L is for Liez - Jake Langley-Hobbs

Téma Dobrodružství Jakea Langley-Hobbse, publikováno 24. 9. 2012, přečteno 8072x.

After a seven hour drive from Italy covering 650 km, meandering through stunning Switzerland, I arrived at Imperial Fishing in Traben-Trabach in Germany…

After a seven hour drive from Italy covering 650 km, meandering through stunning Switzerland, I arrived at Imperial Fishing in Traben-Trabach in Germany. My intended German plans had been scuppered somewhat, due to my tenant suddenly evacuating my house at short notice. So I just had a week to spend with Max Nollert before returning swiftly to the UK to rescue my house and hand it over to an agent to manage. Fortunately, a new tenant was found quickly so that was one less thing for me to worry about. My week in Germany was spent winding down from pretty much five months solid fishing, so it was nice to have a ‘night out’ in Frankfurt with my Max, visiting some rather colourful establishments! I also had the chance to completely sort out all of my fishing tackle in the luxury of a warehouse and also do some clothes washing in a machine, rather than in the edge of a lake! I obviously could not resist doing a little fishing during my week in Germany, and as Traben-Trabach is built on the banks of the Mosel, it was here that I had my first taste of river carping for over 18 years. But that, as they say, is another story.

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Half of the Scottish pair hard at it in the WCC…

On returning back from an unneeded, hectic week in the UK, armed with some new carp goodies, I had just one more week to spend in Germany, before heading off to the World Carp Classic being held at Madine. I was not competing, just going along to see what it’s all about, and also I was keen to meet the Carpworld team. I had come up with this idea whilst at Cassien and considered fishing Madine after the event for a month, or my second choice, Lac de la Liez. Why Liez? Before I left the UK in February I spent many evenings sprawled on the floor with a bottle of wine and piles of maps, looking at patches of blue water and researching through books for possible big fish waters, and as Mike Willmott mentioned Liez in his book, as ‘one for the future’; it had a firm red, biro ring planted around it.

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Mr. Forward and Mr. Lane calmly waiting for the start of the WCC…

I decided to head to Madine on Saturday the 30th of August when most of the competitors would be arriving in numbers, so I spent a few more days and nights fishing the Mosel, before I made the short trip of 350km for the tenth anniversary of the WCC. Even though I wasn’t taking part i still got really excited as I arrived and there was a real buzz about the place as I pulled into bivvy city, early Saturday evening. Bivvy city is a very large field where the competitors can prepare and sleep for the weekend before the competition starts. There must have been 100 bivvies already erected when I turned up, which is quite a sight to behold. I bumped straight into some of the UK pairs who were taking part and was made to feel very welcome from the word go. Charley and Flash made the most of the many strokes and pats they received as we wandered around, and I knew there and then that I had made the right choice coming along to support the event. As the evening turned to night, bivvy city kicked into gear and there were definitely a few sore heads in the morning.

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Even Nicks monkey impressions could not break Martins concentration…

Sunday was spent having a wander around looking at some of the pegs around the lake while the competitors prepared bait, replaced shock leaders, and generally made sure they were ready for the Monday start. As the evening approached all the competitors gathered outside the main hall for the opening ceremony where they would find out in due course which peg they would draw for the commencing battle. As it was the tenth anniversary of the WCC, Ross Honey had pulled out all the stops. One of the nice touches was the flag ceremony, with children parading the 26 representing countries flags through the hall. After the draw was completed, the competitors partied on into the night; no doubt optimistically toasting their now lucky peg numbers, and probably then later dreaming of lifting the trophy at the end of the competition. I spent a couple of hours with the Carpworld motley crew in their onsite Gite and after a few beers and being asked by Martin to be the Carpworld media man, I retired to my bivvy for the night.

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My dogs kept guard over Martin and Nick’s boilies!

The following morning, unsurprisingly, I awoke to find I was now the ‘only bivvy in bivvy city’! The whole field was deserted as all the competitors had departed early to get to their pegs by 7am. I made my way to HQ to pick up my Carpworld media pass and then spent the day casually strolling around with my two shadows, taking pictures of the UK entries in their respective pegs, getting ready for the start of the competition. At 3pm a few rockets reached up to the skies to signal the start of the WCC and with that, a flotilla of inflatable boats all launched in unison, boasting enthusiastic carp anglers over the entire lake. The competition was finally underway!

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Liez at dusk…

The next few days flew by and I managed to get around the whole lake and onto the islands and even did a bit of fishing with ‘Beefsteak’ Bygraves on Little Madine, both catching a few low twenties. All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable week, and congratulations to the deserving winners. My dogs behaved themselves, were spoilt rotten by everyone and even managed a mention in the closing ceremony! I now just had one big decision to make. Would I now fish Madine or would I choose Liez? I wasn’t actually aware of the fact, until I arrived, that Madine has now gone down the same route as Lac du Der. If you want to night fish one of these public waters, you now have to book and pay for the privilege. Something I was not prepared to do. Whatever happened to free public waters? Fortunately Liez is a stone’s throw away and as this can still be fished with the Carte de Peche and the additional night fishing permit (amusingly the French call this ‘ Carp the Night’), which is a very reasonable 50 Euros a year; Liez was now the obvious choice. I still had my Carte de Peche from Cassien so all I had to do was buy the regional stamp, which would cost me an additional 39 Euros.

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Preparing a little bait on the bank…

I made the drive back to Germany after the competition ended to prepare for my trip. Now armed with a trailer, but with no tow bar yet fitted to my van, I had to travel back to Liez with my trailer boat fixed firmly to my roofrack, the inside of the van containing my dogs, my inflatable craft, and fishing supplies for the month. Carp anglers are often accused of taking far too much with them on trips. I easily fall into this category; however, I am slowly learning that you don’t need to take the lot, and now I am able to leave the excess in my sponsor’s warehouse. It means I am travelling a little lighter these days. Bait for the trip was prepared before I left and I was now taking 40 kilos of Fish and Elite boilies and 20 kilos of Amino Pellets. Not much for a month, I hear you cry, but I don’t like to lump it in, preferring the little and often approach. I was all set. I left Germany on Tuesday the 16th of September and drove to Liez, just outside the town of Langres, arriving just as it got dark. There was one swim in particular I was hoping for. After chatting with Andy Chambers at the WCC, he kindly drew me a map of Liez and marked a big X on the spot where he would fish at this time of year, if the water level was low. This area was in the last night fishing zone (Bois Chapusin) at the barrage end of the reservoir. It was free! In fact there were only two carp anglers on the entire lake which is approximately 285 hectares. They were from Belgium and had been there a few days with no success. In fact it seemed that the recent ‘cold’ snap had switched off the lake, and a fish had not been banked for a couple of weeks. I am never too bothered when I hear news like this. It only means that the fish will have to start feeding again soon, and fortunately time is on my side.

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What shall I create for lunch today?

The following morning I woke to rain pattering on my van windscreen. I shot off to the local tackle shop in Langres and obtained the regional stamp for my license, and was given a roughly translated leaflet explaining the rules of ‘Carp the Night’! One of the rules is ‘that dogs should be on leaves at all times’! Back at the lake and with my dogs on leads, we went for a walk to look at my swim. There was a strong North Easterly wind pushing down the lake towards the dam and it was cold! To coin a phrase, the place looked dead! Still, no pain no gain. Five hours later I was all set up in my place. This involved two boat trips across the lake from one of the launch slopes. Once with the bulk of my tackle which I then hid under my camo netting, then I returned to fetch my trusty companions, who now love their little jaunts in the boat. You may think I take risks leaving tackle behind, but I always assess the risks first. Liez is sometimes a very busy place full of anglers, holiday makers and pleasure seekers, but at this time of year it was deserted, and it felt safe to leave my equipment hidden in my swim while I returned to fetch the dogs. With our home all comfortable I felt no need to get the rods out. Instead I fed the dogs, prepared their bed, then made myself some nice food, got in my sleeping bag and slept like a log! Or did i? The anglers who had fished my swim before I arrived had left a huge pile of maize in the bushes. Rats and mice scurried back and forth throughout the night, brushing past the bivvies, making a nuisance of themselves. As it turned out we all ate well that night!

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It’s a dog’s life!

The following day I went out in the boat. This was tricky as the wind was already blowing hard. If you have never used an echo sounder in a boat on a choppy lake, it is virtually a waste of time. In a matter of seconds you are yards away from the area you were just analysing and it is often a fruitless task. I have a concrete anchor weight I sometimes use, but the tow will often drag the anchor and boat along with little ease. I now have a hand held GPS to mark my spots to 1m, but this too, is pretty useless when it’s choppy. It’s a case of working with nature, and waiting patiently for the chances to go out when the wind has eased, so you’re using your time in the boat more effectively. Once I had my chance I went out and decided to start off fishing a variety of depths between 3 and 6m. I was very surprised how soft the bottom was during my recce in the boat with my ‘donk’ rod, and I struggled to find any areas that did not resemble porridge like consistency. This was going to be challenging! On closer inspection in the edges I was truly amazed by how many mussels were resting in the soft mud, and these obviously provided the carp with a very large part of their diet. I got the rods in position and introduced a little bait around each and by the time that was done it was getting dark already. I have to admit I was finding the early darkness and cold damp weather demoralising and all I wanted to do was sleep, so that’s what I did. I had been spoilt fishing in France and Italy with plenty of sunshine, and although I don’t have an issue with fishing in the depths of winter, it was just going to take a little time to adjust. The next couple of days were spent generally lazing around and making some adjustments to my bait. I had bought some bottles of boilie flavour with me, so I put my bait into containers and added a few mls of the flavour to the outside of the boilies, and then put lids on the containers so the flavour would be absorbed. The reason I did this was because I did not want the mud to mask the taste of my bait, and I felt that by adding some additional raw flavour it would give them an extra edge.

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A 24.2kg Liez lump…

By Saturday morning my motivation was returning and I could feel myself starting to get into the groove, so to speak. The rods had produced a few bream but I was beginning to think the carp were probably staying in the deeper water in the middle channel. I was finding depths of 8m and if the fish were moving around at all and not just sat up in the mud, then maybe they were moving along this channel. My echo sounder had shown up some weed beds and the fish finder occasionally identified the odd fish, although you can’t tell the species. As the lake was so choppy it made getting the rods repositioned and baited correctly very difficult so it was a case of waiting and on the Sunday I moved two rods into depths of 8m to see if I could locate a Liez carp. A few other anglers had turned up and I now had three Germans who were fishing further along the zone to my right. I mentioned to one of them about my thoughts about the deeper water so he put one rod in 8m too. On Wednesday morning two of them strolled down to my swim to inform me that one of them had caught a 17kg mirror. Great! This pleased me no end and confirmed my suspicions.

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On the eighth night I had a run. This was the result! My ninth carp over 50lbs since I left the UK…

The choppy water was still abating and I was not happy using my GPS anymore to position my rods and bait up, because in seconds you were yards away from your spot, so I felt this was one of those times when markers would come in useful. It would mean baiting up could be done much more precisely and I could slowly start to try and create a feeding area. I decided at the start of my session that I would leave my rods out for up to 72 hours before changing them. When nuisance fish aren’t constantly bothering you I prefer this tactic and I had a few fish at Cassien on the second or third night baits. Later that day I placed my markers and rods and my traps were set. Three rods were now in 8m and one in 6m just in case! The Germans informed me they were leaving the following morning to go to a nearby ‘runs’ water. They had two weeks holiday and one of them was desperate just to catch some carp. So they were off to ‘Crazy Lake’ twenty minutes away! It is aptly named by Max Nollert after he and another angler caught 135 carp up to 22kg in ten nights fishing a few years ago! I said they were ‘crazy’ for leaving as one of them had caught and it was only a matter of time before they had another.

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Not being cheeky, but a possible cover shot!

Sure enough the following morning one of them had a run in 8m of water but unfortunately lost it. They still packed up and left, so once again I had the zone to myself. Before they went they told me to call them if I caught a big fish, and one of them would drive back from crazy lake to take some photos. I laughed and wished them well, and wondered if my luck would change. Tonight was to be my eighth night fishing and I was still without carp. The rod at 6m was turning into a bream rod so at least I was being kept active. I waited till 6pm and rowed out to my three 8m markers to trickle a little pellet and some chopped boilies over my 36hr old hook baits. The North Easterly wind was still blowing relentlessly since I arrived and with one fish caught and one lost, for the Germans, my confidence was lifted somewhat as I drifted off to sleep later that evening.

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I just love pike anglers!

At 4am in the morning I woke up. My stomach was trying to tell me something, was I about to be sick or was I just hungry? I decided to go with hunger and scoffed a bowl of Lidl’s fake Special K! It was cold and windy so I climbed back into bed. Flash politely offered to keep me warm for a few minutes and I was just about to push him off the bed, when my left hand rod bleeped once and then produced a welcome one tone run. Action stations! I had waited a long time for this so I put on the waders and life jacket, very quickly, and raced through the mud to the rod in question. Picking it up, it was nearly pulled from my grasp. I was using braid so I let the fish pull it off my tight baitrunner while I clambered into my boat. I wound down and started heading out to where the fish was. Being very careful the fish did not go behind one of the buoys which are set out for the speed boats that use the lake, I very soon managed to locate the braid cutting through the surface layers and was then on top of the fish.

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Charley to Flash: “I wish you would close my ears after you have cleaned them”!

My boat is very stable so I tend to stand up until I am right over the fish. I then sat down and the fight continued for a good 15 minutes. It was a good feeling, and although the wind was blowing the boat down towards the dam, whilst the fish plodded around near the bottom; I felt in control the whole time, and ever so slowly I gained a few turns of line every minute or so. Finally the fish came up to the top and my first sight confirmed my thoughts. It was a good fish. Now I find netting fish in boats fairly easy when it’s nice and calm or moderately rough but this was going to be a bit trickier. I cocked it up the first time, as the boat was being blown away from the tired fish by the wind. The fish slid away from the edge of the net and I really thought I was going to lose it after my long wait. The second attempt was successful, just! I let out a huge sigh of relief and bit through my shock leader and then broke down my rod placing it inside the boat. Next, I took the lead off the clip and then collapsed the net and got the fish ready for its watery journey back to dry land. The only trouble was the wind had blown the boat about 500 yards down from my swim. It was a slow process but I eventually got back and went to fetch my cradle. My first Liez carp was a cracker! I weighed the mirror and the needle clonked round to 24.2kg. This was my ninth carp over 50lbs since I had left England in February and this one felt as good as the first, if not better. I carefully sacked up the fish. It was now 5am and I made a tea and hopped back into my bag. I told the dogs all about my latest capture, like you do when there is no one else around, and with a smug grin, I waited till first light approached!

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The lights of Liez…

Very kindly, Andreus kept his promise and offered to return to take some shots. He arrived at 9am and what a great job he did. As usual my dogs managed to get in most of the photos, but as they have to put up with their crazy owner, it’s only fair they take some credit! After a few coffees Andreus left and I got the rod back into position and made some brunch. On going through my other bivvy to sort out my food, I noticed the mice had been making themselves very comfortable in most of my luggage. The traps would have to be deployed! I can put up with a mouse on a weekend trip, but on long sessions they can destroy so much before you realise what’s going on. You can’t blame them though; a damp wet hole in the ground, or a roomy warm bag, with free food on tap?

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My second carp was an immaculate 21kg common…

On Sunday morning at 7am I had an identical run as Friday morning. I raced to the rod, and through the fog I could see that a pike angler had picked up my line trolling from his boat. Not amused, at all, I left the rod and returned to my warm bed. Pike anglers in France are very good at this, as trolling is allowed on most waters; and just sometimes you are sure you can hear them chuckling away in their boats, as if it was ‘almost’ done deliberately!

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Returning my 20th carp over 20kg since I started my trip back in February…

Monday the 30th of September saw a change in the wind direction. It was now blowing from the west and I was sure this would improve the fishing. But apart from the odd silver fish, nothing changed on the carp front. There were by now, quite a few bivvies pitched up around the lake but no fish were being caught anywhere. On chatting to some other anglers, Liez has become a very difficult venue over the last couple of years. The ‘big hits’ that the odd angler had in the past, were normally when the water levels were incredibly low; meaning the carp had less places to hide.
During my stay, one of the most irritating things I noticed was the small minority of French ‘carpiste’ who have no respect whatsoever for the places allowed for night fishing.

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Celebrating with the Bois Chapusin crew, spag bol style!

At Liez and most other lakes in France there are marked out Zones. You can only fish at night, legally, in one of these zones. If you are going to ‘guest’ a water and you turn up under the cover of darkness and leave before it’s light, and no-one knows you were ever there, in my eyes that’s more acceptable. But to plot up on Thursday in broad daylight, erect a bivvy and stay for the whole weekend in an area you’re not supposed to be fishing, is a flagrant disregard of the rules and disrespectful to other carp anglers who fish legally. Did they catch carp? Well I am not going to give them any credit by saying if they did or not, because I don’t think there’s much skill involved in catching carp from areas where they should be able to feel safe. I can sympathise slightly with the local carp anglers, because Liez is probably now as popular as Cassien, with anglers coming from all over Europe to fish it, but then it is the French authorities, who make the rules and put in the zones for night fishing, so they should be obeyed by all nationalities, shouldn’t they?

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The only carp caught during the day whilst I was at the lake…

A couple of French carpistes had pitched up in my zone and were a breath of fresh air. Not only were they very amusing, they also bought enough food and booze with them to sink a ship, and every night I was kindly offered food, brandies and beers while my dogs scoffed their leftovers! It’s not that I don’t have enough food; I was just brought up in an age when it was rude to say ‘no’! Even though the fishing was slow, the days were more bearable with some good company close by and on Tuesday the 7th of October we all optimistically said goodnight, as tonight for the first time since I arrived a few carp could be heard crashing out in our vicinity. I sat up for a couple of hours trying to pinpoint where the splashes were coming from, mainly to my left, down towards the dam. Tomorrow a rod would be positioned further down my left at range, giving me more chance. As I was in the last swim in my zone, I had the luxury of being able to command the whole of the left hand side, or so I thought. I will come to that later!

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My mate Tony Parker with his 25kg treasure…

At 2am in the morning I had a run from the same place I had had my only carp. I sprinted to the rod. This was nineteen nights into my session! Can you blame me? I had now switched to my rock method and as the rock had been released from the take, the carp was already on the surface by the time I got out to it in the boat. I could see it was a nice common, and it briefly went back down to the bottom and we played our little game of take some, give some for a couple of minutes before I scooped my second Liez leviathan into the folds of my net. It wasn’t a long carp but very broad and this is where its weight was hidden. 21 kg was the confirmed weight. I wore a cheeky little grin while the rod went straight back out in the dark, to see if anymore were around.

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My trailer boat stacked and ready to depart for home…

In the morning it was good news along my section. One of the French guys caught a 10kg fish and some Germans further along caught four to 17kg. Being slightly obsessed with big carp I was very happy with my one in the night and my 21kg common did herself proud in the photos taken by French ‘Rocker’ Patrick. Merci beaucoup! During the day I put one rod down to my left where I heard the fish crashing out, and now a renewed grip of enthusiasm was running through the veins of every carp angler in the zone of Bois Chapusin! That night I cooked a meal for myself and five others to celebrate my 20th carp over 20kg, and we all sat down to eat my special basil spaghetti bolognaise!
The following day as the morning turned to afternoon, on the newly positioned rod, I had a few bleeps and then a drop back. I wound down and felt a satisfying thump on the other end. The fish had hooked itself, the rock had come off the clip leaving the fish confused. I swiftly dealt with the ensuing drill, and in five minutes had a 17kg, ghostly white common, back on the muddy shoreline. This was not the only fish caught in our zone, as during the night the Germans had a couple; so our optimism, for a change, was not misplaced!

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Sunset at Liez…

Later that day I received a text from a English friend I met at Cassien, Tony Parker. He had very kindly dropped in an overwrap for my bivvy, on his way down to a lake near Lyon. This meant going out of his way for an hour, so it was greatly appreciated. Tony had just caught his first 25kg carp and was over the moon! Rightly so, and I was very pleased for him. I spent the rest of the day preparing the odd rod for the night ahead, and set my mouse trap for any furry friends who dared enter my stores bivvy! That night I heard the trap snap shut. Normally I get up straightaway and deal with the deceased, but I drifted back to sleep. A couple of hours later my body clock woke me. It was now the witching hour for the carp and I liked to expectantly sit and drink coffee and smoke a few fags whilst waiting for a possible run. I looked at the mouse in the trap and much to my horror all that remained was a severed head. It was rather macabre and a rat had obviously taken advantage of this free meal, and after a little search I found its furry skin and entrails on the groundsheet of my bivvy. I very carefully cleared this up, washing my hands to safeguard against Weill’s disease. Not exactly what you need at 2am!

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Sunset set-up…

Saturday morning I woke to find to my surprise a French angler set up in the woods to my left, fishing in an illegal area. He had turned up during the night, for the weekend, and put out his lines in the dark, two of which were now over two of mine. That was it! On retrieving my rods in the boat later that morning, his lines appeared from the depths, which I then coiled up and chucked back into the water. I decided at that point that I would end this trip and called it a day there and then. I slowly packed my stuff up during the afternoon and made my feelings quite clear to the ignorant carpiste fishing in the woods, who clearly thought he was the innocent party. Ooh la la!

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Caught in the act! The vermin slayer strikes again…

The following day I made the long haul with the boats back to my van. Patrick very kindly took the dogs in his boat so I could do everything in one trip. What a gentleman. It was now time to return to Germany. It had been a tough session all in all, but I considered it a success driving back with three hard earned fish under my belt. Now it was time to go river fishing. After fishing the German Mosel for a few nights prior to Liez and the WCC, I now wanted to fish the French Moselle to do a little comparison. I will let you all know how it goes.

Catch you lot later.

JL-H

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