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Street Fishing

Street Fishing

Ron Cousins looks at the new craze sweeping France...

Since King Charles IX received a bunch of lily of the valley as a good luck charm on May 1, 1561, May day has always held an important place in French traditions. And more so for anglers where it signifies the first day of the new season to fish for pike and zander. Spinning with lures will now be allowed and with that will come another surge in a new branch of the sport that is really pulling in the new recruits - Street Fishing.

Street Fishing took off in Paris about five years ago, rapidly spreading through Europe and to Britain. Proving a big hit with youngsters taking it up as a fun active sport, anglers use city and town waterways, dodging the traffic and casting from busy quaysides. Almost all catches are released with no fish killed. Big on the internet, it has been taken up by local and national media where it is described as ‘a cool thing for youngsters to do’.

Forget the flat cap and wellies image, Street Fishing anglers wear jeans, t-shirts, baseball caps and trendy trainers. And forget the mass of fishing equipment usually taken to the waterside, the new breed of urban angler will carry just a short rod and reel with lures in the pocket or in a lightweight back pack. It is easy to travel by public transport or to cycle and easy to take a break in a bar or bistro. In Paris there is a growing lunch-time fishing scene along the Seine and Canal Saint-Martin as office workers follow up eating with some lure casting before returning to work. The French capital now has a number of Street Fishing clubs and provides an on-line map showing the top fishing spots along the river and the canal.

Limoges, Périgueux, Nantes, Niort and Angoulême all have a growing number of devotees of this low cost sport that requires very little fishing tackle or preparation. Many people who have never fished like what they see at their city watersides and want to try it themselves and so it is becoming an important gateway for new anglers to join the sport.

The competition side has also taken off in a big way that again appeals to tech-savvy young people. Each competitor is given a measure and an entry card bearing their name and then paired with another for the duration of the competition which can see anglers fishing their way along several kms of roadside banks where any attempt at stationary fishing would be impossible. The total length of fish caught decides the result so each time a fish is reeled in, it is placed on the measure with the captor’s entry card alongside. This is photographed with a mobile phone and the image sent on to the competition organiser’s computer. Texts are then sent to competitors to let them know where they are currently placed.
Most of the fish caught on the lures are perch, zander or pike and much strategy is involved to calculate whether it is better to try for perch which may be only 5cm to 10cm long but around in large numbers, or use larger lures for the larger species which could be 50cm or more but are in fewer numbers.

Making the correct calculation can be profitable as there are winner’s purses of 1,000 euros at stake this year at the Paris Street Open and the European Street Championship at Ghent, Belgium. There’s even more to be won in the Gunki Iron Tournament in Rotterdam. This three-man team competition, which attracts competitors from many countries, is fished over 24 hours and the result is decided by the total length of each team’s fifteen longest fish. Motor vehicles aren’t allowed so many teams move from area to area using skateboards. One of the most successful street competition anglers is Englishman Steve Collett, from Leicester. He is a former English National Champion in the traditional match fishing format who has adapted quickly to lure fishing and last year banked almost 5,000 euros in winnings.

There will be more Street Fishing competitions throughout France this summer as towns add one of the new style events to the regular Concours de Pêche.

If the idea of combining strolling through your favourite town with a spot of fishing thrown in is appealing, what do you need? A two-piece 2m light spinning rod and a fixed spool reel taking 100 metres of 4kg breaking strain monofilament nylon line should handle most fish that come along and can be bought for less than 60€. A selection of 3 to 10cm lures and a few rubber worm and shad style lures will add 30€ or so to the bill, and a pair of forceps are needed to safely remove the hook from the fish. The only other thing that could come in handy is a lightweight folding landing net, just in case the really big one comes along. One essential is a carte de pêche, the annual rod licence that gives access to thousands of kms of river and lake bank throughout France. Once you have these it’s time for, as the Dooby Brothers song goes, ‘Takin’ it to the Streets’ and, even if you were around when that recording first came out, you can now go skateboarding without embarrassment.


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