This guide covers the department of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques,in the South West of France: the areas of the French Basque country, the Béarn
The South West is a land of rolling hills, hidden valleys, and mountains which rise up dramatically from the flood plains of the fast-flowing rivers. The climate is mild and there is plenty of rain to keep the rivers going and water the maize, the main crop here, and the vines. It is a wooded country, teaming with wild-life from wild boar to vultures and eagles. Fishing and hunting are integral parts of the culture.
The Gave d'Oloron is one of France's main salmon rivers. Years ago they were so plentiful that peasants insisted on a limit of three times a week for lunch. Today they are not so easy to find, partly due to estuarial netting. However efforts are being made to resolve this problem. In 1996, for the first time, netting rights were bought out - for three days a week- and last year for the whole month of July. The declared take last year was 120 fish, the real take probably three times as high and people said they had not seen so many salmon in the river for years. And while the fishing is improving it is still some of the cheapest to be had in the world. The villages of Navarranx, Oloron, Salies de Béarn and Sauveterre de Béarn put on each year the World Salmon Fishing Championships.
There is excellent sea trout to be had and in those rivers classified for sea trout fishing is allowed for two hours after dark. The rivers are teeming with wild trout. It is a natural population of fish and a real challenge for the expert fly fisherman - they seem to recognise foreign flies for the bait they are.
A fine and somewhat unrecognised sporting fish is the Shad, a delicacy of the area; and there is also a good range of coarse fish from barbel to pike.
REGULATIONS and LICENSES
The regulations are complex and it is always advisable to check when you get there. Most rivers and streams, and many lakes, are open to the public for fishing. Once you have bought your license you can fish almost anywhere in the department. Two areas insist on their own licenses and a very few riverside owners keep the righjts to themselves. For a small extra fee your license will also allow you to fish in neighbouring departments. So for a small sum you get access to thousands of kilometres of fine fishing. There are limits to the numbers and size of fish you can take and there is one stretch of river declared NO KILL.
Rivers are classified first or second class. Fishing in the first category rivers is generally allowed between 14 March 1998 and 20 September 1998, or July 31 for salmon and sea trout. Fishing in Second category rivers is allowed throughout the year except where they are classified salmon or sea trout.
PRICES OF PRINCIPAL LICENSES 1998
|Trout license||334 FF|
|First two rings for salmon||200 FF|
|Extra stamp for sea trout||100 FF|
|Youth card||150 FF|
|Tourist card||150 FF|
You are allowed to take up to two salmon. If you reach this limit you can buy up to two more salmon rings at 100FF each, making a limit of four in total.
BEST TIMES TO FISH
The quality of the fishing in Spring and early Summer depends on the snow melt. When the thaw is in progress the waters become too swift and cold for the best fishing. The table above shows the usual time but it can change from year to year. Rivers are not all affected the same: the Nivelle and Nive rise in maritime hills that seldom see snow. The Saison sees rather more while the Gave d'Oloron rises at 3,000 metres.
|Aignan. Picturesque centre of armagnac production|
|Fishing on lake. |
|Ainhoa. A fine example of a typical Basque village|
|The Nivelle (Categ 1). The Nivelle has a NOKILL section.|
|Arudy. Small town at the foot of the Ossau valley|
|Gave d'Ossau (Categ 1) and tributaries. |
|Auch. Very pleasant city and capital of the Gers|
|Biarritz. Major tourist centre on the Basque coast with English connections|
|Sea Fishing (tuna, surf-casting). |
|Bidarray. Basque village on fishing river|
| River Nive (Categ 1). |
|Condom. Known as the small capital of Armagnac|
|Fishing River Baîse and nearby Garonne. |
|Eauze. A capital of the Armagnac area|
|Lots of small river fishing. |
|Espelette. Basque town renowned for its peppers|
|The Nive (Categ 1). |
|Joyeuse, a tributary of the Bidouze. (Categ 1). |
|Laruns. Small mountain town at the head of the Ossau valley.|
|Gave d'Ossau (Categ 1) and in mountain lakes. |
|Fishing near lake on isolated inlets. |
|Marciac. Vibrant bastide town with major jazz festival and large lake|
|Fishingin lake and in the River Adour 7 km. |
|Fishing on lake and nearby small rivers. |
|Mauléon. Old capital of the Soule|
|Gave de Saison or Mauléon categ 1, salmon and sea trout. |
|Orthez. Market town and one of the old capitals of the Béarn|
|Fishing on lake and Gave de Pau. |
|Pau. Elegant city heavily influenced by the British, now capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques|
| Gave de Pau. |
|Peyrehorade. Small town at the junction of the Gaves de Pau and d'Oloron|
|Gaves Reunis - the Gave de Pau and Gave d'Oloron. |
|Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port. Important and picturesque town near the Spanish border|
|Nive; Nives de Béhérobie, d'Arneguy, des Aldudes. Apart from the Nive the fishing rights to the rivers in this area belong to the APRN who are not part of the reciprocal arrangements for the department.|
|Saint Palais. Important agricultural town in the Pays Basque|
|Bidouze (2nd category) and tributaries (1st category). |
|Tardets-Sorholus. Commercial town close to Pyrénéen valley|
|Gave de Saison or Mauléon. |
|Vieux Boucau. Popular coastal resort on the Landes coast|
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