Fly fishing in Slovenia

Famous for its clear green waters and that elusive monster, the marble trout, Slovenia is the ideal location for a fly fishing adventure.

Picture copyright © Laurens Bubendorfer
Estimated reading time 6 - 10 minutes

Where is Slovenia and why is it so popular for fly fishing all of a sudden?

Slovenia lies in the heart of Europe and is famous for the diversity of its landscape, from its short Mediterranean coastline to the rugged northern alpine borders with Austria.

The heavily forested countryside is dissected by a dense river network, making Slovenia one of the most water-rich areas in Europe. A large swath of the country is in the Europe-wide Natura 2000 network established to protect biological biodiversity. 

As a result, many rivers and lakes are still relatively free from pollution, leading to abundant fish stocks and crystal clear water.

Add to that the lure of hooking the infamous, indigenous marble trout and you have the perfect destination for a fly fishing adventure.

What's the fishing like in Slovenia?

The quality of the fly fishing in Slovenia and the stunning scenery is on par with the other major fly fishing destinations, Iceland, New Zealand or Canada. It's fast becoming a major fly fishing destination for fly fishers in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

What sort of fish could I catch?

The rivers of Slovenia hold a number of different trout species and hybrids. Wild brown and rainbow trout are the most common species in many rivers, but you could also catch the sought after marble trout, as well as brown trout and marble trout hybrids, grayling, chub or even barbel.

Are the grayling the same species as the ones we have over here?

There are two slightly different forms of grayling found in Slovenian rivers. The Sava river holds European grayling, like those found in UK waters, however, the Soca river and its tributaries hold a form known as the Adriatic grayling.

Scientists are still debating whether they represent a separate species, but the Adriatic grayling populations do look very different and most people recognise that the population is different to the European grayling found elsewhere. 

What's the fly fishing season in Slovenia?

Due to the variety of species present in Slovenian waters there are fishing opportunities to be had all year around. The trout and grayling season runs from April to the end of October. 

You can also try your hand at catching the massive Taimen (also known as the Danube salmon or Huchen) with a special licence from November to February. The pike season runs from May to February.

What is the climate like?

Just like the landscape, the climate of Slovenia is diverse, varying from region to region. The best months for fishing tend to be May, June and September as water temperatures can reach around 20°C in July and August meaning fishing is usually only productive at dawn and dusk.  

What are my chances of catching a Marble trout?

The marble trout, sometimes called the soca trout, is a native to the Soca and its tributaries. Habitat disturbance and the introduction of the brown trout to improve fishing stocks, led the soca trout to be among the most endangered freshwater fish species in Europe.

However, due to the efforts of the local angling clubs and the Fisheries Research Institute, the pure marble trout population is common in the Soca river again, especially the upper stretch of the river.

One of the largest fish in the trout family, this reclusive monster provides excellent sport for those fishermen looking for a challenge.

Which rivers are best for trout fishing?

There is an overwhelming choice of river fishing locations in Slovenia, from small alpine mountain streams to drop pools, glides and rapids.  

With its world famous emerald water, the Soca river is probably the most renown and one of the most challenging rivers in Slovenia.  Originating in the spectacular Julian Alps, it is home to the much prized marble trout (Salmo trutta marmorata), the largest European trout. Adriatic grayling, rainbow and brown trout, chub and barbel are also in abundance.  Its tributaries, including the Iminka, the Baca and the Idrijca are also worth a visit.

If you are looking to bag a huchen then the Sava Bohinjka is a must. Flowing from Lake Bohinj, this is another world famous fishing location with a large area of accessible water and a plentiful supply of grayling and brown and rainbow trout, as well as the hard-fighting huchen.

The Radovna is ideal for those seeking a wilder experience.  This small Alpine river has its source in the beautiful Triglav National Park. The cooler waters mean the fish grow to a smaller size than the trophy specimens found in the Soca but the sport is still excellent and guides often recommend this river for the less experienced fly fisher.

Is there any decent still water fly fishing?

Although most people come to Slovenia to experience the river fishing, there are some decent still waters to try.

Lake Bohinj is the largest Alpine lake in Slovenia, offering boat or bank fishing for lake trout, brown trout and char.  However, its dramatic setting among the soaring peaks of the Julian Alps has made it a very popular holiday destination and it can get very busy in the summer months with tourists enjoying the warm waters.

For those looking to catch pike on the fly, Lake Cerknica in the Kolpa Valley is worth a visit. It is the largest intermittent lake in Europe and when the water level is high you can hire boats from the nearby Dolenje Jezero village.

What gear will I need for a trip to Slovenia?

Slovenia actively promotes catch and release and single barbless hooks only are permitted. If you are in search of the elusive marble trout then big streamers and sculpin imitations would be a useful part of your kit. Nymphing techniques also suit the Slovenian rivers.

It might also be worth investing in some of the local tackle while you are there. The Seria Slovenia fly patterns are a series of ten sedges. all commonly used on European rivers, and generally considered the most successful on Slovenian waters.

Don't forget your waders as many of Slovenia's best fly fishing rivers are alpine and tree-lined so some wading may be necessary.

Will I need a fishing guide when I get there?

Given the vast range of fishing locations on offer, a guide might be a wise investment to help you make the most of your fishing experience.

Local knowledge is invaluable in giving you a heads up to the hot spots and also advice about the best techniques and flies to try. Plus, many of the access points to the water are not marked on maps.

Do any English speaking fly fishing guides operate in Slovenia?

Yes. Stuart Minnikin, from Yorkshire Dales Fly Fishing, has been running very popular guided trips to Slovenia for the last five years. Trips scheduled for September 2016 are already fully booked.

More details are available from his website www.yorkshire-dales-flyfishing.com

What fishing licences do I need for a trip to Slovenia?

If you are planning your own fly fishing trip to Slovenia, the website of the Slovenia Tourist Board (www.slovenia.info) has a comprehensive list of the main fishing rivers and the controlling angling clubs. Permits are widely available from tourist offices, shops and hotels or you could contact the local fishing club.

How do I get to Slovenia?

A number of UK airlines offer flights to Ljubljana in Slovenia. You can even get their via budget airlines such as EasyJet for less than £35 at certain times, so it's not an expensive place to reach from the UK.

The flight takes just over two hours if you fly direct, or around three and a half if you have a connecting flight, so you could easily leave the UK in the morning and be fishing in Slovenia by the afternoon.

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