On a recent visit to Lake Cassien in the Var region of France, I saw a fisherman pull a beautiful 8 pound Carp out of the water. He held it up, took a picture with it and tossed it back into the lake, as is required by the catch and release credo that locals follow. By throwing the fish back, the species has flourished in the lake and record sized carp have been wrestled to the surface. There are 70 pound fish in the depths of the lake, so if you decide to fish be prepared for a fight.
Lake Cassien (Lac de St Cassien) is the perfect place to cast a line in a quiet region of southern France away from the crowds and glitter of the Cote d’Azur. The Var is the less known neighbor of Provence and is arguably even more beautiful. Lake Cassien is surrounded by forested hills and remains rustic; aside from those who come to fish it is largely tourist-free. While much of the lake side is inaccessible, there are several spots that have been cleared to allow for wheelchairs. The lake is 430 hectare, so there are plenty of areas to explore.
There are some restrictions for fishing. Fishing licenses are required and can be purchased from any number of local kiosks along the lake. There you can also get advice on the best lures, accessible spots and the best place to pull in the biggest fish. A daily license costs around 15 euros, weekly passes are around 30 euros and are good for 7 consecutive days. Special rates for women (this is France, after all) and children are available. Boat rentals can be found around the lake and guides can take you to the best spots to land the 70 pounders.
In addition to carp, the lake is stocked with catfish, perch, pike and black bass.
Once you get your fill of fishing, there are plenty of other activities to occupy your time. Visit the markets and sample the local wines and delicacies, including fresh from the farm fruit, vegetables and cheese. In the fall you’ll find truffle markets and restaurants will whip you up truffle omelets. Drive around the region and just take in the hauntingly beautiful scenery — in the early mornings it is not unusual to find a sanglier (wild boar) rummaging through a field and mist magically hanging low in vineyards.
There are also quirky finds for those who like to meander. I happened upon a motocross field with dozens of locals using it and an airfield for gigantic model planes, the owners of which were masters at maneuvering them through the air.
For those who prefer the sea and an exciting nightlife, Cannes is just a short drive away, as is Nice, Monaco or St. Tropez.
Practicals: Lake St. Cassien is located about 12 km from Cannes. The nearest international airport is in Nice. You’ll need a car to access the lake as public transportation is scarce. Holiday Cars, and Hertz have adapted cars, although Hertz may not have availability at all times. Handynamic has wheelchair accessible vans for rent throughout France. Book in advance to ensure you can rent a car.
There are hotels and gites along the lake, or you can stay in nearby Fayence, a quaint medieval village, or any one of the perched villages in the area.