Flyfishing on Rivers in Slovenia - a guide to the Sava Bohinjka, Radovna, Soca and Idrijca Rivers

Fishing the Sava Bohinjka
Flyfishing on the Sava Bohinjka river in mid-June

Visiting Slovenia to flyfish its beautiful, crystal-clear rivers seems to have gained a reputation that is not, in our view, entirely deserved. The three main problems are lack of detailed information, lack of easy access points to all the rivers and, given the two previous points on the list, the expense: a catch and release licence will cost around £50 per person per day. Once summer gets underway the weather is generally bright and sunny and so daytime fishing is pretty unproductive, which is another factor that makes the licences very expensive.

The rivers are heavily stocked with both Rainbow and Brown Trout, but there are plenty of Adriatic Grayling and also the chance of one of the famous Marbled Trout if you are really lucky.

Fishing Season - runs from 1st April to the 31st September.

Permitted method is one single-hook barbless or de-barbed fly only.

Although many rivers are listed as being suitable for flyfishing covering more than a few will mean spending far more time in the car than on the river.

As part of a holiday where you enjoy the other activities such as walking or cycling that this beautiful country has to offer, flyfishing would make an ideal component. If you are a dedicated flyfisher who would like to fish a lot of different rivers, or at least many different parts of the same river, then perhaps Slovenia is not really for you.

Limited access means that anglers tend to head for the same spots, which become congested as a result.

Guided flyfishing is available, and for novices we would recommend it, but because access is so limited on the rivers in Slovenia, you will find that the Guides take you to the same places that you could find simply by picking up a map from the tourist offices or hotels which sell fishing licences. (Fishing licences are easy to purchase - tourist offices sell them as do many of the hotels in the towns close to the rivers.)

From May onwards the weather is hot and sunny, and so the best chance of catching fish is either very early in the morning or very late in the evening when there may be hatchesor falls of spinners or sedges that provoke a rise. During the daytime, the fish are keeping right down, and unless you can find a stretch of river with shaded deep pools that you can cast to you will find your days mainly spent in casting practice - but we all need that, don't we?

During our two week stay in Slovenia we fished the rivers on both sides of the country: firstly the rivers in the east - the Sava Bohinjka and its tributaries - and then the Soca which runs through a breathtakingly beautiful valley in the west. The Soca also has several smallish tributaries which are said to be fishable, but since they are mainly sourced by snowmelt they can be almost completely dry by the mid-to-end of June. The smaller rivers that continue to run are steep mountain streams which are for the most part too fast to flyfish, at least with a dry fly.

We did not purchase any special flies for fishing in Slovenia: Parachute Adams proved to be deadly on the Sava Bohinjka and fooled a large number of Rainbows, Wild Browns and Grayling. For the larger fish, and for fishing in fast water, large sedge fly patterns and hoppers are ideal.

We fished the Slovenian rivers in mid-to-late June.

Sava Bohinjka and Radovna

Sava Bohinjka access at Log

We purchased catch-and-release permits to fish the Sava Bohinjka from the Tourist Centre in Bohinj. This allowed us access to the river in the middle zones on offer from a point just below Bohinj and on downstream for around 10 kilometres. The river contains Rainbow Trout, Wild Brown Trout and Adriatic Grayling.

A catch-and-release day ticket costs Euros 59, and a catch-and-kill ticket costs Euros 73.

There is easy access to this excellent river from the bridge (pictured left) at a place called Log on the main road (route 905) between Bohinj and Bled. Above the bridge (left) there is a deep, slow-flowing pool with big fish lying under the trees and shrubs on the left-hand bank. Altough slow-flowing, the water is very deep for wading.

One access to the Sava Bohinjka
The long slow pool upstream of the road bridge

Below the bridge is a much better fishing stretch. The streamy water is more forgiving and there are fish lying in wait for a well presented fly across much of the river.

During three hours fishing we caught a mix of Grayling, Wild Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout all of a reasonable size. In mid-June when we fished we found upstream dry fly fishing to be by far the most effective method, and we landed 19 fish between the two of us.

Lower downstream from Log there is another access point to the Sava Bohinjka from a location on the same road (905), where there are parallel road and railway bridges. Upstream of the bridges is a long slow glide with massive fish lying under the tree-lined right-hand bank.

Access to the river upstream of the bridge is very difficult indeed and involves a steep scramble down the bank beside the road bridge into the deeper side of the river and then wading across to the shallower side. Like all the gin-clear rivers in Slovenia the water is much deeper than it appears when looking down on it from the bridge, and so this is not a wade for the faint-hearted.

Access above the road bridge to the Sava Bohinjka
The faster water downstream of the road bridge

Entry is also possible from a track through the woodland from the side of the road. This involves walking along the road (in the upstream direction) from the parking beside the bridge and hoping that you find the right way in; success brings you to the shallow side of the river from which you can wade out to fish for the monsters on the far bank.

Access from the other side(downstream) of the bridge is via a dirt track which leads down to the river, but it is not possible to wade up to the pool above the bridge as the current is too fast and the river is deep and dangerous. Fortunately, there is a good stretch of fishing below the road and rail bridges, and so attempting to wade upstream is not necessary.

For a relatively small amount of money access to this wonderful piece of fishing could be made so much easier.

The Radovna River

Radovna

This small stream is one of the tributaries of the Sava Bohinjka, and licences for around 20 kilometres or so can be purchased from several outlets in the area including the Flyfishing Shop next to the Toplice Hotel beside Lake Bled.

The river (left) is a typical fast-flowing alpine stream but with a series of pools and riffles which can make for an excellent day of flyfishing sport. Species in the river include Wild Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout and Charr.

The price of a day licence to fish the Radovna is Euros 39 for catch and release. The fishable water stretches from the bridge at Srednja Radgona to the famous Vintgar Gorge.

River Soca and River Idrijca

Canoes and rafts on the Soca
The Soca river is taken over by canoeists and rafters at weekends

The Soca is no river for beginners. It's gorgeous crystal clear waters look shallow but are deceptively deep and very fast flowing even in the calmer-looking sections. Licences are readily available from hotels along the river valley and from the Angling Shops in Tolmin and Kobarid. This most famous of Slovenian rivers is home to the fabled Marble Trout, the second largest salmonid species found in Europe after the Atlantic Salmon, and hooking one of these monsters would make your holiday if not your entire fishing career. An ideal place to be based if you are staying in the area is Bovec, which marks the point between the so-called upper and lower fishing stretches of the Soca.

For the most part the Soca is a rip-roaring mountain river, and its upper reaches are extremely challenging to access and to fish. They are also extremely popular with canoeists and rafters and, at weekends, the access points to the river are taken over by vehicles launching rafts and boats into the river; the poor angler is hard pressed to get even close to the waterside in many places.

The upper part of the Soca river
Left - a relatively calm section of the Soca River above Bovec

During the week it is a different story (except during school holidays) and fishing access is easier. Heading for the lower, calmer areas shunned by the thrill-seeking canoeists is definitely the best policy.

The cost of a catch and release day licence is Euros 59. We purchased our licences at the Hotel Mangart in Bovec.

The upper Soca, above Bovec

The upper Soca offers 'pocket' fishing in every sense: first you must find a suitable part to fish and then to park before fishing pocket water - the odd flats in between the boulders. A few hours spent in reconnaisance will pay dividends and, since the river follows the Vrsic Gorge (known as the most beautfiul road in Slovenia), this is no great hardship.

Access and wading in this section of the river is difficult and can be dangerous.

Fishing the Soca at Kamno Bridge
Fishing the right-hand bank of the Soca below Kamno Bridge

The Lower Soca - below Bovec

Having purchased a licence to fish the lower section we set off in search of an easy access point and finally settled on the bridge at Kamno (route 102 between Bovec and Tolmin) where there is a small parking area with a toilet and picnic tables.

Access beside the bridge is via a gentle slope down to the rive,r and from there you can wade upstream or downstream and have some really good fishing. Again, the advice is to fish either very early or very late in order to have the best chance of catching some of the big fish that lie in shaded water on the far side (left-hand bank) of the river.

Access point at Volarje bridge
There is access via a track at a place called Volarje. This is off the left hand side of route 102 when travelling between Bovec and Tolmin where there is a bus stop and, immediately after, a track leading down to the river.

There are smaller fish lying throughout the river and so it's a good idea to fish the right-hand bank before wading out to within casting distance of the larger fish. In the right water conditions it is possible to wade right across the river at Kamno Bridge, but the Soca is fast flowing even in late June and so extreme caution is the order of the day.

Access at Tolmin Bridge
There are further entry points to both banks of the Soca at the bridge just before Tolmin (if travelling downstream from Bovec) as you turn off route 102 towards the town of Tolmin.

River Idrijca

Not fished during our visit, this lovely tributary of the Soca looks as if it might offer some of the best flyfishing opportunities in Slovenia. It runs through an outstandingly beautiful valley and has much more of a pool and riffle structure, with many easy access points. Catch-and-Release Day Licences for the so-called trophy sections of this river cost Euros 60 and are available from many of the hotels and inns throughout the river valley. In order to fish the Idrijca you would need to be based either in Tolmin or further up the river valley - we would recommend the beautiful little town of Idrija which is in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its history of mercury mining. The Idrijca is famed for its evening rise which is said to be prolific in July and August.

Other Rivers to flyfish in Slovenia

Other flyfishing-suitable rivers of the Adriatic Basin, which includes the Soca and the Idrijca, are Lepenjica (tributary of the Soca flowing though the Vrsic Pass), the Koritnica (Soca tributary below the Lepenjica), Nadiza (flowing west from Kobarid towards Italy - dry in summer) and the Tolminka (joins the Soca at Tolmin and is only fishable in its lower reaches). Two further flyfishable tributaries of the Idrijca are the Baca and the Trebuscica. The Baca is best fished in springtime when there are reasonable water flows, but is small, reasonably accessible and easy to cover for beginners to fly casting. The Trebuscica joins the Idrijca in the lower part of the river valley and is a small, quiet river that is easy to cast. Like other rivers in this area there are Marble Trout along with Grayling and Wild Brown Trout hybrids between Marble and Brown trout.

Other flyfishing-suitable rivers of the Danube Basin

As well as the Sava Bohinjka and the Radovna, other good rivers that are part of the Danube system include the Sava Dolinka (fishing restricted because it is in a nature reserve), Upper Sava (off the beaten track above the town of Kranj) and the Unica (a deep slower flowing river famous for its Grayling accessed close to the village of Planina).

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