The Alps' clean lakes, rivers and streams hold a bounty of fish—primarily trout, grayling and char—and, as you might imagine, the scenery is not too shabby either. Whether you're casting into a gushing mountain brook or a crystal-clear alpine lake reflecting the majesty of the Matterhorn back at you, the fish-filled waters of the Alps offer an unforgettable fly-fishing experience.
Check out the top fly-fishing spots in the Alps. Tight lines!
Rhone Alps, France
Fly fishing near Chamonix means high-altitude lakes and rivers surrounded by snowy peaks. A 20-minute drive from the town you'll find two groups of lakes, both of which you can fish in certain areas. Lac Passy is a popular picnic destination for families so it isn't always the most peaceful, but you can bypass this area to get to the smaller lakes (inquire at Lac Passy for details). Lac de Ilettes is a quieter group of three lakes and fishing is also permitted. Closer to Chamonix is Lac des Chavants in Les Houches—a good spot for catching trout, which you pay for by the kilo.
Running down from Mont-Blanc, the Arve River and its tributaries are also popular with fly-fishers. Nick de Toldi from GourmetFly.com said, "Cast your line in fast-moving mountain streams, fish small torrents with the crossbow technique or head for the wider streams which can be fished more classically and don't require any boulder-jumping. You'll find good-sized brown trout and the odd brookie."
Fly fishing in Chamonix. Photo Courtesy of Guy L. & Gourmetfly.com.
For a change of scenery, head 10 miles west to Mittersill. The town straddles the Salzach and Felber rivers and is bordered by the Hohe Tauern mountain range and the Kitzbuehel Alps. Fly fishing here is possible at Hotel-Gasthof Braurup, a 14th-century establishment with a fishing area comprised of 80 miles of rivers and eight small lakes. It offers fly-fishing classes for beginners and pros in the biggest privately-owned fishing area in Austria.
Brown trout at Mittersal. Photo Courtesy of Braurup.at.
Zermatt - Matterhorn
Zermatt offers some of the most dramatic mountain scenery for an unforgettable fly-fishing vacation. High-altitude lakes are so clear you can actually see the reflection of the mighty Matterhorn which dominates the skyline.
FlyFishZermatt.com runs fly-fishing tours up to a privately owned lake at 8,200 ft., at the foot of the glacier. The lake is 820 ft. long, 165 ft. wide and 16 ft. deep. The climate here is perfectly mild, so expect plenty of blue-sky days.
Kirk Tinham, founder and guide for FlyFishZermatt, said, "Natural glacier water flows through the lake, entering through a stream and exiting via a small waterfall. This means the water is crystal clear making it easy to see up to two meters deep. Currently there are two species of fish found in the lake: Rainbow Trout and Artic Char. Approximately 75 percent of all catches are made with the beautiful art of dry fly fishing."
Fly fishing in front of the Matterhorn. Photo Courtesy of FlyFishZermatt.
Jura Mountains, France
From high in the Jura Mountains, the Bief de la Chaille joins the River Biennette at the hamlet of Les Rivieres, giving rise to the Bienne—a mountain torrent that winds its way through picturesque gorges. Downstream from the village of Morez, the Bienne meets the Tour Bleu and this is a popular spot for dry fly fishing. There's no shortage of trout here all year round. Following the river down, you'll find the Roche Blanche Bridge—one of the most scenic spots for fly fishing. Get off the beaten track and explore the little confluents of the Bienne—the Tacon and Longviry—which are home to the elusive perch.
"The water of the Jura rivers is hard, which makes it wonderfully clear and also helps the growth of the fish," said Pierre Emmanuel Aubry of Jura-Flyfishing.com. "All the casting techniques can be practiced depending on the season and water level. The fish's growth and behaviour vary from one stream to another. Some rivers offer opportunities from the start of the season for early dry-fly fishing, while others are later sites."
Upper Ain basin, Jura Mountains. Photo Courtesy of Jura-Flyfishing.com.
The Horlachbach is a crystal-clear mountain stream and a tributary of the Otztal Ache River in the Tyrol. The deep, fast-moving Horlachbach is known for its richly oxygenated water. The Horlachbach runs down into the Otztal Ache, a particularly deep river rich in rainbow trout. The width of the Ache reaches up to 98 ft. and, depending on the season, fishers can wade this water. The side brooks and spawning brooks are also rich in fish and crystal-clear all year long. The best time to fly-fish here is between mid-March and autumn.
Hotel Falknerhof in Niederthai offers guests private fly-fishing spots on the Horlachbach and Otztal Ache. "The Horlachbach is only 650 ft. from the hotel and is the core of our fishing waters," said Peter Falkner from Hotel Falknerhof. "This mountain stream offers interesting fishing for brown trout and char from the mouth at 3,280 ft. to the headwaters at 7,200 ft."
Anglers can also explore mountain lakes at 8,200 ft., which can only be reached by foot, but those who make the trek are rewarded with char, lake trout and brown trout. A 45-minute drive north from the hotel is the Tyrol's main river—the Inn—which cuts straight through the city of Innsbruck. Here you'll find brown trout, rainbow trout and grayling.
The Otztal in Niederthai. Photo Courtesy of Themenmixer.
The Verdon is a 100-mile-long river in the southwestern Alps. It is one of the most memorable settings in the world for fly fishing—emerald waters and sheer white canyon cliffs up to 2,300 ft. high.
"These are prime waters to fly-fish for sometimes quite big brown trout," said Nick de Toldi from GourmetFly.com. "The surroundings is almost only mineral, so no tree spoils your casting. The waters are very clear allowing you to often see the targeted fish. The river is full of boulders producing countless hides and currents that trout like. All techniques are used from dry fly, to nymph (often at sight on spotted fish) and small streamers to drift around boulders and deeper in the pools."
The Verdon's clear, green waters. Photo Courtesy of Batopa/Flickr.
Zell am See
Just south of Zell am See, the fish-filled waters of the Fuscher Ache spring from the Hohe Tauern National Park at the foot of the Grossglockner massif. The waters here are rich in trout, grayling and char. The fishing section begins at the confluence with the Salzach River and ends at the Ferleitental/Käfertal, a high valley surrounded by 9,850 ft. peaks. This section is exclusively reserved for fly-fishing. After the gorge (which contains numerous water holes), the water flows down through the villages of Fusch and Bruck. Combined tickets are available for Fuscher Ache, Salzach and tributaries.
Hotel Lampenhaeusl in Fusch am Grossglockner offers fly-fishing tours with the option of a guide. "The 17-mile mountain stream has the highest water quality and is known as the Pearl of the Hohen Tauern," said Josef Nindl from Hotel Lampenhaeusl. "Only now, after over 50 years the privately-owned waters have become open to the public and therefore fishing has been made accessible to our guests. The quality of the fish-stock is shown by having an adult fish population in the form of ancient trout."
Hohe Tauern National Park in Zell am See. Photo Courtesy of Andrew Bossi.
Cortina d'Ampezzo & Belluno
John Openshaw from WadersOn.com recommends Veneto as one of the best regions in Italy for fly fishing, in particular the areas around Belluno and Cortina d'Ampezzo.
The ancient city of Belluno rises above a cliff spur near the confluence of the Torrente Ardo and the Piave. "The Piave River plays an important role for fishing marble trout and hybrid," said Openshaw. "In some pools there are nice grayling too. In Belluno, there is the possibility to catch, with a dry fly, trout above 16 inches, and with a little luck and skill, even some in the 20-inch range are not impossible."
Cortina d'Ampezzo (4,015 ft.) is situated at the top of the Valle del Boite in the Dolomites. "Cortina's Boite River contains a good number of brown trout," said Openshaw. "Stillwater fly fishing is done in the spring and summer on pristine and very scenic alpine lakes. The nearby region Alto Adige has a lot of good waters too."
Upstream on the Piave River. Photo Courtesy of Paolo Tonon.
Okay, not exactly the Alps, but the Pyrenees mountain range also offers plenty for the keen angler. The fishable waters in Ariege range from small mountain streams to fast-flowing rivers and high-altitude lakes only accessible by foot. Some of the lakes and rivers are stocked, but those higher up contain mainly wild, lake trout and the native brook trout. Fishing here is popular with local inhabitants, but not too touristy.
GourmetFly.com offer guided fly-fishing tours out of Ariege. You will find small streams and a huge choice of lakes that you can reach after a hike of between one and three hours to an altitude of 6,463 ft. Due to the hike and the fact that the fishing can keep you quite late on the water, it is recommended to only do this if you intend to spend a night on the spot.
After a hike in the Pyrenees, reward comes in the shape of blue lakes. Photo Courtesy of Gourmetfly.
Remember that before fishing any area you must ensure that you have the correct permits and you are aware of the local regulations. Contact the tourist offices for more information: France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy