The Guide to Chateau Lake was written by Ken Townley in 2008 and updated to the 2023/2024 situation.
There are 34 swims on the lake, 21 on the southern Forest Bank and 11 on the northern Chateau Bank. In addition there are two swims on the Island. All produce on their day but it has to be said that the swims on the Chateau Bank and the Island are, as you would expect, generally more productive as there are fewer of them, thus fewer lines in the water and a consequent spook factor. I think the best way to describe the fishing is to take you on a tour of the lake and describe how to fish the swims as we go.
These are the first three pontoons after the fishing hut, which is situated at the parking area marked Parking Ille. A big area of flat grassy bankside lies behind the swims making them among the most comfortable on the lake. They are also closest to the facilities and the parking and if you like sun bathing then in summer these are the swims for you are there is little cover from the sun apart from the single line of tall trees that line the bank. They are very handy for the social whirl and are very popular with the Dutch for some reason. The French angler tend to steer clear of them but I know that some UK lads and the Dutch guys in particular have done very well in these swims.
Swims 2 and 3 are what you might call open water swims in that you cast to a bed of bait at longish range. Swim 1 however, can be fished either into open water as is the case with 2 & 3 or to a nice little bugle and an inlet that lie on the road bank. You need to be able to cast about 130 yards to hit the hot spot but the big advantage is that you can go round to the other bank and bait up without attracting the ducks, coots and seagulls (more of which in a moment). The photo shows the casting area nicely. Your aiming point is the tall tree behind the wall for your left hand rod and the tall pine tree just to the left of the large overhanging bush for your middle rod. I suggest you fish your right hand rod into open water.
The bird life is a pain in the arse, it has to be said! Baiting up in daylight hours is simply asking for trouble as the ducks and the seagulls will drive you crazy. As if that weren’t enough, in certain swims the coots dive on baits with maddening regularity. For that reason it is best to bait up at first and last light with a throwing stick, before the birds can spot the baits in flight or as the hit the water. Alternatively use a bait rocket. This also comes in handy if you are striving for extra range (well it does if you, like me, are not much cop with a stick!).
In the past we used to put a marker float out and spod bait around the marker followed by two rods on the bait carpet. Now, unfortunately, the birds know what a little red marker float signifies and they hand around it waiting for you to send them their dinner!
Conduit markers are slightly better but there is some evidence to suggest that carp are suspicious of these. Certainly you don’t see them swaying about as carp feed at their base or rub themselves against the poles anymore. If it is not too windy I find the best tactic is to cast at the red nose cone of the spod or rocket after it has deposited its load. I tend to have the rod at my feet all ready to cast as soon as the spod hits the surface. Of course if it is windy you will probably like to take a chance on a marker float, but don’t be surprised if the birds don’t find it in seconds.
There are always resident fish that seem to hang around in front of these swims but sometimes they can drift well out of range. As no boats or bait boats are allowed you must rely on casting alone to try and get a take and the further you can cast the better in 2&3. I have done well in this area casting at absolute maximum range (which for me is about 150 yards) with a single high attract hookbait on an ultra-short pop-up rig fished helicopter style a la Frank Warwick on a long length of lead tubing.
The tactics described for these swims more or less holds true for most of the other swims on the Forest Bank. The ability to cast a long way and to be prepared to work hard at first light and after dark putting out bait is paramount, as is the ability to cast a boilie rocket a far distance.
Swim 1 is reached from the Parking Ille whereas swims 2 and 3 are reached from Parking One.
These four swims are pure open water swims. The best tactic is to cast a single high attract hookbait as far as you can straight out in front of you with one rods and to fish the other two rods to a baited patch. The further out you can bait up the better. The lakebed in front of you is uniformly flat and the depth varies little from about ten feet. In these swims you make it happen for you by introducing bait, and lots of it.
My mates Nige, Steve and Fred fished swims 5,6 and 7 in November last year to record a fantastic haul of carp to 49lb. All fished at about 80 yards using a throwing stick to bait up during darkness. They fished for four days but used twenty-five kilos of bait between them! I was opposite them in the Boathouse and their alarms never seemed to stop going off. All night I could see their head torches darting about across from me while they hauled and I didn’t!
These swims seem to fish best in strong winds passing from left to right; south westerlies, westerlies or even north westerlies are all positive. East winds coming from the opposite direction are also at times good but more so in the summer months than in the winter.
These swims are accessed from the path from Parking One. As is the case with all the swims on the Chateau Lake you can drive to your swim to unload and load but you must leave your car in one of the designate car parks.
Swims 8 and 9.
These swims are very similar to 5,6 and 7 but they tend to face slightly more to the north east than the others. They are opposite the Island and sometimes guys fishing there can affect sport on the mainland. They don’t see much sunshine apart from in high summer. The water depth is again between 10-12 feet but the course of the old river bed runs across these swims at a distance of about 65 yards. It is very well worth while fishing at least two rods to this feature and the fish use the river bed as a sort of highway from one part of the lake to another.
This is a bit of a hit and miss swim as it is tucked away around the corner in the bay not far from Parking Two. The depth varies as the lake shallows up in the bay to the right as you look out from the pontoon. Under certain circumstances it is possible for anglers fish in swims 8 and 9 to cut off the guy in 10. In addition anglers fishing across the bay in swims 11 and 12 can also affect sport in the bay itself. I suggest you fish the middle of the bay on a big bed of bait, especially if there is nobody opposite you in 11 and 12.
Though swim 10 is not one of the most popular on the lake, there are times when it can really come alive. If you get heat wave conditions with a strong east or north east breeze the fish stack up like breeze blocks in there and a wise man would make a beeline for the otherwise poorly regarded swim in these conditions.
Access to the swims can be made from either end of the forest but I’d suggest that Parking Two is slightly closer.
We are getting away from civilisation, as we know it now, Jim! The swims after Parking Two are certainly more remote and isolated but they are also among the best on the lake. Swims 11-13 are no exception. The lovely think about these three swims is the f act that the get the best sunsets on the whole lake, as they are bathed in late afternoon sunshine through out the spring, summer and early autumn months. Again the old river bed forms a critical feature at about 90-100 yards range. It turns out towards the Island after passing swim 11 where it again comes into play when fishing on there, more of which in a minute. Fish two rods to the river bed and one as a rover is my advice.
When Martin Russell used to run trips to the lake from 1996-2000 his base camp was set up behind swim swims 15 and 16. Martin used to reckon that these four swims were the best all round swims on the Forest Bank. Sure, other swims can produce spectacular results according to conditions but Martin maintained that these four swims could be relied on for sport more or less throughout the year. I cannot really comment as I have only fished there once, a session in 2002 in swim 17.
I can tell you that I did catch a lot of fish so in this respect perhaps Martin is right! That said, I do know that one reason why they were so productive for Martin was that he and his clients were putting in a great deal of bait and the fish came to recognise the area as being a food larder. Now that they are not fished quite so regularly who is to say.
I do know that these swims are greatly sort after Phil and Irene Johnson for their clients, which says a lot about them. Martin clients used to fish at about 80 yards range spodding out bait during daylight hours or using a stick after dark. They also used the high attract at extreme range tactic described herein to good effect.
When I fished in 17 in 2002 I decided to go against the flow and fish at 25-50 yards and I think I caught the fish on the hop as they responded really well. I think it could be well worthwhile trying in close in all the Forest Bank swims rather than relying totally on the tried and tested tactic of fishing at range.
This is last swim on the Forest Bank and you’d be forgiven for thinking it would be the best. In my experience this is not the case. While 19 has the big advantage of having no pontoon to the right, and the whole of the Forest Bank bird reserve area to go at, there are times when the area is empty of carp. It is very much a case of taking pot luck. Certainly if the lake is quiet I don’t think the fish hold up in numbers in front of 19. That said, in the spring when the carp are feeding up for spawning they do get into the area in numbers and you can bag up.
Tactics for 19 are completely different due to the nature of the swim. To the right as you face the water the reserve stretches away behind the shooting hides. Using chest waders you can wade down into the reserve some considerable distance to fish out into the bay but don’t neglect the margins here was well.
These are lined with thick beds of rushes and the carp love to get in among the roots, especially in hot weather. I like to really stir up the bottom in my chesties before dropping a load of bait tightly packed onto the disturbed lakebed with the hookbait a few yards off the freebies.
All the swims after Parking Two can be accessed by car for load/unload purposes but you have to return it to the car park when not in use.
Reserve South 32 + 33
These swims have been opened in 2010, the first sessions where outstanding but like Ken worte, this area can be completely empty as the Fish move from the shallow area into the deeper parts of the lake. But if you are on the right moment on the right spot, you will not get any sleep in days.
These swims are beatifully situated in the formal bird reserve, you can acces them by a road from parking 2 into the reserve. Mostly boats are being used for transport to the swims, but only to be used for transport not for anything else!
We now turn to the so-called ‘private swims situated on the north bank. However, before we get to them there is one very special swim that is situated on the dam itself called the Pavilion. This is accessed directly from the road that runs across the dam wall through the little hamlet of Poiteviniere after which the lake is named.
. As you face the water the outfall is about 40 yards away to your left. Across on the lawn opposite you will see two prominent stands of bushes and trees that dominate the bank and these form very useful casting marks. In addition a stand of silver birch trees stand out on a slight point and this is the casting mark for the right hand rod. It is tempting to fish up the lake, casting in the direction of the Island, but in my view much better sport comes from casting to the lawn and the prominent casting marks that stand there.
Depth ranges from 12-15 feet and the bottom is characterised by its very hard and rocky nature (see echo sounding in last month’s issue). Care should be paid to the hook point after every retrieve as in all likelihood the point will have turned over.
Please note: You will need chest waders to fish in the Boathouse. Ordinary waders won’t do the job.
The Boathouse comprises two swims, one on the right of the swim, the other on the left. You can just about see the two swims in the photo). It is not the easiest of swims to fish due to the overgrown nature of the swim (deliberately kept thus to preserve the looks of the bankside). However, it can really respond to a big bed of bait at times and in addition you can cover an awful lot of ground from either of the two swims as the Boathouse produces fish throughout a180 degrees arc. The beauty of the swim is that, nobody can cast within 600 yards of you so the whole area is likely to attract carp, particularly when the lake is under pressure.
Lets take the right hand (as you face the lake) swim first. Off to your right you will note a small point sticks out from the lawn bank. This point extends quite a way out from the bank. In the past this area was always good for a few fish but of late it has become a bit of a no-no as the fish tend to be very spooky when feeding on the point. If you look towards the dam wall and the road you will note a strange tree the top of which curls right over on itself.
This is the casting mark for the middle rod. The right hand rod goes towards the tall tree next to the funny topped one, while the left hand rod should be cast about half way along the walkway that connects the grass behind swim 1 to the shown/toilet block. You’ll see what I mean the minute you step into the swim. The casting marks are as plain as a pikestaff and cannot be mistaken for anything else.
The water off the point is about five feet deep, slowly shelving down to about seven feet then eventually levelling off to the usual 10-12 feet. The bottom is hard shale, slate and rock so it is as well to use at least 15 yards of 45lb abrasion resistant leader such as Armadillo. Once again, check your hooks after each cast for damage. Your leads will get chewed up in just a few casts so quite frankly I cannot recommend those fancy, yet largely cosmetic, leads.
Stick to plain inexpensive ones that don’t cost over a quid apiece. Your fancy leads will be reduced to a jagged glinting piece of junk in a couple of days fishing so take heed. Lead damage in turn can lead to severe damage to the hooklink so look out for frayed braids and cut nylon.
If the shallow area off the point does not pay off try fishing at range into open water as described previously. I have caught many of my bigger fish on high attract hookbaits cast as far as I possibly can in the right hand Boathouse swim
Turning to the left hand side of the Boathouse now. Once again chesties are a blessing in this swim due to the overhanging trees, etc. There are so many options open to you in this swim but most of my best fish have come to the following tactic. Wade down to your left and lob a gentle cast with your left hand rod right into the middle of the entrance of the Boathouse itself. If you are fishing with a mate get him to walk up to the left hand side of the building to put some bait on top of the splash of your lead. (He’ll be able to throw it out by hand, that’s how close in you’re casting.)
The fish almost invariably creep into this very silty, eight feet deep area after dark and you can expect a take at any time between 1.00 am and dawn. Thereafter they tend to move out into the middle of the lake but the Boathouse is a banker during the night.
The middle rod can be cast in the general direction of the Island where again shallow water predominates the area in front of the lawn that stretches down from the chateau. This area too is very hard and can damage leads, hooks and hooklink materials. Though you are aiming to cast about 80-100 yards down the bank, in fact your hookbait will land only some 30 yards out from the bank in 3-4 feet of water. Don’t be concerned that you may be fishing too close in; the shallows are hugely productive at all hours of the day and nobody else can cast anywhere near your hookbaits so yours will be the only ones on the area.
The right hand rod should be fished either as a rover or on a bed of spodded-out bait. The depth at range to the right of the Island as you look at it drops quickly down to about 10 feet and the bottom is more silty than the shallows. You may need to play things by ear with this rod as quite often the fish can hang back from a bed of bait for some time before deciding to get their head down.
If I had a pound for every fish I have caught in the Boathouse I’d be a rich man. I really cannot describe some of the more memorable events that have happened to me, Carole and my mates who have fished in there. If I can give just one example of what the fishing can be like let it be the afternoon in July 2003 when I landed a forty, three thirties and two upper twenties in a couple of hours!
The Boathouse really is a superb swim and in addition has the added benefit of being totally cut off from the rest of the lake as other anglers are not permitted to visit the Boathouse. Great if you are loners like Carole and me.
There are two swims on the Island, which I call Sunrise and Sunset. Here’s my advice first for sunrise. As you look up the lake you will see a peninsula poking out into the lake from the left hand side some 700 yards away. A lob of about 60 yards in the direction of the end of the peninsula puts you into about 8 feet of water onto what is one of the few recognisable features on the lake, a small plateau rising no more than a couple of feet of the bottom.
This usually acts as a magnet to the carp and they tend to gather around the little plateau in numbers at times. I can find it with my eyes shut but it may take a bit of finding for you. Cast directly at the tip of the peninsula and you should find it. It is very hard so your lead will come back well scared up when you eventually land on it. I generally put my middle rod on this little hump.
The left hand rod invariably goes off to the left (as you stand on the pontoon facing eastwards up the lake) towards the shallows in front of the chateau, It is not always necessary to get right up onto the shallowest part and it is quite a big chuck anyway that not everyone can manage. In fact the approach to the shallows is also pretty productive so if you can find say five or six feet of water that means you are on the slope leading up to the shallows themselves. The bigger carp often patrol along this slope rather than joining in the rabble that often gathers on the actual shallows.
Finally the right hand rod is cast some eighty yards towards the Forest Bank. If you cast in the direction of the prominent dip in the treeline (again, you’ll know it when you see it) you should be able to hit the old riverbed. I have not fished Sunrise for some time but my mates who have fished there say that the old marks are just as productive as ever. Liam fished there in 2002 and had four thirties and in 2003 Lee and Martin caught thirties as well.
Now to Sunset. In my opinion this is the better side of the Island as there are more features to go at. However, they are all some distance away and you will need your casting boots to reach some of them. However, even if you are not a big caster the carp of the Chateau Lake often gather in the deeper water between the Island and the Forest Bank in numbers and you can really bag up. Last time I fished there was in April 2003 when I finished a week’s session with 28 fish including eight thirties and a forty but I admit I was lucky as I had the gale force SE wind on my side.
The main feature is a large bar and plateau that lies about 150 yards away in the direction of the Boathouse. Ideally you need a strong south easterly breeze to help you hit the target. Conversely any breeze with west in it will severely hamper your chances. The bar/plateau is very distinctive as it rises almost to mid water from about twelve feet of water. It is VERY jagged and will cut you off in the blink of an eye.
For that reason I suggest you fish your side of the bar rather than on it or over it. The gully in front (your side) of the bar is full of wind-blown silt that is a veritable food trap. If you sit out on the pontoon in Sunset at any time of day or night you will see/hear fish crash out over the feature. The area is alive with natural food in the shape of small zebra and pea mussels and crayfish. You can always tell when you catch a fish that’s been feeding there as it craps out loads of shell in the sack.
They hang around it regardless of the weather conditions and I am certain there are resident fish that live all year round near the feature that never feed anywhere else. There may even big fish that have never been caught that are living there! If the conditions are against you don’t worry but try to get as near as possible by casting directly at the Boathouse. I generally use the right hand rod for this.
As for the middle rod, once again the funny tree on the dam wall comes into play as this makes a very handy casting mark for an extensive area of silt that lies some 80-90 yards away. The silt is laid down by underwater currents emanating from the shallows off to your right and is heavily laden with food items including bloodworm, snails, and swan mussels.
The left hand rod should once again be fished as a rover casting both long and short ranges, not neglecting the island margins to your left. Here many troughs and gullies break up the lakebed, so much so it must resemble an egg box! I have also scored well by finding the riverbed at about fifty yards range casting towards swims 7 and 8.
Leaving the Island we now cross back to the Chateau Bank again to a long stretch of more or less straight bank that is known as Le Jardin (The Garden). There are four swims spaced out at regular intervals along this stretch and all are fishing in more or less the same manner as the other open water swims on the Forest Bank. Again chesties are virtually essential in order to gain extra distance. I have to say that these swims can also be somewhat hit and miss but they have a knack for throwing up more bigger fish than most of the other swims on the lake. The only times the cats have been landed they have been hooked off the Garden.
Probably the most popular swims on the entire lake, as witnessed by the fact that whenever I have tried to book to go onto the peninsula it has been booked up. Again chesties are indispensable.
The first swim you come to looks back down the lake from the western side of the Peninsula. To the right is a patch of lily pads and a good tactic is to wade down towards the pads to cast a bait close by. Alternatively the marginal slope of the high bank you’ll see on your right as you wade down are also worth a try. Give the bottom a good stir up with your feet before dropping your bait. When the fish are gathering to spawn the Pads Bay, as it is called, is crammed with fish and you will bag up for sure.
At other times the Bay may seem devoid of fish. This swim is pretty demanding and can be a bit heart breaking, especially if the guys on the other two swims on the Peninsula are bagging up. However, stick at it and you’ll reap the rewards. A good tactic here is to fish one rod to the margins, another to the pads and the third as a rover with a high attract hookbait.
The middle swim on the Peninsula is a medium to long range swim. You can cover a lot of ground from this swim including the entrance to the reserve and the deep water channel leading from it into the body of the lake. I would suggest the same spodding tactics or after dark throwing stick tactics as before for two rods with the obligatory high attract single hookbait at extreme range for the third rod.
Of the three swims on the Peninsula itself the one that most people want to fish is the last one on the lake that looks down towards the shooting hides in the bird reserve. This is not surprising as the swim covers a huge amount of ground. The bay that forms the reserve is predominantly shallow and silty and is one great big food store. Consequently the carp love it! The accepted tactic is to wade down into the reserve before casting out towards the nearest shooting hide. (Please bear with me as all will become clear when you are standing in the swim!)
Freebies are spodded out to form a big bait carpet on the featureless lakebed and most anglers cast all three rods down into the reserve. It is one of the few swims on the lake where I might consider using pop-ups as the silt can make presentation somewhat tricky. That said, I know most of my friends who have fished on the reserve have been very successful using simple balanced hookbaits or even on standard bottom baits.
The Chateau Lake is a bait water first and foremost. It gives of its best when tackled with top quality food baits. Sure, other baits work and we have caught on baits such as tigers, black-eyed beans, groats and groundbait but primarily these fish like a good meal. I therefore strongly recommend that you use top quality food baits from any of the top bait firms, or home made if you think you can match the quality of say, Trigga or 3D.
Boilies need to be air-dried to a pretty much rock hard consistency, especially in the summer, due to the crayfish, which are becoming an increasing problem. (Efforts are to be made this winter to try to thin the population by draining the lake but at the time of writing the rainfall in France has been virtually nil and unless there is a deluge then it is unlikely this will take place. Fingers crossed.)
If you are happy to spod all your bait out then its size will be immaterial but if you are going to work with a throwing stick then you should consider bigger baits simply to achieve extra range. I have used baits of 24mm with great success on the lake and they are not afraid of big baits.
Nothing in life comes problem-free and the Chateau Lake is no exception. There are one or two aspects over access to the Chateau Bank, which I feel need resolving and the earth toilets dotted around the lake, are a bit, shall we say, primitive. However, the greatest problems come from the wildlife. Being a huge lake it is impossible to control the bird life fully and thus coots, ducks and seagulls all pose big problems as far as getting your bait into the water and down to the lakebed.
The seagulls are adept at catching boilies in flight or just as they hit the water; the ducks can dive down five or six feet to pick them up off the bottom, and the coots can dive down twice that amount. Marker floats simply attract the birds as they have figured out that this means food down below! Of course, some anglers seem to actually like birds diving in their swims, and I read somewhere that Dave Lane thinks they attract carp! I disagree! I think they put them off as I have never had a take while birds have been diving on my baits.
The answer to the birds is obvious! Bait up in the dark! That’s fine for the winter months but in the summer there isn’t that much dark so then you are left with no choice other than to use a bait rocket or spod of some kind. It’s a boring business but it’s got to be done! I am not sure if the splash of a repeatedly cast spod scares the fish or not but when you are faced with Hobson’s choice what does it matter!
Crayfish abound in the lake so you need to take the usual precautions of meshing up or using large bore shrink tube.
Depending on where you live in England the closest ferry to the lake is the port of Saint Malo, from Saint Malo it’s a 2 hour drive to Riallé. The lake is on the D14 road out of the village of Riaille and the entrance to the lake is clearly marked on the right hand side as you enter the hamlet.
Riaille is a lovely small village nearby where you can get most things you may run short of including beer, fags, food and wine. If you feel like a sit down meal there are two excellent value restaurants in the village that do lunchtime set meals for just over €20 a head, including wine. The Relais de l’Erdre is situated on the exit from the town off the Post Office roundabout on the D33. (André:) Today 2023 Riaillé has its very own E.Leclerc supermarket and there is also a Pizzeria for take away food.
Tickets for the lake cost €30 per 24 hours on the Forest bank and €40 a day on the Chateau Bank. Access to the Island is obviously only by boat but this is available at no extra charge. The boat is large and stable and is powered by a small outboard (petrol) motor.