The Fisherman and his Habitat
7 March 2021
Artist, hunter, father, husband, philosopher, ecologist and fisherman, all these characteristics apply to Denis Junod d’Auvernier (canton of Neuchâtel).
Junod is one of around thirty remaining fishermen on Lake Neuchâtel.
His life story is written down in a recently published biography: “De fils en père. Denis Junod” (From father to son. Denis Junod).
The book is more than just a biography. It is also the history of Lake Neuchâtel, its flora, fauna and nature. He knows what he is talking about when it comes to the changes of the lake, the fish stock, flora and fauna. He also knows the love of animals and nature as a hunter.
“C’est comme si nous n’avions pas compris que l’humanité et tous les écosystèmes font partie du même arbre. L’humanité appartient à ce système mondial, mais elle agit comme si elle était extérieure“.
He was born in 1953 in La Côte-aux-Fées in the canton of Neuchâtel. The lake was far away. There was no evidence of a future as a fisherman, but he spent his childhood in the woods and meadows instead. During this time he developed his feeling and experience of nature, however.
His first encounter with Lake Neuchâtel and fishing took place in the village of Saint-Aubin, where his father worked in the watchmaking industry. His father was an enthusiastic amateur fisherman, and his commitment also inspired Denis.
At that time, around 1960, there was still a lot of trout in the lake. It was even the most caught fish. A few decades later, the trout has almost disappeared.
He moved to the village of Serrières around 1963 and lived for the first time on the shores of the lake.
In the gymnasium, he got acquainted with and appreciated poetry, literature, philosophy and history. They have always remained his guide in the interpretation of reality and life With this background, he is also interested in (local) politics and society and their historical context.
He made paintings that he describes as Art Brut. The culture of the Maya and the Incas inspired him. The images of paintings in the book bear witness to his artistic talent.
After the gymnasium, he wanted one thing: to become a fisherman. After an apprenticeship in nearby Saint-Aubin, he rented his fisherman’s hut in Auvernier in 1973 and received a fishing permit from the canton. He is still there.
The coat of arms of the village contains a fish and grapes for a good reason. At that time, Auvernier was still a village of fishermen and winegrowers.
Fishing is still his passion, his work, his experience and his way of life.
Nature is his universe:
“J’ai une spiritualité sans Dieu. Ou bien : j’appellerais Dieu la grande matrice universelle qui régit le monde du vivant. Je ne crois pas en Salut que nous propose la religion. Quand je suis sur le lac, je sens cette force universelle qui nous enveloppe tous. Ma foi est là, au sein de cette nature féconde. Le lac est ma cathédrale“.
He has experienced life in his profession, fines, trials and conflicts with the police and the authorities (“Un anarchiste respectueux“), ups and downs, the tragedies of drowned fishermen and the enjoyment of the beautiful sunrise and the panorama of Les Trois Bernoises, the Dents du Midi and the Mont Blanc in the south and the Jura in the north-west.
The state of nature and Lake Neuchâtel worries him. However, he is optimistic and has confidence in humanity’s ability to adapt as long the principles of nature are respected.
“Dans nos sociétés occidentales hypertechnologiques, l’intelligence est liée à la réussite scolaire. Dans d’autres sociétés, l’intelligence est une question d’adaptation à un milieu donné. Le savoir-faire, le respect des aînés, l’utilisation d’outils spécialisés et l’agilité, c’est dans les sociétés indigènes premières qu’on les trouve. Leur intelligence est liée à la survie du groupe. Les livres ne sont pas les seules fournitures de l’intelligence. La nature m’en a appris bien bien plus. Toute est relatif“.
(Françoise Jeanneret-Gris, De fils en père. Denis Junod, Bière 2020. The phrases are from Denis Junod and are mentioned in the book).