French carping ace VIRGIL BAYLE documents his time on a low-stock big pit in the wilds of France targeting its seldom-caught monster commons.
Bright Ones – Bright baits on a chod rig have been the ideal hook bait over the top of a large spread of bait. The visual attraction ensures quicker bites when fishing over such a heavily baited area.
As I told you in the September issue, fishing on wild waters like rivers where angling pressure is low is important to me. The quest for immaculate big carp is a huge motivator. Discovering unknown fish is the most beautiful reward for my eyes, and if the fish is a specimen then it’s even better.
However, it’s not only rivers that offer me that, gravel pits and wild lakes are also good, whatever the size. Research of these waters is hard because finding a place with low or non-existent angling pressure is almost impossible. Nevertheless, there are still forgotten venues, with difficult access that are difficult to fish, where there stock do not need humans to grow. This makes the task harder because natural food is present a lot and the difficulties put most anglers off. It is hard work, with high motivation needed, but when the time comes, efforts are rewarded.
Virgil’s friend Lilian with a big-pit monster
I don’t set myself weight targets. I respect those for whom it has its importance but it’s not for me.
I aim to find areas with no angling pressure. The fish are in great condition and have seldom been caught, if ever.
I had some truly awesome times fishing these lakes, but I was keen to seek out a new challenge and I soon found a lake that would fit the bill. I got over there as soon as possible to see what I could spot and to bask in the atmosphere. The next step was to spend time at the lake with my boat and echo sounder to collect as much information as possible. I scrutinise the bottom with an aquascope when it is possible and I also use a GoPro mounted on a long net handle to film borders under submerged trees. This information is important and the underwater video sequences possibly allow me to observe some fish but also informed me about the substrates of certain areas and whether there was any natural food present. Until I had fully mapped the lake, I was reluctant to put a hook in the water. By gaining all this information I will be able to exploit any sightings while fishing.
By targeting known haunts and prebaiting, it kept the fish feeding
My initial GoPro exploration put me one step ahead and I soon had awesome footage of fish holding up near a submerged tree. Many of them are common carp of huge proportions; they are also immaculate. Coincidentally, the area where I see the most fish was where the substrate is firmer than the surrounding area. There was also an abundance of natural food like mussels. I found a similar make-up in a few areas and on each of these I would see groups of fish. I figured it would be a challenge to get the fish away from these natural larders and onto my nearby baited areas.
With the recce trips done I was buzzing to get started on the fishing. I started in an area where I had seen fish the previous day. I had spread 2kg of bait over the rig spread over a 30m-wide area to try and bring fish in to the bait.
On my first trip a friend accompanied me. With three rods each at our disposal there was plenty of baits in the area and we were optimistic.
The first session started well with a small common taking a hook bait on the prebaited area. The lake is deemed tricky by anglers who fish it, so a bite was always a real buzz.
Leaving nothing to chance; hook sharpening is key.
The following 24 hours passed without action. The difficulty of the lake keeps many people away but I was relishing the lack of anglers. It allowed me to do my thing.
I came back three times after that first trip but without success. I decided to work another area where I had seen a carp jumped a few days earlier, which is quite rare on this lake.
I prebaited the new areas twice with Equinox from CC Moore prior to fishing. This other part of the lake allows me to fish thinner lines without the need for shockleaders. It is free of any underwater areas that would prove dangerous for thinner mono lines.
My rig was the chod with a sharpened hook. This proved successful the first time so I saw no reason to change. The night was productive, with three fish to show for my efforts, one of which was an immaculate common carp. I was overjoyed.
A warrior lays in wait to make its return to windswept pit.
My morning coffee tasted all the sweeter with a big carp sat in the retainer sling. I had learnt yet more about the fish on that session, namely their hugely mobile nature. They could pass from one side of the lake to the other in less than two hours and they were very sensitive to wind. This particular region of France is well known for its windy nature. It seems that the naturals can often hold fish in certain areas for long periods and it takes a real quality bait to get the fish interested.
Having pooled information with fellow anglers, we realised that the bigger fish were territorial and preferred certain parts of the lake on account of their food stores.
Fishing the winter was gruelling, but Virgil kept vigilant
While looking for fish I would find the same groups and they would move around the lake. All the larger residents would stick together, making them easier to target.
The food is plentiful so I think that competition is not necessary for their survival. This instinct seems to be less prevalent on a lake with lots of naturals.
I write all of my findings down to ensure that when similar conditions occur I can be in the right location for the best chance of a bite.
I arrived for a one-week session with my friend Lilian. A few days before I checked out the areas that I felt would shelter fish and I found them. I saw fabulous specimens.
I prebaited three zones, one for Lilian, one for me and another large area that we planned to fish as a pair. I baited with the Odyssey XXX from CC Moore, an awesome fishmeal bait for these big, wild carp.
In this moment all the intense effort is forgotten
The week proved hugely successful with more than 14 bites, a real achievement because capturing one fish a week is a success on this lake. Lilian caught two beautiful commons, with several of the smaller residents also falling to his rods. It was the same for me with the capture of a beautiful old mirror, the biggest one I had caught from the venue and a rare visitor to the bank on account of the 90 per cent stock of commons. I was unlucky to lose three, one of which was a real monster. This session allowed me to learn yet more about this spellbinding lake. I know that in certain conditions I can exploit particular feeding areas to catch carp.
I was back for the first time in 2016 on January 6th, a trip I will not forget. The weather was perfect, the temperature not really cold and a southerly wind slightly beating the banks warmed by a little winter sun. In the middle of the night I captured a fantastic seldom-caught common, a fish of my dreams. She had the size to match her beauty, a true big-pit monster, perfect to my eyes.
In the morning I captured another beautiful common, smaller but equally wild.
I know there are other beautiful fish in the lake because I watched them during the spawning period last year and this motivated me to get back on.
There is still lots and plenty of awesome fish to catch and all this makes me want to get back as soon as I can.
While I am writing winter is on its way and I know where I will spend a big part of this season, on this lake, tracking down large commons and wild mirrors, alone on a forgotten and difficult lake. That gives me a huge buzz.
I will perhaps be disappointed, perhaps even live intense moments on the banks of this magical lake, but I will be happy because I will be alone in the world this winter, with maybe the visit of an unknown fish.