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Judging by the results of international fly-fishing competitions, the Czech Republic has produced some of the world’s most skilled trout anglers for many years. To me, this suggested that there must be some excellent angling opportunities in the country, so when my wife and I agreed to join several friends on a bike trip from Vienna, Austria, to Prague, Czech Republic, last September, I decided to see if that was the case.
The Czech Republic portion of our trip was primarily an eight-day bike ride through a rolling countryside of farmlands and forests, stopping each night in wonderful small town hotels. The fully guided bike ride was arranged for us by Jackson Griffiths of Greenways Travel Club (www.visitgreenways.com). There were six couples on the trip, ranging in age from 50 to 70. We rode 25 to 40 miles per day on excellent Trek hybrid bikes, and Greenways provided everything we needed.
Once we selected our route and dates, I started looking into fishing opportunities along the way. Our bike route took us from the Czech southern border town of Valtice, north and west to our final destination of Prague eight days later. As I researched the fishing, I came across a wonderful Web site by Jan Siman, owner of Siman Fishing Sport (http://shop.siman.cz), a fly shop in the Czech Republic. Through our e-mail exchange, he helped me to understand that although better trout fishing is found in Bohemia, northeast of where our itinerary would take us, there was one very good option directly on our route in South Moravia: the Dyji River at the small town of Vranov nad Dyji.
It turns out that there is a large reservoir (with a magnificent pedestrian/bike bridge) just upstream of Vranov nad Dyji, and the tailwater below it holds good numbers of brown trout and grayling. Jackson Griffiths of Greenways helped me purchase a one-day permit to fish the Dyji on September 17. It cost about $80 US. (Fellow subscribers who want to get a permit on their own can use this Web site to buy one: www.vranov skaprehrada.cz/eng/PricesFishing .htm. Just be aware that you will need not only a copy of your passport, but also a copy of a valid fishing license from your home country in order to buy the permit.)
Since I was fishing on my own, I needed to take along a bare-bones fly-fishing set-up. I’ve done this kind of thing on trips to Italy and Slovenia, so I knew what gear to bring. I opted for Cabela’s six-piece, 8.5-foot, 4 wt. rod that I use for backpacking here in Wyoming. It weighs almost nothing, packs to 17 inches, and works great for smaller streams. I also took hemostats, a nipper, a couple spools of tippet, some split shot, and a small fly box with an assortment of caddis, mayfly, and midge imitations in dries, nymphs, and emergers, as well as a couple generic streamers. I figured I could wade wet, so I took a pair of very light wading sandals. My whole outfit weighed little and took up almost no space.
Our bike ride on the day leading to Vranov nad Dyji took us through beautiful forested countryside inside Podyji National Park along the border between the former Czechoslovakia and Austria. It was an educational ride as well because we rode past remnants of the old frontier established by the Soviet Union, with 10-foot-tall barbwire fences and machine gun towers still visible reminders of the relatively short time that Czechs have been free.
The late afternoon found us riding down a switchback into the gorge made by the Dyji. We stopped to take in the view of a massive eleventh-century stone castle perched on a cliff above the river. I truly enjoyed the view because I could make out the dimples on the river below formed by dozens of rising fish. After a very comfortable night alongside the river at the Hotel Zamecky (www.zamecky hotel.cz), my companions rode off in the morning and I walked downstream to a public park just below the village. I could see fish in the water from a small bridge that I crossed, and I walked another half kilometer or so to some water below a riffle. The river was only about 30 meters across and the current was similar to that of a gentle stream in our Wyoming mountains. I rigged the rod and tied on a size 16 Parachute Adams with a size 18 bead head pheasant nymph on a dropper two to three feet below.
On about my fifth cast, the Adams dunked underwater and I raised the rod tip into my first Czech fish. After a few dips and minor runs, the fish came to the surface, and I landed a small, 10-inch grayling. It was a plump and pretty fish, and I was pleased to catch something in this foreign stream. As I landed it, I heard clapping from the other bank. I looked up to see an old Czech gentleman sitting on a log with a golden retriever next to him. He had a big smile on his face and held up his thumb in the universal signal of approval. It was a great example of how friendly the Czech people were wherever we went. I smiled back and thanked him.
A few casts later, another hit on the nymph produced a fat and brightly colored brown trout slightly larger than the grayling. For the next couple of hours, that’s how my day unfolded. As I worked upstream through side runs and riffles, I hooked many fish. On one deeper, faster run, I changed flies, hoping to get a nymph down in what looked to be several feet of water. I tied on a big foam stonefly dry that would be at home here on the Snake River so that I could float a heavy nymph through the run. On my first cast, a nice fish took it—but he took the big dry fly rather than the nymph. That fish fought well and turned out to be my biggest of the day—a beautifully proportioned 17-inch brown.
As the sun warmed the water, I noticed the beginnings of a caddis hatch, with fish rising up through the long, slow run below the bridge I crossed that morning. A little experimentation proved that an old standby elk hair caddis in a size 18 was the imitation that worked. I had already caught several small grayling and browns when a good fish sucked in the caddis. I was confused when I landed the 14-inch trout because it definitely wasn’t a brown. It looked to me like a classic brook trout, but I didn’t know there were brookies in that river. Some later research on the Web revealed that there are indeed brook trout in the Dyji, but they’re rare.
By that time, I needed to pack up and walk back to the village to meet the driver of our support van for my ride to our next hotel. I spent a few minutes watching two Czech anglers who were working the slow current with indicator and nymph rigs. Casting a long line, they did little of the continual mending that I did, and they hooked several fish while I watched. It definitely made me want to return and spend some time with a Czech guide to try some of the streams that Jan Siman fishes a short distance from Prague. Any trout angler traveling to the amazing city of Prague ought to contact Jan to see about adding a fishing component to the trip.