Exploration of the crystal clear mountain rivers of Slovakia
It has become a tradition of mine to explore at least one new river a year in my beautiful country Slovakia. Having so many outstanding waters around my hometown, this task is not that easy to accomplish. However, this year I managed to visit more than one of these hidden nature treasures and would like to share one of these exploring experiences with you.
I know a great number of mountain rivers rich mostly on wild brown trout and grayling, placed in countless mountain ranges across Slovakia. Nonetheless, river parts above the 1000 meters above sea level (MASL) were still a big mystery to me and a dream to fulfill. Tatra mountains are our biggest mountains with the highest peak at 2655 MASL (8,711 ft.).
Almost every river which springs in the Tatra Mountains has the crystal-clear disposition due to their granite streambeds, fast and cold water cutting its way through untouched forests, creating one of kind landscapes.
By making the right decision in picking the right river to explore, I always focus on four principles: unknown, hidden, hard to excess and not many people around.
After my research and careful preparation, the day of the river exploration arrived. It was a beautiful, sunny, summer day in August after a pretty dry period, which indicated that the water level should be optimal for fly fishing in this high mountain range area.
My first impression of this new river was a real amazement about the beauty of the river itself and its surroundings. Situated in deep valley with high granite cliffs covered with pine, fir and oak trees, deep smaragdite green pools, high elevated cascades and wild waterfalls. All in all a true fly fisher paradise on earth.
Just sitting on the bank and observing the scenery of this Gods creation, filled my spirit with joy and peace.
By inspecting river stones, I found a lot of insects in this crystal-clear water. Larvae of stoneflies, duns, mayflies, but most of all caddisflies larvae - thousands and thousands of them. To “match the hatch” I decided to start fishing with the caddis nymphs. As already mentioned, the water was so clear that I had to be very careful by wading and casting my flies.
After figuring out the right length for my leader, I made first casts into one magnificent deep pool. It wasn`t easy to focus on my strike indicator being surrounded by such a gorgeous nature, which in positive way distracted my attention and I consequently almost missed my first bite. Fortunately, I was able to set the fly hook and the first brown trout was on, ready to fight. His strength and jumping skills were very impressive and after few strong runs, I managed to land him. Healthy, deep wild brown trout and clear water created the best conditions for some photos and underwater filming. After releasing my first brownie, I hooked immediately onto another beautiful brown trout and the action started again.
I forgot to mention my plan, to cover more than 6 km long stretch of this unique high mountain river in less than 7 hours. This meant wading movement and casting under not so easy terrain conditions, sometimes reminding more of river climbing or cannoning. However, I was pushed and motivated by the curiosity, what might be hiding behind the next river bend.
Having caught few nice brown trouts on nymph, I switched to big grasshopper pattern, trying to provoke the fish to come to water surface and it worked as well. Blind Casting the big dry fly and observing wild brown trouts rising from the deep pools made my fly fishing experience even more intense. These mountain brown trouts were well fed and in great condition, even though the water temperature doesn`t get over 8 degrees Celsius in the hottest summer days.
Speaking of cold water and not having waders, but only kiwi-style like (shorts and wading shoes) wading equipment, made my plan of exploring this river as fast as possible even more plausible. Constant up stream movement, climbing high cascades in narrow river gorge and crossing deep pools supplied me with enough adrenalin to forget the cold element.
The higher I went the narrower became the river and the deeper were the pools the higher were the water cascades and water falls. These conditions provide perfect habitat for some big brown trout- unfortunately I was not blessed with landing one of them, but only spotting, fighting and loosing few of these monsters. Nevertheless, I know they are there and till next season they will grow even bigger.
Experiences like this confirm me again and again in my conviction, that Slovakia belongs undoubtedly to top fly fishing destination in the world. But do not just take my word for it. To justify my opinion for sake of Objectivity, I must mention one more fact. Slovakia was picked for the second time to be the venue of the most important event in competitive fly fishing scene- FIPS MUCHE Word Fly Fishing Championship.
My words might not be enough to describe the above-mentioned beauty of this Slovak mountain river, so I provided my text with photos and produced short video, which shows in its first half my written exploring experience and the second half is dedicated to mountain rivers inhabited by grayling.
Tight lines !
Autor : Andrej Polcic
Fly fishing on the last day of the season in a never fished trout river in the Slovakian back country
The month of September is one of the best times for fly fishing in Slovakia. The feeding activity of the fish throughout the whole day makes it especially interesting.
Nights get colder and with it the water temperature sinks. The fish are waiting for first sunbeams warming the river and preparing the right conditions for the hatches to start. Under normal circumstances the September weather is stable and makes fly fishing trips to remote parts of the rivers safer and more comfortable.
The fly fishing season on trout waters in Slovakia ends with the 1st of October. The last day of September has become the day when I say goodbye to trout waters by visiting new, not yet explored rivers or unknown parts of rivers I have already fished.
This year’s pick was not hard to make. I was invited by good friend of mine, who happens to be the manager and ranger of my favorite mountain river in Slovakia. We could spend one day fly fishing on one part of this river, which was closed to public for past 10 years. 4 kilometers of virgin nature.
The fact that my flies would be the first artificial flies these fish had ever seen made the night before this trip almost sleepless.
Knowing that this was the opportunity, which comes only few times in a lifetime, I tried to prepare myself as well as possible. I packed my favorite 6.6 foot fly rod, which would perfectly suit this small mountain river. A fine reel with a floating line, small dry flies and nymphs imitating duns hatching during this season of the year. Camera and small action videocam to capture and document as much as possible.
Waking up early and driving the 150 kilometers to our meeting point was no problem at all. Excited and motivated, I was only hoping and praying for good weather and water conditions. My prayers were heard and the weather couldn't be any better. Blue sky, no clouds at all were accompanying me on my drive to the promised destination, high up in the countryside of central Slovakia.
Meeting my friend on time, setting our strategy and the fly-fishing exploration of this one of a kind mountain jewel could start.
Even though the sun was shining, this section of the river lies hidden in a deep valley and most its parts stay in the shadow. This was important for choosing the right fly fishing tactics. In the areas where the sunbeams make it through to the water surface, flies were hatching almost immediately. On the other hand, shadowy stretches had no signs of hatching insects.
To be able to fish both situations effectively, I decided to use a very simple method of using both a dry fly and small nymph, which is very popular in New Zealand.
The scenery of the river and landscape was almost indescribable. The colors of the fall were visible on the trees and contrasted with the still green pine trees. Some of the trees had already lost all their leaves, showing us that the time up in the mountains is moving faster towards winter.
Full of expectation I made my first casts and the reality trumped my imagination, hence the name of this article “Perfect day”. In the first pool I could land a few native brown trout and one 50 centimeters big wild rainbow trout. That might not sound very special, but I knew that it was still very early and cold and would just get better.
The feeding activity started increasing with the rising temperature. Almost every cast produced a take, not only in the deeper pools, but also in the shallows, faster water, slow stretches – basically everywhere. The fish were taking both the dry fly and nymph very aggressively and without any hesitation. Their fighting skills were remarkable and using a very fine rod made the whole experience even more intense.
Catching fish of every size was a clear sign of very healthy and natural trout and grayling population with no stocked fish.
After three hours of fishing I had landed more than 40 fish and missed or lost at least the same number.
I thought that two extra batteries and a 16 GB SD card would be enough for one day of filming. How wrong I was – after just three hours of my perfect fly fishing experience all batteries were empty. Doing a lot of underwater filming needed more energy than I thought. And the SD card was already full. Nonetheless I was able to film more than 36 fish takes, strikes, fighting, landings and releasing in just three hours, which is my personal record.
We continued to explore this magnificent piece of nature and fished for another five hours. Pools, shallows and currents were full of hungry fish, all set in a fall colored scenery.
After eight hours of this unforgettable adventure on an untouched and unique mountain river hidden in the Slovak back country, we ended the day with more than 100 trout and a few grayling in total - not mentioning those lost.
I have been fly fishing for 30 years, but until this last September day I could not imagine that I would be able to catch so many beautiful fish on such small river high up in mountains.
I would like to invite you to watch the video that I captured, because sometimes words cannot describe such situations as well as pictures and videos can.
I wish you tight lines and many perfect fly fishing days!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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