I have recently returned from an incredible two week trip to Czech and the San River, in Poland. I have started to write about these in my Fishing on the Frontier series in Fish & Fly, and will fill in here with some further detail, because, frankly, there is so much to say! My great friend Wojtek Gibinski organised these trips and the first, to the Czech Republic, was essentially unknown territory for us. We stayed for the most part at the splendid Hotel Annin, hosted by the enormously hospitable Patrik Jedlicka and fished for four days over a great range of water types on the Otava, from a torrent water in the mountainous region at the top of the valley, to more sedate flows 40km downstream. On the upper river the quarry was entirely brown trout, while there was a mix of rainbows (both wild and stocked), brown trout and grayling (which dominated) farther downstream.
I could give almost endless superlatives and description of the Otava, because we all fell in love with it, but will refrain from doing so other than to say that this river is exactly how a mixed trout and grayling water should be; utterly pristine and protected, both in and out of the Sumava National Park, through which it flows, from industry, agriculture, forestry or, so far as we could see, any human activity whatsoever.
It might be argued, I suppose, that the introduction of rainbow trout could be seen as negative in this sense, although I wonder about this, having observed numerous European rivers where rainbows have at some time been stocked, and have become established. I have never observed an adverse affect on the grayling or native trout population and believe that all these species occupy essentially different niches in their habitats.
There are, apparently, also brook trout stocked into the Otava, although none of our group caught a single one of these, and with the group’s total catch of all species from the Otava, over four days, being in excess of a 1,000, we reasoned there could not be many of this char species present! For our last two days in Czech, we travelled deeper into the Sumava to fish the Tepla Vltava, tributary of the Vltava. Reminiscent of a chalk stream in northern France, The Tepla Vltava, for me, was a jewel of a river, even after the dazzling catches we had made from the Otava.
The revered Czech fly fishing master Jan Siman accompanied us on the Vltava.
The grayling population is colossal in these beautifully healthy rivers. It was fascinating to watch how each member of our eight strong group, along with Patrik and Jan, dealt with the fishing. At one extreme, we had the excellent nymph fishing abilities of Paul Sissons while at the other was my own dry fly approach, and everything in between, including two of the best all-round river anglers I have ever known; Tom Speak and Gavin Walsh. It is pointless, really, passing on the cricket score numbers of fish that we caught and I should really just recount particular experiences. Interestingly, the FIPS Mouche European Championship in neighbouring Slovakia was just ending as we arrived in Czech, and this was a discussion point, particularly in light of the very similar rivers that we were fishing, and at the same time of year.
England had slipped as usual to the ignominy of the mid-order in the championship (while, of course, the consistently great European teams such as Czech, Spain, Italy and France had taken the top spots) and, given that England undeniably possesses such first-rate competitive fly fishers as those in the current team, the conversations revolved about how this has come to be. My own opinion, based on time within the team, and having fished with so many other national team members in the past, is that it is not a problem with any of the excellent competitors themselves, rather than a mixture of the completely inadequate selection process, and then wholly inappropriate practice or training sessions, and almost no coaching whatsoever. The latter should involve development on championship-like sections of river, and the most difficult water therein. It is utterly pointless to practice on the easiest water that a river possesses. This is a huge weakness of all the lesser teams in international competition, among which, I am sorry to say, includes Team England. While in Czech several of us enjoyed rapid catches into the forties and fifties, before electing to concentrate on improving our approach on more challenging sections of river, or attempting to find the larger trout and, particularly, big grayling (which are always the greatest challenge in the single-handed fly rod sport).
I shall look deeper into the fishing experience on Otava and Vltava (and the awesome San River in Poland) in further posts – and also in the Frontier series in Fish and Fly.
In the meantime, for more information on a highly recommended visit to the rivers of the Sumava region, take a look at www.hotelannin.cz and www.siman.cz; both essential first ports of call for fishing in this incredible country.