The Massif Central is a vast space covering some 85000 square kilometres, and stretches over 200 miles North to South, and, at its widest, stretches 175 miles from East to West. Until the arrival of the first railways in France, it was so remote that the only people who crossed it were pilgrims. In winter it was a bleak and snowbound place, which made travelling through it, truly hazardous, and few French folk knew of it, then. Today it is criss-crossed by railtracks and autoroutes, but away from these throughways, road travel still follows ancient paths and tracks and remains slow.
To its North West is the Plateau de Millevaches, whose heights provide the source of the river of 165 miles in length, from which my targeted department is named – the Creuse.
I arrived in the lovely medieval town of Aubusson,
famous for six hundred years of tapestry production, with the old town and the newer town split by the river, a gently tumbling stream which looked enticingly ‘fishy’. My chosen hotel was a modernised riverside building on the old town side by the Pont de la Terrade, Les Maisons du Pont , a brilliant place to stay and highly recommended.
This was the suggestion of my guide for two days, Ghislain Bonnet, with whom I had
‘connected’ via this very helpful website listing top guides throughout France
It was pre-season and the hotel’s restaurant had still to open, but the Chatelaine, Rita, thoughtfully put together a tray of local foods, comprising pate’s, salad, and gateau de pomme de terre, the famed Limousin potato cake. And a couple of glasses of wine! And I spent my first evening peering from my first floor room and searching the stream for signs of an evening rise, but saw ‘rien’.
Ghislain warned me that his first task on our Sunday together was to vote in the preliminary round of the Presidential Election, so he might be a little late. From the warm and smiley face I met, I knew that I had found a good man, who then surprised me by presenting me a gift, of a hand made wooden fly box, containing some of his flies – how charming.
The morning was sunny, but windy with a chill in the air. Anticipating that some warmth later might induce a hatch, I optimistically rigged up ‘au Halford’, but started fishing with Ghislain’s rod, rigged, more realistically, ‘au nymph’.
We were to fish immediately below my hotel. This designated ‘Parcours’ (fr), or, ‘No kill’ (also, fr), or ‘catch and release’ (eng.). Ghislain advised that the farios are all ‘sauvage’ but some rainbows are stocked upstream from this protected stretch, for the locals to play with, but some have migrated to the top of the parcours piece. I confess that I never realised just how smart native Americans could be!
I lost a couple of fish, but also netted a couple. The first on Ghislain’s weighted nymph,
and the second, after seeing the only ‘gobage’ of the morning under the town bridge, the Pont Neuf…one of the cleverer rainbows, and taken on a dry Adams from the plume.
Mission ‘Creuse’ accomplished. What followed? Ah, yes! Dejeuner…some delicious charcuterie, ahead of our afternoon adventure.
We drove some kilometres to fish the Thaurion. This is another stream rising on the Plateau de Millevaches, a tributary of the Vienne, and quite long at 107 kms.
The Plateau sits on granite, is covered in hundreds of acres of pine forests, where soils of low pH, mean that waters are relatively insect free, and the lack of this food, means that fish are small. The waters were cold and low, and in the sunny afternoon, where the river bed was a mix of sand and rock, the fish, Ghislain advised me, are very difficult to see.
I saw, and caught ‘rien’ but this was a stunningly beautiful place, and my department was already ‘in the bag’, so…
Ghislain completely ‘got’ my mission, and wrote to me before I left London, enquiring whether I would be interested in capturing another department? Silly question!