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The best of the region’s fishing for the spring

The best of the region’s fishing for the spring

Ron Cousins has been an ardent fisherman for 60 years, six of those in the Poitou-Charentes. This issue he takes a look at the best of the region’s fishing for the spring…

Fishing-River-Boutonne-at-St-Jean-DAngely

Vincent van Gogh captured the magic of fishing at this time of year with his 1887 painting “Fishing in Spring, Pont de Clichy” - the bold colour, the light and the re-awakening of nature that the great artist saw from his easel and recreated on the canvas is there at the waterside today for all anglers to enjoy along with the fishing in April and May.

The trout fishing season opened in March with the new season for zander and pike fishing starting on 1 May. Fishing for all other species goes on for the twelve months of the year so everything swimming in river or lake is fair game. Most fish are becoming more active as the water warms up and some are preparing to spawn so they are in a feeding mood.

This is also the time of year when fish move from the deeper, slower water that has been their winter home so the shallower areas of lakes and ponds and the streamy shallows on the rivers are the best places to fish. But pay attention to Reserve de Pêche signs that ban fishing in some areas where fish congregate in vast shoals prior to spawning.

Spring is also a good time to try smaller rivers before the weed and clear water of summer makes things difficult. La Tude near Chalais at the southern end of Charente is very good for roach and small carp. Carp figures double as well as those of roach, bream and chub providing the spring action in La Seugne at Jonzac and Pons in Charente-Maritime. This is also the best time to fish the small trout rivers like the upper reaches of La Gartempe and its small tributaries in Vienne, Le Né in Charente Maritime and the tributaries of Le Thouet at the northern end of Deux-Sèvres. Many of these are stocked by local clubs and can be fished by purchasing a day ticket. Most are rated 1st Category waters and some will be for fly fishing only. Where bait fishing is allowed it is important to remember that on this category river only one rod can be used and maggots along with any other type of grub are strictly interdit. While some rivers have a hatch of mayfly that brings trout to the surface, most early season fishing will be done with wet flies and nymph patterns that replicate the fly life under the water. Traditional British patterns like Alder, March Brown, Pheasant Tail and Damsel Nymph are gratefully received by trout this side of the Channel.

The big rivers like the Charente, Vienne, Boutonne, Dronne and Sèvre Niortaise all improve dramatically with the return of the cuckoo and the swallow. The shoals of bream, roach, chub and barbel spread out after spawning and it is possible to settle down anywhere along the many kilometres of public domain fishing available and have a real chance of a good day’s sport. Favourite river fishing destinations at this time of year include the Boutonne near the plan d’eau at Saint-Jean-d’Angély; the Sèvres Niortaise all through the town of Niort; the Vienne from Chabanais into Haute Vienne, where carp fishing can be brilliant; the Dronne around Bonnes and the Charente at Châteauneuf for barbel and chub. Or try down river at Saintes where the main river and the flood canal can de fished from the Plan de la Grande Prairie and turn up a variety of fish including bream, carp and even mullet that move up from the tidal water. Sweetcorn, maggots, bread and worms are the baits and all equally effective when backed up with frequent loose offerings to work up the underwater appetites.

The longer, warmer days go down well with crucian carp and catfish. Some of the best fishing for these is in the canal network that follows the Charente-Maritime coastline from Marennes northwards to beyond La Rochelle. Anywhere is worth a try, but I prefer the southern end. The fishing may not be better, but the shellfish cabins and restaurants where the canal joins the sea are a great place to end a hard day with rod and reel. If you can put a few prawns aside they make great bait for the next trip.

There are numerous public still waters to fish throughout Poitou-Charentes but two that can come up trumps with pike, zander, bream, roach and carp in Spring are Lac de Mas Chaban in Haute Charente and La Touche-Poupard in Deux-Sèvres. However, the lake most likely to see delighted anglers dancing The Rite of Spring is at the Parc de Loisirs de Fregeneuil in Angoulême, the first public domaine “Carpodrome” in France. Anglers have been catching a dozen of more carp weighing up to 10kg during the winter from this heavily stocked, No Kill water so there could be sensational fishing when the buds are out.

When he was living in Italy Robert Browning penned that immortal line “Oh to be in England now that April’s there” but the angler in Poitou-Charentes seeing resurrection in every new leaf knows that the real place to be is here at the waterside.

© Living Magazine - all rights reserved. Published April 2012.