Paul Monkman talks to former Premier League footballer Lee Bowyer about his love of carp fishing and the success of his French lake, Etang de Bows, formerly known as La Fritterie.
Paul Monkman: When did your passion for fishing start?
Lee Bowyer: I started fishing in the canal at the back of where I lived as a kid, catching roach and perch, and then got into pole fishing when I went to Leeds United in 1996. About a year later, one of my mates invited me to go carp fishing with him and from then on I’ve absolutely loved it. Obviously during the football season I was quite busy, but every summer I’d make sure I went away fishing for a week.
PM: What sort of places did you fish during your football career?
LB: In France, I fished Dreamlakes a few times, Maison du lac Bleu, Rainbow Lake and I was a member of the winter syndicate at Abbey Lakes for a few years. In the UK, I had a ticket for Fox Mere in Essex, before moving on to Grenville’s in Cambridgeshire, where I spent a few seasons.
PM: A lot of former players go into coaching after their playing careers, but you’ve gone into fishery management. Didn’t you fancy taking your football career a step further?
LB: Definitely, mate. I’m actually doing my coaching badges at the moment; I have just got my B Licence, in fact, which is something I need to do proper coaching. Owning my own lake is just something I’ve always wanted to do, even when I was playing. Ideally I’d have got one in England, like a little day-ticket lake, but this one just happened to come available at the right time.
It was quite an amazing set of circumstances really. In 2014, I was fishing a lake in the Limoges area which was up for sale. I decided to put an offer in, but the owner told me someone else had already got an offer on the table, so I abandoned that idea and, on the off chance, rang Jeff Powell at La Fritterie, as he’d offered me the chance to buy his place a few years ago, but at the time I was still playing football. Ironically, he told me he’d just put it up for sale, so I went over to take a look and everything just fell into place from there. Thanks, Jeff and Lisa.
PM: What have you done to the place since taking over?
LB: Jeff hadn’t been well and wasn’t able to maintain the place to the standard he wanted, so it’s been non-stop since November really. Basically, I’ve gutted the building on site and turned it into a really nice anglers’ lodge with a new bar, shower, TV room and lots of new facilities. It’s somewhere I’ve built with anglers in mind.
I’ve also put in a little stock pond as well, which will probably get used as a quarantine area, so when I need to introduce fish, I won’t have to put them straight in and risk any disease getting passed on.
PM: On the subject of stock, what are your plans for introducing more fish?
LB: To be honest, there is a really good stock of fish in here already. I fished in the evenings between the middle of November and the middle of December, while flitting between home and the lake, and had 20 fish in that time, including the biggest fish in the lake at 72lb and another at 63lb. The head of forties in the lake is unbelievable; of the 20 fish I had, 13 or 14 were forties and only three were smaller than 40lb. So, at the moment, I don’t think I need to do anything on the stock front.
PM: What sort of venue do you hope it will become?
LB: In my eyes, it’s a holiday, which was what it always used to be for me when I went fishing in France. Obviously I want everyone to catch, but I’m trying to create a nice environment where people can come and have a relaxing break and hopefully catch a few big fish along the way.
PM: Tell us about the name change to Etang de Bows.
LB: It had been called La Fritterie for a long while, even before Jeff bought it, but it wasn’t a fishing complex back then; it was a chip shop, which was where the name came from. To me, that doesn’t make any sense, so I’ve made it more personal. Hopefully that’ll last forever and I can pass it on to my son further down the line.
PM: Do you have any plans to buy any more lakes? Can we expect a ‘Bows Leisure’ in the future?
LB: There is another lake I’m looking at elsewhere in France, so I’m waiting to see if that becomes available. If successful, I may try to do something a little bit different with that one and turn it into a big-fish water.
PM: How can anglers book a trip to Etang de Bows?
LB: We are actually booked up for the next two years. We have recently launched a new website (etangdebows.com) and all the contact details are on there should people wish to book well in advance. However, I’m offering three lucky anglers the chance to come and fish Etang de Bows for free later this year. Read on…