Carp fishing in France
with lake side holiday accommodation.
Description of fish / carp caught from Smallwater lake.
13lb common carp caught by Andy
during a weeks fishing holiday.
He also had a new personal best mirror carp of 30 lb
from Smallwater lake in April 2009
Carp Fishing in France
A guide to choosing the right venue for your carp fishing holiday in France
This is a guide to help carp anglers who are planning a Carp Fishing Holiday in France,written by a French fishery owner, including tips on choosing the right venue, what to look for, what to avoid, and how to save money !
This article is primarily written for UK based Carp Anglers planning to go Carp Fishing in France. For those who have not been carp fishing in France before, it can be a difficult process trying to decide which venue to choose, as there are now so many different places offering Carp Fishing Holidays. For those who have already been carp fishing in France and have returned home disappointed, this article should also be useful in suggesting how to avoid further disappointments !
This is not an article on how to fish in France, this would need a whole book at the very least, as the number and type of waters in France is so vast, and for seasoned holiday anglers, most of what is written here will be obvious, but for others the carp fishing in france experience can involve a very steep learning curve !
Having been carp fishing in France many times myself before I moved to France to live, I have fished lots of different waters, big lakes, small lakes, public lakes and private commercial fisheries, I have had some excellent sessions, and some absolute disasters ! - This article will hopefully help you to avoid the disasters and experience some superb carp fishing in France......
The Attraction of France
Location - with the exception of the English Channel which has to be crossed, access is straightforward,and France is the closest European Country on the continent.
In the last 20 years or so, the number of British carp anglers coming to France has increased from a few very dedicated pioneers fishing the big public lakes, to many thousands of anglers of all levels who now fish a huge variety of waters. The attraction of France as a carp fishing destination is diverse, and there are many reasons why it is so popular.The
climate - many people like to experience some sunshine and warmth whilst on holiday, the french climate is considerably warmer and sunnier than that of the UK - particularly in the southern half of France.
The environment - There are a lot of beautiful carp lakes in France, and some very picturesque scenery to go with them, France is four times the size of the UK with the same population, most of the people live in the big cities, the rural areas are de-populated, thus it is a lot more quiet than in the UK. Add to this that the cost of food, fuel etc is lower in France than in the UK and that wages in the UK are much higher than in France, so that whilst on holiday, everything seems very cheap !
French carp - The carp in France are bigger, more plentiful and often easier to catch !
What do you want...?
It goes without saying that we carp anglers, whilst in search of the same quarry, are all different, and that whilst one water will suit some anglers, it will not be right for others.
It is very important to decide what you want from your carp fishing holiday at the outset, and to assess your skill level and experience, these are very important factors in helping you choose the correct venue. For example, if you are fairly new to the big carp fishing scene and have a tackle set up suitable for fishing your local 3 acre lake and catching doubles and twenties, then to go to a large public reservoir or a big gravel pit where long range fishing and heavy gear are neccessary would be a fast road to a disastrous week ! On the other hand if you are an experienced carp angler and want to catch a 50 pound fish, then you will have to consider very carefully which venue to choose ! The number and type of Carp Fishing Holiday venues in France is now enormous, all types of angler are catered for, from those who just want to bivvy up on the bank for a week with mates, right through to lakes with luxury bankside accommodation and facilities such as meals on site and swimming pools, which can be booked exclusively for a couple or family holiday.
A brief summary of the different types of French Carp Fisheries
French Public Lakes/Rivers.
These venues, which are often used for water supply, hydro-electric power, or for regulating the water levels on rivers and canals and which are often very large, are open to the public, and anyone can fish them as long as they buy a local fishing licence or "Carte De Peche". On these lakes there will often be restrictions on when, where, and how you are allowed to fish, there are usually seasonal variations with closures on a lot of lakes and rivers for 6 months of the year or more, many do not allow night fishing, most have very limited access by vehicle, and a boat is nearly always a neccessity. These waters are not managed or indeed provided for the visiting holiday angler, and therefore a huge amount of effort, enthusiasm and dedication is required on behalf of the angler if he is to be successful.
Private commercial fisheries
1. Drive and Survive (Bivvy) lakes. The most commonly found type of French Carp Fishery, with many being gravel pits in the area to the east of Paris in the Seine and Marne valleys (Champagne Region). These consist of the lake, and (hopefully) some basic facilities with toilets and showers available, although this is not always the case, with "bush toilets" being the only option. Normally the main attraction of these fisheries is the size of carp in the lake, with many fisheries claiming resident fish of 50lbs+ or more. Sometimes there will be a bailiff on site who might be available help you during the week.
2. Exclusive bivvy lakes. There are a number of bivvy lakes which do offer decent facilities, some of the smaller venues offer the chance to book the lake exclusively for your party for the week. The advantages of an exclusive booking are that there will be no other anglers on the lake, so no arguments about swims, whose water is whose, no sharing of facilities with strangers
3. Lakes with accommodation. Increasingly popular with UK carp anglers coming to France for a week, these venues offer fishing along with some form of accommodation next to or close to the lake. The type of accommodation offered varies a lot - so beware ! A wooden hut is not a luxury chalet, and a 20 year old mobile home can not be correctly classed as top quality accommodation. There are several venues which offer superb, comfortable, bankside accommodation, with all the home comforts, heating, UK satellite TV, swimming pool etc, and these are the venues which are popular with couples and families wanting more than just a week in a bivvy !
Other options. Some lakes offer extra options and facilities, either included in the price or as an extra. ;
Fly-Drive (arrival by 'plane with airport pickup and tackle hire),
Food Package (meals cooked on site and served in a seated area or delivered to your swim)
Tackle hire (if you are short of space in the car, hiring bivvies, bedchairs, chairs etc can make a huge difference to the amount of room you have in your vehicle, and can save you money by taking less vehicles).
Bait for sale on site (as above, this can cut down on space and weight in the car, also saves decisions about how much bait to take with you, as you can purchase the bait as you need it.
The difficulties and restrictions associated with fishing the public lakes and rivers in France, and the limited amount of time available to many carp anglers for fishing holidays, means that most will choose to fish a private commercial fishery, where the access, on-site facilities and security are all geared towards the holiday angler.
Finding a venue.
In todays world, the internet is the place to search for a French Carp Fishing Holiday venue.If you are reading this then you will have access to a PC! Most good quality venues will have their own website, but some are limited to advertising through an agency. A few venues rely on advertising in the UK Carp Fishing Press, and offer brochures available through the post.
Booking directly with the venue. A search on a major search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN using a broad search string such as "carp fishing in france" or "french carp fishing" will return an infinite number of websites and web pages. This can be very daunting, particularly to those who are not accustomed to everday use of the internet.
As with a search for anything else on the internet, the more specific you can be about what you are looking for, the more relevant the results will be. For example, if you are looking for a venue in a specific part of France, include that in your search phrase e.g. "carp fishing in Brittany". if you are looking for a venue you have seen advertised somewhere, or that someone has told you about, search with the name of the lake. If you are after a family holiday or an exclusive lake, use those words in your search phrase - this will bring you the places you are really interested in and will save you a lot of time trawling through websites and venues which do not offer what you want.
When you find a website/venue you like the look of, take the time to have a really good look around the web pages. If the venue is advertising huge carp, look for catch reports and photos - if there are no photos of carp which look like they are of the weights claimed, my advice would be to look elsewhere. If the lake is offering accommodation, again look for photos of the building and interior. Unfortunately it has to be said that some lakes promise more than they can actually deliver - if you are unsure about anything, contact the venue and ask specific questions - this can make the difference between a great holiday and one you will want to forget !
Booking directly with the venue (if this is possible) can save you a lot of money, as mentioned above, booking agencies charge commission which is ultimately paid by both the venue owner and the customer, also if you book directly, you are free to look for the best deals and times on your ferry or tunnel crossing, rather than being tied to what the agent offers you.
Some things to consider when choosing a venue.
Public Lakes/Rivers. I will deal with this type of venue first as there is so much more to consider and so many things which can potentially ruin your holiday - these lakes are not for the faint-hearted !
Although the cost of fishing is much lower for a public venue (a 2 week holiday licence costs about € 50), there are other costs to consider. Most public lakes have restrictions on bivvying up, so if this is not an option, you will need to find and pay for somewhere to stay - such as a nearby campsite or gite. If you take this option, you will be transporting yourself and all your kit to and from the lake every day. Vehicle access is normally very limited on these waters, and in the last few years restrictions on driving along the lake shore have been introduced. Night fishing (where allowed) is normally restricted to one or more sections of bank known as "secteurs de nuit" these are often quite small and on a part of the lake where there are few or no carp ! Fishing outside these zones at night or on a lake where night fishing is not authorised is a very risky business - the Garde de Peche (French Fishing Bailiffs make regular patrols on many waters and if they see a car with UK plates parked nearby you can be sure they will come looking for you ! If you are caught night fishing illegally, they have the right to take all your gear and keep it until you pay the fine that will be imposed. You have been warned, and it happens frequently.
Finding information on some of the less pressured public lakes is almost impossible, unless you are fortunate enough to know someone has fished the venue before.
As stated above many of these venues are huge and finding the carp can be difficult or impossible in the short space of time that you have available. Even if you are lucky enough to find some feeding fish, you may not be able to get near enough to them to stand a chance of catching.
My advice is that if you are going to a public venue for the first time, do as much research as possible before you go, get some local advice if possible (do you speak French ?) go for at least 2 weeks, and be prepared to come home without catching. Most UK anglers who fish public lakes in France have been visiting them for several years and have inside knowledge built up over time and often with the help of friends fishing the same lakes.
Size of carp. France is renowned for big carp, and is rightly considered to be the mecca for carp anglers from all over Europe. French carp are bigger than English carp, and there are several reasons for this ;
1. The climate is warmer and there is a longer growing season for the carp, i.e. the water temperature is warmer for a longer period of the year, so the carp eat more and consequently grow more quickly.
2. Many lake owners feed the carp. During the winter season many French venues feed the carp on a regular basis, this ensures that the carp carry on feeding and looking for food rather than "switching off" and going into a state of inactivity for several months.
3. The strain of the carp in most French lakes is completely different to that of UK carp. Most "French" carp are of Eastern European (Hungarian/Czech etc) origin, and these strains were developed originally for the table, with fast growth of the carp and few scales on the fishes body the highest priorities. Original French fish are long, lean and very similar to their UK relatives, pretty fish but in most lakes they have very poor growth rates.
The size of carp that you target when you come to France on a fishing holiday will probably depend on where you are in your carp fishing "career". With more carp anglers coming to France evrey year to fish, and with more lakes than ever, there are waters to please everyone, but it seems that every angler who comes to France expects to catch more and bigger carp than at home in the UK. This might seem to be a reasonable expectation given what I have already written, but the number and size of fish caught on a trip can be influenced by many different factors (angler ability/choice of correct venue/weather conditions etc)
I have a saying, which is as true here in France as in the UK - "The road to bigger carp is paved with compromise" the meaning of this is that several issues come into play the higher you set your target weight of carp, one or more of the issues below will affect your holiday ;
1. The number of lakes to choose from will fall dramatically
2. The price you pay for your holiday will rise dramatically
3. The lakes you are interested in may be fully booked a long way into the future
4. You may have to travel with, and fish alongside other anglers that you don't know.
5. You may not be able to choose the swim you want
5. The carp will be highly pressured, and sometimes neurotic
6. The number of fish caught will be lower
7. The facilities might not be all that you would expect
Remember it is a holiday that you are choosing, and holidays are meant to be about relaxation and enjoyment ! You only have a week or maybe two weeks a year to do this so why put yourself under pressure and risk a huge disappointment ? Do you really expect to catch the biggest fish in the lake in the one week you are there ? There is of course always a chance but the odds are stacked against you.
There are many waters in France offering quality carp fishing, well stocked lakes with loads of 20's and 30's and maybe a few 40's or bigger, where you can have an immensely enjoyable weeks fishing that will probably surpass anything that you could experience in the UK, and these are the lakes that you should look at.
Things to watch out for...
Some lakes stock one or two big fish in order to attract customers - look at the general stamp of fish in the lake, if there is one 40 and a lake full of doubles, you are going to have a disappointing week.
I cannot over-emphasise the need to look carefully at the photo galleries on the venues' website, every lake owner is going to put photos of his best fish up, so if the lake is claiming big fish, but the photos suggest otherwise, it's time to look elsewhere - there are enough good venues out there, don't take the risk.
Do the fish look like they are their claimed weights ? There are venues out there that wildly exaggerate the sizes of the fish that are caught so be wary, and it has certainly happened that venue owners have put pictures of fish on their websites that were caught at other lakes, and then claimed that these fish were resident in their lakes.
If you are going to a lake where there will be other anglers fishing, (i.e non-exclusive) ask how many anglers are on the lake the week that you are interested in, and check how many swims there are, you don't really want to turn up and fish for a week in a swim which never produces anything......also find out how the swims are designated, is there a draw for swims (If so, when is it, make sure you are there on time, or you will be left with achoice of the remaining duff swims). Do you have to pre-book a swim - if so do you know which are the better swims ? Try to find out, speak to the owner, and use the carp fishing forums on the internet for this. Will you be able to move swims during the week if you are not catching ? All these things are important, but at some venues you won't be able to move because all the other swims will be taken, so you will sit and watch the other anglers catching whilst your buzzers remain silent !
Size can be important ! I love fishing big lakes, but only when I can spend time getting to know them ! If you are on a one week fishing holiday you will have 6 days fishing, on a big water you could easily waste 2 or 3 days (or more) just trying to locate some carp...if you are on a big commercial lake you might not see a carp all week and you may not be able to move swims.....this is why most anglers coming to France select small to medium sized lakes, where they will not be too far from the carp, and should have a chance of being able to present their baits to some feeding fish, and hopefully have some good results....remember you can keep plugging away at a big water when you are back home - this is a holiday !
Angling pressure & "circuit lakes" Sheep have very small brains, and they follow each other around. For some strange reason some UK carp anglers seem to have the same patterns of behaviour, and choose to fish the waters that they read about in the carp fishing magazines instead of taking the time to find something a little different. It seems that crowds of anglers on a French water is an attractive factor, even though this is what most of the same anglers complain about when fishing lakes in the UK ! In many cases these lakes will be very busy because of the fact that there are very big carp in them, but if you choose to go down this road, be prepared to make several trips to the venue and accept that you may not catch fish on each trip, because of what I have said above about swim choice etc.
There are a lot of lesser known waters in France that do not advertise in the UK carp magazines that are as good if not better than the "circuit waters", if you want to fish a lake that is surrounded by bivvies then by all means go to a circuit lake, but if you want some peace and quiet and to fish for carp that are not continually under pressure you will have to search a little further afield. I have fished lakes in France where my companion and I were the only anglers on the water !
Stock levels etc Many carp waters in France are run by carp anglers who have no knowledge or experience in the field of fisheries management, therefore it is not surprising that there are a lot of lakes which are not managed correctly, many owners have preconceptions of what they comsider to be a good fishery, based on what they as anglers like, this is not a professional way to run a carp fishery. 200 carp in 15 acres of water is not a heavily stocked lake in France, it is more akin to what you might find in a UK water, and this kind of setup is based on what carp anglers have become accustomed to in the UK, so they think it is correct. All other things being equal, in order to maintain a good carp water where good cataches are the norm rather than a rarity, the stock of carp needs to be at a level where the fish need to eat bait on a regular basis in order to live and grow. If there is enough natural food in the lake, and the carp can choose to eat this rather than feed on bait and risk being captured, then they will do so, and this will mean poor angling results. This is a basic premise of fisheries management, but it is ignored or simply unknown by many fishery owners.