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The best places to go fishing in autumn

The best places to go fishing in autumn

Once the tourists have left and autumn is here, what are the best areas for fishing? Our expert, Ron Cousins, explains...


French songwriters Joseph Kosma and Jaques Prevert captured the spirit of autumn and preserved it in a haunting melody when they wrote ‘Les Feuilles Mortes’, but when the autumn leaves start to drift by an angler’s window they are announcing the arrival of the most productive season on the piscatorial calendar.

This is the time of year when there is a rapid reduction in the abundance of natural food in rivers and lakes and the resident fish population go on a feeding spree as they build up reserves for the winter ahead. It is no longer necessary to rise at dawn or linger at dusk to enjoy the best of the fishing because fish will take a bait all day long. However, certain species are always associated with autumn and top of the list must be the barbel or barbeau.

These muscular bronze fish with the distinctive turned down mouth and four whiskers on the lips are thriving in many Poitou-Charentes rivers. They have little culinary value but what they lack in taste they more than make up for in fighting spirit and a 3kg fish can test a fisherman’s tackle and skill to breaking point.

Among the most productive areas for barbel are in the River Charente downstream of the weir at Angoulême, and between Nersac and Sireuil and through Châteauneuf. The River Dronne, at the southern tip of department 16, is another excellent barbel river with St Aulaye, Aubeterre and Bonne all noted areas for fish to 4kg or more while a short step into Dordogne brings you to another first class barbel river, the Isle. The biggest barbel in the region are probably in the River Vienne where fish up to 10kg have been reported.

 here is consistent fishing from Chavigny to Châtellerault while L’Isle-Jourdain seems to produce the bigger fish. The river in Confolens holds shoals of barbel as the temperature drops and things can be brisk at Availles-Limouzine; but be prepared for surprises because large numbers of carp running to 13kg or more also move into this area in autumn. Two smaller rivers in department 86 that hold plenty of autumn barbel are the River Clain around Poitiers and the River Gartempe between St Savin and Montmorillon.

When it comes to bait, bread, worms, maggots and luncheon meat will all go down well but the most popular choice is commercially prepared halibut pellets that can be bought from tackle shops and supermarkets. However, some of the most successful French barbel catchers go back to nature and catch all their fish on caddis grubs which are freely available in most waters. These are the larvae of sedge flies and they make protective cases out of twigs, sand and other debris. Turn over stones in the water to find these little camouflaged tubes. Keep them in shallow water, peel back the tube and pull out the grub when you are ready to put it on the hook. Whatever bait you use, the very best time to go after barbel is following heavy rain.

The exact opposite applies to the other great autumn species, the perch or perche. These highly predatory fish with an oval greenish yellow body covered with rough armour plated scales, distinctive black stripes, sail-like spiked dorsal fin and sharp pointed gill covers that easily draw blood from an unwary angler need clear water to hunt their prey.

Unluckily for the perch, their taste is as impressive as their looks and stocks can get depleted but they are prolific breeders and are keeping ahead of the demand for fillets in the frying pan throughout most of Poitou-Charentes.

Still waters are a good bet for autumn perch and the canals in Charente Maritime such as le Canal de Marans a La Rochelle and le Canal de la Seudre a la Charente hold loads of fish to 1kg or more - the French record is a fraction over 3kg. A good lake in that department is L’Etang de Gemonzac while the River Charente at Saintes and the smaller rivers Seugne and Seudre are worth fishing as the weed clears. Good perch can be caught from the Sèvre at Niort while to the north of Deux-Sèvres the River Thouet is worth a visit. There are also some good private day ticket lakes with Pescalis and Etang du Olivette among the most popular. The Lacs de Haute Charente-la Lavaud and Mas Chaban also come into their own at this time of year but in truth any water is worth a try. Perch gather where there are immersed dead trees, along pontoons, by islands and reed beds, where smaller tributaries enter a river and where boats are moored. One sure sign that perch are about is small fish leaping above the surface as they scramble to escape the enormous expanding mouths of the perch pack on their trail.

Traditionally a lobworm - those great big ones you can collect creeping around the lawn at night with a torch - is the best bait but you can catch them using maggots and cooked prawns too. A live or dead minnow or other small fish is likely to sort out the biggest perch while strolling the bank with a spinning rod and casting a small gold or silver spoon or 3cm to 7cm Rapala-type lure is a great way to take some autumn exercise.

Once again the French perch fisherman has a trick up his sleeve, this time the leatherjacket. This is the grey-brown cigar shaped larvae of the crane fly or daddy longlegs and in the autumn they are busy underground ruining lawns by feeding on the roots. Perch love them. Some vigorous work with a fork will collect enough for bait and there’s the added bonus of justifying heading off to the water side to ‘relax after gardening’.


© Living Magazine - all rights reserved. Published OCtober 2011.