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My French Life: International fishing contest in the Village

Jean-Claude, my French neighbour, is a man who gets things done.  He decided that it would be a good idea to have a fishing contest between the Brits, Belgians and French in our village and so we all found ourselves on Saturday morning at the trout lakes in Fressin for what has become the annual Trout fest.

I say all, I mean all the men – the ladies were not invited, they were to follow on with lunch for the heroes!

To be honest, I was fine with that – 8.00 on a Saturday morning to go and hold a stick with a bit of string hanging off the end and some poor hapless worm dangling off it trying to attract a carnivorous stranger intent on damage is not really my idea of fun.

The OH went off with Jean-Claude early in the morning – he told him he’d never been fishing before and had no clue of what to do but Jean-Claude reassured him he would “teach him everything I know”…

When I got there with the ladies later in the day I found the men standing or sitting on the edge of the lake holding their rods and looking very serious indeed.  It’s not fishing as I remember it from when I used to go with my Dad as a child – not that I fished much mind you, my brother once tipped a box of maggots on me and my sister in the  back of the car and it put me off and I never fished again after that. We used to find rivers, lakes and streams – Dad would usually have a licence, we’d set up on the side and wait a while (and then some) – Dad might or might not catch something and he’d put it back afterwards.

Non non non – this is not the French way.  You arrive at the lake, you tell the proprietor (in this case Le Café des Etangs) how many fish (trout) you want put in the lake and he takes them out of some strange underwater fish prison, weighs them in a dustbin in a shed and then puts them into your lake for you to catch and eat! Hmm – it would be far easier to take them out of the fish prison/dustbin and cook them as chuck them back in the water but I guess there’s no fun in that! Where we went in Fressin there are three lakes and if you want to book, you hire a whole lake (they are not big) and pay by the kilo for the fish. I found the procedure most odd but strangely entertaining and as it happens a very sociable way to pass a day.  Le Café des Etangs kindly provides tents, shelters, barbecue kit, chairs and tables and a rock to bash the fish on! All three lakes were booked with big groups and there was a bit of a party atmosphere with lots of singing and drinking.

At the end of the day our group had caught some 50 fish – even the OH caught two and he was by all accounts pretty rubbish at it. He has no patience and his method was to keep pulling the worm out every few seconds or make it move quickly on the surface as if it was skimming.  I’m no expert but I think the fish had trouble keeping up with the speeding worm!

The biggest upset of the day though was Jean-Claude – he caught zilch, nothing, rien, nada – NO FISH.

The French contingent was utterly merciless.  The Belgian contingent joined in. Not to be left out the British contingent (me and the OH) also added to his misery by advising everyone that Jan-Claude had told us he would teach the OH how to be a proper fisherman.  This one caused singing, whistling and the ex-deputy Mayor to almost fall of his chair (yes we move in exalted circles here you know).

The lovely Belgians hosted a barbecue for everyone in the evening in their garden, the torment of Jean-Claude was the main entertainment of the night and he drowned his sorrows in style with copious amounts of Côtes du Rhone and Ricard (pastis) and wobbled off home in the early hours vowing that next year he would have revenge!

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