Monday, June 6, 2016

Exploration and solitude in Bern

If there's one thing I miss about living in the U.S., it's the ease of getting away from it all, but lately I've been able to find that feeling in Switzerland too. Bern is only an hour and a half drive from my home outside Z├╝rich, but when I'm clambering upriver over slippery boulders in a deep gorge, I feel the sense of isolation and solitude that I only rarely experience in this beautiful but densely populated country I call home. While much of the fishing opportunities in Switzerland are restricted to smaller leased beats, some areas still offer a sense of exploration, and here in the Hasli Valley we have the best of both worlds. A big chunk of the area is private, meaning low fishing pressure and good fishing if you're lucky enough to have access, but the leased section is big enough and included lots of little tributaries that would take the average fisherman years to fully explore. The fish might be a little smaller, but they're plentiful and eager to take a dry, and this is the style of fishing I think I love more than any other. The clear blue pools, the deep gorges and the plunging waterfalls require thoughtful fishing and will punish the rushed and the careless.

I was in Bern with Sascha from Fishing Swiss Alps and my partner Mark from Firebelly on opening day, and the weather and the scenery was beautiful, but the water was ice old and the fish were few and far between. We had a little tour of some of the more scenic waters in the area, the Aare River, the famed Reichenbach, and the beautiful little Urbach. The scenery was so pretty we didn't mind struggling through thigh deep snow for the occasional small fish.

Good thing waders can double as snowpants...

The Reichenbach, made famous by Sherlock Holmes.

Mark hooked into a brown on the Aare.

Spotting fish from above...

Sascha casting to wary fish.
We fished all day, and warmed our cold bones with one of Sascha's delicious burgers, and headed back to our respective families, already planning the next trip and rehashing the day during the long drive home.

Fortunately things were a little different the next time we met up. Although the forecast looked so grim that we almost decided to cancel, we arrived at the river on a perfect sunny day. The very first pool we saw held close to a dozen fish, with the largest being a good 15 inches. We took turns pulling the fish from the rear of the pool, but the big one eluded us. I started out with a black nymph and caught well, but switched to a bushy dry once I realized the fish could be coaxed to the surface with relative ease. We made our way upriver, alternating pools, every one of them holding a handful of fish. The going was slippery and not without an element of danger. We fished for hours and we both genuinely enjoyed taking it easy and watching the other catch fish, a sort of prerequisite for this type of river where you're trading off pools and can't make your way upstream without spooking fish.

Looking down on the first heavily populated pool.

Fast chutes, plunging waterfalls, and deep pools.

Sascha working a pool

And the result. A beautifully colored brown.

On a fish...

And another...

With scenery this nice I didn't mind putting down the rod and picking up the camera.

We made it to one of the few places where you could climb out of the gorge, and walked and talked our way back to the car, making plans for next time. As always, there are just too many rivers, and too little time.


  1. Great lecture!
    "...punish the rushed and the careless" that's a timeless advise and the reson why I don't go fishing with hanging deadlines;)
    Cheers Tom

  2. I admit it, sometimes I'm rushed and careless and find myself needing to refocus on the water. :)