Auvergne trip mini-report… some initial thoughts

May 30th, 2012| No Comments

Cantal uncovered: wild trout in France's hidden hotspot

So, I just returned from a trip to France’s Auvergne region and I thought I’d jot down some initial thoughts before I write my full report in the next few days. Anyway, to be more precise, the exact location of my trip was the Pays Gentiane within the Cantal region of the Auvergne. Yep, that’s probably got most of you scratching your heads. Before I left, whenever people asked me where I was headed, I’d tell them the same thing (“to the Auvergne”), before pausing as a blank look came over them. I’m not judging – prior to my invitation to fish there, the most I knew was that Clermont-Ferrand (the region’s capital) had a half-decent rugby team. Beyond that, I had little to offer. Fast-forward a week or so, and that’s all changed…

Cantal uncovered: wild trout in France's hidden hotspotI can now confirm a few supplementary facts. For starters, this is one of the most exceptionally, stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks beautiful places I have had the privilege of visiting – a little-known land of extinct, forest-clad volcanoes streaked with mountain rivers containing wild and wily trout, and undulating valleys dotted with the region’s most iconic – and probably most important – resident; les salers. These are the chestnut-brown cattle that, even if you can’t see, you can always hear, thanks to the local tradition of hanging cloches from their necks.

Cantal uncovered: wild trout in France's hidden hotspotThe warmth of the welcome I received pretty much everywhere I went was genuinely moving. This is a people whose way of life has changed little over the years. They still live side-by-side with the cattle that have helped forge their identity over a period of  2000 years, and one of the primary sources of the region’s income is still the cheese that results from this relationship.  Tourism, however, is now similarly vital to the region.

The folks here are rightly proud of their little pocket of France, their heritage and their way of life. Everywhere I went, people were keen to explain to me how proud they were to be from the Cantal, what it meant to call this place home, and why they want more people to come and experience it for themselves. Personally, I’d have been tempted to shut the doors and keep it all a secret, but then I’m not nearly as generous of spirit as most of the people I met during my stay.

And then there was the fishing. We were up against it, no doubt, but we ended up with some knockout action. A week of near-constant rain prior to my arrival saw rivers that would otherwise run clear sporting the complexion of a Starbucks latte. Every time I looked at Guillaume’s face, I could see his pain – here was man who was desperate to show me his home waters at their best, how incredible the fishing could when all the right ingredients came together. Fortunately, Guillaume Vernet, as I would come to appreciate, is un guide extraordinaire.

Cantal uncovered: wild trout in France's hidden hotspotHowever difficult the circumstances, Guillaume was always ready with a plan. “Is never impossible. Is always possible, is just about finding solution to the problem.” Simple words, but it occurred to me that they hold true in almost every fishing situation.

The fishing itself was wild, in the true sense of the word. We scaled hillsides, crossing fast-flowing rivers, climbing deep into forested valleys, all the while in search o f truly wild trout – the kind that wouldn’t know a leader if they saw it. Or so you’d think.

Anyway, as I said at the start, this is just supposed to be some initial thoughts. The full report will follow in the next few days…

Rory Batho

Cantal uncovered: wild trout in France's hidden hotspot

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