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A bending fly rod and a leaping trout

A bending fly rod and a leaping trout

When spring arrives, Ron Cousins' thoughts – like any keen angler's during this season – turn to trout fishing. Read on to learn more about cultural references to this fish and to pick up his tips for successfully fishing trout in Poitou-Charentes...

Fishing Poitou-Charentes

In his poem 'Locksley Hall', Alfred Lord Tennyson claims that "In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love"; but if the young man is an angler it is much more likely his thoughts will be turning to that most sporting of all fish, the trout – because springtime and trout fishing go together like, well, love and marriage.

What other fish could have inspired Schubert’s 'The Trout Quintet' or persuaded Captain Beefheart to have his head replaced by that of a trout on the cover of his rock album masterpiece 'Trout Mask Replica'? This is the fish that American poet James Loughlin wrote into the textbooks with the strange mixture of French and English that is 'The Trout'; and that Irish bard Barrie Cooke celebrated in verse with the story of tickling trout that makes up his poem of the same name.

At the cinema, 'La Truite' was a French film of the 80s starring Isabelle Huppert as a member of a family running a trout farm, while Walter The Trout was caught and returned to the lake by Oscar winning Henry Fonda in one of the memorable scenes from 'On Golden Pond'. Inspector Morse’s favourite Thames-side watering hole, which often features in the TV series, is just one of a multitude of hostelries named after the fish; and for sheer scale of homage to the trout little can surpass the 10-metre-high fibreglass leaping fish that tells arrivals at Adaminaby in New South Wales that this is a great place for fly fishing.

Fishing In Poitou-CharentesThe two species of trout found in the lakes and rivers of Poitou-Charentes are brown trout – scientific name Salmo Trutta or 'truite fario' in French – and the rainbow trout, which is genetically closer to the Atlantic salmon than the brown trout, has the slightly suggestive scientific name of Oncorhynclus Mykiss and is known in France as 'truite arc-en-ciel'.

The brown trout, with its buttery yellow sides and black and red spots, has a reputation for intelligence and cunning and the ability to thrive in areas of high temperature. It was originally a European and Asian fish, but is now found all over the world, thanks in part to the expansion of the British Empire. British army officers wanted to fish for trout during their stay in the newly conquered territories, so stock fish were shipped over to the various foreign waters. The world famous trout fishing that is enjoyed in India can be traced back to the first fish introduced into a Himalayan stream in 1860.

The red stripe that travels the length of the body, the black spots on its back and a display of aerial acrobatics when hooked are the distinguishing features of the rainbow trout. This species was originally found in the Sacramento River Region on the west coast of America, but as they are relatively easy to transport are now found throughout the USA, South America, New Zealand, Australia and Europe.

The rainbow is now the most popular type of trout in the world and is commercially farmed on a vast scale. There are a number of pisciculture businesses throughout the region and, in fact, France is the world’s third largest producer of farmed trout. The country consumes the bulk of its production, the majority heading straight for the table and the rest used to stock the country’s lakes and rivers. The huge amounts reared proves that the trout is well up the nation’s favourite food list; and anyone who has read the mouth watering ways of serving it in best selling 'The Trout Cook – 100 Ways With Trout' by angler and cook Patricia Ann Hayes will understand why.

Most Category 2 public domain rivers in Poitou-Charentes receive a token stocking with trout early in March, ready for the opening of the fishing season – which runs until the end of September. But these are usually caught quickly by the masses of fishermen who turn out on opening day intent on converting river stock to freezer stock as quickly as possible to offset the cost of the Carte de Pêche, the French equivalent of the British rod licence.

Fishing in Poitou-CharentesMore serious trout fishing is done in the upper reaches of the main rivers and their tributaries; Category 1 waters, where maggots and other grub baits used to such devastating effect to plunder the trout downriver are strictly 'interdit'.

The region also has a variety of lake fishing for trout. The smaller 'étangs' are usually put-and-take fisheries for those looking for easy fishing and trout for the pot, and are stocked with rainbows that can be caught using fly, bait or spinners. Some waters only open on certain days or for a short time and can usually be found from posters giving locations and prices in tackle shops, bars or tabac windows. The bigger 'fly only' lakes are usually stocked with a mixture of brown and rainbow trout and demand a certain level of angling skill if fish are to be caught.

Fortunately in Poitou-Charentes there are good opportunities for the novice to learn these skills. Near Moncoutant in Deux-Sèvres lies Pescalis, the first international nature and fishing centre in Europe, where there is a dedicated fly fishing lake and instructors on hand to teach the graceful art of casting a fly; while ex-pat British casting instructor Tony Scott provides group or one-to-one trout fishing instruction in Charente or just over the border in Haute Vienne.

La Mordorée reservoir near Confolens in Charente draws anglers from a wide area to fly fish for brown trout, rainbows and the more colourful cross-bred varieties of rainbows known as blue trout and tiger trout. No Carte de Pêche is needed, and a day ticket allowing two trout to be taken away costs 20€. Etang des Millauds, west of Confolens at Saint-Maurice-des-Lions, is a fishing-club-run water with a similar mix of fish, but here the angler pays for the weight of fish taken away. Just into Haute Vienne, Domaine de Jarlat at Saint Mathieu provides good value lake fishing with a five trout ticket costing just 10€, while straying a little into Dordogne finds Pisciculture du Breuilh near Nontron, where the permit for the lake that is part of this fish farm costs 11€. A favourite water in Deux-Sèvres is the Plan d’Eau de Saint-Christophe at Cherveux, near Niort, where fishing is organised by the club La Truite du Musson.

With most river trout fishing up towards the hills, there isn’t much available in Charente Maritime; but the Coran near Saintes is 1st Category, as is the Maine, which joins the Seugne near Jonzac, and the main river itself, although 2nd Category, has stretches holding brown trout. There are also 18km of the river Né that wander into the department from neighbouring Charente and can produce some good brown trout.

fishing-sw-franceDeux-Sèvres has some great river trout fishing, mostly controlled by clubs who stock regularly and sell day tickets to non-members. Around Chef Boutonne it’s the main river Boutonne and its tributaries like La Somtueuse, while at Melle the local angling association stock La Belle, La Beronne, La Berlande and Le Lambon; and at St-Maixent l’Ecole the rivers to fish are La Pamproux and Le Soignon. Heading north, La Saumont near Moncoutant is stocked with brown and rainbow trout by La Gaule Moncoutant, while upstream of Thouars, Le Thouet is a 1st Category river well run by AAPPMA Thouars.

Trout take over in the river Charente upstream of Mansle and the trout-holding tributaries from there to Ruffec are L’Izonne, La Sonnette and La Peruse. A little downriver La Bonnieure and the river it joins, the Tardoire, fish well throughout the season. No fly fisherman should miss the Touvre, which joins the Charente in Angoulême. It is like an English chalk stream and provides challenging fly fishing for beautifully marked brown trout along its entire 11km length.

In the Vienne, the river Clain and its tributaries are well worth a visit with fly rod in hand as are the Gartempe and Anglin on the department’s border. The River Vienne doesn’t become a serious trout proposition until it runs into the Charente department and the Haute Vienne –here, L’Issoire and Le Goire, tributaries near Confolens, and La Graine and La Soulaine at Chabanais attract the anglers.

Fishing the tributaries means following in the footsteps of one of France’s most famous fly fishermen, Dr Jean Juge, who lived from 1901 to 1965 and clocked up tremendous catches of trout in waters across to the Dordogne and Limousin, including 65 in one day from a Vienne tributary. His killing pattern fly 'Assasine' is just one of a number he invented that are in use today – and much coveted by fly fishermen is 'Pêcheurs de Truites', the book he wrote to help others achieve his level of success.

With so much exciting springtime fishing on offer in Poitou-Charentes, what chance does Cupid’s bent bow have against the prospect of a bending fly rod and a leaping trout? 

Originally published in Living Poitou-Charentes magazine - Check current prices with providers.


Ron's Address book

Pescalis at Moncoutant – for fly fishing lessons: +33 (0)5 49 72 00 01

Tony Scott – for trout fishing lessons: +33 (0)5 55 78 79 62

Domaine de Jarlat: +33 (0)6 07 79 51 92

La Mordorée reservoir: +33 (0)5 45 84 92 26

Pisciculture du Breuilh: +33 (0)5 53 52 88 25

Plan d’Eau de St Christophe: +33 (0)5 49 05 25 03

Chasse-Pêche at St Maixent L’Ecole – a good source of information on fisheries: +33 (0)5 49 76 06 50

Moucheurs de Deux-Sèvres – fly fishing association: +33 (0)5 49 33 25 58

Fédération de la Pêche de la Vienne: +33 (0)5 49 37 66 60

Fédération de la Pêche de la Charente: +33 (0)5 45 69 33 91 – for news and information on trout fishing in France

Fishing in Poitou-Charentes