6th December 2021

Dan Sibley reflects on a tricky session at Abbey Lakes in France, which saw him put in maximum effort in order to come away with a result.

French trips are steadily starting to become much more common amongst UK anglers, and Dan Sibley was looking forward to his return over the channel. Little did he know, he would have to really grind out a result on the popular holiday venue, Abbey Lakes.

Each bait still contains the perfect levels of milk and birdfood proteins, as well as the divine Madagascan vanilla extract and peanut protein that Manilla is famous for.

Dan takes up the story:

“Due to Covid, my eagerly anticipated trip over the pond finally came. With the van packed to the rafters my pal Tom and I set off in sight of the euro tunnel. Normally we would book for late September or early October, but having booked our trip this year for mid-November we knew that it would take some solid angling to get a pull on the old string.

“Travelling through the night it was in the early hours of Friday 11th November we finally rolled through the gates onto the complex. A few hours kip under brollies in the car park ensured we were the first at the clubhouse for check in. Abbey lakes is run very much like an English day ticket so being up on your toes is paramount to ensure a good week’s fishing. One thing we did this year was arriving a day early. This was purely to have a full 24 hours prior to our week session to spend time finding the fish. I have found in years gone by fishing on Heron at Abbey, it can be a very peggy lake. If you happen to make the wrong swim choice on the Saturday morning you could easily spend your week fishing a swim with no carp in front of it.

“Once checked in and with a beer in hand of course, we had a 24-hour mission to get ourselves set up plumb on carp. On our first lap, chatting to a few of the lads fishing that week it was clear it was fishing slow with just a few pegs doing fish. Mainly the smaller ones out of the stock but a few carp over the 60lb bracket had come out, so that buzzed us right up for it! The day soon passed and going into the night we found what looked like a good head of carp showing in a bay. Unfortunately, the swim had already been claimed after his departure. In all honestly, after a full day’s graft lapping the lake trying to track some carp down, managing to find some, only to be told ‘sorry lads someone has claimed this peg for tomorrow’ was a right kick to the b***ox, but we thought, the night is still young, and another option might fall to us in another area of the lake. Thankfully after racking up over 28,000 steps on the Fitbit, it did!

“Peg 14 on heron is situated at the bottom of a long arm at the top end of the lake. We had previously looked in the arm earlier in the day and seen nothing along with speaking to the chap that had blanked all week in there. The fish had all of sudden turned up in there and he managed to catch an upper 40 common. The only downside was it’s really only a one man peg so with my pal Tom hearing the initial first fish show it was only fair he plotted up in 14. That left me still pegless and to be honest I had no clue where to start my session off. After another good lap, I finally decided to drop in a swim that I knew had good form for chucking out the bigger carp that time of year. I thought this was the best last option.

“I fished the first 48 hours in my chosen peg and felt like I was fishing really well but I had nothing to show for my efforts. Meanwhile Tom up in peg 14 was off to a flyer! Having had five fish to 53lb with one being a mega mid-40lb fully! I was very much playing camera man, which is sometimes it is how it goes, and I was happy getting him some wicked shots to look back on. Cleary there were a lot of fish out in front of Tom, so I had a move and fished the next peg down from him. The first night passed fishless for both of us and going into our fourth night I was still on blank, needless to say it was starting to get a bit squeaky bum that I would be making the long trip home on a blank. Thankfully with me fishing close to Tom, I could give him my receiver and I set about another night lap. Typically for this time of year the fish started showing after dark and that was the case when I stumbled across a good head of carp showing short in front of the point peg and to my surprise it was free as well! I shot back around to the point after packing up and not wanting to put too much pressure on the showing carp I just flicked 3 singles on them and settled in for the night. As morning broke, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t managed to snare one. Mid-morning soon came, and Tom just walked into my peg when my left-hand rod pulled up tight, but the fish quickly managed to find a dense marginal weed bed. After 10 minutes or so with the fish being in solid weed it managed to shake the hook! I was gutted, it only felt a small one but being on a blank, it would have been very welcome all the same.

“After the loss of the weeded carp, the activity completely stopped out in front of me but I had a feeling that the fish had pushed over to my right. It was an area of the lake I thought would be neglected because the way the pegs are situated, it was an awkward cast for both the point peg as well as the peg next door and a long chuck for the peg opposite. I spent the best part of the afternoon leading about and managed to find a deep, silty gully at the side of a big weed bed. I decided to go fairly heavy on the bait for the time of year, putting out 20 big Spombs of hemp and Manilla boilie crumb with a few handfuls of 12mm Manilla Active mixed in. I then deployed two rods tight on the spot both fished on hinges with a Manilla pop-up on one and a yellow Mulb on the other. The night passed uneventfully but I heard fish crash out over the spot and I was getting the odd liner, a sure sign fish were feeding. Come mid-morning I was still fishless and I was starting to think I might have over done it with the initial 20 Spombs, until the tip flew around on my left hand rod and I was away. The fish didn’t do a lot during the fight apart from hugging the bottom, so I knew I was attached to a good one. By this time Tom came wondering into the swim just in time to help me net the carp. An old, mega wrinkly mirror broke the surface and Tom bundled it into the net. A wicked carp, that pulled the needle around to a smidge over 44lb!

“After the antics of having one, I didn’t notice the activity that had developed over my spot, it was fizzing like crazy! Whilst I was sat on my bed chair getting the rig ready to put back out, four carp showed over the spot in a short space of time and the remaining rod was away. This time it was a scaly mirror of 34lb. I quicky got both rods chucked back out and decided not to top the spot up.

“My confidence was sky high going into my last night and through the early hours of Saturday morning it kicked off a sI caught three through the night all around the mid 30 mark. As morning broke, I couldn’t keep a rod in the water! Tom had packed up for around 9 o’clock and came walking into the swim expecting me to be ready to load the van for the off. But he had to laugh as he walked into the swim to see me bent into one, with three others in retainers awaiting photographs. The carp I was attached to finally hit the spreader block and it was a proper un! A big wide-set common. We had a bit of a chuckle to ourselves and said its typical leaving it all to the last morning. The carp in the retainers all weighed in around the mid 30 mark with one going just shy of 40lb. As for the common she pulled the needle around to 52lb 8oz! I was buzzing to say the least and again Tom did me proud behind the lens. With the van loaded, stinking of carp slime and a sleepless night from the Neville calling me into action, we finally checked out and headed to Calais.”