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South West Memories.
8 Jan 2018 at 2.46pm
In reply to Post #196
Francois had no English at all so I dragged my schoolboy French from the recesses of my memory and haltingly we began to talk. I asked about the fishing and pointed on the map to the river and to a couple of small lakes some ten kilometers away.
“Oh yes,” said our host, pursing his lips and giving a faint shrug. “They are good enough for small fish and small boys. But if you want to fish with the men you must fish our own lake.”
“Your own lake?” I asked.
“But of course,” replied Francois. “The commune has it’s own lake here in the village.” He rose from his chair and climbed the stairs to the first floor, beckoning us to follow. He pointed through a landing window. “Look!” Through the trees the newly risen moonlight painted a dimpled surface with silver.
“What fish have you got in there?” I asked, not really expecting anything too encouraging. “Pike, zander, friture (small fry) and of course, carp." he replied. I hardly dared to ask how big were the carp but I did. Francois simply shrugged and spread his shovel hands. There was a yard between them!
I grinned at Carole. Had we fallen on our feet? After Francois had left, two empty wine bottles later, Carole and I sipped a night-cap from an unlabelled bottle that he had left us. We slept well that night.
I got up early the following morning to a warm sunrise already promising a hot day ahead and walked down through the sleeping village to the lake which lay absolutely still in the quiet morning. It was bigger than I’d first thought, perhaps five or six acres or so. Its was more or less square in shape and it looked old and well established with plenty of bank side foliage and vegetation, the banks heavily wooded but clean and obviously lovingly maintained.
The banks were trim and well tended and it certainly looked to be a comfortable spot to fish, and a glance in the margins of the thick green-brown water revealed lake water that was absolutely teaming with life. The far bank was one big mass of lily pads and thick woods came right down to the water’s edge. It was absolutely gorgeous. A sign tacked to a tree told us that it was a private lake, but that day tickets were available from Francois’ house at the exorbitant price of five francs a day!
First things first. We needed supplies and a trip around the massive supermarket filled the car and emptied my wallet. Leaving the car park, I turned left instead of right. Lost once again, this time in the centre of town, we stumbled across a dark and dusty fishing tackle shop, tucked away down a dingy side street. We needed to buy fishing licences anyway, and while we were about it, perhaps someone could show us the way out of this God-forsaken town. The song and dance act that accompanied our purchase of a `carte de peche` seemed to take for ever, but at last we were granted legal status in the form of a buff piece of stiff paper that entitled us to wet a line.
Later that morning, while we were having breakfast, a deputation from the commune came to visit, our host proudly at its head. We put more coffee on to bubble and hiss through the ancient machine, and though it was not yet ten o’clock, in France it is never too early for a glass of wine. Perhaps this is an opportune moment to open a couple of bottles, I thought. Nobody refused. Perhaps they were just being polite, but I rather doubt it.
8 Jan 2018 at 2.42pm
In reply to Post #195
If Francois and his family were sad we were leaving, Tat and I were mortified. Who’d have thought that an evening spent browsing through the holiday brochures in the depths of winter would eventually bring us a brief share of Francois’ little piece of Heaven? Now we were leaving after a fortnight's holiday that I swear had lasted no more than a week. We’d had a lot of fun, a few carp, too many wines and too much eau de vie, and perhaps above all, been made so welcome and had felt so at home throughout our stay.
The memories were endless. Tranquil, lazy days by the lake watching the world go by, sipping mellow red wine from chunky glasses over lunch. The weather had been superb and we’d enjoyed a succession of wonderful golden sunsets that kissed the tree tops on the far bank, heralding the advance of darkness, returning the lake to the quiet serenity of the night.
Fishing over for the day, the setting sun would send us back along the dusty road to the cool slate-floored comfort of the gite. We’d stop in the bar, and over a glass of wine we’d rerun the day's events to the locals. For France is a nation of fishermen, and like anglers throughout the world, they love a fishing story, tall or otherwise.
Yet we hadn’t really come to France simply for the carp fishing. Indeed, we had no idea if the area we’d chosen even held carp in the first place and it had been on no more than a whim that we jammed a few bits of carp gear into the already overloaded car before we left home.
The holiday had started in the depths of winter while a full blown south westerly gale hurled angry rain against our living room windows overlooking the river. A collection of catalogues, leaflets and brochures lay spread about us on the carpet in front of the fire. France was a new horizon for us both and the carp fishing was just an afterthought. So the choice was made and next day a phone call to the offices of Brittany Ferries confirmed that the gite was free for two weeks in early autumn when the days would still be long, the weather warm and the schools had gone back.
Late September saw us boarding the ferry and after a silky smooth crossing we were soon heading down the motorway in search of, who knows? Carole drove while I navigated. In the back of the overloaded hatch-back a mountain of fishing tackle, luggage and other odds and sods rattled and shook to the road vibration. It was late evening when at last we pulled off onto a pot-holed track that wound through tall trees into a wide courtyard. In the gathering darkness a dog barked. It sounded large and threatening. I am sure France has a larger population of dogs than it does of humans and they all seem to love to bark. This was our first encounter with Sam the hound, about as menacing as a Barbie-Doll!
A door farmhouse opened and tall imposing figure stepped into the twilit courtyard. He lumbered towards, hand outstretched, greeting us warmly in a growl of guttural French that came to us filtered through the wild expanse of his thick beard, our first encounter with Francois Renault. We couldn’t understand a word he was saying as he gabbled excitedly about heaven knows what while he ushered us eagerly into the cool, shadowy darkness of the gite, our home for the next two weeks. It was spotless, fresh flowers stood in a thick crystal vase on a well scrubbed oak table, a bottle of red wine stood open and in the soft, cooling evening we drank to our holiday.
3 Jan 2018 at 12.29pm
The holiday was over, the time to leave. The dusty gravel courtyard spread out in front of the imposing steps of the rather down on its luck French chateau was overflowing with what appeared to be half the village. From the eldest matriarch to the tiniest babe in arms they were all there.
A rotund Hagrid of a man swooped down upon Tat and I we loaded the car. He held a brimming glass of clear liquid in each hand. We knew what to expect. The glass held a wickedly powerful home made Eau de Vie (literally 'the water of life') and Francois, our host for the past two weeks, and incidentally, president of the local angling association, was determined we would leave his hospitality in style. He thrust the glasses into our hands and insisted we drain them in one, then he grasped us one after the other in a rib-crushing bear hug. He shook my hand and kissed Tat four times - twice on each cheek - as he would old friends and nearly knocked me flat on my face as he slapped me on the back in farewell. Time to leave the cosy seclusion of our gite, which was in fact a few rooms on the ground floor of an ancient weather-worn chateau.
M. Renault and the whole family had turned out to see us off in style. There was Grandpa, burnt and shrivelled like an old grape, yet still proud to be a working member of the chateau's farm. A tattered beret sat square on the top of his nut-brown forehead above a pair of still lively, clear blue eyes, his bright blue 'travail bleu' overalls were neatly washed and pressed, and he was smiling hugely from behind a glass of red wine. I knew why he was smiling, we’d had plenty of that same red wine ourselves and it tended to make one smile.
Madame Renault, as fragile and petite as her husband was clumsy and huge, tutted and fussed over a gaggle of noisy children playing at her feet, while the family dog, a one-eared mutt, mainly collie and cocker, looked uninterested in the leave-taking as he dozed, panting in the shade of the barn, one eye half open to ensure that he missed nothing important. He had become an almost constant companion on or daily fishing sessions and we both adored him.
24 Oct 2017 at 10.16am
FRANCE - FIRST STEPS.
Many moons ago Tat and I went to France for the first time together. I had been over in my youth several times, as had Tat but this was the first time we went as a couple. It was also the first time we went with a specific purpose, namely to try a bit of carp fishing. We were not monster hunting but would be happy just to get our string pulled. At the same time we looked forward to familiarising ourselves with everything that is great about a country that works to live, rather than the other way round.
So in this section of SW Memories you'll find few tales of derring-do in search of France's super-carp. Instead you'll read more about good wine, excellent food, simple pleasures and a few small and not so small carp, caught in the company of great friends who take a similar laid-back attitude to French carping as us. It took us several trips to get things more or les right but the pleasure we got from doing so was considerable. Yes, it took us a while to get a twenty, then a thirty and a forty and beyond but the learning process was and remains hugely enjoyable.
Please also bear in mind that it is much easier to find waters nowadays than it was thirty years ago, however, even if we knew about the now famous 'circuit' waters I doubt we would have fished them. Not our style then, nor has it ever been. We realised early on that you needed to be much more driven if you wanted to fish the super-venues on the circuit and as we didn't even have a chauffeur they weren't for us. We have never been the type of angler who is happy to fight for swims or compete with loads of other carp men either at home or abroad on the more popular waters. To us happiness is not having to share Paradise, and if that means I don’t fish the waters that regularly produce the headlines, so be it, I’m not fussed.
Nor am I particularly bothered if the next carp is fourteen or forty pounds. From preference I like to fish virgin waters, or at least, waters that are still something of an unknown quantity. If I can find a lake, or more likely a river with not another carp angler in sight, I’m in heaven. So if you are looking for tales monsters read no further. On the other hand, if fishing simply for the pleasure of catching a carp, regardless of size, in the country that gave the world magret de canard, Chateau Petrus with cote de boeuf, or Chateau d'Yquem with pate de foie-gras, appeals to you, then read on.
To get a flavour both of our attitude towards France and our lowly ambitions for success over there, perhaps the following brief account of our first gite and carping holiday will give you a taste.
Through the Brittany Ferries gite book we had found what looked like a nice little gite that was actually part of an old chateau not far from the banks of the River Loire. The area is known throughout France as “Anjou” and it is one of the most famous wine growing regions in the country, at least we knew that we’d be spoilt for choice when it came to the good things of life. Deep reds, lively roses, sparkling whites, Anjou has them all and in common with all the other wine growing areas the people of Anjou live life to the full. The very essence of life itself seems to revolve entirely around the grape and the full enjoyment of the local produce. It is also an area rich in the heritage of France, and if you like to study history, magnificent chateaux and spectacular gardens, then Anjou is the place for you…as it was for us.
As it turned out that holiday was memorable not so much for the fishing but for the hospitality of the locals, their friendliness and their capacity for the good things in life. So to set the tone of what is to come here is the tale of that first French holiday. It is not a story of giant carp and epic battles but is more a tale of a way of life that we have embraced from the very start and illustrates just why we keep going back to that wonderful country. We start at the end...
21 Oct 2017 at 8.40pm
In reply to Post #189
Tales from your early days in France please Ken, recently listened to Alan Taylor talking about his adventures there on the carp cast and really enjoyed it
19 Oct 2017 at 10.00pm
In reply to Post #189
I'd like more of the same AND the early France trips - but then I'm greedy!
19 Oct 2017 at 8.53pm
In reply to Post #189
19 Oct 2017 at 7.33pm
In reply to Post #189
19 Oct 2017 at 6.20pm
In reply to Post #1
Looking to kick this thread off again through the winter. What's your preference, more of the same, or early days with the Cornios on Tour in France?
25 Sept 2017 at 1.52pm
In reply to Post #187
Good to hear from you. Hope all is well with you and yours.
It's great that you like the thread. Those days we shared on College and other SW venues are among my best ever fishing memories and simply writing and posting has refreshed them no end. Next time you and San come over to Cornwall, get in touch and I'll rope in Nige and we can all get together again in the New Inn. I'll get back to posting
Thanks for the memories, mate. You helped me to light my own carping spark so it was a two-way thing!
Love to San.
25 Sept 2017 at 3.21am
In reply to Post #1
Im just gobsmacked mate!
Dick Walker aside....... YOU were the guy who really inspired me to become a better carp fisherman. I really owe you a lot when it comes to our great sport. Terrific thread, Im still carp fishing but thanks for firing the fuse within !!!
We gotta do it again one day!
ATB Steve Westbury
8 Jul 2017 at 11.48pm
In reply to Post #185
Well done .
I think Scumbucket have made a huge mistake and will go under.
I'm looking forward to it
8 Jul 2017 at 11.52am
In reply to Post #184
All done! Phew...Only taken a week...
Thanks a bunch Scumbucket!
7 Jul 2017 at 3.10pm
3 Jul 2017 at 8.35pm
In reply to Post #182
Looking forward to more of your memories Ken
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