Fly Fishing Travels
Lisa Isles, Greys' Pro
Travelling and fly fishing is a combination I've had the pleasure of experiencing over the last few years and this year has been no exception. Earlier this month I had the one of the best week's fly fishing of my life (so far) fishing on one of the best European rivers for the third time for Grayling and Brown Trout - the legendary River San in Poland.
The San is based in south eastern Poland and crosses over the Ukrainian border. My first experience on the San was an absolute eye opener as I'd never realised how big the river was. My regular river fishing experience is mainly on small rivers and streams - third trip in and still learning. The San is such an incredible river, every 100 yards is like fishing a different fishery and, in my opinion if you fish more than 100 yards in one session, which normally lasts from around 10am-4pm, then you're moving too quickly.
The scenery around the San is quite breathtaking with bursts of autumnal colours along mountainsides, especially on the river banks. As an angler and a person who just loves to be outside, you realise that you're in a pretty special place. Hearing and seeing Kingfishers working all day up and down the river, it's a sight I can never get bored of - that vivid electric blue back and the bright hot orange chest.
Being a competition angler it gets driven into you to cover all of the water in your section, splitting your beat up into sections and then fishing them in the most methodical and practical way. The danger with this mindset is that sometimes you can fall into the trap of fishing your water too quickly and missing certain key elements of that specific section. This is so true of the San - you literally have to stop yourself from moving your feet sometimes and slow everything down.
Most days we'd get to the river bank around 10am, around the time the Blue Winged Olives and Pale Wateries were starting to trickle off. The first two mornings I set out using Duo, just to get my eye in and settle into a gentle rhythm. By lunchtime I couldn't bare to see the crimson coloured dorsal fins of Grayling breaking the surface, along with residential Brown Trout feeding confidently on BWO's - it was 100% dry fly time. After all, the San is famous for its dry fly action and it would have been foolish to just carry on using Duo.
I first came across this BWO pattern on my first trip to the San - it has since become my number 1 go-to option and the confidence I have when using this fly is one of the reasons I just love it. They are so simple to tie but so effective. The tying is on a size 20/22 fine wire hook, a single strip of yellow quill and then depending on the quality of the CDC either one or two plumes... and that's it! I always tie mine with silk and make the finishing touches with superglue.
Everyday is always a different day on any river and the San will always be a special place for me as it's where I learnt the absolute fundamentals of dry fly fishing and was then able to put them into practise. As it's such a vast river, splitting it up into sections and fishing it methodically and taking your time is what it's all about. What I find even more interesting about this river, is I honestly think it has helped me grow as an angler myself. For me it's not a numbers game, it's about the challenge... targeting a specific fish and getting successful conversions is where you learn the most.
Seeing a big Grayling rise and knowing you have to present this size 20/22 dry fly perfectly, watching the water to see if it's lying on the right or left side of the crease. Patience is always a virtue with this type of fly fishing as you have so many elements to take into account such as presentation and getting into the optimal position.
One of the biggest things for me when challenging myself to go after the larger, elusive Grayling is confidence. Having 100% confidence in what you're doing, knowing you're in the right position, you know you have the skill set to do it... it clears your mind from all of those 'what if' questions. So instead of questioning, you just do with clear goals and a clear mind set. That's when you can take in everything around you, you begin to feel like you are part of what's being played out and that's when memories are made.
My most memorable moment from my last trip was on the fourth day in. I can remember everything so vividly. I had worked my way across the river, carefully wading and catching fish along the way. One of the best things about the San, is that when you take your time you naturally fish it the way it's supposed to be fished, enjoying the gifts it presents to you. In turn you give the fish and the river the respect that it deserves. You can fish upstream for a while, but it would be a mistake to ignore the fish rising downstream - just extending that cast you will be amazed at how much water you can cover and just how well the Greys GR70 Streamflex #3 can cope... not only with the casting and presentation, but the way you can play fish.
Whilst working my way across I noticed one rise in particular with the water being so clear, it was such a still day as well. It was definitely a Grayling as I could see the dorsal, those majestic colours that we all dream of! Getting closer, you could just see how much water it would push forward with a single rise. So the challenge was on! Target acquired, everything was in place...
It was rising with such confidence I knew I was in with a great chance. Making the cast I landed the fly around 3 feet upstream of it, my size 20 Blue Winged Olive imitation landed so delicately just on the outside seam. It's like time slows down... you're already picturing the take in your head. You start to see that movement in the gin clear water, the anticipation of the strike is absolutely imminent. The surface of the water breaks exactly where you expect, the nose of the sough- after Grayling appears followed by that everlasting memory dorsal... your fly disappears... a gentle lift and it was 'fish on'.
I'm already looking forward to my next trip to one of my favourite ever rivers but there are so many other rivers in the world to visit! Tight lines and solid hook ups!