Gers’s dense network of rivers spreads out fan-shaped across the department flowing from the south, northwards to the river basins of the Adour and Garonne. Their flat glacial valleys punctuate a gently rolling landscape said to resemble Tuscany. Fields golden with wheat, maize and sunflowers in summer are speckled with orchards and vineyards, and stone villages glowing warm in the sunlight. Remnants of mills and wash houses along the river banks are a picturesque reminder of days when wood-cutting, flour and paper-making were important, and washday chores a lively communal activity.
Today Gers’s rivers are a wonderful leisure resource for Gersois and visitors alike.
The Baise, Gers, Adour, Save, Arros and Osse are all main fishing rivers. Some small boat fishing takes place in the south. Brown trout can be found in category 1 stretches of the rivers and rainbow trout in category 2. Coarse fish such as pike and perch, roach, carp, tench and gudgeon all abound.
There’s water skiing and wake boarding on the River Ardour in summer at Cahuzac-sur-Ardour. Canoeing and kayaking are popular ways to get close to the countryside. Find centres at Masseube, Samaton, Monferran-Saves, Mirande and Gers Piacenza. Canoe from Bonas to Beaucaire or Beaucaire to Valence on the Baise. Glide past the silent tree-lined banks populated by herons, kingfishers, ducks, moorhens and coypus. ( www.canoesdebeaucaire.com tel: (00 33) 5 62 68 15 95).
Only the River Baise is navigable for vessels of any size. Follow the historic route taken by flat bottomed gabares which carried cereals and flour, wine, Armagnac and fertilisers downstream until the beginning of the twentieth century. Start at Valance-sur-Baise and cruise following a winding route punctuated by locks and past the Cistercian abbey of Flaran for 65km to Lot et Garonne. You can hire a motor boat yourself without a permit or take a cruise from Condom where Armagnac eau de vie traditionally began its journey to the port of Bordeaux.