Saturday, 1 October 2011


When I was about 10 years old, my parents bought themselves a little cabin in the Belgian Ardennes, to spend their weekends. It was a beautiful and quiet location, in the woods, along a small stream, which I can enjoy a lot right now, but when you’re 10 years old and you’re in the middle of nowhere, well… that wasn’t my idea of fun at all. So I started fishing in the little stream that passed nearby, to pass my time. First with worms and stuff, but I soon learned that spinning was a lot more active way of fishing and therefore a lot more fun.


And I did catch my share of nice trout
(that’s me, many years ago),


although the whole ‘catch and release’ idea was still a bit strange to me at that time.

But in the first couple of years I was there, I only saw one fly fisherman. I was immediately fascinated by what he was doing, but he lost more flies in the trees than he actually hit the water, and he didn’t catch any fish at all. So that whole ‘fly-fishing thing’ just seemed to be a bizarre way of ‘catching nothing’.
Until we went to Bohan (yes, the same place I spent my entire summer) to visit my mothers cousin Cyriel and his wife Erna, and then everything changed. Cyriel was the first person that I saw casting a fly gracefully to a spot where he expected a trout, and actually catch it as well! At that point, my whole idea of fishing changed. Actually my entire life changed after that moment, and I let my parents go to their cabin while I took the train, bus and a part hitchhiking to arrive in Bohan (with a small tent and a lot of fishing gear) to cast flies at trout and chub.
At that time (sell phones were yet to be invented), I had to send a postcard to friends and relatives from time to time to tell them about my adventures over there. So what kind of a postcard do you send? One with a fly fisherman on it of course. And what did I find? A postcard with Cyriel on it, unbelievable! The only postcard with a fly fisherman on it, was my mother’s cousin and the very man that brought me into fly-fishing!
"Oh yeah", he said afterwards, "that’s possible, because a photographer came to me one day to suggest such a thing, but I didn’t believe him at that time".


I had to look for a long time in lots of boxes full of old stuff (because I definitely wanted to post it), but I finally found one.
This is Cyriel, years ago in the river Semois. And for those of you who don’t speak French, “Pêcheur de truites” means “Trout fisherman”.

This summer, I was looking for some postcards as well, and of course I looked for a fly fisherman again. And although I didn’t find one with just a fisherman on it, I did come across this one.

And guess who’s on it?
Yes, Cyriel!

So believe me when I say that it brings a very warm feeling to my hart, that after all those years, the man that brought fly-fishing into my life, is still on a postcard to represent fly-fishing in my most loved region of Belgium!


e.m.b. said...

What a lovely post. It brought tears to my eyes this early morning. Just kept getting better and better, and Cyriel is one famous fisherman!

J and M Flies said...

Great post. I remember spin fishing as a kid too. I must have brought home every darn fish I caught to eat. What a shame on my part.

the lonsome piker said...

Thanks Erin!

Cyriel is a real hero to me, and still alive and kicking! Although he gave up fly fishing a couple of years ago (he’s 79 now, so wading is getting a bit difficult), he’s still fishing on the pier in his favourite village on Tenerife, where he and his wife Erna, spend about 5 months each year, to skip our winters, because they don’t like the cold anymore.
I used to get pretty rebellious, when older people told me what the ‘perfect way of living’ is, but once you reach a certain age, you start to admit that there’s a lot to learn from people who have really ‘lived a life’!

J and/or M (I’m still a bit confused about that),

It did make me think about ‘catch and release’ again too. I can get very angry and start heavy discussions with other fisherman nowadays when they kill a fish, but I totally forgot about the many years it took myself to get there! So, ‘maybe’ I’ll go a bit softer on them next time…