I was born in 1984 in Bilbao, a city that belongs to Basque Country, which is a small region in Northern Spain, west of the Pyrenees Mountains, and made up of three provinces: Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and Araba. It is a region with its own language called Euskera, where talking about food, wine, and fly fishing is almost a religion.
Cuddled by the Cantabrian Sea, Basque is a mountainous and very green country due to the abundance of rain. The terrain suddenly gathers height from the sea inward towards the close plateau to the South. There you can find many attractive rivers to enjoy fly fishing.
With a population of around 2.5 million people in an area about half the size of the state of Connecticut, the once plentiful salmon and trout populations suffered a sharp decline due to a heavy industrial past. Fortunately, nowadays our water courses are making an impressive comeback. For anglers, Basque Country has a strategic location within Spain. In just a few hours drive, you can reach many of the best salmon and trout fishing areas and fish wild brown trout of the three main genetic lines present in Spain: the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Cantabrian. These are precious treasures within our rivers, and here you can enjoy long days of tourism and gastronomy hand-in-hand.
In the inland regions, the climate is drier and colder, ideal wineland, having turned the area of Rioja Alavesa into one of the most renowned wine producers in the world. No trip to this area is complete without touring some of the beautiful wineries and enjoying the wine tastings. With its nearly 13,000 hectares of vineyards, out of a total of almost 64,000 hectares encompassing the regions of La Rioja and Navarra, these wines enjoy the Protected Designation of Origin Rioja. It is worth mentioning the town of Haro (province of La Rioja, 100 km away from Bilbao) is known internationally for its wines and cellars. It is here where culture, landscape, and food make it an unforgettable experience.
On the other hand, the coastal area has a milder climate, turning it into the perfect white wine producing land, whose star is called Txakoli. Their vineyards along green hillsides look into the sea, and coast-boasting beaches such as Zarautz and La Concha in Donostia/San Sebastián or Laida y Laga in Bizkaia province’s Urdaibai’s Biosphere Reserve make for mandatory breathtaking stopovers.
Despite being small, Basque Country is home to more than 20 Michelin starred restaurants including Azurmendi in Larrabetzu (Bizkaia), Zarate in Bilbao (Bizkaia), Arzak in Donostia/San Sebastián (Gipuzkoa), and Zaldiaran in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Araba), which are catalogued as some of the best restaurants in the world. And again, despite its small size, its orography of plateau, mountains, and coast gifts this land with unbeatable characteristics allowing these authentic masters of cuisine to cultivate a once in a lifetime divine table experience using locally sourced products.
Do not forget the Spanish art of small plates and bar hopping where you can enjoy pintxos, small bite-sized works of art washed down with a wonderful glass of wine, in areas of Bilbao city such as Casco Viejo (old city centre), Ledesma Street, and Donostia/San Sebastián’s Casco Viejo. This is a mandatory exercise for the visitor, as well as visiting Bilbao‘s Guggenheim museum, one of the most important in Spain. It is an amazing place!
And what can I say about the fishing?
I started fishing thanks to my boyfriend about five years ago. It all began when he used to take me to practice fly casting on the grass. I was completely amazed by the loops in the air. I must admit that I first learned to cast and then to fish, I thought that it was a lot of fun. Then we went to the river to face wild trout, and I fell in love with fly fishing forever. It’s not very common to see female fly anglers in Spain. We are still few, but little-by-little we are becoming a larger group.
My passion is brown trout. Atlantic salmon do not thrive here, as most salmon rivers are found in other northern regions of Spain, such as Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia. These areas do not practice a catch and release philosophy, and as a result, their populations are in decline, and salmon fly fishing is only practiced by a small group of very experienced local anglers.
The north of Spain is generally mild and humid, making the season between March and October perfect for dry fly fishing. Choose the rivers in this area depending on the time of season, altitude, and latitude. You always want to look for the areas with the biggest hatches. Important areas for fly fishing include the Pyrenees region of northern Aragon with its lakes and high mountain rivers and Castilla y León known for the high quality of its rivers and warm hospitality of its people. Let's not forget the cannot-miss cities and towns like León, where you can admire the Cathedral and walk around its precious old city centre, and, of course, buy its famous feathers, Coq de León (CDL), which is one of the best materials in the world for tying dry flies and nymphs.
Both areas, Aragón and Castilla y León have firmly positioned themselves as “no-kill” fishing venues, of which I am a convinced advocate. Consequently, many of their rivers are turning into real paradises for fly fishing, with abundant populations of wild brown trout. While not yet comparable in size to the enormous trout in northern Europe, they can certainly compete in terms of the climate they thrive in, and in the way of fishing for them, that is, dry fly.
In my view, there is no doubt that anyone who visits Basque Country to fish, and enjoys its fantastic touristic sites, experiences its superb food, and washes it down with a good glass of wine, will fall in love with the region and its trout. And, of course, we will be here waiting for you with open arms.