On Tour in South Africa

I recently had to go back to South Africa for work, well some would call it work, but for me as well as being a guide I’m also in the aquaculture game. Being a trout farmer is more of a passion than a job, however sometimes that passion keeps me very busy with little time to fish. I mean basically I travel around to my clients (most of whom are close friends) water bodies, where I stock them with trout. Over the years I have stocked a lot of water with both Rainbow and Brown trout. Probably over 600 different venues of which at least 85% are stocked annually. So yeah, I get to go to some awesome places and hang out with some even more awesome friends while doing it.

During my last trip there was this one place in particular that I had been stocking for years and years that I’d always wanted to fish that dam too.

It just so happened that a really genuine friend, Juan, had moved on to the property that had this amazing piece of water on and so the plans were made to go fly fishing. Not only was fly fishing on the menu but some venison for the evening braai (barbecue) produced by another friend Anton from Zulu Waters. The plan was to fish the evening rise,  shoot the breeze over the braai and to fish the early morning session the next day.

So I loaded up my gear , my trusty 5wt 9ft guide ll , XPLORER 5/7 wt reel loaded with RIO Lake intermediate line and RIO, XPLORER 9ft ultra strong tapered leader and RIO Powerflex plus 2X high performance tippet. Ready for those big fish.

The weather was playing along nicely and we ended up with a pearl of an afternoon  session. We got on the water with a small boat perfect for two and it wasn’t long before we started casting to fish moving along in the shallows, which I thought were feeding on small minnows. At least that’s what I told myself as I had recently strapped up a few minnows which I was super keen on trying.
It wasn’t long at all before we started pulling on some really decent and well conditioned fish. They were all in the 6-8 pound range and  gave a great account of strength and an acrobatic display. We both spotted a few fish that we rekon were over 10 pounds moving in and out of the multiple swirls that we could see. Just before the light faded to much Juan hooked up on one such fish and with much enthusiasm the fight was on. It ended just as suddenly as it started with a barbless minnow coming flying out the water as the hog spat the hook. We packed up and went up to the house for the much anticipated venison braai and chat.

Early the next morning we were back on the water at sun up only to have the perfect weather again. This time it was my turn to hook into a hog fish and that didn’t take long, but I was with the same fate as Juan the evening before. I had the fish on for a bit but it seemed to show itself right next to the boat before spitting the hook. Lots of colorful language later and we were both looking at each other laughing at what had just happened. Fishing just started after that, with catching some beautifully looking trout. Last time I saw this one particular lady was one year earlier when it was stocked at 10″ size. Awesome growth rate right there, indicating that the waters were in great health even after the recent droughts. I happily returned her to grow some more! Perhaps we see each other again next year?

All in all that’s what it is about right there …..Good times, great friends and awesome fishing. Happy days.

Testing the waters on the Soca river

With so much anticipation, I rarely get a good night’s sleep when I’ve been planning a trip, like this one, to the Soča River and its tributaries. Have I packed everything I need? Are the flies going to work? Are my rods indeed in their respective tubes? It just goes on and on, so at around 3am I decided it was time to start my adventurous exploration. I grabbed my gear and set off to meet up with my friends Uroš and his brother Matej. Still dark we met up on the western side off the majestic Vršič mount pass, loaded the gear into the vehicle and set off up the mountain. As we summit the pass the sun starts to peak out.

“Wow what a view”, I said, “I never get tired of it”. The normal stresses and worries of life just seem to melt away. The descent was pretty fast as we all knew well what lay below. The incredible Soča Valley. We quickly made our way to the starting point with lots of banter and eagerness.  Gearing up next to the river we quickly started to spot fish here and there and we each chose a particular Marble trout as our mark. Heading off for my fish it wasn’t long before I was reaching for my net to land my mark… A beautiful Marble … Lots of shouting and air punching later, the game was now in full play. The fly was working and probably had some lady luck on it as my wife Nina said to me the night before that’s the one. She was right.

As the day pushed on we made our way spotting and testing various fly patterns for the upcoming season…….needless to say we weren’t disappointed at all. We all covered as much river as we could and the fishing was great, with multiple double ups and many Marbles and Rainbows landed. So many, that we all ran out of battery power and storage space! What an adventure and awesome day out with the fishing nuts Uroš and Matej.

It’s my dream and passion to share as many a day like these as possible…..
A river definitely runs through my veins.

Radovna, the river of Browns

I received a call from my good friend Uroš Kristan asking if I would be keen to go on an adventure.  Never one to turn down an adventure, I just said “YES”, without even knowing where we would go or when. I realized then we were going to go to Radovana. A bucket list Brown trout water, high up in the Alpine Bled area with crystal waters and free stone base. I’d always heard of this river in particular about its very pure strain of Dunabe Brown trout, this also always seemed to follow with “They are small but perfect”.

So off we went and we both decided that the river less waded was our direction of destination. We both took 10ft nymphing rods as well as 9ft dry fly set ups. First flick on the dry fly and we both raised fish. It was one of those moments where we both looked at each other and realized that this was to be a great day. Uroš landed a gem of a brown and mine came undone on a barbless stone fly. We both landed a few fish in little pockets of water before heading to that “there has to be fish in there” spot.

We moved down stream skipping more popular spots to fish to the more unknown sections. Lots and lots of small Browns were caught along the way and we were having an absolute blast. Unfortunately we checked the clock and realized that we were far down steam and time was not on our side. So we started the walk away from the river only to be stopped by a local resident who wanted to chat. I don’t think she saw many fishermen come down this far. Turns out that she knew a short cut that would save us around 45 min on the return to our vehicle.

Delighted we set off on the path ahead and that’s when it happened. I saw her, a big sow of a Brown. She was right next to a very steep bank just feeding adlib. I’d lost a big fish earlier in the day and wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass so I made my way down the bank on all fours. Slipping and sliding, I had to be cautious to not spook her. The only way to get a chance was to approach her straight up front in her line of sight. Uroš gave me lots of encouragement and kept an eye on her from a way off. I manage to sneak in behind a tree but still had lots of brush in the way. I was going to have to get her with a nymph as that is how she was feeding but was stuck with this almost impossible cast ahead of me.
If I tried a dry fly I was pretty positive that the line would have spooked her. So swinging the secret nymph I gave it a go.

Too short. Far off. Just right. She was turning to the fly.

Bang …..out of nowhere a smaller Brown hit the nymph just before she got to it. I was on but not to the right fish. So I landed him and after a quick photo released him. Still, I felt the joy!
Well we can’t always get the big fish but rather return to some unfinished business in the future!

Well until the next time………..


Chasing the Ladies

Late summer, just as the trees are starting to turn amber and the rivers are holding stable with medium levels, it was time to chase some ladies. Slovenian Grayling aka “ladies of the river” have to be some of the most eye popping fish around. With their brilliantly coloured oversized dorsal fins and campfire red tails, one would think that they would stick out like neon lights at the local disco but they don’t. They blend and they blend in real well.

After rigging up my Guide ll 3wt and ECLIPSE 001, loaded with Rio WF3F INTOUCH line, I sat down next to the river and waited. Whilst watching the water, I started to notice one after another Lady grayling give away their position after chasing or sipping at mayflies or flying ants on the surface. Choosing to go as fine as 6X tippet I joined onto my tippet ring, which I believe helps hide the line in the gin clear waters, and put on my version of an F FLY.

Moving slowly and deliberately I placed my first cast. Bam I was hit with some vigour as the fly hit the water, soon to be taken for a fantastic waltz around the large gin clear pool. Grayling put up a great show once hooked with lots of colour flashing as they flare up their fins. I was fortunate enough to be able to repeat this process more than a dozen times in the same pool before letting the ladies go back to their normal routine. This had been a rare occasion when my stars had lined up and the everyday stress has disappeared. I also found my Xplorer to be the most forgiving of rods with zero line slapping the water and its matt green finish, blending in perfectly to the background never to spook a fish. It’s was truly a fantastic session and one I would wish to repeat.

Till next time from a cooler Slovenia, tight lines