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Fly Fishing in Europe - Asp; The Poor Man's Tarpon

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The author with a nice specimen of an asp - a great fly fishing species in mainland Europe. The author with a nice specimen of an asp - a great fly fishing species in mainland Europe.

Have you heard about the Asp? It is a European freshwater fish of the Cyprinid family, protected by the Bern Convention of endangered species and habitats. Normally asps are between 10 to 80 centimetres in length, with some reaching 120 and weighing up to 12 kg.

In France the asp, captured for the first time in 1972, on the delta of the Sauer north of Bas-Rhine, finds an ideal biotope in this clear and oxygenated water where bleak, its favourite prey, swarm. Asp came from the Danube basin by canals, and rapidly colonised the great river Rhine in the nineties.

ASP_The_poor_man_s_tarpon_612354827.jpgToday, it is present in the Rhine to Switzerland, in the channels and downstream of most rivers in the department of Bas-Rhine. It inhabits lakes and lower reaches of rivers and estuaries. In spring, from April to June, the asp migrates from lakes to streams for spawning. Spawning is triggered by the raise in temperature and usually starts at 6°C. Asp can be found in Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Belgium. In the Eastern regions of Europe, it is a common species of the flowing waters, and makes a very nice target with a fly because it fights like a devil!

Asp are dynamite!

We started fishing a large gravel pit of the Rhine that reminds me of those of my local Ain River, increasingly urban but less slippery. Our guide advises us to focus on areas where boulders impede the flow but also against all the bridge supports. On the second cast, I answer my first hit with an enormous pull, but I miss it. Too late said my friend!

On my third cast, as I scan the drift of my Airflo streamer Max, a violent bite tightens my line! A dynamite fish has swallowed my fly! The guide comes to slide in the net my first asp, which is about 60 centimetres. It is a little one according to the specialist but it will still honour the photographer.

ASP_Asp_is_dynamite_548620359.jpgWe continue to fish the currents while my friend a few meters from me brought up a good specimen on the surface causing a big beautiful spray of water. He changed his fly for a blue back popper but the fish did not come back. Too bad because this fish seemed to be really huge. Our guide confirms that asp can reach 1 metre and weigh 10 pounds. A piece of dynamite on a fly rod! If asp (Aspius aspius) is of the Cyprinid family, it is a very aggressive fish eater!

After a hearty Alsatian based “Flammkuchen” and a good night's sleep at our hotel, here we are hard at work on the îll River, a tributary of the Rhine. Sometimes, asp focuses its predation on some very specific areas and we will therefore fish immediate current borders with precision. Asp can attack in just a small area so don’t miss the favourable zone if you want to succeed. It has an elongated tail with a defined indent as with shad or tarpon. No wonder it has such speed swimming in the clear waters. His mouth is widely split. It has small scales and pulls back on the green. Young specimens are bright and often travel in schools.

ASP_An_agressive_predator_478471938.jpgI notice a swirl two meters downstream of the waterfalls. It is not easy to reach the area because the strong current is quickly taking the line. My second cast is good but no fish obliges and I change my white fly to an iridescent green streamer that I tie on my tippet before casting again. While my fly sinks into the waves, I quickly strip my line, a real shock shakes my rod, and a serious fight starts under the waterfalls. A great battle ensues with a good asp of 75 cm, a beautiful silver arrow!

After the Rhine, the îll, and the Moder river, asp are colonizing the Meuse and its presence is starting to be reported in the Yonne, the Loire and the Saone. We all hope that through the channels it will quickly appear in the Rhone, the Seine in Paris and its tributaries. It seems that the water quality and clarity is one of the most important factors of advanced asp in our rivers. The best season for fly-fishing is from late May and the whole summer.

My fly fishing tackle for asp:

Rod: Airflo Forty Plus Nantec Twin tip Rod 9’6 line7/8.
Reel: Airflo VLite 7/9 Reel
Line: Airflo Ridge Clear Floating & Intermediate Fly Lines 7/8
Flies: Clouser blanc/chartreuse MF139, Crease fly popper MF45, Gurgler MF133, LG35 Gurgler, Big Fish MF31, Town Gold Tinsel MF14, Surf Candy Light Blue MF19 from www.easyfly.com. Saltwater flies are the best for asp!

Laurent Guillermin

Laurent Guillermin is a French reporter and photographer. Laurent’s images and articles have appeared in a great number of fishing magazines in France and Europe. He’s also well-known in the small fly tying “world” and has commercial patterns tied by Easy Fly. He has traveled all over the world as a reporter and is considered as an expert fly fisher for trout, grayling, pike, carp, sea bass, bonefish and permit. “Every time you go out fishing you can have a different experience. That’s what it’s all about!”

You can contact him on lgfishing@orange.fr




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Comments (8 posted):

Editor on 27/12/2012 11:48:31
I have heard about the asp before but never had the chance to fish for them as yet. I hope I get the chance one day. Has anyone else got any asp fly fishing stories or advice to share?
raphael on 27/12/2012 19:20:34
Here in France, the fish has been spreading for a few years comin from the East, and it's going to reach every catchment sooner or later. Some famous places are the Rhine and its tributaries but there are some nice populations close to me, in the Loire. Some are reaching almost 12 pounds but the common size seems to be 2-5 pounds. Their chasing activity against small fish can not be missed, and is violent. French people use streamers looking like small fish such bleaks and chubs, close to the surface, in very strong current. Pencil poppers might be good also. The problem is that the bait/lure/fly must be retrieved quite fast and that might cause difficulties whith flyfishing equipment. I 've caught two last summer with light spinning rod and surface hard stick bait(about 3-4 pounds) but found the fight very deceiving (may be because since I've caught salmon and tarpon, all fish seems quite weak...:D). I'll try to find some time during next summer to make serious attempts on the fly.
Editor on 28/12/2012 13:16:06
That's very interesting Raphael - thanks for the extra information and your experiences to date with them. Please do let us know how you get on in the summer with the fly fishing gear.
mixmaster on 30/12/2012 09:43:18
I'm a poor man :D This is 75-80 cm asp caught on fly tackle #5.
Editor on 07/01/2013 14:06:23
That's a fantastic fish and a great photo too - very nice, thanks for sharing. :thumbs: Where about's did you catch it and can you remember the fly?
mixmaster on 15/01/2013 16:11:40
This is the asp caught in the river South (Juna) Morava in Serbia, near the city of Ni. And the fly is very simple combination of white & chartreuse bucktail + krystal flash on the hook #1/0:
Editor on 18/01/2013 14:15:52
A simple but obviously very effective fly. There seems to be lots of good fishing in Serbia and many of the Eastern European countires too. What else do you target out there?
mixmaster on 19/01/2013 22:49:07
Well, there are some differences between Eastern European countries in fly fishing. I'm sure you already heard about good ff for salmonids in the Balkans. Slovenia and Bosnia are the top destinations, but Croatia and Montenegro have excellent trout waters too. Serbia is a little different. We have big huchen and graylings in the large tailwater river Drina, but much more lowland waters. So called "warm water" fly fishing is very popular, and that's where we come to our "tarpon" - Aspius aspius. If you come to Serbia, you can visit Drina - if you are a grayling-lover, but if you want something really special, don't miss the rivers West Morava and South Morava and try to catch a highly explosive asp on a fly. This is very dynamic and fast streamer fishing, a real challenge for the sportfisher. Asp is not so rare, so you can't miss if you are with experienced friend or a guide.
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