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Vallee Lakes in Northern France had been on my radar for quite a while, as the stock of big commons in there is immeasurable. So when George suggested a 4 day trip there I jumped at the opportunity. We booked it for the start of November - not an easy time of year to be on the bank, but the average size of the fish is bigger in early winter, so a 40lb common was definitely on the cards.
We arrived late at night on the Tuesday and were all far too tired to get the rods out, so grabbed the bed chairs out of the van and slept under the stars (which wasn't the most pleasant of experiences when it was dropping to 3 degrees over night)! As soon as first light struck we were all up, full of anticipation and ready to get fishing. I opted to fish swim 9 at the far end of the lake which gave me access to a huge expanse of open water, as well as a lovely snaggy margin that just screamed carp. It took a while to find presentable spots as the lake is incredibly weedy, but after a few hours of leading about I found 3 that I was happy with - 2 rods in open water and 2 rods staggered down my near margin towards the out of bounds area. Even though it was November I decided to put a fair bit of bait in - 3 kilos over each margin spot, and 4 kilos on the open water spot to start with. I choose to use the ever faithful Baitworks Royal Marine in 18mm and 15mm, choosing to half some of the baits and dose them in plenty of fish liquid. I believe that hi-viz pop ups come into their own in winter, so opted for Scent from Hells in white, yellow and pink on 360 rigs on all of the rods.
As the first night drew in I was feeling confident, the wind was hacking down into my corner of the lake and I started to hear a few fish lump out down the margin. The excitement was definitely brewing as a few hours into darkness the liners started on both of my margin rods. At around 9pm, just when I was thinking about turning in the sound of the bobbin smacking the blank of right hand rod and the Siren letting out a few beeps had me scrambling out of the bivvy, and I locked into battle with a very angry carp that was trying to seek salvation in the snags. Thankfully after some steady pressure, having faith in the size 2 hook and 18lb line, the fish began to kite away from the snags. After the dramas of the initial moments of the battle, the fish came in fairly easily and I slipped the net under a slate grey leathery looking mirror. I got straight on the WhatsApp group letting everyone know that I'd bagged one. On the scales it went just over 33lbs, an epic start!
Waking up the next morning the rods were motionless, but the conditions were much the same as the day before, so I was hopeful of another bite that day. Once the clock hit 10am I decided to refresh all of the rods and stick another couple of kilos on the margin spots, as I was sure that the fish had wiped me out over night. Not 20 minutes after I had got the final rod out, the rod fishing closest to the out of bounds area down the near margin lept into life. Thankfully I was standing next to my rods at this moment as the power of this fish was incredible. As expected, as soon as I made contact with the fish it shot in the direction of the snags and there was nothing I could do about it apart from hold on and hope that it didn't burrow into them. I lept into the boat as the fish was getting dangerously close to snags and gave it all could, with the thought process that I'd rather the fish slip the hook than gets stuck in the snags. With the rod at full compression, the fish thankfully had a change of mind and decided to kite into open water. Now my fear was that it would get locked up in the weed, but thankfully the lead had discharged and the fish was wallowing on the top. As the fish inched closer I caught a glimpse of it 35 yards out, 's**t that is a colossal common'! Now that I realised what I had on my heart was in my mouth, and I was just praying that all the pressure I exerted on the fish early on in the fight had not weakened the hook hold. But thankfully the trusty 360 held firm, and I was soon slipping the net under what was surely my PB common. Turning the fish on it's side, I stood in awe of it for a while before getting on the phone to George to come round and get some snaps. Lifting it out, it was heavy and tipped the scales round to 43.12lbs - get in!! I had achieved what I came to Vallee to do - bag a 40lb common.
The rest of the session was quiet, bar loosing a couple of fish in the snags (this was always inevitable unfortunately), but I was still made up with what I had.
P.s. Return to Vallee coming November 2020, (Social Club) let's keep those fingers crossed for a 50lb common!