Pike fishing in Brittany - a quick trip

Everyone knows France is the carp capital of the north of Europe, but less known is they have some superb pike fishing available. I had a Dorado to deliver to a customer in Brittany (thanks to the demise of a certain courier company that it was due to go over with....) anyway, it wasn't all bad. The new owner arranged a couple of days fishing for me/us while I was over, so I made a weekend of it.

I didn't know France could be so cold. They don't get the same influence from the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drfit that we do, the temperature on Saturday night dropped to -5 and it didn't get above 1 degree on Sunday at all. It was COLD.

Anyway, it all started the day befor, we drove across on Friday afternoon and evening to the Lac du Guerledan, near Lorient and just outside the small town of Mur de Bretagne. We went to the town hall (Mairie) to get our licenses and find out as much as we could from the local Chairman of the Angling Association - to be fair he was very helpful. We went back to the camper van with sheafs of maps and booklets to make a plan for th efollowing day, based on what we could see on the maps and the information provided.

The lake is a reservoir for the hydro electric plant at Mur de Bretagne and is VERY deep, nearly as deep as Windermere. It holds a very big population of Zander (sandre in France) to 20lbs plus, but with the majority being in the 3lb - 7lb bracket. There is also a good head of pike (brochet) and because of the difference in their habits the pike and Zander rarely coincide. The pike are found around the shallow margins while the Zander inhabit the deeps around structure. My fishfinder was going to be a godsend, I don't often use it but took it this time - a new venue I generally do because you can use all the help you can get!

We launched on the Saturday morning a bit late, due to an over indulgence of traditional brews. Grin and staying up late watching fishing videos on lure fishing, Zander fishing (with some of over 25lbs being landed) and a pike fishing video (again with pike coming out of over 35lbs!) from the river Seine. They have some fantastic fishing over there and it is going to get better because the current generation have virtually no interest in going fishing.

Anyway, it was a glorious morning and we tackled up in the autumn sunshine. I had a lure rod and my fly rod (a #10 outfit, my old one - thanks Virgin Airlines! They still haven't found it.... Huh Angry)
Anyway, we had decided to head west for the narrow section where there are a series of locks sunk below the waves. These were the old locks of the Nantes - Brest canal, now they are covered by about 60 feet of water mostly and are where the Zander hang out. There are some on shallower water further along which we hoped might be the hidy hole of some pike.
The paddle was beautiful. It was a calm day, there was a clear blue sky and we were full of hope with the warmth of the sun pouring into the shallows, always an attraction for pike where they will often go to lie and bask.

We fished hard, we found structure and tried vertical jigging for Zander. We found shallower structure and fished covering the entire water with fly and lures - all to no effect whatever. We didn't even get a follow. To be fair, the locals were out in force (don't they do any work in France!) trying for a Sandre for the pot. By the close of play only one angler had managed to winkle out one sandre of about 1kgs, 2.5lbs at most. It was gutted and going home for supper. We came home empty handed but having had a fabulous day. I had even tried to catch birds on a jointed X-Rap by casting twice, in succession, inot the pine trees - I thought maybe they might work for a heron! It goes to show how unpractised I am with a spinning rod. Grin Thankfully, I got my lure back both times, it was a favourite and usually very effective.

That evening we were more restrained and went to bed early - Philippe's camper van is very comfortable and the heater was running flat out to keep us warm, very warm! Bretagne crepes were our supper and only a few glasses of vin chaud (a Bretagne version of gluvein). to wash them down. No videos and into our sacks by 10 ready for an early assault on the shallows of the eastern end in the morning.

The next day we were up and on the water before the sun rose (illegal by the way - interdit avant le soleil s'elever!) But, we weren't really fishing, just taking the opportunity to take some pictures off the pontoon. It did give us an early start though.

Then we paddled off for the far end. As we paddled we saw several fish on the surface, so got distrated casting for them, another anomaly of French fishing is it is illegal to troll. I still think what we saw were perch hunting small fish. There weren't sprays of small fish, and a big swirl, like you get with pike.

This was a splashy rise and just individual fish hunting just below the surface. We carried on after half an hour, the end we were heading for was only about 4kms, so a short paddle away. We made an easy pace, accompanied by the cries from hounds and the odd report from the woodcock shooters - the cold had caused a good fall of woodcock overnight and the local hunters were making the most of the opportunity.

It was absolutely perishing. By the time we paddled to the far end my fingers had gone completely numb and I had to go ashore on the sandy beach and do a warm up dance, flinging my arms around like a demented demon in an attempt to get life back into the extremeties, at both ends, I hadn't realised how cold my feet were too. After 30 minutes or so of this caper I felt ready to go back on the water and try for a pike in the shallow bay we had identified as being a likely spot.

I had also tackled up my fly rod on the beach, swapping it for th elure rod. I have great confidence in the fly, it really can work when lures will not. Philippe covered the entire bay, fan casting a variety of lures while I surveyed it with the sounder. It was about 30 feet deep at the most, so a constant depth of between 15 and 20 feet for the most of the bay - PERFECT! Wink

I set up a drift across the bay with the drogue deployed to allow me time to fish several casts at each area as I drifted. There were some fallen trees lying down the beach into the water, they made good markers and in warmer water would be perfect lies for pike, I felt they would be out in a bit deeper water where the temperature would be more stable. The surface layer was very cold.

I had drifted about 50 yards, putting out a decent cast from the sitting position of about 23 yards, not quite 25. I could get the fly to go 25 yards, but too often the line lying in your lap tangles, and it is more productive to put out a slightly shorter cast with fewer line tangles, so that is my approach. The sinking line gave me good distance with ease and got the fly down about 6 or 8 feet without having to wait an age for it to sink, as you would with an intermediate. I have found I catch more fish off the kayak with a sinking line at all times.

Anyway, I was just past the fallen trees and had retrieved the line back to the sinking head section when it went solid. At first I thought I had snagged, then I felt the tell tale head shake and the line was ripped out of my hands as the fish ran strongly. I caught the line and played the fish by hand, with so much line in my lap I didn't want to risk trying to wind the line from the bottom onto the reel while handling as well, in warmer temperature and more supple line I would have. The fish fought really hard, putting in 5 or 6 powerful runs, one or two of 15 yards or more. I played it out and she came to the surface, laying there quietly until I put a bit of pressure on to bring her to hand.....whooosh, off she went again. I brought her back up and got the camera out - got this not brilliant picture of her about 5 yards from the kayak

She was an OK fish, nothing huge - but a really good fish for my first Bretagne brochet, and a decent size for the lake with their take for the pot policy. Roll Eyes I gently guided her to the kayak and gilled her. SUCCESS, with my fingers gently under her gill cover she was going nowhere now.

I lifted her out and Philippe did the honours with the camera (and the previous one, of course!) Thaks Philippe!

I forgot to measure her in the excitement and wanting to get her back in the water after an arduous fight in cold water, that means the pike would have little energy left. She was a good fish, but not huge - 10lbs or thereabouts, it doesn't really matter, it was our only fishof the trip and it had fallen to a fly I tied that had taken a good number of fish in the past. It was getting a bit tatty and so when I lost it a few casts later I wasn't too upset. i have a couple more the same and I shall tie up another few to ensure I have a stock of a successful pattern!

There are other, better lakes I have discovered since going over trout lake with a good head of pike in it, closer than Mur de Bretagne too. Then there are the huge pike and Zander in the Seine, close to Paris and the industrial parts of the river, but maybe exploring further up would be worth the effort as well.
Anyway, Philippe is over the moon with his kayak and I was over the moon to catch a pike in a strange water.

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