FISHING FOR LARGE BROWN TROUT IN FRANCE

France may not be Patagonia, but its hydrographic network offers excellent opportunities to catch trophy brown trout. Along with the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Massif Central, and the Vosges, there are rivers where you can potentially set new records. In this article, we will guide you on how, where, and when to capture large trout in France.

These are our fly-fishing trips for brown trout in France:

Fly fishing Chamonix
TOUR ALPS FLY FISHING
Fly fishing Provence
Guided day

WHAT SIZE IS CONSIDERED A BIG BROWN TROUT IN FRANCE?

Catching a large trout is much more commendable when dealing with wild individuals born in the river. In France, trout populations are mostly wild, unlike other countries such as Slovenia, where fish come from artificially conducted restocking.

The concept of a trophy fish can vary depending on the scenario. Sometimes, catching a 16-inch trout in a mountain river is equivalent to a 32-inch trout in a plain river. Therefore, it would often be more interesting to talk about the age of the trout.

But in this guide, what we aim to make you aware of are those places and moments where you can catch large wild trout, discussing their size in France. We are talking about a big trout, starting from 24 inches, as this size is considered an exceptional fish.

Fly fishing in France

WHY FISH FOR BIG BROWN TROUT IN FRANCE?

It’s curious that in the European continent, where trout originate from, it is not a destination known for trophy trout. Perhaps the high population density and fishing pressure are among the main reasons. Despite not being renowned for trophy fish abundance, the pursuit of trout in France is possible and is believed to be much more rewarding due to the challenge. Furthermore, while France may not boast the largest trout in terms of size, many anglers consider the genetic diversity and heritage value of its strains hard to match elsewhere in the world.

As a tourist visiting France for just a few days, the quest for large trout is considered almost impossible. It requires a local fishing guide with extensive experience and demands time, determination, courage, and a bit of luck.

Fly fishing in France

BEST MONTHS OF THE YEAR TO CATCH BIG BROWN TROUT IN FRANCE

When do large trout feed the most? The chosen period varies depending on the type of scenario, the type of food, and the chosen fishing technique. In the following points, we have tried to indicate patterns that will help you choose the perfect technique and scenario depending on the month of the year:

 

  • March/April: The month of March and early April, in large rivers with a snow regime, as long as the snow does not melt, is the best time to catch large trout on dry flies. These rivers are located in the plains or foothills before the Alps or the Pyrenees. There, significant hatches of March Brown and Baetis occur in the middle of the day, activating large fish. Trout feed in the lower parts of the pools, where they expend less energy. It’s worth noting that during this time of year, small and medium-sized trout remain inactive. Examples of these rivers are the Durance River or the Gave du Pau.

Another interesting phenomenon occurs in April in limestone rivers with an abundance of the famous shrimp-like insect called scud. At this time of the year, when food is still scarce, large trout approach the shores to eat this insect. You can find large trout in shallow areas, making it the moment for sight nymph fishing.

In lakes at lower altitudes, let’s say below 1200 m, thermal inversion mainly occurs in the months of March to April/May. During this time, trout are in the upper layers near the shores, making it an exceptional moment to capture the large monsters inhabiting these lakes.

We have been talking about snow-regime rivers, low mountain lakes, and rivers located near mountains of low altitude without snow, dependent on rainfall (rainfall regime). The months of April, May, and June are usually very good for fishing in general since the water temperature is close to its thermal optimum, which is 12°C.

 

  • May/June: The months of May and June vary greatly depending on whether the rivers are rainfall or snow-regime rivers.

In snow-regime rivers, May is usually the month of snowmelt. The water temperature drops significantly, trout have to expend a lot of energy to feed due to increased flows, and trout activity is very low except during the middle hours of the day. After snowmelt, the situation changes radically, as it is a time of year when all the river’s trout feed and are very active, including large trout. During this time of year, the reward for energy expenditure and food outweighs the trout, and the largest specimens are located in the best currents of the river.

In low mountain lakes, May is still a good month as thermal inversion persists. June is usually a worse month. On the contrary, in mountain lakes above 1,500 m in altitude, the months of May, June, or July are often excellent times since fish need to feed after winter hibernation and exhibit great aggressiveness, including large trout.

If we talk about rainfall regime rivers, May and June are excellent months since the water temperature is at its thermal optimum for trout, which is 12°C.

 

  • July/August: In the months of July and August, the temperatures of many rivers increase, and trout decrease their activity in the middle hours of the day, increasing in the early and late hours. During these months, there are significant hatches at dusk, making it a great time to catch large trout. In general, capturing large trout is more technical and uncertain and occurs more often in rivers regulated under reservoirs. It can also be a good time to try to find large trout in mountain lakes.

 

  • September/October: The months at the end of the season are characterized by a drop in water temperature, an increase in aggression, and the need for food in trout due to the proximity of reproduction. Additionally, it should be noted that fishing conditions at the end of the season can vary greatly depending on the meteorological conditions of the past summer and, in particular, the occurrence of possible storms in August. Therefore, sometimes September can be excellent if it has rained previously or quite bad if the flows are very low and the waters have not been oxygenated.

Another factor to consider at the end of September is the disappearance of small white or forage fish that trout feed on. These fish begin their lethargy, hide, and trout have a high demand for food, increasing their activity and becoming very aggressive.

In short, the proximity to the end of the season activates large trout due to the proximity of reproduction and the drop in water temperatures. It is an excellent time to catch large trout with nymphs and especially with streamers.

BEST PLACES TO CATCH A TROPHY BROWN TROUT IN FRANCE

The best places to fish for trophy brown trout in France, as in any other country worldwide, are determined by the following factors:

  • Rivers with abundant food: Rivers rich in food sources such as scuds, small fish, and large insects. In these rivers, trout grow rapidly and reach a respectable size with an average lifespan.
  • Water velocity and shelter: Large trout achieve their size due to a low energy expenditure & high food intake ratio. Rivers with slow-flowing water and shelters are essential. Trout need rivers where they can defend themselves against predators and where nutrient levels are high enough for significant growth without excessive energy expenditure.
  • Competition: The denser a trout population, the smaller the average size of the individuals. Therefore, large trout are found in rivers with low recruitment capacity, often at the edge of their geographic distribution, typically in mixed water where they coexist with other forage fish species and face low competition from predators.
  • Catch and release areas: Places where only catch-and-release fishing is allowed tend to have more of these trophy fish.
  • Favorable weather conditions: For example, mountain lakes with extreme temperature conditions limit trout growth. Moderate altitude locations have more insects, biomass, small fish, and temperatures conducive to trout growth. Similarly, lower reaches are suitable for large trout as long as they maintain acceptable temperatures in summer (say, below twenty degrees) and/or sufficient flow to provide enough oxygen to brown trout during critical months.
  • Geological composition of the river (water acidity or alkalinity): Limestone rivers, originating at moderate altitudes, have more calcium carbonate than granite watercourses, promoting the rapid growth of trout.
  • Tailwaters: River courses below reservoirs are often exceptional sites for catching large trout. Water temperature, organic matter load, and generally the availability of shelter make these places perfect scenarios for capturing large trout in France.

Some of the best rivers for catching large trout in France that meet many of the characteristics mentioned above are:

  • The Gave de Pau.
  • The Tarn River.
  • The Durance River.
  • The Verdon River.
  • The Bienne River.
  • The Chéran River.
Fly fishing in France

IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD FLY FISHING GUIDE FOR CATCHING LARGE BROWN TROUT IN FRANCE

Engaging the services of a fly fishing guide is crucial when aiming to capture XXL-sized brown trout in France, for the following reasons:

  • Specialized Location Knowledge: Inexperienced anglers often struggle to pinpoint the locations of these trophy trout, but an experienced guide possesses the expertise to identify where they are, when they feed, and which flies to use in different situations.
  • Experience and Confidence: The guide’s ability to navigate diverse situations is paramount, and having confidence in achieving results is crucial, especially for seasoned anglers seeking a rewarding challenge.
  • Local Connections: Guides boast strong local connections that provide up-to-date information on water conditions, feeding patterns, and other valuable details. This local insight can be a game-changer when pursuing elusive trophy trout.

In summary, a fly fishing guide in France not only increases the chances of a successful catch but also enhances the overall experience by offering personalized guidance, local knowledge, and access to crucial information.

Fly fishing in France