It was a hot day in July when my wife and I arrived at our weekend house near Volary. Another weekend of cleaning and tidying awaited us, one of those that only such old, long-uninhabited buildings may offer their owners. We hadn’t really come here much during the past ten years and so we decided this year to put everything in order. My task this day was to paint the hallway white, and my wife kept busy with constant tidying and cleaning.
Today's family brigade-work is a continuation in a series of previous such events, including the two July holidays. Of course I had my fishing gear in my car this time too, but just for peace of the soul. I didn't really believe I would manage to use it. The last time we were here I almost found an opportunity, but an afternoon rain which brought about ten centimetres of water in one hour made the Warm Vltava muddy, making fishing that day impossible.
A summer storm with a number of lightning bolts and good thunder was upon us, when suddenly I hear my wife talking to somebody. An older woman came in the room, hiding from the storm, with apologies that she was disturbing us. It was Mrs Frej, though I didn't recognize her first. They had lived about five hundred meters above us by the Jedlovy Brook, but then one day they vanished and the farm house, rented from their employer, remained empty.
I had known their son Frantisek by sight because he also liked to fly-fish when he wasn't cutting down trees in the woods. He was a good-looking guy who had remained single even into his forties. I had heard from a friend that a tree had killed him in the woods, and that his mother then moved to Prague to live with her brother. Now it turned out this wasn't true. The Frejs had bought their own house just about a kilometer away from the old one, and Frantisek had fixed it all up and attached a roofed porch.
But then a dreadful disaster fell upon him - he had a stroke which wasn't diagnosed in time and four days later it was already too late. He became paralyzed and blind, and his brain returned to the childhood years. Only his mother remained to him, and she has been taking care of him since then, despite that she's over seventy now, though no one would guess her age. She invites us to visit them, and mentions that Fanda (Frantisek) would be really happy, as he used to be a diligent reader of my fishing articles.
With this she left, and one can say that the surprise was mutual because our sudden guest was convinced we had sold the house long time before. We promise to come for a visit later that afternoon, so I quickly make copies of my latest fishing stories from the Warm Vltava so the mother could please her son. There are thirty-five pages of text which she could read for her son in free moments.
We get to their place shortly after six. A Sumava farm house painted white sits in a field of shortly-cut grass, by the edge of a spruce wood which spreads here all the way from the Soumarsky Bridge. Two smaller dogs run to meet us, barking like in a race, letting the landlady know we're there. Mrs Frej takes us into the kitchen where Fanda is sitting on a wheelchair at the table, trying to call my name. His mother makes us coffee and I give her the stories for her son.
Fanda, a man of almost fifty is sitting at the table and doesn't have a single grey hair. Two lifeless eyes jut from his face while his head sways from side to side like at a naughty child. Both women are jabbering about various things and Fanda's mother is really happy we have come, since not too many people come to see her and help her bear her cross at least for a while. And this brave woman doesn't say a word of complaint. Not even about the one who neglected her son's treatment. She is still strong today, but I can read one question in her eyes – 'what will happen after I'm gone?'
She shows us around her household, drawing our attention to everything that the then healthy Frantisek had improved. Then we sit at the table again and Frantisek, so far quiet, starts to lament. 'Do you understand him?' asks Mrs Frej. My wife admits she doesn't, but unfortunately I do. With my throat constricted I repeat his words: 'I want to die! I want to die!', and his mother just nods sadly. Then she makes a modest dinner for her son and feeds him like a little baby. She’s still saying something to us, and from time to time forgets that an open mouth is waiting for her.
After an hour I find a reason to go. I still have a plan for evening fishing on the Vltava, and so I say my good-bye and leave my wife with the Frejs. I'm going somewhere below Lenora for a couple hours to forget about everything.
I stop by the Lenora railroad crossing, and leave the car right on the edge of the road so I can see it well from all around. A gang that breaks into angler's parked cars has been active around here for a couple of years and I wouldn't like to give them a chance. I put on high waders, put together a size 3 Sage rod and take a new French fly line Symbol by JMC to try out. Its coloured light brown, elastic and without memory, but unfortunately made for a size 4 rod. I hope it'll be no trouble.
I come back to the car to pick up a cap with built-in lights, a novelty of this season, and then rush to the river. Last week my friends told me they had come across rainbow trout here, so I head for a very well known grayling pool where I can expect to catch something. It's almost eight and there isn't much time left. In addition, the banks are covered with thick bushes and high grass so it's pretty hard for me to find my way to the water. One can see nobody has taken care of this place for years. If I didn't know the area, I would hardly make it.
I step in the water in the place where, seven months ago, I finished the season fishing from an ice floe. Today there's water above the waist and it's pretty cold. It seems the level is dropping though. Not many insects are flying today, so I reach for my favourite Elk Hair Cadis on a size 14 hook. I still have to walk down the water for about fifty meters and then go back against the current. There's nothing much happening on the surface, just some rings by the pool outflow. I send them some practise casts and get them both. They're small brownies, about twenty centimeters each. Otherwise nothing's going on.
At that moment something splashes behind my back and big circles form on the surface. The fish must have jumped quite high to make such a wave. See, that must have been a rainbow. 'Easy job', I think and send him a fly right away. Once, twice, three times, ten times... I change the cadis and eventually decrease the size, then change to upwings, but nothing works. The fish doesn't show anymore, but in trying I tear off two duns, and a dace and a small grayling take two others.
It may have moved somewhere else, so I proceed against the current and return to my original fly. Then I cast across in front of me and my small hairy cadis with a green tag zigzags on the surface. A fierce take wakes me up from the quiet and the rod tip signals that the strike sits. The 0.12 mm diameter tippet doesn't allow me to go real hard on it, so I play with my quarry for some time before I manage to lead it into the landing net. The fins are already nicely developed, so it must be in the Vltava for about three months since its spring stocking.
I have trouble with measuring it. Since I normally don't take fish anymore, I don't have the folding rule in my basket. I estimate it at 34 cm and make the compulsory record in the fishing card. I rely on the fact that no control will come today. I immediately put on a thicker tippet and add another 0.02 mm to its diameter. It' growing dark and the insects are increasing their activity which the fish reflect.
The new French line is a little too heavy for my size 3 rod, which slightly degrades the capabilities for precise dry fly casting. I'll have to try it with tiny nymphs against the current some time. But for now I focus on two fish rising by the opposite bank. I scratch one with the hook and don't convince the other. I cast my fly to a small ring below them, and an almost imperceptible take gives me another rainbow trout. It's smaller, I estimate it for a thirty, and I put it in the basket too.
The mangy cadis doesn't want to float anymore, so I try to change the fly and switch on the lights in the bill of the cap. It's just great: I only need to learn how to use it right and find the best distance for putting the line into the hook's eye. In time I manage and praise myself on my progress. The line is set, but problems arise with the loop of the knot, which needs another four attempts to finish. I pull at the tippet and the fly ends up free in my hand, so everything needs to be done again. Finally, it's all perfect.
It's past nine in the evening and I'm still standing in the same pool, casting to another rising fish. The fly floats along and suddenly a nice trout attacks it. It comes completely to the surface, but the strike goes in vain. I change flies and try to figure it out, but then return to the cadis once again. Suddenly, a bigger, thrashing fish strikes, but the resistance doesn't fit its size.
I examine my quarry in the landing net, and see a tail sticking out of its mouth. It's a dace about 15 cm long. I shine my light at this fish and estimate it at some 36 cm, and see it misses its left pectoral fin. That's why it couldn't catch my cadis and why the weaker resistance. A light mist rises above the Vltava and I've made good for today. In my basket I carry from the water three sad trout, and you already know who will get them shortly...