The summary of last year’s fly fishing season at chalk-stream Gacka has been long seasoning in my mind. One of the reasons being so much complexity been confronted with, from the COVID global situation, linked to restrictions in traveling, to varying levels of activity at water - not an easy task to put a final verdict on it. Therefore, decided to take the middle way, describing few episodes from the water and by the end try to pull the free strings together. Even though my memories over time distilled into the resume, it is a subjective perception of my fly fishing journey at Gacka. Keep this limitation in mind, when you read on...
For the starting point, have to state, the last few seasons have been overwhelmed by the brown trout activity at River Gacka. The native fish populations have been improving year to year and it was easy to claim, the River is slowly regaining its former glory. This year was rather different in many ways.
Let’s start with the season start. On 1st of March, the overcast sky has greeted us in the Valley. Morning temperatures still low, but our heart was beating higher, knowing we are back to the stream. The trees slowly regaining some green, first buds opening. The fishing attitude high, as always on the trout opener. First brown trout spotted, few refusals and gone it was. By mid-day had two smallish native brown trout in net, all other long distance release(d) - took the fly and off they swam. The wind had picked up and we had hard time at the water. Successful nymphing was out of option. Finally, had to resettle to streamer fishing, which for me says it all. Not my favorite technique of trout fishing to put it mildly. A sole trout released and I had it for that day. Even though we encountered a solid, but short, hatch of LDO’s (Large Dark olive – probably Baetis rhodani), only few smaller brown trout keying on emergers. From my memories we should have seen some bulging action of rainbow trout in “Marches” section, but we had none of it in gentle flowing river. Driving back home, we were looking forward to our next session.
Which, wasn’t as near as we hoped for. The restriction due to the COVID pandemic, has locked us down for next two months. Only in May we started fishing, but had to wait till begin of June to visit Gacka again.
The first outing was in first week of June. Already on the drive-in have been discussing the fishing opportunities lost in spring. Hatches not encountered, that will have to wait till next year. Our hopes high – as they always are. Morning fishing was slow, few brown trout moved, one solid sized and a single rainbow trout. Even fishing through a morning midge hatch, not many rainbow trout were spotted. Obviously, something wrong with the rainbow population this year. Just before mid-day hatch of BWO’s (Baetidae), I spotted a lunker brown trout in the depth. Third cast of a smaller olive HD nymph on an extra-long fine tippet, presented good 12 meters from the trout position, has produced a drift, that moved a big old fish just a bit. The time stood still for a split second, which from my memory felt like eternity and then the hook was set subconsciously. Only then - all the hell broke loose. Yelling to my colleague, not to come to near, as the fish was unnerved and any shadow on the water would bring it into berserk. Myself moving away from the stream and hardly controlling the bursts of speed – seeking the green cover in the deep. As soon as it slowed the head shakes started. With the time the fish was getting slower and the shakes were less desperate. I had to remain calm, as one wrong move would account for a trout lost. Few times was short for netting the trout, but eventually it all came together. A lunker size Gacka brown trout is all I needed for the day. Only, there were few more brown trout around 20 inches mark, that day. Besides, obvious big fish appeal, that day was characterized by a good number of solid native brown trout. As you’ll read on, that was rather an exceptional day then the rule. Next day, the fishing was still good, but less brown trout above the average landed.
A good week later, back to the Valley. Possibly the best thing coming out of this troubled time, was having more time during the season for myself. A difference of only a week, has made a big difference in fish activity. Still a good number of native brown trout brought for inspection, but size-wise well away to the week before. Speaking with the river warden, crowds have been hitting the Gacka during the weekend and any native trout was hard to get to the net. Obviously, referring to sight fishing for native brown trout. When such trout is alerted it is not easy to get it to take the artificial fly. Only one good sized rainbow trout released. River warden mentioned cormorants being responsible for the decrease of population. Honestly, I don’t very much care for the rainbow trout in our natural streams, but have to admit, they make fly fishing more interesting at times. At Gacka they were synonym for a great film-sub-surface feeding activity.
Had two more fishing sessions at Gacka during high summer. Both good, but again nothing stellar. Few solid native brown trout landed, each time a very good native brown trout released, but that was because was targeting above average-size trout, when the activity window was on. Few average-size native brownies landed too. In September other obligations and high water were shifting our next trip. Unfortunately, in October we already faced the second wave of COVID epidemics.
While having read reports of fly fisherman from Gacka this year, their opinions vary. Most have observed the decrease of rainbow trout population. As already mentioned, that is not the worst development in my books. But what I am more concerned of, is such report may induce careless stocking of brown trout into the stream.
In my sole opinion, the population of native “Gacka” brown trout is not endangered, at least by sighting a good number of solid native trout, which will reproduce through early winter. The reason of concern is the base of smaller size native brown trout – which is IMO too thin. Especially in the upper part of Gacka with its strict C&R, the repopulation of native fish shall be proceeded in small steps only, strictly with the brown trout of natural progeny. If that is too broad, let’s proceed with care from the Marshes section up-river.
The Nature’s healing power is incredible – we just have to provide time for recovery!
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