Fly fishing in the French Alps
The French Alps are a majestic mountain range in southeastern France, renowned for its stunning alpine landscapes and as the premier fly-fishing destination in the country. In its rivers, streams, and lakes, you can fish for brown trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, grayling, Arctic char, and lake trout.
Our fly fishing trips in the French Alps:
WHY FLY FISHING IN THE FRENCH ALPS
If you’re considering a holiday trip to France and are a fly-fishing enthusiast, we recommend setting aside a few days to fish in the Alps. Here are the reasons:
- Even if you’re not an angler, a visit to the French Alps is a must for its breathtaking beauty, featuring majestic mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and charming alpine villages. The Alps are conveniently located halfway between Paris and the French Riviera, allowing you to enjoy the cultural delights of Paris, the mountainous landscapes of the Alps, and the beaches of the French Riviera on a single trip.
- The Alps are considered France’s best and most diverse fly-fishing destination.
- You can fish for zebra trout, a unique species found in Mediterranean rivers. While the Alps may not be the destination for landing the trout of a lifetime, they offer a unique genetic diversity.
- In addition to brown trout, you can target other species such as grayling, brook trout, lake trout, rainbow trout, and even Arctic char.
- The Alps cater to both anglers who enjoy combining hiking with fishing and those seeking more accessible fishing spots. The variety of landscapes is vast.
- In the Alps, you’ll have the opportunity to fish with the company of expert local guides who will tailor the experience to meet your trip expectations. If you’re interested, they can introduce you to innovative techniques like Euro Nymphing, a method born in this region and in Spain.
WHERE TO FLY FISH IN THE FRENCH ALPS
As explained on this website, France is divided into 13 administrative regions, which are further subdivided into 94 departments. Each department has its own fishing regulations and open season. Therefore, if you are interested in fly fishing in the Alps, you should gather information about fishing in the seven French departments that have territory in the French Alps. These departments are:
- Savoie: French Savoie, located in the southeastern Alps, is renowned for some well-known rivers in France such as the Isère River and the Arc River. The fishing season in this department typically starts on March 11 and ends on October 8. The best months for fly fishing are from mid-March to early June, late July to early September, mid-October, and late October. The species you can catch in this department include brown trout, zebra trout, rainbow trout, and grayling. For more information, it is recommended to visit the website savoiepeche.com.
- Haute-Savoie: Haute-Savoie is an idyllic destination for fly fishing, with “first-class” rivers such as the Fier and the Chéran. The fishing season runs from March to October, and a “Carte de Pêche” is required for fishing. Some of the most beautiful rivers include the Fillière River, and notable lakes include Lake Pormenaz. Species that can be caught include brown trout, zebra trout, rainbow trout, Arctic char, grayling, bullhead, and pike. Detailed information is available on the website pechehautesavoie.com.
- Hautes-Alpes: Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France, Hautes-Alpes has a fishing season from March to September, with the months of June to September being the prime time. Well-known first-category rivers include the Durance and Grand Laus. In this department, you can fish for brown trout, zebra trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout, mostly in small to medium sizes. For detailed information, it is recommended to visit https://peche-hautes-alpes.com/.
- Alpes-Maritimes: The Alpes-Maritimes department, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, stands out for its impressive alpine landscape and Mediterranean climate. Cities like Nice and Cannes add cultural and beach appeal. Four notable rivers for fly fishing are La Siagne, with trout in its rapids and pools; Le Loup, with trout and barbel; Le Var, diverse from Estenc to the Mediterranean; and La Gordolasque, closed after the 2020 Storm Alex. Additionally, mountain lakes above 1,800 meters offer unique fly fishing opportunities.
- Alpes-de-Haute-Provence: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is a suitable destination for those visiting nearby cities like Marseille and Cannes. Among the well-known rivers in France in this department are the Verdon River and the Durance River, with brown trout, barbel, and bullhead; and the Var River, with stream-rich areas like Coulomp and Vaire. Additionally, the region boasts stunning mountain lakes, such as the accessible Lake Allos and Lake Marinet, where you can catch brown trout, brook trout, and lake trout.
Two other departments in the Alps with fishing interest are the Drôme department and the Isère department.
THE FISHING OF ZEBRA TROUT IN THE FRENCH ALPS
In the French Alps, two types of brown trout can be distinguished: the striped brown trout or zebra trout from the rivers on the left bank of the Rhône River, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea, and the exotic Atlantic trout raised in fish farms and used for restocking many rivers, mainly in the past.
Biologists estimate that the trout in the Alps have a history dating back 15,000 years, coinciding with the retreat of glaciers that covered most of the country after the last ice age. When fishing in the French Alps, you can determine whether the origin of a brown trout is native (zebra trout or Mediterranean striped) and not the result of restocking or hybridization with brown trout of Atlantic origin, thanks to the following differences:
- Generally, zebra trout have more than 10 black spots on the operculum; in contrast, Atlantic trout have fewer.
- Zebra trout have smaller and more numerous spots, without a white halo around them. In contrast, Atlantic trout have that halo in the spots of their livery.
- Mediterranean trout have a brownish dorsal color and do not have easily detachable scales. Atlantic trout easily shed scales on the dorsal side, and the color is bluish-gray.
- Atlantic trout have a white line on the anal fin and ventral fins; Mediterranean trout do not.
- Mediterranean trout usually have three transverse stripes and more developed pectoral fins to withstand the typical weather events of the Mediterranean climate.