Monday, March 26, 2012

6. Karlovarské muškařské fórum / 6th Fly Fishing Forum in Karlovy Vary

The 2012 Fly Fishing Forum in Karlovy Vary lived up to its expectations as the most serious fly fishing gathering in the Czech Republic. While smaller than foreign events such as the British Fly Fair International it was a great place for friends old and new to meet and share their love of fly fishing.

The theme for this year was Salmo salar L. and fly fishing for salmon.

To most Czech fishermen salmon fishing has a yetti-like status: while almost everybody heard that it exists very few Czechs have actually seen it, or tried their hands in it. Our country has had no salmon run since the 1930's and for most of the latter half of the 20th century any travel to salmon fishing destinations of the UK, Scandinavia or even Kola peninsula in the comparatively friendly USSR was severely restricted. As a result the salmon fishing has no tradition now.

We therefore had much interest a presentation on the re-introduction of the salmon into Czech rivers by the person most responsible for the project, Ing. Tomáš Kava of North Bohemian Fishing Union. The project has been running for more than ten years, and it has started to show the first results. Salmon have returned to the spawning redds in headwaters of the Kamenice river, even though their numbers are far too low to make their population self sustaining.

The obstacles that these fish had to overcame are tremendous - first they have to make the 700 kilometer trip through the Elbe river (starting at Hamburg, the second busiest port in Europe) through Germany to the Czech borders and then overcome a number of dams and weirs to reach their spawning grounds. Out of the 200 000 fry that are planted each year only 20 adult fish are estimated to complete the journey back.

It was interesting to compare the plight of Czech salmon to the Danish ones. They were also reduced to near extinction status, but with help of local fishermen were brought back from the brink and now provide good sport and help to support the rural Danish economy. Of course the very short distance from sea to spawning grounds made the reintroduction somewhat easier.

A more practical presentation was done by duo of German salmon enthusiasts - Kolja Veyhle and Mawill Lüdenbach from the Fly Only Project. They gave us a general introduction to modern salmon fly fishing methods, together with introduction to more popular rivers in Norway and Russia. A more informal discussion continued to the late hours; I was glad to find that Kolja and Mawill, being culturally more close to us Czechs, found palatable our traditional plum brandy (Slivowitz). This potent drink has so far found little appeal with my foreign fly fishing friends, who consider it fit only to paint peeling.

The balmy weather was good for an afternoon casting session, which was understandably geared toward salmon fishing techniques. My friend Karel has surprised everyone (most likely including himself) by the dedication he put into casting practice despite his seriously injured ankle.

Kolja turned out to be not only a dedicated salmon fisherman, but also a very talented no nonsense fly tier. Some of his maxims are worth of cutting into stone - I particularly enjoyed to hear that a little flash is all right, but twice as much is not twice as good.

Here is showed one of his salmon tubes, a small black fly with no formal name. I was truly taken aback by its deceptively simple looks. It consists only of five materials - UNI Chinese red yarn butt, a silver bead, a wing of Arctic Fox dyed black, black hackle and a pair of Jungle Cock eyes. I don't consider myself a convert to salmon fishing yet, but this fly is sure to be a terror on the large browns.

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