Graham Lumsdon and I are fifty this year, I know hard to believe! We decided to mark the occasion by returning to Slovenia. I also celebrated my 40th in this beautiful country and have been a couple of other times to boot. We were going for four full days fishing and the plan was a simple one the Soca on the first day with two days on the trophy section of the Sava and we left Monday open to options. Perhaps another day on the Soca. I am going to split the trip up into three parts for blogging purposes. This first part will cover our arrival and first days fishing.
We had a confirmed party of four Lindsay Simpson, Graham Lumsdon, Del Spry and Graeme Sharp. Graham has a knack for planning these trips with almost military precision and this one was to be no exception. He had booked us two apartments’ in Bled. The Viktoria Apartments are only a five-minute walk from the center of Bled and I cannot recommend them highly enough. They were clean and spacious with a sitting area that could accommodate up to six anglers. We had a room each but if your party was up to six this would still be a great option. Bled offers a multitude of options for eating out but again Graham had done the homework and we ended up eating in Gostilna Pri Planincu we all ordered the mixed grill and waddled home much contented.
An early start the next day and the prospect of the first days fishing had us all to bed after a few night caps. I was to drive
the first day and was more than a little nervous we were traveling over the Vršič Pass with an elevation of 1,611 meters (5,285 ft), it’s a high mountain pass across the Julian Alps in the northwestern part of Slovenia. It is the highest pass in Slovenia, as well as the highest in the Eastern Julian Alps. It connects Upper Carnola with the Trenta Valleyin the Slovene Latoral. The road across the pass, known as the Russian Road, was built for military purposes, to supply the Isonzo Front of World War 1. Anyway enough history it has more hairpin bends than you can shake a stick at. I am sure the boys were more than a little nervous and there were some sharp intakes of breath. Still I managed not to crash or even scratch the car and we arrived at the confluence of the Soca and the Lepena. There is a campsite here that sells tickets which includes quite a bit of water to go at. We were all more than a little dismayed when we noticed the car park was full of other anglers cars many setting up as we arrived. In the morning we decided to fish the tributary first. We split into pairs and ambled up the river trying to get our bearings from previous trips. Every place you could fit a vehicle on that road had cars in with anglers either tackling up or making their way towards the river. Graeme and I had identified a run that we were getting into a position to fish when straight out of the tree line another angler stalked purposefully right into the spot. Bugger as we moved up to the next run another angler could be seen fishing the run. I had spotted a tiny little run that I thought might hold at least one fish and decided to give it a go.
As you can see from the pictures the water is crystal clear. I was glad of my knee pads as I crawled up the pebbly bottom. Graeme had moved up a bit and I made my first cast, BANG! I was straight into a hard fighting Rainbow. These fish are really strong they have to be to hold in the powerful currents of the river. I soon had it netted and had called Graeme for a quick photo. I persevered with similar small runs for nothing before dropping back on the opposite bank to the angler that had walked out earlier. There was a small run that he could not reach from his position but I had managed to crawl up and secrete myself behind a large boulder. As I peeped round the rock I could see what looked like some very good fish. After several fruitless casts eventually I had a slight indication and lifted into a huge fish. At first it ran straight towards me and when I saw it my heart was in my mouth it was the biggest fish I have ever seen in a river. A large brown trout, it bolted straight into the current effortlessly. Then ran straight to the bottom of the pool at one point the angler on the other bank was in a better position to net the fish than me. It tore back up stream straight into the head of the pool, I had now retrieved all my line onto the reel. As the fight went on my confidence that I could land this monster started to grow. I moved down the bank to get below the fish and as I did the fish bolted at speed for the cover of some nearby branches I was powerless to stop it and inevitably the fish won the day snapping my fly from the line. I cannot describe the feeling fully but although I was very disappointed to have not netted the fish a sense of exhilaration and elation that I had been connected to that force of nature for a short time will never leave me.
After that, the pool was wrecked and I made my way back towards the others. We walked downstream grumbling about the population of anglers on the trib. A rough estimate would be about 20 other anglers it was more akin to rivers national than a pleasant day. Del had managed a couple of fish one of them being the much-coveted Marble trout. This was my fourth trip and I was yet to see one in my net. Del had been here twenty minutes and had already scratched it off the grand slam list! The boys decided to walk further up the beat I had spotted a nice looking deep run that was free of anglers (most were not) and decided to fish it hard. I could see at least three fish in the run and resolved to get them all. One was regularly coming from deep to take large stone flies right of the surface. A change to a large stimulator proved successful another cracking Rainbow. I switched to a heavy bug in order to rest the water a little and to reach the fish that were sitting 5’-6’ down. It took several changes of the fly before the trusty Mull Killer did the damage. Several more fly changes saw another fish fall to the net. It was time to head back to the car for lunch and a catch up with the others. We bumped into the bailiff who checked our licenses (they are all over this) he said that most anglers had moved off the main river because snowmelt had coloured it. We had a hot meal and a couple of cola beers, they call it Diesel in Slovenia very refreshing and most welcome on a blisteringly hot day. Graham and Del decided to fish up towards the gorge whilst Graeme and I decided to fish the main river. We pushed quite a long way down for no reward. I had snapped my net magnet while hunkering down and was now carrying it with my day sack. We had reached a large pool near a bridge and I had just missed a fish. Several fish could be seen in the run and they were sitting deep in a powerful current. Graeme had joined me and was yet to break his duck, I left him to it and moved further down and crossed the river over a bridge. From the bridge I could see a small number of fish, they did not seem to be feeding but what the hey let’s give it a go.
After about 40 minutes of bouncing different flies of the fishes nose I decided to try the big dry fly. I had seen what I thought was a small fish darting out from the cover of some rocks and taking something off the surface. I had made several casts but my complete inability to put the fly where I wanted was hindering my progress. Perseverance was the key though and eventually, I got it just right and out popped the fish and duly engulfed the fly. As the rod bent over I instinctively reached round for my net and grabbed thin air! As a scrambled round looking for my net handle a glance across to the other bank confirmed it was lying on the other bank with my day-sack containing my camera. I turned back to look at the fish which was thrashing around on the surface and realized it was a marble trout. I shouted to Graeme who was on the other side of the river and he duly raced over to assist me. The fish was beaten and it was dangling precariously from my hook while a waited on Graeme arriving from the other side of the river a small prayer escaped my lips willing the fish to hang on. Graeme passed me the net and the prize was safely slipped inside. What a feeling I was absolutely buzzing it was a cracking looking fish. I will always be grateful to Graeme for making the dash across the river to save the day. I did not fish much after that and resorted to taking some photographs of the breath taking scenery around me. It was time to make the hike back up to the car.
When Graeme and I arrived back Del and Graham were taking a few fish in front of the camp site. I managed to get a few photos of the boys then we put our heads together to discuss where we would fish the evening rise. Del had fished dries most of the day and had enjoyed the most success of the group. He had been fishing a large black stimulator which I assume the fish were taking for the copious amount of stoneflies littering the water. Del kindly gave me one and we moved to the main river to try and tempt some risers. Not long into the session, I had a fish come and slash at the fly but failed to connect. Only a few casts later and a decent fish came to claim the big black fly. There was no mistake this time, my rod buckled over and a hefty Rainbow took to the air it fought like fury in the deep and fast current. I watched as it drifted downstream of me just out of reach of my net and then it had the full advantage of the current and as I tried to slow up its progress the tippet snapped. I fished up another hundred yards or so but was pooped and decided to call it a day. The others were tired as well and with a lack of an evening rise we decided to head back across the mountain.
It was a fantastic day for me anyway some of the lads had struggled through and between us we probably only managed 15 odd fish. The high density of anglers was not helpful and did detract from the day. Comparing the river to ten years ago is like chalk and cheese. As Graham was driving us back over the pass I wondered when I would return to this valley with its stunning scenery and unique Marble trout. Unless it starts to be managed better by controlling the number of anglers allowed to fish on any one day I fear the river has seen its best days past. We as a group ruled out returning on Monday the long drive and hard days fishing had taken a lot out of us. Still, a very short drive for the next two days on the trophy section of the Sava to come bring it on!