Rodtrip in Croatia

“Unfortunatelly” living in the south of France (depends on what you consider to be essential, but if you’re looking for some elevation and pristine rivers Really closeby, forget about it …) we, Yann and me, are always lacking of pure flyfishing action. Travelling is then the best palliative.

This year, the mexican grass-snake (alias Manu P.) will be with us. First time for us three together to share such a trip. Unlike us Manu is a heavy fisher as he is single AND competitor !! During the open season he missed only two week ends of fishing .. That’s what competition is all about, you need to be out every week-end to learn how to fish like a machine. And indeed he is now (he was not … “the mexican grass snake” you see what I mean ..) a real machine. Tight arm, tight tippet, heavy nymph during hours !! you’ll see below that it will make the difference !

We were first thinking about Wales, but none of our flyfishing buddies has already been there. Quickly searching for some info and actually it seems that there is plenty of opportunities down there … It means that we’ll need to discuss about it, search more deeply, take decisions, look again, discuss about it, take decisions …. As our every day life are also quite busy, and as we are not in contact every day, we rapidly realised that we’ll never be able to set up a trip like this within the time that we have to do it !

It must be more “simple” .. Scandinavia : too late to set it up, Bosnia : done, Slovenia : too expansive too artificial, Spain : too hot (I’m bored with sun since June 1st), Italy : “not worth”, Croatia : Why not ??

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Yann and Manu have some friends who can share information, moreover Croatia is not too far, not too hot and conceals potentially some real hot actions !!

Two monthes of fly fishing diet, sharing stories about huge holes containing huge Hunchen chasing not less huge graylings, are enough to put us atop of our motivation.

Finally the D day arrives, 2pm in Valence everybody is here and ready.

Septembre 14th, Rods in the truck and truck on the road …

3h for Yann, 3h for Manu, 1h for me, 3h for Manu, 3h for Yann and here we are ! Despite the hard part of duty I take on the road I feel really fine J

Since the Croatian border it rains. The weather forecast was right …

In the morning of the second day, we met some members of our guests’s family and we have a real chance, two of them are speaking english. The rain stops during the end of the night but actually it was raining since three days now, and by raining they mean mediterreanean style rainfall …! About 200/250mm …! We were here to fish three rivers, Kupica and Curac which are both unfishable and the Kupa which seems really high. We are tired, it’s already 10am so we decide not to fish today to make a clear inventory of our fishing opportunities.

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And indeed, after 10 minutes they are drastically reduced as Kupica and Curac are really unfishable, for at least 4/5 days ….. The Kupa is high and brown, unfishable either for the time being but it should be ok for tomorrow if we go upstream.

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Day 2, Driving upstream ..

Far upstream, into the Risnjak national park and for that we need to cross the Slovenian border (EU) and go back to Croatia (Non EU) it means that we need to give our ID card four times a day .. To make it simple, I travel with one guy looking like a mexican who have a french name and with another one who looks like french but with an arabic name, all that in a white truck without windows, smelling like .. you know ?? so clearly, each day we loose one hour and a half of fishing .. So for Yann and Manu (35€ per day / 10 hours a day) * 1.5 hour lost every day * 9 days = you owe me 40€ diplomatic services excluded.

After all this diplomacy we reach the entrance of the park. We’ll fish from 3 km dowstream the spring to the end of the fishable strecth.

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The place is remote, we are alone on the stretch,  the weather is good and we are quickly taking fish. Some double strikes, some “good” ones, we fish close together we can share these moments. The afternoon is in the same vein and it overs around a cold beer with the local ranger, sunset on the hills, debriefing of the days with hands smelling fish and that’s enough. We are happy !

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Day 3, Happy but could be happier !!

The fishing conditions are better today, the river is really fine, clearer than yesterday But we are still obliged to fish the upper stretchs of the river, downstream, up to our yesterday’s start point. Like yesterday it starts quite well, little fish first as we come in the water and a lot of others then. We take our lunch break feet in the water and a little hatch gives us our first dry fly action … not the best we have ever seen but we take what we have. Once again we are alone and we really appreciate that. Another day in paradise !! Or almost because we are still fishing mostly “under the water” .. We cannot see the fish, they are not rising regularly neither we are then obliged to “fish the water”. Yann and Manu (as seen above .. they look like machine, sometimes it scares me) are fishing better than I do with this technique (not only with this one but whatever ..) and it’s difficult for me to sustain the rythm ..

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Still enough fishes to be stuffed before the end of the afternoon, we then decide to walk up to the spring to see what does she looks like. When we arrive the night is almost here, the mist is rising, the silence is total and all the sounds of the river are amplified. The ambiance is almost unreal, metaphysical … nice moment again !

Back home a bit late but our guest is waiting us for the dinner. And after the dinner what should happen happened … Yann is tired and he quit but Manu and me are strongly fighting for the honnor of the french alcoholism ! And even if it’s hard to remember it seems that we can be proud …

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Day 4 …

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I’m not able to make a complete report of what happened this early morning as I was not fully operational. What I can say is that Manu is not a real human being with a real digestive system as he was fishing this morning ..

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The river is now almost gin clear, and they decide to fish the lower section of the river near the village. The Kupa is here much deeper and larger, potentially hiding the hunchen we were dreaming about.

I met the buddies again after a 2/3h pit stop. When I arrive the news aren’t good at all. They haven’t take any single fish and they don’t have seen much more. We take a little break (again …) watching Yann taking the first fish of the day on a dry, we don’t know it yet but it will be the last descent fish of the day … We try to go a litlle bit upstream to see what we can find. Nothing in 2/3h fishing. Upstream again. Nothing again. We move several times and it’s impossible to see any fish on the river .. And our only thouhght is “what the fuck ???”. The river and the conditions are perfect and according to the advice of yann and manu’s friends we should find a huge density on these strechs … But nothing .. Instead of the 40/50 fishes a day described, we have only take maybe .. 10 or less (and not per person ..).

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This late afternoon was hard. Trying to understand what happened, trying also to imagine what can be the plan for tomorrow.

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Day 5, Back to the park …

Yesterday evening we have checked Kupica and Curac as it has not rained since our arrival. They are still quite muddy and strong, no way to fish …

So the plan was to go upstream again to see a little river which was not scheduled first (Cabranka). As we are stopped (again ..) while crossing the border we can see some fish. But only small ones, up to the first crossed village. The river is too small actually, as the fish .. Nobody is really motivated.

We finally decide to go back on the Kupa. From the confluence with the Cabranka up to the park.

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The morning weather is fine. With the sun shining we can start sight fishing around 11am (need to have some good light as the river is still hight althought clear). Fishes have a lot of water above their head, fishing is not easy but we are all taking what we need. Around 2pm it starts to be cloudy, no more sight fishing, back to the 3.5mm tungsten bead head … And here begins the show !! the rain starts falling, slowly first. And I take a real lesson. Yann and Manu are taking maybe 3 or 4 times more fish than I do. Normally I’m not so sensible about it, but under the rain and during 5h consecutively it’s really hard to sustain ..! I can remember the last water veins, in which they are fishing after me, and in which they are taking maybe 15 fish each while I take nothing .. I’m also here to learn, but hard to swallow ! Anyway we continue upstream, one fish here another one there and the weather is geting worse. We are now under a real heavy rain. Finally we are stopped by a thunderstorm, we are now too close from the lightning to continue in security. The rain gets heavier and heavier as we are going back to the truck. We can see the mud running down the hills and we understand that it’s now over for the Gorski Kotar region’s fishing opportunities …

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We drive to the closest village to put on some dry clothes. We find a bar for the debriefing, and with a little bit of luck (some called it talent) we met a group of french fishers. After a discussion with their guide who is a friend of Yann (and as we are now sure that we can forget Kupa, Kupica …) we decide that tomorrow we’ll fish the Gacka. A river coming from a karstic system, it reduces the chance to be bored by the rain impact. We thanks the guide for the discussion and the infos but we leave them as we are a bit surprised by the ambiance of such a group, lot of noise, lot of stories to good to be true … We are now used to be only in between us and we want to stay. Anyway after a 6€ perfect full meal (perfect as we were mostly eating pastas and bread till now .. Croatian bread …) we are going back home and it’s still raining …

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Day 6, Heading south …

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We need one hour and half to reach our new destination. We are now in central Croatia and we can see it on the walls of Otocac as a lot of war’s stigma are remaining ….

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The guy who sell us the fishing licence explains that if we take one fish each in one day we can be happy … OK !! Let’s see that ..

The river is actually a deep chalkstream, lot of plants, gin clear, very slow current, almost nothing. We can see some fishes when we arrive. But this first day will be tough !

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The clouds are still here, hiding the sun intermittently and a little wind is wrinkling the surface. It’s really difficult to spot and to stay on the fish .. We catch only a few but we see a lot of fish (sometimes only for a few seconds … ). The river in itself is magnificient, with some big fish in it ! Unfortunatelly we learn that it’s more or less directly sustained by the Coca-Cola company and heavily stocked. But we do not have any other possibilities as all the northern watershed are still swollen. SO .. we’ll be back tomorrow.

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Day 7, Here comes the sun …

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Clouds are now gone and the wind has stopped. We decide to fish a little bit upstream. We start just under a little church .. as a sign, as we were knocking on the heaven’s door ! This day will be memorable. A lot of fish for everyone, average size 35/40cm, some bigger ones. Almost all the fishes are wonderfull ! fat, nice (specially the browns) strong (specially the rainbows). “Almost” because we have also seen some rainbows with some weird fins ! As another sign of the heavy stocking they have sometimes a really strange behavior … This river is definitely not the most wild we have ever seen but as we do not have any other solution we decided not to bite the hand that feeds us. Let’s enjoy sight fishing !

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I can remember some nice strikes ! Specially one for Yann .. Maybe under 2.5m of water, 6/7m in front of us, almost no current, the drift starts maybe 8/10m upstream, very small nymph, 3.5m tippet 2X .. You see what I mean ? Everything is in slow motion, and at the second attempt it happens, we can see this so small movement of head, I cannot say anything, but Yann also knows, he set and here it is .. the mouth open widely, the head starts shacking, and now SHE knows, and she goes !

I can spend my whole day watching this kind of things without fishing myself, without any lack feeling !! sight fishing is SOOO good, so nice, it’s worse anything else. The ultimate flyfishing experience, better than fishing on rises .. And even if that’s a personnal feeling, I’m sure some of you will share !

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Day 8, And again …

For our last day fishing almost nothing special to add .. another good day of sight fishing, even if a little bit under yesterday.

Around 5pm .. We can feel the end, the rhythm slows down, the concentration is gone ! The double hauling session starts, Tchernobyl ants are out of the box and you know, you are always thinking “why not ?” and it never happens .. but here it happened ! that’s the moment choosen by Manu to catch the biggest fish of our trip. A nice Brown who rises on a HUUUUGE red sedge. If that’s not a conclusion !!

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The way back …

The trip is now over, we need to pack everything, to clean everything, to pay everyone and to drive. It’s hard to stop, and we already know that it will be harder tomorrow morning.

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And Indeed it was ! That’s why I think “rodtrips” can become an addiction.

It can be the first custom control, the last strike, the sunset beers, the post-fish cigarets while looking your buddies fishing, the thunderstorm, the rivers, the forests that you cross, the lights and the sounds … All these moments and all these images are so precious that you always want to have more when you’re back. Everything (almost …) is bland.

We want to leave again, anywhere, with the rods and the buddies, and we will, but we need some rehab before, otherwise we’ll become insane …

But who’s actually the most insane ?? Me ? dreaming behind my desk, and hoping for a new chance to play ? Or the guy who leaves again and again, without any compromise ? I don’t know .. Vast question. The only thing I know is that for both of us flyfishing and “outdoor” life is essential for our equilibrium.

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  • DE MESMAEKER JOHAN

    Very nice trip, beautifull pics ! Thanks for sharing this good time trip !

    Johan.

  • Habran Jérémy

    Nice trip ! Thank guy”s ! 🙂

  • great report! the pics are amazing, frames and colors just perfect! thanks for sharing!

  • Vegard Jønnevald

    Fantastic…I would very much like to be a part of this “rodtrip”! Thanks a lot,guys…

  • Excellent blog_umentary and photographic par excellance!

    • Mathias Briquemont

      Thank you for your comment Joseph! And welcome on Rodtrip !

  • Martin Michaël

    J’ai dévoré vos lignes, vous avez tout dit: La nature et La pêche à la mouche est un équilibre, merci..