Center Parcs; for some, hell on earth, for others, the very definition of a great holiday. I must admit it’s probably not the type of break I would have chosen a few years ago, but with two young lads and various family members accompanying us, off we went for a long weekend of water rapids, zip slides, subtropical swimming, cycling and half a million (give or take) other people…
There is a fishing section on the main lake and on the first morning I ventured down to have a go. It was ridiculous. The lake was swarming with common and mirror carp in the eight ounce to one pound range and, no matter what bait I cast out, the result was the same. Farcical fishing and not much fun. I packed up and headed back to the ranch within the hour.
After exploring the parc a bit more, I found a smaller lake of about an acre, tucked away behind some of the chalets near to our base. The next morning I decided to head down for an hour, just to see if there may be a few better fish/less of the mini carp than the main lake.
The little devils were still there, but occasionally a better carp would appear away from the competing throng to take the odd crust that had drifted into the open water. I managed to target them in this way – feeding a good handful of crusts by the snags close-in and then free-lining a larger crust well away from the splashy hordes. The best fish was a nice common of around six pounds that at least took a bit of thought in catching.
I also spent an evening on a local club water that I’d heard held a few decent tench and a small population of genuine crucian carp, as well as plenty of roach and bream.
On arrival I was pleasantly surprised by what was a mature, tree-lined venue with plenty of natural features including large patches of lily pads, rushes, inlets and bays and some sweeping gravel bars.
I quickly set up a light float rod and threaded the 3.2lb Bayer line through the rings, slid on a little waggler and finished the set-up with a size 16 hook, baited with a single grain of corn. It was then a case of simply loose feeding small pouches of little, feed pellets with a bit of hemp and the odd golden grain.
After an hour and a half in the first swim without a touch and no sign of life, I decided to move to a more open area with a little bed of pads close in. By now the sun was dipping rapidly and I only had another hour or so before dusk. The light clouds that had been drifting innocuously overhead had also started to thicken and darken as they moved over the valley.
At last, a bite!, but a missed one. And the next, before, finally, a skimmer of a pound or so came to the net. Blank avoided. I then had another skimmer, then a bream of three pounds before it went quiet again. Soon though, I began to get some very finicky, barely-there bites that I couldn’t hit. Then, something a little more positive – fish on. I can’t say it was a particularly memorable scrap, but whatever it was, was certainly putting up a bit more resistance than the skimmers, a small tench perhaps? And then I saw a deep, golden flank – a crucian!
As the big old cru went over the net I knew it was good one and on the scales it went 2 pounds and 6 ounces – completely obliterating my old personal best. Now I’m no expert on crucian identification. But from what the bailiff told me, the venue has a small, old stock of genuine crucian carp. The fish had no barbules of any sort and had that wonderful, buttery hue and an incredibly deep profile. I’m convinced it’s a tru cru and it was a lovely fish. A sublime fish.
I thought I may be in for another cru as the finicky bites continued. But the next positive bite resulted not in the gentle yet stubborn resistance of a crucian, but instead the brute force of a good common carp that tested my light float gear to its very limit and completely trashed the swim as it plunged around.
As I started to pack up the first drops of rain began to fall and by the time I reached the car, a heavy thunderstorm had erupted. It was a wild end to a fun evening.