A Week At Cherpont – Ben Soane

Rewind to 18 months ago, a group of us were all fired up and ready to head off for a trip to one of the popular French commercial carp fishing venues when disaster struck… the lake called to cancel the trip as they were suffering a fish kill just a few days before we were due to depart. To say we were all gutted would have been an understatement and it was obvious we wouldn’t have found a replacement venue at such short notice so we cut our losses and went back to the drawing board to arrange a trip for the following year. 

After a few recommendations we booked ourselves onto a lake called Cherpont near Limoges in France for September this year. It sounded like it ticked all the boxes and gave us something to look forward to, even though there would be a long wait before the trip finally came around. Plenty of time to research and prepare though, at least that’s what I thought. 

Fast forward to the day before departure and I had basically done no preparation or research whatsoever. Life had been so busy in the months leading up to the trip and I really wasn’t focused on fishing at all. I had lost the buzz a bit for one reason or another, something I really didn’t think could ever happen to me as my love for my favourite hobby had been so strong for nearly 25 years. It was actually quite upsetting that I felt this way as I use fishing to relax, re-energise and escape from life’s stresses, as I’m sure you all do too. That said, I still wanted to go on the trip and rushed around getting everything together as best I could, ready for it to be collected by the transport company who would drive all our tackle and bait to the lake while we got a cheap flight to Limoges the following day avoiding a lengthy coach journey. 

There was 6 of us in our group and we arrived at Cherpont lake late on the Saturday afternoon. A draw had already taken place for another 4 anglers that were booked on that week who braved the long drive down and got there in the morning. These guys were set up in their swims already so we had the pick of the rest of the lake. We did our own draw amongst ourselves and I came out 5th in our group, so 9th out of the 10 fishing that week which wasn’t ideal but the lake is 45 acres so there was plenty of water to go around. We had a lap around the lake before picking swims as it was the first time any of us had seen the place. It really is a beautiful venue, very mature and peaceful as it’s located in a very quiet part of France out in the middle of nowhere. There’s a dam wall at one end where the lake thins out and on our walk round we saw a fair few fish in this part of the lake. That end fished well the week before too and with the wind blasting down that way when we arrived it certainly looked appealing.

And to my surprise I managed get a swim in this area when we did the draw, one called “Ronnies” up from the dam wall, as most our group opted for the middle of lake, a safe bet for them on a week long trip with fish inevitably passing through at some stage. I wanted to get off the mark early though so chose to be on some fish straight away as there’s nothing worse than waiting days for that first bite on a French trip. I know it’s a holiday but the main reason we go is to catch fish so the last thing anyone wants to do is blank for the week, but it does happen to the best of us at some stage, thats fishing after all. 

After a decent dinner we all raced to our swims and tried to get set up before dark. This is where my lack of preparation really handicapped me as it got to around 10pm and I’d only managed to get one rod out. It was boiling hot still, the mosquitoes were out in force and I was pretty shattered so I basically ‘pub chucked’ the other two rods with some old rigs on and decided to set my stall out properly the following day when I was refreshed. It felt like a waste of a night’s fishing but I had no one to blame but myself. And as I expected the first night was uneventful. 

The following morning there were still signs of fish in my area fizzing up on various patches. I had a lead around to see if there were any decent spots to be found but it soon became evident that the silt was really deep all over, something I was told about by people who had previously been but I had no idea just how true this was until saw it for myself. The lake is very shallow for such a large pit and as there’s an old river running through the middle the silt had built up a lot over time but we were assured it wouldn’t make fishing too tricky once you got your head around presenting baits in it. It was almost impossible to feel for a drop with a lead anywhere on the lake and a heavy lead seemed to plug into the silt on the cast to the point where you sometimes have to pull really hard to free the lead up. With this in mind I opted to fish Safezone helicopter leaders with the top bead set 2ft up the leader so I could be confident that even if the lead plugged deep into the silt my rig wouldn’t be pulled in too. 

I tied 3 fresh rigs up, all relatively stiff to avoid any tangles on the cast and hopefully these would reset themselves easily if picked up by any nuisance fish.  I made these around 8 inches in length, I didn’t feel the need to make these any longer due to the helicopter arrangement I opted for. I fished one with an 18mm Krill & TunaKnT Boilies bottom bait straight from the bag, one with an 18mm KnT snowman set up to sink slower and sit proud on the silt (both of these on size 5 Blowback rigs and long hairs) and the final one was a Spinner Rig with a 15mm Triple-N pop up on. Then my plan was to see what caught the first fish and switch all three to the same rig and bait choice. I have total faith in all three bait presentations and hook-baits but not knowing what worked the best as I’d never fished the lake before, it was a case of trial and error. 

For extra confidence I made up some tiny mesh bags of crushed boilies, Triple-N Stick Mix and put a piece of dissolving foam in each bag then attached these to the hook on every cast for extra peace of mind when casting into the deep silt, something I really favour doing on silty venues in the UK too. All three rigs were then cast towards a Willow tree opposite about 3 rod lengths off the edge of the tree where there was slightly more depth. I was told fish cruised along the far margin a lot in my particular swim so this would be a good place to start. The large spot I picked was baited with previously washed out Triple-N and KnT boilies and some 17mm Halibut Pellets thrown in for extra attraction which I delivered via catapult by walking round to the opposite margin with the bucket of bait. This meant less disturbance and a better spread of bait over a larger area as using a Spomb would drop pockets of bait in tight clusters (as the depth was only 3-4ft). With no holding features, just silt everywhere, the fish moved around a lot so my intention was to create a large holding area out of bait dotted around as opposed to tightly positioned free offerings that could be consumed quickly without the carp needing to travel very far for each mouthful. 

This tactic seemed to work initially as by the afternoon I had fish rolling and fizzing up like mad all over this baited area and I was almost certain I’d get a bite. I was also lucky enough to be in one of a few swims on the lake that you were allowed to leave rods out in while food was served in the nearby lodge so that evening I went up for dinner with my alarm receiver around my neck and just as I finished off my delicious dessert, feeling like a beached whale from the huge dinner portion I had just eaten, my receiver gave me a few bleeps from two rods. This had to be a bite so I sluggishly ran down to the swim and the bobbin on my right rod was up tight against the alarm… fish on. The rest of the lads came to see what was happening and before long I had a 36lb Mirror in the net that fell victim to the KnT snowman presentation. Super happy to be off the mark within 24 hours I got the rod back out, put some more bait on the spot and had a few beers to celebrate. 

To my surprise, the night was quiet though and when I woke the following morning the fish activity had subsided in my area. The wind had changed and was blasting down the other end by this point. The other lads either side of me also had no action so it was clear the fish had moved out from our end. Not too disheartened though I decided to stick it out for another 2 nights in my swim, hoping some fish would return but at the halfway point in the week it was still really quiet for us. I don’t tend to move much on French trips unless it really doesn’t feel right where I am, but a decent swim called “Sleepy Hollow” in the main body of the lake was vacated on the Monday, creating a huge area of water that wasn’t being fished and with it being very central I thought about moving into it on the Tuesday morning. It felt like I would be closer to the action as my friends who were fishing opposite in the middle  had been picking up fish everyday. They also said they could see fish showing much longer than they could get to. It was about 250 yards to the far bank so there was no danger of me encroaching into anyone else’s water if I made the change. It definitely felt like a good move to make so I barrowed all my gear round, set up and picked 3 trees in the horizon to aim at, clipping everything up to 90 yards for ease of casting and baiting as I now had to use the Spomb to bait with as it was well out of catapult range. I also used a throwing stick to scatter some 18mm KnT and Triple-N shelf life baits when it wasn’t suitable to smash Spombs into the lake. All three rods were switched to KnT snowman rigs with the tiny mesh bags attached and I sat back for the remainder of the trip, praying the move would pay off.

Fortunately enough the move paid off as on the Wednesday morning I landed 4 carp in a few hours including two forties to 45lb. I always like to think a French trip is a success if I catch one over 40lb so I was really pleased to catch a couple over that weight and particularly after the move. The only downside to where I ended up was the solitude as the rest of my group shuffled around and ended up fishing in a long line together on the other side. There were no options to move over with them and have a social for the remainder of the trip so I stayed put but I did rest the swim on a couple of occasions to join them for beers and laughs and try and make a proper holiday out of the it. 

In the remaining time I had a further 4 fish including a 41lb Common just before packing away so I ended the week with 9 carp and 1 loss which I certainly couldn’t grumble at one bit. I said before I went that I would be happy with a fish a day so I felt my targets were achieved. I will definitely go back to Cherpont (better prepared and motivated) as it was the best venue I’ve been to in my opinion and I’ve been to a fair few over the years. It has everything you need, Dan and his wife Jackie do an amazing at running the place and really look after you during your trip. Jackie’s food is the best I’ve ever had on a French trip so if you like to be well fed on a fishing holiday you definitely need to check the place out. The average fish weight was exceptional at around 35lb for our week and everyone in our group managed a carp over 45lb. Bait-Tech’s Steve Ives who also came with us had an amazing week too banking plenty of carp over 40lb as well as a fifty. 

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