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What does fishing mean to you?

What does fishing mean to you?

Catching as many fish as you can? Catching the biggest fish in the lake? Using as many rods as you can get away with to “maximize” your chances or do you become one with nature, blending into the background and observing the wildlife and just enjoying your time without stress or pressure.

I started fishing over 60 years ago and as nobody else in my family had ever fished I had to gain my experience from magazines and watching others. Cat gut was still being used for lines and quill floats (hand-made) were standard as were other floats such as Thames floats and cork bobbers. Nobody had landing nets as the fish we encountered were too small to be “landed”, being mostly roach, perch, gudgeon and occasionally bream.

A couple of hooks to nylon (one 14 and one 16) a few lead shot and an aluminium tin of maggots completed our equipment and we would fish happily all day in the local canal or small stream.

Any fish was treasured and blank days were common but there was always something to look at and to explore.

Recently I walked around a commercial lake in England and wondered if todays anglers with their multi hundred pound equipment, bivvies that are better equipped than the Pre-fab I was brought up in I wondered if the sheer joy and excitement has gone out of angling. People being sponsored to promote tackle and bait companies, given everything they need and the best lakes to fish in, can it really be the same sport that I enjoyed as a 10 year old. How many of todays Carp anglers know how to “long-trot” or what Strett pegging means. How many know how to use a centre pin reel or have ever seen one.

I was pondering all this as I was sat behind my ROD at Etang Hirondelle a couple of weeks ago when a red squirrel that I’d been watching earlier storing nuts at the base of an oak tree, made it’s cautious way towards me. Not having many people on the lake for the last 18 months has made the wildlife become almost unafraid to approach human beings. As I held my breath the squirrel dropped a chestnut at my feet and then curled up on my right boot. I sat immobile not daring to reach for my camera but longing to do so to capture the moment. That was the moment of my holiday. I went on to catch many carp up to 51lb but nothing will beat that time when I was truly one with nature.

As it began to get dark I heard the “barking” of a stag at the far end of the lake, and screech owls started calling to each other. Bats flew overhead and a wild boar snuffled somewhere in the forest.

Where can you experience this on an English Lake? You are more likely to find anglers cooking over barbeques while drinking beer or waiting for a takeaway to be delivered. Carp fishing is promoted as a social event by many of the magazines and some take this to mean partying while leaving a rod in the water for appearances. In fact one local lake in Cornwall has banned night fishing as so called anglers would drive their cars to the edge of the lake and blast out music while indulging in banned substances.

How wonderful that Etang Hirondelle exists. Catering mainly for couples and responsible families. Of course there will always be some that abuse the rules but for the vast majority a holiday here is a chance to enjoy superb fishing in a relaxed and completely natural environment.

The quality of fish is second to none. The original stock of bright golden commons are now reaching the 20lb mark and those anglers who told Glen to “get rid of those nuisance fish” should try catching them on light tackle if they want to experience a true wild carp experience. However if not grounded in coarse fishing tactics I’m afraid most would struggle.

I do not fish at nights feeling that it is unnecessary and just adds to the pressure on the fish which after all need to be nurtured and looked after if we are to continue having such marvellous sport.

Glen has produced a lake to be proud of and management of the grounds and banks cannot be bettered anywhere in France (and I have fished extensively) and puts The U.Ks holes in the ground to shame.

The villa has been improved with new furniture and is warm and welcoming after a day on the bank. There is nothing that it lacks and how some people can abuse the facilities is beyond me. Linda is proud and quite rightly so of the décor and the furnishings and together Linda and Glen have made the complete holiday experience for the discerning angling couples.

My wife Barbara has Parkinson’s Disease but sitting watching the Kingfishers hovering over the lake brings a smile to her face and helps her forget her debilitating illness for a few days. She is no slouch with the rod either being the first to catch a carp over 50lb and this holiday she caught several over 30lb as well as a 3lb common which led to much excitement as it means the resident carp are breeding. This is a good sign for the future and means the lake is healthy and the fish contented.

Of course everybody has their own view on how to fish and please don’t think I am putting anybody down. But these are my own views on what fishing means to me and as I get older I long for the days when simplicity was the rule and just the sheer joy of being on the bank was enough to keep me happy.

Don’t get me wrong I love catching big fish, but there is so much more to fishing than sitting in a bivvy watching tv. During our recent stay at Hirondelle there was 30 hours of continuous rain and the fish went mad and eventually we had to stop fishing because we were worn out. Extremes are what makes fishing so contagious. One day nothing and the next the fish are queuing up to be caught.

Later in the week we went for a walk looking for a ruined mill where Joan of Arc was said to have hidden from the English. On our way along a grassy track we came upon a large puddle formed from the rain. In the clay beside the puddle were the tracks of Boar, Deer, Hares and assorted birds. Missing a few hours fishing to see this was worth it and this is what makes Hirondelle so special. No crowds, no distractions, and experiencing nature that has been wiped out in our own country.

Etang Hirondelle is an all-round experience with the wonderful villa, superb wildlife and the second-to-none fishing. Glen is always on hand with advice and his maize and pellets are a must. The more you bait, the more you catch! I also caught a 2lb roach so if you have a float rod and light line and small hooks give it a try; for coarse anglers like myself, it brings back the thrill of seeing the float dip under and a shiny blue tinged roach being lifted from the water to be prized as much as a large carp. Enjoy it however you want and good luck to everybody who has an “experience” while staying there.