Tough French Water Produces PB!

After visiting the fascinating Great Lake in France, Craig Runham made a return recently, to settle a score with this tough venue.

Craig told us just why he holds the lake in such high esteem, “The lake is simply on another level to most French waters. The water is tap water clear, extremely weedy and challenging to say the least. Over half of anglers who visit the Great Lake fail to catch on their quest for one of the Great Lake specials. The challenge is what makes the fish feel so well deserved if you are to catch one. The lake is around seventy acres in size with depths down to almost fifteen feet in places. There are bays, bars, plateaux, silt, weed and island margins to target. Most of my fishing tends to be targeting the big weed beds and setting traps along patrol routes.”

With eight anglers fishing, there was to be a draw for swims. Craig ended up in an area that commanded lots of water. “I knew from previous trips the area was weedy and relatively shallow, but there were also areas the fish could shelter from the bitter northerly wind that was pushing across the lake,” Craig told us. “The temperature was due to be crazy for the first few days of our trip. Daytime temperatures not above thirteen degrees and as low as minus two at night. We knew we were going to be up against it from the start.”

Waking without action on the first morning, Craig set about investigating the area in front from the boat. “I opted not to fish the clean glowing spots that had clearly been fed on, instead choosing to fish on the more dirty areas of silt and weed. The best rig in my opinion for this situation was to be the hinged stiff or soft-hinged rig. Depending on the spot I adjusted the boom material, using the soft Dark Matter braid or Hybrid Stiff material depending on the bottom. Key Bait Solutions ASM pink and brown pop ups were the hook bait choices, to be fished over scaterings of ASM, Twisted Peach and the new Nut mix.”

Readying the Craig's new PB for the photos.

He opted to fish Hinged Stiff rigs dirtier areas of lake bed.

After Craig’s mate Smithy had got proceedings underway with a PB 47lb mirror, it was Craig’s turn on the second night. “Clutching the rod from the rest I was instantly forced to give twenty or thirty yards of line before everything came to a abrupt halt as the unseen fish locked up in a weed bed over a hundred and eighty yards out. I placed the rod on the rest, grabbed my life jacket on my way to wake Smithy to give me a hand. He was up in an instant, grabbing his life jacket, before we both jumped into the boat. With the use of the motor we were soon above a large weed bed frothing up with bubbles as the fish attempted to shed the hook amongst the mess of the tangled roots. With the forty pound tapered leader and the strong rig components I knew I could trust, I simply wound down and pulled carefully. Little by little the weed bed broke and the fish began lifting through the water. A heart-stopping ping came up the line as the weed pinged off and I was suddenly in direct contact. After around ten minutes the fish finally decided to tire. The fish had towed us unbelievably over one hundred yards up the lake. As the mirror broke the surface for the first time I could see why it had been such a powerful fish. The tail was unbelievably large! A quick scoop of the net and I bundled my first fish of the trip into the mesh. A quick peek into the net and a good mirror peered back at me; it looked to be around the mid-forty mark. It's always a relief to get the first fish of the trip on the Great Lake, as I know how tough the place can be. The photos came out perfect and the fishes dark colourful flanks shone in the sunlight.”

During a BBQ 6pm the next evening, Craig was away again and the lads took to the boat in pursuit of what was clearly a big carp! “Once again I knew the fish was close, as I had the 40lb leader on the reel. I gritted my teeth and pulled as hard as I dared. The weed bed began to fizz and rise up through the water. At this point I thought the fish had come off as the putty I used to pin down the last meter or so above the leader came up through the water. Suddenly I felt a kick and knew the fish was still attached. I kept up the pressure. Once again, a large lump of weed pinged off the line, revealing a extremely large mirror carp. At that point I began to shake big time… I knew I was connected to the biggest fish I had ever caught. Smithy and I saw the width of the mirror as it suddenly rolled and swam under the boat. At that point we both couldn't believe what I was attached to. For the next 45 minutes the fish tried every trick in the book to get rid of the hook. We lost count of the amount of times we were spun round 360 degrees in the boat. The fish certainly knew what it was doing as it thrashed its way through weed bed after weed bed. I was starting to wonder if it would ever tire. I was certainly tired by this point my arm was aching and I just prayed for the fish to give up. Finally, the mirror rose to the surface gulping on air. I knew it was finally over and I extended the net fully extending my arm as much as possible and bundled the unbelievable creature in to the net. With that I let out the loudest “Come On!” cry I have ever shouted out. I peered into the net at the most amazing bulk of carp I had ever seen!”

Back on the bank, the huge fish was weighed in at 61lb 8oz, and Craig described how he felt, “I was excited and even a tad emotional as this lake meant a lot to me it had always had a place in my heart. Watching the big dark mirror swimming away into the depths I knew then that moment would be hard to beat in a lifetime. That night we toasted the moment with it all sinking in. A moment and memory that will live with me forever.”