Fly Fishing Slovenia: A Travel Overview

They call it the NZ of Europe and to some extent it’s true.

A lot of chalk streams and rivers, gin clear and with some good fishing. Slovenia is a relatively small country, and together with Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia former parts of the old Yugoslavia. Slovenia and Bosnia are the two countries that spend the most on protected resources for their fishing, but I’m certain that the other countries are fine places to fish as well.

Map of Eastern europe

I have tried a week in Slovenia, a beautiful country with lots of mountains, deep valleys and stunning rivers. But, let me say it at once; It’s no way near fishing in New Zealand, but for a snow tired Norwegian it’s much closer and far less expensive.

Most of the fishing is located in the North-West part of Slovenia’s Julian Alps. The waters are renowned for their sky blue glacial colors, for example the Soca river and its tributaries. If you are new to fly-fishing, you can enjoy learning and improving your fishing skills on the Sava Bohinjka or Radovna rivers. If you are an expert, you can test your stalking and rivercraft skills on the challenging Soca, Tolminka or Idrijca rivers. Slovenia also offers natural chalk streams on the Krka and Unec.

I myself really enjoyed the Sava Bohinjka and the Soca rivers, they’re really great rivers with plenty of good trout and some Grayling offering crystal clear water, easy wading and a good chance of spotting fish. My biggest rainbow on Soca was 3 kg (6.9 lb), taken on a salmon egg just below the surface.

I was also wading upstream with my line in the water when I hooked a 1 lb trout about 6 ft behind me. It turns out that the fish head for the places where you mix up the bottom and release small stonefly larva and other insects. It’s great to walk slowly in the middle of the rivers and cast towards the banks with a dry fly or a nymph.

Crossing a bridge on our way back to the car we spotted a big school of rainbows, and having some pizza leftovers from our lunch we decided to feed them. Boy do rainbows love pizza! We attracted some 100 fish that fought over our pizza crumbs. Was it healthy for the fish? I don’t know, but it was a very funny experience.

Fly fisherman holding his catch

Species diversity is the name of the game in Slovenia: you can expect to catch brown trout, rainbow trout, grayling, brook trout, “Danube” salmon, or even the elusive and mysterious marble trout.

We spotted the Marble trout, but even when we tried almost everything we had in our fly boxes, it wasn’t interested. They can be really big, but also really hard to get. It’s the same fish that you find in Mongolia and that can reach enormous weights. We were fishing in the spring, and due to our guide the Marble trout fishing is best in the fall.

The season is almost the whole year round, but I would prefer the spring just after the snow has melted in the mountains. Then it’s Grayling and trout time and you rarely get Marble trout, but if lucky……

Fish in a fishing net

In my opinion you have to have a guide the first time. They know the rivers, the roads to them and the hot spots. They also know the right flies to use, and I had quite a bit of learning when I was there. Fishing with bloodworms and salmon eggs is not what I was used to. I also fished with nymphs and dries, but always listen to the guide, he/she knows his/her way around. Another point is that some of the rivers are regulated and once a day they let out water from the dams to fill the rivers. The guides know when this happens. It could be dangerous to stand in the middle of a river when a flood comes your way, and a couple of times he pulled us up from the river and we drove a bit further up in the system to fish waters that already had been flooded.

Fly fisherman with his catch

So, why don’t you pick up on the history of a central part of Europe, see the sights and experience some good fishing while you are there. The old history is quite interesting with maybe Dubrovnik as the best known. The city state played a big role in medieval times, and being a small state with hardly any army they had to rely on diplomacy to stay alive. Our form of embassies comes from this state.

The recent history is also fascinating but bloody. After Tito, who held Yugoslavia together in a communist regime, the different people groups and religions clashed. Neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. We have all heard about the ethnic cleansing and the atrocities that took place during the war, and even today, if you ask a Slovenian what he feels about his neighbor states, the answer is that he does not trust them, they are brutal, dumb etc. Lots of hard feelings even today in peoples that lived in relative harmony only a few years back.

Even so, they are very friendly towards us tourists, the food is good with an Italian style kitchen, and the landscape is stunning!

I’m going to Bosnia in the spring of 2018, and hope it’s as good as Slovenia.

Cliff and forest in Slovenia

Tight lines!

Jan Heidel