of the 100 or so acre lake. The nomadic fish would pass by us more often was our thoughts. So it was all booked up through Fishermans Holidays. We booked with them as this is supposed to be a three man swim. In my view it isn’t, other booking agents want to charge the full three person tariff for only two anglers.
In between this trip we went to Iktus Ruffaud in roughly the same area, where we made our final plans for the Villedon trip. We caught some nice fish there but got caught at the wrong end of a spawning period on the lake, somewhere to keep an eye on though.
We managed a few trips at home together and Simon did go to France with some members of our syndicate where he caught a few nice carp to mid thirty. At home Simon did manage to catch a lovely mid forty common he’d set his sights on catching.
We were getting close to the time we would be off to Villedon, as always Simon was getting his usual exited head on. Telephone conversations were increasing to discuss what bait and other possibly unnecessary stuff we were going to take with us.
See my other blog for more on Iktus..
Unusually for me I decided to do a Monday overnight at my local syndicate water. We had been discussing the matters above the day before, so a missed call from Simon wasn’t unexpected. I sent him a quick text telling him I’m out fishing and that we could catch up when he was free. Early the next morning I’d been out on the rods, the phone call from Simon had been missed again, so I called him back to apologise for the two missed calls. To my surprise his wife relayed the sad news that Simon had passed away in the night on the way to Hospital after collapsing at home.
I took this news badly, I’ve never lost a close friend before didn’t quite know how to deal with it. My first job however wasn’t going to be easy, ringing round all the carp fishing friends we had in common. Each and every one was as shocked and saddened that such a lovely guy had been taken much too soon from his family and friends with only weeks to go to his sixtieth birthday.
A Difficult Decision
It was a few days later the feeling of not going to France started sink in. I wasn’t sure if I could still go on the trip. Simon’s wife however thought I should go, as this is what Simon would have wanted. At first I was going alone, I mentioned this to Nigel another good friend of Simon. He was as also feeling the loss as I was. So we decided we would team up to go in remembrance of our great friend. Nigel and I didn’t really know much about each other apart from being friends with Simon and fishing the same water here in the UK.
On Our Way to France..
Well the time was here, Nigel picking me up for 07:40 ferry, we nearly always took the cheaper ferry option and made the breakfast on the boat a bit of a ritual. This was the part of the trip I knew would be the most difficult for me, Nigel was great, understanding how It was for me at breakfast.
We were soon on our way in Nigel’s van, heading south with Paris to negotiate first. Luckily I’ve done this drive to various waters in the past. We left on Friday for a Saturday start as was our original plan. The further south we went, the hotter it was getting; we wasn’t really expecting it to be as hot in September with temperatures reaching mid thirties.
We eventually arrived at our destination: Lac VIlledon. The owner, who lives onsite, gave us a nice welcome and some welcome French food to take the edge off. He showed us where we could bivvy up for the night, ready for a fresh start to get to our chosen swim :19 by boat up the lake. This also gave us an opportunity to chat to the lads coming off the lake from the previous week as they brought the boats back to the dam wall area. It hadn’t been fishing great due to the late heatwave and no wind, but all seem to enjoy their week on the water.
From the Dam Wall to Swim 19 at Villedon
By early afternoon we were in our swim with all our gear, using my inflatable boat to to tow behind to make things a bit easier. A toss of a coin deciding who was left or right of the swim. I wasn’t bothered either way, but we thought it was the fairest way to do it. So me on the left and Nigel on the right. The weather was now very hot on the lake, luckily we had some tall trees around our area which did make it more bearable in the shade. So it was down to the task of finding our spots to fish in our respective areas. We did get the heads up from the owner, but I’m always a bit cautious with this advice as it’s sometimes reflecting where he’d like everyone to fish from certain areas.
Here I am getting my Flys ready for the session:
Lac du Villedon at Swim 19
For the wrappers amongst you, my spots were at 21 wraps just off the the left of my area in an arc with the left hand rod now facing towards the middle of the dam wall from where we launched the boats. It all started a bit on the slow side with no wind and hot sunshine. The forecast for the middle of the week was for a decent bit of wind and cooler temperatures. This weather came in a bit earlier than forecast on Monday, we both got off the mark with Nigel landing a nice 29lb mirror and me with two really nice fish of 45 and 48 in the daylight which is always satisfying. Looking back I didn’t quite appreciate these two fish with my thoughts with Simon and how he would be enjoying this trip. The going method was a hard Hooker and a pink pop up on a blowback rig. Mistral belachan and Spirulina boilies with a couple of spoons of ground bait and hemp with Mistral’s cloud mix.
Fly Fishing for Carp in France
After watching a TV program the evening before we left, Fish or Die, Fishing with fly and seeing them catch a big arapaima. It got me thinking about doing the same, only with a big carp. I’ve caught on the fly from home waters and thought this might break the week up a bit. I had a nice little bay to my left, I gave it a go morning and evening with just one pull to show for my efforts but enjoyable none-the-less.
Oil on Troubled Waters
The only downside to fishing at Villedon is that some swims have anglers on opposite sides of the lake. This was the case where we were fishing. The fella opposite me started swearing and shouting obscenities when the bait boat broke down and we had to resort to dropping the rig from the boat. I did cast some rods but wasn’t so effective as dropping from the bait boat or dinghy. Just for the record we did measure from Google Earth and I was 40 yards inside my area; we did check this with the measuring device I borrowed from the owner on the Friday afternoon.
After many years fishing with Simon with hardly a bad word between us, fishing with someone new was strange for myself and for Nigel. Harmony being one of the most important pieces of the jigsaw when fishing for long periods abroad. Thankfully Nigel and I got on from the start, neither of us had an agenda and genuinely pleased whoever landed the carp.
Results of a Week’s Angling at Villedon in France
We continued to catch consistency until Friday with a couple for me in the morning using the same tactics. With no wind from about lunchtime until we left Saturday morning there were no more fish for either of us. We both ended up with 6 fish each, mainly thirties and forties. It turned out to be a very enjoyable trip to both us, albeit with a few down-periods feeling a bit guilty when catching those lovely Villedon fish that Simon was so looking forward to catching. I’d like to thank Nigel for stepping in last minute and making it an enjoyable trip. Nigel has taken some great footage of us having a laugh and almost in tears in other clips. It was a bit up and down emotionally but we both felt Simon would have been pleased with us becoming good friends from a situation we both didn’t want.
Seventies in Villedon..
There’s lots of fishing to be had in France from the big public waters, my favourite form of fishing and I hold those captures in high regard. It’s not the same as small ponds holding big fish conveniently only a few yards from your bivvy. Each to his own -- nothing wrong with that. If you’re like me and there needs to be certain challenges, like using a boat and fishing a slightly bigger water but not too daunting, the Villedon fits that criteria. The biggest fish of our week came to an English angler fishing on his own with a nice common of 57lb. The lake does hold a good number of fifties and sixties with a handful around the seventy mark. Big enough for most of us.
The Drive Home From France
It’s a long drive home and we all get a bit carried away speed-wise on some of those deserted motorways south of Paris. A word of warning: we are now being sent traffic violations i.e. Speeding fines, to the registered keeper of the vehicle. I got my first fine in in thirty years of driving in France on the way home. Then when we got the the ferry port we had to wait three hours for the first available ferry.Simon’s sixtieth Birthday trip to Villedon by Trevor