Over a breakfast of fresh eggs, fruit and grappa Adrian and I mull over the opportunities set out before us. Yet more numbers present themselves. Over 65 kilometres of river make up the waters of the Tolmin Angling Club. Our ticket for the day allows us to fish all of them. After the successes of the previous day our desire for sheer numbers is sated. Our desire to do it ‘properly’ is not. We want to fish dry flies… correction, we want to fish dry flies for large, wild fish and we want there to be grayling as well as trout.

River by river we work out our odds, some too coloured, some too far away to risk the drive and wasted fishing time. Others simply full of stockies we frankly are not interested in. One stands out as familiar to us both and known for its hatches. The waters of the Upper Idrijca, at the town named after this fabled river. We purchase our tickets, down one final shot of the local brew  for ‘strength and health’ (we’re assured by our generous hosts) and head out.

The drive takes us along Idrijca, from its confluence with the mighty Soca at Most Na Soci, upstream  towards our destination. The river flows as blue as the sky, finally clear and eminently fishable after all the rain. Arriving at Idrijca we immediately forgo setting up to peer over the bridge into the lowest pool of the trophy water, just in time to watch two German anglers feed bread to hordes of hungry rainbows and a solitary marble trout. The rainbows look small next to the marble which isn’t surprising given its weight is clearly in the 8-10lb category. Unfortunately our tickets do not provide access to this pool. Our water starts 300 yards below at the Island. However, such maps from foreign climes are difficult to decipher and we rig up and fish helplessly through the pool, spotting for each other from the bridge above. The fish have seen it all, and casually move aside to allow all manner of flies to drift past them.

Moving downstream to our allotted beat (all 18 kilometres of it) we quickly made for water that allowed us to fish the methods we were comfortable with. I deliberately make a point of mentioning this as I feel it must be made clear that to go to Slovenia with an attitude that all water is fishable is a fallacy. One has to accept that the rivers in Slovenia are huge, fast flowing and boulder strewn. There is a good deal of water that (in my opinion) is simply not ‘fly water’. In fact you’d struggle to fish it with a 4oz bomb and worm tackle. Having found a long riffle that developed into a beautiful glide of a pool we began to fish. The word riffle shouldn’t mislead you though. The riffle was about 5 feet deep, and it wasn’t possible to wade or stand facing into the current. A team of nymphs for me and a small streamer for Adrian soon saw us among the fish.

Wild and stocked rainbows came to the fly, all were relatively small at under a pound and fought fiercely in the current.  It was good to get a few fish under the belt. Moving downstream we walked for a kilometre or so past fast flowing water that presented few (if any opportunities) to present a fly. Suddenly a bend and a number of boulders along our bank forced the river to slow, and peering into the depths we spotted good numbers of sizeable fish amongst the rocks. They were deep down and clearly nymphing, the flashes of white mouths occasionally visible.  Taking turns to present a variety of nymphs to these fish we were disappointed to see them ignore our offerings, before drifting out of view into the main current. Adrian followed suit, drifting off downstream to find more water. A little disillusioned, I sat and contemplated my approach and rebuilt my leader. Sitting in the woods above the water contemplating what the hell to try next, an answer suddenly presented itself. Large caddis began to hatch. Really large caddis. Great big brown red things! Back in the pool below me the fish had begun to rise aggressively in the fast, swirling currents of the boulder strewn run. Crawling down the bank and into position I opened the rarely used ‘big dries’ box. Selecting a size 10 Humpy I cast at the largest fish at the top of the pool.  He rose rapidly through the water column taking the fly in an angry splash… I struck into thin air. He was probably in the region of 4-5lbs… (1). Cursing my bad luck I waited and the fish rose again to a natural after only a few minutes. My second cast and exactly the same result… (2) The fish, now clearly spooked refused to rise again. I checked the fly, the point was good. I removed all hackle on the underside to give the hook a clear shot. Fish began to rise downstream of my position. I moved to the tail of the pool and cast towards the nearest trout… risen, missed, no contact (3)… The process continued until I’d exhausted/spooked every rising opportunity… (7). 7 trophy rainbows, browns and marbles had risen for my fly, taken it confidently and made off for the deeps.  I’d missed every one. Gutted I moved off downstream to find Adrian.

Adrian had stumbled upon the best pool I’d ever seen on the river. A long curving riffle at the head put a steady (yet slow for the Idrijca) current down a 7-8 foot deep, steady pool, with wade-able water on our bank for a couple of yards out. Casting was difficult, but Adrian had made good his approach and landed a number of sizeable fish, all on dry flies. Walking back to the pool we watched as a second hatch developed and the pool once again came to life with fish of all sizes sipping dries.  One pod of fish had stationed themselves in front of a large midstream boulder in an impossible casting position. A tree on our bank prevented any conventional casting, a roll cast was also out of order as the water was too deep to wade in front of the tree. Only one thing for it, out with the Swiss army knife saw blade and the offending tree was tactically pruned (I’ll bet it was! – Ed). On with the fishing! First cast over the fish with the Klink and a rainbow rose and took the fly confidently. Strike, missed fish… (8). 20 or so different flies later and the fish refused to take. A nymph suspended beneath a Klink finally did the job, the rainbow showing the white of his mouth as he took confidently. The strike connected and the fish threw himself into the air…gone…(9).

Everyone has his limits and it would appear mine is 9. The rod was hurled into the rocks and undergrowth in a fit of rage. Adrian was now on strike and calmly landed a beautiful rainbow from the same position, on the same fly.

Realising my reel was well and truly trashed, Adrian, ever the gent, offered to share his rod. A number of fish were now rising in and around the boulder. I finally managed to get some to stick. A brown and another rainbow. Both to dries. Adrian then took a beautiful marble on the dangle as the fly swung round at the tail of the pool. Normality was restored. Moving up the pool we both moved, lost and caught a number of other fish. In the failing light we moved towards the pool upstream where so many fish had eluded me earlier. Re-rigging with the same Humpy we started casting to the bulging rises, remembering this time to delay the strike and let the fish get their heads down with fly well intact before striking. It worked a treat and 3 or 4 more rainbows and marbles came to our nets. Adrian accounting for the lion’s share.

The day ended with a spectacular hatch on the pool below the riffle where we had started the day. Adrian accounting for another dozen or so fish in the gloaming before the light got the better of us. Pizza and beer beckoned and the local pub was a welcome sight. Slovenian fish are always hard earned, both mentally and physically, but always worth the price. Even if it does cost you a new reel!

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