The dawn fisherman

Every morning (or almost), he raises his nets, hoping that the night has rewarded his efforts. Claude Delley is a professional fisherman, with an unremitting passion for his work and a family history now shared with his son, Cyrille.

From May to September, the Tourist Office organises carriage trips in the Broye countryside and along the shores of Lake Neuchâtel exploring the Grande Cariçaie at the steady pace of the horses. The carriages stop to visit Claude Delley, professional fisherman, in the forest, a few hundred metres from the port of Portalban. He has a small house there, where he scales his trouts, broad whitefish, roach and other treasures from the lake. He tells fisherman’s tales while offering a taste of his speciality, houting (bondelle) smoked to a secret recipe. This noble fish, silver and olive green, is fished with bottomset nets in winter and floating nets in summer. Its tasty, delicate flesh is at least the equal of the more famous perch.

Claude Delley offers keen fishermen and nature-lovers a warm welcome on board his ten metre boat for a morning trip. He loves to talk about his work, both its joys and its hardships, and to share his passion with all the early-risers who pluck up the courage to join him. “The really passionate come in spring, or even in winter, but you can’t afford to be afraid of the cold!” At 5 a.m., the clouds part to give a glimpse of an orange full moon, setting to port. Since 1980, he has seen many dawns and he never gets tired of them, no matter if it’s cold or raining. Only the threat of a violent storm can prevent the boat from leaving the harbour. His son Cyrille always accompanies him. The GPS directs them to the drift nets, avoiding what would be a long search with the naked eye. Modern technology supports the business, but Claude Delley knows very well how to steer using the lights on the banks. Heading due north, the fisherman unloads his crates for perch and roach, with scrupulous care for permitted depths. He will pick up the catch later that morning. Cyrille uses a hook to catch the plastic buoys and passes the rope around the winch. The net rises: some houting are caught in it, shining under the boat’s searchlight. He measures them and protects them with a can of crushed ice. Gulls circle the boat, feeding on the waste that Cyrille throws back into the water.
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