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February 2012 at Vallee Lake 1: heavy but nice!

For weeks I was watching outside with aversion. Everybody was having fun ice skating... everything I could see was the passing of the days. The days with a thick layer of ice between me and the fish. Normally I don't bother, but now we had an appointment, and that appointment was a session at the beautiful Vallee Lake 1 in France. If the madness of the 'Elfstedentocht' breaks loose, I see my session fall through a hole in the ice... I thought so.
About 1,5 week before Justin and I leave for France I liked Piet Paulusma a lot more than the weeks before. He told me the things I wanted to hear. Day temperatures of 7-8°C and in the night it would stop freezing too. Would it be possible? The amount of phone calls and emails towards Bas of The Carp Specialist and my mates Maarten, Mickael and Arnoud (MM&A) increase. Via Bas we go to Vallee Lake and MM&A had planned the trip in the week before our weekend. We know MM&A already because of our sessions in Almere. For them the melting of the ice is more thrilling than it is for us. Soon it is clear that they can't fish on Monday because of the ice. But daily contact with Mark, bailiff of Vallee Lake provides us with a solution. Wednesday they move to France and one half of the lake is ice free and they are able to fish. This appears to be a good decision. In front we knew it could be a cold session. The water is 6°C and the fish will not feel like feeding. Still, Mickael and I manage to catch a nice 24kg mirror in the first night.
MM&A had booked the same swim as we did, swim 9. Because they left later than planned, our stays would tile. So when our alarm rings at Friday night 3 o'clock, it is still a mystery which swim we will get. One thing is for sure; the ice is gone and we can fish! It is a bit strange though, that a grown man is nervous about fishing a weekend in France. Maybe it is because we have the carpvirus and this are just some side effects.
When I arrive at 04:15h at Justin with a half packed car, he appears in the doorway with a big smile on his face. He hopes we can get the fish to feed. I confirm we can't assume to catch fish when the water is this cold. But we have a bigger chance than the people who stay at home on their couch. After 15 minutes of stuffing the car, he is completely full. We keep taking more stuff to the banks. But than we are provided with all comfort. Fully loaded we leave at 4.30h for Blangy-Sur-Bresle.
The journey elapsed without any accidents. On our way, we had rain, fog and humidity. Every now and then it was needed to slow down a bit. We are surprised by the amount of trucks on the road. When one truck wants to pass another one with the minimum difference in speed... I think... We are going fishing, for a whole weekend.
It is 9.15h when we arrive at the supermarket at the end of the highway at the detraction of Blagny. The last stop we will make before we arrive at Vallee Lake. This is something we do every session. For me, it is an important action though, because besides fishing, taking care of the inner person is important too. Bacon, eggs, croissants, cheese, beer, soda and Brioche... this are some of the important things of our shopping list. The groceries on Justins lap, we drive to Vallee Lake to arrive there 10 minutes later.
Soon it appears we can fish swim 9. MM&A had moved to swim 6, 7 and 8. These swims are at the back of the water and known as the Cabin Swims. Next to those swims at swim 1, there are 2 other Dutch anglers and swim 3 and 4 are taken by 2 English anglers. It is pretty busy for a water which is just free of ice. After a short chat with Nathalie and Mark, we know the temperature of the water is 6°C. The fish hasn't shown himself except for Mickael's catch. A little bit of wind is blowing towards swim 1. The advantage of this swim is the large amount of water in front of you. From your own margin all the way to the margin at the other side of the lake. Justin and I fished here in 2010 and we had some good results. The situation back than was similar to the situation now.
Our swim was swim 9. Justin and Nick had a good session on this swim last year. Even 2 double takes. The differences between last year and now are the temperature, very high air pressure and really cold water. But we will not give up hope. We have more chance to catch a fish than we would have at home on the couch.
At arrival you are requested to park your car at the parking space. Here is also the sanitary building and the 'shop'. If Mark of Nathalie is present, you can buy the necessary equipment and bait. Mark brings your equipment to your swim with a quad and trailer. You can place it straight out of your car onto the trailer. With a full trailer we head to swim 9. Arrived at the swim we unload the trailer and decide to say Hi at swim 6, 7 and 8. And we are curious if they had seen some kind of activity on the water the last days. Unfortunately it was really quiet and the only fish that was caught was the 24kg mirror. They decided to move to the other swims to try something new. Maarten is fishing swim 6. I fished this swim in 2010, with some good results. During Justins trip last year this was also a good swim with 16 bites in a short week. We wish each other good luck and a short period after that I place my bivvy for the weekend.
Once my bivvy is done, it is time to prepare the rods. Justin already started on his first rod. While I am talking to Mark I hear Justin saying the fishfinder doesn't function. Nothing at all. Soon we notice it is the battery. No power, no image on the screen. So we change the batteries and we get him to work. Without any problems Justin manages to get his bait to the desired spot. I walk to Mickael who is fishing swim 8, to ask if Justin's spot isn't too close to his. But soon it appears that we fish a pretty big distance from each other. It is always hard to guess the distance.
When I have my first rod ready to go, Justin has already put out his second one. I decide to row across a part of the lake to find some interesting spots. I don't manage to find some. I decide to place the rods at 3 different depths. 2,2m, 2,4m and 2,6m. This way I hope to get some information about the depths the fish swims. Justin picks some deeper spots. 3,1m, 3,5m and 2,8m. When I want to put out my last rod, it appears there are more fishfinders on the same channel, this makes my depths vary from 3 to 21 meters and from 25 to 1 meter. So we make sure we don't use the baitboats at the same time as the other anglers. This way it will do fine.
We thought ;) but during the first night it appeared we constantly got only one depth. I pull all the batteries out of my baitboat and still we get a depth. I decide to go to MM&A. Even when they have pulled all the batteries out of their boat, we still see a depth at the screen. The rods are in and the direction and distances are marked. I decide to leave it this way for the moment.
After a pretty good meal: Meatballs
Halfway the day I hear the beautiful sound of a bite alarm again, on the other side of the lake. I see one of the guys play a fish. I say to Justin that this could be a sturgeon, because the fish is crossing the entire water. Justin decides to walk over with a scale, because they have none. When Justin arrives, they talk about an 30kg+ mirror. When they weigh the fish, it appears to be a little less, but still 28,9kg. Bang, that is a new PB... what a beautiful catch.
On the other side of the lake, MM&A have had enough of it. They are here for a couple of days and have tried really everything, but no reaction at all. They witnessed a couple of nights with temperatures below 0°C. The last night hasn't brought any fish, just like at us. When I walk a round together with Maarten all the way to the far end of the lake, Maarten notices some fish. But then literally about 30 fish is laying quiet next to each other. The one is even bigger than the other. This activates the urgence of catching fish and we decide to put a rod very closely to these fish. The right hand rod of Maarten was positioned at just 5 meters away from the fish. Now we put this rod just 1,5 meter away from the fish. We can't put it closer because of the trees. All the walkie talkies are set at channel 5 so we can let each other know when something happens. Later that evening you hear some weird sounds come out of the speaker, switched with introducing sounds of exciting movies and funny ringtones. But no message of a fish that has been caught this night.
When I wake up in the morning I can't see the other side of the lake because of all the fog. The night was chilly and I am happy that my sleeping bag is well lined. Unfortunately it didn't work for MM&A for the last day. They have to pack their stuff and by noon they drive away from Vallee Lake. The fog is gone and even the sun is shining. With the result of a rising temperature. When Justin is away to have a look at swim 6 where the fish were, it soon is obvious that they are swimming now. The anglers from swim 1 have got a Go Pro camera and they are able to film under water, this is what they do and there are a lot of big fish swimming their laps. Beautiful what technology is capable of these days.
Now swim 8 is free, Justin has got all the space to make the right side of swim 9 a lot wider. While I prepare dinner for this evening, we see some bubbles about 10 meters from the island. We saw on regular base 3 bubbles, then 2... but now really a bigger amount of bubbles. While the food is ready, Justin decides to change one of the rods. He rather has a change to catch a fish and cold food, than a lovely warm chop. I do understand him. But from that moment it is over with the quietness. All the time he gets line swimmers. We fish with fairly slack lines, and every time you can see the line tighten followed by the Korda Stow to return in original position. One time it is going that far, that Justin decides to take the rod to make contact with the fish, unfortunately it was a line swimmer again. This continues for a while but then all of a sudden it stops. It is getting pretty chilly, this time the temperature drops to 0°C. I sleep this night very well. This is a bad sign when you're fishing. I wake up only one time, this is because of a muskrat who is swimming through my line. He scares the hell out of himself... I don't even get to see him after that anymore.
Justin is also awake early, because today we will leave, back to The Netherlands again. When we are watching the water with a cup of coffee, we see some careful bubbles appear. This time they are closer to us. Immediately we decide to take that rod closer by. Together with some hemp we drop the rig close to the bubbles. The result is immediately some line swimmers, followed by a bending tip of the rod. Justin makes contact and he feels some resistance for a short while, follow by a slacking line. We look at each other and even before you can blink your eyes the boat is going back in the direction of the island. After a short talk we decide to put a second line towards that spot. This appears to be a golden action. Because not long after dropping this line, and cleaning up a lot of our stuff, the line pulls tight. When Justin makes contact, it doesn't take long before he feels resistance and he sees the line move through the water... Fish, finally fish!
The fish knows how to fight and he swims from the right, in front of our swim, to the left. This means that all the rods are in his way. I manage to get all the lines out of the way without giving the fish the possibility to take any of them. The last part of the fight the fish enters the net and after all we managed to catch a fish. 13,2kg. A beautiful coloured mirror carp. Not the biggest carp of the lake but most definitely a true beauty. Justin, but me as well is very happy with this fish.
We drop this line one more time and continue cleaning. But unfortunate this was the only bite and when everything is packed we also have to reel in the rods. We have had a lovely session, not many fish, but we knew that up front. The ice was just gone and the water temperature made the fish really slow. 27 lines in the water and in a single weekend 5 fish were caught. The guys from swim 1 had caught 4 fish. These fish were 20, 30, 40 and 60lb. This are some great numbers!
I know I will visit the banks of Vallee Lake soon again to give it a shot but then with some higher temperatures. There swims a big 30kg fish with my name on it. At least, when Justin doesn't catch it right in front of me ;)
Michel van Ewijk is next to a talented carper the owner and administrator of the popular angling website Here you can find next to lots of interesting articles about the carpfishery also several other session reports of his trips to Vallee Lake 1.
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