Memories of the River Seine.

December 10, 2012

This year I’ve found myself back fishing the rivers in northern France for the first time in over a decade. My time this season was spent on the Aisne & the Marne, but in the past I’ve flirted with the Seine, which always produced some decent fish. Here is an article I wrote in 1999 following my first session at Bray sur Seine.

fish21“Despite having fished for carp for nearly twenty years I have rarely done so in rivers. Apart from the odd frustrating outing to the Seine near where I live, north of Paris. But the Seine remains one of the most ignored big fish waters in France.

The River Seine rises near Dijon in eastern France, and flowing northwest into the English Channel, at Le Havre it is about 776 kms (about 482 miles) long, crossing the major agglomerations of Paris and Rouen. The Seine is connected by canals with the Schelde, Meuse, Rhine, Saône, and Loire rivers. Also, for some inexplicable reason the fish north of the Parisian agglomeration are smaller than their brethren in the south. All this has generally dissuaded me from giving the river a proper go, yet the Seine river system undoubtedly has an incredible head of carp and arguably the largest specimens in France. Its tributary the Yonne produced an 81 pounder at its junction with the Seine in 1980.

News then, of a fifty pounder coming out of a stretch of the Seine some sixty miles south of the capital got me thinking that maybe I should give it another try. The Seine in this area of the country is a lovely looking piece of water too, and renowned for its big fish. So armed with a large scale map and a telephone I set about finding the best area to start my assault.
After several calls and with a great deal of good fortune I managed to track down the captor of the fifty, and spent a good while on the phone trying to glean any information he was willing to part with, without being too pushy. Finally, and much to my surprise, he suggested I come down and fish with him, as he was about to start a week long session in the previously successful spot. What a damn fine chap I thought, and set about preparing my tackle for an early start the next day.
The next morning dawned and like a kid at Christmas I loaded the car and hared off down the motorway for the hour and a half drive to the selected area. I met up with Alain, for thus was his name, at his tackle shop where he too was preparing his gear. As we drove the few miles down the road to the river, I was full of expectation. The sector looked great, as we crossed the bridge I craned my neck to get a better look at the little bays with over hanging trees and the odd bed of lilies all very inviting. The sector had just been opened to legal night fishing this year.
Alain showed me a few swims and pointed out the likely hotspots, on the far bank under the trees, or off the lily bed where the river bed drops off some twenty yards out. Everywhere looked good, and was such a contract to the urbanised river that runs near my home.

I chose a swim just up stream from Alain opposite the mouth of a disused canal. As I set up my newly found fishing partner popped back down to take a look at my rigs. Now, I enjoy carefully making up rigs for lakes, D’rigs, combi-rigs, usually with various in-line leads, trying out new stuff, it’s all part of the fun for me. Looking at my set up he pulled a face and suggested I review my end tackle. Here lay the first piece of “culture shock” and was probably why I had always failed on rivers before. The rigs he tied up looked better for sea fishing than carp fishing. The tri-lobe leads started at four ounces upwards. Hook links were some 20-30 inches in length made out of 25Ib Silkworm with size 1 Z15 hooks, these he mounted onto a modified helicopter rigs to avoid tangles as the rig settled in the current. Once cast out a two ounce back-lead was clipped to the line to sink it tight to the river bed. This served two purposes, A) reduced the likelihood of a laden barge catching the line and B) helped keep the bait in place, there being less current close to the bottom. As the novice, who was I to argue, and four of these crude rigs were tied up and cast out and heavy back leads slid into place, three rods on the far bank and one close in. brace
I chose not to use braided leaders, as the bottom was fairly snag free, using 15 pound Big Game straight through. I also dislike their use, as fish are often damaged and when one does snag the bottom, pulling for a break usually results in twenty odd feet of braid, with full end tackle, permanently littering the river bed .
Tactics were also somewhat different from the usual river strategy. Alain doesn’t pile in the maize as most do, he doesn’t even prebait, simply adds twenty-thirty boilies around each hookbait. Heavy baiting with corn has proven a very effective method for big bags of carp, but these are usually commons of fifteen to twenty pounds, rarely getting over thirty. Big or double hookbaits fished with minimal free offerings, while reducing the number of runs, produces on average the bigger fish.
Daytime is usually unproductive and as night fell my anticipation rose. I’d been told that 11pm is the usual time for action but as the night wore on only the odd carp jumping could be heard and I finally drifted into sleep. At 2 am I was woken by a run on the one close in rod, I felt little resistance as I wound in, as I turned on my petzel I could see a silver shape splashing in the margins. This turned out to be a whacking great 6Ib chub, which had swallowed two 20mm boilies and a No1 boilie hook. In all the years I’d fished the Thames for them as a boy I’d never had one that big. The next run, well couple of beeps actually, as the swinger dropped back, produced another personal best in the shape of a 9 1/2 pounds barbel. Well I was getting big fish action but no carp in sight. Around 3 am I had a real screamer on one of the far bank rods and after a good fight netted a frisky common of around 18Ibs. I rebaited and put out some more free offerings. I’d hardly had time to get back into my sleeping bag when the same rod tore off again, same style of fight as a fish powered off downstream, signaling that I was attached to another common, this one going just under 20Ibs. The rest of the night was quiet and I was able to get forty winks.
As I made coffee the next morning, steam rose from my bivvy, and mist rolled across the water. As the chill of the night began to wear off my middle right hand rod dropped back. I struck to find a heavy weight but no real sign of fish. Half way across the river a branch broke the surface and drifted out of control down river. By this time another angler Emile, was by my side, and seeing the branch stuck to my line, dashed round to get his small electric powered motor boat. He managed to untangle the branch but there was little I could do to avoid snagging the overhanging trees downstream. Again the boat came to my aid and to my surprise a carp was attached to the other end, no monster but a nice looking mirror of some seventeen pounds. So after my first night three fish, no big ones but a good start, nonetheless.
The day time proved unproductive as usual, and boat traffic a pain so we reeled in and went off to get some supplies and to look at a very tasty gravel pit nearby.
Around six in the evening I cast out. Free samples were fired out and I sat back to await the action. Another tin of Chili con carne was opened and consumed and again I climbed into bed. Around 2:30 am I had a fast run and landed another common in the upper doubles. As I brought it into the net, seeing it was only a small fished I tried to bully it, this it didn’t like and moved back down stream catching my other rods in the process, what a mess!!! I cut and joined the lines on two rods so as not to leave two sixty yards lengths of nylon in the water, cursing my carelessness. The river is sometimes an awkward place to fish.
The next rod away produced my first Seine twenty at 21Ib 8oz. This was sacked up and after recasting I went back to bed. The day was again hot and quiet. I left two rods out but had no action.
The last night of my stay proved to be the most successful for us all. I placed my baits in the same spots on the opposite bank. The first run saw me break off on the strike, obviously some sharp under water obstacle, mussels perhaps, as the fish hadn’t put up enough resistance to cause a break. A hour or so later I had another powerful run, and made contact with a decent fish only to have it snag me on the bottom. I slackened off the pressure and put the rod back on the rests. After an hour or so and no sign of the fish moving I piled on the pressure again and the lead came free, but no fish. On reeling in I found my hook had snapped at the bend. Thinking that my luck wasn’t in tonight I cast out again and made a cup of tea. Around 3 am I had a run on my left hand rod and the fish came easily into the bank. Jerome, a young angler fishing with Alain, appeared by my side just in time to slip the net under a 26lb 4oz mirror. Two hours later and I was in again this time the fish put up a terrific fight and gave me a few anxious moments as I side strained it away from the overhanging trees just downstream from my pitch. I picked up my net and moved down to a small swim next to me to avoid my other lines. As the fish doggedly swam back and fore I could feel it tiring. A few last lunges and it came into the net. At 25lb 4oz it was a good fish, and together with the other twenty made an nice brace for the photo.
As day break dawned the best was yet to come, not for myself but for Alain. A couple of beeps and he struck into a heavy fish. He knew it was big right away and not wanting to take any chances he jumped into the boat. We could barely make him out as he battled with the big fish out on the river. After around ten minutes or so he returned to the bank, with a huge smile on his face, saying it was over twenty. Being French he talks in kilos, so I knew it was huge. On the balance it proved to be just that, going 52lb 8oz. It was also by far the biggest fish I had ever seen out of the water. I stood there looking at it, it was awesome, then it sunk in, this fish is bigger than Yatesies record, that from this bit of river, wow!!!! I packed up slowly and reluctantly, duty in the shape of work called. I was champing at the bit to get back and fish. A few days later, with three days of unexpected time off , I was back, but conditions were foul , and in continuous rain, I blanked. Such is life. Not every trip produces a monster. “


One comment

  1. I have been to the Seine once, but I was a kid at the time, I didn’t fish at the time. However I saw plenty of fishermen sitting on the banks, and a few anglers as well standing in the water.

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