In October, four years ago, I was walking in South Bohemia along the river, Warm Vltava and below Dobra village. I found an inconspicuous but deep little pool, below the shallow current. It was about five o’clock p.m., at the time when grayling were usually ignoring our dry flies. They stopped picking up almost an hour ago and, that’s why I changed my bottom fly but it was not much better.
I used two weighted Czech nymphs, similar to the original sample of sedge larva of the Hydropsycha genus which was efficient here all the year around. I guided them closely below the rod and let them laze around somewhere deep in the pool. I cast the nymphs systematically through this hole and walked slowly along the water. At the spot where the river turned slowly to the left, suddenly a big grayling threw itself above the water surface. He hung just shortly, before the nymphs floated above the water and he did not stay hooked. It was just a short and sudden moment and I would estimate the fish to be some 45 cm long.
I would not have expected such a big grayling in such a small pool. Though the water reached a height above the waste of an adult man. Then I realized that the pool was the upper part of a long, wide and stable big pool. The location of which and profile did not change significantly for years. I figured that my grayling was probably part of the smaller group of big fish which I observed here regularly and sometimes caught them.
Two weeks later I went to this location again. I was waiting in the cottage for a favourable time, i.e. until half past twelve and I started. The first grayling started to rise after one o’clock p.m. and at half past one, we can catch on a small olive or quill, a huge fish. I was little bit late this day and I also spent some time in the main pool. I got to my spot shortly before three p.m. It was still warm in the sunshine but cold in the shadow. The blue sky of the Sumava mountains was partially covered by white clouds. They sometimes covered the sun and this weather was ideal for swarming of little upwings and little black midges.
It was really quiet in my pool, but I knew I was on my own. I was prowling through the bent-grass hills on the left river bank and I was waiting for my fish. Not long after I suddenly saw, the middle size grayling circle just in the narrowest part where the current run into the pool. It was not the biggest circle, which would show the presence of really big fish, but I suspected it could be Him.
I moved closer to the ideal casting distance and threw my CDC-Parashut Olive, size of 18, to the place where I suspected the fish could be. The fly swam across the pool stealthily, but suddenly, the grayling rose again and he showed me his location. The right offer, of the right fly, bound on the narrowest possible line, those are two basic conditions for successful autumn dry fly fishing in the Warm Vltava. I made two false casts to dry the fly off and then I put it gently back, about one and half meter from the place where I saw the last circle. The cast was really good one and the petite fly flew in an ideal way directly to the grayling, which was somewhere down at the bottom, I suspected. The line created an air bridge in front of the fly and the grayling could not see the fly. My fly looked like real one.
A rising to the olive from the water surface showed that this time the master of the pool was fooled. I waited a second and then I gently struck with my wrist. My five weight Sage rod bent at the top, and nothing was going on for a little while. Just the bend of the rod, indicated that the fish was hooked. For a moment we stood face to face. Grayling shook his head, he wanted to get away from the little thing in the right corner of his mouth. As he did not succeed, he turned and started to swim slowly with the stream into the pool.
I used my left hand and tried to get my camera from the waistcoat. I wanted to document those special moments. It was not so easy because my left hand is not used to this work. A couple of boxes with flies, forceps, glasses, scissors and many others fly-fishing little things were in my left hand’s way. At the same time I had to keep the contact with the fish, with my right hand, because with such a small hook and gentle nylon that the fish could easily escape.
I wanted to take pictures of the whole fight, with the Sumava mountains grayling and I started to go down with the stream to take my fish from the deep pool, to the more shallow places below. After about 30 meters I found the right location and I stopped, and pushed the rod. Grayling could not believe it and his whole body jumped above the water surface. Big Worm Vltava grayling do this in shallow water pretty often, to show us his beautiful dark purple coat.
I held the rod with my right hand and I pushed the release button of my Olympus camera, with very high sensitive Kodak film. I did not hurry and I observed the fight through the viewfinder. Fish started to try various tricks. He rolled at the bottom for a while, made eights at the water surface for some time but the petite Japanese hook always held him on the end of my strong nylon of 0.10 mm diameter.
I lifted the grayling to the water surface and pushed the release button for a couple of times. The sideways gradient of the sun’s rays light the water in an ideal way, and I pushed the release button a couple times again, before the fish devotedly laid on its left side and I could take hold of him from underneath, to be able to measure him. I took out of the basket the wooden meter and tried to measure as accurately as possible. He was the most beautifully built cock, probably in his 5th year of his life and he measured 422 mm, from the top of the nose to the end of the tail fin. I watched him suspiciously for a while and questioned myself. Was this the same fish which escaped two weeks ago?. Later I had to admit that, that time, I really must have had big eyes.
I released him carefully from the petite hook and put him back into his natural environment. He could not believe it, stopped in the shallow water and allowed me to take pictures of him again. I do not know how long it took, maybe a minute, maybe less. Then he slowly swam against the water stream and got lost from my view. I knew that it was the last time I would met him but I was really blessed with this moment.
I did not get a chance to get back to this locality that year. That’s why I at least watched the pictures from this fight. I tried to recollect, the unforgettable sequence, which actually took just couple of minutes, and tried to hope that I had found a new locality, where it was still possible to catch a big fish. I had my grayling’s picture to blow up and framed. A couple of friends at home and even from abroad showed an interest in this picture. One I gave as a present to the famous English writing draughtsman and fisherman Charles Jardin. He gave me in return, one big drawing of a trout which is decorating my studio today.
Next season I did not have enough time to go, and could only visit this place just once. It was after the grayling rise and on this day it was only sporadic anyway. My nymph was almost ineffective. My little pool was there, like last year, but this time it seemed to be empty and not interesting at all. This pool seemed to be similar to how it was a couple of years ago.
Another fall came and I took two days off to see the Warm Vltava again. According to the calendar it should be cold and rainy weather, but it was still warm. No big morning frost, leaves still on the trees, though their colour changed slightly to yellow and red. The weather was ideal and I waited again for the right time. I waited for grayling to rise and to try again, fishing with dry fly. I did not want to fish in any other way.
Soon after lunch I took my car and drove to Dobra. I drove through some weekend cottage village, and found out that its diligent inhabitants had built themselves a couple of retarding bumps, probably to protect white house frontages during rainy days, and to protect children and pets. One man attracted my attention. He looked like a Prague city man. He pulled a big dog, leashed and he did not like me driving there, probably he thought I was too fast. There was a 20 km/hour sign before that village but it did not look really official to me. Try to drive at only twenty km per hour, for about 2 km – it’s really terrible.
I stopped the car behind the village and wanted to change and to put my chest waders on. I found out that I had left them in my cottage close to Volary. I had to go back again to Stogerova Hut. Passing the cottager for the third time, drove this brave man crazy. His mouth was full of bad words on my address but I could not hear them in the car and I am not good at lip-reading (lucky me). I did not pay attention and tried to calm myself down though I would kick his … you know what I mean.
In a good mood, I quickly changed. Maybe some young person would not call this action “quick” but everything is relative to the age. Behind the car I released some excess fluid and put the neoprene pants straps over my shoulder. I found out some small signs of the activity, as I did before. I looked into the sky, took a warm cap to be sure and finally walked to the river.
I had still to march through difficult terrain for about half an hour, but finally, at half past one, I reached the Vltava riverbank. My back was all sweaty and the cap was wet. At that moment I saw the first little circle, I started to test the flies to find out what the grayling would like today. Another lost hour and I arrived at my little pool slightly before three. Just like the other day… but - what a surprise - my little pool was not there any more!
Originally narrow, maybe 10 m wide today the river flow was twice as wide. My little pool was completely filled up by stones and sand. Probably some winter or spring flood brought them in. Wild water had torn away the left riverbank with bent-grass and uncovered the rocky ground. My little pool had turned into a shallow river bed, where an old alder trunk had stuck. Water had brought the trunk from somewhere up stream.
I was really surprised. I would never have expected such a change. In a shallow stream behind the trunk I caught two little trout. And from water above the trunk I caught on olive nymph five two years old grayling. I was standing there, all sad, and suddenly it seemed to me that the Vltava river silently sang and murmured requiem about the end of one small but promising pool.