ADAM PENNING travels abroad to the pressured French venue Cretelakes, where his outside the box approach unlocks the lake’s biggest resident.

Advanced Angle

With an exclusive boilie rule on the lake, there are lots of round baits being used. By using crumbed baits, Adam is giving the fish something new that they view with less caution. The result is more bites from the wary fish of Cretelakes.

After returning from the successful trip to Le Queroy, I had but a few days to sort all my gear out before setting off on the annual foray to Cretelakes. This has been a regular fixture in my calendar for the last few years and, although always a working trip with clients, it has become a favourite destination.

The complex is set in northern France, accessible with an easy two-hour drive from Calais, and comprises five lakes, all practically bulging with immaculate big carp. Of course, it isn’t just the fish that make a good holiday venue – Cretelakes prides itself on having a team of friendly, helpful bailiffs, all run by the vastly experienced and hugely affable Mick, who has been on site for quite a few years now. On top of this, the food package is always excellent and with all the lakes containing carp to over 60lb it ticks every box for the holidaying carp angler.

On this occasion I was once again to be sharing the trip with Darren, along with Colin, Noelle and little Megan. We all know each other really well from previous embarkations and with all our trips having been a great success before, we shared a huge collective buzz of anticipation

Ideally, I wanted to get the lads onto Lake 1; this is the home of a vast head of big fish and the lake that we’d all managed to crack a few times before. However, at Cretelakes there is always a draw for swims and we go into this along with everyone else. It is always a tense affair because you have a good idea where you want to be and you are praying that it doesn’t get taken before your number comes up! This time we came out about halfway down the draw and with our first choices all taken. This is where it is vital to have a list of other options in descending order so that when your turn comes, you aren’t suddenly left with a blank mind as all the faces stare silently at you waiting for you to make your decision!

As it happened, we managed to get Darren and Colin into a double swim on Lake 1 and an area we felt had good potential. My first choice on Lake 2 was taken early on but I opted for another swim on the lake and before long we were all off getting settled.

We have a tried and tested game plan, not just for Cretelakes but one that we apply to all our foreign forays. The main point is to not be predictable in approach. This is absolutely vital if you are to expect consistent success and results to exceed those around you. I have written about the little ‘edges’ many times before but for those of you who are new to this style of fishing, I will briefly cover them again.

In my opinion, the days of easy French fishing are long gone. The fish in a busy commercial venue are under immense angling pressure and can be quite hard to trick into the net. On a successful complex, every single swim will be occupied for every single day of the week, 24/7 for up to 10 months of the year, sometimes even more! Think about that for a moment – that is pressure far in excess of what we see even on the very busiest UK lakes and it results in a stock of fish that can be very hard to catch. Of course, there are the times when the weather is just right and fish feed with suicidal abandon, getting caught from all round the lake, but what about the rest of the time, which is probably 90%, when the fish are seemingly indifferent?

If it really were as easy as piling in loads of bait and fishing a couple of pineapple pop-ups over the top, then surely everyone would be hauling them out? Well, most aren’t hauling them out, in fact the reality of modern French fishing is that if you go as, say, a group of five, two might catch a few, one might catch a lot and a couple of you may well blank – that is the reality of fishing for super-pressured fish.

However, there are numerous things you can do to tip the balance in your favour. One of these is prebaiting. My best results have come from effectively closing the swim for up to 48 hours before fishing! Yes, you read that right – we bait our swims and don’t fish them. What effect do you think that will have on fish that NEVER see ‘free safe food’ without any rigs present? The answer is that it can be nothing short of revolutionary and I don’t use that word lightly. Time after time we have applied this and had sessions that are nothing short of ridiculous – total ‘carpageddon’!

Advanced Angle
With an exclusive boilie rule on the lakes, there are lots of round baits being used. By using crumbed baits, Adam is giving the fish something new that they view with less caution. the result is more bites from the wary fish of Cretelakes

On top of this, we like to fish boilie crumb rather than whole baits (Cretelakes is a boilie-only venue). Couple this with small hook baits like 10mm pop-ups or pieces of Peperami.

And so it began; Colin and Darren started baiting their swim little and often with Manilla crumb. The fish at Cretelakes had never seen this bait before so we were keen to see what impact it would have. The plan was to bait two or three times a day and not fish until the Monday.

I was over on Lake 2 and although not in my first choice of swim, it didn’t look too bad apart from one thing – the fish were all held up along the far-bank causeway that divides Lake 2 and Lake 4. The forecast was hot and I recalled that the previous year they hadn’t left that bank at all in similar conditions. I baited and fished but the carp were intent on staying along the causeway no matter what. The only bites that came were to the anglers fishing along there – it was frustrating in the extreme.

Minutes after casting out, the line was pulled from my fingers by this fat 45-pounder!

The following night the same spot produced a long, muscle-packed mirror of 50lb 10oz, which gave me the hardest fight I have ever experienced.

At this point Colin and Darren had things rocking and every time I went to visit them it was total carnage – slings, nets and rods everywhere! As usual, the tactic of ‘free safe food’ was working incredibly well, to the point that although the bulk of the fish seemed intent on holding up in front of Peg 3, the lion’s share of the action kept on coming to my boys in Peg 1.

As the week slipped on, they surpassed 30, then 40 fish with numerous big ’uns, topped by a monster of 64lb!

From my new swim on Lake 1, I closely monitored the fish movements back on Lake 2 and to my amazement the back end of the week finally saw them spread out around the lake again. During another midnight walk, I saw a couple of real monsters show in my old swim and, not too far away from a nice spot that I’d found mapped and baited with Krill earlier in the week!

I decided I had to have a go and in preparation I spombed out 3kg of oily Krill before popping back to my swim to get a single rod, net and low chair. As dusk descended I flicked a fresh rig out, which landed very nicely on the spot, and I sat back to wait as big, oily swirls appeared all around the area. It really was exciting with so many chunks around and the quick bite that followed a succession of liners totally took me by surprise. The culprit was a stonking great common of 41lb and after a few self-takes I put some more bait out before re-spotting the rod.

It was an hour before dawn and I was sat hunched in the low chair in a light sleep. The single rod next to me pulled up tight and I was in again. This time the fish held deep, ploughing through weed beds, and felt very heavy indeed. In all honesty I had no idea just how big it was until I went to lift it out of the water. The great beast turned out to be the biggest in the lake and tipped the scales at 62lb 14oz; an immaculate, dark and powerful carp that hadn’t been banked for a long time.

It was the icing on another superb trip and with the boys finishing on almost 50 fish it was a truly memorable one!