Red-Letter Trip - Mervyn Pennell

I had a great result in France recently. Having experienced a result last year on the lake, when I caught a brace of fifties on the first day, I was well aware of how to get amongst the bigger fish in the lake.
The standard approach to fishing in France of big hooks, heavy leads, lots of bait etc just doesn’t produce the big hits on this lake where the fish have seen it all over the years. It’s classed as a hard water that averages 6 fish a week per angler…at best!
The solid PVA bag approach - offering the fish just a mouthful works best. What you do need fishing this method is a dense, heavy lead, a short supple hook link and a very sharp, but strong, smallish hook that goes in and stays in. Having used Korda products for years I use what I know and trust. On the business end, I opted to use a 3oz square pear, a 4in Supernatural hook link tied knotless knot to a size 8 Wide Gape hook. On 2 rods I used Safezone leaders and on the other 2 rods I used my 15lb fluorocarbon X-line straight through to the rig.
Once we had decided where the four of us were going to fish, I set up all four rods and cast them out to areas I had caught from last year. Just as it was getting dark on the first night I had my first run that resulted in a 35lb common. Things remained quiet through the night and I was up before first light drinking tea and watching the world come alive. My area of the lake seemed devoid of fish and I made the decision to pack up and move across to the other side of the lake to fish open water.
After a couple of hours of backbreaking effort I was all set up and fishing. Two rods were placed left and right to margin features that I had caught from last year. I found an open water area with the marker where a plateau rises steeply from 12ft of water to top at 7ft below the surface - 2 rods were dropped on the money and a bit of bait was scattered in the area, but not too tightly.
It proved to be a good move as just as it was getting light 36 hours later, six twenties and two thirties to the good I had another one toner and the alarm screamed. As soon as I hit it I knew it was something a bit special and 15 minutes later one huge lump was netted. I immediately recognised it was one I caught from last year at 51lb, but it looked bigger now. The needle was bouncing around the 55lb mark and I settled on 54lb 12oz, which was a PB (but not for long).
I was now catching regularly with 4 or 5 fish a day coming my way, more thirties and forties followed with my son Rhys chipping in with a 47lb 4oz mirror (his PB) caught on his rods with identical rigs. We were sat down having a meal, playing cards and chatting when I proclaimed that I was going to catch a particular big mirror that was in a photo on the wall. After one or two beers too many we retired to bed and I set my alarm for 5.30am. Well, you can guess what happened next. At half light my rod fished out in the deeper water to the right of the plateau let out its usual early morning scream to wake me up. I was on it in as soon as I had wrestled with my sleeping bag, put my glasses on, found my shoes and shouted at my son to wake up! It took line from the off and was a dead weight, I knew it was another fifty, but how big and which one. Between us we had been ticking them off and had already caught 4 fifties up to this point. The fish stayed deep and slowly it came closer to the net, as soon as I saw it and my son netted it I knew it was the fish from the wall. It was an immaculate mirror that went 57lb 4oz and was yet another new PB.
Two fish later and the same rod was away again I hit it and knew it was another fifty from the off. After playing it for a short while I gave the rod to my Mrs and left her to it. All the time I was telling her it was a fifty and must be one of commons as we had caught 5 fifty plus mirrors already. This one stayed deep and the size 8 Wide Gape was tested to the max by this fish as it boiled and buried itself in the marginal silkweed. Eventually, it popped up and I netted it for her, it was indeed a fifty plus common and was a touch over 51lb.
The week was coming to an end and in the last 24 hours I had 6 more fish topped by a 49 pounder that I caught last year at 52lb. The combination of a heavy lead, short hook link and a sharp hook had given me good strong hook holds all week and screaming runs. I never lost a fish all week or changed a hook, (probably because I’m tight).
Another record week for numbers of big fish was under the belt and PB’s all round made this the best weeks fishing I had ever experienced.
All I can say is fish for yourself, think about what you are doing, don’t follow the crowds, use some initiative with you terminal tackle and think Korda when you want reliability!

See you on the banks
Merv the Swerv