I recently saw a series of photos on Facebook – and was stunned by the beautiful scenery and the beautiful fishing. The photos were from UK angler Dave Southall. I highlighted Dave Southall in a little Q&A a while back at Casting Around.
Everything I know about Austria I learned from the Sound of Music – which is to say I don’t know much. I know even less about fly fishing in Austria. So I thought it would be wonderful if Dave might enlighten us a bit by sharing his recent Austrian Tenkara adventure. He kindly agreed. I know I’m ready to head to Austria after reading this – I think you will be too. Thanks Dave!
Tenkara in Austria
by Dave Southall
The high alpine streams of Austria are the perfect place for Tenkara. Their complex, tumbling currents and pocket water demand the drag-free drifts and line control that Tenkara offers. In early September 2014 my good friend Steve Donohue and I headed for our 5th visit there (our 4th with Tenkara gear). Each year we try to explore some new waters as well as revisiting some of our favorites. This year we stayed at two hotels, The Brüarup at Mittersill and the Almrösl at Hüttschlag (both on the edge of the Hohe Tauern National Park. On previous trips we have also stayed at the Platzer in Gerlos. All three are excellent hotels geared up for the fly fisher and all provide access to some excellent river and lake fishing. To give you a flavor of what it’s like there I’ll give you a summary of what happened on our recent tenkara trip. Before our arrival we were very concerned about the state of the rivers as Austria had had a very wet summer with many floods and the projected forecast was poor.
Day 1, 4th September.
With high rivers and more rain and snow forecast we decided to make the long climb to over 5000 feet up a small side stream on the north side of the upper Salzach river, west of Mittersill (a good pair of boots and stamina essential!!!). With no high level snow to melt on these south facing slopes and a boggy catchment area we reckoned the stream would be fishable. It proved to be a good choice. Up there the stream is full of naturalized brook trout. The fish were in suicidal mood, avidly grabbing any big buoyant dry fly (Chernobyl Ants, Black Foam Beetles and size 10 Klinkhammers). We caught over 400 stunningly colored brookies up to about 10” (plus a few brown trout up to about 12” as we descended back to the car).
Day 2, 5th September.
Despite overnight rain we decided to visit the Habach, a lower level stream near Mittersill. This proved to be a poor choice as there was far too much flow, resulting in virtually no fishable pockets and a big problem with tenkara if and when a big fish got into the fast flow. We both landed a couple of nice brown trout but Steve lost a lunker that broke his 5x tippet. In the afternoon we moved on to a high lake, Hintersee where we caught a few brook trout on western gear and small dry flies.
Day 3, 6th September.
More overnight rain made us opt for another long walk-in to the upper Salzach at over 5400 feet. I love exploring new places, even though in this case it involved some steep climbs in and out of the fishable spots (between impassable gorges). The river here proved to hold a good number of decent sized brown trout up to 15 inches (much to the amazement of the locals at the alpine hut where we partook of apple strudel at lunch time). We’d made another good choice!
Day 4, 7th September.
We took the taxi up to the Tauernhause alpine hut on the upper Krimmler Ache at 5350 feet (where we stayed for two nights). The day was cool and the river in perfect condition. Furthermore the fish were mad on-feed. It was a crazy day with yet again over 200 fish each, mostly brook trout, plus a few brown trout and grayling up to 13 inches. As usual big dry flies proved to be a good choice and drag-free drifts were essential, although an occasional twitch to give the fly “life” did not go amiss.
Day 5, 8th September.
How different two days can be! We walked downstream for 5 km (3 miles) to the tumbling section of river just above the Krimml Falls. This proved to be challenging fishing with some difficult access, but we caught a few nice brown trout. Once we got back up to the slower ‘Meadow Section’, at 10 am, the river was coloring up badly from snow melt (we’d had heavy overnight rain & snow!). This is a popular section of river with western style fly fishers & there were already 14 anglers there. We moved on in search of the small side streams that were still uncolored. There we fished alternate fish (rod shared) as the amount of water was limited and we added another 30 or so brook trout and brown trout to our tally for the day.
Day 6, September 9th.
Another day on the Krimmler Ache. More overnight rain caused the river to color-up badly by 9am! We managed a fish or two from the colored water but it was hard work so once again we ended up searching for small, clear side channels and had another 31 fish between us before more rain arrived in the afternoon. There were winged ants about and a foam ant proved to be an effective pattern in the clear water.
Day 7, 10th September.
More overnight rain and the Grossarl, near Hüttschlag, was very fast flowing but clear. We had great sport with some good-sized brown trout that mainly came from the marginal pockets.
Day 8, 11th September, our last day!
Overnight rain had turned the river into a water chute and much of the lower river was badly colored up. We started the day with western gear on the Ötzelsee and the slow outflow from it. However the fish were very spooky and not in a real feeding mood, so we soon returned to the main river where we searched out the few tiny pockets amongst the maelstrom of tumbling water with big klinkhammers. This produced a few nice brown trout before the rain forced us to go home.
Should you decide to visit Austria for its outstanding fishing the hotels mentioned will sort out fishing permits and licences for you. So what else will you need? Comfortable wading boots with studded, rubber cleated soles, waist or chest waders and a good wading staff are essentials. Warm and waterproof clothing as the weather can be quite variable even in the summer (two years ago we had heavy snow in early September, but still caught plenty of fish on dry flies!). As for rods, much depends on the waters fished, but a 13 foot 6:4 or 7:3 rod will cover most situations. However, it is worth having a shorter rod for some of the overgrown, wooded streams and on bigger rivers like the Krimmler Ache a rod of 131/2 feet or 141/2 feet can be a distinct advantage. I used a TRY 390 for virtually all my fishing on this trip and rarely felt that I needed anything else. As for lines I used a 3 weight fluorocarbon line 10 feet long with 3 to 4 feet of tippet: a relatively short line and a big dry fly (anchored in the surface) ensures that all the line and virtually all the tippet can be held off the water which is vital if drifts are to be controlled: these fish are very slow risers and need plenty of drag-free time to take the fly.
Bräurup, Familie Gassner, 5730 Mittersill, Austria www.braurup.at
Landhotel Almrösl, Familie Zraunig, 5612 Hüttschlag im Grossarltal 80 www.almroesl.at
Hotel Plazer, Flamilie Plazer, A-6281 Gerlos 192, Zillertal www.hotelplatzer.at