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With over 30 years of fly fishing experience and 10 years of guiding, I’ve been able to fish all over the world and have been lucky enough to go fly fishing in France around 10 times.
Table of Contents
- My Experience Fly Fishing in France
- Why Fly Fish in France?
- 10 Best Trout Rivers in France
- Best Trout Lakes in France
- Saltwater Fly Fishing in France
- Fly Fishing in France Regions
- France Fly Fishing – Fish Species
- Best Flies For France
- France Fishing Season
- France Fishing Report
- Best Fly Shops in France
- France Fly Fishing Licenses
- Fly Fishing Guide Services in France
France fly fishing is absolutely stunning as it’s such a big country that’s home to a huge range of landscapes to cast a line in.
The trout fishing in France, particularly in the Alps, is about as beautiful as it gets with crystal clear rivers, stunning scenery, and grayling and trout that are very willing to take a well-presented fly.
More Fly Fishing Destinations
My Experience Fly Fishing in France
I got lucky, as my sister happened to live on Lake Annecy in the French Alps for close to 4 years and when visiting her, I had access to some of the best fishing rivers in France. Chatting with the guys in the local fishing shops, they showed me the rivers I could fish on the map and sold me the license to do so.
In the early morning, I’d get a taxi to drop me on a nearby Alpine stream and then spend the day nymphing it upstream until dusk when the dry fly action got going. This is when I first saw the beauty of France trout fishing and I didn’t take long before I was hooked.
Why Fly Fish in France?
What I love about fly fishing in France is how easy it is and how many options there are. There are tons of lakes and rivers, getting a license is pretty simple, and you get to travel around this stunning country doing what you love – as far as I’m concerned, there aren’t any downsides!
10 Best Trout Rivers in France
My favorite thing about trout fishing in France is the incredible rivers that can be found all over the country. Their beauty stuns me every time I walk down their banks and the surroundings are about as beautiful as it gets.
Renowned as one of the top trout rivers in Europe, the Doubs is spectacular. It runs for some 200+km in the French Jura Mountains, right along the border of Switzerland. You can access it via a hike from a local car park and once you get down to the bank, a lot of stealth and tough wading is required.
The water is gin clear, the fish are spooky, and there are overhanging trees and bushes everywhere so Czech nymphing is a must. The wading is tough due to some very deep sections, but it’s home to huge grayling, brown trout, and zebra trout that love a zebra midge nymph or GRHE.
The Fier runs through the French Alps alongside the shores of Lake Annecy and offers some of the best fly fishing in France, in my opinion. Access is easy, you can get dropped on the side of the road and then walk upstream.
The fishing is by no means easy – it is challenging as hell which is why I love it. Small tungsten nymphs in sizes 14-18 fished with the utmost stealth will trick the brown trout in the clear water.
The Durance is also in the Hautes-Alpes area (like the Fier above) and is known to hold some of the largest brown trout in the region. Access is easy as the roads follow the valleys, and therefore the river.
Casting is relatively easy, especially at higher altitudes. Be sure to fish small nymphs plus some CDCs when the trout are rising.
The Verdon River flows through the stunning Verdon Gorge in southern France, a drive north of Marseille. Access is tough as you have to hike down through the gorge, but it’s worth it as most fly anglers don’t make the effort to cast a fly on this part of the river, meaning the brown trout are fresh and large.
It’s open for easy casting, but the wading can be tough, and you’ll need to use small tungsten nymphs and dries.
The Doustre is a small stream in the Upper Dordogne Valley that’s home to large brown trout and grayling. Be sure to fly fish the 1.5 km “no kill stretch” only as this is where the best fishing can be found.
The Dordogne is a large river in the Dordogne Valley that’s home to both big trout and grayling. At Beaulieu, you’ll find the river breaks into 3 which makes fly fishing a lot easier – this is in the “no-kill” section of the river.
It is easy to access, the waters are clear, and small tungsten nymphs fished “Czech style” are the way forward for the browns and grayling.
The upper Allier River in the Loire region of France is particularly beautiful as it flows through the forests of Saint-Vénérand.
It’s a rather small and technical stream at this end with a lot of surrounding trees that can make casting a challenge. Access is easy via a hike, and once there, small nymphs are the way forward.
The Isère River is within the Savoie Department of the French Alps and is home to both grayling and brown trout. The stunning scenery is jaw-dropping as the mountains rise up around this crystal-clear river.
Fish it in the catch & release section close to Moutiers. Access is easy, small nymphs and stealth are your best allies.
The Arc is also in the Savoie Department and with over 100 km of glacial-fed waters, you can spend weeks exploring it.
Plan so that you end up fishing the pools below the Bramans l’Arc dam at dusk, as after this point you’ll need a different license. Tungsten nymphs in sizes 14-16 in a range of colors along with some small Adams and CDCs will do the trick here.
The Ain River is a magical place to do some fly fishing in France and is home to big browns and grayling too. Fish it anywhere from the Juras down to the Ain Department of France.
Again, tungsten nymphs in a range of colors and sizes are very effective. Access is easy depending on the section, some of which might require a steep hike.
Best Trout Lakes in France
Finding a trout lake in France isn’t easy as most of them are full of carp for coarse anglers to spend their days chasing.
However, with some deep research, there are some to be discovered. That being said, it’s not the best fishing in France as they are stocked lakes; I would suggest sticking to the rivers.
Lacs Des Terres Noires
Lacs Des Terres Noires is home to a few trout lakes that are stocked with brown, rainbow, and golden trout. You can fish in these lakes all year round and they’re easily accessed with a car.
Green Lake is near the town of Bourges in central France. Stocked with brown, rainbow, and golden trout, it’s ideal for a day trip. The fish are on average 2.5 lbs but bigger ones are caught regularly. A 5/6 wt along with damsel, PHTN, and GRHE nymphs is ideal, plus the odd viva and wooly bugger.
Saltwater Fly Fishing in France
You might be surprised to read this, but France has some great saltwater fly fishing – namely for bluefin tuna, one of the largest fish you can catch on a fly. If you’re based in Europe, this is an awesome place to go and target this bucket list fish on the fly.
The coastal waters just off the Basque country see quite a few bluefin tuna between the months of August and October.
You’ll need to book a pro guide with a boat, and then spend the day searching for shoals of bluefin on the surface. A 12-14 wt fly rod, reel, and line will be provided, and large brush flies or deceivers are the perfect choice for this.
You have hundreds of km to explore and you can try your luck from the shore, but going with a local fly guide on a boat is definitely your best option. A 7 wt rod with a sinking line is ideal along with small baitfish and sand eel fly patterns.
Fly Fishing in France Regions
France has some amazing fly fishing regions, a lot of which I’ve mentioned already in the sections above. Each region has several different places to throw a fly and they are all spectacular when it comes to their landscapes and local countryside.
Running for some 360 kilometers from the Rhône to the Rhine, the French Juras offers some of the best fishing spots in France to cast a fly on. The famous Doubs and Ain rivers can be found here along with many more streams filled with zebra trout, brown trout, and grayling.
Hautes-Alpes truly is the best place to do some fly fishing in the French Alps. You’ll have access to 5+ excellent trout and grayling rivers and there’s nothing quite like casting a line surrounded by rugged, dramatic, Alpine scenery.
The Dordogne is home to a number of the top fly-fishing rivers in France as there are trophy browns and grayling on the menu.
The rivers are peaty in color, crystal clear, and surrounded by beautiful French countryside. However, ensure you fish the “no-kill” sections only as catch & release is a foreign concept in France.
To the north of Hautes-Alpes is the Savoie department of France. This region has some of the best trout rivers in France, particularly if you like crystal-clear technical streams. It’s very similar fishing to Hautes-Alpes and it is worth fishing in both these regions on a single trip.
France Fly Fishing – Fish Species
There are quite a few different species you can target when fly fishing in France, some that you would expect and others that may take you by surprise.
Zebra trout look a lot like brown trout except for their dark and light stripes that go vertically in sections across their body.
The Ain and Doubs rivers are the best place to target them along with the rivers in Hautes-Alpes. They grow to a max of 2 lbs and the flies they prefer are tungsten nymphs, a zebra midge is particularly effective.
All the trout rivers in France are home to brown trout, and if you’re lucky, you can find them pushing 3-4 lbs. The rivers around the Dordogne are renowned for larger specimens, as are the Ain and Doubs in the Juras.
Small nymphs and dry flies work well; tungsten hares ears with some flash, along with small CDC dries, are my go-to’s.
There are some large grayling in the rivers of France. Again the rivers of the Dordogne and the Juras are the best places to find ones up to 4 lbs. Grayling are all about heavy nymphs, the zebra midge doing the business for me once again.
The inshore flats, channels, and estuaries around Finisterre in Britanny are a paradise for a fly angler looking to catch some bass. You can find fish over 10 lbs here but be sure to fish with a guide and throw sand eel or small baitfish patterns.
The sea off the Basque Country of southwest France plays host to an annual migration of bluefin tuna. Fish up to 50 lbs are manageable on fly. You’ll be casting big brush flies into shoaling bait balls on the surface.
More on Fly Fishing Different Species of Fish:
Best Flies For France
If you’re heading on a fly fishing trip to France, here are the flies you will want to have in your box. In the below section, I’ll cover all you’ll need for the species and areas covered in the sections above.
There’s nothing like seeing a fish sip your dry fly off the surface, and in France, the fish like small hard-to-present dries.
- CDC: Anytime you see a hatch, put a CDC on in size 14-18 in grey or brown
- Parachute Adams: This fly imitates most flying insects and is deadly in sizes 14-18
- Deer Hair Sedge: Sedge hatches are common, especially in the Juras, size 12-16 is ideal
- BWO: If you see a hatch of small flies, the blue-winged olive will deliver in sizes 16-18
- Grey Wolf: Big and buggy, this fly looks like a lot of winged insects, size 14 is my go-to, fished in tandem with a size 16 parachute Adams behind
On the larger rivers in France, you’ll want to throw a streamer, particularly in large pools around dusk as there are some big trout to be caught.
- Wooly Bugger: In olive or black, the maribou on this fly makes it irresistible when stripped or drifted in sizes 4-6
- Zonker: Strip this across a deep pool in white/olive/black/orange and make it big – up to 10 cm long
- Nobbler: Best in olive and black in size 6, this looks just like the small bait fish that big trout love
- Minkie: Fished in a size in black or olive, this is best for big fish in larger pools
Most of the fly fishing in rivers in France is done with nymphs and here are the ones to have:
- GRHE: In size 12-16 with a tungsten head, there aren’t many rivers this won’t catch fish in olive and grey
- PHTN: Tungsten pheasant trails in 14-18 are a killer for grayling and trout on the French rivers
- CDC Red Tag: In sizes 14-16, the red tag is irresistible to French grayling
- Zebra Midge: A tungsten head zebra midge in size 14-16 is a must when fishing below the outflows of dams in France
- Soft Hackle Hare’s Ear: The additional hackle around the collar of this fly has a pulsing motion fish love – sizes 12-16 with a gold or tungsten head are best
Saltwater flies are needed in France for the sea bass and bluefin tuna fisheries, here is what to pack for both:
- Clouser: In size 1/0 with blue/white or chartreuse colors, sea bass love this fly’s action
- Sand Eel: Sand eels work wonders for bass in size 4 and in blue/white or chartreuse
- Surf Candy: Imitating a bait fish and a sand eel, these are a must in sizes 4-6 and in blue/white or chartreuse
- EP Brush Fly: The EP Brush Fly size 4/0 in black/purple, blue/white, and chartreuse will work well for bluefin tuna – make sure the hooks are Gamakatsu
Find The Best Flies For Any Fishing Scenario:
France Fishing Season
The France fly fishing season runs from April to October in most cases, with some fisheries opening as early as mid-March. However, trout fishing in the Pyrenees is only open from June to September.
France Fly Fishing in April & May
April and May are some of the best times to fly fish in the lower altitude rivers of France, such as in the Dordogne and the Juras. The water temperatures are good, the fish are hungry, and you can find some excellent hatches.
France Fly Fishing in June – September
June to September is when you want to be in the high-altitude rivers of Savoie and Hautes-Alpes. The runoff from the snow and glaciers will have passed through, giving you the right water levels and the rivers will be gin clear.
June to September is also the perfect time to go after the sea bass of Finisterre in Britanny. The waters will have been warmed by the summer sun and the fish will be active.
France Fly Fishing in August – October
If you want to go after bluefin tuna then August to October is when the waters of the Basque country see the most bluefin activity.
France Fishing Report
It was only a week ago that I was fishing the Doubs in the Juras. This was my first time on this river and it blew my mind. Crystal clear, surrounded by ancient forests in a dramatic gorge, it was a place where time stood still. The pools were filled with wise trout and grayling, and it was challenging but rewarding fishing.
Getting a license is easy, access is simple, and when you end up in scenes like the one described above, France’s fly fishing is pretty awesome.
But, my France fly fishing report has to have some cons. You need to fish in hard-to-reach places or “no-kill” sections of the rivers to have a good day as local fishermen always keep what they catch in most cases.
Best Fly Shops in France
There are some great fly shops in France where you can find local flies and get advice about local fishing spots. Here are some in each of the top regions that you can head to.
Caleri Fly Fishing
- Address: Rue Jean Jaurès, 38920 Crolles, France
- Website: www.caleri-flyfishing.com
- Phone: +33 4 56 59 51 40
In the Savoie region of France, you can find everything you need in this fly shop from tying materials to rods, lines, and local flies. There’s also a shop in the Hautes-Alpes region of France and you can get tackle delivered to wherever you’re staying within the country.
A great place to get some local advice and flies in the Dordogne region of France. The owner is particularly helpful and wants to see you catch fish.
- Address: Argentat Passion, 20 avenue Pasteur 19400 Argentat-sur-Dordogne
- Website: www.argentat-passion.fr
- Phone: 05 55 28 01 53
DamFly Fishing is a great store in the Hautes-Alpes region of France that will kit you out with the right flies, local fishing spots, and lots more.
- Address: 354 Route de Viriville, 38260 Thodure, France
- Website: www.damfly.fr
- Phone Number: +33658285858
France Fly Fishing Licenses
Buying a fly fishing license in France is quite easy. However, you cannot buy one for the whole of France and instead, must buy a license for each region you intend to fish in.
To get a license (carte de pêche) you have to apply at the local (ssociations Agrées de Pêche et de Protection du Milieu Aquatique (AAPPMA fishing association). Each association has its own website, and you can find each one on the Fédération Nationale de la Pêche website.
You’ll also find information about where to fish in the area, the rules, seasons, and more. Prices range from €10 Euro a day to €30 Euro for a month.
Fly Fishing Guide Services in France
There’s a fly fishing guide service in all the regions of France we’ve covered above. Here are the ones I recommend:
Brittany Fly Fishing
- Address: Toulloulan, 29450 Commana, France
- Website: www.brittanyflyfishing
- Phone Number: +33 (0)6 42 03 93 66
Everything from trout to sea bass is offered by this local Brittany guide and he is well known for his excellent skills.
Bln Fly Fishing
- Address: Saint-Martin, 05120 Saint-Martin-de-Queyrières, France
- Website: www.peche-05
- Phone Number: +33 642 157 369
An excellent guide in the Hautes-Alpes region who also knows the Savoie.
- Address: 20 Chem. de la Plane, 64300 Castetner, France
- Website: www.bft-guiding
- Phone Number: +33 679 014 212
These guys have mastered the bluefin tuna on fly in the Basque waters and have all the fly gear you need to subdue one of these amazing fish on a fly rod.
Fly fishing in France is fantastic, in my opinion, and if you’re based in Europe, it’s very easy to access rivers that look like they should be in the Rocky Mountains (without flying across the world).
Not only that, but you’ll get to experience the culture along the way and try all the delicious wines and food too – plus, the diversity is incredible as you move from one fly-fishing region to the next.
When you throw in the saltwater fly fishing France has to offer, it truly is a destination worth spending a few weeks casting a fly rod in. I would highly recommend doing a bit of salt water, the Alps, and the Dordogne in a 10-14-day trip.
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