River Gacka (Croatia)
In the 80s the Gacka has been a mythical destination for many fly anglers. The abundant hatches, the richness of macrobenthos and fish and the beauty of this unique chalk stream made it to a legend. Until the Balkan war broke out in December 1990. The old Hotel Gacka is still standing, witness of the horror of the war, abandoned now and still bearing the wounds of the bullets in its walls.
I was here as a young fly angler, just before the Balkan war. It was my first chalk stream. The Gacka at the time was the destination of fly fishermen from all over the world. It was full of trout and in the evening the hatches were above imagination. The clear water and the abundance of insect were a real challenge even for the most skilled anglers. And here am I again, after all these years. I arrive in the evening. It is late and today there is no time for fishing. The first look from the bridge beams me back to those days of innocence, when the only fish taunting my dreams were trout and grayling.
I booked a room at the new hotel Gacka, which was built right beside the former one. The next morning I wake up at 7, get breakfast and rush to the water. It is a cold and foggy October morning. There is no sign of activity. In the depth I see trout slowly moving. I opt for a weighted gammarus imitation.
I catch some mid sized rainbow trout. It is said that the rainbow trout acclimatized here and it is able to spawn.
Walking downstream I see a big trout. This looks like a typical Gacka brown trout. I cast the gammarus well in front of its pasture zone and let it sink in the current.
At the third attempt I see the white of his mouth, strike! It is a strong fish that pulls out some fly line off the reel for a couple of times. It will be a 3-pound brownie .. I set the landing net underneath his body and .. he bends his back, leverages on the edge of the net and sets himself free, leaving me stunned in the muffled silence. What a fish!
Around 9 AM the sun makes it through the thick shred of fog, revealing the river in all its beauty.
It is far easier now to spot the fish that are beginning to rise. With a warmer temperature mayflies start hatching.
The bigger fish are still in activity deeper in the water column. Around lunchtime I spot a big shadow swimming in a weed forest glade. I mount a weighted mayfly nymph pattern on hook 10 and start to stalk the big fish. The trout is at least two meters deep. At the tenth attempt I am about to give up when with a quick jerk on the side he decides to take my nymph.
It is a fat rainbow around 60 cm that after a hard fight and a quick picture I release into his element.
At 1 PM I head to the new hotel Gacka where I indulge in front of a delicious huge Schnitzel.
After lunch at the river the music has changed. The gammarus has made its time, the fish are starting to rise on quite a massive hatch of Baetidae mayfly.
It is not easy to fool the trout now. They are visible in the sun, but so am I for them.
I have not met any other angler. Hard to believe I am having this beatuiful river for me alone.
Eventually I pick an olive emerger pattern that is capable of convincing the trout to take it. Not easy among the plenty of fish in activity and insects drifting to be constantly successful.
The show of the feeding fish is becoming more and more impressive. Trout are feeding on surface and surface approaching nymphs. Backs are leaving trails on the water, frenzy fins emerge like little shark.
Sometime I have success, most of the time I just fill my senses with this wonder of nature while my flies drift untouched.
At dusk I hope in a classic "coup de soir", but due to the late season there is none. Some sparse fish rise. I manage still a few smaller trout on a tiny black gnat pattern and enjoy a stunning sunset.
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