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Fishing in Charente

Fishing in Charente

The river Charente provides miles of excellent, free fishing before flowing into Charente Maritime on its journey to sea. The wealth of fishing ranges from giant fish catfish, with a taste of a whole dead fish or a big bunch of worms, to wily small river trout that can only be caught on the tiniest of dry flies.


Some of the best fishing can be found at Cognac, and the Charente angler would do well to begin here. The Esplanade de Ia Croix Montamette, between the N141 road bridge and the Pont de Crouin, has easy access and comfortable banks. There are plenty of roach, crucians and bream, which can be caught on float Lackie with maggots or sweetcorn as bait.

A hint of the town's famous drink hanging in the air adds to the attraction of fishing on the quay, either side of the Pont Neuf at St Jacques. From here, a short stroll takes you to the old town's cobbled streets and a chance to learn more about the delightful amber liquid at the Musée des Arts du Cognac.

A few miles upriver, at Bourg Charente, the impressive chateau looks down as roach, bream and perch are caught where Gallo Roman potters once plied their craft. The track alongside the river allows easy access by car, and although there is dense bank-side vegetation, areas are cleared for anglers.

A particularly good day's fishing can be celebrated at one of the area's best restaurants: La Ribaudiere, close to the river The 12th century church of Saint-Jean- Baptiste is also worth a visit to see the 13th century mural of the Adoration of the Magi, birthplace of the late President François Mitterand, home to the museum that bears his name, and the place where the Catholic forces triumphed in the 1569 Battle of Jarnac during the Wars of Religion, has turned up some of the river's biggest carp. Members of the town's carp angling club concentrate on the stretch of river downstream of Le Quai de L'Orangerie, and have tempted fish up to 27kg using boilies as bait and heavy leads to hold the tackle in the mid-river current. Even on specially designed carp rods, these fish provide a real 'man versus fish' encounter that often ends in victory for the underwater participant.


While these piscatorial punch-ups may soon be forgotten, the 1547 duel between Guy Chabot de Jarnac and François de Ia Chataigneraie is well embedded in history. Jarnac floored his opponent with an unexpected sword-blow to the back of the knee- the legendary 'Coup de Jarnac'. This is a term still used today, and probably one of the expletives uttered by a disappointed angler as the fish of a lifetime snaps the line and escapes.
A road runs along the right-hand bank, downstream of the quays, and this is a good place to float fish for roach and chub, or to use Ieger tactics for bream. There are also occasional big trout that put up quite a fight when hooked on light tackle.

The market town of Chateauneuf-sur-Charente offers a variety of fishing. There is always the chance of a pike or silure around the town bridge, while carp up to 15kg have been caught from the designated night fishing section. The right-hand downstream bank is a noted roach fishing area and also holds big chub, while the areas where water buoys warn of sandbanks hold lots of barbell, running to 4kg or more.

A couple of kilometres upstream, the meandering waterway at Mosnac, with its backdrop of Saint-Simeux village clinging to the hillside above the river, is noted for bream fishing, catches of fish up to 3kg can be taken using a long pole and a 'lollipop' float - a balsa or polystyrene disc on a wire stem that allows the bait to be held absolutely stationary in the flow.

Picturesque Sireuil is a major venue for Concours de Pêche, and hosts departmental, regional and French Federation events. lt is possible to drive along the riverside track for several kilometres; the river upstream of the bridge is noted for bream and tench while the short section from the bridge down to the lock is a good bet for roach, using float tackle and baiting with maggots or sweetcorn. Night fishing for carp is allowed on part of the river, and anglers pre-baiting an area and then fishing with boilies as bait can catch plenty of fish up to and over 12kg.

There's a lot to distract you from the fishing in Angoulême, but if you can get away from the museums, ramparts, cathedral, cobbled old town and the 'Murs Peints' street art, rake the fishing tackle to Port L'Houmeau. Here, the concrete quay provides armchair comfort and the opportunity to enjoy good sport with bleak, roach, chub and bream. The secret of success in this spot is to use bread as bait. People are constantly feeding the ducks and the fish pounce on any that sinks past the ducks' beaks. This is one of the best places to fish in winter as the chub feed on the coldest days and you can still have a good day's fishing with a metre of floodwater in the river.

The River Vienne pays a visit to Charente on its way from the glove makers of St Junien to the department that bears its name, providing good fishing at no cost other than the Carte de Pêche.

The wide but shallow reaches upstream of Chabanais hold a lot of bream that can be caught by casting a swimfeeder well across the river, with maggots, worms or sweetcorn as bait. After all that effort, the Lawn's Eglise Notre Dame and Eglise St. Pierre are well worth a visit, as are the remains of the Gallo Roman baths at nearby Chassenon.

Night fishing for carp is allowed at Exideuil, these lean, hard-fighting river fish that run to over 30lb can also be targeted after dark at Confolens, where there is a great view from the 13th century granite bridge that has the ancient Fontaine de Ia Fosse at one end.

Before bowing out, there's a last chance to raid the river's zander, pike and carp stocks at St Germain de Confolons, where miracles are said to have occurred, and where the River lssoire runs in at Lessac.

At the other end of the department, the River Dronne pays a visit from the Dordogne and invites angling attention in the picture-book village of Aubeterre-sur-Dronne. There are some good places to fish in the field on the left-hand bank above the bridge. The lily pads near the bridge hide barbell, big perch and carp, while upstream; expect roach along with small chub and bream. With a depth around 2 metres, this is ideal for fishing with waggler or stick float -'Méthode Anglaise', as our pole-fishing, French angling friends call it - and a maggot-baited hook will tempt most fish.

The other stretch of the Dronne to try is Bazac near Chalais. Henri, Count of Chalais was beheaded in 1626 at 27 years old for conspiring against Cardinal Richelieu. You need to keep your head in order to find the tree lined river bank: enter the village of Bazac, turn left after the boulangerie and carry on down the hill to the 'Moulin' sign on the right. Continue until you reach the right-hand fork, which leads to the river. Light float tackle works best in the gentle. Now, and roach, bream and chub are the target fish.

I've just touched upon what awaits a fisherman in Charente. There are tributaries to explore, stretches of river to discover, lakes of all sizes: and all of this in wonderful countryside. It is surely not a coincidence that seeking out river secrets also seems to unearth yet more local producers of wine, cognac or pineau! When you go fishing in Charente, you may not always have a fish for the pot, but you can always return with a bottle to fill the glass.

© Living Magazine - all rights reserved. Published December 2008.