Austria is a well-known fly fishing destination in Europe. Its crystal clear alpine streams attract fly fishermen and women searching for hucho, grayling and trout.
There are famous rivers in Austria that boasted incredible catches in the past, such as the Gmundner Traun. Gigantic lake trout populated the river back in the days of Hans Gebetsroither and Charles Ritz. Or take the waters of Carinthia that are home to some of the biggest hucho (Danube salmon) in the Alps region.
An area that is a little less well known for its fly fishing potential lies in the Austrian west at the boarder with Switzerland and Germany: Bregenzerwald. It’s a beautiful range of mountains rising from the shores of Lake Constance. The creeks and rivers that drain the Bregenzerwald make their way to Lake Constanze. They tumble through beautiful small valleys dotted with picturesque villages.
Bregenzerwald is one of the rare regions in the Alps that managed to conserve its identity. Traditional shingle style farm houses can be found in every village. Modern architecture draws a reference to these old buildings and creates a harmonic together of old and new. If you are into delicate food you will not be disappointed by the Bregenzerwald. Some of the best cheese in Austria is produced here. Restaurants as the Hotel Hirschen in Schwarzenberg are led by a new generation focusing on regional ingredients in a historic setting.
Pike on Lake Constance
If you come to the Bregenzerwald with a fly rod in your luggage you have a number of rivers to choose from. The best place to start is the tourism office or Claus Elmenreich. The local guide and instructor knows the area like the back of his hand. Besides fishing the rivers of the region for trout, Claus offers trips to the Lake Constance. There you can target big predators like pike or even pike perch. This can be great fun in case the water levels of the rivers don’t cooperate.
We focused on the rivers of the Bregenzerwald and started out on the Bregenzer Ache, one of the bigger rivers of the region. Since the days start early at the end of June we set our alarm clocks at 4 am. Our goal was to get to the river before sunrise. The goal was to fish the bigger pools after they had rested overnight. We started out fishing a stretch closed to the small village of Bersbuch. Here, the Bregenzer Ache makes its way through a gorge before becoming a little wider.
A rod in the range of #3 to #5 does the job well since most fish, mainly brown and rainbow trout, come in at a range of 10″ to 15″. Of course there is the occasional bigger trout but they are hard to catch since they are wild and easily spooked if you don’t move along the bank very carefully.
The season in the Bregenzerwald is short. Hence the brown trout are hungry and take a fly willingly if presented in the right way. We mainly fished with big dry flies since it’s easy to see them in the fast currents and fun to watch a trout come from below and take it.
The more downstream, the more the Bregenzer Ache turns into a proper little rivers and offers the chance to make longer casts for pools a little further out. You start expecting a nice wild brown trout behind every big rock. A fun way to fish and cover some water before the sun rises too high and makes the trout rest when the light gets too bright.
Fly Fishing Bregenzerwald: A River Runs Through It Territory
After landing a few smaller trout on that stretch, Christian and I made our way a little further upstream to fish a beat close the village of Bezau. In this part of the river the Bregenzer Ache flows through a wider riverbed creating deeper pools and runs. This made us believe that we had a shot at a bigger fish even though the sun was gaining strength quickly. Close to an old railway bridge, Christian tied on a big mayfly imitation.
On the second or third cast, Christian managed to hook into a bigger trout that showed its silvery sides jumping out of the water a few times in a row. Unfortunately, fishing with barbless hooks to protect the smaller trout, Christian lost the fish on its second run.
The frustration about loosing a bigger fish doesn’t last long here. Because fly fishing in the Bregenzerwald is about much more than catching beautiful wild trout. It’s a region that stands out for its overall picture of intact villages that offer the best from many worlds: remote mountains to explore, crystal clear mountain streams to fish, local produce to enjoy and excellent restaurants serving these fine foods.
Appropriately we ended our day with a fantastic surprise menu at the Hotel Hirschen in Schwarzenberg. If you plan on travelling to the Bregenzer Wald in Austria, bring a fly rod. If you are travelling to the region to fly fish, be ready to discover a lot more than you might have expected from this little gem in the west of Austria.
More information on fly fishing the Bregenzerwald