Words & images by Álvaro G. Santillán & Aitor Coterón
There are two jewels inside the Balkans. Hidden between the mountains and the green leafy forests, we find two magic rivers, which seem to be created by the best fanciful novelist ever. Pristine cold waters, white sand on the bottom and the intense green of the underwater plants, make the best natural print ever seen and build a magic ecosystem for the abundant brown trout and grayling and, of course, for an incredible variety and amount of insects and hatches. Yes, we are introducing the Pliva and Ribnik rivers, in Bosnia.
Both rivers are close to each other, but, although the rivers could seem quite similar and the fish population is outstanding in both cases, the fishing is completely different, due the difference in fish behaviour that we will find. The Ribnik is like a paradise for those who like sight fishing, with the dry fly and with tiny nymphs. The trout and grayling that live in this river tend to be active most of the time, carefully choosing their menu for the day. But… they are really selective and very demanding with your presentation. As always, following the tips from our guide – Zeljko Prpic – was the key: downstream fishing with extra long leaders – longer than 18´- is the name of the game if you want to be successful.
Since Ribnik is not a very wide or deep river and it is easily wadeable, you don´t really need to cast far away, so we chose the 8,5m short head of the Presentation line in a 4 weight, which was incredible effective helping to control those leaders that sometimes go till 27´, searching for the most perfect long drift that we could made. On the other hand, Pliva is possibly, the most beautiful river I’ve ever seen, but Pliva is the most challenging river I have ever fished too. The perfect combination if you are an addict to sight fishing with the nymph and you don’t care about the numbers, only about the how and the rewarding feeling that you get when finally, you achieve to hook one of those big grayling that are feeding on small nymphs or gammarus like crazy but… not to your nymph.
The first time you take a look to the river, you don’t really know if there is water in it or the fish are suspended in the air, and maybe that is one of the problems of this river. Pristine clear water that you can even drink if you are thirsty, could be an issue. But, being able of estimating where exactly the fish are takes some time and practice, due to water diffraction a 3m deep pool looks like just 50cms. Surprising! In addition, you should have the fastest eye and hand in the world and be ready to spot the take, because those fish are really really fast taking the fly. They spit the fly in thousandth of a second after the take and that is a challenge, even if you are ready and you are able to distinguish when the fish has taken your fly, which is really a hard thing, especially if you are fishing a long line.
Pliva is a wide river, where being able of fishing longer than 20 meters away while controlling the drift has its own reward, so following Zeliko´s advice, we chose a Fario 10´ #4 -which helped us to mend better during the drift- and an Experience line that, with its 13,1m of head, is the perfect one for controlling the loop when long casts are required. Hopefully, these things and pictures have inspired you to discover Bosnia, but if not, as always, it is all about the experience. Fishing is always more than catching fish and in Bosnia, we found people and culture that really deserve to be known. The memories we got are forever.
Full gallery below; just click/tap the first image to get full screen mode.