A group of friends and I have made an annual trip to Europe to enjoy some of the fantastic river fishing on offer there. We have visited Slovenia several times and also the Czech Republic, due to the increasing prices in Slovenia we decided that a new destination was called for. I had found an excellent package in Northern Spain (http://www.flyfishinggalicia.co.uk/) unfortunately with folks coming from Scotland and Germany we could not make the flights work. Graham Lumsdon saved the day and put together a package in the South of France.
We all met up in Geneva, I was the last to get in and as the designated driver for the trip the next job was to pick up the hire car. We got a Galaxy type car which was fine for a group of four anglers and their gear. The drive through Geneva was interesting, lots of traffic lights and a tram system to deal with. Having survived this we made our way to Thones where we were to be accommodated at the Fast Hotel. First stop though was the local tackle shop where the international language of fishing was engaged. We bought our ticket for the area which was around 30 euros at this time we were also advised to fish the Cheran this was reputed to be very popular. We settled into the accommodation which can be described as cosy, but very clean and done the job. The town was only a short walk and the food was very good. We arose early and enjoyed the continental breakfast on offer before setting off for the town of Bozy where we were told to pick up our permits. After a slight detour, we were disappointed to find that you could not purchase a ticket in this town. After being given a right old run around we finally found Phil the fish who was able to sort us out we had missed a good chunk of the morning session. When we eventually got to the river we found the snowmelt coupled with access issues made fishing impossible. Our back up plan was the Usses a smaller river but this was still in full spate. We all struggled and for the group only managed one fish.
The next day the local river the Fiere was still pounding through we decided to give the Borne a go the road ran along a good stretch of this rive and although it was also in Spate access looked good. We decided to buddy up one pair going upstream and the other would go downstream. I fished with James and we took turns working our way up the likely pools which were few and far between, picking at the edges where we could. When we met up with the two Grahams they had fared slightly better with two and one respectively. This was still not great so we decided to up sticks again and go to a river that Graham had fished in the past called the Minogue. This river did not suffer from runoff snowmelt at all. As we looked down on the river from a bridge we all felt a lot more confident that we would catch here. Again we split up this time I walked downstream with Graham we had spotted a couple of likely runs from the bridge that we were both looking forward to fishing near the end of the session. Graham is one of the best river anglers I know and it was no surprise when he managed to get a small brownie quickly to his net. As we reached a fork in the river I was going to go left and Graham right. As I made my way up a shout from Graham stopped me in my tracks. I thought he had caught a good fish, instead, he offered to let me fish a very good looking pool and he wandered up the left track. I was fishing Duo at this point and it was a great relief to see my dry fly dip down and I was into my first fish of the trip. A nice chub was safely netted and then returned quickly a Zebra Trout followed. Another few casts and I thought I had snagged the bottom, I was about to wade in and retrieve my flies when the line started to move. I did not see the fish for ten minutes, I was fishing a three weight rod with .008 tippet. Eventually I got some colour and initially, I thought I had caught a carp, but no this was to be my first ever barbell on the fly and what a beauty. I had been shouting for Graham to come and give me a hand as my net was on the small side but he could not hear me over the roar of the river. After twenty minutes I eventually slipped its head into my inadequate net.
I made my way up to Graham and he had caught another two fish, our time was up though and we had to move at quite a pace to get back to the bridge to meet the others. As we approached the bridge we could see Sharpie taking fish from the pools we had earmarked to fish. As we met up the mood was a little more buoyant as we had all taken fish. For the evening session, Graham wanted to take us to another stretch of the Minogue that he had fished some years ago, time was wearing on though so we took fifty meters of water each and fished it through. Still, on the Duo, I managed three brownies from my little bit of river. Day two done and at least we had managed some fish.
For the last day of fishing we chose to return to the Minogue where we had all caught fish, the river looked very good but this was Sunday and it was being heavily fished. Again I buddied up with James and we both had good water in front of us. James hooked into what he thought was a good fish and he had it on for two minutes before it spat the hook. Although the fish went unseen James thought it that it would have been the fish of the trip. We worked our way upstream staying in touch and fishing different pools to give each other fresh water. The same stretch of water in Slovenia may have yielded twenty or even thirty fish, but this was France and between us, we managed one. I had overstretched the day before and was not as able to get around as well as I would like. When we reached the Grahams’ they had faired not much better so we decided to go back to the Mid Minogue. I was limping quite badly by this point and was not keen on covering distance, so I decided to fish the water just around the bridge. The others made their way upstream and Graham decided to take his seven foot for a 2 weight up a small tributary. He crawled and sneaked up the stream to no avail. James and I faired not much better with James just picking up one. Graeme who had walked some great distance managed another fish and that was us for another year.
My lasting impressions of the trip will be the scenery on the way back to our hotel the rivers seemed to be coming down the snow melt had all but disappeared and were running clear. Graham said we were probably 72 hours too early, but this is the gamble you take when you plan a trip in advance. We were caught out one year in Slovenia where the rivers were in spate, the difference, of course, is those rivers were full of fish!