Say Cheese - Danny Nichols

“The preparation for our trip to Gigantica all started back in January; when a highly excited friend of mine, James Hayden phoned me all frantic to ask if I wanted a free fishing trip to France. Rushing me along for an answer, in the panic I said, “Yes”, and as soon as I agreed, he hung up without a word, which left me slightly confused. But little did I know that at the time of the phone call he was already chatting to the Korda boys trying to book our trip. An hour or so later, I finally got the call back to explain he had got us a free trip to fish the famous Gigantica Lake, with no strings attached.

This is the moment when the holiday began. With the next few weeks flying by, we started to pick up as much information as possible; whether it was through watching the DVDs, reading articles, searching through the catch reports or countless phone calls between me and James and the other lad Danny Cairns. The tension and anticipation was beginning to mount, As the first week in March drew ever closer, all was running smooth until the Friday evening, when Danny and I frantically tried to load both lots of our gear into my Golf, to then drive down to James in London, as he was taking his van. After countless attempts to put far too much gear in a car, panic and stress set in. What were we going to do? It was now around 7pm on the Friday night and we had a ferry to catch in the early hours on Saturday morning. The last resort was called upon - the Bedford Bambi, which on a very good day will only manage about 55mph tops and has never done more than ten miles in one journey. It made it to London for about 11.30pm with no problems, bar a few people laughing at us on the way. Our stress levels had now dropped, the van was loaded and off we went on our way to Dover.

After a smooth ferry crossing and a nice cruise through France, we finally made it to the one and only Gigantica. Only arriving about three hours early, we all jumped out and were trying to peer over the fence for our first glimpse. Then, we were finally greeted at the gate, after what felt like a lifetime of waiting, by the one and only Barty. Once through the gate, we were greeted properly with the tea and coffee all at the ready.

So, it was a quick brew down the neck, then for the first proper walk around the lake, taking in the turquoise coloured water and its beautiful surroundings. After discussing our tactics on the way down, we decided to go into the draw as a group, and Danny only pulled out ball number one!

We decided to fish in The Stock Pond, Pole Position and Alcatraz. I went into the Stock Pond swim, as I prefer short-range fishing and don't have the gear to cast to the horizon, and the other two were quite happy to let me have it as they both really wanted Alcatraz. So, the second draw of the day took place, this time Danny's luck was out and James took the swim.

As time was ticking and the black clouds were looming, the bivvys were the first things out, just in time as the heavens opened. Then it was time to get down to business, picking into Barty’s mysterious mind. He gave me some advice on some good areas to fish. So, not wanting to cause too much disturbance to my swim, I had a couple of casts with the marker to feel the bottom; all the spots felt nice and clear so I was happy with my choice.

We had to be mindful that it was still winter and the nights are going to be cold, so I opted for a small amount of free offerings and my ever-faithful combi rig, with a snowman presentation. My hook bait of choice was Mainline’s Hybrid boilie, topped off with a Milky Toffee pop-up pre-soaked in the Raspberry Goo, my aim was to fish for one bite at a time.

All the traps were finally set and after about 38 hours with no sleep, it was finally time to get my head down. It didn't seem like five minutes had passed when, at about 3.45am, I was awoken to that glorious sound of the Delkim screaming for me to get up. After suffering hardly any sleep and temperatures of about minus three, the body was struggling to function with the mind. Luckily, Danny was on hand to help me get into the wellies, which was proving to be a slightly difficult task. Luckily, as I tried to get to grips with what was going on, there were no nerves during the fight. Thankfully, she came in nice and steady, only venturing on a couple of runs under the rod tip, then she just eased in and Danny slipped her into the net, get in!

Then peering down into the net in anticipation, I saw this beaut of a big-scaled mirror, looking like a decent forty. With frostbite starting to kick in, it was time to put her in the retention sling and give the bailiffs a call. After climbing back into bed for some warmth, it all kicked in that I had a Gigantica carp to my name. Buzzing!

The morning couldn't come soon enough now and with the word of a Gigantica carp on the bank spreading, the excitement began. It was a very misty morning, so we delayed the photoshoot and weighing for the mist to clear, with a couple of top lads coming round from the opposite bank and a couple of well-known anglers coming over from the Road Lake, a crowd was starting to build and it was at this time the nerves started to kick in.

It was now time to claim the prize and have a good look at the fish, but firstly the weighing, with it tipping the scales to 44lb 2oz a new personal best, get in! What an absolutely cracking looking fish it was too, just to make it that more special. With the cameras clicking away and everyone in awe at what a beauty it was, sadly it was time to slip her back, but not before a quick camera stop again in the water, which was very, very cold!

With the oxygen back inside her, she wasn't hanging around for very long for the cameras and managed to escape back to safety before we got any decent pictures. After the relief of seeing her back to the depths of Gigantica, it was definitely time for a hot shower.

The afternoon was the time for a couple of celebratory lagers, with the weather improving in the days and the sun creeping though the clouds, perfect! Barty and Matt skimmed through the catch reports to try and identify which fish it was, it turned out to be The Cheese, which I think I'm right in saying last came out in 2009 at 39lb.

The rest of the week passed by with no further fish to report and a couple of lost fish around the lake, Saturday soon came round and it was time to say goodbye. A good week was had all round, fishing with good mates, meeting some good lads around the lake along with some top-notch bailiffs. Visiting Gigantica is a must for many reasons, but for me it was the experience of fishing a lake containing some monstrous carp and also some absolute crackers."

Danny Nichols.