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Sight fishing for grayling on the clear mountain rivers of Slovakia.

Sight fishing is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and most fun fly fishing tactics in the world of fly fishing. Searching and spotting the fish in its natural habitat makes this activity very demanding on the one hand. On the other hand its successful realization is the most memorable fly fishing experience.

Sight fishing in fresh waters is in most cases associates with fly fishing for big trout, especially brown trout. This is not surprising at all. Clear fresh waters of Europe, America and New Zealand are the typical habitats for trout.

There aren't so many rivers in Europe, which are suitable for sight fishing.

Spotting and observing

Sight fishing paradise

The sight fishing paradise is without doubt New Zealand.

I was blessed with the opportunity of spending a few European winters on the South Island of New Zealand, sight fishing for the biggest trout on earth.

It took me quite a long time to get used to this, for me as European fly fisherman, before then unknown fly fishing tactic. Once I mastered all necessary aspects of this unique technique, it became my favorite fly fishing strategy.

Sight fly fishing is like hunting. You have to find and spot the fish before the fish notices you. If the fish gets scared, it swims away or stops feeding. Spotting the fish in its natural habitat can be very difficult because of its perfect camouflage. You have to train your sight to be able to distinguish what is fish and what is not. A few times I had fun trying to catch a big stone or a log, thinking it was a big brown trout.

Perfect casting with a dry fly or a nymph is also needed to be successful.

Grayling hiding ground

I missed the entertainment

Every time I came back from New Zealand to my home country of Slovakia I missed this entertaining fly fishing method. So I thought to myself, what if I use the entire sight fly fishing experience from New Zealand and try it on the Slovakian mountain rivers?

I knew it would not be easy to find optimal conditions for this fly fishing strategy, but after few search expeditions in the Slovak Natural parks, I was lucky ti find a few unique rivers, which made it possible to try sight fishing here in Slovakia.

While I was searching, I focused on small highland rivers with clear and shallow water, where it would be possible to spot even a smaller trout.

Sunshine and a clear, flat river

Fly fishing strategy

I always wade gently upstream trying not to spook the fish or make the grayling suspicious. Once I spot a grayling, I try to observe his behavior to find out if he is feeding or resting. Resting and unmoving fish are unlike to attack your fly.

In most cases, the grayling is feeding on underwater insects, so you have to use nymphs. My favorite imitations are the small dun larvae known as micro nymphs tied on hook size 18 or smaller.

A good thing about grayling is that you don't have to cast so far as for brown trout, if you manage to come close enough without spooking it. Grayling is also more forgiving to false casts or multiple casting tries. But the rule is still the same: the fewer and more precise casts, the bigger the chance of catching the spotted fish.

For dry flies as well as for nymphs, the grayling need some time to observe and inspect the floating food, so the presentation of the fly should be as natural as possible and the cast should place the fly at least 1,5 meter above the feeding grayling - depending on depth and speed of the water.

A small river and a big grayling

Striking and fighting

Correct striking technique is essential. Grayling take the fly pretty fast, and when it notices that it's an artificial bait, it spites it out even faster. So the reaction of the fly fisherman must be as fast as possible after the strike indicator moves or disappears under water or the dry fly has been sucked down by a grayling.

Fighting grayling in small mountain rivers can be a great adventure, especially by bigger specimens. They like to jump out of water and their muscular body with the massive dorsal makes them a perfect fighting machine.

This dark one was easy to see

Even though it's very demanding on wading, spotting, casting and keeping focus, once you have mastered this techniques, it gives you that great feeling of having accomplished something very special.

This is how sight fishing for grayling became my favorite fly fishing activity in my beautiful home country of Slovakia.

Tight lines !

Autor: Andrej Polcic written for Global Flyfisher.com

Hot summer in Slovakia

Maybe the best refreshment for a fly fisherman during very hot summer.

This year’s summer in Slovakia and in other parts of Europe was extremely hot. Many rivers struggled under very dry weather conditions and some of them almost dried up.

Fish behavior over these tropical days was consequently passive and for fly-fishing interesting only in the early mornings or late evenings due to the cooling down of the water. The question was: what should a fly fisherman do during the course of day under such conditions?

Should he wait for few minutes of morning and evening hatch, or should he try to catch those passively behaving fish?

The second option led mostly to frustration.

Paradoxically, thanks to such extreme weather conditions, I was able to find one of the most beautiful fly fishing destinations in Slovakia. Sometimes you need these external influences to go and try something new.

In my case it was the search for high-lying area in central Slovakia with river-systems in which water supply is independent from rainfall – known as spring creeks.

After some internet and Google-earth research I made the choice. My pick was a small mountain river in a natural reserve, far away from any civilization. In central Europe such a large uninhabited area is almost a wonder.

The adventure is on - perfect pool

The air temperature in the town was climbing to 40 degrees Centigrade, and after purchasing the day license my adventure could start.

The car drive to my fly fishing destination was in itself amazing and overwhelming. It is only allowed to drive in the area with a special natural reserve car permission. The road leads through serpentines and thick forests, and after 20 minutes I arrived to the spot.

I will never forget the impression I got after the first look at the river and untouched landscape surrounding it.

Home of native Slovak brown trout

Amazed and impatient

I got ready to explore this unique river system hidden in the Slovakian mountains and forests. The air temperature had dropped to something more adequate for the elevation, but was still about the tropical 30 degrees Celsius in the shadow.

For such occasions I use special wading equipment. Instead of wearing waders you put shorts over thermo pants and wear wading shoes. I brought this idea home from New Zealand. Kiwi-style wading is very handy especially in hot weather or on long distance fishing expeditions. You get cooled down by standing and wading through the river - and it dries fast.

Backpack with provisions,

photo-camera, fly rod and I was ready to go. I entered the river and moved upstream.

The river flowed through a narrow canyon. On both sides were majestic pine trees. The river banks were overgrown with huge butterbur plants, some bigger than me. After about 200 meters I came to the first pool, so beautiful and perfect. Just a dream pool.

On the left side of this pool there was a high cliff, stretching deep under the water. A fallen tree reached from on bank to the other was, witnessing the power and rules of nature in this uninhabited area.

Perfect spots and pools everywhere

The water temperature was enjoyably refreshing with its 10 degrees Celsius, very clear and beautifully colored due to the multicolored river stones. The surface was gentle and quiet. No signs of hatching insects.

I was examining underwater stones to find the right fly pattern. My choice was a small black nymph imitating a dun larva.

After few casts I had the first bite, strike and my first fight with one of these native wild brown trout was on.

Their power was truly amazing compared to their size. I haven't seen such nice colored native brown trout in a long time. Then natural reserve warden told me few days later, that there are only native fish. No stocking was ever done.

I released this unique brown trout shortly after quick photo session and tried my luck again. Despite the extremely hot weather brown trouts were actively feeding. A lot of takes and three more trout all about 35 centimeters or about 14 inches was the result from my first fly fishing experience on this highland mountain river.

Native brown trout

At first I thought it must have been pure luck, that I found such a great fishing spot just after few minutes wading and that the next good pool would be far, far away from the first one. But to my astonishment the opposite was the case.

Only few steps upstream, behind a river curve, was another even more beautiful pool before my eyes.

And again full of active, strong, fighting, wild brown trout jumping out of water and trying to free themselves from the fly and using every possible underwater obstacle to escape.

Powerful trout in action

It was almost a dream come true: The combination of untouched, majestic landscape and strong, healthy brown trout.

Constantly these words came out of my mouth: “It cannot be true” as I hurried to explore more of this unique mountain river.

Never before had I been so lucky to fish and explore such a river-system. I was able to cover only 2 kilometers of more than 17 kilometers long river stretch during 10 hours of fly fishing and upstream wading. That is one mile and a bit out of 10. The reason was that there were so many great spots and pools to fish within such a short distance.

I caught nice brown trout not only in perfect pools, but also in shallow river parts. There were trout hiding almost behind every bigger stone, fallen tree or drowned branch.

I didn't want to stop to fishing and exploring, but the darkness came and reminded me that I should pack my stuff and hit the road back to car.

Wild and beautiful

After this experience

I realized how important nature as God it created is to me. It is not only important how many or how big fish we catch, but in what kind of environment we fly fish.

I also like to shoot landscape pictures so I took use of this opportunity and got some nice pictures.

„He who seeks finds“ - sometimes it is necessary to be moved by external circumstances to go and search still hidden, untouched rivers. In my case it was hot tropical days.

My effort was rewarded in the form of “Maybe the best refreshment for a fly fisherman during very hot summer”.

Tight lines !

Autor : Andrej Polcic for Global Flyfisher.com