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'Gone fishing' – the French way!

'Gone fishing' – the French way!

Angling can provide a first class way of meeting French people, as Ron Cousins describes below in his account of what's what in the world of angling clubs in France

FishingThe universal language of angling – arms stretched out, hands wide apart to describe the one that got away – is understood the world over. This means the sport is a great way to integrate and make friends in any community; it doesn't matter whether you're an expert or a novice because, as with so many things in France, it's being there and joining in that counts, not what is achieved.

Angling Clubs

Joining the local angling club or going for a day’s fishing French style with local anglers who know the rivers and lakes in the area is a good way to broaden your angling horizons, meet new people, make new friends and enhance your French vocabulary with a few fishing related phrases.

Most towns in Poitou-Charentes have at least one fishing club; however, unlike in Britain, they do not have their own private waters and instead fish the public domain rivers and lakes that are covered by the annual Carte de Pêche or rod licence. Another difference is that although going fishing needn’t involve much physical exertion, a new member has to supply a medical certificate confirming fitness to take part in the sport before joining. This is because all club sport in France has to be insured and such cover is part of every angling club’s membership. Yet another difference between British and French angling club membership is that because the membership fee provides affiliation to the sport’s governing body – the Fédération Française de Pêche Sportive au Coup – an angler can join only one club.

The Fédération sets the annual membership fee which is paid at the angling club’s AGM in January. This investment is rapidly recovered, as I discovered when I became a member of Jarnac Pêche Competition. All clubs receive sponsorship from various tackle and bait firms so I was soon collecting, free of charge, a carton of groundbaits that would have set me back 50€ across the counter. And that isn’t the only perk: when members represent the club in the various leagues for juniors, ladies, adults and veterans that make up the competitive side of fishing in France, all bait and entry fees are covered. On top of that, the Fédération sends out a quarterly glossy magazine, crammed with angling news from all over France, to every member.

Angling in Poitou-Charentes

I quickly discovered one unexpected benefit from joining Jarnac PC on my very first outing with the club. As I loaded my fishing tackle into the car I set off a recurring back problem and by the time I arrived at the river it was difficult to walk. Sitting on my fishing box and waving a rod in the air just made things worse and when my wife Caroline arrived in the afternoon to take photographs she explained my predicament to the club President. As soon as fishing stopped he came to help me put everything back in the car before rattling off a few quick sentences – which we failed to understand – getting into his own car and then driving away.  

We'd hardly arrived home when the President and his wife drew up outside. Unknown to us, he was renowned for his natural healing gifts and I was soon laying stripped to the waist, face down on the kitchen table as he manipulated my back, rubbed in a mixture of herbs and applied a poultice. The next day the crippling pain, which on previous occurrences back in Wales had taken weeks for chiropractors to sort out, had gone!

Fishing in Poitou-CharentesAs a club member you decide on your degree of involvement. Whether you try to win your way through the leagues and become the first Anglais in the 'Team France', the country’s elite top 24 anglers, or whether you just come along to enjoy the leisurely picnic between the morning and afternoon fishing sessions, you’ll be treated as a valuable member and given all the help and advice to get the most from a day at the waterside. What's more, you'll make useful contacts and valuable friends.

Stamina and a good appetite are the main requirements if you're planning to join a few anglers out on their own for a day’s fishing French style, because an awful lot is crammed into the day. It's certainly not all about catching fish, so if you haven’t fished for years or even not at all, don't let this stop you jumping at the opportunity to sample what can only be described as a great day out.

My initiation came when I was invited to fish a stretch of the river Charente and a nearby lake near Mansle owned by Michel Mourier, whose '3MMM' DIY outlets are well known and well patronised by renovation-driven ex-pats. The other anglers were cognac expert Jean-Francois Beimert and lawyer Francis Remy – and Caroline had responded to the invitation by promising to lay on an English-style picnic at lunch time.

French fishing days start early, so at 6:30am we arrived on a picture-book perfect river bank boasting several fishing huts on platforms over the water, where a few lucky anglers could enjoy their long weekends fishing whatever the weather. Once we'd selected our fishing places and assembled the tackle it was time for the first serious business of the day: breakfast.

Replete with cheese, pate, charcuterie and bread straight from the boulangerie, helped down with wine and coffee, we eventually started fishing as the sun was really making its presence felt; yet, despite the heat, we were all catching fish. At midday the next essential part of the day arrived: lunch. We moved to the lakeside for this, where the table was well laden with Caroline’s picnic and augmented by local specialities brought by our hosts.

A couple of hours later, with the temperature now in the 30s, the fishing re-started on the banks of the lake; but we still caught more fish until a halt was called at around 6pm. It wasn’t time to go home, however – it was back to the table, which was now laid for tea.

As we finished eating, I was asked how I had enjoyed the day. "Great," I replied. "And how did you enjoy the English picnic?"

"Never had such a feast," came the reply.

The Charente evening was perfect, the Entente Cordiale had been re-affirmed, and now it was time to go home.

gone fishing

Address book

Fédération Française de Pêche Sportive au Coup: 12 Residence du Parc, 28300 Saint-Prest. +33 (0)2 37 22 25 87, www.ffpsc.fr

Regional Fishery Department Offices (information on clubs in each department):

FDPPMA Vienne: 178 rue Guynemer, 86000 Poitiers. +33 (0)5 49 37 66 60

FDPPMA Deux-Sèvres: 33 rue du Galuchet, 79000 Niort. +33 (0)5 49 73 24 17

FDPPMA Charente Maritime: 2 cours du Marechal Leclerc, 17104 Saintes. +33 (0)5 46 98 98 79

FDPPMA Charente: 60 rue de Bourlion, 16160 Gond Pontouvre. +33 (0)5 45 69 33 91

Useful fishing phrases

Concours de pêche: fishing competition

Parcours de concours: stretch of water where the competition takes place

Tirage au sort: the draw for numbers placed at the waterside where each competitor will fish

Esches: the term for live baits like worms and maggots – the amounts that can be used have set limits

Amorce: ground bait – again, this is limited

And for those really awful days, Pas une touche: not a single bite

 

Words & Photos: Ron & Caroline Cousins

Originally published in Living Poitou-Charentes magazine