Hardy Fin & Fly

2013 Highlights by Stuart Minnikin

I had packed my Greys XF2 Competitor Special* and a few black woolly buggers just in case we got rain and a high river during our trip. I had hoped not to have to use it in all honesty. Fishing imitative dries and small nymphs is for me the most rewarding way to catch Trout and Grayling. At home if the rivers are out of sorts I'd probably stay home or fish a stillwater instead. On a fishing trip you have to make the most of what nature throws at you so the streamer set-up was my stand-by outfit. In the event we had perfect conditions for our September trip to Slovenia. Recent rain had lifted the rivers from summer low flows and lowered the water temperature. Small floods and coloured water had dropped back and we had rivers that were in peak condition.

After the travelling to get into the mountains on our first day we were to fish closer to our lodgings on the second day. We would split into two groups for the morning session with two anglers fishing the main Idrijca River and the other two fishing a tributary called the Trebusaica. I fished the Trebusaica with Brian and found it tough but I did have one of the fish of the trip - a large deep golden Grayling while Brian had a few Trout. We regrouped on a bridge over the Idrijca at lunchtime. Looking down from the bridge revealed deep clear water and large Rainbow Trout could be seen holding in the current; some mid-stream in the flow others hugging the banks and slacker water. These would be difficult fish to catch I thought they were almost certainly too deep to rise for a dry and good presentation with a nymph would be almost impossible. Then my thoughts turned to a streamer on a fast sinking line. The more I looked at it the more it seemed perfect and I actually quite fancied having a go more out of fascination and experimentation than anything else.

In the UK streamer fishing in rivers has never caught on. I really don't know why! On the continent in the USA New Zealand South America etc it is popular and just another technique but it is often frowned upon in the UK. There have been many articles written in the magazines in the past extolling the virtues of streamers in rivers but nobody ever seems to practice it me included. I know many clubs have rules against lure fishing in rivers preventing its use but even where such rules don't exist it still isn't practiced frequently on our rivers. I have tinkered with streamers on the Yorkshire Dales rivers in the past with some success so after lunch subject to finding the ‘right' water I'd give it a go.

We drove upstream to another scary looking footbridge not for those of a nervous disposition! Below was perfect looking streamer water so along with my Streamflex Plus 9' 6" #3 dry / nymph rod I put up the XF2 Competitor Special complete with fast sinking #7 line and a single black woolly bugger. Starting at the head of the pool and facing across-stream I made a long cast to the slack water on the far side followed immediately before the line started sinking with a large upstream mend in the fast water. This bought me enough time for the woolly bugger on a short leader to sink before being moved by the powerful current. Some casts I'd just leave to the river to swing the fly before commencing my retrieve once it had reached the dangle others I'd strip across the flow soon after touching down. Results were almost immediate with thumping takes almost ripping the rod from my hand. Trout that hit the fly hard without being hooked would still come back for another go sometimes more than once before eventually being hooked. Each pool would usually give you 2-3 sizeable wild Rainbows before takes dried up and you had to move to the next.

It really was the most exciting fishing. The Idrijca has many very deep pools where you could just the leave the line to sink for long periods before commencing the retrieve. The streamer could be fished in a variety of ways there was no right or wrong way to fish you just had to look at the pool and fish the streamer in as many different ways as possible: deep shallow fast slow swinging... anything goes!
I wouldn't go so far as to say I perfected the technique but I got so I felt confident I would catch in every pool. As well as Rainbows there was always the possibility of catching a seriously big Marble Trout which added to the excitement somewhat.

It would be fair to say that the other guests while not exactly frowning on the technique weren't particularly interested in it either... until they saw the success I was having with it! You could catch Trout on dries and nymphs in the pool heads broken water and riffles all the places you'd expect before swapping to the streamer rod to tackle the slower deeper un-wadeable water down the rest of the pool hooking fish that you wouldn't ordinarily. In the end not only were the guests queuing up to have a go with the streamer rod they were commenting on where they'd be using it on their local rivers and that they'd be buying a streamer rod when they got home. They were converts to the streamer and quite understandably so given its success rate the thumping takes adrenalin inducing fights and the quality of Trout it attracted. For the rest of the trip it would be hard to prise the streamer rod from their hands!

The streamer could also be fished into the twilight well after the light had dropped so low that it made dry fly and nymph fishing impossible. In fact it is at this time of day when those big Marble Trout come out of their hiding places where they have spent the day resting. Now is the time when they are on the lookout for an easy meal which could quite easily be your streamer giving you one of the most memorable fish you will ever catch. Alas this also means a late dinner and we had tomorrow's fishing to discus...

Don't miss Stuart's next article on fishing Slovenia in February's Fin & Fly.

Stuart is planning another trip to Slovenia in 2015. Find out more or see more pictures from Stuart's trip.

*The Greys XF2 Competitor Special 10' #7 is the perfect rod for streamer fishing. At 10' it is long enough to throw a long line and mend it with ease. It is powerful enough to cast and fish a #7 fast sinking line cope with the fast flow of the river and handle large fish that use the current to fight you. Breaking down into four convenient sections it is packable for trips abroad or at home and comes complete with protective cordura rod tube. And it is one of the most versatile rods you will find: it can be used as intended for stillwater boat or bank streamers on rivers single handed Salmon and Sea Trout even lightweight Pike flyfishing and at a push could be used on your family holiday for saltwater fishing (as long as you thoroughly rinse in freshwater after use).