The Magic Of Bossard
To say Bossard is the prettiest lake I have ever visited is a gross under statement and to top it off it is steeped in history. The Lake is 23 acres and set in 500 acres of deep dark forest in the Champagne Ardenne region of France. It is in excess of 450 years old and like the champagne that the region is so well known for it too has aged beautifully. There is nothing artificial or man made about the lake everything is exactly what you would expect from a lake dug by monks over 4 centuries ago. It ranges in depths from 3ft to 12ft and is packed with snags and fallen trees but the features don't stop there, you will find sunken islands, hidden river beds which make it a very special unique lake.
There are 17 swims in total and only 10 anglers on the lake at any one time, so there are always free swims available for you to move if you find you are not on the fish. What really makes Bossards an amazing lake isn't the lake itself but rather the stock in it. There is no poisson chat, catfish or weed and carp weighing in excess of 80lb with a very impressive head of 50lb+.
We booked the lake early in 2018 for our visit in May 2019, there was very little information online about the lake, and all I could seem to find was a lot of negative press and gossip about the rules on the lake. So if I am being 100% honest I was a little put off from lake before I arrived as no leaders are allowed only tubing, a minimum of 8oz leads when fishing to snags and also having to radio in with every fish regardless of size. I shouldn't have worried.
In regards to rules Steve is very protective of his stock, which is 100% justifiable and the sole reason why the stock in the lake is at the incredibly high standard that it is. The thing you need to remember is that rules are based around the lowest common denominator and not all anglers have the same skill set or attitude when it comes to fish safety. I think we would all agree that there are certain anglers you know who you wouldn't trust to lift up a 20lb carp never mind 80lb especially when you have ploughed your life savings and years of work in it. Not only does Steve want to make sure his fish are looked after he also wants to catalogue his stock and make sure the weights on record are correct and have a high quality image on file taken on a DSLR rather then a blurry photo on a phone. Once Steve is aware you can handle fish well and that safety is your number one priority we found he tends to just leave you to it. The only time he came round to the see the fish is if it was upwards of 45lb.
I have always loved snag fishing so I like using what I thought were big leads (4oz) and I always use shock leaders and to date haven't had a tethered fish in snag. So the leader ban and 8oz minimum also were a big concern for me because I despise using tubing. Saying that though, I would hate to spend all that money and travel 12 hours from Manchester to Champagne to find a 80lb carp tethered to a tree on a braided mainline because the previous angler in my peg hasn't been able to play the fish back; it was a comprise we all had to make but not the end of the world. My initial worries of using leads this big were quickly expelled when Steve came round to my bow string tight lines and still managed to pull in excess of 6ft of stretch from the line back onto my spool, my mind was blown instantly. You are fishing right under snags, so if that fish has even 2 foot of stretch, including the tip of rod bending it is already around a tree snapped off and you've missed your chance and risked damaging one of the stunning monster carp that resides in this lake. If you were to fish a 4oz lead or smaller it isn't heavy enough to remain in the same spot while pulling all that stretch out of the line so 8oz is absolutely paramount when fishing to snags in all of my fishing from this point onwards. After this week I can definitively say I shouldn't have worried about anything the keyboard warriors said regarding the rules or rumours about the lake. Steve couldn't have been more helpful and informative and was one of if not the best hosts I have had whilst fishing in France.
When you arrive at the lake you have a walk round and Steve baffles your brain with everything he knows about every single peg. When it comes to the draw you have one hell of a decision to make and I would have been happy with every peg on that lake. I was fishing with Andy Warsap and both agreed on a peg called R1 & R2, which is a social peg not a double meaning you can spend as much time in each others peg as you wish but if you want to go to the toilet or want to walk round the lake to bait up you will need to reel your rods in. R1 & R2 offered us both a lot of water and more importantly some of the best snags I have ever had the privilege to fish to.
My plan was to fish a mix of 18mm & 14mm Bio Marine boilie from Munch Baits some chopped and some halved with an 18mm Bio Marine Wafter over the top. This is mainly due to me having great success this year in the UK fishing this method and I feel confidence is everything and on top of that i'm a creature of habit. I love using a mixed size of baits because I find it tends to keep the carp grubbing around in my spot a lot longer then fishing whole boilie. I like to keep my rigs simple as possible so I opted for a multi-rig mainly because I haven't fished the lake before so I didn't know if I was going to change over to pop ups or boosted bottom baits throughout the week and I know this rig fishes perfectly no matter what bait I use. For my hook there was only one hook I would ever use in this situation and it is the SP-Chods in a size 4. The SP-Chods are incredibly strong and the out turned eye means the hook link material leaves the hook at a perfect angle to maximise the hooking potential of the rig.
There are multiple reasons why I use the multi rig the first being the versatility of the rig and being able to use it in 99% of situations. It is an amazing rig when used in conjunction with a pop up or on the bottom. Having the ability to change the hook and the bait in a matter of seconds and then to get the rig back on the spot wasting minimal time can be the difference between a good session and a session of a lifetime. My favourite aspect of this rig is reeling in and unquestionably knowing if you have had a liner or if you have been done. Due to the rig dynamics if a carp has taken the rig or even been pricked the loop in the hooklink will pull tight from the hook and this is only possible if pressure is placed on the hook point pulling it away from the lead. Due to us fishing so tight to the snags we were hitting the rod on a single beep so this is a perfect indication of if fish are on my spot and also if I need to change something to help the hooking potential of the rig such as hook size or length of the rig etc.
Im not a huge fan of bait screws I feel you don't get enough movement from the hook bait so I always opt for a MR-Swivel (Micro Ring Swivel). This is essential an incredibly small swivel with a ring just big enough to slide on to the shank of a hook or the D section of a rig. The MR-Swivel offers you 360 of movement and at the same time the blow back effect to keep the bait away from the hook point and helps reduce the chances of the carp using the bait to eject the hook. The only negative to the MR-Swivel is it does take longer to change your hook bait as you need to use bait floss and either tie it on or melt the floss with a lighter and blob it. I like to simply blob it, I find it quicker and I never loose hookbaits like you would think with this method.
The snags in front of R1 are very immensely deep with some sticking out up to 4 rod lengths so ever morning I woke up at 6am got my waders on a waded through them to get my bait spread out on the harder sections of ground. It is practicly impossible to bait up your spots without getting in the water because of sheer thickness of the foliage on the banks. To find the harder spots I just used a landing net pole to prod around and anyone planning on visiting the lake I would strongly advise doing the same because in the space of 2-3 feet you can be fishing on rock hard ground or 3 foot of silt. The slit is incredibly strong smelling so I would soak my boilie in the Bio Marine and Bloodworm Liquid Food for up to 24 hours prior to introducing the bait. I only did this once a day in the early morning and spent no longer then 5 minutes in the water and tried to disturb as little as possible while putting 5kg of boilie onto each spot. For rig placement there was only really one option which was to bait boat the rigs into the snags.
Within the first 5 hours of fishing Jonathan Rutland had bank two fish with the biggest being 47lb from a swim called Rbs again fishing to the snags on the far margin so everyones excited levels for the week ahead were level with telling a child we are almost at Disneyland.
At around 1am I settled down for the night and got into my bed then out of the silence my alarms did a single beep and then the swinger slowly lowered it self and before I could shout “Andy i'm in” I was hooked into my first Bossard mirror carp weighing in at 34lb. Due to the no sacking rule we had to take a night shot which came out rather well thanks to my beautiful assist Andy Warsap.
It only took a few more hours before I had the complete opposite type of take. This time the carp had decided to take a right turn and head straight for a swim called “The Point” and that fish knew every snag along its way. I was using my 13ft 3.5lb Vader X rods from Sonik Sports so keeping the fish away from the snags was a dream and it wasn't to difficult to slip my net cord underneath. This time it was a stunning 31lb mirror.
The mornings tended to go quite quickly by the time you have walked around and baited up your far margin, got your rigs back on the spot and gone for a shower you will hear the sound of Steve on his quad dropping of your breakfast directly at your bivvy door. The lake has little to no phone signal which I personally found a god send as there was no whats app groups, no facebook messages or voicemails letting you know about the world ending back at home. The only negative I found with this is you didn't know what your friends had caught till the night so along with my breakfast delivery it also gave me some time to catch the scores on the doors from Steve. Being a tech geek I had ample TV Shows and Films saved on my tablet to watch while I was there. To the keyboard warriors who will say technology is ruining the sport my holiday fishing is just as much about the holiday as it is the fishing. So before you know it, its now time to reel in and walk down the lodge for a home cooked 2 course meal and a couple of little beers.
Throughout the week I landed 9 carp in total with the largest being 42lb (my cursed number). I can't seem to beat 42lb whilst in France, on my last 3 trips 43lb has been my magic number and unfortunately or fortunately however you look at it I keep catching 42lb mirrors.
As a group we managed to banked 46 carp weighing up to 67lb, which fell to Nigel Hatton beating his PB by a sizeable amount.
We all had an amazing time at Bossard and without a shadow of a doubt will be visiting again. I would like to thank both Sandy and Steve for making us feel so welcome it truly is a magically place.
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