by Karel Křivanec
Autumn on the Warm Vltava is typically quite cold and unpleasant, but for some reason the weather this year (2009) was much more comfortable and warmer than normal. In the meadows, downstream of Dobrá, unusually large numbers of fly fishermen have recently been sighted on the river. I couldn’t say for certain, but I had a strong hunch that the over-crowding was due to my recent articles on the Warm Vltava. Unfortunately the crowding seemed to be having a negative impact on the angling success and tranquility that is normally experienced while fishing on the Warm Vltava. In order to escape from the crowds, I bypassed the more popular pools and stretches of the river, and sought refuge in the less pressured water, further down a path less traveled. My expectations aren’t usually very high at this time of year, as the cold and stormy, autumn weather can significantly reduce a fly fisher’s chance of catching the larger grayling and numbers of fish.
I drove to the train station in Dobra on Sunday, November 1st, and set out for the non-salmonid section of the river that I hadn’t been to in nearly ten years. When I arrived at the train bridge I saw a group of fishermen that were basking in the midday sun while fishing for pike with live bait. I continued on to a spot where a small stream flowed into a smaller pool that was downstream from the Grand Pool. Things were looking quite promising, as I immediately hooked and landed several smaller grayling on a nymph. I experimented with the weight and colour of my nymphs, but was having a bit of difficultly finding the right ones for this particular piece of water.
I spent the next hour searching for signs of grayling, but none were to be found. At around 2:00 pm, I saw a small grayling that was rising, so I switched to a dry fly and took it on my first cast. Upon its release, I noticed the surface disturbances that were being created by another grayling as it rose about fifty meters further downstream. It was rising within a stretch of slow moving water that flowed beneath a large branch that was situated on the far bank. As I approached, I observed a second fish that was rising a little further downstream and made a mental note of its location. I started-out with a small, Red Quill tied on a size 20 hook, and cast to the spot where the first grayling had been rising. I watched as it rose to take my fly during the third drift. I patiently waited for it to take my fly and then struck gently, in hopes of not injuring the fish.
I moved on to target my next “victim”, which fortunately was still rising. Its obvious lack of concern indicated to me that I had been successfully managed to approach it without being detected. I cast to it with the utmost of care and the presentation was absolutely flawless. The fish took my fly as soon as it drifted overhead, and began swimming rather slowly upstream while it hugged the bottom of the river. It fought for a short period of time, but tired rather quickly in the cold water. I gently released this beautiful, 38 centimeter grayling, and moved into position to target the first grayling. I spent the next fifteen minutes casting several different flies to it - with little more than a few half-hearted rises. I even tried applying a thin coat of Fuller’s Earth mud to the last foot or two of my leader, but still had no success. The fish continued to rise for about another fifteen minutes before it stopped rising altogether. Although I wished the rise had lasted a wee bit longer, I was quite pleased that I managed to locate and catch a few willing participants.
My next trip to the Vltava was on Saturday, November 14th. I decided to fish in the non-salmonid section of the river, so I stopped at Chlum, and hiked downstream to the confluence of the Warm and Cold Vltava. I arrived at the site around lunch time, as the sun was shone brightly upon the river. The conditions looked very promising, as the river was flowing at near perfect levels. I started out nymphing French style, and quickly covered all of the best lies - without as much as a touch.
I thoroughly covered the entire pool, as I worked my way downstream. I even threw a few casts into a shallow stream that flowed into the pool, but still had no luck. When I reached the next pool, I managed to take a brown trout on a slim, silver bead-head nymph that had a peacock herl body and a red tag. I gradually worked my way back upstream as I probed the depths of the most promising sections of water. Halfway through a drift I saw a flash below the water’s surface as my spiral indicator stretched to indicate that I had indeed experienced a take. The battle was intense, but short-lived, as the gorgeous 38 centimeter female grayling eventually surrendered and came to my hand. It took a dark, Violet Hermit that was tied on a size 14 hook, and was positioned as the dropper fly. During the next hour I only managed to take a single dace on the same fly.
At 2:00 pm, the sky grew dark and grey, as the air temperature plummeted. I was about fifty meters from the confluence when I came to the realization that my flies were too heavy. I substituted my point fly with a lighter pattern that had a light-grey body, an olive collar, and a light gold bead-head. I stood in the middle of the stream with my fly rod tucked under my armpit, as I attempted to untangle and wind my fly line onto the fly reel. My flies were left dangling in the water unattended, when suddenly I felt a fish pulling on the end my line! Instinctively, I struck with an abrupt, sideways hook-set with my body. I was pleasantly surprised to see my 3-weight (Sage SP) rod bend to form a perfect arc, as the fish held its ground in the water right beside me. After an intense battle, I was pleased to see that this fish had taken my point fly.
I recast the same team of nymphs, in an attempt to duplicate my previous success. I focused my eyes on the indicator as I worked the two, small, lightly-weighted nymphs just under the surface of the water. My efforts were instantly rewarded as a smaller grayling accepted my offering. I gently released it and quickly recast my flies. I closely monitored my indicator as I pulled the nymphs freely through the surface. The way that I led them was somewhat reminiscent of the sort of presentation that is used to lead a team of wet flies. Suddenly, the spiral indicator stretched about a centimeter, so I struck without hesitation. I knew in an instant that a fish had taken one of my nymphs. It was a 38 centimeter female grayling that had fallen for the charms of my Violet Hermit. Over the next fifteen minutes I caught and released six more grayling that were all around 35 centimeter in length. I made a final cast into the confluence, and carefully worked my nymphs through a very promising piece of water. I was over-joyed to see yet another grayling that was willing to take my nymphs.
At around 2:30 pm, I saw the first grayling rise, so I quickly switched reels and tied on a size 16, CDC, Quill, V-Fly to the end of my 0.10 mm Stroft nylon tippet. I was optimistic and felt quite confident that the grayling wouldn’t be able to resist my offering. Upon closer examination, I realized that the rising fish was not a trophy fish, but merely an average size fish. I patiently waited for another rise, but it was finished, so I walked upstream all-the-while casting an upwinged fly. In a spot where I typically catch the larger grayling I managed to persuade a 30 centimeter grayling to take my fly. I took a closer look at the water and discouvered a fairly long depression along the sandy river-bottom, which was about 70 centimeters at its deepest point.
All things considered, I was quite satisfied with my day on the water, as I had managed to locate and catch a fairly respectable number of fish - even though several of my friends reported that they weren’t experiencing very much luck at all. I knew that I could have easily had a very similar story to tell, but in the end, luck was on my side today…
Tuesday, November 17th was the national holiday for banks, so I had arranged for my friend Jarda (a professional stove fitter) to complete the installation of my new stove at my vacation house near Volary. When we arrived at Stögrova Huť, at around 10:00 am, the morning air was incredibly warm and the weather was absolutely perfect for fishing. As it would eventually turn out; several meteorological stations would record temperatures that were in the high 20’s (Celsius) in the shade, and a sweltering 30 degrees in the direct sunshine.
I drove past the old orchards of Dobrá at around lunch time, and was astounded by the number of fishermen’s cars that were parked along the roadway. I stopped to look at the water near Soumarský Bridge, where I observed a large grayling rise near the opposite bank. In the event that an unforeseen opportunity (such as this) should present itself, I always keep a spare fly rod in my car, so I quickly hopped back into the car and headed for the railway crossing in Lenora.
In a long pool above the railway crossing, the surface of the water was completely still. I spotted a Silver Dun flying over the water’s surface, so I tied on a size 16, V-Fly variant of a Pale Morning Dun. During the next fifteen minutes I managed to persuade five smaller grayling to take my fly. I moved a little further downstream and managed to hook yet another grayling. I also spotted a small brown trout that was rising in fairly shallow water, but couldn’t manage to persuade it to take my relatively large fly.
The hatch of Silver Duns drew to an end just as I observed a grayling rise to take an Olive Dun as it was emerging. I quickly opened my experimental fly box and tied on a CDC, Olive Dun, V-Fly, and sent it sailing through the air. The fly landed right in front of the grayling and drew its attention almost immediately. The grayling began to move into position, but stopped midway to the surface, as it had obviously become aware of my intentions. It returned to the bottom of the river and disappeared from sight altogether. A few minutes later it reappeared about ten meters further upstream from its original location. I moved into position and managed to entice it to take my fly on the second drift. I paused momentarily to admire its stunning beauty before releasing the 38 centimeter hen back into its watery world.
I reeled in my line and made my way to one of the more popular and productive pools that I knew quite well. But when I arrived at the pool, I was shocked to see that deposits of fine silt and sand had filled-in the pool – making it virtually unfishable. I stared at the water in total disbelief and realized that I would have to reconsider my game plan and perhaps move further downstream in order to find a more productive area to fish. As I made my way downstream I half-heartedly cast my fly while scanning the surface of the water for signs of rising fish. I knew that when the late afternoon hatch occurs, it would be short-lived, so I kept moving, as I didn’t want to waste precious time focusing my efforts on a non-productive stretch of water. I walked about 600 meters further downstream, at which point, I located and pulled a 35 centimeter grayling that was lying behind a branch on the right bank. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small rise about ten meters further downstream. I slowly moved into position and cast my fly to the rising fish. It rose in perfect rhythm and took my fly as it drifted above its lie. It was about the same size as the previous grayling.
After releasing it, I dried the fly in my desiccant shaker and applied another light coating of Fuller’s Earth onto my 0.10 mm tippet. I paused to catch my breath, while I patiently waited for the next rise. It didn’t take very long before a second fish revealed itself in the same location. I carefully cast my fly to the rising fish and watched closely as the tiny fly drifted into position. I lost sight of the fly momentarily, and wasn’t sure if it had been taken by a fish or if it had simply sunk by itself. I knew that I had only a split-second to make a decision, so I resisted the urge to strike, and instead, I gently lifted the tip of my fly rod. As I drew it higher above the water, I felt the weight of yet another 35 centimeter grayling!
I paused momentarily to dry my fly and degrease the tippet. But just as I prepared to cast, I realized that my fly was snagged in the branches of the tree that was directly behind me!?! I carefully pulled in attempt to free my fly, but my leader snapped, and I lost the entire setup. My hands were cold and shaking as I attempted to removed the remainder of the leader and constructed a completely new leader. A few meters downstream, I noticed a commotion on the surface while I put the finishing touches on my leader. I couldn’t believe my good fortune, as I counted a total of five fish that were rising. The circles were quite small and just barely visible, but upon a closer examination, it appeared as if they were nothing more than a few small dace that were rising for small midges.
After five, long and frustrating minutes, my leader was finally ready for action. And after three feeble attempts, I managed to successfully attach a fly to the leader. My first cast was a bit over-ambitious, as it sent my fly sailing past the rises and almost right onto the opposite bank. I couldn’t see where the fly had landed, so I waited for a ring to form in its general vicinity. I never saw a rise, but instead, I heard a gentle slurp, so I struck with the instantaneously. I couldn’t believe my eyes, as it was a 30 centimeter, male brown trout. Over the next half hour, I caught five grayling, and dropped two, in an area that was just two meters long and one meter wide. The action died down for a few minutes before the grayling resumed rising. I tried all of my best flies, but they were simply not interested in anything that I threw their way.
At around 2:00 pm the skies darkened and rain began to fall from the heavens above. By this time, I had reached my furthermost limit of my journeys, so I turned around and began wading back upstream. After seven long minutes the rain eventually subsided just as I approached the pool where I had caught my largest grayling of the day. I had hoped that resting the pool would have encouraged the grayling rise once again, but instead there were two fishermen, with outstretched arms, working this pool with their nymphs. They appeared to be having very limited success and anti-social, so I moved on to the spot where I began fishing earlier in the day. When I arrived at the pool I spotted a rising fish, which in the end, was only a very small grayling. I hooked and released it, but had no further success – even in the spots where I had found successful only a few hours earlier. All and all, I was very pleased, as this was, in my mind, a great day on the water.
The unusually warm and sunny weather brought me back to the Warm Vltava on Sunday, November 21st. I arrived in Lenora, just upstream from the road bridge, around noon. There were still relatively sufficient water levels for this time of year, so I started fishing in the deepest part of the river with a French leader and heavy nymphs. Within a period of ninety minutes I caught two 30 centimeter graylings and a small brown trout.
When I came to the pool near the camp I decided to start working the water with a pair of lightly-weighted nymphs. I used a silver bead-head, autumn grayling nymph that was tied on a size 16 hook as my point fly. I positioned a slim, wet palmer that had a peacock body and a trimmed brown hackle with a green tag as my dropper fly. I suspended both nymphs just barely below the surface and monitored their drift with the visual aid of a spiral indicator. I chuckled to myself, as the use of an indicator often reminds me of float fishing with a fly. In the past, I have found that unresponsive fish respond quite positively to this presentation - even when I substituted a wet palmer with a tiny, size 18, Olive Nymph with a small gold head. Over the next half hour I caught 8 grayling, with the biggest being a mere 33 centimeter in length.
At around 2:00 pm the grayling began rising, so I decided to return to my car to move to a location further downstream that was much more suitable for dry fly fishing. When I arrived back at my car I realized that my pocket (where I store my car keys) was empty! I couldn’t believe that I had lost my keys, as I had been wearing my chest waders and my keys have never fallen out of my pockets… but I suppose that there is a first time for everything. This was the beginning of the ending of a near perfect day on the water. Much later on, and with a bit of help from a friend, I arrived back at my house just a little after 9:00 p.m.
The next day I returned to Lenora to search for my lost car keys, which should be easy to spot, as they had a half meter strand of blue nylon cord attached to them. Around lunch time I finally gave up and began fishing. I chose to use a dry fly, which ended up being a poor decision, as there were only a few small grayling within the pool near the camp. In hind-sight, I should have known better, as I was fully aware of the fact that the fish would be more responsive to lightly-weighted nymphs before 2:00 pm. But still, I stubbornly waited for the dry fly fishing to improve, as I desperately wanted to experience the joy of catching a large grayling on a dry fly at least one more time before hanging up my fly rod for the long cold winter break!
At 2:00 pm, I drove across the railroad tracks at Lenora and walked down to the pool, where only a week ago I had been fishing with a dry fly. I looked down to see several grayling that were rising, but not one of them was larger than 30 centimeters in length. In the end I managed to persuade four of them, as well as a small brown trout, to accept my offering. I continued on my way and walked about a kilometer of the river, but couldn’t manage to find any other fish that were rising. The end of the fishing season didn’t quite match up to my expectations, but as they say: “life goes on”.
The setting sun cast an eerie orange glow and long shadows across the picturesque, autumn landscape, as I said a heartfelt good-bye to my beloved river and its fish. But as my heart was saying a fond farewell, my mind was already busy planning and dreaming of next year’s adventures on the Warm Vltava...