Tom recounts how he and his Dad Jim have finally achieved his Dad’s dream to own a fishing lake in France and how the locals warmly welcomed them in traditional community style…………

Les Burons Feb 2012 045

My double take!!! February 2012 fishing in Normandy with my Dad. Coldest night was -12 C, we must be mad!!!!!

I arrived to France in March 2013 with my Dad to the wettest spring on record in a long while which was not the best of starts to our adventure in France.  Me and my Dad are keen fisherman and I have been fishing since I can remember.  We have been taking a week or two a year to fish in France for big carp through the last 7 years and have always loved coming over, even though the trips where to a lake in lower Normandy we had never ventured this far south apart from a skiing holiday.

It has been my father’s dream to own his own fishing lake here in France and after 30 odd years of travelling to and from London after some persuasion he finally decided to put his dream in action and come to France to view as many lakes and properties as humanly possible in 2 weeks. This was just after he tried to buy the lake we fished in lower Normandy which was going through until the owners decided to pull out at the last minute, this was helpful as dad had just sold the house we were living in! After a few kicks up the backside AGAIN to follow his dream we where soon on the hunt again. We viewed lakes all over France and found a few maybes by our old spot in Normandy. On our last few days of our lake hunt we arrived in the Limousin. The estate agents in the area took us too many lakes which we liked but nothing really grabbed us or had issues so it was back to England to have a good think and review properties we had been to.

After going back to England and back to reality a few weeks in my dad had a phone call from the estate agent here in Chalus telling him he had the perfect lake for us that hadn’t even been put on the books yet.   Apprehensively a couple of weeks later we where back out to view this so called perfect lake.  On arriving back to Chalus to meet the estate agent he seemed to have a twinkle in his eye (or two euro signs) so off we went to view the lake.  As we walked around the property even though the trees where bare and there was snow on the ground as it was winter the place was stunning and peaceful.  A very different ‘V’ shaped 5 acre lake and acres of woodland surrounding it.  No noise apart from Dutch, English and French voices including a few birds singing.  Dad was in love with the lake that had never been used for commercial fishing before and the French owner said he will put in all the requirements to meet the fishing licence.  We were back in England for a couple of months until one of the biggest step in our lives, packing all our possessions in boxes, loading them on a truck and catching a late night ferry over to France…  So our journey began!!!!

A month went past till we owned the lake which gave us time to settle in to our place, get to know the surroundings and get as much sorted for the lake without spending any money just in case everything fell through.  After the lake in Normandy fell through you can understand why!  The weather was getting warmer which actually wasn’t too good for us as we wanted to drain the lake, see what fish we had in there and eventually stock it which we would not be able to do until the weather was colder due to causing the fish a lot less stress.  We managed to find a fish farmer who could net our lake to see what fish we had in there and eventually stock it if we liked the fish he could supply us with.  Things where looking good!

Our first proper French experience was with the lakes ex owner who we still see now as he owns the land above us.  The lake had been draining for weeks and was now at a suitable level to be netted to see what fish we had.  This seems to be a big occasion with the French.  As we arrived to the lake to meet our fish farmer to net the lake we also had the ex owner there who seemed to be putting a massive buffet together including wine, pates, meat platters etc.  I thought to myself he must be feeding the entire region.  As the netting began more and more people started arriving.  The netting lasted a few hours which everyone helped in some way which was nice to see.  After the fish where sorted and everything packed away we were offered to join for an amazing French lunch.  Was so nice to sit down with everyone even though me and my dad could speak very little French, everyone made us feel very welcome, fed us till we nearly burst and the kids gave us a break from our Jack Russell Oscar for the day who also had enough pate and scraps to last him a life time.  This is a tradition that me and dad will definitely keep to next time we drain down the lake.  I cannot remember ever doing something like that in England apart from the odd BBQ or New years.

I joined my dad out here in France as he could not do this amount of work on his own.  Before I left for France I was working as a highway engineer and before that I qualified as a mechanic, so he knows how to deal with paperwork etc and I am here for the manual labour.

The lake is just about to receive our last batch of carp, the septic tank has been granted and we have completed 3 out of our 5 swims.  Things are moving along nicely for opening in March, happy days!

We have just moved from Dournazac to Chalus.  It was a shame to leave Dournazac as the people are so friendly and made us feel very welcome but the rental we where in was just not up to par, a lovely summer house but definitely no good for winter!  After moving again we are now settled in Chalus which is much better for us. Amenities are all on our doorstep and the house we are in is exactly what we need warm and dry.

It has been a great experience living in France so far even though we are quite rural and my family and friends are all in England it sure beats driving a van into central London everyday!  Although owning a lake is a dream it is not easy, cutting the grass takes a day itself!  The expats we associate with agree with us that it is a better way of life out here it is a lot more relaxed, the airs cleaner, the foods better and the locals are friendly and will go out of their way to help you and make you feel welcome.

If you are thinking about moving to France my advice would be to go for it and if you ever fancy fishing or just want to see our stunning piece of land please do not hesitate to contact us via our website which also includes a blog of our ins and outs of the work on the lake and what we have achieved so far.

Thanks for taking the time to read my article and thanks to Lorraine for giving me the privilege to write in this magazine.

Published in Etcetera February 2014


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