A Week At Euro Aqua | Steve Briggs
When it comes to big fish, there isn’t anywhere in the world that can compete with a small lake in Hungary. Producing no less than three different carp over 100lb in recent years, Euro Aqua has simply moved the big-fish stakes to another level. But besides those headline-makers, there are many other backup fish which would make other fisheries famous in their own right. These days, the demand for places is high and it’s not cheap, but the lure is hard to resist, and I found myself looking forward to another chance to fish the Hungarian super-lake.
The majority of people tend to fly over there, and some gear can be hired on site, but I’ve always preferred to have my own gear with me whenever possible. The drive by van is 1,000 miles each way, not for the faint-hearted, but for whatever reason, I’ve always been able to handle the drives, even if it is on my own. Having a week to get over it, and having everything I need with me, makes all the effort worthwhile.
As far back as a year ago, I knew which swim I would be fishing, and even which side. For me that makes a big difference, as I’ve never been keen on drawing for swims at the start of a trip. All your dreams and hopes can be shattered before you even start, but knowing where you will be in advance gives you the chance to plan for everything.
For this trip I would be in the good company of Rob Hales again. I really enjoy Rob’s company, and we seem to fish well together and work as a team to get the best out of it. Our swim for this trip was the Point Swim, or Island Swim, as it is sometimes called. Any swim can be the best on its day, depending, of course, where the fish want to be at the time, but the Point Swim gives access to a really nice area of water in the centre of the lake. We knew of a few decent spots out there; in particular one firm area that sort of divides the swim. It’s big enough for two people to get a rod each on it, and had the habit of producing the best fish on the previous trips. However, there are lots of options, and it’s always a case of picking out the right one.
This was actually the first time I’d been there when it wasn’t an exclusive lake booking for the English. There were two other English pairs on, along with Dutch, Belgian and Czech pairings. To our right in the bay was Dutch friend Ardy Veltkamp, who was in the company of South African-based Martin Davidson, who hadn’t been carp fishing for over 9 years! The lure of those monsters was too much for him to resist too.
It was a hot, sticky afternoon when we finally had all the gear in the swim. Storms were due in the next few days and, of course, we hoped and expected that the change in weather conditions and temperatures would cause some sort of feeding frenzy. Even as we attempted to set up the bivvies and sort out the gear, we were distracted by fish crashing close to where we stood. There is one boat on the lake, which all anglers have to share for baiting, so it was a nail-biting wait to get some bait out there.
Rob couldn’t hold back, and decided to cast a couple of single baits at the showing fish, which proved to be a good move. Before we knew it he had two rods screaming off! We had no choice other than to take one rod each.
“This one feels quite good, how’s that one feel?” said Rob. I replied that it only felt like a small one because of the head shaking and lack of weight, so I felt a little guilty when I saw a big head coming up to the net. In fact, the one I netted went 59lb 12oz, while Rob followed up with a 44lb mirror. I did get a bit of stick for that, but I guess you just never know what’s on the other end.
Once we had the boat and could get a decent amount of bait out there, it felt like the session could really start. We had a fair amount of in-house bait, including boilies and around 25kg of hemp and tigers, and I also added a fair bit of the new Key Cray from Nash, which I thought could well make the difference. Looking in from the outside, it often appears that the Euro Aqua fish are just easy big fish which are constantly hungry, but, of course, that is not the case at all. They are very choosy when it comes to bait, and they certainly know quality food from the rubbish – as they do on most waters I’ve ever fished. I really hoped that the quality would bring the better results over the week, but time would tell.
Of course, after putting it a fairly large amount of bait, there is always going to be a lull in proceedings. With seven pairs of anglers all giving it their best efforts, it must have been some sort of shock to the fish after 2 months of peace and quiet during the summer shutdown. However, we didn’t doubt that it was only a matter of when, and not if, it was going to happen.
The sun finally disappeared behind the hills, and the intense daytime heat gave way to the coolness of the evening. A few distant flashes were the first signs of the changing weather conditions starting to move in. There is always an air of excitement when storms move in – at least for a carp angler. I was still focusing on the horizon when I heard a bleep, and looked around just in time to see my left rod scream off. Picking up the rod made little impact because the fish just kept moving, and I was forced to give line. It wasn’t a small fish, it just had too much strength, so I just held on as it charged off more or less wherever it wanted! It was a fantastic battle, with the stillness of the night and lightning constantly lighting up the background, and a big, powerful fish doing its best to pull my arms out of their sockets!
It soon became a tug of war, with me slowly leading the fish towards me. In the torchlight I saw a big wide head break the surface, and I knew it was a big one. I held my breath and walked backwards, until Rob lifted the net and I felt my whole body relax. It was a big mirror, wide and deep, and we both guessed that it was over 70lb. In fact, it weighed 72lb 8oz, a fantastic way to get off the mark. That was just my first bite on the first evening – what a place.
The rain eventually arrived in the early hours, and it cooled things down by around 10°. The fish seemed to like it, and by lunchtime the next day we’d had about another 12 fish up to 58lb 12oz. Lunch was at 2.00 p.m. every day, and all the anglers are expected to reel in and meet up at the lodge. To be honest, it makes a nice little break every day, with the chance to have a chat with the other guys and see how they are getting on. The food is always good – very good in fact. Twice I’ve had T-bone steaks that covered the entire plate! It gives the fish a brief rest too, and it’s amazing how they seem to know exactly what’s going on.
The lead-up to dinner is often slow, but the period after dinner through to evening can be one of the most productive times, so it can be good to get more bait out before dinner, or at least as soon as you get back. If you don’t do that then there is always the risk that the fish will move off to other areas where the food is more plentiful. All areas generally have peaks and troughs through a session, and indeed, it did slow down a little for the next day or so, except for Rob’s left rod which he was fishing alongside an island. It kept going off continuously, and although they were mainly from the smaller range of fish, the rod had produced the 59lb 12oz on the first day, so there was no telling if a big lump would be next.
The westerly winds at the start had been replaced by easterlies, which are always my least favourite. But for the guys on the far bank where it was blowing into, it was just about perfect, and almost every time we looked up, at least one of them was playing a fish. You have to make the most of your chances when they come, and that’s just what they were doing.
Although we were still picking them off, our hope was that the wind would drop, or the fish would start to move on the back of it. As it happened, the next afternoon, the wind suddenly just stopped, and although it was hot and still, the fish moved back to the centre of the lake and our swim took on a whole different look. Once again we got plenty of bait out there, and the pole markers started rocking from side to side. I was expecting action straight away, but just like the first evening, we had to wait until the hours of darkness.
The first sound wasn’t from our alarms but from Rob’s phone. It was Scott Phillips, who was down to our right in Electric Point with some big news. He’d just banked a monstrous mirror of 92lb, so Rob went straight round there to help out and take some pictures, while I guarded the rods. Most people already had something decent to show for their efforts, but Scott’s fish was really what we all dream and hope for when we go to Euro Aqua. Not everyone will catch them, but they are always a possibility, that’s for sure. In fact, it was the third different 90lb+ fish which has been caught just while I’ve been at the lake!
Rob returned with eyes wide open, buzzing from what he’d just witnessed. It was coming up to midnight, and I got out from the warmth of my sleeping bag to hear the story. Just then my alarm sounded, as yet another powerful fish took off into the darkness. I must admit that after what I’d just heard, my knees were trembling, because I knew it was no small fish. After what must have been around 20 minutes, a big common loomed up out of the depths. Perhaps we got a bit carried away with the estimations, and we even got poor old Scott around with the weighing tripod, but at 64lb it was certainly no tiddler.
It signalled the start of another burst of big-fish action, which ensured there wasn’t much sleep to be had that night. Daylight arrived, and I was just making a cup of tea when Rob latched into something big. Within seconds, one of mine was away too, and we were both playing unstoppable fish. I knew mine was good, but Rob was convinced his was massive, and the concentration levels went up a notch. Every now and then I glanced over to Rob and could see he was totally engrossed in the battle, doing all he could to gain control. But out of nowhere, the tip sprang back and the fish was gone before we even got a glimpse. I’ve rarely seen him so disappointed, but what can you say? Luckily, mine stayed on, and it turned out to be a 55lb mirror.
It seemed that when the fish were in the swim, a take was possible at any time. At midday, under the blazing hot sun, I found myself doing battle once again. The power of those fish was hard to believe. I guess the drop in temperature and a few windy days had given them all the energy they needed, and once again I found myself being dragged all around the swim by something which felt like a submarine.
When I saw it for the first time I caught my breath. It was long and wide, but it was still another 10 minutes before it was safely in the net. It was an awesome-looking mirror of 65lb which looked in the peak of condition – as the fight proved! Before lunch at 2.00 p.m., I’d banked another good mirror of 51lb, and I was actually glad to sit down and have a rest. The hectic night of action and several big fish had taken their toll, and although I perhaps should have been keen to get back asap, my body told me otherwise, so for a couple of hours I just chilled out and had a drink or two.
By the time we got the boat that evening, we sort of knew that the spell would have passed, and for me it proved to be the case, although Rob did land a lovely 63lb mirror. It was quite clear they would move in on the bait, but it was difficult to hold them. There were fish coming out all over the lake, but it seemed that the really big ones were moving about in one group. All we could do was wait our turn and do our best to entice them back.
The actual spots we fished didn’t really make that much difference. We had a couple of nice firm areas marked out, which to us were the right spots to target. But to be honest, when the fish were in the area, they were coming from firm spots and soft spots alike. As anglers, we get it into our heads that we need to fish on hard spots, but a lot of the time I think it’s what suits us rather than what suits the carp, and they don’t always think the same way we do.
With time running out, I was starting to wish that I’d booked 2 weeks instead of just the one. A week used to seem such a long time to be on the bank, but now it always seems to go by quickly. Also, the times when there is a real chance of catching something life-changing are few and far between, and this was certainly one of those chances. Scott had proved that by catching another monster mirror of 84lb – what a trip he was having.
With the last evening upon us, we decided we would just take it easy – watch a film on the iPad, with a few cups of tea, before a good night’s sleep with one eye on the long drive home the next day. Of course, the fish had other ideas, and decided to give us a proper send-off. Before the film had finished, we’d caught more good fish, with three commons of 54lb, 55lb and 58lb 8oz coming in the space of an hour, along with mirrors to 42lb; it was crazy fishing. I always make an effort to photograph most fish I catch, especially the big ones, but I have to admit to putting mirrors of 54lb and 47lb back without pictures that night. Sleep didn’t really happen, and I reckon I only got around 2 hours in amongst all of that. But if you think I’m complaining, then nothing could be further from the truth. This was just awesome fishing – some of the best I’ve had for a long time – and once again, fishing with Rob had produced a trip that will live in our memories forever.
There are some great waters in the world today, but when it comes to big-fish action, Euro Aqua sits right at the top. What the future holds, no one can know for sure. Owner Alex Horvath has expressed that he wants to sell the venue, and move on to other projects in the near future, so no one knows what will happen at this stage. The lake itself has a lifetime’s worth of stock already in place, and I’m not just talking about the big fish. The size ranges go all the way back to the small singles and doubles, which will undoubtedly grow-on in the coming years.
Maybe for some lucky person, this might just be the venture they are looking for. It would certainly be great to see the lake carry on in its present state, or who knows, even improved on? One thing is for sure, we all know the lake can, and does, produce the biggest carp in the world, and that is the lure I find impossible to resist!