Based upon 25 years of fishing in France on many different
venues, from tiny streams to fast flowing rivers; from great big inland seas to
small puddles, I think I can say with some confidence that in general terms the
advice that follows regarding the fishing at le Queroy will be useful to both
first timer visitors to the complex as well as to those that may have been
My missus and I first fished the Napoleonic Lake in 1998 and we have visited Le Q
every year since. It is without doubt our favourite holiday venue bar none.
It’s got the lot: Pretty lake.
...and fantastic fishing.
What follows is based on our own catches and experiences at the lake. It is not mean to be the definitive article about tackle and rigs, but we will be happy if it helps suggest a few ideas to you.
Among the most frequent questions I am asked by anglers who are off to France possibly for the first time are:
1) Do I need to upgrade my rods?
2) Should I increase the strength of my line?
3) Should I use a bigger lead?
4) What type of lead is best?
5) Which hook link should I use?
6) Which rig should I use?
7) Are pop-ups better than bottom bait?
...and so on and so on!
Invariably I reply that if you are happy with the gear you are using in the UK, then it will also be fine for France, the only governing factor being the size of the lake you are visiting. For the most part the popular French commercial venues are between 6 and 12 acres in size and most UK anglers will be experienced in fishing lakes of this size. Therefore, there is little or no reason to upgrade rods, reels and line strength.
RODS AND REELS.
We use rods that are twelve feet long and of between 2.25lb test and 2.75lb test. We have never needed (nor even felt the need for) heavier rods as the lake is no more than 100m at it’s widest and the longest cast anyone is likely to want to make would be from the dam wall swims to the centre of the dam itself, a distance of about 80m. I would suggest that anyone should be able to cast that far using rods of the test curves mentioned above. There may be some among you who will want to chuck heavy leads from bank to bank, but this is simply not necessary and mid range rods will do fine.
Of course if you intend to do a lot of PVA bag fishing then I quite accept that you may require heavier rods and stronger line to deal with the stresses imposed by casting heavier end gear than usual but to my mind this then detracts from the pleasure of playing these hard fighting carp for which Le Queroy is famous.
In addition such powerful rods are seldom ideal for playing fish, and given that the carp in Nappy’s Lake fight for at least 10 minutes under the tip, there is every chance you might pull out of the fish by using such an unforgiving rod when it is under the tip. Of course, if you like to use a bait boat then harsh unforgiving fast taper rods are totally unnecessary and this allows you to get the maximum enjoyment out of the scrap. I’ll come to this in a second but it might just be an apposite moment to suggest that the use of a bait boat brings significant rewards on the lake at Le Queroy.
For both Carole and myself, the pleasure we get from fishing is all in the fight and you will find the hard fighting fish at le Q. To get the maximum enjoyment you need a rod that is forgiving under the tip, that bends throughout its length yet maintains sufficient strength in the butt to over power fish of 50lb or more. I actually landed the smaller of the two big cats at 74lb using a 2.75lb test rod (see photo 4).
As for reels, bring what you use at home. It doesn’t matterif you normally use a big pit reels, or you prefer lighter more delicate reels, as both will do a job for you at the lake. We use lightweight big pit reels, Shimano XT 10000s and Fox FX11s and both reels are more than capable of landing anything that swims in the Napoleonic lake. This is my favourite reel (see photo 5).
This is Carole’s (see photo 6).
Your choice will largely depend on what you are used to, not just on your personal preference for mono, braid or fluoro, but to a certain on your preferred fishing method. Both Carole and I a firm advocates of the slack-line-light-running-lead approach and for this nothing beats either fluorocarbon main line or braid on the reel. We have not used ordinary mono at le Queroy for over ten years so cannot really suggest or recommend a suitable on. However, as the lake is largely snag-free and the lakebed is not unduly abrasive in nature, I would go for a soft yet quite dense modern monofilament line such as Shimano Technium. I would probably chose the 20llb version as it is very fine for it stated breaking strain (see photo 7).
LEADS, RIGS and HOOKLINKS.
The lakebed comprises silt of varying depths but there are zones within the lake, notably along the dame wall where the silt is less deep. Against that is the fact that there are one or two snaggy areas along the dam area, especially in both corners where the silt is lighter and less cloying. There are rocks and stones in these two areas, as there are at various points along the foot of the dam wall.
Now I know some folk like to use certain colour leads when fishing in or on silt, and others who even go so far as to try to match the lead to the colour of the lakebed. If you think this gives you an advantage, then you should go for neutral coloured leads and hooklinks.
If on the other hand you don’t believe it makes any difference what colour lead or hooklink you chose then use your favourites! As a general rule of thumb we use flat coated leads of between 1oz and 2oz. The coating in this photo is light in colour but that is simply because we got the leads cheap from a boot sale and has nothing to do with disguising the lead on the lakebed. Anyone that thinks carp can tell a camouflaged lead from a standard one has read too many books and watched too many DVDs! They cannot! (see photo 8).
These past few years since their introduction in 2009 we have been almost exclusively using the brilliant Fox Paste Bomb (see photo 9). This trilobe-shaped lead is very cleverly designed as it features three vanes or lobes, which are perforated along their length. Think of it as something like a Method Feeder, if you like.
The shape of the Paste Bomb allows the user to squeeze boilie paste or trout pellet paste around the bomb itself and this adds considerably to the overall attraction in the vicinity of the hookbait where it sits on the lakebed. Frankly they are the best innovation in carp fishing for many years and neither of us have used another lead pattern since the Paste Bombs first came out. In the photo you will note odd dried bits of paste that are still stuck in the bomb since its previous use. (see photo 9)
Just to give you an idea of one of the many ways in which we use the Paste Bomb, take a look at this next photo. You can see that not only has the bomb been smothered in paste, but also the paste has been studded with mini pellets to add still further to the attraction. This is such a good trick it is almost cheating! Poor carp, they don’t stand a chance! (see photo 10).
I expect everyone reading this will have their favourite hooklink material and we are no different. That said, we are not so hidebound as to imagine a one-fits-all situation exists. Where it comes to hooklink material certain types lend themselves to certain rigs so all I can do in this section is outline the rigs we use most often and the materials we use to create them.
The first is the most adaptable of all rigs, the Multi Rig. To be honest, this rig is so effective that it can be tied with just about any material you please: mono, fluoro, straight forward braid, coated braid…you name it. When fishing a popped-up hookbait we like to use Kryston Supa Nova. In our experience this is the most supple of all the uncoated braids and the photo below shows our favourite way of tying the MR with this material and a buoyant hookbait (see photo 11).
For bottom baits or wafters we again generally use Supa Nova but have also found that any of the coated braids can be used instead. We like to create a small hinge just below the knot (see photo 12).
One of the most versatile hooklinks is Rigmarole’s Hydro link and we use this when we want to fish combi rig-style. What we love about Hydrolink is the fact that you can create really tiny hinges that allow the hook point to drop down on ejection and find a hold very easily. Double hookbaits are particularly effective with this rig, though don’t ask me why! (see photo 13).
You can also use Hydrolink for the Multi Rig or, for another very effective presentation, try stripping out all the inner section of fluorocarbon from the knot at the doubled section back to the hooklink swivel. This creates a superb Reverse Combi Rig. We used this to great effect in 2014 by setting it up with a bottom bait and a pop-up on the same hair, the so-called Snowman Rig (see photo 14).
Finally if you want to use nailed on bottom baits, that is to say hookbaits with no element of buoyancy to them whatsoever I can thoroughly recommend my own bottom bait rig, the Drop-Down Rig. The photo is self explanatory but i am sure you can see at a glance the seperation properties of this rig are as good as it gets. Not only does the hook drop down in the the lower part of the mouth on ejection it also tends to find a hold right in the middle of the lower lip. This truly is one of the best bottom bait rigs you will ever use. We have tried all types hooklink material with Drop-Down Rig over the years but keep coming back to good old stiff fluorocarbon in this case 30lb Gardner Tackles Mirage (see photo 15).
BAIT BOAT. I will include this simply because I feel it is an invaluable piece of kit for fishing all lakes, not just le Queroy. It offers the user a huge number of presentation options allowing you to position the rigs and bait carpet in exactly the right place and with the minimum of disturbance due to casting (see photo 16).
One little trick we like to employ each time we cast out or send away the bait boat is to attach a mesh parcel of pellets to the rig. We lodge the hook point lightly in the mesh and then cast or from preference use the bait boat to carefully to position the hookbait and meshed pellets at the chosen spot. This really does draw attention to the hookbait very well and we believe this presentation has been the main reasons why we have enjoyed success at a number of lakes and rivers (see photo 17).
You can amplify the effect of the mesh parcel of pellets by giving them a good glug of any of the better food liquids. Here the pellets are Trigga Ice mini pellets from Nutrabaits and they glug we have used is Trigga Ice Liquid (see photo 18).
I have only scratched the surface of the fishing possibilities at le Queroy’s Napoleonic lake. Clearly you will have your own ideas on tactics, rigs and baits; all I hope is that this article has provided a starting point for you and given you some ideas to think about. In reality the fishing on the Napoleonic lake is only as hard as you want to make it. Provided you keep three things in mind, you won’t go far wrong.
1. Go easy with the bait, especially at the start of your trip and make sure you use a good, well formulated food bait. This will benefit you and also the c arp. One of the Nutrabaits range will be ideal. We have been using their gear at le Queroy for 17 years and lately Nick Burrage has been undoubtedly the most successful angler of recent times. You only have to look at his catch results for the past two seasons to see that. Nick is a Nutrabaits man to the core and his results also bear witness to the effectiveness of their range. 2. Keep trying different areas and do not neglect the margins, especially in the bays. 3. There is no need for complicated rigs. Keep things simple!
Above all, ENJOY YOURSELF!
Ken and Carole Townley.