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Greg Botha on fly fishing Croatia

Wednesday, 17 July 2013 03:51

Greg visited Croatia and reports here on some fine fly fishing opportunities. He had been aware of the spring fed Gacka River since reading about it in the 1970’s, so a holiday in Croatia provided an opportunity to visit this renowned trout water. The web site of the association responsible for management of the fishery (www.gacka.hr) provided an introduction to the river and its tributaries which flow from springs at the base of the forested hills surrounding the broad valley.

Majerovo spring Gacka Sinac

Click in images to enlarge

says Greg, 'The main spring, covering an area of about 1 ha and a tributary that flows from a deep blue hole, have long been used as milling sites. The river meanders through farmland and small villages upstream of the regional centre Otočac. Different fishing rules apply on the various beats stretching between a sequence of bridges that cross the river. I concentrated on the “catch and release” section in the upper catchment between the hamlets of Čovići and Ličko Lešćhe. Licences costing 250 Kuna (~€35) are sold from a wooden hut on the bank of the river where the main road to Gospić crosses the channel between these settlements. The fishery is maintained by a large hatchery in the headwaters. Along the river banks there are benches at spots where feeding fish concentrate and the river bank vegetation is trimmed to facilitate access and avoid trampling of the riparian reeds and sedges.

The spring water is crystal clear so trout appear suspended in their feeding lanes along channels in the aquatic weeds. The local Danube strain brown trout appear almost black from above and are generally solitary whereas the rainbows often feed in groups.

Gacka Danube strain Brown

The local strain of Danube brown trout

I did not get to fish for the grayling that occupy a short section of the headwaters below the main spring source. Where they concentrate on the sandy bed of deep scoured holes, eddies or clearings in the waving weed, the feeding behaviour or the fish is interesting to observe. It becomes obvious that the fish are highly selective, moving in feeding lanes to take tiny drifting nymphs while ignoring emergers in the slick surface film. The fickle currents play havoc with drifting dry flies and even tungsten bead nymphs are swept high over the feeding lies in deep channels.

Gacka current

In the fishery office there is a framed selection of local flies, many of which were far larger than what I had anticipated. Caddis fly patterns over 2 cm long raised an eyebrow; until I saw a live fly of similar dimensions flutter out of the reeds and skate across the river surface, actually spooking a 12” brown trout that rose to it, until it was smashed downstream by a larger fish which had ignored my tiny offerings.

I only had a day on the river but the sections available justify a few days to experience the different types of channel bed form, vegetation structure and the deep pools that hold trout of legendary dimensions. Believe me, the interior of Croatia has a lot to offer and is a welcome respite from the tourist hordes in the ancient coastal towns.      

Kupa River, Brod na Kupi, Croatia/Slovenia border

The spring fed Kupa River flows from the mountainous karst terrain in Risnjak national park between Zagreb and Rijeka in northern Croatia, forming the border with Slovenia. Access to the river and other streams is through the sport fishing club “Goran” in the frontier town of Brod na Kupi.

 Kupa River

The Kupa River

I made contact with Mislav Jukić through the web site (http://www.kupa-flyfishing.com/eng/o_nama.shtml;  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and arranged for a day on the river. The licence costs 250 Kuna (~€35). The hour long drive from the coast through the mountains into the deep valley did not offer much insight into the nature of the river until the wide expanse of the slow flowing river flanked by towering forested mountains was revealed upstream of the town.

Kupa River grayling

Native Grayling

We fished for the native Grayling of this Black Sea drainage which differ from those found in other parts of northern Europe. Drifting CDC caddis patterns on the slick surface of fast flowing current tongues produced many eager takes. The number of fish holding in narrow currents below constrictions or shallow runs was amazing and one could fish up- and downstream from your position in the channel for quite a while.

Kupa River swirling grayling red fin

The red fin of a grayling

Periodically the fish rose to emerging insects and I found that drifting flies downstream over their holding positions was productive. The evening session was spent on a short section of the smaller Curak creek near the town which also produced strong grayling. It was a privilege to spend a day learning new techniques on these well managed rivers with the rugby fan, Mislav, who wore a Springbok shirt. The Kupa, Kupica and Curak Rivers offer so much fishable water that one should devote a few days to exploring this pristine rural area of Croatia. The Facebook page “Kupa Fly Fishing Croatia” offers tantalizing insight into the fish that reside in these waters.'

 Text and images from Greg Botha

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