With the car loaded on Friday afternoon we set off for Portsmouth ferry port full of optimism, enthusiasm and confidence. The tactics we had in mind, along with the bait and the use of a friend’s bait boat meant we should have all options covered, those carp had nowhere to hide, all we had to do was hope they were in a generous mood. We boarded the ferry at 10pm, met up with Andy and his three mates who were fishing another venue the same week as us, and settled down in the lounge with a couple of pints and some banter. It was around 2am when I finally got to sleep, and 5am when I woke, hoping it was later but settling for some breakfast, tea and more chat about the prospects for the forthcoming session. I was shattered but eager to get going.
The ferry docked in Le Havre at around 8am local time, we made our way to the car and were already getting in tune with our surroundings by saying words such as Croissant and Boursin!!! That was about the extent of our French, something that was to bite us later in the trip, but I’ll get to that later. With the village programmed into the sat nav we made our way out of the terminal and towards Moulicent, we encountered a few tolls, not expensive ones, I’d say all told we spent a couple of pounds getting through them, but half an hour into our journey and it went a little pear shaped. We didn’t read the sat nav instructions properly, it would seem, and we ended up heading the wrong way, with me not sure how to correct it what with everyone driving on the wrong side of the road. We eventually regained some form of direction and from then on the satellite took us away from the motorways and through villages and fields. This made for a far more pleasant journey, if not a little longer, and a stop for coffee made the rest of the drive an enjoyable one.
The usual rule at Moulicent is that the previous anglers vacate by 10am on the Saturday morning and the new arrivals get there at 2pm giving Jon a few hours to ready the lake and the facilities. As there was nobody on the week before us, Jon readied the things on Friday meaning we could get straight in and get going. We arrived around 11am, met with Jon and straight away we could tell that his sole purpose was to ensure we had all we needed for a wonderful week at one of the most amazing and well-kept fisheries we’d laid eyes on. Once parked up we had the tour of the lake with productive areas pointed out, a tour of the facilities, where we’d be dining as we’d opted for the food package and all that remained was to unload the car into the tractor trailer (no need for barrows) and choose our swims. After Jon went through the rules with us it was over to us to get proceedings started. The swims were immaculate, gravelly surfaced meaning we wouldn’t get waterlogged and boarded off nicely.
Unloading the car it took two journeys to get the gear to swims 3 and 4, and whilst unloading the bait Rob leant down and split his shorts from top to bottom, very amusing and started the week off with smiles all round! Whilst shifting the equipment it started to rain, and all through setting up, but spirits weren’t dampened, it only added to the excitement, with the bivvies up and rods ready we set about finding where our baits would be placed. Each swim had a weighing station consisting of a weighing post, sling, large Nash cradle, Fox landing nets and wound antiseptic should any body damage be found. Fish care was Jon’s main priority, along with making sure we had a blinding stay.
The pegs were about 100 yards from the main base, an area bosting a superb shower and toilet facility, 7 berth caravan where meals were prepared and a bait shed with pictures of the lake stock, size charts, bait freezer holding a whopping 80 kilos and English charging points. Jon even installed a cupboard during our stay to store pellets. With Rob fishing peg 4 and me in peg 3 we started fishing somewhere around 2pm, and by 5pm Rob’s left hand rod produced his first fish, a lovely mirror carp of 30lb 1oz….his first ever thirty, already!! We took some pictures, shook hands and released his prize. We did have a video camera with us but only used it when it was dry, and that first fish came in the rain so no footage was taken. This fish was taken on a snowman of an ABS Malarky Frankfurter 15 mil bottom bait and a matching popup rolled by the excellent UBBaits.
At 6pm Jon called out from the mobile home that dinner was ready and we were soon tucking into ham and cheese crispy pancakes with homemade chips followed by pudding. The food was lovely and there was plenty of it, as there was every day during our stay. For anyone thinking of bringing their own food to Moulicent I’d say don’t. Go for the full food package and have one less thing to worry about leaving you to channel all your efforts into catching the chunks that live in the lake. Eating outside gives you a perfect view of half of the lake, rests the swim and gets the mind working, many a plan was hatched at meal times. As soon as dinner was finished we thanked Jon and got back to the swims.
We’d only been back fishing a matter of minutes when Rob’s middle rod was away and he was into his second fish of the week. Whilst standing with the net I caught a glimpse of the fish he was attached to and told him to take it easy as it looked a lump. Most of the fish came in fairly easily at first but went mental under the rod tip. This one tried to pull his arms off, but eventually I slipped the net under a real whacker, the fish we come to France for, and at 38lbs 7oz it was bigger than anything I’d ever caught too. Cheers went up, a little dance was performed and the weighing and photo shoot took place. It was a great moment, again in the rain but a great moment none the less. Again this fish fell to the snowman combination.
As our swims were close together we erected an oval brolly between the two, somewhere for the chairs and brew kit, a social area we could sit, keep dry and still get to our rods quickly enough. There are no real snags to worry about, although this is only allowed around pegs 4, 3 and 2. Peg one is 120 yards from the others so socials are out of the question, having said that, Peg 1 is large enough and has enough water to accomodate two anglers.
Through the night the wind increased and the rain continued to fall. We retired to our beds around 9pm due to tiredness from all the travelling and was soon asleep. I was woken around midnight by Rob telling me that he had another fish on the bank, and another good one at 36lb 3oz! I did my best to wake up quickly, helped with the pictures, shook his hand and got back into my pit, kind of wondering why all the fish were in front of him and whether they would pay me a visit any time soon. Indecently, I asked Rob where he’d caught the fish, close to the far bank or open water, the reply was “Not sure, it was dark when I cast, but it definitely hit the water”!! But what a start, three really good fish on the first half day, I tipped my hat to a great piece of angling and slipped back into a deep sleep to dream of fish I could hardly lift. Yet another fish to the Snowman arrangement.
Sunday morning was rainy and Jon arrived at the swims with breakfast at around 8:30. With the food package you have the option of retiring to the caravan for breakfast or, if you prefer, he can load a baguette with eggs, bacon, sausages and mushrooms and bring it to your swim, talk about service!! So that’s what we opted for. Over breakfast Jon joined us for a cuppa and we spoke about the lake, the stock and pointed out various things that might help and, hopefully, get one or two on the bank for me. The fish that were visible were topping close to the far bank, I say far but it was only around 40-50 yards across for both of us getting progressively wider to my right. We decided to stay put for the day on the baited spots as they’d produced for Rob but no fish came to the bank on Sunday. Dinner was roast pork with all the trimmings followed by pudding, it was gorgeous and once again we left for the swims with full bellies and high spirits. We sat in the shelter, drank tea and watched the sky grow dark before retiring for the night in the hope that we may get awoken by the sounds of reels, alarms and carp.
Monday started much better weather wise, the rain died in the night and for once everything was dry. Mist crawled its way across the lake and the first shafts of sunlight began to warm everything. At 5:30am, whilst watching the lake, I heard an alarm sound coming from Rob’s swim. I ran along the bank in time to net fish number four, another lovely mirror of 30lbs 2oz. Rob was in dream land, in fact, we both were, it was great to see the lake producing for us. The pictures were done and we watched yet another stunning carp swim off back to its watery home. This was the first of a run of fish on Solar Quench Popups
After breakfast we went for a walk around the lake, checking out various likely looking spots and Rob went for a little stalk at the shallow end for a few hours after seeing a few signs whilst I had fun with worms, pike and perch. Much fun was had in the sunshine and after a dinner of Chicken and pasta we sat outside the caravan for a while, had a natter with Jon and watched as carp leapt and played all along the far bank. We returned to our swims, watched the sun go down and wondered when the next fish would make an appearance, but it didn’t really matter too much, we were having an excellent time, the lake was amazing, the surrounding perfect and we felt we really were in paradise!
On Tuesday we decided to concentrate on the far bank as we’d seen most of the fish showing here. So with the bait boat we were able to drop our Quench popups close in and under trees that would be inaccessible by casting. After our breakfast baguettes and with the rods in position we had more fun with the pike and perch with Rob catching his first pike and I caught a couple of perch over 2lbs!
The first of the action came at around 3pm when Rob being given the run-around by another really good carp. A few times it looked ready for the net but it took the fifth attempt to net his prize, a gorgeous mirror of 35lbs 15oz. Five carp and I hadn’t even got off the mark, but as I said before, at least one of us was doing the business. The pictures were taken, along with a little video footage and his rod was driven back to the spot. Fish number two on the Quench .
An hour later I heard the sound I was waiting for, one of my own alarms signalling that I had received a take. I picked up the rod, engaged the clutch and started to play my first fish of the trip, and what a feeling it was. Every time the line pinged off the dorsal my heart sank, and most of the battle was carried out in the deep margins, but the fish was soon safe within the mesh and I finally managed to add to our tally. It was a beautifully coloured fish, quite short and very deep, it weighed 32lbs 8oz, was photographed, videoed and released with a little cry of “Oh Yes!!” I immediately opened a beer and toasted Isaak for making it happen, followed by a little carp dance we said we’d do when I caught one. A Quench popup did the trick for me.
Soon after celebrations had calmed down Rob was away again and landed a pretty carp of 29lb 1oz. The boy really was flying and couldn’t believe the run of fish he was having, and I was made up for him. Again the photos were taken and the fish was released with little disturbance to its day. Another great fish falls to the power of the Quench.
The rest of Tuesday was a blur really, a couple more beers were consumed, dinner was had and I spent a while in the evening watching gudgeon playing along the nearby reed line. I did manage to creep round to the far bank opposite Peg 1 and watch a group of really massive carp just lulling about, some of which were upper forties, quite a sight and a plan was hatched to fish there one afternoon with zigs to see if I could temp one of these marvellous creatures to the bank. The evening was superb, the sky was full of stars by 9pm and it got a little chilly, although the water temperature had risen from 11 to 15 degrees, so we were excited about the fact that the fish could really switch on before we had to leave.
Wednesday and Jon opted to fish the night in Peg 1, but before that Rob caught his seventh fish of the trip, a mirror of 35lbs 2oz which beat him right up both in the water and on the bank. He was in heaven, so much so that we approached Jon at breakfast and book a slot to come back next year. With the way the lake was fishing, the beauty of the place and the fish to be caught it was only going to get busier, so we decided to get in early. The fish was returned after the pictures and I shook Rob’s hand for a seventh time. Quench popup was the winning bait.
Jon had his pitch set up and began fishing after dinner. The evening was quiet for us and I wound in for a while and had a good look at the stalking end. I did spot a few fish, baited a few spots and generally got a feel for the area with a view to having a proper crack at it next day. Before settling back into my swim I sat in Peg 1 with Jon for a while and enjoyed a can of cider. I bid Jon farewell, got my rods back onto their spots and enjoyed the evening with Rob in the social swim.
On Thursday morning I woke to yet another lovely day, I’d heard that the weather back home wasn’t great so wanted to make the most of the mini heat-wave France was experiencing. Before breakfast I wandered around to Jon’s swim just in time to see him playing a fish, and a good fish at that. Slowly plodding around under the rod tip we caught a glimpse of it and he uttered the word “Starburst”, a stunning scaley carp of over forty pounds. I’d seen pictures of it and dearly wanted to capture it. But at least I got to net it, photograph it and help weigh it at 44lbs!
Jon was made up and soon after packed away and started breakfast. Needless to say I nipped in there after breakfast with a couple of zigs under the canopies opposite, but I sat there until dinner time and nothing occurred.
After dinner I rigged up the cane rod, centrepin reel and handmade quill and with a luncheon meat baited hook I stalked the shallows. I was surprised at how many fish were down at that end of the lake that afternoon/evening. Groups of 4 and 5 fish swam around and even upended around the spots I was fishing. A few times the float slid away but upon striking it was apparent that it was just their massive pecs that were catching the line. But I stayed there until almost dark, thoroughly enjoyed my time up there and even got to spot a wild boar!! And it was great to not be stuck behind static rods, I felt I was doing more to improve my chances of that second fish coming along.
Back in the swim I cast the rods out this time, with just a lead then walking around, attaching the rig and placing it exactly where I wanted with a couple of handfuls of bait over each rod. I felt this would create less disturbance that the boat or casting straight in, and I got to feel the rig down so that it was all laid out nicely. The penultimate evening was a wet one, for a while at least, when a thundery shower passed over and soaked everything including us. We drank tea into the night knowing that tomorrow was to be our final full day at this paradise we had grown to love. We slept soundly that night wishing we could wake up and it be Sunday again.
On Friday we were met with a mixed day. I’d planned another day of stalking the shallows but with overcast skies the lack of sun meant that the carp never visited the left hand end of the lake, but they were playing happily across the lake from our swims and off to the right, so rigs were re-baited, spots recalibrated and we sat back after breakfast to see what unfolded. At around 2pm my left hand rod received a few bleeps, I looked up to see the bobbin slowly creeping forward toward the alarm. I rushed out and was on it in a flash and started to pump fish number two ashore. Another epic battle took place and Rob netted a cracking mirror of 30lbs 15oz for me. I was thrilled to bits, I really thought that stalking would be my best chance of putting another fish on the bank, but perhaps the overcast sky and the lack of activity in the shallows helped me out. Video was taken, pictures were done and the fish was returned. We had four beers left so polished them off before dinner time. Another Moulicent carp that took a liking to the Quench.
Dinner was Chinese chicken curry with chips and desert was a collaboration of chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, profiteroles and squirty cream, and it was amazing!!! Before dinner I’d walked around to the far bank, fished out the rigs on a loose clutch and removed the rigs so all that needed to be done after was to revisit, re-attach the baited rigs and drop them onto the spots. Whilst eating we noticed the sky getting darker until the first spots of rain appeared. I had a quick shower, got changed into some fresh clothes and set off with the rigs and the bucket. On my way round to sort the rods out the rain started to come down quite heavily. By the time I’d done all our six rods and got back to the swim I was drenched, but a few minutes later my middle rod was away and I soon landed fish number three. It was a much younger looking fish, not the biggest in the lake by any means at 24lbs 9oz, but very good looking and very welcome. It seemed that it was all starting to come together for me. With the video and pictures done I returned to the caravan to get changed out of my sopping wet clothes. All rods were now fishing with Quench after this fish was caught using one.
When I got back to my swim it was beginning to get dark. I received a couple of bleeps on my middle and right hand rods and sat there wondering if I‘d been done. The longer I sat there and tried to blank it out the more I wanted to check and reset them. I walked round in the dark, fished them both out, re-baited them and replaced them on the marginal ledge. I returned to the swim much happier and soon drifted off to sleep. I was woken every half hour to single bleeps on the right hand rod and thought it would rip off at any moment, but when I heard a screamer at 2am I was surprised to find it was the middle rod that had received the attention. I called out to Rob who was dead to the world whilst I played that fish ashore. I safely netted fish number four and it looked to be the biggest I’d had thus far. Rob eventually heard me and came to help with the weighing and pictures. That one weighed 33lbs 5oz and after releasing her I had a strong feeling that there was still more in it for me. The rod was sorted and I went back to sleep, but with one eye on the receiver thinking it could wake me at any moment. This fish was tricked with a Quench popup but this time tipped with yellow plastic corn.
As it happened I woke at around 6am on Saturday morning. Nothing else had happened and there were only a couple more rod hours before we had to be away at 10am. With everything packed down and just the rods left out Jon came down with our final breakfast and we reflected upon a glorious week over one last brew. Moulicent really is a little paradise, everyone I know who has been before end up returning. Jon is one of the top hosts in France and can’t do enough for you, all he wants is for you to enjoy your stay fully, catch a few fish and come back for more, which the majority do. Jon puts everything into the venue and it shows. The fishing is not easy, I must stress that. Looking through the catch reports there are the odd week where lots of big fish are taken, and you could well strike it lucky. But on the whole they are great looking fish in pristine condition, and even if they do make you think a little about what you’re doing, it makes each and every one very special indeed. I did manage to find the time to take the video camera for one quick tour of the lake and facilities whilst Rob and Jon ferried the things to the car and with the ferry port punched into the sat nav we bid Jon a fond farewell and set off for home….and that’s where the fun really began!!
There we were driving through villages and farms with two and a half hours until we got to the ferry, a little early but we could find somewhere for a coffee whilst we waited to board. Twenty minutes away from the lake and the steering started to get very heavy. I pulled over and Rob opened the bonnet, auxiliary belt had shredded, just what I needed! Rob removed all of the old belt and worked out that it ran the power steering, cooling fan, air con, alternator and water pump. We tried to drive down the road a little, out of sheer panic I think, but the engine showed signs of overheating after 5 minutes so we pulled over once again. I had no breakdown cover and Rob didn’t have European on his, but we called anyway to find out it would cost us £350 just to get towed to the nearest garage. I rang Jon from the lake who basically said we were screwed, but he offered to come to us and two us to the garage. What a legend, he saved us a fair bit of wedge there, and explained to the mechanic what was wrong and relayed back to us that they might not be able to get the part until Monday leaving us stranded. We had to wait for the answer for two hours so off to the local Hypermarket we went after saying au revoir to Jon and thanking him once again for helping us out. We got back to the garage and after working out that “Ce Bon” sounded pretty good we were told to come back in another two hours when the car would be fixed….but at what cost!!??
4:30pm and we were sure to miss our ferry. The car was ready and the bill was surprisingly reasonable at 155 euros. Meanwhile the wife had transferred the ferry ticket to the same time (5pm) the following day (Sunday), so we’d just have to keep ourselves amused in Le Havre for 24 hours. We drove out of the garage forecourt still soaked from a downpour we got soaked in on the way to the garage and were on our way to the ferry port in quite an impressive thunder storm. We finally arrived at the ferry port to find it closed but did find an English speaking chap who informed us that it wasn’t open until 2:30 next day and that the car park has video surveillance so would be safe. We parked up and headed for the nearest bar, we needed beer!!
Our second beer was in a little Tai restaurant and after walking a bit further I stated to feel a bit tired. Not relishing the thought of kipping in the car I asked Rob if he fancied finding out the going rate for the local hotels, and the first one we went into seemed pretty reasonable at 75 euros plus 9 each for breakfast. We revisited the car for wash bags and spare clothes and checked in. A quick shower and change of clothes and Rob felt a million dollars. I on the other hand was shattered after the day I’d just had, but I reluctantly agreed to visit the bar for ONE beer, after all, it was almost 10pm! We stood at the bar for 5 minutes with no sign of service, I called it a day and went to bed, Rob said he’s just have the one and be up shortly, but by 2am he still wasn’t in. 7am came and I received a text from the wife, and Rob still wasn’t in bed. I found him eventually asleep on the toilet, not a pretty sight and after some reasoning he finally got into his bed. I sat and watched Pink Panther and Scooby Doo in French which was quite amusing until 9am when I went down for breakfast, Rob was still knocking out the zeds. At almost midday I woke Rob and told him we had to leave or be charged for another night, we left and started to explore Le Havre, the market and its quaint coffee bars, with Rob worst for wear, always 40 paces behind me and sleeping at even opportunity to sit down.
We got to the ferry terminal at 2:30, queued up and had to sit in the car until gone 4, Rob slept the whole time. When we boarded the ferry and found some seats we had a quick meal of Lasagne and chips and soon after Rob fell asleep and slept for most of the journey, but at least we were on our way home. The crossing was enjoyable, the French election was on the TV so that was out of the equation, but the shop was open for a wander, I enjoyed a few cups of Earl Grey and soon enough we were docking at Portsmouth at around 9:30pm. It was an interesting end to the trip, a real adventure and something to talk about that was for sure, but something I really don’t want to experience again, once was more than enough!