Fly Fishing in Europe – March, What's On The Menu?

The March Brown will save the day!

Of course, there are many ways to reconnect with the river. For my part, I never miss the magic moment of the opening day. It is like a pilgrimage back to basics and many of my childhood memories are resurfacing.

fly_selection_336845585.jpgNowadays climatic variations are such that it is difficult to predict with certainty in what state the river will be! Heavy rain, low water levels, anything is possible. Modern anglers have at their disposal a multitude of websites that disseminate a wealth of information (such as – Ed). Some are particularly useful for the variations in flows related to hydraulic engineering; others should be treated with great deference because the information is rarely controlled.

In March, the angler must seek warm water, because the rapids are not worth effort much on D-Day as the water is too cold. With a little luck, as was the case last season, Rhitrogena haarupi may appear during the day. Yes, that famous fly called the March Brown is often the first to bring out the big trout from their torpor.

As with many anglers, I noticed that for several seasons, March was particularly favorable for fly-fishing along with April. These two months are often the best as long as the waters are in order. This of course means tracking the water levels that will dictate the fishing technique needed, even if the best method in the end is just being versatile on the day. A good look on the net at local weather and the angler places himself in the best conditions.

Laurent_Guillermin_in_the_weed_528288867.jpgWhile most of the dry flies are tied with deer hair, a good March Brown must be tied with a hackle of brown partridge that is a very soft hackle and some people boost this with a standard cock hackle for floatability. I also tie a CDC version that does very often does the trick! I have always had a couple of March Browns in my fly box, and I can say that these flies have saved the days in many conditions! This pattern is fished all over the world and is tied in many variations. It is also tied in male and female and could represent anything from a caddis, or a mayfly dun! Trout can be selective so matching the hatch, especially fly size and attitude in the water, is important.

You do not need 10 fly boxes to fish the river at this time of the year but a good fly selection is needed with a couple of different patterns for each potential hatch. Think flat-water patterns that ride low, and you will be closer to the truth. In France, the trout are wild and wary, and often hold in difficult locations, which makes angling that much more intense and demanding. Locating fish is not always easy as many feed softly and in spots where anglers often wade or walk by. It is a subtle kind of fishing. The key is observation and patience. You search for a fish then strategize your approach, wade cautiously and try to present carefully your imitation.

Three boxes of flies are enough for this day and maybe even for the rest of the year if you know your rivers. A box packed with dries, another one with nymphs, and the last one with wets and streamers will suffice. Select your flies carefully; no need to clutter up your boxes with artificials that will never be attached to the leader. Yes with three boxes, you may not have the hot fly, but it is entirely possible to have an assortment of patterns that can get the fly rod bent to a fighting fin.

brown_trout_64_cm_424752409.jpgDry fly: March Brown, Sedges (like the Brachycentrus one, the famous green sedge), small sized Baetis Rhodani will be excellent choices along with some CDC chironomids. In some locations, I have seen over ten different Baetis and most were very small and hard to tell apart from each other. Concerning the nymphs, select pheasant tail nymphs, hare’s ear and Filoplume (marabou style) that will be perfect for sight fishing and a few weighted imitations for some “French nymphing”. Finally, a small selection of brown, black and hare’s ear wet flies plus a good bunch of rabbit streamers in natural, black, olive and brown will complete the last box. These flies are effective imitations of abundant and widespread minnows. Fish your streamers very slowly, ticking the bottom as you retrieve it. For small rivers cast across the current with only enough tension to feel your line.

Now you are ready…!

My fishing tackle for March trout fishing:

Rod: Airflo Streamtec Nantec rod 9’ line 4/5.
Reel: Field&Fish reel 5/7 (Mouche Pro).
Line: Airflo Ridge Supple Technical WF5 F
Leader: Airflo Light Trout Polyleaders Set.


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

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