By Karel Křivanec
It has been nine years since I wrote my last fishing memoir from the Warm Vltava River. There must have been more reasons and mainly it was due to the fact that the man gets older, loses some of this abilities and this happened to me as well. After my heart surgery I stopped being successful at the water, my fishing enthusiasm began to fade away so much that the number of my attendances to the fisheries could be counted on fingers of one hand. I was always waiting for the most suitable day, when there is not so much sunshine, wind, rain and the right water flow and therefore there was always a reason why to postpone the trip to the water. This was also caused by the fact that I found several other activities among which was my business with flies and fly tying equipment and issuing various books which would never be published without me …
On Thursday, 22 August 2019, I was at the Warm Vltava in Dobrá, upstream from the railroad bridge, and I wanted to try fishing with new squirmy wormy imitations made of suede chenille, for which I have found a new name - Cheworms. And because graylings were not rising, so I tested a 2mm thick chenille from Sandro Soldarini for all two hours and besides one 40cm long grayling and a few one-year juveniles I caught two perches and one big dace and this was all. It was warm and sunny weather and no insect was swarming and graylings were not seen. I was disappointed again and I was thinking if it makes sense to drive here.
I thought that this bad luck could break on Tuesday 1st October, and after a while of hesitation I set out on the way via Český Krumlov and along the Lipno Reservoir and via Volary to the Soumarský bridge. I looked at the Vltava River here and water was low, sunny weather was sometimes changing how the small clouds were moving on the sky and the breeze was very mild. The pub was closed and the pub “U Němečka” in Dobrá was also closed due to sanitation, so I was going on. Along the road, a few new recreational weekend houses were built. At the power transformer, a German car was parked and at the farmstead, there was a free place for parking.
It was shortly after the noon when I began to put on my high boots and I was trying to prepare my Sage rod size 3 which I have got used to, because it is suitable both for nymphing and for dry fly fishing. At half past twelve, I set out across the meadows to the Vltava River and remembered that at this time ten years ago there were hundreds of thousands of large spiny elm caterpillars, but this year there were none. Also, the meadow was mowed, so it was much more pleasant to walk there towards the river.
I sat down on the bank and was waiting for a rise. It was shortly before one, so I put on the reel used for nymphing and began slowly to thread Janus’ leader through the rod’s guides. Suddenly, something rapidly fell on the surface only a few meters ahead of me. It was a mallard which may have flown here to check me. It was floating on the water for a while, couple of times put its beak under water and slowly was swam along the bank. Water surface was still calm, so I waded across the river and started nymphing in my testing place. I exchanged couple of nymphs, but no interest from graylings which must have been hidden there. After about a quarter of an hour, I saw the first grayling rise in a faster stream, so I exchanged reels and put there a dry fly.
Neither this time I managed to outwit the rising fish, so I started walking upstream and turned behind the corner of the forest whose shade does not allow the sun rays to penetrate into the water there. After about next one hundred meters I saw a few rising graylings under a branch over the water. Finally! I caught two young ones and I was slowly moving to the branch under which the biggest fish had to be hidden. I was persuaded that it had to start now and I put there an Olive Quill size 20 from Arek Wyrošlak at the end of Stroft tippet with diameter of 0.08 mm. And I was only waiting that they will come. But nothing happened, graylings were rising and showed no interest in my great fly.
I sat down on a piece of wood at the right bank and tried to exchange the fly for another Quill, which I found in my box. It was not easy at all, because a mild breeze was blowing and a thin line did not want to get into the hook’s eye. When I finally managed it, so I tugged the line and the nod got loosen and I could start again. Similarly, I was not successful while connecting the ends of lines when I was exchanging the final line. My fingers are not flexible enough any longer and fine lines tease them. Three quarters of an hour and I was changing all my best flies and nothing. From time to time a grey flies flew over the water and I wanted to try it too, but I could not find it. It was strange and I blamed myself for insufficient preparation for today’s trip. I had grey duns in size 16 and this was the only one which the big grayling came to see, but did not like it.
Before 3 p.m. I gave it up and walked upstream, but I could not find a rising grayling. Only from time to time I saw something that looked like a rise far ahead of me, but when I came to those places, nothing happened. I walked about a kilometre upstream and walked back, but nothing changed. It was interesting that even a single bleak showed up. Their shoals were bothering us a year ago. Probably, their migration was strongly limited by using new barriers upstream from the Lipno reservoir. I walked along the pool where about an hour ago, some graylings were rising and also there all was over. I walked down to the place, where I started about three hours ago and I needed only to wade across the river and return to the car.
For the last time, I opened my box with quills and suddenly in the shining sun I saw the . “I will give it a try”, I thought for myself and without problems I tied the fly on a fine line. I casted into places, where the fish was in the morning and which I have not managed to get. At the first cast, the grayling rose and I missed it. I casted again and again and the grayling rose and this time on the hook. No monster size, only about 30 cm long. This is the right fly – a Grey Quill! I hesitated for a while and then I decided to come back to that branch, where I failed so much.
I have never done such a thing, so I was curious whether my feeling is right or not. When I got to that branch it was 4 p.m. and the surface under the branch was quite calm and full or white foam. But I knew where the graylings were standing and so I walked through the centre of the water course to be able to cast better under the branch. I did not see the fly falling on the water, so I waited and suddenly I saw a rise and slowly lifted my rod, which bent like a bow. The fish was there and showed me that it is a big fish. With a calm head I let him rage and released and shortened the line. After a longer while I got the fish to my boots and it was really mine - a 40 cm long grayling. My landing net was already in the car and so I tried to release the fly in water. I failed to grasp the hook of a tiny fly which was hooked outside the fish nose. I touched only the line of the diameter of 0.08 mm and this strong fish broke it immediately without a problem.
I did not mind it at all, I opened the box again and from the right side took another Gey Quill. I managed to tie it at the first attempt and casted it under the branch and the situation repeated. I did not see anything but the rise and after a strike another grayling on the rod, only 30 cm long again. I released the fish, dried the fly, casted under the branch and nothing else happened. Five other casts and without success and it suddenly dawned on me. They were not five rising graylings, but only these two which I have just caught. They were changing places according to the situation where tiny grey stillborns were brought by water.
What now? I did not want to come back yet, because I was full of excitement and began to walk upstream, but four hundred more meters was without a single rising fish, so I decided to come back. I quickly walked down the stream and randomly casted to good places. Everywhere were many beautiful this-year born graylings that made me really happy, because in future years there should be enough big fish. In one shallow place I found a school of about a centimetre-long dark juvenile fish which most likely were bleaks from this year’s second spawning.
I walked downstream and got to places with sandy bottom, which graylings love. After 3 p.m. it seemed to me that I saw a rise here, but I did not have the right fly. I began to cast ahead of me and suddenly a fish rose to my fly, but I missed it. I even did not know where exactly this was. And now I made a mistake. Instead of calming myself down and getting ready for the take after the next cast, I hurried up too much to lift the fly from water, just at the moment when the grayling took it. Beautiful fish got to the surface and the thin line broke. Regardless of this I was excited, it was a quarter past five, fish were not rising and despite these conditions I managed to provoke an old grayling to take my fly. The hill to my car I walked up without a break and in my ears I heard high tones of the Pan Flute.
On Tuesday, 15 October, it was a sunny weather and I went to the Upper Vltava again. I stopped at the Soumarský bridge on a piece of asphalt on the right from the road, got dressed and walked immediately on the rails to the third meander, because it seemed to me that this will be faster than walking through the forest. It was quite a good walk, but after about a kilometre I had to walk down to a Large meadow and walking in sedge field was not easy at all. Along the Vltava River, there were dense shrubs, so I was happy when I found a short tunnel in them to the river, which beavers made. I slowly slid on my butt into the river. I was ready for dry fly fishing, so I was looking if I see a fish rise. In this place it needed a nymph, but I was persuaded that I would not use it today.
After about twenty minutes, I was in the third meander in the place, where I started my trip at the very beginning. The Vltava River flows from the forest into the long sandy pool, where many times I found really large graylings there. But today, it was different. Three trunks of old aspen trees, cut down by beavers, which were previously lying slantwise at the start of the pool, were drawn aside to the bank by the flood and there was no narrowing along which nice graylings liked swimming. It was about 2 p.m. and in the shallow stream, beautiful one year old graylings were swimming, but no bigger fish. Even further in the pool, there was no sign and random circles were made by dace. Before three in the afternoon I was at the end of the pool, where a few two-year old graylings were swimming, but I did not notice any bigger one. I was disappointed, but despite this I continued in dry fly fishing. No insect was swarming and nor grey duns worked.
After 4 O’clock, I was behind the second meander and it was still poor. In the shade of the tall forest, I saw a nice rise in a deep pool at the right bank. No reaction to my quill size 20, even if the fish took something from the water several times. I decided to exchange the fly and tied the classic Olive Dun size 18. My first attempt to cast the fly as close to the bank as possible, failed. The Olive was floating about half a meter from the bank when suddenly a greedy mouth took it and with a short delay I stroke and had a nice individual on the rod that was not missing too much to be 40 cm long. We were playing for a while and I was careful not to lose it again from the thin 0.08mm tippet as the last time. So, good job…
Another grayling did not show up and then it seemed to me that I saw a rise about 30 meters downstream. I left this deep pool behind and walked down the stream. Sometimes I laid my fly on the surface and I was thinking where it could be. But suddenly a fish rose again and I waded to its first place where it rose. The first attempt was not good enough, but the second one was successful again and the grayling was mine. It was not as big as the one before, it was about a year younger, but quite a nice fish that must always satisfy fisherman’s heart.
And that was all today, only a few smaller graylings and one dace. When I was getting from the river near cottages upstream from the bridge, I was at a loss how to evaluate today’s fishing. Nothing glorious, but what should I expect. Not far from the place where my car was standing, a black bike was parked, but it looked pretty strange. In a few minutes a man in a cap who greeted me like his friend emerged from the forest. After a while I realized that this is Mr. Němeček, who handed over his pub in Dobrá to his successors and he went to check one old military bunker. He is now only interested in the military history. So, we were talking for a while and then he sat on his bike and left for his former pub and I had to think about my trip home...