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Ben Wales doesn’t think twice when he’s offered a chance to visit Rainbow Lake.
Just a few months ago I didn’t think it was possible to get a place at Lac du Curton, aka Rainbow Lake. The Lake has rightly become so very popular and bookings are taken by only a select few who are able to fill the respective sessions in a heartbeat. So you can imagine my surprise when an old friend contacted me asking if I’d like to go. I didn’t even give him chance to finish asking before uttering, “YES! YES! YES!”
With only several weeks to prepare I relied heavily on the information provided by those who have fished there before. Nick Maddix, joint organiser of the Northern Angling Show, happened to be in the swim I would be fishing just a few weeks before my adventure, so he proved a useful font of knowledge, as did our editor Simon Crow, who has fished the Lake many times. However, it was John Walker of Cygnet Tackle who provided me with an ‘Idiot’s Guide to Rainbow’ in the form of a practical checklist and a detailed guide to overcoming the Lake’s many obstacles. He also included the footnote: “Nothing, and I mean nothing, can prepare you for your first take... it’s frightening!” Thanks for that, John.
It’s been a long time since I’d been so excited about a fishing trip and I struggled to sleep the night before setting off. The journey down past Bordeaux with Derek Fell flew past and as we went we hooked up with many of the others in the party who would be fishing at the same time. Once at the Lake, I soon realised it wasn’t at all like stepping foot on the moon, and after seeing a few fish show and an angler in the neighbouring swim land a fish, I have to admit feeling very confident.
It took an age to get the rods out and it was dark by the time we put the bivvies up. Utterly exhausted, sleep was easy to come by and I was up before first light the following morning, brew in hand and soaking up the atmosphere, when one of my rods lurched forward in a manner that had me thinking it was about to snap! Before I could even get out of the starting blocks I knew what was on the end of the line because a great big sturgeon jumped clear of the water 120 yards away right over my spot! About an hour after taming that demented thing, I was attached to my first Rainbow carp – and what a buzz that was, knowing what colossal fish the Lake holds! Unfortunately my main line picked up an obstruction on top of a shallow bar. Jumping in the boat I soon freed the line from the lake bed, only to find it attached to something else further along the same bar. Thankfully I managed to work the line free and play the fish into the net without any more mishaps. The common probably weighed around 20lb, but it could have been a world record for all I cared – I was on top of the world.
The next few days were amazing as I battled to overcome the many bream that took a liking to my Krill hookbaits; in fact it wasn’t just the bream that liked them, so did the roach and tench. Collectively they were giving my hookbaits a real battering. After 48 hours I’d seen more bream than I cared for and all the disturbance with the boat was potentially costing me carp. Before travelling out to France I had experimented with the breakdown times of various hookbaits, but I had not taken into consideration the plentiful stock of silver fish that would be playing football with each and every hookbait I tried. It was only after I switched over to some 20mm Sticky Krill wafters that I felt remotely confident there would be a hookbait remaining in a few hours. I’ve no doubt on many occasions I was fishing with a 12-inch zig rig after my snowman hookbait had been destroyed. Perhaps some less attractive hookbaits would have been the way to go. It seems mad to say that, but the anglers to my right were not suffering with the bream. Fishing only a short way from me they were actually using smaller hookbaits tipped with plastic corn and yet it was me who was getting plagued by snotties.
The next few days saw a bit of a pattern emerging. We’d start the day with a fish, followed by fresh croissants delivered to the swim and bacon sandwiches, then top up the spots with a little bait and were kept on our toes by the occasional take in the late afternoon. Undoubtedly the highlight of the session for me was banking both a personal best common and mirror in the same morning. I wish I could say the same for Derek, but with a PB nudging a ton there was no way he’d by clocking any major milestones. Still, it was a pleasure to share the adventure with him and he did chip in with a stunning 40¼lb common. That demented sturgeon I mentioned came back a few days later, tormenting me again late one night, and I also had a strange night-time boat battle with what I was sure was a double or twenty. Approaching the bank Derek asked what I had and I replied, “A little ’un.” Well that “little ’un” piled on the pounds whilst waiting in the net and registered 51½lb on the scales!
With the bulk of the action coming to the right of the swim we decided to switch sides for the last night, but the weather took a turn for the worse and we endured a severe downpour throughout the night. Poor Derek was out in the boat a couple of times and somehow managed to lose a fish in the middle of the deluge.
Things went from bad to worse as we were late up on the final morning and had loads of kit to pack away. Wet through, covered in sand and looking very dirty, we did our best to help one of the new arrivals who had picked up a puncture, which further delayed our departure, and then we discovered French rural petrol stations still close at lunchtime on a Saturday. By the time we arrived at the ‘La Shuttle’ crossing we had missed our gate time and were told we were going nowhere until the following day. Sleeping in the van was not what I had in mind to finish the session, but I guess it all adds to the memories.