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!