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Trip to France proved to be successful for local specimen angler Luke Hayden

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If you are looking to catch big carp or catfish then a trip to France is a very good option.

In the UK the official British carp record is 68lbs – and unofficially over 80lbs – but in France the official record is more than 100lb, with 40lb fish common place.

Local specimen angler Luke Hayden has embarked on annual fishing trips to France since 2008 and despite the Covid restrictions managed his latest visit in early August this year. The catches were impressive.

Luke Hayden and 43lb catfish in France. Picture: Luke Hayden
Luke Hayden and 43lb catfish in France. Picture: Luke Hayden

The lake on this trip was located south of Reims in the heart of champagne region.

Luke said: “Unfortunately Covid restrictions came back into force the week we were due to go so our exclusive booking of 10 people went down to just four! That was typical as we had just been in Tackle Up in Bury St Edmunds and stocked up with supplies.”

He added: “The Domaine de Goncourt complex of lakes is extensive with impressive facilities and is run by a lovely lady, Pascale and her family.”

Luke Hayden and 52lb carp in France. Picture: Luke Hayden
Luke Hayden and 52lb carp in France. Picture: Luke Hayden

There are nine lakes ranging in size from 14 to 35 acres and all are the bi-product of gravel extraction, as are many of the lakes around Bury St Edmunds. Notably, the lake in West Stow Country Park and Lackford lakes.

Having fished all the other lakes at the complex on previous visits, with some very hard, they decided to fish the out and out runs water (La Botte) this time which contained catfish up to 200lb, as well as a large head of carp, average weight 29lb.

Luke explained: “With only four of us we decided after a draw to spread out and cover most of the lake so that the fish could not hold up away from us. This paid dividends as we could not keep the rods out for long, each day making it very hard to get three rods out before one would rattle of.”

As a group of four they landed 81 carp (up to 59lb) and 17 catfish up to 104lb. Luke lamented: “Lessons learnt from every time you go fishing. I did not have strong enough line to cope with 100lb+ catfish and I estimate I lost over 30 fish.”

Personally, on this trip, Luke’s largest carp weighed in at 52lb, – a monster by UK standards but not his PB which is a 58lb carp caught from one of the harder lakes on the complex on a previous trip. His best catfish on this trip was 43lb.

French fishing has been hit hard by Covid restrictions but Luke and his three companions were looked after by Pascale and her family, who guided them on what was required, including booking the correct Covid tests to have before coming back into the UK.

It is all very different to the experience of four local match anglers who fished as guests for Colin Barlow AC Manchester on the Gloucester canal recently in the Division 2 National Team Championship.

Bury St Edmunds Angling Association treasurer Steve Bull – plus Rene Mitchell, James Boughton and Dennis Vaughan – have been fishing Nationals for more than 30 years and this was generally and typically a low weight affair with four pounds of fish, per angler, a good weight for their five-hour slog, including a six-to-eight-hour round trip to get there and back.

All four are past members of the Bury AA match team that used to fish Nationals, Winter Leagues and various other team events in the 1980s and 90s.

Bury AA have not had a match team for more than 20 years now but local angler John Hosking did form the independent Eastern Match Group that many of the experienced local match anglers joined.

This group survived for several years but the rapid decline in team match fishing eventually caught up with it and it no longer exists.

Steve, Rene, James, Dennis and John have fished for several different match teams since, located far and wide, with the closest being the Norfolk county team a few years back.

Thirty years ago there were six National Team Divisions accommodating more than 5,000 anglers countrywide, but now there are only two divisions left with fewer than 1,000 anglers involved.

Lots of things conspired in the decline, including the cost of travel but the quality of fishing on venues that can accommodate up to 1,200 anglers per match was probably the biggest issue!

Talking of match anglers, here are the latest results of the Bury AA veterans; Badwell Ash: 1st Bob Huant 38b 8oz, 2nd Rob Parnell 33lb 12oz and 3rd Keith Smith 29lb 8oz. Middle Reservoir: 1st Andy Walker 9lb 8oz, 2nd Dave Williams 9lb and 3rd Dave Tobin 7lb 8oz.

Bury AA also held the last match of the Martin Shield Series on Sunday at Badwell Ash.

Andy Walker won the day (Seeley Rose Bowl) from peg 13 with a carp catch of 34lb.

Keith Smith, the club’s match secretary, was runner-up with 28lb 12oz (peg 4) and Ashley Moore came third with 24lb 11oz from peg 8.

The club’s prestigious Martin Shield, fished for over the six club matches this year, was won by Ian Andrews with club treasurer Steve Bull the runner-up.

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