A story from our fly fishing trip to France.
For those of you who know a little French, you can probably guess from the title how this article will turn out. This event happened a few years ago during a fishing expedition to France, and today I don’t even remember what is fact and what isn’t. Maybe all and maybe nothing.
Fly fishing in France has its own special charm. Hundreds of interesting stretches, the hospitality of the French countryside, gastronomic delicacies, and many hearty local fishermen with whom normally (without a bit of alcohol in the blood) you wouldn’t be able to understand because you don’t know French and they don’t speak anything but their mother tongue.
On our fishing trips we regularly try to do some tying in spite of all the obstacles that always await us. In France these were especially the excellent red wine and in this particular year the extremely variable weather, which often reacted negatively to the opening of our fly-tying kits. We did, however, manage to do a bit of tying under the open sky in one isolated camp in the north-east corner of France…
The aim of our tying operation that day was to tie several nymphs for graying fishing in one of the Franch jewels – La Loue River. Our inspiration was derived from various Czech nymphs with tungsten beads that we found in the French fly fishing magazine La Mouche. I don’t know how, since I can’t speak French at all, but I can get through this French magazine pretty well, and given a bottle of red wine I’m sure I could even translate a short article or two! So I didn’t have any trouble tying the patterns we picked from the magazine. I found it a bit strange to tie a typical Czech patterns using instructions interpreted from some French scribbles, and I at least changed the scud hook to a jig hook so the French couldn’t take credit for my future success on their top rivers.
Tying went quickly – after all, a Czech nymph is a simple pattern and the influence of the red wine had positive effects (the more I drink, the less I talk and thus the more I tie – at least until the “tipping point”…). After my friend Muddler and I had each tied a couple flies, we decided to inspect each other’s work. I personally am not too enthusiastic about this step and usually try to hide my flies among my other tying stuff (after all I don’t tie flies that would belong in any fly tying exhibition, and some of my flies simply don’t work out too well), but I always try to show at least something. This time I showed Muddler my Czech-French killer, which to me (at least by my surreptitious inspection in the poor light) had turned out pretty nice. Muddler, who otherwise is really collegial and respects my tying abilities (or lack thereof) looked at the fly a while and then shyly asked: “Ado, shouldn’t the bead be at the eye of the jig hook?” What are you talking about, I thought. “Show me!” I said. The tungsten bead really had only been pushed up to the bend of the jig hook. “That’s the way I tie it!” I improvised. Muddler, who at this point had also had a bit to drink, with a spark in his eyes and a smile from ear-to-ear announced the now-immortal line – “ Ado, you’re such a Mouchér Fouchér!!” Kozel almost fell off his camp stool, and Muddler survived only because the wine bottle was in his hand and not mine.
The next day my friends had a good time at my expense, while I tried to stoically overlook their base jokes. Luckily, looking forward to fishing on La Loue led my thoughts elsewhere.
That week it had rained a lot in France and the water level in the famous Loue was far above normal. Our first choice of stretches wasn’t promising – fast heavy current that couldn’t be safely waded and which tugged at our streamers for two hours without a single strike. The second site we chose looked better right from the beginning – a wider place with beautiful fast water running over stones, several eddies, and I nice pool near the opposite bank. In addition, in the parking lot we had met two local fly fishers who were clearly not leaving empty-handed. These “locals” turned out to be from Switzerland, were fishing with worms, and thankfully spoke passably understandable Swiss German. One of them had something wrapped up in a grubby looking piece of cloth, and when asked the standby question “how’s it going?” produced from this rag a grayling approaching a half-meter in size! Our eyes nearly popped out, and we didn’t pay much attention to the accompanying commentary along the lines of: “you don’t have a chance with flies – and the worm has to have a heavy weight above it and you also need the longest rod possible because the river can’t be waded”. While Kozel kept up the conversation about the capital grayling, Muddler was ruminating on such problems as how they disinfected their fish rag (and that a fish in a plastic grocery bag has to be more hygienic than in a Swiss rag), I was already fighting the current along the bottom of this un-wadable river.
I managed to wade about three-fourths of the way across the river with considerable difficulty, to where I at least imagined, if not actually saw, a promising pool full of grayling. On La Loue you fish with just one fly, and without a second’s hesitation my choice fell to my botched Czech-French tungsten worm. You can imagine how the day worked out. For my suffering the constant ribbing of my friends, my unfailing optimism, and my valiant battle with the cold current of this treacherous French river I was rewarded with several beautiful grayling over 40 cm long and two striped trout of similar size. Kozel and Muddler visibly suffered that day, and from solidarity I won’t dwell long on the fact that they didn’t catch much. When I approached our meeting the car that evening, Kozel and Muddler were conversing on such themes as the beauty of La Loue, the difficult conditions, and the dilemma of a smelly rag versus a grocery bag from Lidl. As I walked up, I didn’t have to show anything, because both had seen well how my number 5 rod had bent over significantly and repeatedly that day. And I didn’t feel the need to contribute much to the discussions at hand. I just stopped a bit in front of them, straightened my back, lifted my chin, looked them both in the eyes, and with a grin from ear to ear shouted “Mouchér fouchér!”
And that evening we didn’t need any red wine to help us laugh. And anyone who knows a bit of French certainly now know how this article ends. Mouchér fouchér doesn’t actually mean anything in French, of course, though to our ears it sounds melodious and praiseworthy in certain contexts. But in reality, like this article, it’s just a bit of caricature.