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Austria is one of the few places in Europe that still offers magnificent landscapes, clean and well managed rivers, generally inexpensive permits and abundant trout. There are plenty of large trout here, too, but they have not become old for no reason – age has made them wily and spooky, so catching them is never easy. Many of them are natives, not hatchery fish discharged each week from trucks.
I frequently travel to Austria, as it is just across the border from my home in Italy. I usually head towards the Salzburg region, where there is good fishing in rivers such as the Mur, Traun and Enns. Although all of these rivers are private and are fishable by permit only, daily fees are usually inexpensive. They all have very good populations of trout and grayling and produce fair to good fishing, but my favorite is the Mur.
The upper Mur is fed by numerous alpine streams and lakes that originate in the High Tauern mountains about 50 miles southeast of the city of Salzburg. Two of the mountain lakes contain healthy populations of brown trout. The Zederhaus Bach and the Thomatal Bach are two particularly interesting feeder streams, as they are classic alpine torrents. They are well populated with brown trout and you can often enjoy the typical mountain fishing experience of casting to sighted trout, which I feel is the most exciting and thrilling kind of trout fishing. You have to avoid making even the slightest noise or obvious movement. In the evening there are hatches and you can fish for rising trout.
Brown trout are everywhere in the river as you move downstream, and some rainbows and grayling are also present at the confluence of the Zederhaus Bach and the main river, where the Mur becomes a canal. The river is slow and smooth in this section, and the water is always clear. The average trout measures from 12 to 14 inches, but exceptional fish weigh over two pounds and several six-pounders have been caught. In a normal fishing day, an average angler can catch anywhere from 20 to 50 fish, including two or three lunkers.
Fishing is fly-only and no-kill on more than 30 miles of the principal river and its tributaries. As far as when to go, the Mur and other alpine rivers in Austria usually remain unfishable until the June thaw. The best fishing starts in mid-July and runs through late September, which is usually when the season ends. Even during this period, the rivers tend to turn dirty after two days of rain, and they flood with a week of rain. The Mur is open from June 6 to October 3, but truly excellent fishing is only possible in August and September, storms notwithstanding.
August is the high point of the season, and is when Austrian rivers get the most crowded. A maximum of six anglers are allowed on the Mur, but I have seen that many only during August; at other times, I have been the only angler on the river. All anglers on the Mur must be guests of the Hotel Post (*), a 13-room inn owned by Wilhelm Ronscher and located in the town of St. Michael am Lungau. The hotel charges $60 per night, which includes lodging, breakfast and fishing rights. There is no full-service restaurant at the hotel, but there are many in nearby villages. An annual country-wide fishing license costs about 100 Schillings ($9 US). – Franco Fumolo.
(Don Causey Note: Continuing subscribers may remember Fumolo’s previous report (see March 1996 issue, pages 1-3) on fishing in Cuba, and that Fumolo was the booking agent for the trip, representing a company called Graciosa Fishing Club. However, Fumolo tells us he is in no way representing the Hotel Post in Austria, nor is he financially benefitting from the fishing he describes.)