Flyfishing the mountain streams of Portugal
Fancy a European break somewhere just a couple of hours flight away where you can have the fishing all to yourself! Whether it's just for a weekend, a day's fishing snuck out of a family holiday or for a whole week or more, the quiet and largely undiscovered Central region of Portugal may be just the place for you!
Join Fish&Fly editor Paul Sharman as he fishes the mountain streams and rivers of Portugal.
by Paul Sharman
There's a place, in Portugal to be exact, where it is still possible to fish on wild trout streams for a week and never see another angler. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to find this out for myself on a trip to the Central region of Portugal high in the mountains just a couple of hours drive inland behind Porto and Lisbon and just a short flight away from the UK.
The destination was the small town of Gois which was to be my base for the week, nestled along the banks of the beautiful Ceira river that runs right through the middle of town and with links back to the Moors and the Romans who all passed this way in days past. The whole area is a maze of dramatic tree-shrouded mountains and cavernous gorges filled with rushing streams and rivers that continue to cut their own paths deeper and deeper into the rock. Remains of watermills and olive presses built of the local layered schist are scattered everywhere and some of the mountain villages are still built out of this stone too - you'll see signposts pointing you towards some of the most scenic.
But while the scenery was captivating I was here for the fishing at the invitation of a new guiding venture that recently started up in the area. Portela Promotions originally started as a real estate business, finding homes for a growing number of Brit's in particular who you'll see and hear in the local pizza restaurant which seems to be the ex-pat gathering point. This business still continues but Dianne Franckeiss, an avid fisher along with her husband Glenn happened to see a local fisherman one day who they got talking to and soon realised the untapped potential of the region. That fisherman is now their guide - Joao, born and raised in the area who knows all the streams and reservoirs and who also ties some pretty mean local fly patterns too!
Trout were the main reason I had come and the local stretch of the river Ceira was at the bottom of the street from our hotel, literally a few steps away - brilliant! Beautiful clear water flowed through tree lined banks down through a series of weirs maybe a quarter mile or so apart. I could already spot several trout lying on the bottom or rising to the occasional fly plus other fish I was later to find out were the local barbel species and also dace. The trout are predominantly browns with an occasional rainbow and this stretch does receive some additional stocking. Wading in from the top of one of the weirs we had tied on one of Joao's heavy golden nymphs to try our luck. Working our way up opposite sides of the river we found most fish concentrated along the banks near to cover but with some fish in the middle probably where larger rocks appeared. We picked up several small and willing brownies and I even got one of the rare rainbows that seem to have found their way in.
Even the barbel were willing biters and equally good fighters! Not a species I had encountered before and it was interesting to see the larger fish in the deeper holes and drop the same heavy nymph upstream to drift down and watch them slide over to intercept it. It must have been near to their spawning season as several of those I caught were covered in small white tubercles on their heads.
Over the next few days we travelled around the local area fishing higher up the Ceira in the countryside while villagers were out planting their beans and potatoes for the year and also a couple of other smaller streams. All shared the same stunning scenery and wild trout and we were only fishing the tip of the iceberg Joao assured me. We never saw another angler or even any obvious tourists. This corner of the country really has yet to be discovered which of course makes the experience all the more enjoyable and relaxing.
There are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied in the mountains and Portela use a local outfitter who can arrange kayak trips, ATV's, canyoneering and other adventures. If you are lucky you may visit during the Festa season when whole villages hold celebrations with music and local foods and welcome everyone to join in. I was also able to visit several local reservoirs where black bass and carp in particular can be caught, both of which are very catchable on the fly too of course.
Please click on play below to view the short 30 second clips.
Brown Trout from the River Ceira
The old bridge at Gois and the River Ceira
Articles by the same author
- Essential Skills - Dry Fly and Mayfly with Oliver Edwards
- New Canadian Beaver report spells doom for Scottish salmon
- Fly Fishing for Atlantic Bass - new book reviewed
- The Streamside Guide - Road Trips
- Wet Fly Fishing on Rivers - Essential Skills with Oliver Edwards
- Venezuelan smorgasbord at Los Roques
- Pope of the Madison
- The principles of layering - the base layer
- Game Fishing by Bob Church
- The Streamside Guide - Planning the Trip