Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fly fishing, St. Michel-im-Lungau style.

Our annual fly fishing trip was rapidly approaching, and the absolutely horrific weather outlook wasn't improving. Friday, the first day of our three day fishing trip, looked grim. The forecast was for a torrential downpour, and in an alpine stream, that means no possibility of fishing. Nonethless, we hopped into Mark's champagne colored convertible land boat and began the 6 hour drive deep into the heart of Austria, ready to fish and full of optimism.

Six or seven hours later, after some horrific bouts of traffic, we arrived at our unbelievably cheap and well outfitted B&B, ran an extremely wet 10k along the absolutely unfishable Mur river, went out for some good food and beer, and hurried back to read our kindles. (Seriously.)

The next morning we met our contact, the man with the priceless fishing permits. Surprised that we even showed up, he took pity on us and gave us a hefty discount on the pricey day cards (50 euros a day, by far the most expensive part of the trip), spent 45 minutes explaining every miniscule section of river in great detail, and then showed us the old, defunct hotel he lived in all alone. It was an impressive place, full of history and dark wood.

We shook hands, took our permits, and made our way up to the RotgĆ¼ldensee, an alpine lake that was part of the section we were permitted to fish, and one that would present our only possibility to catch anything.

We hiked for about an hour, climbing 400 meters into the mountains, and saw a beautiful lake, albeit one that had a very high water level and extremely steep sides. It wouldn't be easy to fish.

We walked around for a bit and found a a small river flowing into the lake. Char were visibly feeding a mere yard away, and while there was maybe a doormat sized space for each of us on either side of the outlet and any sort of conventional cast would be impossible, this was clearly the only place we could fish in the current conditions.

Fortunately there were fish rising within rollcast distance. A few hours later, we'd caught 20+ fish, mostly small, but very feisty. At our feet were char feeding subsurface, 10 feet further out were trout, and at the limit of our messy rollcasts were grayling, eagerly pouncing on surface insects. I'd never caught one before, and on this day I ended up catching three, the biggest was 14 inches with linebacker shoulders.

We were getting cold (there was visible snow, not a first for our august fishing trips), called it a day, and headed back down the mountain to enjoy some more good, cheap food, and hope that the river calmed a down a bit by the next morning. At least the skunk was off, and we both agreed that even if we didn't catch a fish at all the next day, the trip would nonetheless be a success.

Back at the lodge, we met a pair of older French guys, who'd been coming to fish the Mur for decades. Naturally they told us of the good old 60+ fish per day days, and how good the weather was the previous week, but they also gave us some location tips, and even a few hand tied flies.

The river had certainly gone down, and cleared up quite a bit, but it was still high, and fast. The wading was slow and dangerous, so we moved our way upstream to where the water thinned out a bit, and managed to get some more trout on dries.

I spent most of the day at a deep pool, trying my luck for something bigger with a weighted streamer. The force of the waterfall was ridiculous, and standing in the wrong location made casting an excercise in futility. I didn't catch the big one I was hoping for, but I did catch my first, and only, traditional rainbow of the trip, as well as a smaller trout with an oddly deformed dorsal fin.

We slowly made our back to the lodge, stopping at plenty of places to fish along the way. It was an great trip, and we both agreed that had the weather cooperated, it would have been a phenomenal trip. We'll be there next year, this time with a float tube, assuming they're allowed.