For me, the last weekend in November was also the last opportunity to say good bye to the Upper Vltava. A problem, however, lay in the fact that I was rather immobile, as something had broken down in the injection pump of my Ford Focus. Luckily, I managed to procure another mode of transportation, and so Milan and I set out for the Sumava Mountains, already covered with quite a good amount of snow. First, we visited the post office in Freyung, Germany, from which I posted a hundred copies of the German version of “Czech Nymph“, addressed to the company Durkop. The postage was just a third of the price I would have paid had I sent it from a post office in the Czech Republic.
Upon returning from Germany, we stopped for an early lunch in the village Lenora at the restaurant “U grobiána“ (at Grobian's). One of the old regulars was sitting there – he is also an angler and looks like Josef Svejk did when he was younger. I only know him from fly fishing competitions as a controller, but in the pub he's a real master. He drinks at the pace of one small beer an hour, and from time to time he adds a shot of some mint liquor, and thus runs his continuous everyday marathon. The “kulajda“ mushroom soup and wild boar goulash were nothing less than food of the gods, and so we just listened to our acquaintance and ate like horses.
We didn't really want to leave the warm pub, but we set out down the road along the Vltava. The Lenora stretch was empty, but Milan predicted that it would be crowded lower down the stream. That didn't seem right to me, but soon I couldn't do anything else but agree with him. Near the Soumarsky bridge the river was literally packed with fly fishers, so we headed for Dobra village. The car park outside the pub “U Nemecka” was crowded with cars and groups of young, muscled guys in high waders who looked like they were from an English fly fishing magazine.
At that moment I realized how Milan had known about this all in advance. He regularly follows all Czech fly fishing websites, and one of them must have mentioned it. These young fly fishers had probably just finished their goulashes and beers, and were setting out for the water. Our car had slowed down to almost twenty, but despite this, the pub’s huge guard dog hit our left rear fender with its paw to show we were driving too fast.
Two cars were already standing by the power-line transformer, but there was still a free place by the barn. Still, we could soon expect all the crowds from the pub to get here, so we continued on for about two more kilometers to the Dobra train stop. Nobody was there, so we parked on a forest path and started to get ready. There was still quite a lot of snow around, but now at about noon it was all melting, creating little muddy brooks under the snow. We were enjoying the quiet, looking forward to the last fishing of the season, when Milan suddenly said: “Here they are!”
At that moment a big black boxy car shot out from the forest path and rammed into a heap of snow not far from us. It sort of looked like a green beret invasion of Okinawa, and I immediately knew that we wouldn’t be fishing at that spot today. The door of the black limo opened on the driver's side and a clear “Hi, Karel!” sounded. That was my “arch-friend” greeting me cheerfully. I only replied out of politeness and with much self-loathing. Even though the man was in the good Dr. Jekyll stage, I knew perfectly well that in the evening he would sit at the computer and change into Mr Hyde again.
“Don't hurry“, I told my colleague, and we waited for the muscled trinity to set out for the river ahead of us. We all must have known that there wasn’t really enough space for five fly fishers, and I personally would never have stopped there if I was the second to come. The right selection of place is always essential there on the Upper Vltava, especially when the water level is higher. I considered it a command from the heavens to change our site, so we moved about a kilometer upstream and set out for the river.
Milan, twenty-five years younger and about ten centimeters taller, marched through the deep snow at a speed I couldn't keep up with. I couldn't follow his long strides, and trudged behind him at my own pace. I didn't also want to get too warm from walking fast and have my glasses fog up later.
When I reached the water, Milan was already tying on his third nymph, and then he jumped into the deep stream and waded through it as far as the other bank. He strode down the river, and within a minute he was pulling out a smaller grayling. He wanted to out-master me with the force of his youth, but I didn't mind at all. Today I would bet on my experience. I calmly made my leader and decided for French nylon Kamoufil with 0.14 mm tippet and dropper. I put a Gold Olive Hermit nymph size 12 on the top and a Pheasant Tail Gold Microjig size 18 on the dropper. The top nymph was to attract graylings like their favourite Hydropsyche larvae and the microjig could look like trout egg. It was overcast and windless, so I decided to first try some short nymphing and then, if the fish started to rise, to try a dry fly, which was why I had chosen to bring my size 2 Sage rod today.
I got into the Vltava at the same place as Milan, who regarded me from below and waited for what was to come. The water here was much deeper than I had expected and I still felt a little of the “Svejk's mint liquor” in my legs. The stones were slippery and the current pushed on my back unpleasantly, but finally I made it to the other bank and followed Milan, who by that time was wading downstream back to the right bank. I proceeded with my back to the bank and my forehead facing the water, when I suddenly felt that a deeper trench was forming below my feet near the bank.
I quickly turned back and waded towards the middle of the river, casting my nymphs towards the left bank. The second attempt was already successful and my thin Sage arced like a real bow. A nice grayling didn't feel like leaving its lie near the bottom, and it took me a while to pull it near me. It was a female, about 38 cm long in a beautiful winter dress. It had taken the microjig on the dropper, and I broke off the tip of the hook when releasing it from the mouth of the fish. I didn't have another of the same type, so I replaced it with one with a light pink body and soon, in the same place, I caught another grayling which measured about 35 cm.
Milan had waded across the river and disappeared somewhere beyond an extended pool which began not far below me. I didn't want to wade across the river again, so I decided to walk down along the left bank for about ten meters, to a place where the river made a right-hand bend and the current ran into deep water at the beginning of the pool. It was a place where I expected graylings to be waiting, as I had seen a few times before in clear winter water, though had never caught anything. Anyway, I couldn't walk any further, so I tried it here.
My nymphs drifted somewhere near the bottom at a depth if two-meters, and I just slowly led the end of the leader and from time to time lifted the tip of my rod. I didn't hold out much hope, but I wanted to give it a decent-enough chance.
After the fifth cast, it seemed to me that something hit on my nymphs, but I reacted too late. I re-cast the nymphs down the same line, and was much more careful so I could take the next hit, but instead got stuck on the bottom. I knew I had to react carefully to such getting stuck, and this old piece of experience now paid off. Suddenly, something started to move and I felt in my rod that it was something big. Judging by its careful movements it was a grayling, which proved to be correct a short while later. I lifted it carefully up to the surface and… finally, it was a size forty which I had been waiting for all fall!
I was really happy – not only for this nice catch, but mainly for the place where I managed it. I took a few pictures, and then carefully let my milt go. It lay on its side in the grass by the bank for a short while, but when I gently poked it with the tip of my rod, it quickly disappeared somewhere in the depths.
I was happy with myself that I had managed to capture another flyfishing prize, and so I cast again to the same place and missed yet another gentle strike. I cast once more, and at the exact site of the previous take, I quickly and blindly lifted the tip of the rod, and literally catapulted another beautiful size forty to the surface. The dorsal fin was open wide, like the crest on a knight's helmet. Even after this jump the fish remained on the hook, and I'm sure I don't have to mention that it had taken the microjig.
I enjoyed fighting it on the soft rod, with the beautiful colours on the dorsal fin and sides of this Vltava wonder. As if that wasn't enough, a little further on another fish was waiting, which was considerably slimmer, just a little shorter, and it also took on the jig.
Some bigger, darker insects began to swim on the surface, but I didn't notice anything taking them. I could have stayed for a while and waited for more fish to come, but I still wanted to try a dry fly, so I decided to set out against the current. Milan must have had the same idea, and we met by the river a short distance above the place where we had entered the water one and a half hours before. Now it was two in the afternoon and we had one last hour left until the end of fishing.
We proceeded along both banks, and both did our part making too much noise and spooking the fish. Finally, we separated and went upstream, each by himself. Something was collecting on the surface, and the situation looked like it called for a dry fly even though no rising could be seen. The short nymph failed completely, and I had no takes even in the best spots.
At about a quarter to three, I headed back down the water keeping my nymphs under me, leading them in the wet style under the surface, when a size thirty-eight grayling took the top nymph. In a while I pulled out a small trout this way on the microjig, but then tore it off on a bigger fish. It might have been a rainbow trout which I may not have even noticed, collecting something from the surface and hooked by my nymphs being drawn against the stream, but it didn't stay on the hook.
I saw Milan returning, and it was clear that fishing was over for the day. My partner had twice as many quarries as myself, but none bigger than 30 cm. I hurried downstream through the water, but near the right bank I fell into a deep pit, and Milan had to pull me out. Also, while wading in deep water all my money and IDs had gotten damp. But I didn't really care – this beautiful fishing finished much better than it began, and I can dry them at home…