Ask most anglers out there what their ideal job would be and I’m guessing that many of them would say something along the lines of ‘I would love to be a guide’. Well fortunately for me this is a reality. For the last two months I have swapped my usual haunt of the Welsh Dee for the crystal clear alpine rivers of Slovenia. To say it was full on would be an understatement but it was definitely worth it and I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it.
I learnt a huge amount of things being on the water every day, and witnessed some truly spectacular events. I would like to share some of these “magic moments” with you. Hopefully you will gain an insight of what my time in Slovenia meant to me.
1. I suppose my first moment came fairly early on. It was the first week, and I was guiding Michael from Southern Ireland. It was Michaels first time fishing rivers, though he is a hugely experienced Lough angler as you would expect being from that part of the world. We were fishing the River Trebusica, a small tributary of the infamous Idrica. After fishing a few pools and catching some nice rainbow trout, Michael handed me the rod so he could take a break. I fished with the fly that had already done the damage; a Stimulator. I cast it along a likely looking rock ledge. Bang! I struck and a small rainbow trout was struggling frantically on the end of the line. Then something happened I wasn’t quite expecting.
A huge Marble Trout shot out from under the ledge and was in hot pursuit of the poor rainbow. The rainbow tried to beach itself as the marble got within inches of it. Fortunately for the rainbow with the fish only being a couple of feet away it saw me, and with one large boil at the rainbow it dually flicked its paddle like tail and went back into its lair. I unhooked the rainbow which was in complete shock, no surprise really; if I had been that little rainbow I probably would have had a heart attack. After releasing it the fish I beefed up the leader and put the largest steamer I had on the line. My hands were shaking. I cast under the rock but nothing; this fish wasn’t going to show itself again. Never mind. This was an amazing event to have witnessed, nature at its finest the predator and the prey. I don’t know how big the fish was but it was certainly over 10lb. I have marked its spot and one day I will be back to try for him again.
2: It has to be said that the River Unec is probably my favourite river in the whole of Slovenia. It is a chalk stream of only around 7km long. It rises from up out the ground, meanders slowly through water meadows and disappears back into the ground. Short as it maybe the quality of the fish and number of fish especially Grayling has to be seen to be believed. It so happens that this moment is about the capture of such a fish and a fairly large one at that. The fishing had been fairly tough that morning, with a mixture of different weather systems not helping the matter. We had a few trout and grayling to the dry fly but decided we would stop for lunch and to see whether the big grayling we had spotted earlier was still under the tree at the car park. We got to the car, grabbed our food and went to see what was happening. Amazingly despite the constant disturbance from people walking past and car doors slamming it was still there and even better it was now feeding.
This was an opportunity I couldn’t let up. I grabbed the rod, put a loop wing emerger on, and tried to work out a plan so I could hook and land this marvellous creature. There was a short but steep bank I had to climb down. I moved as slowly as I could so as not to spook the fish. I got into position and watched it feed for a few minutes. I had a feeling if I could put the fly in front of it then it would probably take it. That was the problem though. I had tree branches all around me. I could barely move the rod without hitting one. The grayling was too far out for me just dangle the fly in front of it, but too close in to have any fly line out. To make the situation even harder there was a howling breeze into my face (I wasn’t making excuses I promise). With some really helpful advice ringing in my ear from Kevin along the lines of “you’re mad you are”, I flicked the fly out. First time round it was way off the mark so I tried again. Still off. I thought about a bow and arrow cast but there just wasn’t the room. I waited again for him to rise. There was a slight lull in the wind, I cast and this time it was spot on. The grayling saw it and up he came full of confidence that he was safe where he was. A nice gentle sip broke the surface and I struck.
He was on. Now for the fun bit. I had no room to play him so I passed my rod up to Michael. I told him not to give any line or he would be in the roots. Michael played him very well bullying him as hard as he could. As the fish got close I swooped him into the net, unconventional I know but I had a chance and took it. The prize grayling lay in the net with the sun bouncing of his silver scales, he lifted his sail like dorsal fin, a mixture of reds and blues shone through like a paned glass window. What a stunning creature. After a few quick pictures I sent him back. I think this was the most exciting fish I had ever hooked. The odds were against us but with lady luck on our side we landed the beautiful Lady of the stream.
3: The final magic moment I want to share with you is fairly remarkable. In fact something I have never witnessed before. It place on the river Lepena and tributary of the upper Soca. I was guiding Jeff from UAE. It was very hot and very bright, so deep, fast or shaded water was going to be the order of the day. It was an hour or so before lunch when we spotted a large Marble trout feeding in a back eddy.
I watched it for a while whilst Jeff continued fishing. He was confidently sipping down very small midges just under a tree. I continued to water this majestic fish sipping down tiny flies, before suggesting to Jeff that we have a go for it. I tied on a size 24 Klinkhammer variant, thoroughly degreased the leader and asked Jeff to wait for it to rise a few more times. Eventually the time came when Jeff could wait no more he cast his fly into the current and watched as it worked its way down to the fish.
The fish didn’t look at it, it was obvious were going to have to get the exact drift to fool him. The fish carried on confidently sipping without a care in the world. On the other handed me a Jeff were desperately trying to get the right drift. Out went another cast, it looked good, the fish very slowly turned on the fly “strike!” I screamed. Jeff lifted into it, and then all went slack. The fish had thrown the hook. An eerie silence cast its self upon the place. We had missed our chance surely. We waited to see if it would come back. Five minutes passed then suddenly out of nowhere the fish was back on station. We watched on in anticipation to see if it would start moving again, and low and behold it did, although this time not with the confidence it showed before.
I suggested we pause a while to let it gain confidence in feeding again. After waiting what seemed an age we had another go for it. Again the drift needed to be spot on for it to look at it. Jeff put a cast out and at that moment Chris shouted he was into a rainbow, Jeff looked around at Chris and at this very moment the marble took the fly, again I shouted “strike”. Jeff turned around and lifted, but unfortunately it wasn’t a good hook hold and as soon as the fish felt the resistance it shook its head and it was gone. Two chances gone and surely there wasn’t going to be a third. We sat on a rock and mulled things over, watching Chris cover some rising fish. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a rise under tree, it could be could it? Well amazingly it was the Marble was back. I was starting to wonder if this fish had lost its marbles. I wasn’t taking any chances this time. I changed the fly to a size 20. This time first cast was perfect and up he came. Jeff struck, with me standing there in slight disbelief. Jeff kept a tight hold on him and after a short but spirited fight I netted it. It lay there in the net as I unhooked it. I noticed that it still hadn’t recovered from spawning and was fairly thin, no wonder it was hungry. Thin though it was it was a beautifully mark fish with a large head; I would have loved to have seen it in prime condition. After a few nice photos Jeff held it in the azure blue water. Very quickly it flicked its tail and descended into the depths. What a result. Three times Jeff hooked that fish and eventually managed to land it. A truly “magic moment”.
These are the 3 most inspiring moments I had in Slovenia. To find out more about Slovenia please visit sloveniaflyfishing.com or contact me at johnboonflyfishing.com.
Tight Lines. // John Boon, UK, ASI Team member