Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Education is the answer.

Because the weather has been so bad recently (snow and ice) I have not been fishing for several weeks. So it was great to get out today, and spend a few hours on the river. This time of the season between Christmas and New Year is synonymous with Pike fishing, and I still have my spinning head on. However the weather was so changed from just a week ago.

I set off from home at around 11am to a little spot a kind friend recently introduced me to. It's a place the fishing federation stock with pike from time to time. The Charente is such a huge river it's easily capable of producing pike of massive proportions, but because of the constant killing of the small 'jacks'' it's rare to find a better fish.

By midday the sun was out, and my coat had to some off. I'd been fishing for about an hour or so it was more like spring than late December with a temperature of 16 deg. So I sat with my back to a large tree that fronted the river, and just chilled. The valley was filled with rain clouds, and bright sun between the showers, then a rainbow it was just perfect.
I past two other guy's fishing for pike during the session, both spinning. Neither had a wire trace on their lines, and this seems to be a common practice in France. I expect this is another reason for so few big fish. Many are lost to incompetence and ignorance, and many fish face a grim death with UN-barbed treble hooks caught there throats, resulting in the fish being unable to feed and dying from starvation. I don't know if it's ignorance or plan stupidity, either way education is the answer if we want bigger pike in French rivers.

Friday, 18 December 2009

2010 the year of the dead minnow.

I'm going to do something different this coming season, and that's fishing with bait!http://www.vairon.com/
I know many old friends of mine it will say I'm selling out, but I bet more, and bigger fish in the coming season will find my net with this method?

To be honest, I have seen a real decline in Mayflies on the river over the last few seasons. This is due to several reasons, the main one being a sharp decline in water quality (as I have pointed out in earlier posts) and heavy silting in many places. Weed cutting would help cure this, but again the river in not managed? The caddis are still abundant but I fear not for long, as a fine alga is starting to cover many of the better caddis hot spots.

Without good hatches in the daytime, my fishing in past seasons has become more nocturnal waiting for the larger caddis that can stir the better fish. However more areas have large midge/buzzer hatches that have take over, especially below the fish farms. I dont mind evening fishing, but not all season. I like to go when it suits me, and the fish!

Fishing the 'Vairon Mort Maine' as the French say, is a much used technique for trout in France. That worms and spinning are the main ways French anglers take their fish. I used to think it was a very simple tactic with little skill. However after trying it last season, I know I have much to learn!

It has several real advantages over fly fishing. One is you can fish in many places not available to the fly caster. A good vairon mort fisher can put his minnow right under banks, over hanging trees, and can reach bottom much quicker than a fly fisher. Every season on my local river the bigger fish mainly fall to minnow, and Rapala.

As I mentioned in earlier post, I'm yet to catch a fish over 60cm on fly. I have seen them caught, and have seen them in the river while stalking. So next season I will give it a real go. I'm getting a new rod http://WWW.ARDENT-PECHE.COM, Shogun Z Vairon Maine canne, and gearing up with a home fish tank for keeping the minnows in good condition.
I'm told it's better to keep minnows in a large shallow tank, rather than a dustbin style one. It's all about surface area apparently? I know it will not be a problem in the spring, but the summers get very hot, so we will see!

Take a look at utube 'Pecher the vairon mort maine', there are some good videos to view.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Winter Spinning.

I have gotten into a little spinning for Perch and Chub this winter. It's like fly fishing in as much you don't need to take loads of gear, or take very long to get ready. In fact I leave all the spinning gear in the car, in the garage after each trip!

Being able to go on the spur of the moment, without any preparation is perfect for me in winter. It's always the weather that clinches the deal for me. I don't like fishing in rain much, so wont go if it's raining. but I will stay if it starts while I'm fishing.

I like those mild days (were getting a lot of them recently) with overcast skies. I find big Perch very susceptible to light values. You can guarantee if you have to take a picture of a big Perch, you will need fill in flash on the camera. The really bright, blue bird, but cold days we mostly get in this part of France in winter, are not so good.

In my youth when I fished almost every spare minute, I had a flirtation with big Perch, and took several fish over 2lb 8oz. ( a big fish 35 years ago) But during recent years I haven't caught any decent fish.

The little river in the picture is reputed to hold some nice fish, over 2lb. But today the river was too high, and too dirty to give me a realistic chance.

If we don't have any more rain, the coming days may be better, we will see.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Winter is still around the corner.

It's been some time since my last blog, but I haven't been idol, I've been learning to play the guitar!!

Winter is still not upon us, and yet it's nearly December. It must be the mildest autumn I can remember, with daytime temperatures in the upper teens, and no frost to date! The other good news is we are having some decent rain that is getting the rivers in good condition, but for how long no one knows?

The water authorities have this action they take, when we have any amount of excess water. It's to open all the flood gates leading to the sea. This has the effect of flushing everything downstream, including fish fry. It's done for ease, rather than any thought for environmental issues. There are several barrages on the Charente, but they are not used with any thought to fishing matters!
Plus it's not a really effective use of excess water, when so much needed in the summer months for the farmers crops!.? What we need is a series of good reservoirs in the region, that all concerned can call on in times of feast and famine.

The local news papers this back end, were full of news about thousands of tons of fish lost (carp, pike, zander etc) when central lakes had there water abstracted. Anglers were furious, but nothing has been done to prevent it happening again in future years?

I gather we (our fly fishing club) have lost out fight to have the trout season opening put back a month, on our local river Touvre. So just like last year, female trout will be caught, and killed during their reproductive period. It seems the local fishing association just cannot get change done, even when everyone agrees it's for the best! But that's France for you.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The loss of a big fish!

Today we have rain. It started at 6am when Polly, my semi-wild cat, asked to be let out. It started to rain moments later, so now she is sleeping on our ride-on lawnmower, and looks set to stay there as long as the rain continues.

I hope that's for the next month, because that's how much rain we now need, to bring the water level back up to normal for the time of year!
Clearly Polly wants it to stop, as our meadow is currently full of wild mice right now, and that's real fun for a semi feral cat!?

It does look promising however; as the sky is dark, thunder is in the air, and the air temperature has dropped some 10 degrees overnight.

The last time I fished the river Touvre, I lost a big fish. It may sound strange but it's taken me some time to come to terms with it. The reason is I have spent so much time in search of a monster trout over the past few years, it feels very personal when you lose one. Clearly its not the fishes fault, its almost always operator error, but it's still painful!
I know one part of the river that has four large fish in a relatively small area. The fish are not often seen, due to heavy weed, but late evening they do leap especially if big caddis are on the water.
I guess the best fish is over 65cm, maybe 5lb, the others between 58cm and 60cm, again huge fish for a wild, understocked river, in France.

I have been fortunate over the past few seasons, to have my fair share of bigger than average fish. But I have "paid my dues" with the amount of time on the river. However a really big fish (60cm+) as always eluded me.

This time, it was the simple brute strength of the fish bolting through weed that did for me, and the hook pulled out.
I had seen a big fish roll during the evening, and had 'marked it down'. Fishing with a successful caddis emerger pattern, the fish took first cast, and pulled the rod tip down into the water. I had just not been prepared for such power.

I suppose if fishing didn't mean as much to me, such a loss would not matter. But fishing is the fabric of my life, it's one of the few things in this world that makes sense. Fishing is as important to me as breathing in and out, it's that simple.
I expect racking havoc with the mice in the meadow, is for Polly, what fishing is for me. She wants the rain to stop, I need it to continue, so does this whole part of France!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Rape of a river.

Its true to say my local river Charente is in real trouble. The local farmers still continue to water crops, when as you can see by the pictures the river is dry as a bone!

Barbel, chub, carp, and other coarse fish are in real danger of having nothing to swim in. The future of this river is now in the hands of people, who don't care about the future, just this years crop, its rape pure and simple!

Monday, 27 July 2009

A change of plan!

For the past 12 weeks or so, we have had no rain. The Charente region has been bone dry, and the river Touvre is very, very low. This and the lack of weed I mentioned a few weeks ago, is putting a huge pressure on the fish. For this reason I'm stopping Trout fishing early, or until we get some appreciable amount of rain?

I know at this time many people will still be fishing, as the bigger fish are easier to find. But for me its all about the place, and how I catch my fish. And chasing pressured fish with nowhere to go, is not me cup of tea, so!!

I have started fishing for Carp, with my 9# fly rod. I have found a few fish, and am trying to get them on the top taking bread, or cat biscuits. But boy for wild, uncaught fish are they spooky!?

However I'm not giving up the chance to fish for other coarse fish, whilst I'm out fishing. I recently managed a small Tench (rare on nymph) and a decent Bream, both on nymph. The Tench was coming in nicely when a huge Pike took it by the head, and crunched the poor creature. I released it, but didn't think it would survive very long!?

The Carp? Well only time will tell?

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


It's been a strange old year so far! Normally I'm able to predict with some certainty when, and what, will be hatching on my local river Touvre, but this year it's been all about the weather?

In my opinion the main foods available to trout on the river Touvre are scud and caddis. With every handful of weed, you discover hundreds of scud, and caddis hatch each and every day throughout the trout fishing season, mayflies are a secondary, but less important source of food.

Normally by mid May (the time wading starts, and proper fly fishing commences) the trout have seen many PMDs and other small to medium mayflies. However the hatches of mayflies on the river, are rarely large enough to bring the bigger trout to the surface. With such large quantities of scud and caddis available, its just not calorie efficient to switch their feeding habits to mayflies, from caddis and scud!?

However in past years, the mayfly hatches have been fairly predictable, and during the daytime you could expect a rise of short duration, provided you knew just 'when and were'. But this year because its been to cool, or due to heavy rain (hail at times) it's been almost impossible to pin anything down?

For example last week a good friend told me when, and were, he caught a few fish on dries, during a small hatch of mayflies. The following day I took up position in the place, at the appointed time, but no hatch came off, well a few, very few. But not enough to get fish to the surface. And that's just what its been like since the start, up and down.

In the past it's been all about the late mornings or early afternoons, but now it seems to be late evening, into dark. Then you can have multiple hatches going on, caddis, mayflies, midge and spinner and your changing flies like a whirling dervish. It's difficult, very difficult!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Why do you fish?

From the number of young lost, I dont think Moorhens are very good parents.

Too many Swans on your river?

Brown trout on cress.

Versatility! and how to learn it.

I like to think I'm a fairly decent fly fisher, with good presentation skills, keen observation, and fair tying skills. However I do know I'm not inventive, and have to copy others ideas to hone my skills. To be a really great fly fisher, I believe you HAVE to have this something extra.

Take for example the American fly fisher John S. Barr, from reading his wonderful new book, Barr Flies http://barrflies.com/ you clearly see the high sense of inventiveness this extra special angler has. For those who don't know about John Barr, he has listed over 20 original flies in the Umpqua Feather Merchant's catalog, and is the originator of the most famous Copper John. If you don't have this book, I can most highly recommend it, both for the idea's within the book, and the excellent fly tying.

I don't for one minute think being a copier is a bad thing! we cannot all be John Barr. But I think you do owe it to yourself to be versatile! Many of the anglers I fish with, and anglers I see on the river, only have limited methods of fishing. Their main method of attack is dry fly fishing, that's fine if you have rising fish, but not much good if you don't. Few know how to present nymphs on the river bed, or when wet flies may be appropriate. But to learn a new skill is not that difficult, if your willing to put yourself out a little.

For example last winter at our Fly Fishing club's tying evening, one of our new members came with his new fishing reel, and new fly line looking for advice on how to attach his tippet! Unfortunately he didn't have any backing for the reel, and had ruined the first 30cm of fly line by putting the line on his reel back to front! We sorted him out, and the damage was not too bad, but this basic "setting up your tackle" could have been found in most basic fly fishing books, or at his local tackle shop. You only have to look or ask, and that's the key.

Today we have so much information available, both in books, DVDshttp://essential-skills.tv/, on the Internet, and through fishing clubs. To be versatile you have to want to learn, and you have to be willing to ask for help, then you must practice it on the river.

As trout take around 80% of there food from the river bed, nymphing skills are essential, but if you cannot present the fly accurately to the fish, your chances fall dramatically.

A decent casting coach can teach you simple presentation skills in an afternoon if you have the basics down.

If your a complete novice, paying for a lesson is money well spent, and will save bad habits creeping into your casting. I'm amazed how many long term fly fishers I see, who don't have any line control skills. Many cannot mend line effectively or collect line with their spare hand. If your a river angler, being able to control your line once its on the water is an essential skill, you have to know. Being able to present you fly with accuracy is just a minor part of presentation, it only ends when the trout takes your fly!

Fly fishing is a continuous journey, with no final destination. We should never think we know it all, or that one technique will get you through a day on the river. To be versatile you have to copy, read, research, and practice, and never be afraid to ask for help, its never been more available.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

First week, falling in, future fears!

The first week has come and gone on my local chalk stream. To be honest it's been a big disappointment. Despite taking a few nice brown trout to 50cm, compared to last season numbers of fish are well down.

On Monday and for the entire week, the river was a dirty brown from recent rain, so fish spotting was out. This left me with a choice, fish with a streamer or don't fish at all. No contest.

Out came the 6# Sage tcr and my favourite lightly weighted size 6 minkie (a relic from my Rutland days) Casting into the bank, and allowing the lure to 'swing around' in the current produced several takes but no hook ups. I had a feeling the fish had gotten use to this tactic, used so often since March, buy the Rappala and spinning brigade.

A change to casting mid river caught me the biggest fish of the week, a cracking 50cm female brown trout. During the following days fish of 46cm and 38cm followed. During all this time, not one fish was seen to rise, despite a good hatch of PMDs, medium caddis, and tiny black caddis each day?

I stayed late two evenings, well past 9pm but nothing came up, and my 3 fish were taken during daylight hours?

One evening as I was crossing back over the river, I tripped over a large stone, and took a ducking (with the water being brown, I just didn't see it.) The place I fell had a fair current, and I floundered for a few moments, before I could regain my footing. Everything got wet, apart from my cap! even the flies in my waterproof C&F boxes!!?

Two French friends watched with some amusement, and discussed who would get the tcr if I didn't make it!

The river is very low for this time of year. I don't really understand why? We have had a fair amount of rain in recent weeks, and that is one of the reasons the river is coloured. But the river has been getting more dirty each season, with suspended silt and other detritus clouding up the water.
Five years ago you could spot fish from 20' away, now you have to be on top of them to see them. And in just a few weeks time, local farmers will take water from the river for crops of sweet corn, I fear the future of our fishing, I really do.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Garden Surprise!

The picture is of a Great Peacock Moth (Saturnia pyri) the largest moth found in Europe. It has a wingspan of 11-14c cm. It's flight period is in April to early June, and it has one brood.

The caterpiller is black at first, then yellow-green when fully grown, with blue warts bearing tufts of black bristles. It feeds on fruit trees and other deciduous trees, and it was in our orchard, waiting for night time to fly off.

The other large moth I often find in my garden is the Lime Tree Hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae) This is a lovely moth, with dappled light and dark brown, suffused with pink and/or olive green. The wings have variable: outer wing margins with jagged indentations. Its a smaller moth 7-8cm.
I expect it's all the many Lime trees, and other variaties that I have in the garden that attracts so many wonderful insects.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Be Prepared!!

I must be the most prepared Fly Fisher in France. As the season proper, does not open for me until mid May, I have much time to ready all my gear for the event.

Whilst the fishing opens in March, it's when wading is allowed, you can really set to catching a trout or two. The non wading ban (until mid May) is an excellent idea as it gives the new fish eggs a chance, as seen in previous posts the Touvre trout spawn very late!!http://pagesperso-orange.fr/volanteangoumoisine/ptouvre/scalimet.htm.

Last season I changed over to a 10' rod. In the past I have seen little need for a rod longer than 9' and my Sage XP 5# has always been my number one go to rod, for trout fishing. But with the huge amounts of weed on the river in summer, and fish holding under the weed beds, a high sticking, come czech nymphing technique is called for, a 10' rod is far better for this kind of fishing. Not only are you able to hold more line off the water, but it gives you added leverage on a big fish, hooked in weed.

I also find with river fishing a fly line with a high floating tip is essential. When nymph fishing with heavy flies most tips will sink, but many of the newer lines now have an integral tip loop. In my humble view, these loop tips aid buoyancy, and stop the age old problem of water seeping into the line core (one of the main causes of tip sink) It's the double thickness of fly line that helps the high floating.

When making a choice on buying a fly line for river fishing, everyone has different needs for their style of fishing. But many of the lines described as having 'Subtle front tapers for delicate fly presentation' are useless for nymph fishing, as the tips are far to long and thin. Even small weighted nymphs will pull down these types of floating lines very quickly.

By far the best two lines I have used are Scientific Angler GPX http://www.sportfish.co.uk/product/mastery-gpx-floating-flyline and Airflows Tactical ridge lines. Both have very good floating properties, but you should remember the GPX is half a size heaver in line weight, ideal if you have a rod rated for two sizes?

Finally the last thing I do is discard all my old nylon tippet, and buy new. In past years I have used Rio Powerflex, but last season changed to Preston Powerline. It's a line used by match fishermen in the U.K, its finner just a strong, and cheaper, and you get 100m rather than the normal 30m, perfect!!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


The river's were I do most of my fly fishing, all have a healthy population of scud.
A scud, often mistakenly referred to as a freshwater-shrimp, is a laterally flattened crustacean. They have seven pairs of legs, the first two are used for grasping. Most scuds live in shallow water, in weed, and silt.

They are excellent swimmers and can be found in highly oxygenated, cold alkaline water such as my local river Touvre. They are a power food for fish, contributing to high growth rates in trout. On the river they can be seen in biblical proportions with just a scoop of a seine net through the weed beds.

On most rivers you can see scud of different sizes, and can believe that all the smaller ones are just immature forms of the larger ones. However I now understand that there are two different species. The bigger of the two comes from the family Gammarus, and run in size from size 10s to size 16s. The other smaller species is called Hyalella azteca, and runs from 18s to, too small for me to tie!?
As chalk streams maintain a fairly constant temperature all year round, these highly proteined energy efficient creatures are always available.

On a recent visit to a local river, the 'Heron' scooped a net full of scud, and some had an orange hue to the front of the body. Many think a scud turns this colour when they die, and it may be true. But in this case on closer examination we saw that all the 'orange bits' were in fact mini scud. Tiny, tiny orange scud, all too small to see without a decent pair of magnifying glasses. The 'Heron' told me that scud carry the young in such a way, for protection in the early days!

I tie my scuds in various weighted forms, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. In the colours gray, and olive, the dubbing is rabbit hair, with some light bright material added for extra flash.
All have the standard shell back, in clear, olive or gray, ribbed with 6x nylon.

Hooks are Tiemco 2488H or Tiemco 2457 in the larger sizes. The 2457s are a heavy hook in themselves, and take weight well. The 2488Hs are better for the smaller sizes in my view?

Later in the season, resident fish can get a little weary of scud, and this is when the smaller sizes, with a very natural dubbing (as close to the natural as possible) can make all the difference.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Spring Road Trip!

Two Hat's and myself had this trip planned for several months. A visit to the 'Plateau Millevaches' to fish its clear water's and catch it's beautiful wild trout, would be my first proper trout trip of the season.
Two hat's had started his season two weeks before, and had fished (with some success) the same rivers. But the weather for his visit, could not have been any more different, to the weather on our short weekend visit!
For those of you who are unaware of this lovely region, but have visited Scotland would find the surroundings very similar. Hilly with many hidden valleys, small twisting road's with a gorgeous view's around each every bend, and clear cascading river's, full of little hard fighting wild trout. Its a fly fishers Paradise, if you get the weather right, and here we were unlucky, as it had recently rained.
Since last December we have had very little rain, and many of my local river's are very short of water. The Touvre is in desperate need of rain, its dirty and very low. But I don't expect it will stop the farmers taking water from it in the summer for crops, such as corn, and wheat even if we have a dry year!!

Prior to T. H last visit, there had been little rain, and the rivers were in perfect condition for the start of the season. Even though there we no hatches on his last visit T.H found several willing trout, along with a real beauty of 32cm, a large fish for the river. But on this visit several days of recent rain, had turned the river brown, and the fish just could not see our gold head pheasant tails.

Fortunately T.H knows the river system like the back of his hand, and suggested we move nearer the source of the river, were he hoped the water would be a little clearer. But it was not to be and the first day was a complete washout, if you count fishing in purely catching fish terms. I don't however, and the gorgeous spring colours, and bird life, would have made the trip worth while without fishing!?

After a good nights sleep (helped by 3 large glasses of vin rouge) and a large continental breakfast we approached the river with little hope. But to our surprise the level had dropped and the water had cleared a little, now the fish were for it!!!

But buy lunch time we were both still fishless, despite walking miles of river, and me taking a seasonal dunking (I doubt it will be my last). The water was just too high, and insect life was non existent. As a final chance T.H suggest a little river he knew that may just give up a fish or two, if we were lucky.

And so it was late on the Sunday afternoon, we found ourselves on a small stream known for it's grayling and trout. With a few Stoneflies and Olives coming off, we fancied our chances, and so it proved.
On my first cast I took a nice (out of season) grayling of 30cm then a small trout (pictured) and another two fish before we packed for home, so a blank was saved. And T.H had saved a few for himself, but it was close!?

Monday, 23 March 2009

My Friend's a winner, but I knew that already!

My fishing mate Pete has just won his first competition (The Innis Spring Cup) of the season. It was fished on a small still water in Cornwall, England. The sponsors were Snowbee fishing Tackle.
As you can see he also won a nice cheque, so the beers will be on him, next time he comes over to France on holiday!?

I have provided a link to my local fly fishing club ( all in French) you can follow the links, and see all the tally of dead fish so far this season. Please continue to leave your comments, either direct to me, or on the blog.

Even the Innis Spring Cup Competition (above) was fished 'catch and release' what does that tell you!! We must have change in France if fly fishing is to have a chance!?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The Price of Late Spawning!

Since the season started, its been obvious to most of us, that the Touvre trout have not all spawned. On most rivers it would not be a problem, but on this river the price the trout pay for this late loving is death.

We suspect that the majority of the bigger brown trout get taken in this period before they have had a chance to reproduce. On the river right now you have the spin fishermen, and the toc fisherman in huge numbers, all taking fish for the table.

One man I spoke to today took three large female fish yesterday, all in spawn. Another today had a nice fish of 40cm again shedding eggs. On opening day the Heron saw four fish all over 50cm killed, two with eggs inside. All said they would return "in spawn" fish if other anglers did the same. It's this sheep like attitude, we have to overcome if the river is to have any chance.

The Heron and I have just spent two days on the river, walking and watching. The dead fish tally is dreadful and makes us both feel sick, the river is painfully low, and dirty, and things don't look good for the fly fishing in May, but the number of big browns being caught tells us the river is a survivor, and still holding on, but for just how long!!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Good the Bad and The Ugly!!

On this week around many of the river's in France, the stocking of Rainbow Trout will be taking place. My local club helped with the stocking this season, and I tagged along to take a few pictures, for the blog.

I have mixed feelings about this, but being a foreigner in this wonderful country, I am doing my best to understand why you would WANT to do it, when you could be stocking with native fish? Or stocking coarse fish (roach, bream carp etc) that would be re-cycled by catch and release.

I'm told it's to give the fisherman "fish to catch" at the start of the season, but many of my French friends feel its more to do with justifying the cost of the fishing licence!
It is very cheap to fish in France, just 70 euro a year. Compare that to other civilised countries like the U.K , where you pay to fish most rivers, or lakes, as well as having to pay for a rod licence. Depending on what kind of fishing you want to do, Game or Coarse, you can spend anything between 6 euro to 1000 euro per day.
I would suggest anyone fishing just twice a week for Trout (as I do) would spend 500 euro a year! That's 7 times more expensive than France!!

I know from friends all over Europe, as well as International Anglers I speak to, they all pay considerably more. Countries like Slovenia and Croatia have caught on to the fact, Game anglers will pay to fish pristine river's, full of quality fish, and these countries are now more expensive to fish than they ever use to be.

So at 70 euro a year is it really the cost of a licence that's prompts this stocking.!?

Well yes, I think it has something to do with it, but not everything. Generally the river's in France, are poorly stocked, and many of the fish (carp, perch, pike) end up on the table for food. The French are also very heavily into spinning, and use barbed treble hooks. The average coarse fisher also fishes with barbed hooks, and has little understanding of safe unhooking and handling methods.
Now don't get me wrong, many of the match fishermen, and the carp anglers fish to a very high standard, and are very good at fish handling, but they are the exception, not the norm.

For one thing it seems everyone older than 50 years, has a fishing rod. This may be a holdover from when times were tough and food short, and you could go to the local river, and catch your dinner. They may only fish a few times a year, but if they pay 70 euro, they want something for there money! and they want to eat it too!!

One good thing that does comes out of it is, it takes some pressure off the natural brown trout (of which I am fond) The stocked rainbow will swim around in the area near to were it was stocked, until it gets caught. By mid May when wading is allowed on my river, all the rainbows will be taken, and the early season anglers gone! and the occasional angler will have taken enough tame trout to justify his outlay.

If things are to get better, then 'fishermen of all kinds' have to have fish to catch. The first step is to clean up the rivers (see previous posts on this blog) and the environment around them. Then stock the river with fish that are native, and with species the various rivers can support!! The cost of the fishing licence will have to increase, but that's the price of having quality fishing on your doorstep!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Trout Growth Rates.

Last season our club did a study of the river Touvre trout growth rates, by collecting and reading trout scales. It was not a huge study, but enough to give us some answers to questions we have been asking for some time. Here are the results!
1 year + 25cm.
2 year + 36cm
3 year + 44cm
4 year + 54cm best fish being 59cm (caught by The Heron) at 4 years+

It also showed that the trout do not reproduce until they are 2 years old e.g 36cm. At odds with this is a kill size limit of 30cm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I know, I said the Federation rules were crazy.

This study tells us, that many fish are killed before they have a chance to reproduce. The club intends to do a larger study this season, and hopes the results will change some of the insane catch and kill rules, that are in place on this wonderful river?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Where has all the weed gone?

I visited the local chalk stream at the weekend, I wanted to see what the river was like prior to the season opening in a few days time, I had the biggest surprise of my life.

The normal weed that grows all year round has disappeared, and the gravel and silt beds can been seen clearly on the river bottom,
its a real mystery, and has left several of us scratching our heads.

In summer the weed is never cut as it should be on chalk streams. Everyone knows it should be cut, local land owners have an obligation to do it, but its not enforced? The local Fishing Federation that has the responsibility to cut weed is totally impotent, being tied up in red tape all the time!

During the summer without any cutting the river gets bank to bank with weed. Its impossible to fish a dry fly after mid-June in many places, so up close nymph fishing is the only method you can realistically use! This can be good, as you can get really close to your target fish, but its not ideal for the purist's?
So what has happened to the river, is there an answer? Well I think I may know!
Over the past few seasons, I have noticed how the river colours up quicker after rain than it use to do. In the past even very large amounts of winter rain would not effect it, and the river would remain clear, and the flow constant. But in the last few years, this has not been the case, as the river remains coloured after even small amount of rain. As a consequence the weed dies off through lack of sunlight, its that simple!?
So here we have a once great chalk stream river under going a fundamental change, and I don't believe its for the better? Now the fish are totally exposed to the spin fishermen during the early months. The young trout will find it more difficult to hide from predators until the weed returns, and there will be less fish in a river that only has, a small stock of fish to start with.
I will let you know how I see the season, as it progresses!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Mayflies the Big Boys!

Ephemera danica. E. vulgata. E. lineata. I'm lucky enough to have all three of the large Mayfly species, living in and around this region of France.
Whilst in England, E. danica is the most common species, in this area E. vulgata seems to be more common, or at least the one I see the most. E. lineata is not over common but found often enough if you are looking for it, and know what to look for?

I don't profess to know a great deal about Entomology, but enough to get by, and more importantly what to look for when trout are feeding.
For a long time during my early fishing years, I would tie on a dry fly at any sign of rising fish, now however I can read the rise forms better. Trout seem to spend a long time taking emerging insects on my local river, and it takes a very big hatch of Mayflies to make them lose all there caution, and take the fully emerged duns!
I expect this is down to were the most food is found, and how much effort they have to excert to eat it. It may also have something to do with sunlight too, in this region we get many bright, hot days during the summer, perfect weather for big fish stalking, but not good for hatches or for trout taking insects off the surface.
However when your in that cold chalk stream water, on a red hot day, with fish bulging on the surface, its all good, oh yes, all good!!

Friday, 13 February 2009

Casting, does practice make perfect?

Ever since I discovered Fly Fishing some 30 years ago, I have been in love with the art of Fly Casting. Practice for me is all about learning something new, or perfecting a difficult cast. At one time I mainly fished still waters, where the need for distance was paramount. However in the last 15 years, rivers have been more important to me, and I discovered all that distance practice was of little use to a river Fly Fisher!

During my river fishing season, its rare for me to have more than 2-3 rod lengths of fly line out of the rod tip at any one time. With a 12' leader that still 30' of line and nylon, and as most of my fishing is to sighted trout, I often have considerably less than this.
Drag is the river fly fishers greatest enemy, so many of the casts I practice are designed to put slack into the fly line and leader, or position the fly line in such a way that it does not scare the trout by landing near it.

The winter (on non windy days) is an ideal time to practice these special casts. For many of us the winter means, no trout fishing, and time on our hands. I find it takes several days of practice to learn a new cast, but a little and often is sometimes better than prolonged sessions.

Unlike fly tying, fly casting is difficult (but not impossible) to learn from a book, you really do need "hands on" experience, and a good coach can save hours of frustration. If your looking to river fly fish this season, then start that practice right now. It really will pay off on the river, I promise!

One book I can recommend is; Jason Borger's 'Nature Of Fly Casting'.

Maybe the best web site on the subject of casting is; Sexyloops.com. Run by one of the best fly casters, and trout bums I know, Paul Arden.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Sunday, 1 February 2009

My Top Wet Flies.

If I only had a choice of 4 flies for the coming season, these would be my wet fly choice! But of cause like all fly fishers, I have a box full!!
Fished upstream or upstream and across, slim wet flies or spiders as they are called are deadly. During an early hatch when trout are taking the emerging nymph, or when fish are not confident in taking the fully emerged insect, spiders are lethal.
If you get those times when a fish just moves once, and your unsure of the taken insect, casting a spider over the rise, can result in a confident take.
So what do spiders represent? Well almost any mayfly, caddis or terrestrial can be represented, by the sparse dressing of spiders.
I can recommend the DVD by Oliver Edwards under his Essential Skills Titles called 'Wet Fly Fishing On Rivers'. Were he covers all the flies, methods, and tackle for this interesting and lost art of wet fly fishing.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Wind, rain, and flood.

The South West of France has seen all the above recently, with loss of life and much damage to property! Where we live we missed the worst of it, thank heaven. We did get some minor damage in the garden, but nothing compared to just a 100 miles south of us! On the plus side, it has brought huge amounts of welcome water to our rivers.
I know I have gone on a lot about rain recently but with the recent pollution, its helped flush the river through.
During the summer we often have long periods of drought, and if the river's are full at the start of the season, it takes some of the pressure off.

Throughout the summer season, farmers take water for crops such as corn. The have a system were the farmers pay very little for the water (in fact its almost free) and are even paid by the E.U. for watered crops. As you can imagine this system encourages farmers to water, even if the crops dont need it, I have even seen water being taken during a rain strorm?

Several of the smaller 1st catagorie rivers, run completely dry during the summer months, I see this as a crazy situation that must change. You can understand now why I go on about water so much now?

I took a picture of the trout cascade at Viville today. This a one of the little river's the trout run up to spawn. Many lay their eggs in the main river Touvre, but some run up this cascade when the water is high enough, like now! My friend the Heron has taken pictures of the trout "running" the cascade in years past. Its a revelation to see such wonderful fish, doing just what nature intended.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Review Of The Clermont Ferrand Fishing Fare.

The long trip involved to reach Clermont Ferrand meant an early morning wake up call at 4.30am. We were catching the bus at Limoges, and meeting many friends, who were joining us for the journey and day out.
The snow that had disappeared, a week ago in our area, was still thick on the ground as we neared Clermont. A clear statement that this area suffers badly during the winter months!

After a short wait in the long queue outside, we were finally in the warmth of the Fishing show stadium, a large indoor area some two football pitches in size.

At the last show I attended (in Paris) the show was dominated by spinning tackle, and this show was much the same.With mini pools full of water, that the staff of companies like Rapalla and Smith, show off the action of there amazing lures.
Plastic baits seem to have taken over in popularity, from the traditional wood baits. Maybe its partly the cost, but the action on some of the soft plastics are just so realistic, to be believed.

The Fly Fishing stalls were headed up by the French brand JMC. I personally don't like the clothing range from this company, as its expensive, and not that well made. However some of the rods in the upper range, are very nice indeed, and match anything the high end American companies can produce! I tried several 5# both in 9' and 10' and found several I could fish with without reservation.

There was also a few small French rod makers that also took my eye, and if I were to move away from a lifetime of loyalty to Sage, its here I would spend my money. I tried a wonderful 9' 5# for under 400 euro, that cast a dream, with a super fast tip recovery (my preferred action) but was soft enough, to use light tippets on.

A large area was put aside for lunch time eating (the French national past time) but many like myself took a picnic.

The French fishing magazine Peche Mouche had a stand, but I managed not to succumb to a subscription, despite the gorgeous girls on the stand doing there best to persuade me. I still cannot read French good enough to warrent a monthly magazine!

The other stands in abundance were fishing holiday comapnies. They had video evidence of all the fish you could catch if only you signed up with them? I feel there is still so much fishing in France to discover, without having to travel by air!

All in all the show was well worth the long day out. It was full of people from early morning to when left at 5pm. So the stall holders must have been pleased with the turnout.

We caught the bus back home tired, but having had a great day out in good company. The only fly in the ointment was a parking ticket on my car, on return to it at 8pm?

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Pollution and Rain!

We have had a pollution on my local trout river the Touvre. I mentioned in an earlier post the problems this river has to contend with, but the pollution is by far the worst!
We are having more of the much welcome winter rain right now. This wet front has been with us since the snow departed, around a week ago, and should be the push the trout need to run up the small river to spawn.
Many fish spawn in the river itself, and make their reds were anglers would be walking in a few weeks time, if the Touvre didn't have a wading ban until mid May. It makes for a very short fishing season, but we feel it worth it. If only we could convince some of the French fishers now, to return spawning fish caught from the banks, during the opening weeks of March!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Fly Box.

I love fly tying, and fortunately the trout love my flies too. Most winters I sit down and tie the flies I will need for the coming season.
My flies are dominated by weighted nymphs, in sizes 18s up to 12s. The Touvre is populated with shrimp (Gammarus) in biblical proportions.
There are in fact two species of this freshwater shrimp Gammarus pulex and Gammurus lacustris, I don't know what the Touvre species is, but a shrimp patten in sizes 16s to 12s in a pale watery olive colour covers all sizes. I tie them in light-medium and heavy, with grey partridge hackle as legs.

The next common insects are caddis. Caddis fall into three sizes 14s 16s and during August, a larger beast on a size 12s. Caddis are found all along the Touvre, but in some places the evening hatches are much bigger. In these areas it worth fishing a weighted caddis patten, such as Lafontaine deep sparkle pupa, at any time during the day, prior to a hatch.
In the late evening the same fly but in an emerger, sorts out the better fish. In fact two of my biggest fish a 58cm and a 56 cm fell to this fly.

Next come the small, medium and large mayflies. Sadly in just the few years I have fished the river, mayflies have become less common, its down to abstraction, and pollution, but I have covered that in a previous post!
On most days a few Blue winged olive (Ephemerella ignita) come off, but never in the huge numbers you see on the river Dordogne when grayling fishing. However a bead head b.w.o. nymph in a size 16s will catch fish, fished blind, or to sighted trout.

A few other medium mayflies come off over the summer months, such as PMDs and Pale waterys, and sometimes with the odd Danica putting in an appearance, but never in any numbers. These small mayfly hatches rarely bring any decent trout to the surface, the numbers are just not sufficient.

Below the fish farms, huge hatches of midge (Chironomids) are now common, and some big fish are caught here, but I just don't have the heart for it. To see this wonderful river so heavily silted that the only fly life it can support are midge populations sadden me. But I do carry a few midge pupa pattens to trail of the end of a dry fly, if the situation suggests trout may be taking tiny insects?

Finally at some time in July we get a fall of ants. These ants are large 12s and have a red arse!! After being caught out during my first season, and having to make do with a small black Klinkhamer, during a spectacular rise to this terrestrial insect, my box always has a few red arsed ants in a corner somewhere.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Fly tying a winter's past time.

Whilst I tie flies the whole year through, most of my flies get tied during the winter months. Not only is fly tying an enjoyable pastime, its also a necessity!
After speaking to many fly fishers it seems they fall into two categories. Those who tie the flies they really need, and those who tie all the flies they could possibly need. I fall into the latter group of tiers.
In truth I could fish an entire season with just one fly box, and for the past few seasons, I have tried to get down to just that. However there are always spill overs, flies you could need if there were a specific hatch.
Take for example the Pale Morning Dun. Last season in early May, for just a few days these beautiful mayflies came off in abundance, and the fish were on them. I did have specific copies, and am glad I did, but had I have had just the one box!
I have managed to get my everyday fishing down to two boxes. One is a large C&F waterproof. In this are all my weighted, and unweighted nymphs. Mostly shrimp and small bead head mayfly and caddis patterns. The other box is an eight compartment clear plastic danica box. This takes all my emergers, dries and ant's, and a few wets.
In my fishing bag, are several other boxes that will cover almost everything