Some months ago when Nick and I were planning our Dorset – Normandy schedule, he put a marker down for the month of March. This must be spent in France because it is the best fishing month for our staple white fish, Pollack.
And so it was, early one morning but late in the month, that Nick looked out of the bedroom onto a bright, sunny, still March day and having an open agenda decided to go to sea. After a hearty breakfast of soft roes on toast he left the house with his big blue bongo and a basic picnic of home-made dried tomato soda bread scones, a fresh tomato, some hunks of of the deliciously orange Mimolette cheese and two Goldrush apples. (They are selling this apple variety at Verdura just along the road and it is so delicious I have tried to track apple nurseries in the UK who sell Goldrush trees but have drawn a blank so far)
It would be a long day: Nick’s fishing excursions are governed by harbour gates which give access in and out of the marina within a time frame that is governed by the tidal cycle. He was at sea by 9 a.m. and would not be able to return to his pontoon until after 5 p.m.
As a whole March has been rather a bleak month as far as fishing is concerned. You need the right weather, sea state and tidal conditions to fish safely and effectively. Nick finds his wreck, positions the boat in a position determined by water depth and speed of current, drops his weight to an appropriate depth and then allows the boat to drift over the wreck keeping the line at the right height, as far as he can determine, to reach the fish who are sheltering in and around the wreck.
When Nick got home I understood the meaning of “well”. Twenty-two fine Pollack had been hooked, one of which he returned on the basis of size. He gave two to the fellow fisherman who helped him along the pontoon and up to the carpark with his weighty bongo. Such a catch as this is pleasurable in several ways. Our first task is to gift as many as possible to our neighbours. Thankfully most of them are willing to fillet their own fish. Nevertheless it proved to be a lengthy task preparing the fish for the freezer. We also keep the male and female roes: he likes the soft variety whereas I like the ‘bally’ texture of the female roe. Best of all, after a catch like this, we have white fish enough for all the pies, crumbles and fish suppers that will be made for friends and family alike.
News spreads fast, Francois crossed over the road after surgery to receive his share. We celebrated with a ‘coup de blanc’, Anne joining us. Then Daniel popped his head in the door; Huguette (to whom I had given a fillet) had told Genevieve – mother of Daniel – (to whom I had not 😦 and of course, as an ex-fisherman wanted to know where Nick had fished. Now all Daniel’s mates, commercial fisherman will be in the know. The evening ended in one of those memorable ‘impromptus’: we baked a fillet here and took it over the road, Anne cooked the ‘joues de raie’ she had in the house, each of us provided vegetables, including our home-grown leeks, cooked in our own way and, with Daniel joining us although like so many fishermen he does not eat fish !! we ate supper on the Poulet’s verandah. Happy days!