Thib has been a friend of ours for years now and we've followed his angling and the amazing carp he's been catching with keen eyes. As a 25 year old fireman in Paris, he lives a life of high drama and intensity, and also a life outdoors, fuelled by the drive to catch big carp from wild waters, and on an ever-increasing scale of size, difficulty and challenge. Sit back and take a little look into his world.
Hey Thib! Thanks for doing this with us, great to be able to showcase a little bit of your fishing. First of all, can you just introduce yourself please, what is your name, how old are you, and where are you from?
Hi bro! Of course, it's a pleasure to answer this interview for you. My name is Thibaut Cotelle and I am 25 years old, I come from France, and more precisely the North East of the country, near the city of Metz. I am single, which gives me a lot of time to fish. I am also lucky to have some beautiful gravel pits near me and a few famous big French waters.
How did you get into angling/carp angling? How long have you been doing it?
Although my father is a lover of nature and the forest, I have absolutely no one in my family who fishes. I discovered my passion for the first ‘faith’ thanks to an old friend who had taken me for a few hours on a small river near the house. I loved it right away and started by catching my first fish - a roach, then perch and pike. I then saw people catching big carp and that sparked the dream, I said to myself “yes, that's what I want to do!" With the help of my parents, I then gradually began to equip myself with all the necessary equipment, and here I am 15 years later, still here, as passionate as ever and for many years to come...
You are a Fireman correct? How do you manage to fit your angling in with serious work like that? How many nights a week do you fish on average?
Yes, that's right, I've been a Fireman in the big city of Paris for 7 years now. Contrary to popular belief, because of the shifts and schedules, my work actually gives me the chance to have plenty of days off so that I can spend a lot of time by the water. I work 2 full days and then I have 2 or 3 or even sometimes 4 days off. I can't say exactly how many nights a week I fish because my work schedules are never quite the same. But I can guarantee you that I spend all of my free time on the bank, always giving myself the goal of at least 100 nights a year. It is an obligation for me!
'I can guarantee you that I spend all of my free time on the bank, always giving myself the goal of at least 100 nights a year. It is an obligation for me!'
I imagine it must be a bit crazy being a Fireman in Paris, does the carp fishing give you some headspace and peace?
Paris is a completely crazy city mate! But I'm still young, and even so, this job is not easy. I love what I do and I think it's an excellent city to gain experience in the profession. I am sure it would be comparable to London for example. So yes, it's true that spending time at the water's edge allows me to be calm to recharge my batteries, calm my mind and do what I love most in the world: fishing for carp.
Where do your inspirations come from? Who are they, and why do they inspire you?
Photography takes an important place in my eyes, I find inspiration through this and through my images I always try to produce a unique work, that is somehow unique to me. When it comes to media, I'm an Instagram fanatic. For me it is the best social network there is. Some guys feeds are like a work of art. The best magazines you can find are Carpology which feature quality articles with great authors and to finish on the books, without any hesitation for me it is the Subsurface editions. It’s beautiful to be able to bring together in one place all the most beautiful images that exist in the world of carp fishing - big up yourselves!
Thank you, we appreciate that! Your shots do have a unique feel, for sure. Do you do much in the way of editing? What kind of things do you try to capture in a good shot?
Photography plays an important role for me, I don't go fishing without having my camera with me. These days I shoot on a Sony Alpha 7RIII with a Canon 35mm 1.4 L Series & a Canon 100mm 2.8 L Series lens. Yes, editing wise, I like to use Lightroom to edit in my own way. Never too contrasty, slightly dark... to try to obtain a very personal atmosphere of my own. But you know what makes me really happy to photograph? Just being on the bank, opening a beer in front of a pristine sunset scene and taking a picture of it. Perfect.
'But you know what makes me really happy to photograph? Just being on the bank, opening a beer in front of a pristine sunset scene and taking a picture of it'
Are there any anglers in particular you have taken influence from in terms of approach, attitude etc?
It would have to be my man Samir Arebi, we have spent some time together on the banks and he taught me a lot. I have always appreciated his mentality and his state of mind - go on an adventure on the great public waters. It’s a constant source of motivation for me.
How was it fishing with Samir, what else did you learn from him?
With his vast experience, it was more precisely the tips and strategies for coping with deep water fishing that Sam taught me. We had a great time on the bank, the first trip together was on the Seine in the heart of Paris, right in front of the Eiffel Tower then the Saône in Lyon via some large gravel pits as well. Then we also did a big two week road trip to England to find out what typical fishing was like here, not to mention the few DnB parties in UK with the guys from Nash!
What is the French carp scene like, is there one where you live and on your local waters?
I think everyone is free to see things in their own way. It's a bit strange, because for me the French carp scene has some very good aspects, but unfortunately also some bad ones. There are lots of very good anglers, real enthusiasts who are full of talent and passion. On the other hand, I find that since the heyday of some social networks, the mentality of some of the carp anglers has changed and it is not so good. Instead of helping each other, they are more concerned with watching what others are doing, judging without knowing, creating controversies with night fishing, authorized or not, and creating public or private lake wars. Personally, I don't think all that is right. I don’t know how it is in England but here it’s a bit like that now...
You’ve done a lot of big water fishing this year, is that a fairly new experience for you? How has it been?
I have, yes! After a long time fishing from the bank, what you could call typical ‘english’ style fishing, I needed to experience new things. Recently I have found my happiness in devoting all of my time to fishing the big lakes. Obviously, a few lakes stood out above all else and I fell in love with them - Lac du Der on which I have spent a lot of time and the Devil's Lake (Salagou) too, where I spend a week every year. I'm sure more big lakes will be added to the list in the years to come. I already have plenty of ideas in mind.
What are the main challenges you have faced on the big waters?
They are venues that requires a lot of organisation, serious investment and concentration where nothing should be left to chance. I find it incredible to catch fish in lakes that are so huge that you can't even see the other bank. For me, angling on these large lakes, each and every fish caught is of great merit. One of the big challenges is having to face the extreme weather conditions which can change and turn completely in just minutes.
How is the atmosphere different on the likes of Du Der and Orient to other places you have fished?
Honestly, it’s a bit inexplicable. Maybe like a deep feeling of love, or attachment? But maybe because these are some very mythical French lakes which are full of history, and also famous for their strains of carp which are so unique too. It all adds to the atmosphere.
Are all your waters public, or do you have syndicates and clubs as well?
For me yes, I now exclusively fish the large public lakes or sometimes some secret gravel pits which are very wild and sometimes totally lost to nature. For me the feeling of freedom is everything.
Do you have a social group of friends that fish too? Or do you mainly fish alone? How important is the wider carp community to you?
Sometimes I go fishing alone if I need to breathe and recharge my batteries for example. But for the most part I have a wonderful group of friends with whom I get to share some truly unique fishing adventures. Guys as crazy as me, who would follow me everywhere to catch carp. It is important to know and understand each other to be 100% effective. As I write these few lines, I have this little quote in mind that makes perfect sense: "Alone we go faster, together we go further."
'As I write these few lines, I have this little quote in mind that makes perfect sense: "Alone we go faster, together we go further."'
Love that! What sort of carp and venues do you like to target? Are you interested/excited by the history of the carp in your area/country?
For now, I am most interested in fishing the big lakes and raw gravel pits which harbor a population of beautiful and large carp with a dark character, which have lived wild lives. Honestly, I prefer to go fishing and catch only one quality carp than to take 10 ordinary ones. And yes, it is always interesting and good to know the history of the lake and the fish that swim there.
'For now, I am most interested in fishing the big lakes and raw gravel pits which harbor a population of beautiful and large carp with a dark character, which have lived wild lives. Honestly, I prefer to go fishing and catch only one quality carp than to take 10 ordinary ones'
Do you encounter many travelling anglers on your waters? Do you enjoy this aspect of fishing – meeting guys from different countries etc, sharing stories, food, beers etc?
Oh yes mate, I love it! I love to share and I'm always happy to invite good friends over to my shores to catch some carp, drink beers, barbecue and listen to dnb, haha! I have shared so many wonderful moments that I will never forget doing just that.. I'm thinking particularly of one summer session on a gravel pit with DK (Dan Kilgour) for example, he will confirm that he has never eaten so well by the water, haha! But there are still so many more sessions that I could probably write a book about them all.
Yeah DK doesn't usually do any kind of luxury when he's fishing, so sure he appreciated the good food on the bank for once! Do you travel much for your fishing, if so why?
Absolutely yes! I love to hit the road with my van, to travel and discover new things. We are very fortunate in France to have a very wide choice of places, all very different, to fish and thrive. Catching carp is good, of course, but catching them in special places with beautiful scenery is maybe even better I think!
What does carp angling in your region mean to you - what makes it special and unique?
It is so versatile and diverse. We have large lakes, wild gravel pits, rivers, canals, small private ponds, everything. I think there is something for everyone to catch carp, depending on what they like to tackle.
'Catching carp is good, of course, but catching them in special places with beautiful scenery is maybe even better I think!'
What are your personal goals and objectives in carp fishing now? What drives you on?
I still have a lot of goals in mind and to be able to achieve them all, I think that a whole life would not be enough, but the most important thing for me is just to continue to live out my passion to the fullest and to flourish in life, like I always have. To continue to be able to spend a lot of time on the shores of the lakes sharing all these moments with my friends and of course, catching ever bigger carp! That is what drives me on.
You’ve just bought a boat, tell us a bit about it, what’s the plans for it?!
Yes, I quite recently bought a boat! I had already had this little idea in the back of my head for some time then my friend Pat made me discover what boat fishing really was about and I was immediately hooked on the atmosphere of freedom that it gives you. First job is to start by giving it a new lick of paint and doing some work and improvements, adding all the necessary equipment to make it operational for big water fishing. Then the time will come to get serious... the plan is simple: direction, the Mighty Orient...
People in the UK often talk about the past as the ‘good old days’, would you transport yourself back twenty or thirty years if you could to carp fish in the 80’s, or are you quite happy with 2021?
I think in life, what is done, is done. Time cannot move backwards and you have to take advantage of every present moment and live with the times. So yes of course, with the arrival of new technologies, changes in equipment and new fishing techniques, there is a lot of great aspects to modern carp fishing, but I sincerely admit that I do regret not having experienced the beautiful, simpler 'old school' years. The era of Kevin Nash, Rod Hutchinson, Steve Briggs and Leon Hoogendijk to name just a few. I really would have liked to have been part of that time in the 80s and 90s and to put my rods in the 'posts' on some the great mythical French lakes such as 'Kevin Ellis' point at Cassien, or 'Bivvy City' on the Orient or even Champaubert on the Der. These swims and areas still exist, and they are still very interesting, but it is maybe not quite the same atmosphere that exists now.
As a last word, any advice or wisdom for anyone fancying a go on the big waters of France? What would you say to them?
Just don't hesitate, go ahead, go for it! Enjoy it too, the French lakes are beautiful with lots of stories. I am sure that you will make fond memories of all your travels.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Thib! Pleasure speaking to you, and we look forward to sharing a few beers with you sat behind the rods at some point!
'the plan is simple: direction, the Mighty Orient...'