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Competition fishing in France

Competition fishing in France

It’s competition time in the world of angling as Ron Cousins explains…

This is the time of year when anyone who has had even the briefest of encounters with a fishing rod gazes on sun dappled waters, hears the splash of rising fish and longs to do it again. What better way to spend a sunny day than sitting on a grassy bank, hat tilted over eyes waiting for an obliging fish to tug on the line? But not all mid summer fishing is so laid back, because this is also the time for the concours de pêche - fishing competitions that attract men and women, young and old and are held in every town over the next three months.


The many small trout lakes that open during the summer often have well attended informal Saturday or Sunday morning competitions, where families can fish together before enjoying a lakeside lunch. The entry fee covers retaining a limited number of trout which are weighed to decide the winners. Often there are prizes for the heaviest fish, the longest fish, the best catch by someone under 16 and the best catch by a lady angler. No carte de pêche is needed for these private enclosed waters, tackle can often be hired and all you need are worms, sweetcorn and spinners. It’s an ideal opportunity to give the sport a try, catch a few fish for the table and maybe even win a prize.

The coarse fishing competitions on the rivers are more serious affairs but just as much fun although all the fish are returned alive to the water. The day is usually divi-ded up into two separate 2-3hr matches with a leisurely break for lunch. Competitors can take part in both or just one.


The action starts with the tirage, the draw for numbered positions along the river bank where each angler will fish. Ten minutes before the signal for fishing to commence, competitors can throw groundbait into the water in front of them to attract the fish. Large balls of groundbait are thrown in during that time, but once the fishing has started only one hand can be used to throw any more. Competitors can use maggots, worms, bread and sweetcorn as bait but only float fishing is allowed and all fish caught are kept alive in a keepnet. When the signal to stop fishing is sounded, stewards arrive with scales to weigh and record each catch and then it’s back to match HQ for the presentation of the prizes.

Each town’s competition has support from local traders and the big French fishing tackle companies, so there will often be a prize for everyone who took part. It is quite possible to finish well down the list but still go away with something worth two or three times the usual 10€ entry fee.

Details of forthcoming concours de pêche are on the internet but fishing tackle shops have all the details and if there isn’t a poster on the window the tackle dealer is sure to be able tell you what is taking place. The concours-day atmosphere with the riverside beer and wine tent, the barbecue, the crowd of onlookers and the excitement as word spreads up and down the bank about who is catching the fish can be addictive. So what do you do if you have a craving for more of the competitive side of fishing?

The first thing is to join an angling club, there’s one in almost every town, and become affiliated to the Federation Française de Pêche Sportive au Coup, the governing body for competitive fishing in France, and thus obtain a competitor’s licence. Along with the 55€ annual fee, a new competitor has to include a note from his doctor confirming that he is fit to take part, which is the procedure for all sports in France.

The licence fee includes insurance cover and an excellent magazine every three months covering the whole country’s competition scene with results and details of future events.

The aim of every serious competition angler is to be among the elite top 24 anglers who make up Team France and everyone has a chance to achieve this because of the league system that starts with a département match. Qualifiers go on to one of four regional competitions and from those comes a group of 48 anglers who will fish more matches to decide the national team.

Competitive fishing in France is a huge sport and a similar qualifying system also applies to juniors in three groups - under-14, 14 to 18 and 18 to 23 - as well as veterans, ladies and disabled anglers.

At any level, taking part in a fishing competition adds another dimension to a great outdoor sport whatever the outcome. New friends made, the enjoyment of the day, the thrill of stepping up for a prize and maybe coming home with a trophy to put on the mantelpiece. Pierre de Coubertin, the French educator and historian whose vision led to the revival of the Olympic Games, was indeed right when he said that the most important thing is not winning but taking part.




Groundbait Amorce 

Sweetcorn Mais

Maggot Asticot

Worm Ver

Keepnet Bourriche

Landing Net Epuisette

Hook Hamecon

Float Flotteur


USEFUL TROUT FISHING WEBSITES - details of competitions throughout France - details of competitions in département 16, 17, 79, 86 - details of competitions in département 24 - details of competitions in département 85 - details of competitions in département 87  - Federation Francais de Peche Sportive au Coup