Europe's New Zealand
By Robert Kolarik, Jesper Malmberg
I kneel in the shallow water being stealth and also giving me more space for casting. The small stream is lined by trees on both sides and even over my head. It's a green cave. The water color changes from crystal-clear in the shallows to deep turquoise at the deep end.
To the right hand side of the pool by the cliff, the stream has moved the gravel and created a deeper part of the pool.
There! I see them. A couple of darker shapes moving at the bottom and a smaller one leaving it's hiding place under the bush hanging just above the surface.
It takes something invisible from the surface.
The air is cool and fresh, the sun finds it's way through the trees and thus creating an almost surreal light by the small stream. None of this beautifulness reaches my brain as my focus is completely on the fish. I open my fly box and ask Robert which fly to choose.
"Something small" he says. With shaky fingers I tie on a black, barbless F-fly size 20 on the 6x tippet and start pulling off line...
The first couple of casts lands behind the fish and Robert whispers:
As if I didn't notice. Afraid to spook all the fish in the pool, the next two casts are also too short. Robert keeps silent. The loop of the the next cast is tightened and send the fly in front of the fish but slightly too much to the left.
To my surprise the fly disappears from the surface, my strike is delayed a second and then I can feel the living tension from the fish and delivers a slight shiver down my spine. The fish responds to the unpleasant resistance and hurls its slender body a full meter into the air and barely lands before its airborne again.
The fish is amazingly strong for its size and I allow it to run considering the thin tippet. After a while the fight takes its toll and the finest looking rainbow trout slides into my net, around a half a kilo, covered in small dots with perfect fins formed by a life in strong running water.
My first fish down here.
Slovenia, the small country in the Julian alps present a fantastic landscape, mountains, valleys, plains and even a tiny Mediterranean coastline. Its two million inhabitants is a member of the European Union and as much as half of its area is covered by forest which makes it the third country in Europe after Finland and Sweden for that matter.
The Soca valley is just like that.
The steep hills along the sides of the streams are totally covered with dense forest and present a stunning wildlife, quite unique for Europe. Small roads follow the natural bends of the water running, connecting the tiny old villages with small scale agriculture that still provide their inhabitants.
Small local cafés and restaurants are not far away so a cup of coffee or a pint is kills the waiting time up to the next hatch.
It is hard, very hard not to love this country.
In this beautiful country flows the mighty Soca River and its tributaries Tolminka, Idrijca, Baca and Trebuscica. Their waters derives from deep within the mountains and is cold and clear, very clear.
The water temperature never exceeds 14 degrees Celsius even though the air temperature in the summertime often passes the 30 degree mark. This means you have good fishing even throughout the warm season. Heavy rain can spoil the fishing with murky water and high levels but a great advantage is that the streams is situated in different valleys and thus not all affected by the rain. There is almost always a fishable stream in the system.
The target species are marble trout, grayling, brown trout and rainbow trout. The marble trout is a unique specie for this area and can reach a weight of 25 kilos!
The adult marble is a mean predator that feeds on smaller fish and only the smaller marbles can be persuaded to take an imitation of an insect.
We have heard several stories about fishermen who have been fighting fairly large rainbow trout's that suddenly out of nowhere have been attacked by a giant marble. I have caught a couple graylings and rainbows having obvious signs of marble attacks. Regarding the size of the pray and bite marks they sure must be no small fish. The size of fish that I'm a bit afraid of actually catching.
To protect the marble trout the authorities have introduced rainbow trout in the Soca system to reduce the fishing pressure of the marble. They chose the rainbow because it isn't able to produce hybrids like the brown trout. The rainbow is the most common specie in the system and it thrives in the clean and cold water. Although the fish is planted don't mistake them being slow, fat corn-fed pigs. We're talking about slim, muscular fish with perfect fins which spend there lives in fast water and do use every drop of energy they possess to avoid the net once hooked.
Equipment is standard 3-5 for dry fly and nymph fishing. Only one fly tackle is allowed and barbless hooks are the rule. A large arbor reel with good capacity for backing I recommended. On every visit there are a couple of fishes who decide to test your knot between your fly line and backing. Long leaders with a tip of 5x or thinner increase your chances in the clear water. Most of the fishing here is C&R so consider that when you choose your tackle. If your quarry is bigger fish you better scale up to 6-8 weight streamer outfit, perhaps with a sinking line to get down in the deep pools where they are hiding.
Jesper, three trips to the Soca valley:
My first impression when Robert took me on a small roundtrip the first evening was a feeling of despair. "How am I going to catch anything down here?" Crystal clear, spooky fish, deep pools and ridiculously small flies. Well, Robert showed me how to, and before long I netted one of these beauties. The fishing down here is not the easiest but not the hardest either. On every trip I learn something new and skills are definitely a factor of success. What can I say, I have been here three years running and planning a trip for next year. Do you like the pictures? The pictures don't do justice to the reality.
Robert, >100 fishing days in Slovenia
Even though I have been fishing in the area for a quiet long time, there is always something new to discover, 150km of fishing waters in the area takes some time to fish through.
What I like mostly is the different characters of the waters in the Soca valley, from the big Soca to the smallest stream Trebuscica and all the others in between. This makes it possible for everyone to find the perfect spot for the day. My personal favorite is the Baca river, a small stream with a fantastic character of rapid water and deep pools. A tip is to get away from the ‘tourist' pools and mover further up in the streams to find the true inhabits of brown and marble trout's.
Travel to Slovenia is quiet simple and compared to other similar alternatives quiet cost efficient either your go by car or take the flight to near airports of Vienna (2,5h drive) Ljubljana (1,5h drive). Driving directions if you are coming from the western or north part of Europe is through Villach (Austria) turning of the highway in Tarvisio (Italy) and heading towards Bovec (Slovenia) and from there further down along the Soca River to your final destination.
A preferable small village to stay in is the Most na Soci (Bridge over Soca) which is located central in the Soca valley wherefrom all rivers can be reached within a few minutes driving. Hotel, Boarding house and Private rooms are available accommodations here.
I'm personally preferring the private room alternative which is quiet cheap 15-20€/night depending on numbers of beds. On preferred alternative is www.apartma-taljat.com who also can arrange fishing license and guiding if necessary. Fishing license C/R (2010) 52€/day - 3 day permit 140€ - 5 days permit 208€.
Fishing season starts April 1st and ends October 31st, where May/June and September is high season for fishing. In the Soca valley fly fishing is the only allowed fishing method, barbless hooks only. Soca is the only river also where other activities are allowed like kayaking and rafting, if you are fishing in the northern part of Soca you might see quiet a lot of these. In the other rivers fly fishing is exclusive, so there are no others that can disturb your fishing except yourself not presenting the flies good enough.