Slovenia, wow. I wouldn’t know where to start.

Good friend and fellow angler Greg Lysak contacted me during the last week of February, early last year. I was in the Seychelles at the time, halfway through the Farquhar season – somewhat cut off from the outside world and everything happening. Unfortunately, Russia had invaded Ukraine, and my annual summer guiding plans on the Ponoi river were less likely to materialize.

Greg, who is from France but living in Luxembourg, was planning a big fishing trip and was very keen for me to join him for a couple of months (we usually spend at least a good few weeks together in the Seychelles each year). It was one of those opportunities that I could not turn down. We had planned to head out to Slovenia for about three weeks and then move on to another destination, but boy, we needed to be corrected.

We spent two full months in Slovenia, during the hottest summer Europe has seen for a long time. Fishing conditions could have been better, especially during the last few weeks. Unfortunately, there was very little rain during that period, and due to the extreme heat, river levels had dropped to the lowest they had been in years. Regardless, we had a vehicle; our imaginations, and luckily time was on our side for once. There were endless amounts of possibilities at our fingertips. I’d say we took full advantage of that.

With respect to the rivers, we were very central, and access to the famous Soča and Idrijca rivers was easy and headache free. The home base was at the beautiful family-owned lodge Villa Noblesa in the small town of Most na Soči. We were treated to incredible food and hospitality from Rok Gasparin and his remarkable family and extensive amounts of local knowledge regarding fishing, rivers, surrounding areas, and wildlife. The trip indeed would not have been the same without them.

Slovenia is a very popular summer destination – how could it not be? It is relatively cheap, has the most beautiful scenery, and has gorgeous crystal-clear rivers. Tourists of all shapes and sizes flock up on the river banks, so weekends tend to be very busy. Kayakers, fishermen, swimmers, sunbathers, I could go on and on. Most days, we had the place to ourselves during the weeks, but on the weekends, we found ourselves exploring new areas and fishing the less accessible rivers, which proved to be very enjoyable.

We spent the first couple weeks’ catching fish,’ if you know what I mean. Without venturing too far from the lodge, we kept ourselves very busy, concentrating our efforts in and around the Tolmin area, mainly on the Soca and the Tolminka rivers. It got my confidence up. We also caught some good-sized rainbows and a couple of marble trout. They were not short in numbers either. Fly selection and fishing techniques did not seem to be of utter importance. We caught fish on dries, nymphs, streamers – fishing with an indicator, sight fishing, Czech nymphing; you name it. So as long as your fly was getting good attention, you could see the fish feeding; you had a chance! Remember that each area/river has guidelines for what you can and can’t use.

SOÄŒA River

The Soča river was everything I thought it would be and more. When you open up your search engine and type in “Fly fishing in Slovenia,” and click images, most of the photographs that come up are courtesy of the Soča, crystal, crystal clear water surrounded by the most picturesque mountains and forests. It is spectacular regardless of the fishing and takes the most responsibility for Slovenia’s popularity as a fly fishing and summer holiday destination.

The fishing speaks for itself. The most amazing thing I realized about the Soča was that the fishing could be as straightforward or technical as you made it. You can imagine that with my ongoing saltwater/salmon guiding career, I was out of my comfort zone regarding trout fishing. Despite that, I found myself capable of keeping the rod bent throughout the day, with lots of room for error. The river was full of fish, and there were spots and fish for anglers of all ages and skill levels, making it an exceptional place.

The gorge area between Trnovo ob Soči and Kobarid was, without a doubt, my most enjoyable fishing on the Soča. It’s a full-day commitment; you head out with your backpacks full of water, and all the gear, flies, etc., for the day. Ensure you have a good pair of boots because you’ll be on your feet for most of the day, off the beaten track, hiking over giant boulders and rocks and crossing tricky river sections. It’s a beautiful experience, but not for the faint-hearted. In retrospect, the difficult access is the best part. You’re away from the road, and there are few trails, so chances of seeing another person, let alone another fisherman, are meager. The fish do not see flies often, so it is pretty epic when you find them. It’s a great place to catch some decent-sized marble trout; it seemed as if they were starving!

IDRIJCA River

The Idrijca river that’s where things got interesting. From what I could gather before the trip, it was the place to be if we had a good chance at catching some good-sized marbles – the reason why most people travel to fish in Slovenia. The number of rainbows was significantly less than most of the other rivers I gathered, but regular shots at marble trout and hybrids (marble x brown) were inevitable. I got a severe wake-up call during the first couple of fishing sessions.

The lower part of the river from Stopnik down towards the Soca was tough with the lack of rain and little water movement. It was full of algae, and the fish we found were glued to the bottom and not feeding. We spent most of our time on the upper part, closer to Idrica and the trophy zones. Water temperatures were cooler, there was less algae and more water movement, and we found more fish actively feeding.

Finding the fish wasn’t necessarily an issue, but the approach and presentation had to be perfect to get a positive reaction in these conditions. It was very tricky and took a lot of time and patience for me to get used to. It was far from impossible, though. We found ourselves going out there to focus on catching one good fish for the day instead of heading out on the Soča and catching ten fish between us in one pool. Some days we blanked; others, we had 6, 7, or 8 fish between us. That’s the beauty of it all.

SAVINJA River

We spent two days on the Savinja river, roughly two and a half hour’s drive west of Most na Soci. The place initially came up over a couple of beers with Slovenian guide Blaz Klancnik at the lodge for giant rainbows and browns. We were sold and had to check it out. After a three AM start and a long drive in the dark on some of the most questionable roads I have ever been on (big statement coming from someone who grew up in Zimbabwe), we were on the water, and immediately it was clear that the place had big fish and there was a lot of them too. One thing that it did not mean was that it was going to be easy.

Fish were spooky, very selective, and not moving far for the fly. It was challenging initially, you had to be spot-on with just about everything. At the end of the day, we caught a couple of really good fish, but neither Greg nor I were happy with our performance. Straight back to the drawing board, we punched another day on the Savinja into the calendar and, in between our normal fishing days, started to prepare ourselves for the next trip.

After about a week, we made our way out there again. Weather-wise, conditions were similar to our last visit, but some substantial rain in our absence had given the water a bit more color and volume, which made a big difference. We had an incredible session, landing several giant rainbows, mostly on small streamers, and a couple sight fishing with nymphs. It was epic, and in hindsight, we did not get to explore the river as much as I would have liked. I will be back at some point.

UNICA River

If you speak to anyone who knows about grayling fishing in Slovenia, the river Unica will usually be brought up. A chalk stream, famous for its fantastic mayfly hatches, big grayling, and brown trout – another river we spent a good few days on. The Unica is unique compared to the other rivers we have fished. It is said to be 80% grayling and 20% browns, which we were very keen to see for ourselves.

We had caught a decent number of graylings on the Idrijca and Soča, but they were not so numerous and usually quite challenging to catch once we had found them. The Unica was a completely different movie. Upon arrival, it was apparent at the sheer amount of grayling there was. Due to the low water levels, the river was relatively shallow, and the fish were heavily concentrated in certain spots. We had an incredible few days out there, catching some fantastic grayling on dry flies and some great shots at good-sized browns.

It almost felt like we were fishing for a completely different fish. They were much less spooky and not fussy regarding fly selection. I even caught one on a streamer while casting at a big brown – it was ridiculous. Anyone interested in catching grayling in Slovenia would be silly not to spend at least a day or two there.

MOST NA SOÄŒI Lake

We went through some scorching hot weather in the second half of our trip. Fishing on most of the rivers had slowed right down, and due to the extreme temperatures, there were a lot more people spending most of their day enjoying the cooler temperatures that the rivers in Slovenia offers. Finding some peace was extremely difficult, even during the week. The fish themselves didn’t seem to mind at all, swimmers and kayakers are something they have gotten used to over the years, but it wasn’t quite the experience we were after. We were on the hunt for a plan B.

Bôstjan Jakopič, a local fly fishing guide, and friend of Gregs, contacted us and offered to take us out on the Lake in Most na Soči for a day. The lake formed by the hydro plant on the Soča river is one of the principal natural adornments of the little town, and although artificial, it is of the same unique colors as the mysterious Soča. To the community, it bestows an atmosphere of tranquility and offers plenty of recreation opportunities. Whilst it is no secret to guides and seasoned fishermen, people overlook the lake purely because of the style of fishing. To many die-hard trout anglers, waving around a 7wt setup with a giant streamer attached is undoubtedly considered a sin. I won’t lie; I was very, very excited!

We met B̫stjan down at his boat on the lake. The boat was nothing special Рsimilar to a small Jon boat, with a battery-powered bass motor on the back and a set of oars. It surprisingly had more than enough space for the 3 of us. We used the electric motor to get to where we needed to be and set ourselves up for a long drift. B̫stjan in the center of the boat on the oars, Greg and I at the front and back of the boat, respectively Рit worked well.

Much to my surprise, the water was so clean that we spent the whole day sight casting to cruising rainbows and the occasional marble trout. Most fish were aggressive, moving far for the fly and competing to see who would take it. It was an epic experience, and if you spend enough time figuring it out, there is a serious chance of catching a monster marble trout.

To say the least, Slovenia blew my mind. Two months may sound like a long time, but I cannot wait for another chance to get out there. Despite all the fishing and exploration, there are still so many aspects of this country and its fishery that I am yet to experience. Slovenia is headache-free; whether you are an avid fly fisherman or not, it is just one of those destinations you will have to try to visit at some stage.

Angler story from Cullan Ashby. When Cullan isn’t traveling and chasing fish all over the world, find him guiding in the Seychelles with Alphonse Fishing Company and beyond. Be sure to follow him on Instagram @cullanashby.

Check out the articles below:

The Streams of Slovenia

Fishing Breakdown: Arctic Grayling Fishing in Colorado

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.