Its always been a dream and passion of mine to fish in Holland, I remember many years ago reading about the pioneers from the UK who crossed the channel to fish the canals and lakes of Holland, I vowed one day to follow in their footsteps and wet a line in the Netherlands.

As I’ve come to know more and more anglers all across Europe through my fishing and writing in magazines I have made some really good friends and especially in Holland and one of those is one of Holland’s best known anglers Ed Skillz, we both share a passion for carp fishing and just as importantly nature, so it was with real excitement that at the Zwolle show were we were working on the Carpcrossing Stand together, he suggested that I come across to Holland in the spring and do some fishing on a rather special lake with some very special carp in the north of the country.

As you can imagine after always wanting to fish across the water and it taking me almost 30 years of fishing in and around Europe but never in Holland, I jumped at the chance, dates were set with Ed, I booked off the holiday at work and the spring couldn’t come quick enough for me to live my dream of fishing a Dutch lake and hopefully catching a Big Dutch Carp…

Months went by and the date was soon upon me and as I drove off the channel tunnel at Calais, instead of heading down through France as I had before in all my other fishing adventures, I took a different direction and headed East towards Amsterdam, we would meet at Ed’s house so he could show me the way to the secret lake that he had been keeping to himself for the last few months, as I came off the train my mind was filled with dreams and passion of my first Dutch Carp, so much so that I almost instinctively took the road to Paris and only just managed to clear my head and pointed the Van towards Amsterdam such was the excitement of the adventure in my mind.

The 4 hour journey had flown past as I was constantly thinking of how I would approach my first session in Holland, tactics, bait and rigs filled my mind and all too soon I was soon knocking on Ed’s door. After a quick cup of coffee and him introducing me to his family we were soon loaded up and on the way to the lake, I was still totally in the dark as to where the lake was as Ed had kept it close to his chest as this place was really special, it needed to be kept that way for a while at least.

An hour or so later and as we turned off the main road and up a track, we opened the gate, it was then that I got my first glimpse of ‘Carplantis’ which I can only describe as paradise, the 5+ hour journey had been all worth it and this would be our very own paradise for the next week, the lake was roughly square in shape, with most of the margins being reed fringed, I had been told that it quite quickly dropped off in the edges down to 60 feet in the middle of the lake, this would definitely be the deepest lake I had ever fished, in the UK a deep lake is anything over 15 feet, with most lakes being below 15 feet and the usual is 10 feet or below with lots of features like bars, gravel, plateau’s and islands, where as this was a big expanse of water but wow what a lake it was and one of the most picturesque I had ever set my eyes on, with the added bonus of some Big Dutch Carp, I couldn’t wait to get started…..

We had a good walk round the lake, which was quite difficult as it was still as nature had made it and we had to pull ourselves through the undergrowth a few times, the lake had been untouched for many years and mother nature had taken over, as we carried on our journey Ed pointed out where the fish liked to rest up during the days back in behind the reeds and under the trees, we even saw a couple in the edge as we crept up through the reeds and branches to catch a glimpse, which got my juices flowing and made me even more eager to get the rods baited and in position.

We finally setup all the gear and it was quite evident that our fishing methods were very different to say the least, which reflected how us in the UK usual fish and the normal setup for you guys in Holland, I had set my rods up together parallel and low to the bank where Ed had set his up on single bank sticks with the rods pointing up in the air, whereas all three of my rods where together on buzz bars, I asked why he did this, he replied its because he was using braid and we would be fishing out to the back and side of the far margins which was over 200 yards away !!!!

O dear, I hadn’t come prepared for that, I simply thought I would be either casting to my spots as in England or indeed boating them out but not as far as it seemed I would have to now, how wrong I was and over the course of the week my setup totally changed and much resembled how Ed was fishing, unfortunately I was using mono line which had served me well in the UK, I hadn’t been prepared for the long distances that braid lends itself too, but I learned a lot that week on how to fish Dutch style which put me in good stead for when I would returned later in the year and better equipped for the task in front of me.

With us all set up we now took a tour of the margins in one of the Vortex boats that we had with us, by looking at the margins from the boat it told me so much of where the fish had fed and where they were likely to feed, I wouldn’t had realized this if I hadn’t brought the boat with me, that’s something in the UK we don’t really use a boat as much as we could or should, that is mainly down to our lakes that are much smaller and usually the owners don’t allow boats on the lakes like they do in Europe, so it was a real eye opener and quick learning curve to be able to see and learn so much more from looking into the margins and seeing the fish moving in and around the reeds, it gave me a good idea in my mind of how I wanted to fish my rigs, bait application, areas and feeding spots, just as importantly it gave me an insight into what I needed to prepare myself for when I got a bite out in the boat, this part of the preparation was vital for me being able to fish the lake more effectively.

Rig wise I was going to use a lead clip system, the clip I would slightly cut back so when the fish picked up the bait the lead would eject easily, this would not cause any concerns if the fish managed to gain sanctuary into the reeds which incidentally every one of the bites I had over that week they did, these Dutch fish weren’t stupid, they knew exactly where they wanted to run to after they were hooked and every single fish we had tried its hardest to use the reeds to their advantage and shed the hook, making sure the lead ejected every time definitely gave me much more of a chance to land the fish.

I decided the clean spots at the bottom of the marginal spots that had been fed on and where hard sand would be where I was going to place my hook baits initially, the spots were right on the end of a slope as it very quickly dropped away to the depths around the reeds and out even more into the lake, for this reason I would be using a 4oz flat lead to compensate and stop any movement of the lead and rig sliding down the slope, it would also make sure my rig would keep still in position if the wind got up it can do on these big windswept lakes.

Looking at the spots from the boat with Ed I decided to fish a blowback rig and use a supple coated braid as I didn’t want to use anything that was too stiff as it could lift up off the spot and make the rig ineffective or obvious to any fish in the area, an ever faithful big size 4 Gardner Continental ‘Mugga’ would be tied with a 20mm bottom bait topped with a 15mm Leons “X-TRA Special” washed out pink or fluro white popup to give the fish a sight to home in on amongst any free bait. The feed bait would be kept to boilies as I had been told that there was a head of Bream in the lake and introducing any pellet or particles would be the kiss of death and in the middle of the night a bream would spoil the well positioned hook bait on the spot, so 20mm whole and half boilies where prepared and I generously scattered with the aid of a baiting spoon around 1kg of bait around the spot.

I then carefully positioning my hook bait from the back of the boat safely onto the primed spot, this was easier said than done as being English and not having used a boat that many times in the past with any regularity it was a nightmare at the start of the week, I could often hear Ed laughing across the lake every time I tried to position the boat in the right spot for me to be able to drop the rig perfectly, those first couple of days I spent more battery power and time spinning round in circles or ending up wedged in the thick reeds than anything else, but it was a good learning process, I swear that you Dutch guys get a boat as you’re first birthday present you are that adapt and comfortable in a boat, I suppose with so much water in and around your houses in Holland it makes sense that you get used to using and fishing from a boat as early as possible, whereas in the UK its very rarely that we get the opportunity to use the boat hence why Ed was laughing his socks off every time I tried to positioned the hook bait, but by the end of the week I was an expert just like you Dutch guys….

After the long journey that morning from the UK and getting all three rods positioned out eventually in the boat it was getting late, we finally sat down to talk about the ‘Carplantis’ lake and its inhabitants over a dinner from one of the local takeaways, Koos the owner of the lake arrived to share our dinner and talk to me about what his dreams were with the lake, he had taken it on as a project the year before and stocked it with some really stunning looking young fish that hadn’t been seen before in Holland, these were fast growers that will reach some massive weights, he also complemented these with some larger fish that again were only young with great potential, he showed me some of the pictures of these fish, one particular one stood out for me, it was a big framed mirror and had been named “The Mastodont” for obvious reasons and was a fish of my dreams, of course there were also the originals that were not to be sniffed at, all in all about 60-80 fish were in the lake with more to be stocked every year for the next two years, Ed also showed me some of the pictures of his captures from the lake and every single one was a stunning creature, it was evident that Koos had carefully selected each and everyone of his fish to be stocked into the lake, every one was perfect in its own individual way, these fish were still young and would grow into some of the best and biggest fish in Europe, no wonder they wanted to keep it a secret for the time being.

Evening turned into night and we were soon saying our goodbyes to each other and off to sleep in our bivvies, I was like a kid just before Christmas, I just couldn’t sleep and with the sound of a distant Carp launching itself out of the water I found it difficult to settle that first night but eventually I must have drifted off to sleep. Morning was soon upon the lake, I had not had any action that first night and all was quiet at least on my side of the lake, but Ed was up to me and he had caught a couple of stunners during the night which was really good news as the fish were feeding and it would only be a matter of time before my chance for my first Dutch carp, the trip was also a chance for us to do some filming together for a video project about our time fishing and my first time in Holland and hopefully my first Dutch carp.

We returned to Ed’s swim armed with our cameras, underwater cameras and other kit, we took some stunning shots and video footage of some of the best fish I have ever seen, I was happy for Ed and was buzzing at seeing my first Dutch carp, but I really wanted one myself and felt I needed a bit more attention to the finer details of where to position my rigs as these fish liked the sanctuary of the reeds and only seemed to want to venture out to feed close to the reeds, I had positioned my baits at the bottom of the shelf in about 8 feet of water which was too far down, so around midday saw me back out in the boat again, at least I had a bit more idea of what I was doing this time and found 3 really good spots at different distances all in the shallower water right up against the reeds on small hard sandy clay spots that the fish had been visiting to feed recently as they were so clean, I even saw a couple of fish on my furthest spot which was around 200 yards away, I don’t think I’ve ever fished that far before, as you can imagine this trip would be a high learning curve for me, but I was here to catch a fish and after seeing the ones Ed had that morning I was more determined than ever to realize my Dream, after depositing a couple of kilos of chopped and round 20mm baits onto the new spots and positioning my rigs a lot quicker this time after more lessons in the boat I sat back to take in the beauty of the lake with great expectations for the forthcoming next few days, only time would tell if I had got my tactics right, but for sure I was as confident as I could be.

Ed had by now redbaited his rods again on the same spots that had produced the night before, this night I would be fishing so much more effectively, albeit with mono rather than Braid, I would need to be straight out of the bivvy whatever the time was and onto the rods, straight into the boat and get to the fish as quickly as possible to stand a chance of landing the fish, the trick was not to pull yourself to the fish, but rather let him take me into the reeds, get to the spot as quickly as possible and regain contact once at the reeds, this was definitely the best tactic as it seems the fish feeling no pressure would stay put in the safety of the reeds until I got there in the boat rather than feel the pressure of the line and try and eject the rig on any snag they could find.

Again day turned into night and after a couple of local anglers and the owner Koos came back over to visiting us for a social it was again time to return to the bivvy and settle in for the night, this time after not getting much sleep the night before I soon drifted off to sleep, but what seemed like seconds which in reality was 6 hours I was soon awake and holding a rod in my hand, pushing the boat out as one of the rods had let me know an angry carp was attached to the other end, it felt like along time to get out to the reeds where I had hooked the fish but must of only been 20 or 30 seconds or so, it had started to get light and I could see the fish twisting and turning in the crystal clear waters below the boat as this fish had decided to come back out ofthe reeds but as soon as it saw me it was straight back into the reeds, it looked like a nice mirror and my heart was pounding with excitement after the fish took me back into the reeds at least twice and me having to drive the boat around in the reeds and guide the fish back out to open water with pressure from the rod and a lot of luck with the boat I finally pushed the net under a chunky mirror which was my first Dutch Carp, I could have yelled with passion at that moment as I had finally realized a dream that I had held for many years to catch a Big Dutch Carp and it was even more the sweeter that I had achieved this with a very good friend, the fish was a lovely clean mirror and the weight is really immaterial, in fact I don’t even remember how much it weighed I was that excited, we took some good video and some perfect shots when back on the bank, I finally returned her to fight another day and make someone else’s dream come true over the years to follow, I couldn’t have been happier but there was better to follow over the rest of the trip….

I felt that by changing my outlook and adapting to the situation of the lake in front of me by moving my hook baits to a much more better, shallower spot which was obtained by careful observation of the area I was fishing and with some insider knowledge from Ed that I realized my dream, but after I came down from the clouds I wanted another one, so over the next 5 days that were left to us we fished really hard to try and unlock the secrets of the Dutch lake Carplantis, Ed and myself managed to land quite a few Big Dutch Carp including a couple of really big ones over the 20kg mark, in fact the one I had dreamed about catching after looking at the picture Koos showed me “The Mastodont” gave herself up to me on my final morning at the lake and which was the added icing on the cake for me.

As we closed the gate behind us I turned to Ed and thanked him for making my dreams come true and I was sure that this little piece of paradise would turn into probably the most special lake in Europe over the next few years, what a wonderful lake Carplantis is, some stunning scenery and mother nature doing her best and with some massive big stunning Dutch carp that are only going to get bigger, all I can say is thank you to Ed and Koos for making the dream reality and I cant wait to get back there to fish again… Leon Bartropp

If you looking for an alternative to France and want big carp then check out the Carplantis website, for a well run, friendly and holds massive carp that are only 5 hours away then you wont find much better…