The Countryman's Weekly

Bohemian fly fishing

June 30
15:41 2015

DURING the failing moments of the autumn season, some friends and I enjoyed an astonishing week in the beautiful Sumava region of South West Bohemia in the Czech Republic.

This was our first visit to the rivers of the area and, sandwiched between fishing trips to France and the legendary San River in Poland, we knew not what to expect. What welcomed us was a landscape which has essentially remained almost unaffected by the Europe-wide avalanche in modern, unsustainable agriculture.

We were guests of the enormously hospitable Patrik Jedlička at the hotel in the village of Annin, on the banks of the Otava River where we fished for four consecutive days over a distance of about 50 river kilometres; from mountain torrents to the more sedate flows downstream, through idyllic woodland and meadows.

It yielded a vast range of fishing possibilities, from extremely hostile wading in the steep, boulder-strewn tumbles high upstream, where we caught the dazzling native brown trout, to gentler glide water fishing with nymph and dry fly for trout and grayling preoccupied with the pale watery hatches. And everything in between, which kept us constantly adjusting our approach and happily dissuading us from falling into any routine or pattern.

That said, while my companions fished all methods from dry fly, duo and nymph, as appropriate for the circumstances, I stuck resolutely to the CDC plume tip in all but two brief duo sessions, the latter simply to use the small nymph on the duo rig to give better turnover and a more stable drift for the dry fly in downstream winds or on ‘bouncy’ water.

With fish throughout the river so focused on pale watery duns, the size 19 or 21 plume tips were, as everywhere, utterly dependable, particularly when fished on a two-weight incorporating a fine horsehair furl and long 0.1mm or 0.12mm copolymer tippet.

We caught vast numbers of fish. In fact, on the first day I caught over 100 rainbow trout, brown trout and grayling, between 24cm and 40cm, all on the plume tip, though the number potential on rivers such as Otava is really only part of the impact made on the visiting fisherman.

The rainbows, for instance, are not the stocked fish one might expect from many British and other European waters, but feral or largely wild-spawned in the river. The brown trout are elusive and hugely demanding, among all those rainbows, and the grayling are exceptional. Utterly wild of course, with some large, challenging specimens among them.

All of this is set against the dramatically beautiful landscape, the gilding of the autumn trees, and the pure, clear waters rushing us through the days all too quickly.

Subsequent Otava sessions were a welcome tapestry of water types, while I searched with the plume tip (or stabilised duo rig) on ever-more varying flows. It was a joy to see Tom, Bertrand and Neil, who were almost completely new to this type of fishing, gradually come to terms with it. Tom, in particular, had devastating sessions with his double nymph rigs, while both Neil and Bertrand enjoyed fabulous catches of rainbows and grayling on the plume tip.

It was almost with regret, therefore, that we left the Otava to travel deeper into the Sumava National Park to fish the Teplá Vltava, the main tributary of the Vltava tailwater. A complete contrast, nowhere broader than ten metres, this little river offered vastly different challenges.

On our first visit, turning upstream of my companions into a forested region, I found that it was impossible to make a way through the trees and metre-high meadow grasses, so the journey was along the banks of the river itself, mostly wading through calf-deep waters trying not to disturb the fish feeding along the way.

Beginning to fish with the inevitable plume tip brought meagre returns for about two hours; in fact only a single, fat dace, a small brown trout and a similarly small grayling. I wondered if my passage had disturbed the fish, even though Jan Siman, among the most revered of Czech river masters, who was accompanying us on this trip, assured me that this would not be the case. Then, a little past midday, it all changed.

I heard them at first, tiny little sips in the stream, and then noticed a few very subtle rises as if from dace among the currents and foam lanes, mostly over the thick ranunculus beds and bankside gravel races. One persistent rise caught my attention, mere centimetres from the far bank.

Pitching the plume tip a little upstream, almost brushing the shoreside grass, I watched as it was kissed away, simply disappearing into the surface. I lifted into a glorious, near-40cm cock grayling which had been utterly invisible in the broken, racing water, even when it rose to the fly.

Here was the key to the lock of Teplá Vltava, at least for the next two days of magical fishing. The fish were lying almost in torpor, perhaps feeding on nymphs, until the noon-day switch of the emergence of pale watery duns. Then, with extremely accurate (because the grayling would not budge a centimetre off the feed lanes) and gentle casting, the plume tip was never rejected. From the secret stream in the protected National Park the jewels of unbelievable grayling came to the fly.

Grayling are, without doubt, the ultimate target species for the fly fisher. They are the most challenging of the salmonids, particularly the larger specimens when they are focused on a specific food form such as the pale watery. Only an accurate delivery with a fly such as the plume tip can be consistent. There in Sumava, however, with my friends at the waning of the season, we experienced a frontier of sorts; so rarefied within the contemporary sport.

I would urge any dedicated river fly fisher to at least once make the journey to the Annin, where Patrik and Jan will look after you and open the door upon some of the most breathtaking, rewarding fishing that exists in Europe. Those interested should take a look at the website info@hotelannin.cz or, with a focus on the fishing, www.siman.cz

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