By Jesse Lowry
Slovenia! Who the hell goes fishing in Slovenia?
That’s the typical reaction I get when I start talking about my fishing trips to this little gem of a country that most people couldn’t point to on a map. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Slovenia a handful of times and still am chomping at the bit to go back. It has a ton to offer anyone who makes the journey to this country of roughly 2 million people on the Adriatic Sea, at the cross roads of some very different cultures. Formerly part of the Yugoslavia (and numerous other empires prior) and now part of the EU, Slovenia has been influenced by Slavic, Germanic, and Italian roots. The people there are very proud, friendly and love the outdoors; hiking, rock climbing, white water kayaking, paragliding, and of course fly fishing. Many of the people I met would go fly fishing in the morning and then flying off the side of a mountain by noon once the thermals started to pick up, this worked to my advantage as the rivers were less busy in the afternoon, granted the fishing does slow down with the sun overhead and the gin clear rivers.
It truly is a spectacular place to visit, even if there were no fish in these rivers they are an absolute pleasure to wade through and hike along. Crystal clear turquoise waters, deep canyons, lush forests, gorgeous water falls, massive boulders sprawled throughout the river almost like they were placed there just for Fly Fishermen, old homesteads that have stood the test of time and blend seamlessly into the background, it’s like stepping back in time. Then add to all of this feisty Rainbows, Adriatic Grayling, Browns and the most sought after, Marble Trout (think bull trout head on a brown trout body, with feeding behaviour similar to browns). All these fish in sizes where you have to give your head a shake, given the water they are occupying. This is the total package, a sight fishing, upstream dry fly fishing mecca, accessible from your car, that seems like it was conjured from some of your fishiest dreams. Obviously, nymphing and streamers work great, but when sight fishing in gin clear water I find it hard to resist throwing a dry (probably to my detriment from a hook up perspective… hrrmmm I seemed to suffer from something similar during university days as well).
Fly selection wise I felt amply prepared with my usual western freestone go to’s, though some tail water selection would be a welcome addition. Dry Flys: Stimulators in Orange (lots of orange moths or Butterflys in July and August), Goddard Caddis, small tape wing black caddis, purple haze, green drakes, BWOs, ants and terrestrials. Nymphs: Hares ears, pheasant tails, stone flies, cased caddis, guides choice….you get the idea. I’m told streamers early hours in the dark in some of the big holding pools is the way to hook into the big meat eating Marbles, these pools are home to very tight lipped big fish during daylight hours, which people cast endlessly at and are mostly unsuccessfully. You’ll figure out which pools these are pretty quick, easy access to them, big fish stacked up, looks like shooting fish in a barrel, generally it ain’t.
In terms of finding the spots to fish, it’s pretty easy, a little Google Maps Satellite view and you’ll see most of the roads follow blue lines. Currently it seems the imaging was done in summer when flows are lower which allows you to identify pools and pocket waters quite easily. You will also notice there are lots of access points and turn outs along the road, mostly put ins and take outs for the kayakers and rafts, so bit of care needed when parking in these spots especially the raft access points. Note: satellite images make things look flat and seemingly easy to access, this definitely isn’t the case there are some very steep access points not ideal for the shaky legs, but they get you to some pretty stellar places. Also note all of my fishing in Slovenia has been done during Late June to Late August when flows are low and wading the river is relatively is easy.
Getting there is pretty easy.
Just hop on a flight to London and catch an easyjet flight to Ljubljana, don’t try to pronounce it just book it! Rent a car and head to Tolmin about a 2 hour drive from the airport. A few things to note: there are multiple suggested routes to get there, all roughly the same amount of time, the top rout highlighted in blue seems like the most obvious choice (see map Below), but don’t do it at night and save a map down on your phone cache as cell phone reception is spotty. Should you take this route, buy the rental insurance as these roads are tight and windy, sometimes you will think you are in someone’s back yard, you are… so be prepared to get turned around a bit, but it is all part of the Slovenian experience. Also don’t turn right on a red light, its illegal everywhere and caused me an awkward run in with the local law. My first right turn out of the Airport the cops were stopped on the opposite side of the intersection, thankfully things settled down when I said I just arrived and was going to fish the Soca, I also googled the traffic laws in Canada showing them that it was legal unless otherwise posted, hence my blatent mistake. Also if you’re not in a rush take the time to make the drive home through Triglav National Park towards Kranjska Gora up and over the Julian Alps, there are some great scramble and hikes in the area, be warned the switch backs seem never ending.
Accommodations are pretty easy to find in the towns of Tolmin, Kobarid, and Bovec, there are some decent hotels that also sell the fishing licenses for the area (more on that in a sec), also some very nice Air BnB options. And if you’re like me and prefer camping, there are quit a few campgrounds with great facilities and the bonus is they are right on the River bank which make the early starts, and late night Lasko(local beer) sessions easy.
The fishing in the Soca Valley area is split into three sections, each managed by a local fishing club, who issue the licenses for their Area. The Fishing Club of Tolmin by far has the most miles of rivers to fish, but in my opinion the ZZRS has some of the most scenic fishing you will ever have access to with compact mini. I have yet to fish the waters belonging to RD Idrija, but they look very fishy, and they are home to the “Trophy Area” where I stopped and watched some monsters feed, but generally I have an aversion to areas labeled so clearly, and truth be told found some other “Trophy Areas” without the signage. The licenses are a little pricey compared to North American standards running around 50-60 Euros a day, but well worth it.
Fishing Club of Tolmin (Stopnik to Bovec) – https://www.flyfishing.si/index.php
ZZRS (Bovec to Camp Korita) – http://www.zzrs.si/en/page/ribolovni-revir-soca/
RD Idrija (Idrija to Stopnik) – http://rd-idrija.si/wordpress/en/
All I can say is that if Slovenia isn’t on your bucket list, it should be, hell I didn’t know what a bucket list item should look like until I went there.
If you don’t want to do the DIY thing, or want to start out with some local knowledge there are lots of local guides that will show you the ropes. I’ve only spent one day with Lesly from Slo-Fly. In one day he taught my better half how to cast, put her on her first trout on a dry fly which was a gorgeous marble, humbled the shit out of me and my fishing skills, all for the better. He retrained me and taught me how it was done, the only thing he didn’t do was teach Leanne the proper way to hold a fish and grip and grin.
Jesse LowryGink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!