4 January, 2024 |2 Comments
Andy Bradnock: Autumn Trip to Moulin Du Mee
We’ve heard Adam Whittington’s account of this tale, now it’s Andy’s turn! Moulin Du Mee delivers in the most perfect way possible…
So it’s finally arrived and we are back on our annual pilgrimage to deepest France where we will spend a week at Moulin du Mee – a 14 acre estate lake just south of Tours and a mere 3.5 hours from Caen.
We use the overnight ferry out of Portsmouth, which means we arrive in France in the morning refreshed and ready for the drive down. With plenty of time to get there, we have regular café stops to practice our je voudrais’s and au revoirs.
As Chris is incapable of driving past a McDonalds we also have to stop at least once at one of these fast food outlets or endure a week long sulk with copious foot stamping, cold stares and some quite scary flouncing.
As usual it is the same group of us that embark on these French odysseys and we have a lake exclusive on a rolling booking until we get bored (unlikely), die (possibility), or Jim refuses to have us back.
Each year we alternate banks as fishing is from either the house bank or the Chateau bank. Adam and I were allocated the House bank this time which is the more comfortable side to fish from and the margins are deeper so landing fish doesn’t involve a fight to get into chesties before the rod is even picked up.
For this trip I had constructed a trophy which I thought was quite nice. It was made from a lost spod I had found on one of our French trips that I had mounted onto a block of wood with a little plaque. Jim took charge of it to present to the victors at the end of play a week hence. Mrs Jim was however a little disturbed by having it in her house as she thought it looked like a sex toy, the mucky minded lady.
The competition is between the banks, with Adam and I against Chris and the Doc fishing the opposite side. The future plan is for the victors get to choose the category of the competition for the following year. As this was the inaugural year of the ‘Everiss Cup’, it was decided that the winners will be the pair with the largest combined weight of their biggest common and mirror carp.
The trip down was fairly uneventful – Chris and the doc had to make what turned out to be an unexpectedly long detour to pick up bait, as google maps were a little inaccurate as to the time this would take. Adam and I therefore arrived well before the wanderers and a little before we were technically allowed to be there.
Jim however graciously made us welcome and put the kettle on. When we left last year one of Jim’s eyes had been giving him some problems and he had taken to wearing a pirate’s eye patch. I had managed to purchase a blow up parrot that would sit on his shoulder to complete his pirate get up. As we arrived I realised this joke was going to fall a little flat as the surgery he had had earlier in the year had made the patch redundant which is obviously great news but I feel he has been a little selfish as I had gone to great lengths to get the parrot.
Adam was chomping at the bit to get fishing but as we were technically still not meant to be there I accepted Jim’s offer of a second cup of tea. The withering look I received from Captain Workshy said it all and he suggested I was no better than a pod user.
A terrible insult, as I am sure you will agree, he did refrain from calling me a Mallet Wielder but I think accepting a third cup of tea could of pushed him over the edge. He is a reddish hue on a good day but was going a distinct shade of puce by the time we stepped out onto the bank.
We were busy sorting our respective swims for the week, with poor Chris and the doc still a few hours away. I was at the dam end as again we rotate between the two of us. As we are allowed to use bait boats we can cover half of our side of the lake and still be in adjacent swims, making it a more social week.
The carp had decided to welcome us in some style and in front of both of our swims there were patches of bubbles at various ranges, as numbers of carp foraged in the silty substrate. Adam was like a greyhound (well more of a heavy pug) out of the trap and despite us having a full week ahead of us, wanted baits in the water straight away.
He managed to drop two baits into areas where the bubbling was at its most intense but was convinced that he had ruined his chances and everything had spooked. I was unsure of this as there were still plenty of signs that carp were still around.
As we were driving out his third rod the first, which was sitting patiently in the reeds, pulled up tight and was away. After a lovely, gentle introductory fight a substantial amount of French mirror carp was engulfed in the outstretched folds of his net. Tiredness was soon forgotten as we bounced around giggling and hugging as the 56lb mirror was photographed and returned.
A short while later, Chris and the doc arrived knackered but happy to be out of the van. Chris had been doing terrible farts for the last fifty miles so if it had been any further this text would be doubling up as the Doc’s obituary.
Sadly Jim had booked himself a week away photographing birds so would only be with us until Sunday morning. The late arrivals therefore spent some time catching up with the old pirate and admiring his new parrot.
I couldn’t emulate Adam’s instant success but had baits positioned for the evening ahead well before the light faded. On these trips we split meal duties, Adam caters for breakfasts and I do the evening meal. It’s what civilised people call supper or at a pinch – dinner, not the “tea” my uncouth companion refers to it as.
This first night I had a pre-prepared Moroccan lamb tagine with harissa couscous, which is perfect for the first rushed night as it takes very little time to cook. Later that evening we retired to our respective pits, full of food and expectancy for the night ahead.
The weather forecasts for the week had started really promising while we were still in the UK, but as our arrival date approached there was a steady decline in the predicted conditions. We had been glued to the BBC weather app for weeks, which was an emotional rollercoaster as the weather predictions improved then deteriorated on an almost hourly basis. The forecast had improved considerably for the end of the week, but the first two nights were definitely going to be the worst.
The issue was the sudden change, the week before had seen overnight temperatures of 14-16 degrees. Our first two nights would be seeing temperatures plummet to 3 degrees. With this backdrop I wasn’t really expecting any action overnight, but at 01.00 on the Sunday morning my left rod pulled up tight.
This was a feature of many of the takes we received during our week very few taking any line. This could be as a result of the long season of angling pressure, or due to the way we fish this shallow lake employing slack lines, back-leads and tight clutches.
So, half asleep I clambered out of my bag and stumbled across to my rods in the chilly air. The sky was clear with no moon but Jupiter was visibly bright in the sky above me as I looked along the arching carbon I was holding aloft.
A slow ponderous, sluggish fight ensued but there was only going to be one winner and I scooped up a sizeable chunk of mirror carp. A quick trot down the bank and a couple of air horns later I had managed to rouse sleeping disgusting and gainfully employed him in the photographing of a 53lb fish.
Getting good night shots at Moulin is really difficult as all photos have to be done in the water. We use 3 diffused light sources at various angles as well as a flash but with nothing to bounce the light off even though the fish themselves look good, they are in a sea of black which I don’t think is ever that great.
I have toyed with fashioning a screen to put behind us, but I am sure that will look even more un-natural and weird. After the pictures were all completed we slumped back to our respective beds our breath visible in the frigid autumnal air. Adams breath is so bad it is visible at midday in the middle of August so he didn’t notice anything different to normal.
We were fully recovered by the following morning after plenty of tea and a breakfast fit for a king (well a fat northerner anyway), both of us happily consuming mushrooms in the full Savay tradition.
At this point in the day there was a revelation that shocked us to our very cores. If you were told that on this trip one of us would have a terrible soiling calamity, it would be odds on that our bank would house the unfortunate soul – it’s not like we don’t have plenty of previous.
On this occasion, Adam and I sat nonchalantly in our pristine underpants listening to a tale of woe from the other bank, we giggled with an air of superiority for the rest of the day. Not a lot happened through the day, and an evening meal of risotto with asparagus allowed us to predict a night of strange smelling urine was in our future.
Now I am not a massive fan of articles where the angler has been successful as it usually ends up as an exercise in I caught this, I caught that accompanied by one of those mindless pictures of a rig held in front of a face with a pop-up attached to blah blah blah vomit etc.
I am lucky in that I rarely catch anything so can be snotty and poo-poo successful carp catching tigers. However, the night of October 15th was one of my more successful nights angling.
It started at 23.00 with a bite on the close in left rod which had me exiting the tempest at breakneck speed. This turned out to be a 34lb mirror and as it was of a fairly standard stamp for the lake I took a quick picture of it on the mat and got it back into the wet as quickly as possible.
I know this sounds wrong as it was a lovely fish but with the rule that all photos must be done in the water, it is such a faff which you cannot do by yourself. Adam was exhausted and isn’t the best of sleepers so I didn’t have the heart to drag him from his slumbers.
This was followed at 04.00 with a 38lb 12oz mirror that I had caught a couple of years ago on our first trip to the lake. At that time she weighed in at 41lb so they have definitely spawned out well this year. It’s a cracking carp with a cool wrinkly little tail and great big sergeant type scales on its shoulders.
I had just lowered it into the water in the retainer trying to decide if a recapture is a justifiable reason to wake Adam when the right hand rod roared off.
This fast but unspectacular fight resulted in a 13lb 5oz fish that I weighed as it was the first common of the trip and would give us the lead for the trophy. I therefore wafted a cup of tea under Adam’s nose and slowly dragged him from his dreams of Cheryl Cole, 2lb of butter and an egg-whisk.
Photos done, it was getting towards first light so I sat up watching the dawn break. It took bloody ages, with it being French summer time, it was getting on for 07.00 before there was even the merest hint of light in the sky.
Before the darkness had been fully expelled from the Eastern horizon, fish number four stole my right hook bait, again a pulled up bobbin was the only indication received but a slow ploddy fight in the half-light resulted in a cracking dark coloured mirror flopping into my waiting net.
Once the ritual of setting up lighting had been completed, dawn was well on her way, so with a little camera trickery, I got some great photos of this fish.
After a hearty breakfast, a gallon of tea and some fancy coffee I was lounging resplendent in my success when a take on the left rod resulted in another scamp common.
These fish have bred in the lake and are high backed, fast-growing examples that will be moved to growing on lakes during the planned drain down and netting this winter. Another run at 13.30 saw me slowly teasing a large-scaled 35lb mirror to the net that I was more than happy to have made acquaintance with.
See, I told you this bit was going to be rubbish – just a list of fish and weights!
The final encounter of the day was a completely different experience when at 17.00 the middle rod, finally joined the party and produced a biblically fast bite. From a standing start, this fish was doing 100mph within three heart beats trying to melt the bait-runner.
Picking the rod up made little impact on the fish and from 100m away, was flat-rodding me tearing more and more line from the protesting reel. Finally, somewhere just short of Calais, the fish stopped and I managed to re-gain some nylon, then yet again at an unbelievable speed the fish changed direction and charged out into the lake.
This continued for 20 minutes… every time I felt I was making headway, off it went again, stealing back hard won yards of line. Eventually the high octane fight slowly started to fade, at no point did I ever feel this was a giant just a really angry male that had been called a big girls blouse by his peers, and he was desperately trying to rid himself of the moniker ‘Susan’.
Eventually the expected male-looking, angry common thankfully dropped into the net. At 41lb, and in pristine condition, it looked amazing in the evening sunlight.
By the end of all that I was really glad of a little respite in the run-fest managing to cook a chilli for that night’s supper. Some sour cream and freshly made guacamole finished it off nicely. I make the guacamole adding coriander to the lime and avocado mix. The result is an amazing taste, despite this though the heathen that is Adam insists on having grated cheese on his as well. The more the better as far as he is concerned.
The whole of Tuesday night was a bleep free desert which made no sense, the conditions had improved immeasurably, the pressure was dropping, the overnight temperatures were back over double figures and the spots I was fishing had all done multiple takes. The only difference is that I had baited more heavily after the feeding activity of the previous 24 hours.
Instead of fishing over the very predictable single boat load of bait on one rod, I had five hoppers on one and on the other, seven.
I have the Ridgemonkey hunter 750 bait boat which carries slightly less bait than your average tea-spoon. Therefore, in the grand scheme of things, not much bait was applied to either spot. For the rest of the holiday not a single sign of feeding did I observe on either spot again and not a hint of a bite.
The bait this trip consisted of my usual ground-bait mix with the Krill Pulses & Particles mix, which has become my latest favourite. A generous helping of the concentrated Shrimp Extract, Fermented Belachan and Fish Gutz was added to the fish attracting concoction. The Fish Gutz does appear to be the real game changer. The best way I have found to use it is to mix a few mls (you don’t need to use much) thoroughly into the rest of the liquids which means it gets spread evenly through the bucket of bait.
While I was vividly dreaming in my fish free sleep next door, Adam was called to action in the wee small hours of the Wednesday morning. After a successful conclusion to the battle, a potato shaped ugly head was thrust into the opening of my bivvy asking for the big scales, as he thought the common he had bagged was a giant.
Looking into the net with bleary eyes I thought he was over egging his pudding, and he had a glorious looking mid fifty common. I was thankfully very wrong and it took a great deal of effort to get the fish out and onto the mat.
At 67lb 8oz, it was enormous and after messing up the photos of his previous sixty last year the next 30 minutes were really stressful for me.
I carefully set up all the auxiliary lighting and made sure the camera settings were spot on, the lack of background however still made me anxious. Thankfully the photos came out well despite there being no background.
I am sure the mushrooms he sat eating in front of me and my mushroom free plate the following breakfast tasted much better than normal. The real significance of this capture is that we were now well ahead in the trophy stakes which had momentarily belonged to the ‘boyz’n’de chateau with a 57 and 49lb 9oz combination.
So after a successful night for Adam and a quiet time for me, it was time to make ourselves presentable, and head to the local town for supplies including crisps and cakes for the far bank hermits.
We reeled in around lunch time, showered away three days of grime and fish slime then headed into the wilds of France to forage in the local supermarket. The predicted rain had just started to make its presence felt as we headed west.
We arrived at the supermarket and realised we had been stupid as it was closed from 14.00-15.00 so we had 50 minutes to kill. No problem, we could do some je voudrais’s and get lunch while we waited.
We wandered into town and found that everywhere was closed until 15.00 but we eventually found a strange bar type café that did food and an interesting line in mucky mags. Sadly ,Le Garcon informed us that they didn’t serve food until after 15.00 so we had to make do with coffee. This was pure rocket fuel and I was still awake pupils like saucers 3 days later.
While we sat outside on wet seats cradling our coffees, the most French of Frenchmen arrived, bought himself a 300ml beer in a glass with a stem, smoked a gauloise and said a few words to us, which we replied to in our terrible French.
Then once his beer was finished he bid us au revoir climbed into his tesla and drove away. After this we headed back to the supermarket stocked ourselves up with victuals, then it was home to our little green domes.
The weather had held on the trip back, but ominous looking banks of dark clouds were building from the east. We were lucky enough to see a skein of cranes on the way back which were the only ones we saw this year as we were a couple of weeks earlier than normal. This put us just outside the time when these magnificent birds migrate south through France. The temperature was holding nicely and the air pressure was continuing to fall – it was now at 964.5mb which is as low as I have ever seen on my weather station. This suggested that the predicted thunderstorms weren’t far off.
We got our rods back out and sorted as soon as we arrived back at the lake.
I had been 24 hours without a bite when finally my middle Delkim let out its high pitched warble. The fish initially just sat there and didn’t move, then slowly came the 100m back towards me without a head shake, bounce or knock on the rod tip – just a slow heavy weight.
As it came level with my swim it just slowly carried on past with an irresistible heavy power on its plod up the lake. The clutch was slowly ticking away as the ponderous weight continued on its pre-determined path, Adam looked at me and laughed saying ‘so it’s massive then’ and took a few pictures of me rod in hand.
At this point suddenly it was gone, no surge, nothing just no longer mine.
Writing this brings back that empty feeling I had with that loss. At the time it felt like I hadn’t had a fish for days despite it only being 24 hours and the fish had felt nothing but huge. On reeling in the hook had snapped at the barb, something I have never seen before and nothing I could do anything about.
A failed knot, a hook-pull or a fish getting snagged can all be avoided, in many instances it’s down to you. A hook snapping like that is the carping gods just having a laugh – I needed to quickly find a magpie to strangle.
After I had sorted the rod, it was getting a little late and we were getting hungry so I started to sort out the prep for the evening meal of fajitas.
The fish had other ideas as an intense period of action ensued. At 17.20, a take on the right hand rod resulted in a 39lb 12oz mirror which felt tiny in comparison to the one I had lost earlier.
I had just got that rod back out when a take on the middle rod put back meal prep still further. The sun was just starting to set in front of us so the fish was played out to a back drop of the low lying clouds being lit up with an orange glow.
Adam got some great shots of me silhouetted rod in hand playing this fish.
At 18.00 after a protracted battle a 46lb mirror was in the net. Sadly at some point in the past the top lobe of its tail had been damaged, there was however evidence that this was trying to grow back. Other than that it was a great looking fish so we did some pictures all arty like at an angle with its tail in the water. This sort of behaviour will often result in the wearing of ill-fitting woolly hats through the summer, big beards and an ear-ring the size of a conker shoved through your ear lobe. I will have to be careful.
Yet another take at 19.15 put back dinner still further but resulted in a 35lb mirror. By this time we were starving – Adam had already tried chewing on one of his boots. Fortunately, after this last fish, I managed to cook and we were settled and full, re-living the flurry of bites I had just had.
The final bite of the night came just before midnight and was a common of 38lb, after which we retired knackered and needing sleep.
For me the shut eye was short lived as at 04.00 a 35lb common decided I had slept enough. A quick net-shot of this pristine fish was much less than it deserved but again, the rig morale of photographing it properly in the water was more than my tired brain could cope with.
I couldn’t really sleep after this so got the kettle on and watched the sun poke its head over the trees on the dam. I was measuring the water temperature each morning, todays 15.5 degrees meant that it had crept up ever so slightly again. The air pressure was ridiculous and had fallen to 958mb which is as low as I have ever fished in.
The angry looking clouds had built overnight keeping the air warmer, producing just about the carpiest conditions I have ever seen. There were hints of the rain that was due to come but so far, sitting tea in hand watching the lake was a very comfortable experience. Just before 08.00, another slow take resulted in a heavy plod about in front of me, nothing unexpected no giant runs just a slow heavy resistance.
As the fish slipped over the net cord I was not expecting the substantial amount of back that was now on display. At 50lb 10oz, I was more than happy, and we managed to get the photos sorted before the heavens opened and stayed open for pretty well the rest of the trip.
The rain that started to fall that afternoon was getting to the point where it was silly – it was like being hosed down, I even contemplated zipping my door down at one point then remembered I don’t fold my reel handles so left it as it was.
At the height of the deluge, the long range middle rod decided it had been quiet long enough and started up an un-ignorable warble. I had fortunately been sat in waterproofs for most of the day so wandering into the elements to deal with the fish wasn’t as bad as it could have been, the rain did its best to find any chink in my waterproof armour. I don’t remember much about the fight just the relentless down pouring of rain but eventually a chunky 46lb common with a bare patch was mine, the rain relenting just enough to allow photos to be taken with a phone. The weather still too bad for the camera to come out.
Cooking in the rain that night was impossible so I de-camped to a gazebo type of affair further down the bank in amongst the bamboo and walnut trees. The night before I had made a flatbread dough but I think I had put too much yeast in it so when it rose it looked like a giant marshmallow was trying to take over the back of my bivvy.
A bit of beating had it back under control and the flatbreads were successfully fried along with lamb kebabs and a Greek feta salad. Sadly it looked like 3 turds on a pillow but tasted great!
As this was our last night, I wasn’t expecting much and with the weather being so bad I was in bed reading when at 19.00 I was away on the right hand rod. Again, a simple pull up was the only indication I received.
As we were having issues with the catfish when I left the warmth of my bag to do battle, I was unsure what to expect. First impressions of ‘definitely a carp’ was a good start and a horrible war of attrition began.
Some fights are memorable for many reasons – this one was just about the most miserable battle I have ever had with a carp. It all started ok with a few heavy slow short runs that were easily controlled but after this it was a horrible 15 minute battle where the line was constantly pinging off the fishes body. The rod sprang straight then… just as the ‘all is lost’ feeling was setting in it took up a curve again.
This rollercoaster of misery, then relief was awful so when a pale flank drifted into the red glow of my head torch I was more than happy to pronounce the fight over and won. I staked the net out and went next door to the oblivious Adam asking ‘could you come and give me a second opinion please’.
We went back to my swim and I asked him, ‘In your opinion is that massive’, his reply is not for delicate ears (luckily his ears are like Jodrell banks radio-telescope dish) but confirmed the fish was a giant.
Up on the scales she weighed in at 72lb 4oz – a colossal beast. The doc came round eating a pot noodle with his special pot noodle fork, this he sadly forgot to take with him when he left so its ransom is being negotiated as we speak.
It was great having the pair of them there ohhing and arrhing as I struggled to hold her up. I remember it being more difficult than the photos betray.
With that fish, the week had ended on a high way beyond my wildest expectations but there was more to come as the final night seemed a blur of buzzers and nets.
At 22.00 a double figure common came from a new spot I had found earlier in the day, this was the third take from it, the other two being catfish. It was a palaver getting the rod into position involving a long wet walk down to the dam so I was toying with just leaning the rod against the bivvy for the rest of the night.
However, apathy lost the battle and the rod was dropped off back on the new spot. At 02.25 I was up and out again as the new dam spot produced another bite. This time it was no scamp and after another slow sluggish fight, a large-framed fish was engulfed in my net.
On the trip over we were shown a photo of a fish from the lake we hadn’t previously seen. A lot of the fish in the lake are sparsely scaled mirrors a feature of the Royale strain of fish the lake is stocked with.
The fish in the photo was a brick shaped giant with amazing linear scaling. At the time we discussed how much we would like to catch this fish, and now on rolling the fish in my net onto her side my eyes were greeted by that same linear pattern.
I got her weighed and set up for the photos before I dragged Adam from his bed as I was very conscious that he was doing all the driving home so didn’t want to disturb his sleep any more than necessary.
However, when I told him I had the Linear at 53lb 12oz he bounded from his bed (well more sort of slid out and flopped about in the mud for 10 minutes). The photos for night shots in the water were amazing. After this I spent some time traipsing back down the dam to drop the rod back in, there was no way after that I could leave it against the tempest.
Yet again it was this new spot that signalled a bite at 04.21. This turned out to be a 44lb 6oz mirror. I spent a while looking at this fish but just couldn’t justify waking Adam yet again so took a couple of mat shots and slipped it back.
By this stage I was royally kicking myself for not fishing this spot earlier in the week as it was obviously a great spot. A catfish and two more scamp doubles came through first light. With each take the rod was packed away my cupeth completely over flowing.
The final fish of the week fell to the doc, he had packed everything away including his chesties and with the final rod on the floor waiting to be reeled in off it went.
This saw the doc in his socks up to his gentlemans in the pond playing out a 57lb mirror.
This was a perfect book end to the trip which started with a fifty caught with a rod sitting on the floor and ended in the same way. After showers we got Jimmy to do a mock trophy presentation to Adam and I which meant Mrs Jim was happy as the sex toy was now out of her house.
The trip back up country always seems to take longer than the trip down. I assume this is because it is uphill.
I was no use to poor Adam as I was knackered and could hardly keep my eyes open let alone entertain him with witty repartee (well fart gags is usually as good as it gets).
He did a sterling job and we were soon sitting in the queue for the ferry watching border officials searching through the back of dodgy-looking trucks. We had been embroiled in a fart battle for the last 100 miles, if they had opened up the back of our car I am fairly sure the smell of us and loads of wet fishing gear would have resulted in a fatality.