French Christmas whacker by Neil Golden

As its Christmas I naturally wanted to catch in the most festive way possible. So, with my Santa hat in tow and every colour combination of a Snowman rig I could think of, all I had to do was try and pick a water that gave me the best chance at this time of year.

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As us northerners know, fishing in our neck of the woods is challenging at the best of times without the added difficulties of this time of year. Plus the odds of catching a whacker while rockin a Santa hat added to the challenge.

Next thing to do was plan a venue wisely as no one wants to write a feature on a blank. I find a good edge to picking a water at this time of year is to check social media as it can have its benefits. It never takes long to find pictures of someone celebrating a new PB or day tickets venues posting catch reports.

After a few hours online I’d completed a bit of a full circle. What I mean by that is even before I turned the laptop on I knew where I wanted to fish but the lake is closed at this time of year. However, I still ended up on the venues website to see what had been out during the season. There was one new addition to the gallery that hasn’t been out in five years. This was caught by yours truly but that’s another story. (Keep your eyes peeled for The Pursuit of Red Spot) Anyway, i phoned the lake owner and explained that I had a great excuse for a few Christmas drinks.

I don’t quite remember what happened during this phone call but I’d somehow agreed to take my wife with me. Regrettably, Michelle cannot stand fishing and the only type of holiday that appeals to her is long haul and tropical. So persuading her to jump on a plane to spend a few days round a lake was going to be border line impossible. Luckily, Michelle has met the owners at a few of the shows so i was keen to get everyone together for Christmas. I had to put a plan together and fast so like every good married man sacrifices were made!!

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The bivvy turned into a barn conversion that was around 30 minutes from the lake. So when we arrived on Friday evening we stayed at the barn without out even a courtesy drive by the lake. It was still an entertaining evening meeting a few locals all in the Christmas spirit with great wine and great food had by all.

I was up early Saturday morning to arrange a few rig bits because I agreed to take Michelle to a nearby Michelin star restaurant. For the record, this isn’t my normal of type of restaurant but this is the level of pampering id promised her. Plus, it was a nice Christmas treat for both of us. The food was divine and French cuisine at its finest.

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Finally after a few glasses of fizz and some fine dinning I got to swap my shirt and trousers for some carpy camo. I now had 8 hours at the lake to make it happen.

When we got to the lake it was cold, wet, windy and I really felt up against it. After a look round the normal spots the lakes residents were clearly in hiding. I had a popular Session pack with me which includes a bait soak, pellets and some boilies. I normally stop using liquids around November time in the UK. However, with limited time and being unable to locate any fish I used the liquid sparingly just to give me a little surface indication and a bit more attraction.

The first few hours went by with no activity and something just didn’t seem right because I was convinced this spot was holding fish. With time running out I brought the rods in to have a re-cast only to get hooked up to 30 yards of line!! I’d been fishing right in the middle of someone’s crack off! This has been happening to me all year and I was furious due to only having a few hours at the lake. The owners of the lake didn’t even know it was there because they had no record of anyone getting snapped. On this point, if any of you lose loads of line on any lake please, please let the bailiff and/or lake owner know. If we know about these things we can try and do something about it. Good water craft isn’t just about locating and catching fish. Its also about (amongst other things) helping with fish safety, ensuring the lakes future and stopping some poor sod wasting hours of valuable fishing time.

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Anyway, after 20 minutes in the boat I managed to get all the line out of the snags but destroy any chance of catching from this corner of the lake. I upped sticks to the other side in the hope that all the commotion id caused may have pushed a few fish over there. This was really last chance saloon. The heavens opened I had no waterproofs and worst of all i was blanking in front of the wife. She was tucked up in the social area wine in hand chuckling at me from the other bank with the owners.

I was sat on an unhooking mat wet and freezing and thinking about calling it a day when I got that all exciting single bleep. I watched the water between my rod tip and the rig like a hawk. The line was twitching something fierce and i considered lifting in to it. I decided to play round with the sensitivity on the R3’s as the fish were clearly up to something. I was purposely fishing tight lines to try and get some indication of fish activity and this is exactly what I got. I brought the right rod in and changed to a 1oz lead so I could cast around with as little disturbance as possible. About 20 yards from my rod tip I discovered an area that I couldn’t quite figure out. After three casts to the same spot it seemed every like I was bumping fish. I remember reading an article from a well known angler casting a lead out and it hitting fish on the way down. I was convinced I was experiencing something similar but with the line rubbing against fish when I was dragging the lead back.

I made a few alterations and put both rods in the area roughly a six feet apart. I slackened right off and had everything pinned to the floor as I no longer needed any false indication. With the sun making a brief appearance confidence was high even though there was only a few hours of daylight left.

For the first 20 minutes id sat there without any free offering hoping for a quick bite but nothing had happened. After that, every few minutes I started introducing a few pellets to try and trigger some feeding. The same as you would with maggots when match fishing. An edge that I’ve been using recently is spraying a liquid enhancer into the catapult with each offering of pellets.

Within seconds of the third spray of pellet hitting the water (still with the catapult in hand) i was in! A very welcome mirror at 30lb. To get a fish in these circumstances was a real achievement and greeted with a round of applause from the social area.

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I’d just put the fish back and was about to tackle down when the remaining rod goes off. Shortly afterwards I’m holding another mirror at 32lb. With both rods out of the water I uttered the famous words “one last cast”. I’d only just managed to get both rods out when the right one goes again and I’m bent in to another angry chunk. However, this time the left rod didn’t wait for me the land the fish and also roars off. Naturally in all the excitement I hit that rod as well to find myself in a bit of a pickle.(While still rockin my Santa hat by the way).

I started yelling across the lake and Steve (one of the lake owners) comes running round to assist me. In fairness I wasn’t making much progress as both fish had crossed over each other and with the bests intentions, I was donning some type of D Generation X pose!!

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That “one last cast” turned into a few more casts and five 30’s in as may hours. The fish tally was two bang on 30lb, three at 32lb and all mirrors. Although these are the babies of the lake I honestly don’t think I’ll top those five hours for a while. What started off as a session with blank written all over it, didn’t turn out too bad after all. I also managed to get my first husband and wife carp photo which I’m over the moon with.

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When darkness finally arrived it was time to tackle down and head back to the village for a festive knees up. We stopped off at Marco’s who’s a good friend of Dave and Steve’s. He doesn’t speak a word of English and my French is very limited. However, this guy was possibly the most genuine and entertaining person I’ve met for a long time. He also expressed a big interest in finding out if my wife had any sisters which gave us all a few giggles. Over a few glasses of wine Marco, with the aid of Dave translating, told stories of his time in the army. He told us one story about when he was shot and how he is lucky to be alive. The bullet had gone through his beret and only grazed his forehead. Marco goes into the other room and comes back with the very same beret and puts it on my head. At that point Dave said Marco has given it to me as a gift! I was truly humbled and could only think of offering him my Nash hat in return!

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Marco was over the moon with the Nash hat and this simple gift was greeted by more wine and the locals breaking into song. It just goes to show that its not always the gift but the thought that counts.

I hope that you and your families have a fantastic Christmas and if you do manage to escape the in-laws for a while that you land a festive whacker.

Merry Christmas everyone see you at the waters edge.

Neil Golden

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