Holidays in France: More than Fishing !

Holidays in France: More than Fishing !
by Steve Howard

Sunset over Croix Blanche Lake

Sunset over Croix Blanche Lake

For me, fishing is much more than simply casting a line to catch a fish, it’s much, much more than that. In fact, if that was all that angling had going for it, I’d probably have given it a wide berth aeons ago!
Maybe I’m just ‘old skool’ and I harbour a need for a tad of romanticism in my angling, I don’t really know, but what I do know is that there is a side to me that craves fulfilment from the experience as a whole.
My lifelong passion for angling (since 1957 at the age of 5) has taken me in search of fulfilment in several countries and for several species. Since the early 80’s, that species has been almost exclusively carp, but perhaps that is explained by the very same token! You see, for me carp angling is the epitome of angling because it is the realm of dreamers; it’s a passion for those who, like me, seek more than just the face value of angling!

A pristine Croix Blanche common

A pristine Croix Blanche common

It is now well over 20 years since I took my first steps on foreign soil (outside of the UK) in search of carp, and that has provided me with many very important and unimaginably satisfying experiences. Indeed, my love of vast inland ‘oceans’ and wild river systems and waterways could not have been realised within the UK as, in the main, they simply do not exist.
Variety, as they say, is the spice of life and I certainly won’t argue against that. I have fished a very wide variety of venues, including many small commercially run operations here in France. It would be fair to say that very few of that ilk have served to inspire me but, to be fair to them, they are a bit like ‘Butlins’… you pay your money and accept them for what they are.

Croix Blanche….is possibly the most surprisingly beautiful small venue I have fished at, ever!

Of the smaller, commercial type venues, I have fished just two in the past year since moving to France, but both have been quite different and yet delightfully inspiring for similar reasons. The first is the Etang de Brigueuil in the Charente, SW of France an attractive & comfortable fishery with some very nice carp..
The second is the Lakes of Croix Blanche, a complex in Northern France (not far from Reims), which is possibly the most surprisingly beautiful small venue I have fished at, ever!
That is a very big statement indeed, but I have to say that, personally, I found the complex to be totally enchanting.

Playing a fish at Croix Blanche

Playing a fish at Croix Blanche

With me, I look for – and therefore see – aspects that other anglers may not necessarily see or indeed, appreciate. I was in awe of Croix Blanche lakes after walking just a few yards along its wide and lush track between the two lakes. There, a very natural and diverse variety of wild flora, in all its blooming glory, treated my senses to a display that would grace the Chelsea flower show. I was truly impressed, and even more so when I entered my chosen swim to be greeted with the sight of wild strawberries growing on the slopes, in an abundance that I have never witnessed before.

Wild strawberries

Wild strawberries

Staring out across the gorgeous clear blue water, there were rabbits frolicking along the water’s edge on the far margin that caught my eye, and as I watched, the unmistakable, ‘tropical’ call of a Golden Oriole drew my attention – I was undeniably soothed to my very soul with the amazing ambience of Croix.
What I experienced was a very similar emotion to when I fished at the legendary Redmire Pool back in the UK many years ago… On that occasion, just as I did again this time, I could not bring myself to actually fish on that first night. I needed time to suck it all in, time to ‘smell the roses’ and feel that strong connection with nature that I have always found so spiritual. For me, this was one of those extremely memorable and moving moments that I cherish and fishing had quite suddenly and unexpectedly become very much secondary.
Of course, I did settle in on the next day and I remembered the ‘other’ reason I was there, to catch carp. After setting up and catching one or two fish with bottom baits, I noticed an opportunity and a rare opportunity given that it was here, in France. There were a couple of carp interested in taking the odd bit of floating bits and pieces and my penchant for a bit of floater fishing soon had me firing out a few freebies to see if other carp would accept the invitation to this, freshly served veritable banquet.

My best surface caught Croix Blanche mirror of 39lb 12oz

My best surface caught Croix Blanche mirror of 39lb 12oz

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before there was enough interest shown in the freebies for me to set up a floater rod to ‘have a go’. Over the next few spellbinding days I enjoyed my best ever floater fishing session with 12 carp over 30lb gracing my net, all bar 3 of those being over 35lb, and four being between 38lb-39.12.

….the whole Croix Blanche experience had been one of, if not the best ever, no question!

When the time came to leave, I did so with that very same bittersweet feeling that I’d experienced when I finally had to depart from Redmire… Indeed, I compared those two experiences at that precise time because the whole Croix Blanche experience had been one of, if not the best ever, no question!

Carp at Croix Blanche in the margins

Carp at Croix Blanche in the margins

As a footnote, I never did return to Redmire after that very first experience, as I didn’t wish to alter my perspective of the venue. I didn’t want to risk spoiling the memory of that very special moment of my angling journey where I was fortunate enough to have caught a common of 19lb.12.
I deeply regret that decision now, of course, as I now realise that it would have been impossible to ‘ruin’ that first experience of Redmire, and I could have only added another, different, but perhaps even more memorable experience. Roll on Croix Blanche Lakes!!

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