fly fishing in the pyrenees

Guided fly fishing trips and a complete guide to fly fishing in the Pyrenees.

Fly fishing in the Pyrenees is widely recognized as the best fly fishing destination in Spain and is among the best in Europe. In this region, you will have the opportunity to fish for zebra trout, brown trout and brook trout, following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway.

Our fly fishing trips in the Pyrenees:

Pyrenees Fly Fishing Guides

GUIDED TRIP IN THE PYRENEES

Pyrenean Foothills Fly Fishing Guides

GUIDED TRIP IN THE PYRENEAN FOOTHILLS

Fly Fishing Pyrenees

TOUR PYRENEES

Fly Fishing Guides Pyrenees

TOUR PYRENEES – BASQUE COUNTRY

INDEX

Why choose the Pyrenees for fly fishing?

The Pyrenees stand as the most extensive mountain range on the Iberian Peninsula, steeped in history and, according to Greek mythology, created by Hercules himself.

These mountains, immortalized in legends, have witnessed the fishing endeavors of renowned figures such as Ernest Hemingway. In his novel «The Sun Also Rises,» Hemingway journeyed to Pamplona to revel in its festivities and to angle amidst the Pyrenean landscapes. For this Nobel laureate, the finest trout fishing in Europe could be found in these peaks.

To fish in the Pyrenees is to immerse oneself in paradisiacal scenery with a high density of trout, offering the opportunity to engage in dry fly fishing every single day. All of this unfolds against the backdrop of Spain’s most exclusive landscapes.

In the Pyrenees, anglers can target native zebra trout. Diverging from other European fly-fishing destinations, the Spanish Pyrenees prioritize the conservation of wild trout populations, thereby contributing to the local economy. This destination places significant emphasis on sustainable fishing and the safeguarding of this unique species through tourism.

Moreover, the Pyrenees present a diverse array of fishing scenarios, ranging from small mountain streams at the summits to medium-sized rivers in the valleys and pristine mountain lakes nestled alongside the last glaciers of the Pyrenean range.

Many tourists en route from Barcelona to San Sebastián make a pit stop to indulge in fly fishing in the Pyrenees. This pause along the journey is perfect for disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of both capitals, offering a chance to reconnect with nature and experience the authentic charm of Spain.

Don’t miss the best fly fishing in Spain!

Fly Fishing in the Pyrenees

SPECIES THAT CAN BE FLY-FISHED IN THE SPANISH PYRENEES

When delving into the realm of fly fishing in the Pyrenees, one encounters the captivating world of the zebra trout or Mediterranean brown trout. Lineages of brown trout associated with the Mediterranean basin are referred to as zebra trout due to their distinctive lateral stripes. These Pyrenean inhabitants are considered the oldest variety of trout across the European continent. Notable characteristics of this trout include its unique appearance with black and red circles surrounded by a white halo, adaptation to local climates, resilience against predators, oversized pectoral fins, and exceptional speed in attacking flies. The zebra trout stands as a true treasure in the Pyrenean region.

In addition to the zebra trout, there are other species of significant interest for fly fishing that can be captured in the Pyrenees, such as:

  • Atlantic Brown Trout: In the western Pyrenees, particularly in the region of Navarra and the foothills of the Basque Country, rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean harbor lineages of Atlantic brown trout. They are characterized by large black spots surrounded by a broad whitish halo, a feature also observed in some rivers on the northern face of the Pyrenees in France.
  • German Brown Trout: In the 1960s, authorities released brown trout of Central European strains, which in some cases hybridized with native populations. Presently, such practices are prohibited, and the release of German brown trout is allowed only in certain river sections in the Catalan Pyrenees. These locations are intensive fishing preserves below reservoirs, permitting year-round fishing.
  • Sea Trout and Atlantic Salmon: In the Pyrenees, anadromous or migratory brown trout, known as sea trout, and salmon are found in rivers belonging to basins that flow into the Cantabrian Sea. The sea trout is the migratory version of the Atlantic brown trout lineage mentioned earlier. Atlantic salmon marks the southern limit of their distribution in Europe in these rivers.
  • Brook Trout: In the late 19th century, several North American fish species were introduced in Spain. The brook trout successfully acclimated in some mountain lakes and streams in the Pyrenees and the Central System. Esteemed for their voracity and beautiful colors, brook trout are a sought-after target for many Spanish anglers.
  • Rainbow Trout: Previously, authorities restocked some Pyrenean rivers with rainbow trout, but this practice is now prohibited by law. Only in a few small mountain streams do populations of naturalized wild rainbow trout exist today. While these fish may lack interest for American anglers, they are an exotic species of great appeal to Spanish fishermen.
  • Barbel: Known as the «freshwater bonefish,» the barbel is a native fish of the Iberian Peninsula inhabiting many rivers on the southern face of the Pyrenees, in the Ebro River basin. Barbel are fly-fished in the summer using dry flies, providing an exhilarating experience for anglers.
Fly fishing species in the pyrenees

FLY FISHING SEASON IN THE PYRENEES

The fly fishing season in the Pyrenees is shaped by the climatic conditions and mountainous nature of the system, governed by a snow regime. Additionally, it is crucial to adapt to other factors, including:

  • Species-Specific Seasons: Each trout species exhibits peak activity during specific months. Understanding these periods is essential to fully capitalize on the fishing opportunities for each variety.
  • Topographical Diversity: The foothills of the Pyrenees, with lower mountain ranges, are less impacted by the snow regime and spring thaw. This implies that the fishing season can vary based on altitude and geographical location.
  • Regulatory Differences by Regions: The Spanish Pyrenees span three regions: Navarra, Aragón, and Cataluña. It is imperative to note that fishing regulations differ in each region, underscoring the importance of acquainting oneself with the specific rules of the area where one intends to fish.

FISHING SEASON IN THE PYRENEES ACCORDING TO REGION

The fishing season in the Pyrenees varies by region, governed by the specific fishing regulations of each Autonomous Community. Here are the open seasons for fishing in different Pyrenean regions:

Aragón:

  • Free-flowing waters with catch and relax: From the third Saturday in March until August 31. Exception for high mountain waters, lakes, and ibones, where the season runs from June 1 to August 31.
  • Free-flowing waters with catch and release: From October 15.
  • Fishing preserves: Catch-and-release fishing is allowed from the third Saturday in March until October 31.

 

Cataluña:

  • Low mountain areas (catch and relax): From March 18 to August 27.
  • Low mountain areas (catch and release): From March 18 to October 15.
  • High mountain areas (catch and relax): From May 13 to August 27.
  • High mountain areas (catch and release): From May 13 to October 15.

 

Navarra:

  • Upper Salmonids Region: Open season from May 1 to June 30, with the possibility of extending to July 15 if conditions permit.
  • Mixed Salmonids Region: Open season from April 1 to July 31. From August 1 to September 30, only in the Mixed Salmon Region section of the Irati River (including the Itoiz and Nagore reservoirs) under catch and release. In intensive trout fishing preserves, the open season spans from February 1 to November 30.

BEST MONTHS FOR FLY FISHING IN THE PYRENEES ACCORDING TO SPECIES:

In this section, you can obtain concise information through a table that will show you the best months for fishing each of the sport-favored species inhabiting the rivers and lakes of the Pyrenees. Often, the peak activity months do not align with the entire fishing season. Below, we will carefully analyze, on a case-by-case basis, each species based on our experience.

Fly fishing in the Pyrenees - Best months
  • Best months for fly fishing brown trout and zebra trout: The months of March and April, prior to the mountain thaw, are often exceptional times for capturing trophy trout with dry flies in the plains rivers at the foothills of the Pyrenees, provided that conditions are optimal. Fishing in the Pyrenean mountains usually requires more skill, and fish activity may not always be exceptional during these months. As May progresses, spring arrives, and the fish become more active. Additionally, in the Aran Valley, the high mountain river fishing season begins, ensuring an excellent fishing experience.

From mid-May to late October, fishing in high mountain rivers provides exceptional conditions for fly fishing enthusiasts in the Pyrenees. Naturally, each river has its optimal time of year, but due to the variety of available rivers and streams, we can always guarantee a satisfying fishing experience.

  • Best months for fly fishing salmon: Salmon fishing is influenced by river flows and precipitation. Traditionally, the best months have been May and June. However, it’s important to note that salmon fishing is quite challenging, and salmon populations are scarce. In fact, in 2023, salmon fishing in Navarre has been prohibited, and it is only allowed in the Atlantic rivers on the northern face of the Pyrenees.
  • Best months for fly fishing barbel: In the Pyrenees, the best months for barbel fishing range from mid-June to late September. June is an excellent time, as many fish migrate up small tributary rivers for spawning. During the months of July, August, and September, if river flows are low, these are the ideal times to sight fish for barbel with dry flies.

THE BEST FLY FISHING LOCATIONS IN THE PYRENEES

If you’re considering planning a fly fishing trip to the Pyrenees, the first thing to know is that the prime fishing spots are found on the southern face of the Pyrenees, specifically in the Spanish part. This distinction is not due to a lack of beautiful rivers for fly fishing on the French side but rather differences in fishing regulations. In Spain, baits like fly larvae, cheese, or worms are prohibited, and the capture of trout is limited to reasonable quantities per angler per day. In contrast, on the French side, the use of prohibited baits and the capture of a large number of small trout per angler per day are allowed. This situation has resulted in high fishing pressure and scarce trout populations on the French side.

On the southern face of the Pyrenees, the situation is entirely different. For over 5 years, in the Autonomous Community of Aragon, all fishing preserves are regulated under catch-and-release policies. This also applies to most free fishing stretches. Catalonia has also embraced catch-and-release fishing. As a result of these regulatory changes, trout populations have experienced a notable increase, and an increasing number of tourists from around the world are choosing these waters to enjoy fly fishing.

If you’re specifically interested in information about the best places to fish in the Pyrenees, we have compiled a selection of the top 10 fly fishing spots in the Pyrenees, complete with location maps.

FISHING REGULATIONS FOR FLY FISHING IN THE PYRENEES

If you’re planning a fly fishing trip to the Spanish Pyrenees, the first step is to familiarize yourself with the Autonomous Community or region you’re heading to. As mentioned earlier, the Autonomous Communities in the Pyrenees include Aragon, Catalonia, and Navarra. Local regulations for each region are published in regional bulletins and are known as «fishing closure orders» or «órdenes de vedas de pesca.» These documents provide all the necessary information for fishing in the Pyrenees, such as permitted fishing periods, river classifications, and authorized baits.

It’s essential to note that each region has different regulations. In broad terms, we can summarize the following:

Aragon: Implements a more conservation-oriented regulation that promotes fishing tourism and has an extended fishing season, lasting until October. However, bureaucratic procedures for obtaining fishing permits can be challenging for foreign anglers.

Catalonia: Has intermediate fishing regulations, encouraging catch-and-release but still allowing fishing preserves where catch-and-keep is permitted. The fishing season extends until October 31, and unlike Aragon, obtaining fishing licenses and permits can be done easily online.

Navarra: Stands out as a unique case in Pyrenees fishing management. It faces two main challenges: a very short fishing season and difficulties for tourists in obtaining fishing preserves, as they must participate in a prior draw.

FISHING LICENSES AND PERMITS FOR FLY FISHING IN THE PYRENEES

Just like understanding fishing regulations, having the necessary fishing license or daily permits is crucial for fly fishing in the Pyrenees. Below, I provide links to the respective platforms for processing your fishing license and permits in each region:

Make sure to obtain the necessary documentation before embarking on your fly fishing adventure in the Pyrenees to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience.

FLY FISHING LODGES IN THE PYRENEES

Currently, there are no exclusive fly fishing lodges for anglers in the Pyrenees. Until a few years ago, there was a fly fishing lodge in the town of Santa Cilia, operated by the fishing guides company Salvelinus. However, in recent years, this lodge has remained closed.

In contrast, there are several hotels that are not exclusively for anglers but offer services tailored to the fishing operations they collaborate with. In this context, we collaborate with the Parador de Viella, a modern hotel located in the stunning Aran Valley. This strategic location allows you to enjoy fishing in some of the best and wildest rivers in the Pyrenees.

For more information about our fly fishing lodge in the Spanish Pyrenees, we invite you to visit the following link:

FLY FISHING GUIDES IN THE PYRENEES

We’ll begin by explaining why it’s advisable to hire a fly fishing guide if you intend to fish for trout in the Pyrenees.

Stretching over 400 kilometers with peaks exceeding 3000 meters in height, the Pyrenees offer a wide variety of rivers, lakes, and streams for fly fishing. While this diversity is an exciting opportunity for anglers, it can pose a challenge for tourists looking to fish in this beautiful mountain range. The question many anglers ask is: Which are the best rivers to fish in the Pyrenees?

The exact answer to this question isn’t straightforward, as each river and each section of it has its optimal fishing periods, information known primarily by those who reside in the region year-round and dedicate themselves to optimizing their clients’ fishing experiences. We’re talking about the figure of the fly fishing guide.

When considering hiring a fly fishing guide in the Pyrenees, in addition to their knowledge of the territory and its waters, it’s important to take into account several additional factors:

  • Legality: Ensure that the guide service is legal, with the necessary licenses to carry out the activity, as well as liability and accident insurance.
  • Permits and Authorizations: Ideally, the guide service should have permits and authorizations to access restricted fishing areas, allowing you to fish in places that other anglers may not have access to.
  • Equipment and Gear: Evaluate the type of vehicles, waders, rods, reels, and other equipment the guides use to ensure an optimal fishing experience.
  • Language: Another important aspect to consider is that the guides speak English competently, as many local guides may not have a proper command of the language.

By taking these factors into consideration, you can enhance your fly fishing experience in the Pyrenees and make the most of the diverse and scenic fishing opportunities the region has to offer.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT FLY FISHING IN THE PYRENEES:

The Aran Valley is strategically located for fly fishing in the Pyrenees. From here, you can fish on both the north and south faces of the Pyrenees, exploring some of the best rivers and lakes. Additionally, the Garonne River and its tributaries are among the best for trout fishing in Spain.

While renowned anglers like Ernest Hemingway claimed that the Pyrenees host the best trout fishing in Europe, this statement is subjective, depending on personal preferences. They may be the most complete experiential destination in Europe, renowned for their populations of wild trout and the opportunity to fish in one of the continent’s most beautiful locations. The pleasant climate, excellent cuisine, rich culture, and wines add to the allure.

Fly fishing in the Pyrenees is suitable and recommended for novice anglers. The region’s abundance of mountain rivers, where trout are highly active, and the lack of necessity for long casts make it an ideal place for learning. This is especially true when accompanied by fly fishing guides and instructors.

Ernest Hemingway fished in the Irati River, which flows through the Pyrenees in the Navarra region of Spain. Hemingway, known for his passion for fishing, visited the area multiple times, leaving a literary legacy related to fly fishing, including his experiences on the Irati River. This river is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and the presence of trout, making it an iconic destination for fly fishing enthusiasts.

Both the Catalan and Aragonese Pyrenees offer excellent opportunities for fly fishing. The Aragonese Pyrenees are less populated and experience lower fishing pressure, contributing to better-preserved trout populations. On the other hand, the Catalan Pyrenees feature a network of intensive fishing stretches where it’s possible to fish year-round.

Enjoy a guided fly fishing trip in the Pyrenees: