Ardennes, France 3/8/08

I traveled through Europe this past month as a 2008 American Marshall Memorial Fellow. We visited very cool places and learned a lot about Europe, NATO and the European Union (EU). Had some great meals and rubbed elbows with bigwigs in Belgium, France, Portugal, Poland and Slovakia. But of course the trip would not have been complete without visiting the flyfishing community and the fish.

I spent a week after the Fellowship with my friend Luc. From Brussels, Luc and I drove to France and Germany looking at trout streams, attended club meetings and visited flyshops. After a week his car needed an oil change. I was dying to fish yet we were 2 weeks early before the trout opener. Luckily, Luc was able to arrange for us to fish a private lake in the Ardennes, France. His friend Denise (a French Belgium) met us at the private lake. I borrowed Luc's 5wt Sage with a sink tip line. Tied on my lake woolly buggar that I had tied a few days earlier. Luc sort of cringed while I tied the fly. He tried to be polite about it but later admitted to being indifferent about the fly. I told him I agree except the "Gomez" works for me. I have enjoyed a lot of success catching steelhead and trout with it.

Denise and Luc travel with a fly shop in their SUV. I was impressed how they even build compartments inside for gear. After what felt like two hours setting up, we finally hiked to the fishing spot. Man I was excited after weeks of anticipation! By then I had visited the Nazi's Birkenau and Auschwitz death camps, spent 4 weeks discussing European politics, getting screwed with the Euro/dollar exchange rate and living out of my luggage - I needed to fish badly.

Can you believe on my first cast - I hooked and landed a nice 5lb rainbow trout? I told my companions that it was "beginners luck, probably won't catch another one for the rest of the day". On the contrary, by lunch time I landed about 8 more. The fish seemed to get bigger and bigger with each catch. The guys said that they have never seen trout that big in Europe their entire lives. Finally, after landing a monster trout around 3pm I quit fishing.

Luc and Denise on the other hand hadn't caught a thing. I gave them my fly early in the morning they neglected to use it. They insisted on matching the hatch fishing, sometimes rigging 4 nymphs to a 15ft leader down to 6x tippet. Finally, Luc takes my rod as I insisted and lands his only trout of a day - a 14 incher. Denise ended the day catching zilch!

On the ride home Luc broke out in laughter. He translated what Denise had mumbled in French to him,

"This little Vietnamese American guy comes and fish our waters, with the ugliest fly, using an unusual loop for the fly with a leader stout enough to tie a car to a tree and he pulls out one big fish after another." I just laughed from contentment that my first fishing experience in Europe was such a success.

If any of you want to fish in the Ardennes or Slovenia, Luc will be happy to show you around. He is one of the most passionate flyfisherman I have ever met. He loves the sport just as much as we do on this board. PM me if you would like his contact info. I've invited him to join me in Montana and Alaska next year. I will be proud to accompany him for one of his lifelong dream of fishing for trout and salmon in America.


Zen Piscator

Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.
Thats sweet, I caught my first ever brown trout in the ardennes about 8 years ago. I still remember the entire event.
Wow. I just returned from a trip through Croatia, Slovenia,and Austria but wasn't able to put together a fishing trip because the rivers are still closed. Nice having some local contacts to work something out for you!


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