The end of my 2006 flyfishing season was a bit in vain, but actually the previous couple of years had been pretty much the same. I leave fishing in the cold to the young, and rather take care of my health somewhere warm. That year I also didn't make it to our annual Sumava stag party, since it coincided with All Saint's Day – an occasion when it's necessary to take the family to visit relatives, those both living and dead, for a bit of talk.
In addition, some unknown melioration workers had ruined my mood by totally destroying the Jedlovy (Spruce) brook once again. The brook runs past my weekend house in Stögerova Hut near Volary. I thought they had left it in peace for good since they hadn't appeared for many years, and the concrete-bottomed brook had begun to change into a regular stream. The banks had overgrown with bushes and trees whose roots had begun to shift the bricks, many opportunities for various erosions had appeared and the straight stream had begun to meander.
But then suddenly there was a straight gutter yet again with all the sludge and bricks left lying on the bank. Two other brooks have already been revitalized to their original shape close to the nearby Zbytiny village, but right in middle of the Sumava nature reserve the "Bolshevik" way is still possible. Will these barbarities never cease?
I was thinking about this when turning from the Lenora road to Soumarsky bridge road on Friday November11th. It was about half past one, the sun was still quite warm and the last leaves were on the trees. I went through Dobra and wondered why Nemecek's maxi-dog wasn't keeping watch there. I had driven through the village at 40 kph and thought I was in the clear, when the monster ran out of the nettles and fearlessly attacked the hood of my car with its paws. One can never be sure here - the owner and his dog had just been on a walk.
I waited a little bit for this guardian to calm down, and then quickly put on my waders and headed for the Vltava. It was quite warm and I heated myself up by the fast walk over Dobra meadows. I intended to do some dry fly fishing today, and so I took my favourite no. 2 Sage rod and two boxes of upwings. The water was quite low, and I had to deal with the never-ending dilemma of whether to go up or down stream. Today I picked the upstream variant, hoping to check in on some places where I hadn't yet been that year.
It was two in the afternoon and I didn't have much time left. In the clear water I could easily see every pebble on the bottom, and the fields of ranunculus seemed somehow thicker to me. Was it due to the measures taken the previous year to prevent canoeing on the river during low water? This would be a good sign that the river has begun to return to its original shape, as in times when the thick ranunculus was almost everywhere. No duns were emerging, so I didn't see any grayling rings on the surface. Despite this, the air over the river wasn't lifeless. Occasionally something small, even tiny, would fly around. They might have been buzzers in light shades, and some of the little creatures also bore some bright yellow colour.
Another half-an-hour later I was finally at the place. There was a shallow current there on a sort of threshold between two small pools. I cast a tiny fly on a size 20 hook to the surface, and let it float down a bit to where a grayling might be waiting. There were some shy takes at first, but all just little fish. The first bigger fish flashed a bit higher up, but I didn't pursue it because just then a little two-year grayling took my fly and startled the bigger fish.
I was fishing with a 0.10 mm diameter tipet but I had to smear it with Fuller's Earth to get it to sink and not float on the surface. At times I also managed to hang the fly among the branches of the trees on the bank behind me, so there was always a lot to do. A quite strong breeze was blowing in the valley and so the gentle line was difficult to cast accurately. After half past two, several tiny duns came out and the first rings appeared right away.
I stood in the middle of the pool with the current along the right bank, and cast to a deeper spot where three graylings were hiding, only about six to ten meters from my boots. A little Grey CDC Dun danced on the surface for a second and suddenly vanished in a grayling's mouth. I waited shortly and then lifted the rod. It bowed, indicating that the strike was good. Just a few more moments of thrashing and I had a grayling of about thirty-five centimeters. I carefully released it, dried the fly, smeared the end tippet with earth and it all repeated two minutes later.
"There's still the third one", I thought and got ready to catch it. The fish was lying close to the bank where the current breaks in different angles and bounces, so it wasn’t easy to present the fly ideally. It floated motionlessly on the surface by the bank and then the tipet quickly drew it unnaturally into the current. In addition, a small dace licked the fly twice and got a pinch in its dainty tongue. Suddenly my grayling rose in the current but I was only able to just lightly scratch it with the hook.
Of course I didn’t want to give up, so I re-tied the flies as the time passed on. My grayling rose two more times, but just to taste my fly and the strikes were in vain. I gave up twenty minutes later and moved farther along against the current, but the short hatch was finished and I had the feeling that this was all for the day. I searched for fish in several more places, but only got some two-year-olds to take and from time to time a brownie as well.
So I returned to where I was successful before and tried to deceive that bigger fish once again, but there was no sign it had been there. The sun started to touch the peak of Stozecka mountain - four o'clock was coming. Five minutes later the orange ball was behind the hill and suddenly I felt as if they had turned off the heating. I clumsily climbed out of the water and finished. I was only able to get warm with a fast walk and then by the stove in U Nemecka pub where I stopped to have something to eat.
The room was only inhabited by four people – two guests plus a waiter and young cook. The stove was cold, but they made me dinner anyway. One of the guests turned out to be the owner who willingly commented on the medals on the walls. There were really a great many of them, starting from 1st World War legionnaire medals from the battle of Zborov to various badges and medals from the era of the building of socialism. They hung from the walls like mute witnesses of the times, and no one seemed interested in them any more...
At the beginning of the third November decade the first snow fell in Sumava and it looked that it would stay till spring. On Saturday November26th, I drove a couple masons to our weekend house. They had been tinkering on the old shack for almost two weeks. I took my fishing equipment just in case I want to say good-bye to the river. I hadn't really made up my mind yet, but hoped I would still manage another few casts that year. There was over twenty centimeters of snow and they had measured 19 below zero Celsius by the Vltava in Lenora.
At half past one I overcame all my misgivings and stopped by the Lenora railroad crossing from where it's only a couple of steps to the river. Not long later I was walking on the path along the river, watching the footprints of hoofed game which munch on the alder branches piled there. Somebody may have been preparing heating wood there, cutting the trunks by the water. Finally I was in place, though I had to get into the water because the frost had laced the banks with ice floes.
Water reached my knees and was pretty cold. With my feet I crushed the ice which had gathered on the edge of the pool and I headed to the opposite bank. Grey icy slush began to form in some places on the bottom. I fished with nymphs in the rapid current but with no signs of a take. The end of the thin line started to get thicker with an ice coating that wouldn’t fall off. So I turned up current to try a place where smaller graylings usually lie.
It was not at all easy to cast the nymphs so that they didn’t land on one of the floating dinner-plate sized ice floes. Suddenly it seemed to me that the clumsy end of the line shook a bit, and so I struck just in case. Well done, the first catch, a grayling, even though it was a little two-year fish of about twenty-five centimeters. At least one – I didn't go there to no avail. I tried for a little bit longer with anticipation, but without any luck.
I tried to wade through the middle of the pool but the one-meter deep freezing water was so unpleasant that I gave up and returned to the shallows to climb back onto the bank. But it was not that simple. With all my might I toiled through the snow on the bank, grasping at the dry grass-blades until I was finally out of the water and dry. I pushed through the snow upstream to where an icefloe extended out into the pool. I tested its thickness and found it could support me. I proceeded step by step and saw fresh otter footprints in the snow on the edge.
Standing on the ice about three meters from the bank I cast my small nymphs into the pool, trying to work with them. My anticipation built up again and after a strike the line began to move. It was quite clear that it wasn’t a grayling, but rather a spotted beauty appeared by the floe – a two-palms-long trout. Nothing happened for a while, but then I was suddenly leading something heavy and cool-headed rushing right under the floe. I tried to land it, but it was only a piece of an old, sunken branch.
Then it was about half past two and suddenly the icy crust on the line no longer formed. I dared to creep out almost all the way to the edge of the floe, just an otter footprint away, and sent my nymphs into a deeper hole. A quick jerk indicated another take and this time it was a fish. A grayling of about thirty-two centimeters tried to rush under the floe, so I attempted to stop it and in a minute I was holding it in my hand. I carefully let it go into the water which must have been only about a half a degree.
For a while I looked for its friends because this fish couldn’t have been there alone, but no one else seemed interested. As time passed I became braver and braver on the floe, walking on it in search of the best spot for fishing. Then another indication of a take and something heavy was at the end of the rod. I fought with it for a moment and suddenly a rock the size of a fist rose to the surface. The hook had got caught in a small crack as if it were the mouth of a clam. The crust began to form on the line again and my watch showed a quarter till three. “That could be enough for this year" I said to myself, and I was happy that my ice floe didn't betray me and I didn't get to know the joy reserved every year for the hardy swimmers on New Year's Day in the Vltava in Prague...