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Pierre Clostermann

Pierre Clostermann was a French aviator who distinguished himself during the Second World War. Nicknamed “First Fighter of France”, he was made Companion of the Liberation before becoming a politician, a writer and an industrialist whose great passion, after aviation, was sport fishing.

General de Gaulle had decorated him as the first hunter of France, but within the BGFCF (Big Game Fishing Club of France) that he had founded, as well as within the IGFA (International Game Fishing Association) of which he was administrator, Pierre Clostermann claimed even more the title of first fisherman of France and probably of Europe. His fights were no longer aerial and roaring, carried out from his Spitfire Tempest, but it was on the water, that he engaged them during more than half a century from superb yachts or simple barcasses as in Sesimbra (Portugal), or even with his feet planted in the sand as in Nouadhibou (Mauritania).

In his farmhouse in Roussillon, with a model of a Spitfire and a book on aviation, his first youthful passion.

From Nile perch or African “captains” to the most enormous Australian marlin, from Normandy trout to great white sharks, from Bimini tuna to Sierra Leone tarpon (of which he still holds a world record), he traveled the planet with his rods and reels. But like Zane Grey, his “heart fish” was the real swordfish: Xiphias gladius. Even if he only caught seven of them in more than thirty years of hunting, these fish fought mano a mano, were worth more to him than any other.

Fishing all over the world for anything with scales and fins, whether in fresh water or in the oceans.

I remember when I met him for the first time, at the Fario Club dinner, it was in November 1967, and he had caught his biggest Xiphias three weeks before, off the coast of Portugal, in a sea that was getting stronger. In the lounges of the Ritz Hotel, he told us, and he told as well as he wrote, that after seven hours of fighting, when it had been dark for an hour, he owed the capture of this swordfish, him who was fiercely anti-communist, to an enormous Soviet cargo ship whose captain, who had spotted him and his sailor in the hollows of more than two meters, maneuvered to light up the scene, but above all, to use his enormous hull to protect him from the winds of the open sea and to flatten the ocean. This is the only time he was, he says, applauded by the Soviets. When they succeeded in loading the swordfish on board their walnut hull, under the floodlights of the cargo ship, the whole crew was on the railing…

In Sesimbra (Portugal), in the sixties, in the company of his faithful rower, Pierre Clostermann poses in front of the splendid swordfish Xiphias that he has just caught.

Born on February 20, 1921 in Curitiba, Brazil – his father was a diplomat – he studied in Paris, then returned to Brazil where he obtained his first pilot’s license in 1937. He then studied aeronautics in the United States until 1942, when he joined the Free French Air Force in England. On July 27, 1943, he scored his first two victories in a single sortie.

A famous photo taken in 1945, shows him sitting in the cockpit of his Tempest aircraft, named “le grand Charles”, where 32 crosses can be seen on the fuselage, corresponding to his certified victories. He is in fact credited with 38 aerial victories, 14 of which were individual. He was one of the first pilots to land on French soil during the Normandy landings. He ended the war with the rank of captain. His military exploits earned him the Croix de Guerre with palm, the Croix de la Libération, the American Silver Star, two DFCs and many other decorations.

On board his Tempest plane, "the great Charles".

Decorated by de Gaulle as first hunter of France, he claimed even more the title of first fisherman of Big Game.

In 1948, he published with Flammarion, “Le grand cirque”, his war memories, which was a huge success – (the best book written about the Second World War, according to William Faulkner). After the war, he became a Gaullist deputy and was re-elected 8 times. At the same time, he had a great career as a successful writer, notably with “Des Poissons si Grands”, “Spartacus”, “Mémoires au bout d’un fil”, fishing stories that have made millions of fishermen dream and aroused many desires for adventure. 

In 1965 he founded our club, with great names of sport fishing, like Guy Real del Sarte, Georges Pouquet, Estier de Bois Lambert, de Genevray. The following year he was appointed representative of the IGFA in the position previously held by Ernest Hemingway. Pierre Clostermann was one of the greatest sport fishermen of all time and his influence on sport fishing and its ethics was considerable, both in France and in the United States.

In Nova Scotia (Canada) he poses next to a giant bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), which he caught in 1972 after 3 hours and 40 minutes of fighting.

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