Some simple pleasures convey the whole essence of life. Fishing is one. Fishing at sea throws-in a cruise too!

At the port of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, the Ami du Pêcheur and Mephisto IV take friends or family fishing a few miles offshore. Every fish you catch, big or small, is a triumph and tastes of success.

My first attempt at fishing at sea

I board the Ami du Pêcheur, the Fisherman's Friend, an old-fashioned, 12-metre pot vessel. Having always fished for shrimp, this wooden boat got a new lease of life a few years ago when it started taking tourists and local enthusiasts out fishing. Benches have been added so that passengers can sit facing the sea.

The port is waking up. Some boats that left yesterday return, their holds full of live fish. People in the know are already there on the quay with their shopping baskets. The freshest fish is sold direct to customers early in the morning. It is 6.45 in the morning. The streetlights are still on. The bell tower of Saint-Gilles reaches up to an orange-pink sky. Day emerges on the horizon. I’m going to sea on my first fishing trip and the beauty of the sunrise dispels any initial fears.

The Ami du Pêcheur casts off and its 20 passengers make themselves confortable.

We fish above rocks and wrecks for 12 nautical miles (25 km) off the coast of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie. A squabble of seagulls soon spots us and radar confirms the presence of fish. The crew gives everyone fishing rods. The lines fly, the reels whir.

It doesn’t take long for the line to jerk. My first mackerel and a real trophy! Such excitement, such power – suddenly, without any warning! Of course some of the lines get tangled and some bait falls off. They say all men are equal before fish. The water seethes around us. Fish are piling up in the crates on the bridge.

The Ami du Pêcheur takes us to different fishing grounds. We catch mackerel and horse mackerel first and on the way home we clean and wash them so they are ready to grill for lunch. Everyone exchanges recipes. The joys of fishing soon give way to the delights of a good meal ...