Is fishing public waters for me?

photo of carp in water If you are thinking of fishing public waters of France, this article should help you answer the question: is this type of fishing right for me?
Let’s start with the obvious: if you can catch carp in your home country, you will be able to catch them in France. The tactics may be a bit different, the distances bigger, but carp is carp: as long as you can find them and put a baited rig in their vicinity, you are in with a chance.
With that out of the way, let’s look at some of the reasons why so many anglers love fishing French public waters.
France is one of the largest countries of Europe. In fact, with the area of 550 thousand square kilometres, France is more than four times the size of England! When you consider the average population density of 119 people per sq. km (almost four time less than England!) it is clear to see that finding solitude and secluded spot on the bank is always possible. Add to that very simple rod license regulations, state guaranteed right to access water and you get a carp anglers paradise.
Finally, there is the aspect of sheer beauty of France: fishing public waters can take you to spectacular places. No pay lake will ever be the same, once you have discovered those beautiful spots for yourself.
Now that you know why carp anglers love France, we need to look at reasons why fishing public waters may not necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea.
First and foremost, while there are miles upon miles of banks accessible for anglers, not all of those waters are exactly prolific. When fishing public waters, you need to have realistic expectations: it’s not always easy to find the fish and it may be even harder to “get on them”. In short: when fishing public waters, blanking for days is almost guaranteed. To avoid wasting trips, seasoned carp anglers move between swims and venues very often. It is not unusual to drop somewhere for a nigh only to pack up the whole kit to move somewhere else in the morning. This requires a lot of hard work, especially if your fishing involves boats, but also a lot of prior research to have a number of venues “pencilled in” as potential targets.
Assuming that you have found both the venue and the fish, the next issue you have to deal with is logistics: you need to be self-sufficient in terms of water, food and electricity (to charge boat batteries, phones, cameras etc.). No-one is going to provide you with bankside meal, there is no beer fridge in the clubhouse, the shower is in the lake and the loo in a bucket. In other words: it’s not exactly a comfortable holiday you may expect at a pay lake.
Fishing public waters may also become very equipment intensive. While you can fish for years in France and never use a boat, a lot of locations will demand it. Swims are often miles away from the nearest road and fishing distances can go well beyond casting range. This means that your equipment (boats, motors, batteries, echosounders etc) can get expensive very quickly. It is a large commitment and you need to know what you are getting yourself into.
Lastly, when fishing public waters you need to expect that you will share the bank with other anglers, boaters, tourists and holiday makers. There is no point in going there if you want to have a piece of water only to yourself. You may mitigate some of those intrusions by carefully selecting both venue and the time of your trip, but generally speaking you need to be ready to share or move.
If after reading this you still think you want to give it a go, read the next section where we deal with legalities and all the necessities you have to take into account when planning your French trip.
Once again rest assured: “carp is carp”. If you can catch them in your home country, you will have no problem catching them in France. Do not let the fear of blanking deter you from your adventure!