Personal and travel insurance is vital. Your ferry company or travel agent will be able to arrange this, but you could find cheaper and better cover through a local broker or through your own insurance agent. I use a company called Direct Travel Insurance (www.direct-travel.co.uk), a Member of the General Insurance Standards Council. They provide the cheapest rates I have yet found and their cover is first rate and underwritten by a CGNU company.
You may also want to consider vehicle insurance which will get you home in the event of an accident or a serious breakdown. The A.A.'s 5-Star Standard Vehicle Service is expensive, but very comprehensive, while an excellent breakdown/get-you-home service is offered by the RAC which covers you for all your U.K. driving as well. Very worthwhile and comparatively inexpensive if you travel abroad more than once or twice a year.
Many motor insurance companies now build in breakdown/get you home cover to the policy and some extend this to cover European travel. My own company, Pearl Insurance, offer such as service at a very reasonable rate. For an all-in fee I can insure my car and get breakdown cover at the same time for both the UK an Europe.
You should also obtain a form from your local DHSS office called a form E111. This is a reciprocal agreement with other EEC countries that allows you to claim back 70-80% of any medical fees incurred while abroad.
You will need to buy a licence to fish for carp wherever you plan to fish publicly owned lakes and stretches of river. Private lakes are usually covered by a block permit, but this is not always the case. It's as well to check with the site owner or the guy who sells you your tickets if the national licence is also needed.
Permits are usually sold in nearby cafes, bars, the local post office and, of course, in tackle shops. What you must ask for is "UNE CARTE DE PECHE POUR LA CARPE UNIQUEMENT, S'IL VOUS PLAIT." By asking in this manner you make it clear that that you are fishing purely for carp. Remember the phrase and practice it before you enter the shop. If you can speak French, aim to stress that you have absolutely no intention of fishing for pike, zander and perch, nor do you intend using live or deadbaits. Make it clear, too that you do not want to fish for salmon or sea-trout. If you don't point these things out, your ticket will end up festooned with a myriad of colourful stamps that are completely unnecessary and it will end up costing you double what it should.
If you think that you may enjoy more than one trip in any one calendar year you should buy a yearly licence. However, most areas now offer a fifteen-day "carte de vaccances" (holiday licence) which is about half price.
A standard carte de peche and the stamp that indicates that you have paid the French fishing tax for one county area (known as 'une departement) will cost you approx. £36.00 and entitles you to fish all the public lakes and rivers within that county. You can also buy reciprocal stamps that allow you to fish the public waters in all the bordering counties. These cost just a few francs extra. I strongly recommend that you buy this additional stamp as it open up the fishing in more than half the departements in France. It is called the "Entent Haliautique et Grand Ouest". This entitles you to fish no less than 55 other departements throughout southern, central and north-western France. Excellent value for money. The areas that are not included in the Entent should be ashamed of themselves. Unfortunately they include some of the counties (departements) that are most popular with British carp anglers.
If you plan to use a boat, even if it is simply for baiting up, you may have to pay for a separate license that allows you to fish from a boat. This takes the form of a stamp which is affixed to the carte de peche. Remember that it an offence to have fishing tackle with you in any boat that is equipped with an echo sounder. You can have one or the other but not both at the same time. The same applies to end rigs if you are boating them out a long way. Indeed this practice too may well be forbidden. Certainly at St Cassien these two rules are strictly enforced, as they are on several of the most popular lakes in France.
BIVVIES AND "CAMPING SAUVAGE".
"Camping sauvage" is the French terms for bivvying up by the lakeside, and on many waters it is banned. The lake may have sections set aside for night fishing, or the whole perimeter may be open for fishing nights, yet the authorities still impose a ban on actually setting up a bivvy. You are more likely to run into this sort of bureaucratic nonsense if you use a dome-type tent, as opposed to an traditional brolly and overwrap, but even the later may cause problems. Though becoming rarer on most waters in France, you should be aware of the problem and be prepared to confront it, should it arise. In most cases the garde de peche will understand if you tell them that your dome/bivvy is "un abri de peche", literally a fishing shelter, but intransigence is common with the French fishing police, especially if you encounter one who doesn't like carp anglers. Be prepared to argue your case!
The problem is most likely to occur on lakes that have an official camp site (or two) on their banks. The authorities are more likely to take exception to you camping on the lakeside and not on their site. The best way I have found of getting around this problem is to offer to pay the camp site rate for a pitch, a tent and a vehicle, even if you don't actually use the site. This keeps the site owners and the garde happy, and it then allows you frequent use of the site's facilities - shower, toilet, clothes and dish washing areas etc., as well as giving you somewhere safe to park the car. In fact, I often pack a small auxiliary tent such as a Fox Evolution to use as an on-site clothes and bait store. It takes up hardly any room in the car and is lightning quick to erect.
In the face of total intransigence you may have no alternative but to pack up and move on, but the authorities do seem to be getting more sympathetic to the needs of carp anglers. That said, you will encounter fewer problems of this kind if you keep a low profile and use a brolly/overwrap bivvy rather than a proper tent.
I don't want to go putting people off, but there are some very nasty biting things in France. Mossies, hornets, wasps - including little black buggers that pack a sting like a jolt from a stun gun, snakes, they all pose their own unique problems.
Mossies can be kept at bay by using a mossie screen across the door of your bivvy. An ultra-fine muslin or nylon curtain will do the job perfectly. You should also buy a good repellent to apply to your arms, neck, legs and ankles and three or four packs of mossie repellent coils which burn for ten hours giving overnight protection. They are available from most camping shops but can also be purchased at pharmacies in France. Citronella candles are also effective as is Citronnelle oil which can be purchased at French chemists. This is much stronger than the pathetic stuff sold in the UK and it really does seem to work well. You can take all the anti-mossie measures you like, but you can be sure that one or two of the little Bs are going to get through, so an anti-histamine cream may be useful to alleviate the itch! The French chemists sell a wonderfully effective antihistamine tablet called APAISYL. They don't stop you from being bitten but they do prevent a great deal of the itching that usually accompanies a mossie bite.
Hornets are not usually a problem. They are like a wasp only ten times bigger. For the most part they are not as intrusive as wasps and they get on with their lives without intruding on human activity too much. However, if you do get bothered by one, whatever you do, don't flap and wave your arms about. This makes it mad and it is very likely to sting. A hornet sting can be very dangerous so keep still, stay calm and the hornet will soon fly away. The hornets will leave you alone if you leave them alone, unlike wasps which are as maddeningly intrusive in France as they are over here. If you are constantly bothered by wasps I can only suggest one remedy - move! If you get stung apply liberal quantities of neat vinegar to the sting. The wasp's sting is alkaline based and the acidic vinegar neutralises the effect. There is a spray-on treatment called WASPEEZE which is also very effective.
SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE.
I cannot stress it enough just how much even the poorest attempt to speak French will help you out. French people LOVE to hear others struggle with their strange vowels and pronunciations and even if you get it woefully wrong, it really DOES break the ice and open doors. You will find that the French will speak more freely and openly to you if you can speak a bit of their language, and believe it or not, the language becomes easier the more you speak it. Teach-yourself cassettes and books and courses such as the BBC's French Experience series currently running on BBC's Learning Zone are easy to follow and highly recommended, as too is either a French phrase book or an English-French dictionary.