Garden & Gun

THE ALPS ON THE FLY

“SO, DO YOU WANT TO FISH YOUR WAY, OR DO YOU want to catchfish my way?” asked my young guide, Lesly Janssen, as we drove up the Soca River valley to the river’s topmost beat on our first morning together.

I allowed as how, short of dynamiting them, I was happy to catch fish in whatever way worked best, no matter whose it was.

“Good,” said Lesly, with the relieved smile common to guides everywhere when they realize they have a pliant client in tow. “I call it ‘high-sticking a dry fly.’ It may be something you haven’t seen before.”

And it was—a totally new trick for an old trout dog. And like old dogs of every stripe, I was a slow learner.

What I hoped for on this day was to catch a marble trout—a rare, shy, gorgeously marked salmonid found in only a handful of drainages of the Adriatic basin in Central and Eastern Europe, and a fish I had never seen, let alone caught. The Soca (pronounced “socha”) River and its tributaries hold the world’s largest population of genetically pure marble trout. They also hold gray-ling and rainbow trout, and it was on one of the latter that Lesly introduced me to his dry fly technique.

We had followed a whisper of a path upstream along the river, walking slowly and looking for trout in a series of small, clear pools, and we found the first one no more than fifty yards from where Lesly had parked. As we watched the pale eighteen-to-nineteen-inch rainbow finning in a pool barely large enough to hold it and less than ten feet from where we stood on the bank, Lesly said, “This high up on the river we are fishing these on the water and no drag.”

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