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This guide covers the department of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques,in the South West of France: the areas of the French Basque country, the Béarn
and Soule.


THE COUNTRY
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 FISH
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 license334 FF
First two rings for salmon200 FF
Extra stamp for sea trout100 FF
Youth card150 FF
Tourist card150 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.

fishing table

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.


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Towns - Fishing

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.
Argeles-Gazost.
Fishing.
Arudy. Small town at the foot of the Ossau valley
Gave d'Ossau (Categ 1) and tributaries.
Arzacq Arraziguet.
Fishing at lake 5 km away and in many small trout rivers.
Auch. Very pleasant city and capital of the Gers
Fishing.
Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
Fishing.
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).
Cambo-les-Bains. Important spa town
River Nive (Categ 1).
Condom. Known as the small capital of Armagnac
Fishing River Base 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).
Fleurance. Old but busy bastide town
On Lake.
Iholdy.
Joyeuse, a tributary of the Bidouze. (Categ 1).
Isle-Jourdaine.
On lake.
Laruns. Small mountain town at the head of the Ossau valley.
Gave d'Ossau (Categ 1) and in mountain lakes.
Lectoure.
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.
Masseube.
Fishing on lake and nearby small rivers.
Mauléon. Old capital of the Soule
Gave de Saison or Mauléon categ 1, salmon and sea trout.
Mielan.
Fishing on lake.
Montreal.
Fishing at lake.
Montrejeau.
Fishing.
Navarrenx. Fine example of fortified town on the Gave d'Oloron
Gave d'Oloron: salmon and sea-trout. Co-host of the World Salmon Fishing championships
Oloron-Sainte-Marie. Important old town close to the Pyrénées on the juction of two rivers
Fishing on Gave d'Oloron; salmon ladder. Co-host of the World Salmon Fishing championships
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.
Plaisance.
Fishing on lake.
Saint Bertrand-de-Comminges.
Fishing.
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).
Saint Sever.
Fishing on lake.
Sauveterre-de-Béarn. Spectacular walled village overlooking the Gave d'Oloron
Fishing Gave d'Oloron. The Gave d'Oloron and the nearby Gave de Saison (or Mauléon) are France's top salmon rivers. Lovely sea trout to be had as well. Hotel du Vieux Pont's fishing notes. Co-host of the World Salmon Fishing championships
St Pée-sur-Nivelle.
NOKILL stretch on the Nivelle.
Tardets-Sorholus. Commercial town close to Pyrénéen valley
Gave de Saison or Mauléon.
Vic-en-Bigorre.
Fishing on the Adour.
Vieux Boucau. Popular coastal resort on the Landes coast
Fishing.

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