Earlier his year we had an interview with Matej Godec, of FLYFISHINGODEC, a boutique tourist agency specialized in organizing fishing and other excursions around Slovenia. Today he tells of a recent fishing trip to a favourite spot in the country.
The Unica River, managed by the Fisheries Institute of Slovenia, is considered one of the most beautiful fly fishing areas in Slovenia, and a visit is always something special. The gorgeous scenery and landscape of Planinsko polje, the beautiful sunny weather and the green hue of the river, which is dominated by brown trout and grayling, ensure that you’ll spend a wonderful day fly fishing.
Unica, aka the Slovenian sinking river, is formed by the confluence of the rivers Pivka and Raka in Planinska jama. Their merger represents the largest confluence of underground rivers in Europe. The overhead stream of the Unica is about 10 km long. It flows from south to north along Planinsko polje.
I decided to start mine from the large parking lot at Hasberg Castle. You can’t miss the well-trodden paths by the river, as the river attracts anglers from all over Slovenia and world. The water level on the day of my visit was ideal - 32 cm / 4.59 cm3 (you can check it now here) - and the swarming of insects in the air let me know that I’d be fishing with a tied dry fly and my box of heavy nymphs would stay in the bag. And it really was that way. The mowed fields do not pose a problem for the anglers with longer throws, so it’s also possible to approach the secret fish on the other side of the river, hidden under trees and bushes.
Not Matej in the video, but the same place
Grayling, 15-20 cm in size, played in the spring sun and picked up my dry fly as if for a bet. For a start, I used a dry fly, a classic, Fratnik's FFly in natural colour tied on a hook size 16. The turning point came when I replaced the Fratnik’s FFly hook size #16 in a natural shade tied to hook #14. The fly on hook #14 made my fishing even more interesting that day, as among the many hatches of small grayling there was also a larger grayling that did not belong to the 50+ club, but is still an enviable size between 40-45 cm. I did not have any brown trout during all the catches that morning, but that soon changed.
Not Matej in the video, but the same place
After lunch, which I had in the middle of a Planinsko polje, I went to Malenščica. This is the right tributary of the Unica River, and is a smaller and narrower river, overgrown with bushes and greenery, and like Unica it offers shelter to graylings and brown trout. I continued fly fishing with a tied dry fly on hook #14. Hidden behind the bushes and with shorter throws, I tricked a few more beautiful grayling, who were just competing to see who would be first at my fly. When I saw a one picking up, at first look and estimation I thought he could get close to the 50+ club, I was surprised by a 40+ brown trout from the stream, which bit into a dry fly as if it hadn’t eaten for three days. The fight with the hungry brown trout lasted a full 10 minutes. Finally I managed to get it safely to a shore and catch it in the net. All the caught fish, some after being photographed, I returned safely and unharmed to their realm of the depths.
I ended the day with a visit to Hasberg Castle, which in its time on the banks of the Unica River inspired and reigned over the area with its beautiful gardens, staircases and courtyard. It was a wonderful day, not only for the fishing, but for the peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings, and I will definitely be back at Unica soon.
If you’d like to book a fishing course, day school or trip with Matej, throughout the year and at many places in Slovenia, then check out his site (in English) FLYFISHINGODEC.
Despite its relatively small size, Slovenia is home to a wide selection of fish species, including some rarely found anywhere else in the world. Fishing in both freshwater and saltwater has been rooted in Slovenian tradition for generations. The specimens swimming in Slovenia’s waters are very healthy thanks to the country’s favourable mixture of microclimates which surpass the European average. With the increasingly sophisticated management of waters and catch and release techniques, fishing is expected to flourish even further in the coming years and decades.
Photo: Fishing Guides Slovenia
Fly-fishing is the type of fishing Slovenia is most famous for. Its rivers are nothing short of heaven for any enthusiast. There are numerous incredible catches, the most famous being the Marble Trout. In addition to residing in the most pristine and stunning river in Slovenia, the Soča River, this trout species can grow to enviable lengths and can even hit the 10 kg mark – a trophy-sized catch for any fly-fisherman! Our rivers and lakes also provide great Brown trout, Rainbow trout, Grayling and other fantastic fish.
Carp fishing is very popular in Slovenia, and in recent years, this type of fish species has grown to enviable sizes, as catch and release has been introduced in most lakes, which greatly contributes to the size of carp caught. The current Slovenian record-holder is a whacking 34-kg monster, but this record is bound to be broke soon, as quite a few fish in our waters have already come close to this size.
The main carp fishing spots are Lake Bled and Šmartinsko Lake, where the largest beasts reside. Šmartinsko Lake is especially intended for carp fishing, as parts of its shore have been wonderfully arranged to facilitate carp fishermen. This lake holds the Slovenian record, but there are quite a few specimens roaming around Lake Bled that have likely already tipped over the 30 kg mark.
Another popular fishing sport in Slovenia is spin fishing because of the remarkable number of elusive predators which can reach record sizes. Catfish grow over 250 cm and can weigh more than 100 kg. The Pike record is 134 cm. Then there’s the lake-dwelling Zander, a tricky yet very satisfying catch. The king of rivers is, of course, the Huchen, or Danube salmon, a fish that is highly regarded in Slovenia, with only a few other countries beating our record in the size of this exquisite species. In autumn and winter, when the temperatures drop significantly, the hunt for Huchen is on!
Slovenia doesn’t have a large coastline and its territorial waters are quite small, but that doesn’t mean this part of the Adriatic fisherman-friendly. Just the opposite! According to those who have experience fishing in these parts and eaten the fish caught in these clean and calm waters, fishing off the Slovenian coast is placed among the best in the world. Unbeknownst to many, giant 200-kg Tuna can be caught in our sea. Even a shark has been known to hang off a hook and you are most certainly going to catch Dentex, Mahi-mahi, Sea Bass and other equally powerful and combative saltwater inhabitants. An additional bonus of fishing in Slovenia is that sea fishing from the shore doesn’t require a permit.
You can learn more about fishing in Slovenia at Fishing Guides Slovenia.
While tourism is booming in Slovenia, to the point where over-tourism is now an issue at the most visited locations, figures from August 2019, at the heart of the high season, show that the average visitor spends just 2.5 nights in the country.
There’s thus much room for growth, and for encouraging people to go out and see more than Bled, Postojna and Ljubljana Castle. Not only see more, but do more, be it through food tourism, cycling, hiking or any of the hundreds of other activities the varied climate and topography of the country enable, along with the infrastructure that exists to support them.
One such activity is fly-fishing, a meditative sport that requires the participant to go out in nature and watch and wait, gaining a deeper understanding of their immediate environment, and – in Slovenia – an appreciation for the clean waters that run over the riverbeds and play a vital role in various ecosystems.
Eager to learn more about this sport without getting wet, we got in touch with Matej Godec, of Flyfishingodec, a boutique tourist agency specialized in organizing fishing and other excursions around Slovenia, and he was kind enough to answer some questions.
How long have you been fly-fishing?
I’ve been fly-fishing since 2005. When I started I found it offered me a new dimension on life, and a new way of seeing myself. With fly-fishing, I realized that it pays to be persistent and committed to the things you love.
Of course, back then I never imagined that this commitment would mean I’d eventually have my own travel agency that could offer guest first-class guided fly-fishing tours and an excellent fly-fishing school, one that can organize complete fly-fishing holidays and other excursions around Slovenia.
When did you start running fly-fishing tours?
At the beginning of 2019 I decided to offer my guests a full service through my own boutique fly-fishing tourist agency. Flyfishingodec Slovenia is now fly-fishing tourist agency specialized in the organization of guided fly-fishing adventures, accommodation, daily fly-fishing trips and fly-fishing courses.
What different parts of Slovenia do the tours go to, and how are they different?
My organized fly-fishing tours or daily guided trips and fly-fishing school take place on all Slovenian rivers.
In my organized tours, I want to offer my guests only the best that the country has to offer for such holidays: excellent fishing, beautiful nature, outstanding cuisine and friendly people.
With the Best of Slovenia Fly-fishing Tour package my guests have the opportunity to enjoy fly-fishing on the top 7 rivers in Slovenia. The package offers the best that a guest can wish for when deciding on a fly-fishing holiday in Slovenia.
All the best fly-fishing areas in the country are included in the package: the Soča River with its tributaries Lepena and Kal-Koritnica, the Sava Bohinjka River, the Unica, the Krka, the Idrijca River and the Savinja.
It’s the River Soča that’s the most in demand among my guests, though, and the number one destination.
The Soča fly-fishing tour package is intended for anyone who wants to spend their fishing holidays in the Soča River Valley, enjoy the crystal clear alpine beauty of the air and water, and the high-quality fly-fishing.
I’d also like to highlight the Wild & Pure Package, which is designed for anglers in better physical condition who aren’t looking for the easiest places to fish. The Wild & Pure package covers fly-fishing in deep gorges and canyons of alpine rivers, which are sometimes very difficult to access and require well-prepared anglers. But in the end, the effort is always worth it, with beautiful catches of wild marble trout and brown trout, as well as incredible views and the peace and quiet that come with such locations.
What fish can people catch?
The fish that people go for the most during the regular season is still marble trout. The second most desirable fish is grayling, and then brown trout.
A marble trout
Do you do custom tours, if people want more than fishing?
As a travel agency, we specialize in organizing fishing holidays. However, in addition to fly-fishing, guests sometimes want to experience more than just spending a day by the water. That’s why we also offer a combination of guided fly-fishing tours with sightseeing and visits to major attractions near at fishing location.
For example, guests can fly-fish in the morning on the Sava Bohinjka, and in the afternoon spend the day at Lake Bohinj or Lake Bled, where they can bathe and enjoy their free time with some sightseeing, hiking, or whatever they want. Anyone interested just needs to send me a message and let me know their wishes.
We also offer daily guided tours, which are intended for all travellers and others who want to spend at least one day of their vacation fly-fishing, experiencing nature that way. For those trips there’s free rental of fly-fishing equipment – a fly rod and boots/waders – so people don’t need to bring anything special with them.
A Danube Salmon
It’s now winter, can you fly fish at this time of year?
The winter is very special time in our regular fly-fishing off-season. The winter is reserved for the King of Fish in Slovenia – Danube Salmon aka Huchen (Latin name Hucho hucho).
In recent years it’s become very popular to go fishing for Danube Salmon with a fly-fishing rod. Of course, you need to know some of the peculiarities involved in fishing for this remarkable species, but this is something we can teach you.
Anything else you want to say?
As I said at the start, fly-fishing is one of the most beautiful things that has happened to me in my life, and someone who fishes in a river is really spending quality time in nature, at the kind of slow pace that’s hard to find today.
As such, fly-fishing is a great form of anti-stress therapy, one that’s open to anyone who wants to go outside and try something new. Also, I think that if you haven’t been to Slovenia before then you can’t postpone your visit any longer. Fly-fishing is great, we have beautiful rivers and the landscape is just amazing. And we, the people of Slovenia are very welcoming and kind. So come and visit us soon, before the rest of the world discovers us. You won’t be sorry!
You learn more about Matej’s work, and book a tour, at his website, and see more pictures on Instagram. If your planning a fishing trip and not everyone in your party is an angler, then check out some of the other ways you can enjoy the River Soča and its surroundings - the ideal location for an active vacation.
FishingBooker, “an online community that enables you to list, find and book the best fishing trips worldwide” has released a list of the “10 best fishing holidays in Europe”, with Slovenia’s Lake Bled among the featured destinations.
As the site says in write-up of an area perhaps less known for its angling potential than its castle, church on an island, kremšnita and seasonal crowds:
Bled feels like a different world or maybe even a different century to most European holiday spots. Between Lake Bled’s island fortress, and the green slopes of the Julian Alps, the area seems almost too good to be true. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Bled every year to admire the serene beauty of this town. For anglers, Bled offers alpine, chalk stream, and freestone rivers full of four different trouts, all within half an hour of each other. And it’s not just about the rivers. Lake Bled is home to pike, carp, and even zander. All this, in one of the prettiest places in Europe.
The full list, in alphabetical order, is:
Costa Adeje, Tenerife, Spain
Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
Herceg Novi, Montenegro
STA, 15 February 2019 - Slovenian fish supplies, comprising the landed catch and fish farm output, were technically depleted on Friday, February 15. The country will have to rely on imported fish for the rest of the year, said the World Wildlife Fund Adria NGO.
"Today is the day when we eat up the local fish in Slovenia," said the NGO, adding that the country exhausted its annual fish supply in a month and a half since Slovenia produces only 13% of the fish its residents consume.
Europe is the biggest world market regarding fish and seafood with more than half of the latter is imported. The European Fish Dependence Day is 9 July, while Slovenia celebrates it today.
An average Slovenian consumes 10.8 kilos of fish per year, which is quite a small amount compared to the EU's 22.7 kilos average. Portugal is the country with the highest fish consumption - 55.3 kilos per capita - followed by Spain, Lithuania, France, and Sweden.
The NGO called for the implementation of a sustainable approach in the global fishing industry, warning that fish stocks are severely depleted, in particular in the Mediterranean.
With 59 major rivers and 321 lakes within its small and varied topography, it’s no wonder that fishing in Slovenia is a popular activity, one that provides a way to explore the great outdoors, commune with nature, and hopefully bring something home for dinner. Still, it’s part of the nation’s tourist offering that we’re relatively unfamiliar with, and so when we came across Water Man Adventures, a company that organizes vacations with a focus on fly-fishing in Slovenia, we jumped at the chance to ask Robert Redding a few questions about the business.
Where are you based, and how did you discover Slovenia?
Water Man Adventures has a presence in Colorado, USA, where I’m based, as well as in Slovenia where my business partners are.
I fell in love with Slovenia and its fly-fishing when I was posted to the US Embassy in Ljubljana from 2006 to 2009. I began the business last year in anticipation of my retirement from the military in 2019. I expect to be based in Slovenia once that happens.
What makes Slovenia especially attractive for people who enjoy fly-fishing?
The country’s geography and weather make it a very special place, and there’s good reasons why fishing in Slovenia is increasingly popular. Primarily, there is tremendous diversity in terrain and rivers in Slovenia – with a high concentration in the western part of this small country. In the northern/alpine region, the streams and rivers are cold all year long, and this makes them a highly oxygenated and suitable habitat for cold-water fish like trout (and fishermen too) even in the hottest time of the year. Additionally, fly-fishing in Slovenia is normally a bit easier because of the low-nutrient (oligotrophic) nature of those streams - fish just have to eat all the time in order to get ready for the cold winter. Therefore, summer usually means dry fly action practically all day, not just during mornings and evenings, as is typical elsewhere.
The best part of Slovenia for fishing expeditions is that the distance between alpine and limestone waters is only a one hour drive. In fact, there are only two hours needed to drive through the whole country from north to south. Given both types of rivers, along with the lakes that are available, fly fishermen have a great opportunity for good fly-fishing conditions practically every day of the season. To make things even better, we can (and do) change regions and rivers during the fishing day in order to give clients the best opportunities to fish.
Where in Slovenia do you operate?
We take our clients primarily to places where there are trout in the rivers – and thus the water is clear and cold. Our current favorite rivers are on the Sava Bohinjka, the Krka, the Unica, and of course the Soča. Because we offer excursions other than fishing, you’ll find us at other hot spots like Bled.
What services do you offer?
Water Man Adventures provides an outstanding fly-fishing experience for the discriminating fly fisherman on the world-class waters of the Republic of Slovenia. We are a hands-on, destination fishing outfitter operated by an experienced team of completely focused on arranging a custom fishing and travel experience in Slovenia. So, we put together total packages for our clients. Beyond the fishing, we set up lodging and culinary experiences based on the desires of the client.
What kind of fish can people catch in Slovenia?
Brown Trout, Marble Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Grayling are what we fly fish for. You can also catch pike and the famous huchen (Danubian Salomon) on traditional fishing gear.
In addition to the fishing, what do people experience on your tours?
Our clients typically fish only part of the day – the rest is filled with the best that there is to experience in Slovenia. Of course, Ljubljana’s old town and Bled are on everyone’s itinerary. But we customize based on what the client is looking for. For example, some recent clients were very excited to have the opportunity to take one afternoon and have lunch at Hiša Franko.
When are the seasons?
The season for fishing in Slovenia kicks off in April and May, with it best when the first hatches of the year come in the various streams – it’s a different time depending on where you are fishing. The season continues through the summer, though it can get crowded in August during holidays. When fall comes, the best fish to look for are grayling. Of course, Huchen (Danubian Salmon) offer the greatest prize in late fall and early winter.
What’s your favorite spot to fish in Slovenia?
Really? I'm not telling… However, the smaller streams that are away from the Soča provide some of the best experiences for fly fishers – to include the Unica, Krka and Idrijca Rivers. We look to take our clients away from the crowds to places like these.
How far in advance do people usually book?
We take care of clients whether they want to fish tomorrow or next summer. Optimally, those who want to fish in Slovenia in the summer of 2019 with us will be booked by January.
What’s are the general profiles of most of your customers?
Most of my clients are Americans. When they are in Slovenia, Americans typically want to see and do what a lot of general tourists want to do. So, we provide turn-key vacation packages for them that include lodging, meals, and excursions – even completely separate itineraries for spouses (Rogaška regularly comes up!). Water Man Adventures also has European clientele, and they are typically more comfortable taking care of their own extra activities. Regardless, we custom design each tour based on what the client wants – no is rarely an answer for us.
Any changes innovations planned for 2019?
We are looking to continue to define this sector of the tourism industry, while conforming to what Slovenes want in the future. Our goal is to provide clients with fantastic experiences fishing in Slovenia, while minimizing impact on the environment and culture of Slovenia. While seeking that balance, we want to ensure that Slovenes are able to benefit, so we’ll use local resources every time that it’s possible to do so.
When you’re not leading tours, or fishing, what do you like to do in Slovenia?
I really enjoy exploring the variety of Slovenia’s regions; whether it’s on a wine road in Primorska or looking for bears in Dolenska – you’ll find me at the end of a dirt road somewhere.
If you’d like to learn a lot more about the trips Richard and his partners offer, then visit the Water Man Adventures website or Facebook page. And if you’d like to see some other ways to spend your holiday in Slovenia, then check out our Ten Ways to Enjoy the River Soča.
STA, 23 April 2018 - The bureaucratic tug-of-war in the Piran Bay, the traditional central theatre of the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia, has been stepped up by the Croatian side, which has started issuing fines to Slovenian fishermen through its fisheries inspection, TV Slovenija has reported.