I am writing this from my aunties villa located near Fayence in the south of France. I have not yet started my fishing and am still preparing for the five days that I will fish one the best carp lakes in the world Lac Saint Cassien. (Below: Looking down the south arm on Cassien). This year I feel I have a good chance of catching a carp from this great lake as I have prepared thoroughly. My reels have been re-spooled with 18lb ESP line; I have purchased an echo sounder and a boat. I have also made some 35mm pineapple pop ups that I have air dried for two week and boiled for four minutes. These rock hard bollies eliminate nuisance fish such as possion chat destroying the bait before a carp can find it. I have got some good quality solar carp food boilie (shrimp) and some glugged tiger nuts which will be used as both hook baits and freebies. The tiger nuts will be used in the shallower water and the bollies in the deeper water. This is to stop the possion chat being able to eat my baits as they will only feed within 35ft and shallower and do not eat tiger nuts. Just in case I run out of bait or I feel that the particular baits I have chosen are not producing I have also taken some mainline base mix, sweetener and selection of flavourings.
Below: View down the west arm of Cassien
My boat was purchased from eBay for sixty seven pounds which was a great deal as to buy it new would have set me back seven hundred. The boat is perfect for the job and extremely durable. To fish Lac Saint Cassien you need a boat to find spots to fish to with your echo sounder and to play the fish once hooked so that you can get above it an eliminate your line being cut on the rocks or snagged. Also many of the swims are only accessible by boat. The boat is a Stern 838 and even has an outboard to mount a motor on the back. Another vital bit of kit that I purchased was an echo sounder which was also from eBay costing sixty pounds. An echo sounder is necessary for finding depths at which to place your bait and also to show the topography of the lake. Lac Saint Cassin’s topography is very “up and down” and it is pointless putting you bait out in 120ft of water when the carp are only known to feed at the deepest in 70ft. This piece of equipment is extremely important and it would be near impossible to find ideal carp feeding/holding areas without it in such an expansive area of water.
Rig choice has been another difficult decision and I have still not made my mind up fully. I have tied both some chod rigs and bottom bait hair rigs. I am not going to use a leeder and fish 18lb ESP line straight through to the swivel although I have got some leadcore and will adapt if need be. I purchased some size 2 Korda curve hooks for the choddies with the 35mm pop ups and size 4 Korda curve hooks for the tiger nut rigs. With the bottom bait rigs I have used Krysten snake skin coated braid (I have not stripped any of the coating) and have just tied a simple hair rig but with and extremely long hair of 3-4 inches. This long hair should cope with 4 tigernuts in a row and tipped with some yellow glugged rig foam to balance the bait out and give it some colour. This will be fished with a simple weed clip or inline lead set up with no more than twenty free baits around it. I am looking to fish with my baits in 15-40ft of water. Another factor to consider when fishing Cassien is the snags that litter the bottom. Cassien was dammed in the 50s-60s and so all the trees that were originally in the valley were lopped as timber is a voluble resource. This in turn, once the valley was flooded left hundreds of tree stumps on the bottom of the lake making fishing more challenging. To overcome this I will use a buoyancy ball or in my case a ping pong ball attached to the mainline free running above the swivel. I have created two holes either side and fixed in a piece of 3mm ESP rig tube to allow it to run up the line easily. This keeps all your main line from the rig swivel to you rod tip off the snags and hopefully will increase the chance of landing a fish. (Below: Cassien taken from the restaurant)
The best weapon which I have brought to Cassien is my book “Cassien and Beyond” by Steve Briggs. I recommend that anyone wanting to fish Lac Saint Cassien should read this book first as it gives you a great incite to how he lake fishes and all the best tactical methods. There is no better advice or information than what that book gives. Steve Briggs has caught hundreds of carp from Cassien and has fished it since 1986 and still fishes it today.
Today (Wednesday 22nd July) we went down to the south arm of Cassien to test the boat and echo sounder out. There were some people fishing on the far bank but most of it was free and fishable. To fish Cassien you really need two people so if you’re out in the boat playing a fish someone else can look after your kit and help you get the boat back in. Because of this I managed to persuade my dad to do four days with me and one day with my fiancé Dani (my mum has agreed to babysit our daughter Freya). So with everything prepared I can’t wait to get fishing (although I still need to get my license). Thursday will be my first day on the lake and so I will update my blog when I return and let you know how I got on.
Thursday 23rd July 2010
My dad and I headed down to Cassien for the first days fishing. We jumped in the car a 5am a decided to fish the south arm in a swim called les falaises which in English translates as The Cliffs. (Below: my rods and boat in the cliffs swim). Unfortunately for us the echo sounder packed up and we had to guess the depths where our baits were to be placed. This was a massive blow to me as I had prepared the equipment so that my chances of catching a carp would be increased and now the most important part of that preparation was ruined. Luckily for us after looking at all the possible defects we found some water in the transmitter which led to the O ring seal not being secured correctly. After some hopeful wishes and a sun bathed transmitter it was dry and began to work. During the day we spotted a huge cricket which I immediately begun to take pictures of when out of the blue a giant toad pounced out of the bushes a foot away from us and the cricket was lunch.
Two rods were rowed out around 200 yards both of which were my bottom bait snakes skin rigs with three tigers and glugged rig foam on the hair and also 20 freebies around them. The third rod was rigged up a choddie with no buoyancy aid unlike the other two and was baited with a hardened home-made pineapple pop up boilie cast from the bank with not freebies. During the session we did not have any runs but had a few liners and one that I thought would have progressed into a run but it was not to be. I wasn’t expecting to catch on the first day so back we will go today (Friday 24th with the echo sounder) and have a long evening session to once again try for these magnificent carp. Pictured below is an Arial map of Cassien with all the “known” swims listed. Please click on the image to enlarge. During this session the weather was extremely hot and one back in the car to return to the villa the temperature reading was 42 degrees.
Friday 24th July 2010
I am writing this on Friday night at 11pm. I expected today to be more organised and composed than yesterday’s session as the echo sounder was working and I had confidence in fishing the deeper water located in the north arm. Admittedly I overslept due to the exhausting session the previous day and so we were away at noon but this was not a problem due to me negotiating with the other half and being allowed to fish until dusk. The car was parked at the end of the famous Cassien Bridge and we loaded the boat up and drifted down the north arm. Many of the swims were occupied with sunbathers but we managed to find a great swim on the rocks, with shade, facing the bridge and a view down to the dam (pictured below).
It was relatively windy when we set out to the swim but as soon as we were settled the wind picked up. It was an absolute nightmare fishing session. When I tried to row the boat out to drop the baits and check for ideal carp areas the wind blew me straight back into the bank creating chaos. The lines began to tangle and I began to get slightly stressed. My poor dad had to suffer the anger as I shouted to release the bail arm and let line of the spool before the whole lot was a tangle. In the end I had to cast two rods out and catapult bollies around them which I was not confident with at all. I wanted the baits to be in specific depths not chucked anywhere with some random bollies fired out. My confidence was at a low and we had to face up to the fact that we may not be able to get back as the wind increased. Cassien was like a sea with large waves crashing into the rocks. After a few hours fishing we began to notice that there were quite a few men wandering around one of which was completely naked. We joked that we had set up in a gay area and that it was a meeting spot. I said to dad that I would look up the swim name to see whether there was any link and to my horror the swim is called moby dick. Whether this has any relevance I will never know but I will not be trying to find out. We again failed to catch and put up a poor effort against the elements to succeed. A valuable lesson was learnt through this experience which was to get an electric outboard.
After five hours fishing I decided to pack up as it was pointless fishing how we were and I thought it would be ideal to take the family out for dinner. Rowing back was a nightmare; it took ages and a lot of effort to get back to the bank. The wind was so strong I can’t believe we actually got back to or destination. I was completely knackered.
Saturday 25th July 2010
I am writing this Saturday 8pm after another session on the south arm with my fiancée Danielle. I was please to see that the wind had died down and although still breezy it did not cause problems when rowing the baits out. I decided to try the Cliffs swim again as a steady amount of bait had been put in and it’s comfortable. I decided to just fish the three rods and not four due to the limited amount of space. All the rigs were re-tied with wine bottle corks as buoyancy aids with a swivel attached which was threaded onto the mainline with a float stop 10-15
Inches away from the rig to eliminate tangling. All rigs were renewed and all were the same simple snake skin long hair rig tied helicopter style with the lead attached to the mainline and a adjustable bead above. I felt confident with these rigs and so had no hesitation in keeping it simple and uniform amongst all three rods. Two rods were baited with two tigers, an 18mm byt boilie and dropped in 40ft of water. The other rod was baited with three tigers and cast 60 yards out in around 20ft of water. Below: Me and my home made shelter. Suddenly I heard a bite alarm and ran down the rocks bare footed stumbling when to my disappointment it was Danielle’s phone ringing with a tune that has a similar intro to a screaming delkim!!! Feeling a bit stupid and with Danielle laughing I headed back to my home made shelter.
The day passed uneventful and I still have no carp to my name but just being there in that fantastic environment is great. I still have two days to go and so I think I will try the west arm. On my way back from the lake I have noticed that a swim named Kevin Ellis has been free and it does produce fish throughout the season so I will give there a go tomorrow. I feel I fished well today and unlike yesterday and so as not to disappoint not to catch as I did my best. Left in the cliffs swim set up in the mountains:
Sunday 26th July
We headed down to lake at around 1pm looking to do an evening session. I originally wanted to fish the west arm but there were no swims were free. The lake was buzzing with hundreds of people in pedalos, sunbathing, swimming and fishing. As we lifted the boat of the roof-rack and made our way down to the jetty I noticed there was a man and women deflating their boat and packing their carp gear away. The women made way for us and we lowered the boat into the calm turquoise water. I glanced at the man, recognised the tattoos on his arm and instantly noticed it was Steve Briggs and Joan his partner. Utterly amazed I introduced myself and remarked that I had read his book which was excellent. He was friendly chap and so was Joan. They recommended that we fish the north arm just under the bridge on the point and swim known as Pierre’s Plates. They also stated that they had caught two fish from there at around 18lb at 8-9pm which is the time they were feeding. They advised that the lake is fishing hard but Bernadette had been out to a German at 63lb. Equipped with this information and just having met one of the best carp fisherman in the world renowned for catching large carp over 70lb in various countries I was confident and extremely happy. When someone of Steves Briggs quality recommends where to fish you listen and so we said our goodbyes and headed to the swim. Steve even said to email him to let them know how we got on.
As I was dropping my baits out I noticed a speed boat heading towards me. It was the police and I was caught red handed as you are supposed to cast your baits for health and safety reasons. They threatened that I could be fined 135 Euros and so I said pardon and shouted to dad to reel the bait in. I couldn’t risk my gear being confiscated and fined and so I decided to go out in the boat with my homemade H markers find the spot on the echo sounder, drop the markers down, row back to the swim, cast out, row back out and pick up the markers and then bait up. It was a long lengthy process and the last rod was cast out into around twenty feet of water and some baits catapulted around them. As the day past into evening I felt increasingly confident.
To pass the time my dad and I made a rod out of a twig tied some line to it and a small hook and tried to catch some roach we had seen swimming in the shallows. After some messing about I managed to catch a small poisson chat which is nothing to be proud of but was fun.
We were greeted with a beautiful sun set that evening pictured below that glowed orange. The lake feels silent and the water calmed. It was absolutely amazing with the surroundings and the atmosphere. Carp were launching themselves from the water and it felt like it was going to happen. The evening passed fishless but it was a great session and again I felt that I fished well and gave myself a chance. Only one day left fingers crossed.
The last days fishing never happened and I enjoyed the rest of the holiday with my fiancé and baby Freya. I will be back for a Cassien carp in 2011.