Wels of the SAÔNE
By: James H. Hopkins
On 20 July, 2002 I departed from home with
the idea that this year would be the one. I was going to France to Fish
for the European Wels on the famous Saône River. I had made this trip the
year before with results that were less than stellar.
The weather turned out good, but the fish had a mind of their own. It was
late March and the river had risen on 2 occasions and was beginning to
fall. In the end, there was 6 days of fishing with NO Takes. No sighting
over the week as the fish were Spawning or Mating as some would call it.
In the end, we blanked and the staffs of the European Catfish & Carp Trips
were at a loss. I was asked if it would be possible to come back this year
and try again.
This brings us to the morning of 20 July.
I arrived at the campsite, the weather was seemingly great and as it
stands this was a fact. We had 25-31 degrees Celsius the complete time we
were there. I met my guide Mr. Martin Upton and we discussed the week’s
program. It was decided that we would go out on Sunday afternoon with my
assigned fishing partner for the week at 16:00 hours. Darin, my partner
had caught a 70 pounder last year and opted to allow me the opportunity to
boat the first fish. We drove down to Macon and launched the boat at about
16:45 hours. We trolled this area which was inside of the city initially.
This form of float fishing utilizes the current to move you as the baits
are trolled behind the boat at various depts. We made several passes over
an area before deciding to try further down. We had started under the
bridge and the current was taking us down the near side of the bank. We
made the pass and decided to try again, but this time a little closer to
the edge. As we were 3/4 of the way down from where we started, Martin
said hold it. We watched as the line spooled off of the reel and it was
passed to me. I then rolled the slack in and struck into the fish. It was
a smaller fish that took a couple of minutes to reel in, but it was our
first. This was a 10-pound fish that put a smile on my face, as it was my
first. We continued to fish for the remainder of the evening, but we were
not lucky enough to get another take.
On Monday evening, we were treated to the presence of the Mr. Luke
Moffett. This is the owner of the company that was providing the guiding
service for us. He took us to another location and it seemed productive.
We placed our rods out from the bank utilizing the Buoy System. This
evening proved to be fruitless for us as we had 0 takes. We returned to
the campsite and were greeted by Martin who said that we needed to speak
with Darin's wife. We walked over to their tent and were told that she had
caught a fish that she could not identify. We watched a video and to our
surprise, there was a 35-pound Wels that she had caught in the creek
behind the campsite. She had caught this fish using a dead eel that we had
given her from the day before. This was not a fluke as it were because all
dead bait is thrown into this area daily.
On Tuesday we blanked and returned to Darin's wife stating "You paid a
guide to take you out and I am able to catch them from behind the site."
Needless to say each of us had to hang our heads and acknowledge her glee.
Wednesday we were off again and Martin was our guide. We departed as usual
and went down the river from our campsite. We pulled into an area that was
1 1/2 miles down river and placed the rods on the buoy system. The evening
was warm to start with, but got very cool as the sun started to fall. We
bundled up, as the hill that we were sitting on was very prominent. At
23:10 hours, we noticed and heard the bell on the rod that was at the
350-degree angle from us starting to move. At 23:15 hours, the fish made
the take and the fight was on until 23:35 hours. This fish made 3 long and
powerful runs and 1 final run close to the bank that tired both Darin and
it. When it was finally on the bank, it was measured and weighed. The
length was 2.06 meters long and its weight was 107 pounds. Darin was
elated and Martin and I could only share his joy.
We made the pictures and placed the fish back into the water. Each of us
felt that we had been a part of the capture and so we were. This was a
GREAT night and each had a part in making this event take place. We
returned to the campsite and celebrated for a short time before going to
bed. Darin had removed the cloths that he had worn as the slime from the
fish had completely covered him. He said the next morning that he had left
them outside the tent, as it would have awakened the others. His wife
later said that she knew that something had happened because he had made
so much noise as he came in.
On Thursday evening we blanked again. Upon returning to the campsite, I
was told by Darin that this was his last outing. He felt that spending
time with his family was more important and I had to agree. Although I did
not want to split the team, I understood his reasoning. On Friday night
Martin and I were off again. We again went down the river, but we tried a
completely new place that he and seemingly others had not tried. We again
utilized the buoy system and placed the rods out. The evening went along
well as it stands, but at 20:30 hours we had a strike.
in my excitement made a BIG Mistake. I attempted to set the hook and begin
to reel in line with a Beer in my hand. Every fisherman has a tale about
the one that got away, but seldom do they admit to making the mistake.
This fish would have weighed at least 130 pounds as it were. According to
Martin, the tail of the fish was at least 9 inches wide. This would have
made it 2.08 plus meters and possibly more. I felt it and knew that it was
a Good fish, but not having set the hook allowed it to be thrown. I was
hurt, but could only blame myself. We waited and waited and I was about to
give up hope as it was close to 24:00 hours. At 23:50 hours, we had
another take and the results were a fish that weighed 53 pounds and its
length was 1.7 meters long. This time I was ready and controlled the fish,
as it was smaller. Martin asked if I had it and I replied that it was
right in front of him. He then let out a gasp as it was pulled directly to
his feet. He then grabbed it by the lower jaw and came to the edge of the
bank where we both pulled it out. We placed it into the weighing sling as
quickly as possible. After the fish was weighed, we took the photos that
are attached below. We returned to the campsite and all were elated that I
had finally made the grade as they say. It was an evening that I will not
forget anytime soon.
We are planning to return to the Saône again next year, but are looking at
other options. We are Thankful to the European Catfish & Carp Fishing
Trips company and all that assisted.
James H. Hopkins for: Team-
FISH & Nature