Gard is in the south of France, on the west bank of the river Rhone, and its principle cities include Montpellier, Nimes and Ales. There are two main river systems which are completely different in character. The Gardon system rises in the foothills of the Cevennes mountains, and meanders slowly across the rich farmland of Gard before joining the Rhone near Nimes. The Herault also rises in the Cevennes, but tumbles and gurgles its way almost due south to the Mediterranean Sea.
Because Gard has not been 'discovered' by British tourists, accommodation is relatively cheap and plentiful. If you wish to travel around there are numerous 'auberge', usually small family run guest house/ hotels that offer rooms for two or three people from about thirty pounds a night. Alternatively you may choose to self~cater in a Gite, thousands of which are on offer from as little as a hundred and fifty pounds per week.
If you make the trip with your family, it is possible to stay within a thirty minute drive of the Mediterranean and still be equally close to each of the two river systems, a bonus indeed.
The main species that you are likely to come across in these two river systems include Nase, a Dace-like fish that can grow up to four pounds, but typically is between a pound and a pound and a half; Southern Barbel which are normally between twelve ounces and a pound and a half, in addition to Roach, Chub, Brown Trout and various smaller fish including Schneider, Souffie, Bleak, the colourful Pumpkinseed and a variety of small Catfish, the Brown Bullhead.
Best bait for most of these species is maggot, but nearly all can be taken on sweetcorn. Light tackle with either stick-float or feeder will produce regular catches but do not expect enormous bags. Typically a six hour session would produce between thirty and fifty pounds of fish for Val and I, but because of the relatively small size of the fish this means catching on a very regular basis.
As in the U.K. it is necessary to have a rod license in order to fish in France, and these can be obtained from any tackle shop. Almost every town in France will have such a shop. If you intend to coarse fish you will only need a 'Carte Ordinaire' which is significantly cheaper than a full rod license. You will not need a permit as you may fish any of the rivers, provided that you do not need to trespass in order to get to your chosen swim.
Although maggots are available in France, even dispensed through machines in some of the supermarkets, they are expensive and often of poor quality. Val and I take with us two gallons of maggots which will keep easily for up to two weeks, the method is simple:
i) Place the maggots in eight bags of two pints each.
ii) Chill them to just above freezing.
iii) Line the base of a cool box with two large ice blocks and cover them with a plastic bag.
iv) Place the maggots in the cool box and cover with a plastic bag.
v) Finish by adding two more ice blocks and seal the box.
When you arrive at your destination find a cool shady place and keep the cool box there. You should carry a spare set of ice blocks and replace them daily. If you are staying in a Gite you will have a fridge with a freezer compartment, if you stay in an Auberge the owner will be happy to keep your replacement blocks in his freezer.
About an hour before you start fishing, empty the required amount of maggots into an open bait box and just watch them come to life.
Val and I have fished three rivers in the area and although you will want to discover your own swims, here are a few examples of productive swims that are easy to find and comfortable to fish:
About ten miles south of Ales is the village of Brignon. To get to it from the N106 you must cross the river and immediately after crossing you will see a dirt road on the right that follows the river
downstream. There are several swims along here, but the best are at the very end, after about a mi1e.
At the junction of the N106 and the D9B2 there is a restaurant, behind which is the river and a weir. Fishing here is excellent but beware, in addition to the species already mentioned there is a chance of some very fine carp.
The Gardon D'Anduze.
About half a mile upstream from Anduze, on the right bank, taking the road towards St Jean du Gard, there is a gravel bank that can be seen from the road. This stretch is particularly good for Southern Barbel that respond well to ledgered sweetcorn.
A mile or so downstream from Anduze and on the same bank is a small parking area or lay-by, just before the turn off for St Hippolyte du Forte. The swims are upstream of the lay-by and are very easy to see and find. These swims offer the best Nase fishing we have ever had.
The Nase is a spectacular fish to catch and you will see hundreds of them in the river, but seeing them and catching them are two entirely different matters.
The Herault -our favourite river.
If you travel north from Cinges towards Le Vigan, after about four miles you will see a storage area for gravel on the left hand side of the road. There is a track behind the gravel and parking is easy, the river is just below you. There are two good fishing areas.
If the river is low, which is most of the time, you can walk across in ankle deep water before turning upstream for about two hundred yards to a gravel bank opposite some rock overhangs. The river here has some deep pools and we have had our best fishing in these pools, taking all the species, already mentioned.
Downstream of the parking area and on the left bank is a lovely glade and a stretch of river that is custom made for the stick float.
About a mile south of Canges is a supermarket on the left hand side of the road opposite which is a meadow that leads down to a weir. The Chub fishing above this weir can be quite spectacular and all the normal baits, bread, corn, meat, maggots etc. will catch.
Finally, and although we have not fished it, we must mention the river Vidourle which flows through Sommieres. This river is renowned for large Roach and a reasonable head of Carp.
Pour L'Ehtante Cordiale:
One of our favourite swims is the gravel bank about half a mile upstream from Anduze and just above the railway bridge. At the head of this reach the river narrows, falls down a mini rapid and tumbles into a lovely little pool.
One day we were fishing this pool, using light feeder rods, open ended feeders loaded with crumb and corn, and corn on the hook. We were having great sport with the Southern Barbel. A French guy came along, also fishing with his wife and seeing us catching on a regular basis set up with his pole tackle uncomfortably close to us, a practice that is something that you have to come to terms with on the continent. Neither he nor his wife caught any fish.
After about an hour he came over to look at our tackle and started to get very excited - my French is only passable and I thought that we were fishing illegally - nothing of the sort. He had never seen a swim feeder before and just wanted us to explain how they worked.
There's gold in them thar hills
Whilst fishing the Herault we saw a man come down to the river - he started to eat a sandwich. As it was about one p.m. we assumed that he had just stopped by for lunch but when he had finished eating he took from his car a large wok-like pan and started panning the gravel from the river bed. Val said that he must be panning for gold so we went over to watch. He was indeed looking for gold and was keen to show us his techniques, but in half an hour he found no gold. He started to reload the car so that he could return to work. I asked him if he ever found gold, and he was quite indignant. Of course he found gold and to prove it he showed us a box containing about a hundred nuggets - none bigger than a grain of rice. But also, he told us proudly, his wedding ring and that of his wife and those of his son and daughter-in-law were all made from Herault gold that he had panned - the problem was that it had taken him thirty years to get that much gold. A strange hobby, but as an angler who am I to criticise?
Ouch, Ouch, Ouch
One lovely day we were fishing the Herault when Val wandered off to find a new swim. After about half an hour she returned looking rather sheepish. 'I need some help', she said telling me that she had hooked herself right to the shank with a size sixteen, we've all done it haven't we? - but not in the spot that Val had chosen. I managed to remove the hook somewhat painfully (for her of course) but it's a good job that nobody was around to see, sitting was fairly painful for Val for a few days thereafter!
Call them maggots?
We were fishing the Gardon D'Anduze at the lay-by south of the town. There are some ten to fifteen fishable pegs here, over a distance of about half a mile, and I particularly enjoy rigging a stick float and wandering along a river, a few casts here and a few casts there.
I had been doing this for about an hour when an elderly Frenchman, complete with the obligatory pole, asked me how I was doing. We chatted for a while and then, in a very conspiratorial way he half whispered "For the best fishing you must have maggots." He pulled from his pocket a tin, about the size of a boot polish tin and showed me about fifty mangey looking maggots - half of them dead. "Ah yes m'sieu," I said showing him the pint and a half or so of plump lively maggots in the bag hanging around my neck - his face was a picture, I don't think that he had ever seen such riches.
This particular episode took place in May 1993 - on our honeymoon, and the maggots in question were truly unusual. They were a wedding present to Val from our local tackle dealer; how many women can boast of maggots amongst their wedding gifts?
Tight lines until next month, David and Val.