A brief hour of spring !

It is raining today, was raining yesterday and is due to rain tomorrow. Yesterday also saw a couple of painful hailstorms arrive, leaving me rather wet and stung by their ferocity, and in between we had a brief moment of springlike weather. I had been cutting down the weeping willow on the end of the spit at the top end of the lake and took a moments breather, sitting on the bank edge in my chesties with a large willow branch draped over my legs. The sun burst out from the heavy cloud cover and for around 10 minutes I could feel its warmth on my back, the birds were singing and to top it all there was a huge patch of fizzing no more than 30m from where I sat. The carp were feeding in grand fashion and as i watched the patch of bubbles started to separate into individual lines of bubbles as the carp spread out. I would estimate that there were around half a dozen good fish feeding in an area that was no more than a couple of feet deep. A happy interlude that came to an abrupt end when another band of rain swept across the lake, dousing the sunlight and encouraging me to start work once more.

The willow had to be felled due to the bark being completely eaten all round the lower part of the trunk by coypu. With no bark to carry nutrients up the tree it just withers and dies so our only choice was to cut it down to ground level and hope it will spring anew from the roots upwards. Sad really as this was one of the tree’s that we planted when we first purchased the fishery in winter of 2005 and it also looks like the weeping willow on the island may have to be removed as well, for the same reasons. We have trapped 9 coypu and a handful of muskies in recent weeks and will continue trapping all year to hopefully avoid any further tree damage.

This week has seen Lottie and i toiling away with the task of clearing all the scrub and ailing tree’s adjacent to the ‘stalking spit’ up in the shallows and with several good size tree’s already being downed by last years storms there was plenty to cut up, burn or stack, leaving the area far more open than you regulars will be used to. You will now be able to see all the way through to the new channels that we have dug this winter. One thing that we are noticing is that when you have an area completely overhung with tree’s the lake bottom soon gets clogged up with dead leaves making it pretty unattractive to insect life as well as the carp. We are gradually reducing the tree population all round the lake and with the removal of the old, past their best, tree’s so that we then can replant with a wider selection of more interesting ones.

A bad note was that whilst I was cutting back the undergrowth with a metal bladed brushcutter I exposed a couple of beer bottles that some kind angler had disposed of. If I had hit the bottles with the brushcutter the glass would have exploded outwards and possible given me a nasty injury. It makes my blood boil thinking that we still have the occasional guest that abuses the place in that way !! Although we are lucky in as much that the type of angler we attract is generally the ‘best sort’ who respects the carp, the wildlife and the fishery we still get objectionable things occurring. Last year we had a nice chap and his son fishing ‘Deliverance’ on a self catering basis and also another of the party was fishing the adjacent swim, ‘Island’. On the Saturday after they had left I took the newly arrived anglers for the customary walk round, in this case they were some old friends that are real country lovers. My dog Kai took an unhealthy interest in the undergrowth around ‘Deliverance’ and on investigation I was shocked to find an enormous amount of discarded food including chicken bones, chop bones and an assortment of other food items. I imagine the bin bag was full so it easy option is to feed the rats instead of asking for a replacement !! On ‘Island’ we filled a small bucket up with discarded cigarette buts (and similar !) that had just been thrown onto the gravel ! We also had a nice ‘gentleman’ that spent a week up at Poppy’s Lake without once being seen to visit the toilet block. Yes, you’ve guessed right – he used the lakeside as his own private ‘convenience’ ! A lovely discovery for Sophie when her dog found and rolled in one particular pile.

Anyway, less of the moaning and lets look forward to the coming season. I am off for a week now but on my return will be hard at it to ensure all is ship shape for our first anglers. Jimmy has been working on the cottage for a few months now so his time around the lake has been limited. We still have plenty to do but I feel sure that all will be well when the first lads arrive. The carp have had a quiet winter, without being disturbed by all the catfish and pike that have now been removed, and we have fed them (in Etang du Mee) less than in previous winters. This is in the hope that they will have made significant inroads into the natural food stocks by the time spring arrives and will be keen on some extra nutrition in the form of anglers bait. From the start of March we will be feeding our pellet and boilies into both lakes to encourage the carp to treat them as a natural food source however I would suggest that one rod is fished with a few grains of maize in the early weeks. I am also in the process of purchasing some of the Cotswold Graviers XL cradles which are just about the best around for carp care. With the size of our carp it is essential that we ensure handling is as comfortable and safe as possible for the fish and I feel that the addition of such quality cradles will help in that. One rule addition for this year is that all pictures of carp must be taken with the angler having at least one knee on the ground at all times. The fashionable ‘crouching’ position will no longer be allowed.

Poppy’s Lake is starting to come to life now with the higher stocking density meaning that the carp are more dependent on the food we put in. We see plenty of bubbling here and it is evident that the fish will move onto the food within minutes of application. Hungry fish ! The feeding regime here is now moving over more to pellet to ensure that the carp are in top condition for the start of the season and we are quite excited to see how weights are panning out this year. It is a funny thought that Poppy’s is much like the main lake was in our early days. It would be nice to see the carp prosper and grow in the same way that they have in Etang du Mee. An exciting season ahead methinks.

I will not be posting now for around 10 days when I will update you on all happenings at Le Moulin du Mee.

Sunny days.

We have enjoyed 4 days of cold nights and bright sunny days which has been just about perfect for enabling us to continue with our tasks around the lakes. A couple of days was spent on clearing the debris from the two poplars that we had taken down from the bank of Poppy’s lake and now all the logs are neatly stacked up and the remaining branches piled in dark little corners of the land. We often burn the debris but of late have been making carefully placed stacks which are proving a boon for the wildlife. The little birds such as wrens, robins, tree creepers, etc love the protection that these stacks of branches give them as good old fashioned hedgerows are hard to come by these days. As a consequence the sparrow hawks have been having a field day with their prey having little winter cover to hide in. We also now stack up the old, decaying wood thus providing home for a myriad of insects which in turn provides a nice larder for the birdlife. On the main lake the grebes have put in a welcome appearance and we now have two pairs in situ, hopefully they will stay to breed this year. Yesterday the first skein of cranes passed over, a sure sign that spring is just around the corner.

The carp are still enjoying their winters rest and although we are seeing plenty of signs of them it would seem that the low temperatures are damping down their appetite. On the main lake we are sometimes seeing the odd vortex indicating that a big fish has turned underwater and during the sunny days it is apparent that some of them are paying the shallows a visit. Having said that the water remains clear, a sure indication that the carp are not feeding with any real enthusiasm. On Poppy’s lake things are more advanced and we are seeing plenty of movement all over the lake. Nothing dramatic like jumping but instead the odd swirl and vortex that moves plenty of water. With the high stock of carp that are in Poppy’s we are now starting to think about the spring feeding programme in earnest and tomorrow will see 50 kilo of cooked maize being put out and as the temperatures pick up in the coming weeks we will move more onto pellet with a sprinkling of boilies. The main lake has seen regular feeding of wheat this year and I will wait for the water temperature to reach double figures before starting the application of pellet and boilies. For us it is very exciting seeing the land and lakes gradually coming alive after the slumber of winter and we have reached that time of year when each day is different – sunny and warm, icy with hail and the odd cloudburst of ‘serious’ rain have all been experienced in the past week. The buds are ripening on the tree’s and when the sun is shining the tree line has that rich shimmer of new growth just waiting to spring forth.

As ever we still have plenty of work to keep us busy in the coming weeks however a sobering thought is that in just 4 weeks time our first anglers will be wetting a line with us. All we have to do is repair several swims, clear the spit at the top end of the main lake, hardcore some of the tracks once more, tile the pergola roof on Poppy’s lake, re-gravel the parking area, build another swim on Poppy’s (Jimmy’s job), repair several small leaks in the dam, have a general tidy up and then look forward to a long summers rest !! Happy days indeed !

I have posted below a few pictures of the lake partly iced up yesterday and a rainbow following a hailstorm today. For you regulars a peek at the top end will show how things have changed this year. If you click on the pictures you will see them enlarged somewhat enabling more detail to be picked out.

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Real winter weather.

Since my last post the weather has become much colder with daytime temperatures barely getting above 1c and night temperatures dropping a good 5 degree’s or so. On the bright side the rain has gone and the strong north wind and occasional sunshine is ensuring that the ground is drying up nicely. Lottie and I have been working along the dam doing the usual clearing tasks to ensure all the new growth can come through unhindered by old dead shrubbery and cutting back the hedgerow willows. The willows are quite amazing tree’s in as much they can grow over 4m per year so to keep them under control we have to cut them right back to ground level each winter leaving us with several truck loads of willow to dispose of. All good fun when the weather is dry and the cold is not a problem so long as you keep on the move !

The lake is starting to look nice and fresh with all the new water although the clarity of the water would indicate that the carp are sulking in the low temperatures. Last week the lake carried a lot of colour and occasional carp would be seen moving whereas now the only fish we see are the regular silver shower of scattering fry trying to evade the marauding pike and perch. The kingfishers are still around in good numbers and the egrets have returned so along with the ducks and moorhens the lake is far from quiet. In fact one of the real bonus’s this week is that along with the sunshine the songbirds have started their spring serenading reminding us that just another few weeks and spring will be upon us.

We have just had 8 full grown poplars cut down from behind the cottage and it is really something to see the tree surgeon climbing to the very top, chainsaw in hand, and start dismantling them from the top down. We now have several tons of wood in the form of cut up trunks and branches lying around waiting for us to clear them. A spring job methinks ! We also have had a couple of very large poplars cut down on the banks of Poppy’s lake so that Jimmy can build another swim without worrying about falling branches squashing one of our anglers !

Well, all is looking good and despite still having plenty to do we are eagerly awaiting the start of the season. I am determined to wet a line myself sometime next month but at my time of life a nice balmy evening is needed to trigger me into breaking out the rods once more.

Happy days !

2015 vacancies.

I have just had a chance to sort out what vacancies we still have for 2015 on Etang du Mee and have listed them below. They are available on a first come basis and should go quite quickly.

May 23 – 3 places

July 4 – 2 places

July 10 – 3 places

October 23 – 1 place

November 7 – week available.

There are still plenty of weeks free on Poppy’s as we have not as yet advertised the venue. Email if interested and I can give you the latest availability.

Ramblings !

Work is well underway on the new spawning channels and although I am busily digging and moving huge amounts of sticky blue clay I am leaving the tidying up and fine work to Jimmy who is far more practised at handling a digger than I am. The weather has stayed fine for a few days now which has been a great help although temperatures have dropped considerably since my last post and next week will see the mercury dropping to new lows for the year. We may even have a little snow but nothing that should disrupt the work schedule. Next week we are off buying tree’s and new plants to replace the old stuff that has been removed so the future is bright even if the weather isn’t.

The carp have become less active as the temperatures have dropped although Poppy’s is still being heavily fed and many of the carp are keeping on the move as a consequence. On the main lake all is quiet with just the odd carp rolling in the evening however the remaining pike are becoming more active and are to be seen feeding well just off the dam.

It is a typical mid winter with our tasks taking over our life for the most part and time always chases along with the new season looming just 8 weeks away. I am sure that as ever we will be faced with a hectic final couple of weeks to ensure that all is ready but with spring arriving along with the first anglers it is a time we eagerly look forward to.

On the subject of the new season, it is apparent that the fishery is evolving as we always hoped it would however it is fair to say that not everyone will be happy with the Le Moulin du Mee of today when compared with where we were a few years ago. That seems a strange statement to be made by a fishery owner but I have never believed tarting up the facts just to put ‘bums on seats’ and never will. We built our reputation in the early days as a friendly fishery where you were sure to catch plenty of hard fighting carp and perhaps may bank a 30 or two to add spice to your week. As the years rolled by we started producing plenty of 40’s as well as the 20’s and 30’s and the fishing remained fairly easy although perhaps a tad harder that the early days. Once again the management of the fishery saw the biomass being reduced to allow for continued growth and although we maintained a stock that on paper would be regarded as far to high for the size of the lake we felt that all was well and the lads kept catching and the carp kept growing. Last year we got our comeuppance for perhaps being to greedy and believing that we could achieve the impossible -.be a runs water with stacks of big carp !! Not to be and the spring fish kill that we suffered was natures way of putting right and imbalance that we had created. It is not as simple as that really but the fact is we now have a reduced stock of carp compared to a couple of years ago. Strangely, I was preparing to reduce the stock anyway this winter and had discussed the fact we some of our early season regulars so the loss was not as devastating as it could have been. Our situation as we prepare for the 2015 season is one that we are very happy with having around 280 carp including some smaller fish that we added at the end of the year. The amount of 50lb and upwards fish is truly staggering compared to just a few years ago and the back up stock is mainly fish from high 30’s to high 40’s with perhaps 40 smaller fish. Now that is all well and good, we are now in the premier league of French carp fisheries and offer our anglers the chance to bag some real lunkers that have grown on naturally in our lake. The downside is that some of the anglers that have been with us since the early days still want to catch a hatfull of carp just as they did then with the bonus being that now they will be twice the size ! Happy days indeed if life ran like that however as you will all know the twist in the tail is that as the carp get bigger they also get a damn sight more difficult to catch. It is still possible to catch a lot of carp, some big carp or even a lot of big carp at Le Moulin du Mee but it is now possible to struggle to catch at all if conditions or approach are lacking. For the anglers that hanker after the early days all is not lost though – we now have Poppy’s lake stacked full of carp up to mid 30’s offering the chance to have a bend in the rod on a regular basis. Some groups now book both lakes to ensure that they can have some good action when things are quiet on the main lake and we even have some lads that have opted to book Poppy’s for the sheer amount of carp they can catch rather than sit it out on Du Mee in the hope of meeting a big girl or two. In fact Poppy’s is much like the main lake in the early days so all is well in that regard. All in all I am very happy at where we are and just hope that those of you that visit Le Moulin du Mee for the first time this year will come well armed with the true facts of what to expect. The fishing on Du Mee is certainly challenging but by no means hard – unless you hit a week that mother nature has deemed to be a ‘punisher’ !! Use a good quality bait, be prepared to use it in good amounts, think about your fishing and be prepared to vary your approach depending on conditions. I think that it is fair to say that our regulars are for the most part damn good anglers and they usually do well and it would be sensible for newcomers to listen to advice given by them if you share a week. Read the blog and go back over the years to see what works and what doesn’t and always ask questions if you are in doubt. I am always pleased to answer any question and the blog has the facility to add a comment – should that be a question then you can bet you will get some of our regulars answering you as well as myself. If nothing else then just enjoy being next to a lovely lake, hearing huge fish crash, watching the kingfishers and listening to the birdlife. And best of all you can even buy me a beer if you are lucky !! Happy days indeed.

The migrating sturgeon !

Today is once again wet and windy however we have enjoyed a few days of warm sunshine since my last post so work has been moving along nicely and spirits are high. It is always a surprise to me to see how the carp react to weather changes so readily, even in winter and we have seen plenty of carp bubbling merrily away just off the dam and whilst we are working the odd carp can be heard crashing out in the middle of the lake. As soon as the temperature drops and the rain moves in the carp appear to go dormant once more so it would seem that they have much in common with us.

We had an interesting happening a day or so ago when I found a sturgeon swimming around in water so shallow that it didn’t even cover its back. We have been letting water in from Poppy’s lake of late and the sturgeon was following the flow upstream like they would do at spawning time in the wild. As all our sturgeon are single sex there is no chance of spawning ever happening but it goes to show that the instinct to travel upstream to the spawning beds is always there. I took a couple of pictures which are posted below. Jimmy did well as he had to tail the fish the water being to shallows to use a net.

We are still seeing plenty of kingfishers around and they are a welcome sight when all else is dreary. In then afternoon we have had lots of fry dimpling the surface and the kingfishers will chose this as a good time to feed. The herons are also regular visitors to both lakes at this time and in good numbers. The strange thing this year is that we are seeing very few egrets when in past years they have outnumbered their grey cousins. We have a couple on Poppy’s lake but that is about it although we have had a few more night herons than normal so the fry are still taking a bashing ! On Poppy’s the carp are keeping very active and as soon as the pellet and wheat is put in they can be seen hard on the feed within minutes. It is good to see as we are hoping that by the time the season opens weights here will be well up on last year.

Anyway, a couple of pictures of Jimmy tailing the sturgeon.

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Damp and dreary weather but lively carp !

The weather is very mild at the moment but the grey overcast conditions are giving us plenty of light, mizzly rain making the whole landscape dreary and damp. On the brighter side the mild conditions have certainly livened up the carp and this afternoon I witnessed loads of carp crashing around in Poppy’s Lake and the occasional heavy swirl in the main lake. Jimmy went out in the boat today to take the oxygen levels (very high) and disturbed two big shoals of carp in relatively shallow water. They were in front of ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Sams’ in water that with the level still well down will have been no more than 3ft deep. It is interesting that when we are in the close season we will often find lots of carp happily feeding in the very shallow water, even when it is quite cold. There are lots of buzzer shucks floating along the downwind shore meaning that the bloodworm are continuing to go through their life cycle and I am in no doubt that that is what the carp are currently feeding on. With that in mind we have started feeding pellet again as well as lots of maize and wheat ensure they don’t become overly preoccupied on naturals.

Today has been one of those days where you crack on from dawn on necessary jobs but never really feel that much is achieved. Visits to the local dump, the agricultural store to buy more wheat and maize, getting the wheat soaking nicely in dustbins at both lakes and starting the fire under the maize cauldron. All normal day to day jobs in the winter but made more unpleasant by the constant drizzle and having to wheelbarrow everything around the lakes due to the muddy conditions. It is all very well having a tractor and a 4 wheel drive truck but when things are as muddy as they now to use them would give us so much more work sorting out the ruts they make. The main lake is filling nicely and the water has that lovely fresh look as a consequence of draining the old ‘tired’ water out in November and just allowing the springs to fill the lake naturally. After last years problems with water quality we have now decided to drain the lake partially every winter to not only sweeten the water but also to open up much of the lake bed to the air and frosts which in turn will facilitate much better bacterial breakdown of the silt during the summer. We are also in the process of sourcing our barley straw ready for spring so that we can (hopefully) ensure that we do not have a serious algae bloom this year. With the biomass of the main lake drastically reduced I believe that not only will water quality be so much better than before but also growth rates should be boosted as the carp feed without being surrounded by catfish and pike. I know that most of our carp are far to big for either predator to feed upon but the carp will still become unsettled with so many cats and pike around. We are also expecting the roach to spawn with more success this year providing more competition for the carp when it comes to bloodworm although what impact the perch will have is yet to be seen.

Tomorrow we will be finally clearing all the downed (and drowned) tree’s from the Home Bank. Jimmy had to use the digger to pull them onto the bank after felling so my job is cutting them up and disposal – logs and bonfires that means ! On Monday I will commence the digging operation up by the shallows. Hopefully all will go well and if the weather brightens up I will post a few pictures.

Happy New Year

Well, I have just arrived back to France and am itching to get cracking with the projects we have started. The digger is ready and waiting for me up at the shallows so all being well I hope to get started on the landscaping and digging out of the new spawning channels that I have mentioned in earlier posts. The lake level is still deliberately low to help with this task and although Jimmy reported it frozen over for a few days at the turn of the year it is now clear and carp are starting to be seen once more. I think that the removal of the remaining catfish will have helped them settle quickly after the rigours of the netting and they would seem to be feeding well whenever the conditions are favourable. We have lots of timber to clear from the Home bank which I cut down prior to the Christmas break so that will be another task for the days ahead. The blocking off of the area between the spits is now complete and the causeway between ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Island’ swims is being left to settle after being built up further. We will be  ensuring that access will be available for both swims to help with playing the big fish that may kite around the little island (no longer an island but now the end of the causeway !). Poppy’s lake remains alive with carp whatever the weather and we will be carrying out further work here before the start of the season. One important job is the tiling of the pergola roof that will provide a nice covered eating area as well as space for the gas bbq. The feeding programme for Poppy’s continues with wheat and maize and in a few more weeks we will most likely be back on the pellet once more. They should be piling on the weight and it will be especially interesting to see how well the new commons have settled in. I will be wetting a line here once the conditions warm up – just part of the job you understand !

While I have been away Jimmy has kept himself busy helping our carpenter building the new oak framed roof on the cottage. It has been a real labour of love as the little building is showing the structural weakness that 500 years of neglect have left us with. Once finished and extended it will be where Lottie and I will be living so we are very excited about how it is progressing. Slow work but well worth it and hopefully by the time our first anglers arrive the roof should be back on and the extension well underway ! Having said that our French builder is proving rather elusive. He turned up at the end of November and said he would be arriving on the following Monday to start work – we have not seen him since ! Such is life.

Merry Christmas.

I am away from LMDM for a couple of weeks (although Jimmy is still working around the lake) and I will be back in early January. Lots to do on my return to get the lakes looking their best in readiness for our first anglers of 2015 but with the netting now out of the way we can concentrate on the tree cutting, planting, digging out, path renewal, etc, etc. Hopefully January will see a good long cold spell arriving to kill off the various bugs and bacteria that lay dormant at this time of the year. It is one of the reasons that it is always good to lower the water levels in winter thus expsosing much of the lake bed to the frosts that we normally experience in January and February. I also feel that the carp themselves settle far better when we have ‘proper seasons’ instead of the long autumn, early spring scenario that we have seen in recent years. I spoke to Jimmy this morning and it would seem that the carp are becoming quite active again in the milder weather with both lakes having plenty of carp rolling and stirring up the bottom. In response Jimmy has been putting pellet out in both lakes and will be cooking plenty of maize in the coming weeks. Once I return I will put up regular updates including pictures where applicable but until then all of the team at LMDM would like to extend their best wishes for Christmas and the new year.

                                                                      MERRY CHRISTMAS

A miserable time of year !

I must confess to having a long standing dislike for this time of year at the fishery. Work continues despite cold and wet weather and the ground rapidly becomes churned up giving the impression that is more like the first world war pictures of the Somme than what we are used to in out little corner of France. The tracks are covered in mud and the 4 wheel drive truck just slides and slivers around creating even more of a mess whenever we have to use it. Where the digger has been moved around the lake there is a trail consisting of lumps of sticky silty clay and where we have cut down the old tree’s into the lake they just slowly sink into the silt and make life pretty difficult when it comes to removing them.. A good hard frost would be most welcome and certainly makes the work a good bit more ‘enjoyable’ than the damp weather that we are experiencing. On a brighter note our winter residents of terns, snowy egrets and heron are all enjoying the opportunities that exposed lake bed offers and the grebes and many kingfishers are happily feeding away on the fry. The carp have been very quiet since the netting and other than the occasional swirl they are content to lie up close to the dam and patiently wait for the lake to fill up once more. In fact the level of the water has now reached the main island and being just natural spring water has given the lake a lovely fresh look that is far removed from the green soup that we had for much of the latter stages of last season. The water is much clearer even though there are patches continuing to be stirred up by feeding carp and dissolved oxygen levels are high and steady. We have been feeding Poppy’s Lake heavily in the last couple of weeks with a mixture of wheat and maize and although the carp are not showing as they do in the summer the water remains very stirred up as the fish continue to feed. We have left the carp in the main lake to feed on naturals and will only start the winter feeding programme when water levels have gone up a good bit. With the reduction in the overall biomass of around a ton of fish there should be plenty of bloodworm and other naturals to keep them happy for a week or two. We have decided to add another 30 smaller carp to the main lake before the start of the season to encourage more competition for food. This should bring us back to a stock level around the 300 mark and also ensure that we have some younger carp following through for the future. The interesting fact about our big carp is that they are still relatively young with most of them being no more than 15 or 16 years old. The Brenne Royales, which have now reached up to 60lb’s, will be younger still as they were only 2 to 3 years old when we acquired the fishery on winter 2005. The Brenne’s certainly appear to be faster growing but I believe that the Champagne Royales that we stocked in December 2005 have far greater potential for heavy weights due to their bigger frames.

Well, tea break over so I suppose I will have to don the waders and start trying to drag out the tree’s that I felled yesterday ! Better than a day in the office but mucky work none the less. Roll on the spring is what I say.