French Lessons

Five times World Champion, Alan Scotthorne, crossed the Channel last weekend to compete in the Sensas Festival at Châteaudun in France. Here’s how he got on.

Alan Scotthorne (right) with son Oliver pose with their practice day catches.
Alan Scotthorne (right) with son Oliver pose with their practice day catches.

The Sensas Festival is a new individual competition run by the groundbait manufacturer Sensas in France. It consists of two one-day matches on the River Loir and the lakes at Eure. Several anglers from England were involved in this event and we were really looking forward to a great weekend’s fishing.

I travelled with my son, Oliver, and Lee Kerry along with his famous dad Paul Kerry (a former casting world record holder). After navigating through the Tunnel at Dover, then a short four-hour drive we arrived on Wednesday at the hotel at Châteaudun to start practicing on the River Loir the next morning.

The River Loir.
The River Loir.

We fished a 16-peg section called Seigneuret and had a nice session catching skimmers and small roach with pole and bloodworm, but soon realised that end pegs were going to be hard to beat on a river that I can only explain as a bit like the River Avon at Evesham but with shorter spaces between pegs.

leekerry-carpThe next day we moved onto the lakes at Eure and fished E Section on Lake La Martine, one of three lakes to be used. Again, we had a good day catching small skimmers. The odd bigger fish put in an appearance late for Lee so we again could formulate a plan for that lake if we drew it. Paul entertained us by catching three big carp on proper carp rods; the biggest a cracking 20lb mirror that Lee landed after pinching the rod from Paul’s grasp!

Day One

Alan's Day One catch.
Alan’s Day One catch.

The first day I drew on the lake section we had practiced on, so I had a good idea what I was doing. Oliver was on the farthest lake called Vouvary but on inspection it was quite clear and looked like it could be difficult. After much deliberation he decided to use groundbait short for catfish and raw joker in a little Sensas grey leam long and feed chopped worms and caster over this at 13 metres. This was a great ploy as he caught two big bream from this line coupled with a few cats to win the section and a great start.

Measuring feed is vital at this level of competition.

For me I fished a very different match. I balled in two bags of Sensas damp leam straight from the bag with just a very small amount of joker in it at 13 metres, spreading it back to around 12 metres to create an area to fish over. I then cupped in ‘pongo’ which is a term for overwetted leam that you spray with an atomiser until it almost forms putty like balls. The secret is to add the joker you require to the leam first. When this is fed it releases the joker into the swim very slowly and is great for big fish. This was fed at the full 13m limit. I then had another 50/50 mix of Sensas Lake and leam that I fed at 12 metres with 250ml of joker in it for the small skimmers.

I set up six rigs with floats from 0.8g up to 1.25g that could cover both lines as the depth was the same. All the floats were the same models with fibre bristle and a carbon stem in a teardrop shape to show lift bites easily from the skimmers.

My plan worked brilliantly with a few bonus bigger skimmers from the pongo line and topping up with small skimmers from the short line. I topped up just three times on the long line. I must add that this pongo is extremely heavy, so it’s important to use a strong cupping kit like the beefed-up cupping top three that comes with my Drennan Acolyte pole, which is seriously strong.

One problem on this lake was that it was black with tiny half-ounce roach, so on my shorter line I used a 1gm float with all the dropper shots and olivette placed right on top of the 15cm hooklength just to get the bloodworm hook bait down past the ‘blips’ to catch a 1-2oz skimmer!

The Kamasan B590 hook pattern in a size 18 was best.

Hook choice was also important and I used a size 18 long shank Kamasan B590 after losing a few fish of other patterns. This seemed to be the best hook and just lifting the fish on, instead of striking at bites, also seemed to cut down on lost fish.

I really enjoyed the match and when the scales arrived I was a little disappointed that there had been two carp caught in my section – one of 12kg and one of 9kg – but my 5kg of small fish was easily enough for third to give both myself and Oliver something to fish for on day two.

Day Two

At the draw the next day we both were a little deflated as I drew Peg 6 in E Section and Oliver had Peg 7 on F Section. With end pegs dominating we had little chance to make the podium.

Oliver did a little better than me to finish 8th in his section and 15th overall and I had a ‘cricket score’. We really enjoyed the weekend but I felt the river just needed longer pegs, which would have made it a little more even.

Callum Dicks was the best English angler, finishing 2nd with a four-point total so congratulations to him. The future does look good for the England team as these younger lads do put the effort in to fish these overseas matches, gaining experience all the time.

It was a great experience all round, so hopefully the Sensas Festival becomes a regular fixture with myself and other English anglers.

1 Thierry Furdyna
2 Callum Dicks
3 Stéphane Pottelet
4 Edward Warren
5 Victor Chambon
6 Christophe Noualhier
7 Frederic Skornog
8 Sean Ashby
9 Olivier Demus
10 Nicolas Critico