One More Time By Rene’ Harrop

The latest monthly field report from Rene’ Harrop – American fly fishing guide, author and consultant for Airflo.

Aside from time spent away in the military, I do not recall being anywhere other than the Harriman Ranch on June 15.

June 15

June 15

Even as a very young boy in the 1950’s, the traditional opening of fishing within the Ranch was a date of supreme importance. What seemed a long journey in those days, the annual family fishing excursion was actually only a 65 mile drive up old U.S. 47 to Island Park. To both my father and grandfather the Ranch, as it is still most commonly known, represented a special fishing opportunity. And that awareness was firmly implanted in the mind of a fledgling angler not yet 10 years old.

Ranch Rainbow

Ranch Rainbow

On Monday just passed, I was joined by members of two subsequent generations in my son and youngest grandson in a renewal of an annual ritual as important as any in my lifetime. Along with Bonnie, whose time fishing the ranch water extends back nearly 4 decades, we joined a parade of like-minded fly fishers numbering perhaps as many as 60 or 70 individuals on the trail running downstream from the Last Chance Access at around 9:00 A.M.

Within less than an hour, both banks were lined with the year’s first human visitors for as far down river as the eye could see. With at least one fisherman positioned about every 50 yards, just finding an open spot to await the appearance of rising fish was a bit of a challenge along the northern most mile of the Ranch section, but on opening day it doesn’t seem to matter.

At more than 100 yards wide and quite wadeable, this section of the Henry’s Fork is unique in its ability to accommodate the exceptional numbers that will be mostly gone within a few days. And remarkably, this predominantly mannerly gathering seems able to coexist on the water with only minimal conflict.

Slow Water Performance

Slow Water Performance

I think this orderly conduct can be best explained by a sense of reverence that folks seem to possess for the history, tradition, and continuing influence that are represented by the gentle and fertile currents in which they stand. This is not a place for the selfish, greedy, or inconsiderate, and seldom are these characteristics revealed, even at the busiest of times.

On this day, my family and I were just happy to be there as part of something larger than ourselves, and our fishing success was of secondary importance. The reconnection with old friends seen only at this time of year combined with becoming acquainted with new faces that may become so somewhere down the road.

Working The Edge

Working The Edge

John McDaniel spoke of the “Ranch Culture” in his excellent book dedicated to the Harriman Ranch portion of the river. I agree with his comments pertaining to the age of those most often observed fishing this water. Most anglers I saw this week would be closer to 60 than 40, and this is somewhat troubling to one who might fear the coming of a new and somewhat indifferent attitude toward what fishing the Ranch has represented going back to when it was purchased by the Harriman Family more than a century ago.

For myself, the highlight of opening day 2015, was watching my 15 year old grandson land a very respectable rainbow hooked on a flawless upstream cast that was preceded by a skillful approach that told me he knew exactly what was needed.

I believe that in our descendants go ourselves and, therefore, we continue beyond mortal existence. Brogan Harrop is the most recent of five generations with whom I have shared the Ranch experience. My oldest great grandchild is 5 years old and with luck, I will live to include a sixth.

Freedom by Rene’ Harrop

For a fly fishermen living at high elevation in Yellowstone country, the arrival of May is like the release date from a prison sentence.

Whether through biological management measures or restrictive climatic influence, many attractive trout waters are not available for fishing until the flowers bloom and migrating birds have returned for nesting.

Henry's Lake Cutthroat

Henry’s Lake Cutthroat

On the Idaho side of the Park where I live, all but the Harriman Ranch will be relieved of seasonal management restrictions by the end of May and the same applies to any water that remained iced over prior to that time.

Across the border in Montana, opening of the general fishing season occurs about two weeks earlier than Yellowstone, which for most park waters is Memorial Day Weekend.

May - Henry's Fork

May – Henry’s Fork

With the road to another summer now clear I can turn full attention to the most serious business of life, which is fishing. With fly boxes fully restocked and all other tackle items ready to go, freedom is obscured only by the move back to Island Park from our winter home on the lower Henry’s Fork. Once completed, I am virtually surrounded by more temptation than even a disciplined man should be expected to withstand, and I have never been especially strong in that regard.

Sheridan Morning

Sheridan Morning

From our cabin, the Henry’s Fork is nearly within casting range and rivers like the Madison or Fire Hole are less than an hour away. Rested still waters like Henry’s, Sheridan, and Hebgen do not make my choice easy on where to spend any given day, and I have been known to hit as many as three of these irresistible fisheries between sunrise and dark.

Nice Loop On The Fire Hole

Nice Loop On The Fire Hole

I spend six months of each year living in this mountainous dream world, and May is just the beginning.

Back In the Game By Rene’ Harrop

While it is still winter here in the Rocky Mountain west, March is a time when I become serious about getting back on the water.

Whether on still or moving water, icing is the most limiting factor for fly fishing during the months of December through February. And while all of our lakes are still frozen solid, the Henry’s Fork is finally ice free.

Back In The Game

Back In The Game.

A stray blizzard or single digit temperatures are only temporary disruptions when the hours of daylight begin to equal those of darkness. However, in 2017 deep snow and tall ice banks along the river’s edge are a lingering impediment to accessing some of the more attractive parts of the river.

Island Park and the upper Henry’s Fork will have to wait for several more weeks but with less than half of the four foot snow depth forty miles upstream, the river near my winter home is providing some much needed relief to a long deprived angler.

Early Brown

Early Brown.

A bright, sunny day may not produce the best results in terms of midge or Baetis hatches but it is definitely the most comfortable time to be on the water. A day without overcast skies will usually find me drifting weighted nymphs in the shallower riffles with a six weight rod or swinging a streamer through the deeper runs with a seven weight. However, I look forward most to a day that shows promise of clouds and a temperature above 40ᵒ F. Dry fly fishing with my favorite four-weight is what I think about most through the months of deep winter, and I need these conditions to get back into my favorite game.

Although a rainbow approaching nine pounds in weight came on a March day many years back, most fish taken at this time of year are relatively modest in size. And with trout activity slowed by cold water temperature, a group of crossing whitetail deer may be the most interesting event of the day.

March Rainbow

March Rainbow.

While catching fish is always the primary objective, I am happy to again feel the push of the current on my legs and the presence of a good rod in my hand.

The river holds the smell of a spring not yet arrived but drawing near and the sound of its movement speaks of life.

Most of all, my mind is filled with all that lies ahead in a new season and the comforting knowledge that March is just the beginning.

Just The Beginning

Just The Beginning…

An Impressive Fly Line – The Airflo River and Stream

Testing fly lines for Airflo holds multiple pleasures, not the least of which is the excuse to fish more. However, sampling new technologies always seems to bring added excitement to an otherwise ordinary day on the water.

Admittedly, there are occasions when it takes a little time to warm up to a new design that might be intended to replace something that I have already found to be quite satisfactory. But this was not the case on a summer day spent with Airflo Sales Rep, Brandon Prince.

“Don’t let the name fool you”, he said as we spooled up the River and Stream Taper (aka the ‘lake pro’ in the UK) at the TroutHunter Fly Shop.  It was early August and we were headed for Sheridan Lake and a session with its beefy Kamloops rainbows.

Testing on still water

Testing on still water.

Rarely am I blown away by the first cast with any item of tackle but there is no better way to describe my response to the River and Stream.

Fishing multiple wet flies on more than twenty feet of leader, I was instantly impressed by the smoothness of the line and its aerial stability as I shot a seventy foot cast with amazing ease toward a big cruising Kamloops.

A Nice Kamloops

A Nice Kamloops.

With a hand grip weakened by time and more than forty years of professional fly tying, I appreciated the reduced effort required to push long and accurate casts over a three hour period on the lake.

The versatility of the River and Stream came instantly into effect when the trout began sipping Callibaetis mayflies from the surface at around noon.

In this dry fly situation I was compelled to constantly adjust the casting distance from as close as twenty feet to as far as I could reach as the big cruisers fed erratically about the boat. The River and Stream shifted easily to this contrasting type of fishing as it consistently accommodated every requirement.

Long cast to a rise

Long cast to a rise.

I fished the River and Stream exclusively on still waters that also included Henry’s and Hebgen Lake through mid-October, and my affection only deepened for this impressive line.

It was nearly November when I finally began to apply the line toward its designated purpose. Adjusting the leader to a short, aggressive taper, I found the River and Stream to perform perfectly for streamer fishing on the lower Henry’s Fork, where I finished the season chasing big brown trout.

Test on moving water

Test on moving water.

The arrival of February places a return to the water only a few weeks away, when testing of the River and Stream will resume. Midges, Baetis and smaller nymphs will be the name of the game in the beginning, but more diversity on moving water will come as the season advances. Based on experience thus far, I do not expect to be disappointed.

In the interim, I will continue to stock up on still water flies for those days when I know what line I will be fishing. Brandon was right, the River and Stream is more than its descriptive title implies.

Five Reasons To Live In Henry’s Fork Country

The temperature when I arose this morning was nearly twenty degrees below zero. From my second floor studio window I look out at a world buried in snow with the knowledge that it will likely remain this way for at least the next two months.

For many who have not experienced life in this kind of climate it is reasonable to question the judgment if not the sanity of a man whose life largely revolves around fly fishing.

While it is doubtful that any explanation will fully satisfy those skeptics, I believe there are some who can appreciate at least five of the reasons that I make my home in Henry’s Fork country.

Rainbow trout that reside in the Henry’s Fork grow large on a diet consisting mainly of aquatic insects, and I know of no other river where a twenty six incher will take a size 16 or even smaller dry fly.

Henry's Fork Rainbow

Henry’s Fork Rainbow trout.

About half the length of the Henry’s Fork holds a healthy population of brown trout. Though I am acquainted with others from similar origin, this European immigrant commands the highest respect and appreciation.

Henry's Fork Brown.

Henry’s Fork Brown

Fishing for smallish brook trout in tributary streams takes me fondly back to my youth, but the brookies of Henry’s Lake can exceed eight pounds. And though I am a nostalgic man at this point in life, I am far more likely to be found on the lake than some tiny creek.

Brook Trout

Brook Trout

The native trout of this region, Yellowstone Cutthroat have been reduced to a small percentage of their original habitat. The headwaters of the Henry’s Fork host a minor population of these natives but they thrive in Henry’s Lake where they grow especially large.

Native Yellowstone Cutt

Native Yellowstone Cutt.

Cut-bows are a mixture of cutthroat and rainbow trout. These hard fighting hybrids are quite common in the Henry’s Fork but it is Henry’s Lake where they have become most prominent. The largest known cut-bow from that amazing still water fishery exceeded seventeen pounds.

A Cutt-bow'

A Cutt-bow’

Yes, winter can be long in Henry’s Fork country but it will eventually pass. And while a significant separation from fly fishing must be endured as a result, the harshest of seasons provides the source of my happiness.

Snow that piles deep in the high country becomes the water that assures continued existence for the five big reasons for living here.

5 Reasons to Go Fishing in Newcastle

Whether you’re an expert in angling or your looking to try your hand at fly fishing, Newcastle upon Tyne’s waters make this city an ideal location for fishermen visiting from across the country.

With varied fishing opportunities in both the River Tyne and the city’s vast collection of angling lakes, there’s no shortage of fishing hotspots to explore in this vibrant metropolis.

Here are 5 reasons you should spend a long weekend casting your line, in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Bridge over Tyne

Image: Shutterstock
The Millennium bridge over the Tyne River

1. Fishing locations

Whether it’s the River Tyne or Stargate Pond, there’s no shortage of places for you to cast your line in Newcastle upon Tyne.

With the coast just a 10 minute drive away from the city centre, the North Sea is brimming with fishing opportunities. James Dixon of North East Kayak fisherman, has created his own location guide detailing the species of fish you can catch along the North East coast.

In addition to the bountiful coastline, Newcastle’s inland lakes and rivers boast a diverse selection of fish in it’s waters, attracting anglers from all over the country.

With 3 lakes spanning over 8 acres of water, the Angel of the North Fishing Lakes provide an unrivalled fishing experience for carp and coarse anglers. But if it’s salmon and sea trout you’re after, stick to the River Tyne.

2. Unrivalled views

Angel of the North

Image: Shutterstock
Angel of the North

From iconic landmarks to the spectacular views of the unspoilt countryside, angling in and around the city centre guarantees a day of peace.

As dusk falls and you pack up your fishing tackle gear for the day, head to the quayside and feast your eyes on the glittering illuminations of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

3. Salmon and sea trout spots

a-tyne-salmon

Image: Tyne Salmon Fishing Facebook
A large end of season Tyne Salmon

Attracting around 30,000 salmon each year, the River Tyne is famous for being England’s best river for catching salmon. A vast clean up of the waters has transformed the River Tyne into a haven for wildlife – and its thriving population of salmon and sea trout makes it one of the finest fishing spots in the UK.

With legendary Tyne salmon weighing up to 35lbs, as well as the river’s excellent coarse fishing opportunities, the Tyne promises a challenging catch.

4. Accessible surrounding areas

Image: Tyne Rivers Trust Fishing the Haughton Castle beat

Image: Tyne Rivers Trust
Fishing the Haughton Castle beat

The North East is famed for its affordability, and that includes Newcastle’s fishing opportunities.

Gain access to wild brown trout, salmon and grayling in a choice of 16 different beats within the area with the Tyne Angling Passport scheme. A day ticket from the Tyne Rivers Trust is available for just £8, and offers anglers the opportunity to fish across the Tyne catchment.

After packing up for the day after some great game fishing, why not take a look at the array of affordable and exciting activities in the city centre? Dine in style, or immerse yourself in culture at the Live Theatre. There’s no shortage of things to see and do in Newcastle upon Tyne.

5. An abundance of angling opportunities

Image: Leazes Park Beautiful scenes in the city’s Leazes Park.

Image: Leazes Park
Beautiful scenes in the city’s Leazes Park.

If you’re having to fit your fishing between other activities, you may not have time to travel to spots outside the city. Luckily, you don’t have to.

Just minutes from the city centre, Leazes Park offers roach, tench, bream and carp – perfect for spending an afternoon. Or wake up early and visit Big Waters nature reserve just north of the city. The convenient parking and inner-city public transport systems make it easy to access all corners of Newcastle – so you can make the most of your time in this vibrant city.

Newcastle is a haven of adventure. So, whether you’re seeking somewhere to angle or fancy walk along the treetops, this city is sure to bring you an experience like no other.

When Brown Trout Rule

While I am not immune to the temptation of a late Baetis hatch, I must confess to becoming thoroughly preoccupied with brown trout in the final weeks prior to the arrival of winter on the Henry’s Fork.

Henry's fork brown

Henry’s fork brown.

It is truly a hunter’s mind state that causes me to become armed with a big, nasty streamer and a seven weight fly rod. Moving at a more aggressive pace than usual, I will often cover several hundred yards of a promising run or deep riffle during the prime hours of potential.

A good run

A good run.

Reclusive by nature, a well-seasoned brown trout is at a peak point of accessibility from mid-October through late November. In obeying the mating instinct, even the largest and most secretive adults will occupy habitat that can be thoroughly probed by the determined angler seeking to prevail over a most elusive opponent.

A big, fall brown in full spawning mode is not responding to hunger when it slams a streamer. Instead, the strike is a fierce reaction to a perceived intruder that would challenge territorial dominance.

Uncommon objective

Uncommon objective.

Fast action and big numbers are seldom part of the deal when the objective is so far beyond what is common. A half dozen hours or more of continuous double hauling the big rod can seem, at times, more like work than pleasure. This is particularly true when the day’s effort produces little more than a good physical workout.

But when the drift is interrupted by the sudden presence of throbbing weight, all hours of futility vanish in a matter of seconds. A battle with a heavy fish can be its own reward, but the real prize is something completely visual.

The vivid colors of a fall brown trout are as striking as any in a season known for visual splendor. A big river brown is a muscular animal that seems built for combat, and there is a primal elegance in the powerful jaws and menacing teeth.

Elegant

Elegant.

I look forward to fall and the time when brown trout rule my consciousness with as much anticipation as any season of the year. But there are other times and other trout that are just as important.

And the attention I apply to the rainbow, cutthroat, brook trout, and cut-bows will be no less intense.

Winter Fly Fishing in the Sun

Fly fishing in river

Image source: Shutterstock
Fly to New Zealand in December for some much needed sunshine.

Just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean you have to fish in the cold. There’s a wealth of fly fishing destinations that are warm while we’re wrapped up in layers of fishing gear.

We’ve taken a month by month look at some of the best winter fly fishing destinations. Take a trip, stay warm, and check out some of the most exciting fly fishing on the planet.

November in the Bahamas

Wahoo fish

Image source: Shutterstock
Catch a Wahoo in The Bahamas

The Bahamas are paradise on Earth. Just ask any of the six million holidaymakers who flock there for the year-round summer and the postcard-perfect beaches.

It’s also a major draw for fly fishers. The world’s most famous bonefishing flats are in the Abacos, a group of 120 islands in the north. From November onwards you can also expect healthy hauls of barracuda, wahoo and snapper.

If you like the idea of a technical, yet rewarding challenge, the bonefish off the islands of Andros, swim right up to you. But when they’re hooked, they can swim off at up to 30mph. That’s when you’ll need to use your skills.

Tips
There are limits on the quantities of certain species. Bahamian fishing regulations require you to obtain a permit to fish, and there are bag limits on wahoo, kingfish and other species.

Fish on as many of the Abacos islands as possible with a chartered boat from Cruise Abaco. They hop from place to place and remain moored overnight, so you get to fish in different waters each day, and wake up in a different cove every morning.

December in the Antipodes

shutterstock_196834541

Image source: Shutterstock
The greatest prize for an angler

Giant black marlin are a tremendously prized catch. There’s no better place to nab one than the stunning Australian Great Barrier Reef in Cairns at the start of the Antipodean summer. These behemoths can weigh in at a massive 750kg.

If you prefer a more remote getaway, head to Cape York. These uninhabited islands have pristine beaches that are excellent for cod and salmon. You’ll need a 4×4 to reach them, but this can only add to the sense of adventure!

A third of New Zealand households once owned a fishing boat, writes Thomas Petch in Angler’s Mail. River fly fishing is just as important as sea fishing. The waters teem with trout at this time of year.

There’s plenty of accessible freshwater fishing in New Zealand. But if you’re after more of an adventure, the North Island is home to creeks and rivers that hold brown and rainbow trout. A count of the creeks in the Central region tallied around 900 fish per kilometre.

Tips
You need a license to fish in New Zealand. Applying online is very simple.

Giant marlin are the dinosaurs of fish. If you’re new to fly fishing, you’ll need an extra pair of hands and expert knowledge from a captain.

Your usual flies may not do the job on the other side of the world. Check out what’s likely to work south of the equator, and get your gotcha ready!

January in Cuba

barracuda

Image source: Shutterstock
There’s always plenty of fish in the Cuban sea

In Cuba’s Cayo Largo there really are “plenty more fish in the sea”. The catch-and-release fly fishing rule means there’s an almost limitless supply of permit, tarpon and barracuda. Guided fishing trips are the best way to experience these stunning waters, as beach fishing is prohibited.

It’s the country’s top resort, but you’re unlikely to spot other anglers along the island’s remarkably peaceful 25km of saltwater flats, as there are only a few boats that take anglers out each day. Its protected status means the sea is replete with coral, and on land you’ll see iguanas and pelicans.

Cayo Largo is just 30 minutes away by plane from the bustling cultural hub of Havana, so you can double up your fishing trip with some full-on tourism, too.

Tips
Avalon’s Fishing Centres provide chartered boats six days a week. They helpfully divide the vast marine park into six areas, taking you to a different one each day.

You’ll need a visa to visit Cuba.

Mosquitos can be voracious in this area. Pack plenty of repellent, or make sure you eat your Marmite before you go!

February in Kenya

Sailfish out of water

Image source: tribe-watersports
Hook yourself a sailfish in Malindi

Kenya’s Malindi coastline is one of the only places where it’s possible to achieve a fantasy slam – that’s hooking five types of billfish in one day, including swordfish and marlin.

The undisturbed beaches are stunning. Early in the year is peak billfish season. It’s also when the weather is at its warmest and driest. February’s the peak time for marlin in this area, and sailfish are in plentiful supply. Further north in Lamu, billfish thrive, and you can pick a fight with a yellowfin tuna in reasonably shallow water.

The town of Malindi merges Italian, Muslim and African influences into its food, architecture and art, so you get a brilliant fly fishing and cultural winter sun break rolled into one.

Tips
Pack a waterproof camera. Whales, dolphins and turtles inhabit these waters. You’ll want to record these images to show everybody back home.

There are over a dozen clubs with boats and crew to accompany you out to sea. It’s a world class fishing destination, so you’ll find it easy to find experienced guides here.

Winter months in Panama and the Florida Keys

Tarpon fish

Image source: Shutterstock
Tarpon jumping for joy in the Florida Keys

Hanging off the southern tip of Florida is Key West. Much of the fly fishing here is done on the flats, which are areas of sea where fish congregate to feed. Think of them like jungle clearings – underwater.

Bonefish, tarpon, redfish and snook are all in abundance during our winter months, and there’s no shortage of experienced guides to take you to the best flats for fishing.

Heading further south? In the local language, Panama means ‘abundance of fish.’ Dorado, fierce deep red cubera snapper and the striking mahi mahi, are all ready to be caught in this Central American country. You can fish from rocky coastlines or sandy beaches.

Gatun Lake in the North of Panama offers amazing freshwater fly fishing for peacock bass and tropical bluegill along with a myriad of tropical species. Protected for over 100 years, the lake is also host to land species like howler monkeys, anteaters and three-toed sloths, making it a nature-lover’s paradise.

Almost entirely surrounded by sea, Panama’s just two and a half hours by plane from Miami.

Tips
In Florida you don’t need a license if you’re fly fishing from a charter boat, this is covered by the company.

If you’re going solo you need to buy one online from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation‘s website or from a local tackle shop.

Yellowfin tuna are at lower numbers in January and February, but this is the peak period for black and blue marlin at up to 600lbs.

There’s a huge fishing world out there beyond the northern hemisphere. Where has your pursuit of winter fishing in the sun taken you? Share your stories on our Facebook page.

Bosnia – The Grayling Dreamscape

Having served in Bosnia in 1999, I never thought that I’d swap a rifle for a fly rod and actually return to fish some of its rivers. I love my small stillwater fishing, so this trip would be something new – a group fishing expedition in search of wild trout and grayling from Bosnia’s world famous Ribnik and Pliva rivers.

So what can you expect in terms of the fishing, hospitality and fun?  Read on to find out!

Fly fishing in Bosnia

Fly fishing in Bosnia.

You just know you’ve made a great decision, when Alex Jardine of Aardvark McLeod, asks if you’re interested in joining a hosted fishing trip to Bosnia? How can you not say yes? The first thing I asked was if my fishing buddy Michael Valler could come too?

Once we arranged the trip, Amy Pople of Aardvark McLeod sent us our code and link to a travel app called Vamoos. This app is just great, as it details maps, weather, travel docs and much needed advice on gear we needed for the trip. Then as you get closer to your departure date, e-flight tickets and confirmation info come through, which is all very exciting stuff.

On the day of trip, we traveled from Heathrow Terminal 5 and flew British Airways to Zagreb. Meeting our fellow party members Alex Jardine, Lewis Hendrie and Tim Wood in the departure lounge, we were also to liaise with Florian Bauman from Germany and Christopher Rownes of Guideline Fly Fishing. Plus already in Ribnik with a two day head start were Toby Merigan of Funky Fly Tying, Glen Wiesner and Chris Hartley.

Flying out on BA was great, with some cracking views of the mountains en-route in. We were met at Zagreb by Milan Bukara from Zepter Passport Travel Company. It is this company that provides guides to fish the Ribnik and Pliva rivers. For our trip we were also lucky to have Milenko Mita Balaban and Renato Opancar as our guides. Both have fished at International level for Bosnia and know the rivers like the backs of their hands.

After a drive through the stunning Bosnain country side, we eventually rocked up at the Ribnik HQ. Here we were taken down to the lodges and shown our rooms which accommodated two anglers. These lodges sit right on the Ribnik river edge and I mean right on it. Set on stilts and concrete stanchions, these Scandinavian type lodges are filled with all the amenities you need to make your stay comfortable. All rooms have TV, WiFi, bags of hot water and comfortable beds. Each hut has steps down to ground level, so you can go fishing, whenever you want – with the river on one side and a small brook on the other you can pitch a fly to the Trout and Grayling at any time.

The accommodation on the Ribnik

The accommodation on the Ribnik.

You can see the allure of this place right off the bat, as you trundle your baggage on the boardwalk over to the accommodation. When I say you’ll love the food, you’ll just have to take my word for it. The meals are all just delicious and with homemade bread at every sitting, which you can get seriously addicted to it. Milan was telling us, that you could put on between 4 and 15 lbs with the food here. So now you have an idea on how we got here and what sort of things to expect. So what about the rivers we fished?

 Ribnik River – first three days

The River Ribnik is a Karst (spring fed limestone) river, 5.6 km long, with an average width of 20-30 m and depth of 1 m. Riverside is covered with willows and other trees. Plentiful types of insects swarm on Ribnik including many types of Baetida throughout the year, numerous types of Trichoptera and of course May fly (Ephemera). This abundant insect world allows fishermen to fish with a dry fly during the entire season long.

Michael fishing the Ribnik

Michael fishing the Ribnik.

On the first morning Michael and I have a brief cast or two on the river, outside the accommodation, then meet outside the restaurant and fishing office at 8am to load up our fishing tackle and other gear for the short journey to the river. Our guides Mita and Renato are waiting in the mini buses and after a short five minute drive, we arrive at the café, where we’ll have lunch. It’s here that there is a very nice chap, who ties some really neat small flies that we need. He ties 18’s and 20’s in small beaded nymphs and CDC dries, which look just brilliant. They’re a lot smaller than we’d brought with us, so we buy more, in readiness to wet a line.

Extra small CDC dries are very effective on Bosnian rivers.

Size 18 & 20 CDC dries are very effective on Bosnian rivers.

This stretch of the Ribnik river looks just wonderful, with crystal clear water. There’s a lot of weed here with pockets of clear pebbly patches, which we spot fish in. Once you get accustomed to viewing the bottom, you begin to see fish in the pockets and on the weed, with the odd fish in the weed overhangs.

On the first morning there are lots of Grayling and Trout moving, but we are struggling to make contact with some fish. At the moment there is nothing hatching off, but Renato says there will be some surface activity soon. Renato goes on to explains about the fish feeding on different types of olives, stonefly and mayfly. Then says that you can fish dry fly most of the time, but normally first thing is a micro Nymph as the fly of choice then as the sun warms the water, a switch to dries is a good approach.

We try a few casts and Renato demo’s a quick cast on fishing tiny nymphs. Renato shows us the size of the shrimp patterns he fishes here and they are only about 12 to 14mm long. My imitations look massive by comparison. So with my new found knowledge, I make a cast that covers a small pebble patch. The line stops with Renato saying “fish” and I miss my first take, so re-cast to the same spot. A quick mend on the line and I watch the line tip, slink toward me. Spotting the slightest twitch on the line tip, I lift the rod and feel the rod tip bounce!  This is what we traveled for and I am well chuffed. A small grayling of about 5oz, but very welcome on a new method.

Whilst watching Michael fishing away I notice a grayling behind me about 2 ft away in the turbulent water that I’m creating by standing in the current. Amazingly, they’re feeding on the debris that’s being dislodged by my wading boots, in between the small pebbles.

The fish eventually start responding to a hatch, so delving into one of his fly boxes Renato plucks out a small size 18 dry for me – it is brown bodied with a small CDC wing. He peels off about 2ft of fluorocarbon and knots this to my leader. I make a short cast slightly upstream and see a small rise to the right of my fly, so I let the fly drift down and out of the main current seam. A quick splashy rise sparkles the water surface and I lift onto a fish!

I am well chuffed and look toward Michael who is also in. A double up and both of us, on different methods too. This river is quite something else!

a small grayling in silver armour

A small grayling in silver armour.

In the Ribnik’s crystal clear water you can watch as Grayling sidle up right at your side. I found this activity just mesmerizing and it’s great to watch, as you get to see how the bigger residents move about. Once they occupy a point in a clear patch, another grayling of similar size will move in too. If a bigger fish comes over, the small ones move sideways, but not out of the feeding zone – a bit like a family group, but these groups can get big!  Before I know it, there are 20 or 30 fish of varying size, fining away at pace with the current and their food.

We found that first day just fabulous, where we were missing takes and cursing our slow reactions, then laughing as a rod tip starts dancing away. Funny as hell and also quite relaxing too, as you’re trying to concentrate on fishing, then glance up to a mountainside view, that looks just stunning.

One day melts into the other

With the alarm on my phone buzzing away at 6am, we’re getting sorted for the second days fishing. On the short trip to the Ribnik, we make a quick visit to the fly shack and also pick up some thinner tippet for the dries later. Hopefully this will change our fortunes for the better.

On this morning’s foray, we make for the run below the Aquarium Pool again. Roving the fast water, I spot a small rise just off the main current between two current seams that is pushing water toward some logs and branches.  I make a short cast into the upstream eddie with a micro nymph and watch my line tip stop – and lift into a fish. Piling the pressure on, I’ve just seen this beast and what I initially thought it was small, is much bigger. At about 2lb, this is a nice looking fish. These larger Ribnik grayling have red flourishes near their vent, adding a little more colour to these already beautiful fish.

A nice 2lb Ribnik grayling

A nice 2lb Ribnik grayling.

During the fight, Lewis Hendrie shouted over from the other side of the river, that he has just caught a 3lb Grayling! Mita is on hand with him, to take a picture before he releases it.

Lewis Hendrie with a 3lb+ grayling.

Lewis Hendrie with a 3lb+ grayling.

After a cracking days fishing, that evening we discover a few of our party have caught some serious specimen fish. As dinner is served and the beer starts flowing, everyone is chatting about the fishing, the flies and the rainbows being caught by ‘’Rainbow Man’’ aka Glenn Wiesner. To quote Glenn ‘’I’ve traveled 2000 miles from America to catch rainbows!’’ We all burst out laughing. Funny as hell.

The next morning sees us walking down in the woods below the café, then after lunch we spend our day, back at our favorite run. Here, there are fish all over the place –  I take around eight fish which were stacked up on a long weed fringe. Picking them off the tail of the pod as they hit a small #18 olive goldhead nymph.

A Ribnik grayling - taken on a size 18 olive nymph

A Ribnik grayling – taken on a size 18 olive nymph.

Nearby Michael latches into a neat a neat looking brownie, which gives him the run around on the goldhead nymph. Soon after, he then connects with something solid, which he has on for while, and then pops the hook. Very unlucky indeed.

Michael with a Ribnik brownie

Michael with a Ribnik brownie.

There are lots of rises surrounding us, so we switch onto fishing the dries for the afternoon, until we realise that time has caught us up and it’s time to leave the Ribnik. I am a little gutted as this, as the Ribnik river has really kept me entertained.

The Pliva – a bigger water

The 33km spring fed river Pilva is famous for it’s clean water, which comes from cold Karst springs in the fertile limestone rocks, making this Bosnian river unique and full of trout and grayling.

River Pilva in Stunning Bosnian countryside

River Pilva in Stunning Bosnian countryside.

An hour and a half drive saw us travel from the Ribnik fishing centre to Pedja’s bar at Radoja on the Pilva river.  As we arrive Mita crosses the road bridge and pulls in for us to take a look – we see several of our party casting at rising fish, as darkness descends.

The Radoja set up is brilliant. Split into two houses and a bar/restaurant on site, we arrive to find ex policeman Pedja and his wife have a hog roast going, with Šljivovica (plum brandy) and shot glasses at the ready. When Pedja walks over to meet us, he is passing round shots for an initial toast. Now that we all have a drink the laughs begin and this night is a long one! Thank you Pedja.

The following morning with groggy heads after numerous shots of Šljivovica we head for the restaurant. With coffee and caffeine hitting the right spot, we can begin the day. Then Pedja comes around with shot glasses which I just can’t face today….

We make a short drive past the Pliva river, which now looks massive in daylight. It is at least twice as wide as the Ribnik, but also a whole lot deeper and tougher to wade. We take a first look from a bridge and spot some massive browns in the clear pebbly patches, but these are well out of my casting range with a four weight rod.

River Pilva - massive browns fin below

River Pilva – massive browns fin below.

Renato takes us to the river to get ready and we all split up. Starting with a small #18 CDC dry and around 12ft of 7x tippet I make a short cast, watching the drift in the current. There are fish everywhere, not just in the patches but on the weed too and in the big holes.

It is not long and I lift into my first Pliva grayling. Small, but still nice to feel the rod tip bounce.  A quick glance to admire it then he’s away. Renato comes over and suggests a change to nymphs. Michael is already rigged with one and has caught  too. So we’re off the mark and very happy fishing here.

Pillva river grayling

Pillva river grayling.

Later on, I make a few casts on a deep pool, with some fast water running at pace through it. Using a Czech nymph which Renato has given me, I try bugging with my fly line clear of the water, just watching the leader.  Because of the sheer weight of the fly, this isn’t a cast but more of an upstream lob. Watching the leader which isn’t being affected by drag on the fly line, I just catch the leader stop and tighten my line hand and feel the rod tip bounce. I have never tried this method, but what a reaction on a take!!  A little brownie pops up with the nymph in his top lip. After a quick tussle in the current, I slip the fly out and watch the fish bolt for the cover of the fast current and safety.

With lunch looming we make our way back downstream to the first hut we saw.  We are spoiled rotten with some monster burgers and cold beer and coke to wash it down. After last night’s activities the drinks are very much appreciated very welcome on what is a hot afternoon.

Post lunch Mikey and I head upstream and agree with everyone to meet at the top bridge for pick up tonight. We both tie on new leader in 7X about 12 ft long.  Michael has opted for the goldhead size #18 and I’m using a small CDC dry. I hook up a small brownie and after a little tussle move to Michael, as we start a cast and move leapfrog upstream. Working through fast runs, we take plenty of small grayling in the tail water, that are sipping duns.

A Pilva brownie

A Pilva brownie.

As the light starts to fade, so the others roll in and we all end up near the bridge and café, where there’s always a beer to be had. So with the day finally over we head back to Pedja’s and get ready for dinner.

Back to the Ribnik

We agree that in the morning that we’d like to go back to the Ribnik for the last days, so Mita does the arranging and we have a beer.

Next day after breakfast, we mount the mini bus for the journey back to Gornji Ribnik. We park up downstream of the pub and the Aquarium Pool. We split and head off to the river, with Michael and me opting for a close session where we have parked. We begin short casting with small pods of fish all over this long glide. Then a group of Italians drop into the river below us, forcing out of the pool in search of another tasty spot.  We move down and end up at our favourite spot, with fish showing everywhere. Spotting a few fish near the trailing weed in the centre run, I make a short cast and hook up on a feisty little brown. Then another and another.  In total about a dozen or more come to hand in a fast and furious session zapping the fly as it hits the current seam.

Casting upstream directly ahead of me and a splashy rise hits my fly, I connect for a brief second and feel the hook hold, and then we part company. Cursing my luck, I recast to the same spot. I see a tiny rise form and my fly is gone!  A tough, dogged fight ensures – my rod is hooped over and I have very little control, so I opt to wade downstream and get the fish above me, so I can eventually scoop it into the net. Now we can take a look at this beaut of a fish, with just amazing colour and the Ribnik signature blush.

My biggest grayling

My biggest grayling.

Lunch is calling so we head up to the mini bus for a catch up and our last lunch at the Ribnik café. Beers ordered and lunch on the way, I begin to think back to that last fish.  What a beast and I’m rightly chuffed too to land it!  After lunch Michael and I walk the path back upstream to the pool above the café. There are lots of brownies here, some small and some larger grayling too. We’re trying CDC dries and we both hook up in the riffle water, which is great.  I take four or five more small fish and ping another good one. The afternoon is spent engaging with the smaller residents, but nothing large. Absorbed in the action before we know it we heading back down to meet the other lads and transport back to Pedja’s.

With our last day looming, we head to the bar and dinner. Pedja has the shot glasses ready so we all take a hit, then get a beer or two. Reminiscing over the last week, we’ve caught some good fish and for Michael and me, the Ribnik has been our out and out favourite water. We talk over flies and share pics on our latest catches, which is very cool.

The following morning Michael, Florian, Tim and I opt to walk over to the other side and start fishing a shallow run above a bar. There are loads of fish here and they’re spooky as hell. Renato tells us the fish are taking the nymph which he can see by their reactions in the water. He spots for me as I make a slightly longer 20ft cast. The line settles on the water surface and I make an upstream mend. Watching the line Renato says, “Fish” and I push my tip downstream to make a quicker connection. With a pulse at the rod tip, I am very happy with the hit, albeit a small grayling. Renato moves to Michael to change flies and offer his advice on fishing this run.

Renato comes back over to me and offers a Czech nymph. Working down toward Michael, I hear a holler and Renato has caught a fab looking brownie.  Butter yellow belly with ash black spots looking gorgeous in this sun.  He squeezes off some pics, then releases it for someone else.

Renato's brown trout

Renato’s brown trout.

After more productive morning fishing, lunch arrives and we all clink bottles on our last bankside feed before flying tomorrow. This all seems surreal now, with the week having flown by. As we settle back, we watch a local chap in action, who looks like someone who has done this before. He exits the water after hooking up on several fish. Later he comes over to us with a bottle of Šljivovica and shows us the flies he uses. Tiny CDC’s in #20 and #22’s then he gives me four of them. Absolutely mint ties and super small. Then, as quickly as our days starts, after some great afternoon fishing it comes to a nice conclusion with Lewis chatting with the local angler, comparing fish catches. Ace.

We wake the following morning at 6am to get to Zagreb Airport. We pack the minibus and say our farewells to Pedja and his family. What a feeling of mixed emotions. Sadness at leaving this wonderful country, with the knowing that tonight, we’ll be sleeping in our own beds and no driving to the fishing in the morning.

Thanks

After a wonderful trip, I must say a massive thanks to Alex Jardine and Aardvark McLeod, for putting this adventure together. Also Zepter Passport with Milan Bukara for setting us up with fabulous fishing and lending us their top guides in Milenko Mita Balaban and Renato Opancar. Both very capable chaps who have a wealth of knowledge and make great company for us. Personally I’d like to thank Renato, for showing us a level of patience that a saint would he proud of. Plus putting us in front of some great fish. Last but by no means least to everyone who made us feel truly welcome.

For more information about fishing in Bosnia please contact Aardvark McLeod here.

Alex Jardine of Aardvark McLeod

Trip host Alex Jardine of Aardvark McLeod.

 

In Praise of Baetis By Rene’ Harrop

There are plenty of reasons to choose a month other than October to visit the Henry’s Fork.
 

At high elevation, the weather can resemble winter rather than autumn and human comfort can be a missing ingredient on any given day of fishing at this time of year.

Beneath the Tetons

Beneath the Tetons.

Brutal currents created by low, clear water flowing over dense aquatic vegetation can bring instant corruption to the drift of the most carefully executed presentation, and the trout are at the finely honed peak of angler resistance.

Baetis gathering

Baetis gathering.

Adding even more difficulty to the possibility for success is the need to fish flies that drop as small as size 24 and average only one or two sizes larger.

Things get even more interesting when a 6X tippet becomes too large for the conditions and the objective is a trout that may exceed twenty inches in length.

With so much to contend with, one could question the logic if not the sanity of anyone who might travel thousands of miles specifically for the purpose of subjecting themselves to a most daunting undertaking.

Sunset on a Baetis day

Sunset on a Baetis day.

Remarkably, however, this is the time that attracts more who travels great distance to the Fork than at any other point in the season, and they are some of the finest fly fishermen I have ever met.

It is the time when Baetis rule this great river, and I am indebted to these tiny mayflies.
 

It is because of Baetis and what they represent as an experience that I have been given the opportunity to share time on the water with friends I might otherwise have never met. Some are from distant states within the continental U.S., but others travel much farther.

An international mix

An international mix.

Japan, Wales, Sweden, Norway, France, and South Africa are on a list of foreign countries that have been represented on the banks of the Henry’s Fork during Baetis time, and some will return every year.

Thank you Baetis.