In anticipation of fishing on mysterious Vipava River, a lot of planning went in… the memories of glorious, off days and average days intermixing with the facts what hatches were on, tactics that were successful, have preceded the longish talks with my colleague.
Our week started with a lot of commotion, driving across Slovenia, non-fly fishing related activities taking a toll on me, finding me with a sore throat and not feeling great on Friday prior the second Saturday in May. Looking at hatch diaries, have found me with a solid plan. But by the end of the day, plans travel the different direction. Arriving at Vipava Valley app. 8 o'clock and overlooking the water level on one of higher vantage points, has brought a first smile on my lips. Water level picture perfect, fish still inactive, by the look at first marble hiding just below the submersed boulder, the idea was formed, to start the fishing on a slower parts around town Vipava and only then move to the lower parts, which shall be more challenging. Swift change into waders, long sleeves on, as the sun was already well up and sunburn was not an option. The bora wind was up and gaining on speed, therefore decided to take a stronger rod – Sage One 4100, which in my eyes makes for a great larger water stick, especially as am mostly abusing my BIIx 386 as an allrounder rod for most fishing. A One rod has a lot of backbone, stable tip, just the mid-section a bit less progressive then am used to. In comparison to my main lithe rod, which was out of the option for a windy day like this, a hefty stick.
Prospecting the water, the direct sun obscuring the clear view into depths, was left blinded by reflections and ripples forming on the surface. The windy guts, were just too much for the first shallow water flat, therefore have moved upriver in search of more suitable terrain. A hundred meters higher, the river bed was cut into the valley, with the dykes lessening the wind speed, which had a desired effect of making the water surface almost ripples and enabling a good look in the water. First few steps were too daring and first fish shot from the shallows. Next steps were more cautious and I've seen enough. Two larger wild trout on-feed in the knee-deep water, close to my casting position. Repositioned myself, taking few steps behind the higher uncut grasses and bending my knee to not let my shadow scaring fishes into the run. An unweighted Baetis nymph didn’t do the trick in first two casts, therefore quick retie with the proven caddis pupa. On the second drift, the fish deflected somewhat from the position, lifting the rod tip and a nice trout shot through the shallow area to the submerged roots. I knew it had to be stopped, thus few turns of the head, when the speed was down and the fish subdued to the pressure, another fast run for hiding and just another interplay, which got her back to the shallows 40 meters from the feeding lane. Up and down she went, using a bit faster current to get freed from unwanted iron. Few turnings and last run, has tamed her and quickly brought to hand. Obligatory shots and off she went, seeking refugee of the other side bushes.
Just ten meters above the position the second fish was feeding on unidentified mayflies in the film. First cast was off and the fish has seen the hunter, flying low for the seek-out, alarming most fishes on the run. Five minutes pause has seen smaller fish retaking the positions, but such quarry was not in cards today. Therefore, few single spey casts to the other side bushes, with no luck. The fly was changed to the imitative Baetis nymph size 16 again and shoot with a switch just below the willow bushes. I got goose bumps, seeing the ghostly shape materializing and a big shadow moving in the position, where my head was telling me, the nymph shall be traveling. A lift of the rod tip produced eruption and fish rolling below the willows. “My Fortuna”, I though she chosen the run down-river. But the solid marble was unstoppable – 0.12 (6x) tippet was way too thin to make any difference and I just let her fly. The next moment, I already predicted the outcome, breaking the nylon, fish off line seeking cover. Not a lot I could’ve done… A fish estimated at seventy plus, will be sought on location next time. Left speechless and so empty, the feeling most fishers know so well, has seen me walking up-river casting to that or other fishy looking position. Spotting a big hatchery rainbow, casting and bang off she went again – she was havin’ an upper hand today.
A few obligatory MMS sent to colleagues, has brought beeps and phone began to ring, as P was descending to Valley. We settled to meet at location way down river, therefore I hit the grocery store, buying drinks and sandwiches, few bananas to make me through the day. Five minutes resume of the morning fishing and we went different direction.
Me choosing the deeper/slower parts below the bridge, the colleague moving to the shallow outflow of the pool, where fish were covering the faster right side of the river. Although fish were in the feeding zone, me was not scoring. Not seeing the fish moving for the nymph, was too big a hurdle to be mastered with my classic nymphing approach. Am not favoring the newer “direct contact” nymphing techniques (French, Spanish, Polish, Czech) in use today. But still to be straight here, advocate of the longish leader, have tried to refine the classic nymphing technique to the point, where classic nymphing gets challenging, but still rewarding enough to be pursued constantly. Admittedly, with French nymphing technique I could have possibly detected the strike, but with the classic technique and long leaders (well over 5 m) this seemed to be not feasible. Colleague fishing below my position, fifty meters or so, using the same approach scored success, but he was in advantage to see the fish in action and all moves were countered with a good catch rate. Few wonderful wild fish in class 40 to 45 cm – hybrids and brown trout – released, before fish sank to inactive phase. Just before that, me was overlining a beau taking dries from the surface, going nuts and not showing itself. No fish for me on this stretch!
We moved downriver, prospecting fish here and there, but we decided to fish the lower parts, where the river is not enclosed into channel. The river is meandering almost freely there, few fish were noticed and few caught, wild ones, nothing large by the way. P was noting the fall of grayling population in this part, potentially the consequence of black birds. When talking over the possibilities, we spotted a big grayling in one of the faster runs. Choosing first the larger BH Baetis nymph (size 16), she took it swiftly, but me missed the strike. Few minutes later, he was on again, this time on an unweighted midge pupa size 19. The fight was fair, but honestly me disliking the fish that is willing to stay in the position to get caught by the fishermen, if only they persist. Most graylings are like this…
We move another two hundred meters downriver, but besides beautiful views, fish activity almost nil. Moving up-river again we decided to await the evening hatch in our fav position, I was still having open cards with the fish from afternoon. After another half an hour, the first fish showed itself, but the fishing was slow or just not hitting the right fly. The situation changed slowly, me retying few emergers – un-successfully and moving on to the low riding dries. Size 20 Baetis did the trick taking the beautiful bow and then the beau showed itself again. Not taking the emergers in the first drifts and put down again for another five minutes. The sipping on the other side, few meters higher startled me on, shooting the line on the other side. The second drift between intersecting currents was better and fish has gulped down the fly. All hell broke loose, with the fish turning in the shallows and moving fast to the swifter water. The rod bent till midsection and me fully tensed, but still the relaxation sunk-in, as I got into zone after awaiting the act for a half a day. P was speechless, and we have seen the fish for the first time few meters below us and vice versa. As soon as we were parallel each other, a solid marble got scared again rolling and trying to maneuver the current to unhook itself, back to the roots on the other side, where I had to put all the pressure I hoped to not break the tippet and turning it again into the faster water. After few nervous minutes, the fish finally surrendered and I made a few pics, unhooking a solid wild marble trout of app. 56 cm (22 inches). No long admiration possible, as she turned and took the fin the other side. I though, that was it for today. Took the walk to the car, when the real action started. In the slower water I’ve seen few fish rising over and over again. Huh, the casting window was rather narrow, but already the third cast was fully acceptable, another wild marble taking the same dry and landed. The second fish was down, but it didn’t take more than few minutes to get the party started again. The second fish in contact, but went loose after ten seconds, guess a bad hook-up. The day already surpassed all expectations.
Me still on fire decided to have a last look over the bridge, where few fish were rising each few seconds. My nerves were down soon, taking the position just 10 meters below the fish and taking the bow on 10thdrift. Really, the fish was so picky, it took her a while to sip down the artificial fly – a bow taking air and landed soon. Few smaller hybrids later I called it a day, as P was already getting starved and us hitting the pizza joint and ordering a pint of beer to wash down the perfect day. What was left was a longish drive home, but who could complain after such a day! Fishing gods were with us today - hope to get back as soon as possible…