If your significant other ever suggests a vacation to Croatia, jump all over it! Better yet, be proactive and suggest it yourself. Croatia is a beautiful country; Dubrovnik’s wall walk, the coastal islands, and Istria’s hill towns are all stunning. There also are some great places in that part of the world to drift a fly.
My partner Deb and I spent six weeks touring Eastern Europe this past summer and since I can’t say I’ve truly experienced a place unless I’ve fished there, I spent plenty of time researching angling opportunities before we left. Earlier on the Fishwest blog, I posted a report from my experience in Estonia. In this article, I’ll recount my experiences in Croatia.
The small, sleepy, and charming village of Brod na Kupi is in northern Croatia near the border of Slovenia and right on the doorstep of Risnjak National Park. Surrounded by low mountains and dense forests, it is sometimes referred to as “Butterfly Valley.” There are three gorgeous rivers that converge almost right in town – the Kupa, the Kupica, and the Curak. I would actually classify them respectively as a river, stream, and creek.
Most European fishing licenses are valid for a certain beat of water for 1 day only. The cafe in Brod na Kupi sold a single license that allowed an angler to pursue the brown trout and grayling in all three local rivers. There were no fly shops nearby, so I was dependant on the gear I had with me.
We stayed in a scenic little holiday house that was advertised on Booking.com. Driving the country lanes to and from the river made me feel like I was really experiencing local life.
Both kupa-flyfishing.com and riverkupalodge.com offer information, lodging and guiding for fly fishers. At the time of writing, the guiding rate was quoted at about $135 US per day.
g-feuerstein.com/en/fly-fishing-croatia.html includes good river descriptions and contact information for a guide.
It was brutally hot the afternoon we arrived, so I didn’t hit the river until there was only about an hour and a half of daylight left. I chose the Kupica because a couple good spots had revealed themselves beside the road we drove in on. Despite the easy access, there was no other angler in sight. The stream was gin clear and alternated between deep pools, rock-filled glides and very shallow riffles. Unfortunately, the latter dominated and it was a long walk between prime spots.
My very first drift was where the water slid by a log and over some deeper boulders. It was with a parachute Adams. Is there any other fly to tie on when you are in a completely foreign country and don’t really know what to do? Shockingly, a trout appeared and tracked my fly for about 5 feet. As soon as that one disappeared, another showed itself and finned lazily in the current. Out went the Adams again. The fish accelerated towards it and I was already planning the hook set. Then the trout abruptly sunk out of sight.
Sigh… I started hiking upstream to a good looking bend in the river. By the time I got there, a mist had settled over the water. It was the first time in my life I had to ditch a dry fly because fog obscured it. I heard a couple fish rising but reluctantly tied on a streamer and worked my way along the bend before darkness chased me off the river.
The next morning revealed that overnight thunderstorms had severely muddied the Kupica. Deb and I thought we could get upstream of any dirty water by fishing the Kupa River close to its spring source inside Risnjak National Park. Not only that, but several online reports described good grayling fishing on this section. This proved to be somewhat of an adventure because procuring the needed license involved a 15 mile drive to the park entrance. Reaching the river access required another 15 mile drive along a torturous mountain lane.
At our access point, the Kupa was not much bigger than the Kupica. It was super clear and basically a shallow riffle as far as the eye could see. We started splashing our way through several hundred yards of the shallow riffle. And past something I have rarely encountered IN a trout stream – a couple of snakes that were possibly venomous according to the post-fishing Google search. (At least they were small!)
Eventually, we came upon a small waterfall that stretched all the way across the river and dumped into some promising water. I started prospecting likely current seams with the Adams and Deb used a nymph. Almost immediately a small grayling launched itself out of the water after my fly. It missed and the prospecting continued. Shortly thereafter, just before another thunderstorm shut down our fishing day, I had another couple of takes. However, nothing stayed connected.
If you read my earlier article about Estonia, you know that my hook’em and hold’em percentage was getting incredibly miniscule at that point and I was starting to talk to myself about it. 🙂
Nearby Places of Interest:
Two hours west of Brod na Kupi lies Plitvice Lakes National Park, where a series of crystal blue lakes are connected by dozens of remarkable waterfalls.
About 15 miles from Plitvice Lakes is a very cool little place called Slunj (pronounced Sloon). In Slunj, the local river braids amongst and even through the buildings. One local restaurant actually raises the trout they serve on their section of the river. The scenic hill towns and vineyards of the Istrian peninsula are a couple hours east of Brod na Kupi. Also nearby is perhaps Croatia’s most famous trout stream – the Gacka River. This is actually a chalk stream and likely a worthy fishing destination by itself.
Good to Know:
Croatia was the site of much fighting during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 90’s. Today, it is a peaceful nation with great infrastructure. However, uncleared land mines may still exist in some areas. When fishing, if I was not in the river, I was on a well-marked path. As I understand it, the national parks have been 100% cleared, and that was the only place where we took short cuts through the bush.
There seemed to be a lot of the River Kupa that did NOT hold fish. If I were fishing it again, especially inside Risnjak, I would likely take advantage of the cheap rates for local guides.
I have to admit that when fishing in a place like Croatia, just casting a fly felt good. It is easy to overlook not landing any fish. And a couple of snakes…
Watch for “Fishy Places Part 2: Slovenia” in the near future.