We have just enjoyed our 14th visit to this wonderful French paradise and quite honestly this visit surpassed all those that came before, and that’s saying something. Le Queroy is a small island of bliss situated in south west France, about 50 miles south of Poitiers in the Charente area of France, a sleepy, timeless region devoted to the simple things in life that the French seem to have so much time for. Good food, fine wine, and, of course, brilliant carp fishing.
This wonderful venue offers two lakes of 5 and 6 acres respectively. The slightly smaller but more established lake is called the Napoleonic Lake previously called the Main Lake. This was restored to its present condition by the previous owners who turned it from more or less a turgid swamp into the beautiful looking mature lake it is today.
There is also a small stock pond lake that lies at the eastern end of the Napoleonic Lake. Previously this held a few large carp but with the business now expanding rapidly from what went before, it has become necessary to set aside a lake to house the smaller carp for growing on purposes. The carp in the Napoleonic Lake spawn every year and keeping on top of the fry is an ongoing process. Not all the smaller carp will be retained but those showing the best growth potential will be selected for a rearing program, which will be carried out on the small lake. When they have reached decent weights they will be added to the stock in the two fishing lakes on the complex.
This aerial shot shows the Lodge bottom center and the Napoleonic Lake top centre. The stock pond can be seen to the right of the Napoleonic Lake.
The other main fishing lake at Le Queroy is Lake Elba, which will hopefully open for guests in early 2016 once the on-site gite is built. Elba was dug in 2003 and stocked the same year with the smaller carp - those under 20lb - from the Napoleonic Lake. In addition some catfish were added and Mother Nature herself has supplied a healthy stock of roach, rudd and bream. This lake is more or less square with flat spacious banks allowing plenty of room for anglers to double up should they wish. It is more or less square in shape and there are many underwater features to be discovered by the adventurous angler! The lake lies at the top of a gently sloping hillside and the views looking to the west at sunset are out of this world, as they are from the terrace outside the Lodge. However, for the moment the lake is not being fished seriously (though a few test sessions have shown very encouraging results!), so for the time being I want to concentrate on the main Napoleonic Lake.
The very first time we set eyes on the lake at Le Queroy Carole and I were immediately reminded of Redmire Pool: the dam wall with its stout and sturdy fence, the sleepy hidden valley below the dam and most of all, the peace and quiet. Redmire, I thought at the time, was unique. Now I know it’s not: A French Redmire exists deep in the heart of the French countryside not far from Confolens. Carole coined the nickname ‘The French Redmire’ and this has since been widely endorsed by subsequent guests who have visited both lakes.
Our first visit was in 1998 and we have made many subsequent visits. In fact we can’t stay away! Not only is the fishing usually out of this world, but also the accommodation is simply breathtaking, but more of that later. First let me talk about the main lake known as the Napoleonic Lake. It is about 5-acres in size and it lies at the foot of a lush grassy field accessed by a gate in the courtyard outside the Lodge. Descend about 200m and pass through another farm gate and there you are on the south bank of the Napoleonic Lake. Alternatively, if you are feeling lazy you can drive down to the dam and park there. The lake is at least 250-years old and features on the earliest pre-Napoleonic maps of the region.
For years the lake was left to its own devices and it became an overgrown tangle of snags, reeds and overhanging trees. The previous owners then transformed it into a most magnificent lake, nicely landscaped by nature’s hand but with wide easily accessible swims separated from each other by trees and bushes. Over the years the banks have matured considerably as these two photos illustrate. In the first photo, taken in 1998, we look towards the dam from a spot some 100m along the south bank. The second photo was taken from more or less the same spot in 2014!
The depth varies from about nine feet at the outlet gradually shelving up to around three feet at the shallows. A somewhat indistinct plateau or bar runs down the middle of the lake with two more distinctive channels either side. The lake is quite silty and the lake water is a dark chocolate colour thanks to the peaty subsoil and clay on which it lies. It is exceptionally rich in natural life and the carp often fizz like crazy on the huge beds of bloodworm that can be found more or less anywhere around the lake. In addition a profusion of pea and zebra mussels add to the richness of the water quality. There are no poisson-chats but a few crayfish pop-up from time to time but they are not a big problem. To be honest I think the big carp take care of the crayfish population quite effectively.
That there are carp in the Napoleonic lake at all is a mystery but it is thought that they are the result of an original stocking by a French owner in 1985. Under the last ownership the smaller carp – those under 20lb – were gradually removed at subsequent drain downs. Since 2003 these have been transferred to Lake Elba where they have thrived during the years when no fishing activity has been allowed. The reduction in stocking levels and improvement of the lake ecosystem brought almost instant rewards and the remaining fish grew on well. However, they continued to spawn naturally so a regular program of draining and netting removed the baby carp and any slower growing carp, leaving only those that showed significant promise. These baby carp grow astonishingly fast. This one is probably the result of spawning in 2013.
It was clear from our first visit that there were some nice fish to be caught and over the years the fish have shown an amazing growth rate due to good bait going in coupled with good lake management. There are now countless examples of fish we have seen come out regularly over the years at significantly higher weights and you will find some ‘now and then’ photos on our Facebook page. All the fish in the lake are in spectacular condition, each one looking pristine, and they fight like crazy, especially once you get them in close. It is nothing to have a fifteen-minute battle under the tip so prepare for aching arms.
There is no best or worst time to fish Le Queroy as the lake can fish brilliantly more or less all season and you’d have to be really unlucky to find it doing a moody. We have visited Le Queroy at most times of the year, in winter with snow on the ground and ice forming in the margins, though the summer months when we basked in 35-40 degree heat, and into the late autumn, October and November, when we have enjoyed spectacular fishing. Generally speaking the weather gets into top gear heat-wise towards the end of July and early August and it can hit 40 degrees. However, the water is well-oxygenated thanks to a pair of high power aerator pumps that boost the dissolved oxygen level. This means that the carp fish do not turn off at all and they’ll feed even with the water temperature at it’s highest.
Some of the regulars like to visit before the carp spawn when the fish are at their heaviest, and this usually happens around mid-May. Thereafter the fishing can slow down a little but they soon get their heads down again and some of the best fishing can be experienced at the height of the summer.
Carole and I usually try to get down there at the end of the season around late October/early November. There may be some of you who might be a bit dubious about coming to France late in the year. Well, don’t be! The fishing can be brilliant in late autumn and the action we have enjoyed at this time of the year has invariably been spectacular. Bear in mind also that we don’t fish nights at all. To be honest, with the fabulous accommodation just a short walk from the lake, the prospect of spending damp cold nights in a dank smelly bivvy simply does not compare with the warmth and comfort of the Lodge..
The venue lies deep in the rolling hills of the Charente countryside in southwest France and many is the time that we have enjoyed its warmth and hospitality. As holiday venues go it would be correct to say that it lies at the top end of the holiday market. The accommodation comes in the form of the Fishing Lodge with three en suite bedrooms, an immaculate well supplied kitchen giving onto a massive oak-beamed living room/dining room, which is finished in polished pine flooring.
The Lodge is so comfortable that we never bother doing nights, preferring instead to see the sights, visit a local restaurant or two and generally spend quality time in the sublime surroundings of the lodge, or chilling out on the terrace with a cool glass of something nice while we watch the sun go down.
Quite simply, if you find yourself stressed to the max, there’s no better place to relieve the tension than Le Queroy and nowhere else are Carole and I so relaxed about our carp fishing. Le Queroy is our favourite holiday venue, not just because of the fishing but simply because it is the one place where we feel truly at peace, with a fantastic overall package consisting of the fishing, the impeccable accommodation, the total peace and serenity, the astonishing sunsets, and the genuinely warm feeling that emanates from the owners, the venue and the locality in generally. Le Queroy is a place we adore and owners Jodie, Dan, Patricia and Barry make it clear to their clients that they are there to enjoy themselves, to have fun. It’s a holiday after all, not an endurance test.
So now a few notes about the fishing itself:
The fish in the main lake are not exceptionally hard to catch but they can be tricky blighters at times and as the season progresses they tend to become a bit more wary. The fish are pretty typical in that they crash out and head-and-shoulder a fair bit. They also fizz and bubble and at times they can be frustratingly demonstrative. Their natural food is bloodworm, which proliferates in the lake, and when they get their heads down on the bloodworm they can become very preoccupied feeders.
All the swims on the lake produce fish throughout the season and no one swim is better than another. You therefore have every chance of catching, no matter which swim you are in. There are countless stalking areas where the fish hug the margins under a canopy of overhanging branches and even in open water you will be able to spot where the fish have their heads down, sending up clouds of bubbles and coloured water as they grub in the silt. While the fishing can be good at dawn and dusk, in effect a take could come at any time.
Tight baiting patterns in particular seem to spell success and it certainly appears that really tight bait carpets introduced from the boat or by bait boat have been the way to go of late. Choice of bait too has become something of an issue. In the past the fish were prepared to eat just about anything but over the years it seems that they have developed a distinct preference for decent food baits from the more established bait firms such as Nutrabaits. Dan and Jodie can arrange local delivery of any of your favourite Nutrabaits boilies, pellets and other feeds rolled locally, supplied fresh and flavoured with the attractors of your choice.
The following photos are just what we use. As long as you are prepared to feed the fish something they really want to eat, rather than a bait that can take or leave, you will have success at Le Queroy. These are just a few suggestions.
This is my current favourite bait, Blue Trigga with added Green Lipped Mussel extract and flavoured with Trigga Liquid and Blue Oyster. Like many Nutrabaits fans I like to use a variety of shapes and sizes and these 12x15mm are the perfect alternative to traditional round boiled baits.
Another favourite baiting tactic of ours is to use a variety of shelf life boilies in conjunction with the fresh bait. These are Trigga Pineapple and Butyric in 10mm and 15mm, BFM Salmon and Caviar in 10mm and Techni-Spice 10mm. They are glugged for up to three days in lake water with added Blue Oyster flavour and Trigga Liquid.
To create variety in the bait zone we often use hempseed to add still further attraction to the bait carpet.
We like to use pop-ups at Le Queroy as due to the silk and chod on the lakebed, we find them very effective. That said, bottom baits account for their fair share of the biggies so I guess you pays yer money and you takes yer choice! Our most successful pop-ups over the years have been from Nutrabaits, either Pineapple and Butyric or Plum and Caproic in 12mm size. However, in 2014 we also used pop-ups from UB Baits, and these too performed superbly well. Here you see both company’s versions of Plum and Caproic Acid Pop-Ups, the brighter ones being the Nutrabaits versions.
Don’t be afraid to ring the changes. Even the old fashioned can work supremely well and the simple addition of a tin of sweetcorn to the bait bucket has often kicked off a frantic feeding session when things had gone a bit quiet.
Pay heed to how much bait you introduce and when you do so. Because Carole and I don’t fish the nights we put the majority of our free offerings in just before pulling off and this seems to work well, as we invariably catch in the first hour after starting the following day. It’s as if they have been getting more and more confident eating the free offerings through the night so that by the time they come to a bait with a hair and a hook they have thrown caution to the wind.
During the day we tend to fish very tight little parcels of pellet, chops and boilie crumb, made up in PVA mesh parcels. Three or four parcels around each hookbait is ample with another attached to the hookbait itself. Hookbaits are generally 12mm pop-ups on the 360 Rig, or a snowman set up using a standard 15mm shelf life boilie (here it is Techni-Spice) topped with an alternative High Attract pop-up, either Pineapple and Butyric or the equally effective Plum and Caproic Acid.
One thing I would stress is the importance of not over-baiting. Remember, it is very easy to put bait in, but it is impossible to take it out again. The problems that over-baiting can cause might persist for your entire stay so do not risk ruining your entire le Queroy fishing experience by being too enthusiastic with the throwing stick, spod or bait boat when you start fishing.
We tend to practice spot fishing when we are at Le Queroy. That is to say, fish for one fish at a time, catch that fish and then set out to catch another, and so on. There is simply no need to bait up excessively and in fact over baiting could work against you. I would say that to get the best out of the lake you would need a minimum of ten kilos of fresh or frozen bait plus a few kilos of good shelf life boilies, some pellets, paste and some hempseed.
The fish cover almost the entire lake during the course of the day, and open water will produce just as many takes as the tree lines and the dam wall. Of course, the dam wall itself can be a productive area and there are times when the carp seem to shoal up in front of the wall. At the foot of the dam wall lies one of the densest beds of bloodworm on the whole lake, which is why they like it in there. However, they can be frustratingly difficult to catch when they are on bloodworm and they can have you tearing your hair out! You will get plenty of takes out in open water so restricting your efforts to the dam wall could be counter-productive.
The French holiday and fishing business has become very competitive these past few years but as is always the case the good get better and the poor go out of business. I need not have to point out that Le Queroy is good; very good; top draw in Fact! So what is it about this holiday venue that sets it apart from virtually all of its competitors? Quite frankly it is attention to detail. Take the Fishing Lodge for example: No expense has been spared and nothing left to chance. The soft furnishings are deep and comfortable; the kitchen is appointed to the highest standard and the en suite bathrooms are as neat, clean and comfortable as you could to find anywhere. In fact, in our experience Le Queroy is incomparable.
You only need to walk the short distance down to the lake from the Lodge to be overcome by the tranquillity, the beauty and the almost breathless aura that surrounds the lake. The road across the dam wall (so like the one at Redmire), beckons you. It is nigh on impossible to cross the dam without stopping to lean on the fence, put a foot up on one of the lower railings, and gaze across the dark limpid surface of the lake. If you are lucky a large sparkling form will slowly lift itself half out of the water, showing briefly in the golden sunshine before dropping back to the depths with barely a sound.
Lets us take a stroll around the main lake starting at the gate by the dam wall on the north side of the lake. Once through the gate a short walk beneath an avenue of leafy branches soon brings you out into the field below the Lodge where a fence runs the length of the lake. Soon you are standing in the first swim on the northern bank. To your left you will see the dam wall while opposite you will note a swim on the south bank. These two swims are our favourites. There is something about a dam wall that attracts carp and those in Le Queroy are no different. There always seems to be a decent head of carp patrolling the foot of the wall and a well placed bait will certainly produce results if your presentation and bait is any good.
Continuing eastward you will find one further swim giving easy casting access to lots of very inviting underwater features, as well as the tree-lined margins and the mouth of a small bay.
As you carry on your stroll you come to the causeway between the Napoleonic lake and the stock pond. To your left you will notice a short peninsula that extends into the Napoleonic lake with a shallow bay being formed each side of this feature. These bays are often filled with carp, especially during the dawn and dusk period and some of the best fishing for the largest carp is enjoyed here.
As we continue our walk we pass under some towering oak trees, through a swath of long grass, until we come to the third swim down the southern bank. This give access to the mouth of the bay that lies on the south side of the peninsula and it is a prime location to stalk fish in the hotter summer months. Try to get up before dawn to place a handful of baits at the mouth of the bay, anticipating the moment when the carp that have been resting in the bay all night emerge to begin the day’s lazy foraging for food.
Further along the south bank the second swim gives access to the open water in the centre of the lake, where a slight but significant plateau acts as a magnet to the carp at all times of the day and night. Close in a narrow gully runs across the front of the swim and the carp use this like some fishy super highway as they make their way about the lake. This photo shows the two swims referred to with the mouth of the bay swim being in the centre-left of the photo and the middle swim on the far left hand side.
Finally we arrive in the first swim on the southern bank. Again this gives access to open water as well as to the dam wall, and tucked away in the corner of the lake you will find a cosy little suntrap, a shallow, gravel-bottomed area of the lake that the fish adore as they bask in early morning sunshine that seems to be funnelled into that corner. This is a prime hot spot, though why I am telling you this I don’t really know: I shouldn’t tell you all my secrets! This is sunrise in that swim.
I have included this photo as it shows the swim opposite on the north bank. Both these swims give good access to the dam wall and to the western end of the lake where the deeper water can be found (see photo 18)... and this shot shows the swim itself.
One final point I need to stress. Without sounding too much like an ageing hippy, try to let your mantra be one of peaceful serenity and silence. It pays to be circumspect around the lakes, as the carp do not take kindly to loud noises, beery parties and shouted exchanges across the lake. Lay your plans carefully and go about them stealthily and you will be rewarded with fishing beyond your wildest dreams. Le Queroy is a truly magical place with an almost mystical air. Treat it with kindness and respect and you will have a holiday of a lifetime and most probably some fish of a lifetime too!
Enjoy yourself at Le Queroy but remember, you are on holiday so don’t forget to savour the other pleasures that France has to offer. If you are looking for the ideal family holiday venue either for a group of up to six adults or maybe for a couple of families sharing or even just for you and your family, Le Queroy is quite simply paradise. We cannot recommend it highly enough. Incidentally, Le Queroy is probably the most romantic fishing venue you are ever likely to visit. There are other things in life apart from fishing, you know!