48 Hours at Etang Baudy

The fishing at the barrage has been dire lately, and I felt my angling was well and truly in a rut as a result fishing the same peg in the same way for days and weeks on end. Add to this the sweltering summer weather and my impending return to the UK in September, I felt a few nights under the stars on a new venue would be the perfect salve.

My search online brought me to Etang Baudy, owned by English couple Wally and Jan Holder. From the off, the lake looked unusual - the pictures on the website showed a lake in a relatively urban setting instead of the usual tree-lined banks. Despite this, the owners’ insistence that this wasn’t a runs water and my nagging suspicion that the lake was actually much more mature and secluded than it looked, were enough to persuade me this was the venue for me.

On arrival, the lake looked great and as Wally and Jan walked me round and talked me through each swim I was getting good vibes about the session. The weather was overcast for a change, in fact I had driven through some heavy drizzle to get there, and amongst the lilies and islands I felt sure I’d find a fish or two. Some of the swims looked very ‘carpy’ indeed, but when Wally referred to the unfished end of the lake, my appetite was wet: that instinct to strike out and try new things could be indulged again, and I was soon boating my gear across the lake into swim 2.

The peg offered an island at a range of around 100yards and lovely lily patches to my left and right. I soon discovered that the grass that had grown up when the lake stood empty for 6 months back in 2006 was still present in front of me, decaying slowly on the bottom. To my left the silt was hard and with a prodding pole I found numerous roots and potential snags around the lilies, to my right the silt was much softer. The feature that really captured my imagination was a sandy channel where the depth dropped off by about 50cm, to nearly 3m - Wally told me this was the old riverbed and it was certainly where I was going to concentrate my efforts.

It took me a long time to get set up and work out my rigs and baits - rusty thinking on my part, and challenging circumstances out in front of me. Bait-wise Wally had given me a kilo of the lake bait, and I had a few kilos of other boilies along with plenty of hemp and maize. One rod was set up on a helicopter with a long-ish hooklength and boated out the the channel (just beyond my casting range I’m afraid to admit), another was set up with a chod-rig and flicked into the lilies to my right and the third was set up with a running rig, but left in the bushes until such time as I could work out where to put it! As darkness fell on that first night I wasn’t exactly confident - the lake was definitely winning at that point.

Poisson chat cleared out my hookbaits overnight and I reeled in two unbaited rigs. Time for a deep breath and to start again. The mark in the sandy channel was being fed upon heavily as clouds and clouds of bubbles erupted, and the fish tore up the grass from the lake bed, yet still I couldn’t get a pick-up. The rod in the lilies remained, and the running rig (which had been chucked ‘out in the middle’ overnight was rigged up with a method feeder and cast out to my left. As the morning turned into a sweltering afternoon I was beginning to settle into the session, to get into the rhythm of getting my rods out accurately and without any of the stupid mistakes i’d been making. Yet still, when the method feeder rod roared off in the late afternoon, I was totally taken aback. The fish fought doggedly in front of the net and turned out to be a scrappy two-tone Mirror of 5.9kg.

I was pleased to get off the mark, but felt the fish had been a bit of a fluke. As night fell I put the rods out with plastic baits on to combat the poisson chat which had cleared me out the night before. Despite this, the night was devoid of activity save for a few odd beeps on the method rod. At first light I was up and straight into the boat to bait up the island peg - this time pairing a boilie with a piece of fake corn and baiting very heavily with maize, boilies, hemp and a bit of pellet. If the fish were going to have it again like they did yesterday, I was going to get in on the act this time! The other rods were recast and I climbed back into bed before 7am hoping for a better result than the previous day. I was only half-asleep when the screech of an alarm had me out onto the island rod and winding down hard before lifting into a fish. The rod hooped over and was accompanied by a sick grating sound. After a few tense moments the line pinged clear and I was in direct contact with the fish, which plodded rather than fought and succumbed quickly to the net. Unusually with only one pectoral fin, the fish weighed in at just under 7 kilo. That was the spot I wanted to catch from, and having done so I felt very pleased with myself.

The rod went straight back out in the boat, and was plonked amongst a mass of fizzing bubbles - surely I was going to get some more action? Sure enough I was back in the bag for an hour or so when a screaming clutch alerted me to two things: firstly, I had forgotten to turn my alarm on, and secondly I had another run! The fish was clearly on as the rod bent double, but again I was snagged up in the grass. I tightened down and put the rod back on the rests as I reeled in the other rods and prepared to go out in the boat - when the rod tip donked. I picked up again felt it come free. This time the fish fought like a demon, kiting left and then right before charging around under the rod tip. The result was a gorgeous fish of 8kg:

I now felt the session had been a success, and so when the island rod slowly pulled tight with just 3 beeps on the alarm, I wasn’t afraid to take a chance and hit it - at the very end of the gentle strike I felt resistance. The fish felt like a small one and came free of the grass with no trouble. In front of me it did very little and it was only when it rolled in front of the net that I realised this was a big girl! Second time round it slipped straight into the net and, after going mental on the mat to make up for it’s lack of fight in the water, it pulled the scales to 29lb 13oz. A real stunner:

The icing on the cake was another 12lb mirror that came from the lilies to my right on the method feeder rod that I had swapped over earlier on that morning. As I boated back under a baking sun I felt I could have had more from the lake had I been able to stay longer, but I was pleased that I overcame a bad start, worked out the lake and got a few excellent fish out. I like the lake, and feel that Wally and Jan have done the right thing by not overstocking the lake, and by building in ‘English’ features (Gullies, bars, islands etc.) to keep the anglers thinking. In a perfect world, I’d be back for another crack to land one of the 40lb fish, but with time running out quickly, unfortunately I fear it’ll be a while before I’m back there. Thanks to Wally and Jan for being such great hosts, and good luck for the future!

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