Fishing in Andorra

by Paul Mikhelson, Andorran Editor

One often reads about "fishing paradises" throughout the world, places were we would love to spend a week or two catching the monstrous fish that appear on the accompanying pictures and sleep in the luxurious lodges situated along trout or salmon filled rivers and lakes. If only we had the money and time….

Fortunately for us, Andorra is not on the list of top five fishing resorts. As a matter of fact, this beautiful 180 square mile country in the heart of the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France doesn't even appear on most maps, let alone in fishing guides.   

Although many people have heard of Andorra with it's kilometers of tax-fee shopping and its five ski resorts, only very few (including many of Andorra's 65,000 inhabitants) have actually ventured into the mountains were a different world awaits them. Still untouched by mass tourism and far away from the main shopping street and resorts the select few find mountains ranging up to over 2,900 meters, quiet and beautiful valleys and over 60 mountain lakes. Add meadows sprinkled with cows and semi-wild horses (which sometimes wake you up in the morning when they lick the dew off the side of your tent), forests with crystal streams and, most important, very few people.

Best of all, the lakes have fish, your fish! So if I see more than three other fisherman at a lake I consider it crowded and find myself another, with fewer people to bother me.

However, to take advantage of the breathtaking scenery, lakes and rivers filled with Farios and Salvenlinus you have to work for it. Although a few rivers and lakes can be reached by car, most of waters, especially the best ones, are above 2,000 meters a one to two hour hike from the nearest road. So fishing in Andorra is not for those that want to just roll out of a king sized bed and catch record breaking trout with the video camera running after having a huge American style breakfast and watching the latest news on cable TV.

ANDORRA WINTER

Trout fishing in Andorra is for those that enjoy a day and perhaps a night or two under the stars and catching a few trout for a tasty breakfast before a short hike to another lake or stream. The water in the lakes and streams is so clean that you can drink it without second thoughts. Although the average lake trout is about 23cm in length, it is a suprise what you can find in a lake not exceeding 60 meters in diameter. I recommend fishing at dawn of at dusk and spending the rest of the day contemplating the spectacular scenery of taking short hikes to the surrounding summits which are all easy to climb without the need of any special equipment.

For those that do not fancy long hikes, Engolasters Lake is a reachable by car and Tristania as well as Pessons Lakes involve only a short walk. All streams are small, fast and are filled with rocks and boulders of all sizes. However, the first sections of the Valira d'Orient, the Riu d'Incles and the Valiura del Nord flow close to the road and are therefore very accessible. Streams like the Madriu or the lakes of Illa, Estany de la Nou, and the Montmalius, which are among the prettiest fishing spots, do involve quite a hike. All this seems quite safe save for the chance of blisters as there are no fierce animals in the mountains and theft or attacks on fisherman apart from the occasional bad tempered cow are unheard of.

Tackle

Waders are not necessary as one can fish right from the edge of the lake. Lure and bait anglers can use a six to seven foot rod and light line. One may fish with almost any bait except maggots and cheese but the artificials work better. Silver or fluorescent yellow or orange colored spinners size 2 or 3 and perhaps a small "countdown" Rappala take nice fish. For naturals, I recommend grasshoppers, tineas and sometimes even earthworms, especially in the streams!

Flyfishing

Andorra is a paradise for fly fishing although casting can be difficult as files brake off on the rocks which make up the steep banks that surround most of the lakes. They also get caught in the trees and bushes along the streams. Roll or Steeple casting (for those that like to impress the natives) is therefore recommended for the lakes and tongue biting for the streams.

Large hatches are rare, but the water is so clear that it's like fishing in an aquarium. The insect life at that altitude is so different compared to valleys that it would be a good idea to take some fly tying equipment with you and tie as you go . I've seen trout feed on most peculiar looking insects I've never even heard of before. However, Trichopteras, Sedges and Duns mounted on hooks from 12 to 16 and 9 to 10 foot rods with no's 4 or 5 DT or WF lines should bring the best results and maximize casting distance for roll casting.

Fish

Unfortunately, one can only find trout in Andorra. I suppose that other species just can't stand the cold. All lakes freeze from November to June. Here are some numbers of releases in the streams and lakes of Andorra in order to give you an idea:

Autumn 1195:
lakes:
streams:
2750 Kg. of trout above 20 cm in length, 10000 trout less than 12 cm
150 Kg. of trout above 20 cm
Spring 1996:
streams:
500 Kg. of trout above 20 cm, 200'000 fario eggs, 50'000 salvelinus eggs, 6'000 trout less than 12 cm

Dates and prices for 1997

Rivers and streams open on April 6th, and the lakes on June 14th. Both close on September 21st. Engolasters lake and the Os River open on March 23rd and close on November 23rd. Takes are limited to 10 per day and per person, the minimum size is 18 cm. An 8-day license costs $28.

Many fishing competitions are held during the summer on various lakes and streams, the inscription fee being about $25.

Accommodations

There are 26 mountain huts spread thoughout the country, most of them located near lakes. Although untended and a bit Spartan, they are solid, empty, free of charge, clean, have a fireplace, running water nearby and have up to 20 or even 60 beds depending on the hut.

Most huts, however, can sleep from four to 10. Although the huts are rarely crowded (I've never had to share a hut with anyone else), it is wise to take a tent along, especially if you're unlucky and end up sleeping between two snoring Spaniards or Frenchmen, or if you want to camp right next to the water and overlook prime water from inside the tent, only to dash out in your undies when you see the first rise.

"Holiday Camping" is not permitted outside of the official camp sites but nobody minds if you set up your tent next to a lake or stream for a few days as long as you don't make it your permanent camp. Doing it yourself is typical as all lakes can be accessed via well marked trails or paths and relatively good maps are available making it rather difficult to get lost even in bad weather conditions.

Andorra also offers over 275 hotels of all categories. Many wise anglers stay in the mountains for two to three days and then spend a comfortable night in a hotel with warm water and a bed before taking off into the mountains again. This also gives you the chance to load up on food and beer, and perhaps visit the tackle shop to buy that funny looking fly you've seen the local trout feed on. Bed and breakfast in a nice 3-star hotel will cost about $40, a meal in a restaurant about $16 and a stiff gin & tonic in a night-club around $4.

Weather

Although Andorra enjoys a warm Spanish climate from Spring to Fall with temperatures reaching the mid 90's during the day, things can get tricky even in the summer. Short but violent storms can crop up in no time and it's good to shelter in one of the nearby mountain huts. Even in good weather the lakes are relatively high altitude, it can get cold at night. So a warm sleeping bag and a thick carry-mat are indispensable as well as woolly hat and gloves for those lonely early mornings fishing sessions where your only companions are the marmots. As in any mountain environment, good footwear is essential.

Access

Unfortunately, Andorra cannot be accessed by rail or air. The closest airports are Barcelona in Spain and Toulouse in France, both which are at a 3 hour drive from Andorra. Therefore, your best bet is to rent a car at the airport for the length of your stay. Having a car will also enable you to visit more of the country and reach more fishing spots (or at lest get close to them!).

More Information

A good address in Andorra is an incoming tourist service agency that offers fishing weeks with or without a guide and that can help with various matters for visiting fisherman. Everything from hotels to tackle shops via Caldea, the largest health spa in Southern Europe which is a bliss to relax in after spending a few days in the mountains.