The first euro trip is always a milestone and usually a massive learning curve in anyones angling career. Mine was no different. Back in July me and a group of friends ventured over to a pay lake in Belgium to get our first experience of carp angling across the channel. In this article I aim to not only tell the story of my first euro trip, but also to give hints ant tips to any anglers thinking about giving it ago themselves.
It all began in November 2019 when I came across the website for The Carp Specialist. It all seemed pretty straight forward so this was an ideal site to make the experience as stress free as possible. Whilst browsing the venues on their books, I came across a complex called De Karperhoeve. This was made up of 3 different lakes at the time and the one that caught my eye was called Raiden’s lake. It had 2 cabins on the lake and had a healthy stock of fish which made it the ideal place for any group of anglers who had never wet a line abroad. The booking process couldn’t have been more simple. Few emails back and forth, bank transfer, sorted!
Next step was the travel planning. The options are either the euro tunnel or the ferry from dover. We went for the ferry as it was less than half the price and the extra hour wasnt going to make a difference to us as we were going a day early anyway. This was booked through direct ferries and again was a very simple process.
So at this point we were all booked up to fish a long weekend at the end of March so we began to prepare and gather all the tackle that we were going to need so that there would be no mad panic the week before we went.
All sounds pretty straight forward doesnt it? Then…covid! This came along and took the world by storm and obviously our fishing holiday was cancelled (not that this mattered in the grand scheme of things). Now this was where The Carp Specialist showed their professionalism and willingness to please all of their customers. As soon as the UK went into lockdown all uk (and anyone for that matter) anglers who had booked were offered a free re booking at an available date of their choice. We decided to re book for mid July in the hope that the world would have gone back to normality by this point. As we all know this wasn’t quite the case, however, the travel laws were changed for long enough to allow this trip to go ahead. We found out that the trip would be possible 2 weeks before we were due to leave so the mad rush began. Exactly what we had tried to avoid but not much could be done.
The next 2 weeks went by in the blink of an eye and before we knew it we were loading up the cars in anticipation of leaving the next day. Whilst on the subject of loading up the cars I would like to add a tip/recommendation. RETRACTABLE RODS!! One of my friends who came was pretty new to carp angling and had a set of 12ft 2 piece rods. Now this wouldn’t have been a problem if we were in a van, but having a 6ft rod bag poking through the middle of the front seat in a Volkswagen Golf for 8 hours was a pretty unpleasant experience. As we all know there are plenty of retractable rods on the market but my recommendation would be either Nash dwarf or Nash scope. My weapons of choice for this trip were my trusty Nash Dwarf 9ft 3.25lb and as usual, the didnt let me down.
The drive was pretty straight forward with no unexpected toll roads. It definitely pays to do your research on the route that you will be taking because the last thing you want is to be incurring fines on a trip that is meant to be about fun and relaxation. We arrived at our air bnb and settled down for the night to make sure we were well rested for our next few days. We weren’t due on the lake until 12pm on Friday which gave us plenty of time in the morning to do some shopping and get to the lake with time to spare.
Upon arrival at the lake, the first thing I noticed was how beautiful the surroundings were. Considering the complex was just off a dual carriageway, it could have been in the middle of no where and you wouldn’t have known the difference. We went into the reception area and met the lake owner Timmy for a chat about the lake and a tour of all the facilities. Once we knew where everything was we eagerly drove to the lake and began to set up. There were fish crashing and fizzing all over the lake so my first reaction was to put 2 choddys out and see if I could get a quick bite. This turned out to be pretty un productive so I began to have a cast around with a bare lead to find out what I was fishing over. Most of the lake bed was extremely soft other than a gravel bar around half way across the lake, which was around 5 metres wide. This was an obvious feature to fish to so I made up a spomb mix and got to work. The mix was made up of hemp seed, tiger nuts, 6mm pellets and 12mm Nash hot tuna boilies. I put out around 15 spombs and put 2 rods onto the spot. The rigs were simple bottom bait rigs because I knew the bar was rock hard and the rigs wouldn’t be sinking into anything. The rigs were around 6 inches long. The were made up of 20lb nash skin link knotless knotted to a size 6 nash twister long shank. A piece of blow out tube was mounted at the bottom of the hook and a tungsten kicker was added. I was still undecided what to do with my third rod so I took to the rowing boat to go and see what was in the far corner of the lake where I had seen fish crashing. Up until now my boat experience was non existent but I knew I would have to learn one day. No time like the present. I put on my life jacket, loaded up the boat with a bait bucket, a baited rig and my rod with just a lead to feel around the area. I rowed tight into the corner and had a feel around on the bottom. It was pretty silty and I felt as if I was going to struggle to present bait over it. I drifted probably 12 feet away from the corner, still feeling round with the lead and all of a sudden there it was. Donk! The perfect drop that I had been looking for. I had found a small gravel plateau which was probably around 2 metres squared. It came up around a foot from the silty bottom so was an obvious spot to present a bait. I attached the rig to my quick change swivel, the rig was the same as on the other 2 rods. I applied a few handfuls of bait across the area then carefully placed my rig. My confidence level had suddenly gone through the roof after a couple of hours of no activity on the gravel bar. I rowed back to the bank, placed the rod on my bite alarm and sat back convinced that it was only a matter of time. Luckily I was right and within an hour the recently placed rod screamed off. The satisfaction of knowing that I’d got the spot right was a great feeling. I played the fish carefully due to not wanting it to come off as I knew there were a few decent fish in the lake. After a few minutes of playing the fish disaster struck, hook pull. The emotions I was feeling were unbelievable. Every carp angler knows the feeling. Every time you lose a fish your convinced it was the big un! After the tantrum was finished I tied another rig and got back in the boat. No point being disheartened once you know you’ve got the tactic and spot right. And it definitely was right as it ripped off again just on dark. After an intense battle and convincing myself it was a decent fish, a 15lb common popped up next to the net. Not quite what I was there for but it was a great feeling to get off the mark. After a quick photo and a few treated wounds the carp was slipped back and I got the rod prepared to go back out. I took the rig back out to the same spot, bit more bait and back to the bank with a suspicion that my action was over for the night. Thankfully I was wrong. Just as I was nodding off to sleep in the cabin I got a slow steady take on the same rod. I sprinted out of the cabin to play the fish and it was an absolute powerhouse! It’s always a bit ropey playing a fish in the dark but this time my heart was in the mouth for the whole fight. I eventually slipped the net under the fish which turned out to be a 22lb 9oz mirror carp (almost a leather but not quite) which at the time was a new pb. I had gone there with the goal being a new pb and I’d done it on the first night. Buzzing! It was a thought decision whether or not to replace the rod after this as it was getting quite late, but my determination (and possibly greed) pushed me to go and put the rod back out just incase there was a chance of another bite. I was right. Unfortunately that one slipped the hook. The bite was very finicky and as soon as I lifted the rod the fish splashed on the surface viciously. This gave me the impression that it was a sturgeon so I wasnt particularly fussed about losing it.
After a restless nights sleep there was no more action, but with 4 bites and 2 fish landed on the first night I couldnt really complain. I reeled all the rods in around mid day after not having any more action and wanting to keep the swim under as little pressure as possible. Although I was happy with the results so far I knew I needed to get the other 2 rods working to make the most of the 2 nights I had left. I went back out in the boat to put some more bait over my corner spot and attempt to find other spots for the other rods. I had noticed a gap in between two trees in far bank where fish had been showing and there was constant fizzing. I went over in the boat to explore and see what the bottom was like over there. The bottom was pretty soft but not unfishable. It also looked as if the bank was slightly undercut which is always an attractive area to carp. While I was exploring the spot a decent sized fish crashed right next to the boat. That was it decided, my second spot was sorted. I put a few handfuls of bait over the spot to give the fish some free food with no line pressure and hopefully build up their confidence. I got back to the bank and prepared a rig for this rod. I decided to go for a helicopter set up on a length of Nash cling on leader. The rig was a slip d ronnie rig with size 4 Nash fang x hook tied to a 7 inch length of flurocarbon. The hook bait was a 15mm Nash hot tuna pop up heavily soaked in Nash hot tuna plume juice.
As I was setting the second rod up, a number of fish started to crash down to my left near to the bank. I hadn’t explored that area yet so wasnt sure what the bottom was like. I didnt want to create any disturbance with the boat so I went for a naked chod set up as I knew the bait would be presented whatever the bottom was made up of. The hookbait was a 15mm pink Nash scopex squid pop up. I went out in the boat to place my first 2 rods before returning to the bank and cast the chod rig towards where the fish were still crashing. I was expecting the chod rig to be first to go but it was the same rod that I’d had the action on the night before that was first to tear off. Unfortunately, yet again the fish managed to slip the hook. It didnt feel like a big fish but stressful never the less! Something needed to be done. I shortened the rig, upped the hook size to a size 4 Nash twister long shank and went from a 3oz lead to a 4oz lead. I replaced the rig but I wasnt particularly confident after the disturbance that the lost fish had caused. The next few hours went by pretty quietly then out of the blue I got a run on the chod rig at around midnight. This turned out to be a lovely 18lb mirror. Very welcome after the hook pull earlier in the night. This was the last of the second nights action unfortunately, at least I got a better amount of sleep than the night before. The next day soon came round and I brought the rods in around 11.30 am to rest the swim and have a bit of a re think of tactics. After a bit of food shopping and thinking time we got back to the lake and it was time to re position the rods. I stuck with the 2 spots I’d found in the corner and on the far bank but decided on a change of location and tactic on the other rod. I went for a solid bag presentation under a set of over hanging trees to my left really tight to the bank. The rig consisted of a 3oz lead, a short length of cling on leader and a 4 inch hooking constructed with 15lb Nash armourlink and a size 6 Nash claw hook. The hookbait was a 12mm pink Nash key cray pop up and the bag was filled up with 2mm halibut pellets. This was a good change because within half an hour of being out and shortly after I landed a lovely 20lb 6oz mirror. I wasted no time in tying another rig and getting it back out on that same spot. There must have been a few fish lurking under those trees because 20 minutes later I had another run. The fight was unbelievable. Was convinced it was a catfish until I saw it. It turned out to be an immaculate 25lb 2oz mirror carp. Another pb, could this trip get any better? Yes, yes it could. I left the solid bag rod out whilst I tucked into a celebratory burger and cracked open a beer. Before I could take the first sip of my beer, another of my rods was away (how rude). This time it was the pop up rig presented over the soft bottom by the under cut bank. I knew as soon as I lifted the rod up that this was a good fish. No head shaking, no quick runs, just plodding along slowly and kiting down to my right. The battle went on for around 15 minutes, could have probably been quicker but I definitely wasn’t taking any risks with this one. I instantly knew that it was another pb as soon as it hit the surface as I gently guided it over the net. I got the fish out onto the unhooking mat and was totally overwhelmed. We all gathered round to weigh the gorgeous common. 29lb 5oz, result. Painfully close to 30lb but how could I complain? Now I know these fish are tiny to many more experienced anglers but to me this was an absolute monster. A few pictures were taken and the fish was safely returned. I re positioned the rod but after those 3 fish I genuinely didn’t care whether I got another run or not. It’s a good job I had this attitude as that was the last fish of the trip. The next morning came round and we packed the gear up and reluctantly left. If only I’d booked another few days there, feel like something special could have happened. Oh well, maybe next time.
All in all it was an amazing trip and I learnt a lot about angling. I was always one of those anglers that thought “why do I need to drop the lead?” Or “why do I need a new hook after every fish?” but my god does it make a difference. That £1 lead and 50p hook are soon forgotten when your holding that dream fish. I’m not saying that its necessary every single time, but for a short weekend away why not stack the odds in your favour?
My next piece of advice would be, pick a lake that suits your style of fishing. My angling has always been very active, not sitting and waiting for fish to come to me. Instead I’m constantly thinking, looking and exploring until I find where the fish are and decide the correct tactic. That being said, once I’m confident all the rods are fishing effectively, I’m all about the socialising. This lake had plenty of fish, plenty of underwater features and was exclusive to 4 anglers. Perfect for me and a small group of mates. Going to a god knows how many thousand acre public lake just wouldn’t have suited any of us.
Another tip, that when you think about it seems like common sense, but between a group of 4 anglers we never considered it! All use the same boilies! All 4 of us were feeding different boilies and different mixes and I believe that it really hindered our fishing. If there is only one flavour boilies going in on an exclusive trip then the fish arent going to get confused and have too many different choices of bait. Boilies are obviously a personal preference but just pick something your confident with. In my case the Nash hot tuna. I use either these or Nash scopex squid in all of my fishing.
Last but not least, planning and preparation is key. Start preparing as far in advance as possible (as long as there isn’t a global pandemic). Having all your bait and tackle ready a few days in advance is a good idea because its then just a case of loading up the car or van and your on your way. Also a rough idea of the route is very beneficial as I mentioned at the start.
That just about wraps up my article and I hope that it has been entertaining and helpful for anyone planning their first euro fishing trip. I have another trip booked at the same lake in March 2021 (covid permitting) so hopefully there will be another story with more fish landed and less school boy errors.
Thanks for reading and tight lines to all.