Fly Fishing Slovenia: Marble Mystery in Soca

// Text and Photos by Christian Anwander

It had long been a dream of mine to go fly fishing Slovenia for marble trout. All it took was a global pandemic to make it happen.

If the global Corona crisis has taught us one thing it’s to look for beauty and good times close to home. Since about 15 years I have called New York City my home but I am originally from Austria, a country blessed with beautiful places to discover. When the global pandemic slowed things down around the world, my family and I temporarily moved to Vienna and I got a chance to “rediscover” my country.

Slovenia, the capital of Marble trout, is only a few hours by car. Yet, somehow I had never made it down there. On a rainy day my mind was pondering about places I could go to fly fish. The challenge was that it needed to be a location not too far away. I wanted to go by car and bring my wife and daughter. I called up a good friend who recommended I get in touch with Gaspar from Soca Fly down in Most na Soči.

Fly fishing gear in the trunk of a car
My old Volvo fully packed with fly fishing gear

Luckily enough international travel was still very limited at the time. Gaspar told me to come to the Soca valley the the second week of May since conditions were supposed to be good. The window of opportunity to catch Marble trout down in Slovenia is favourable during later spring and then again during fall. It didn’t take a lot to convince my wife to go on a little trip since we had been confined to Vienna and its surroundings for a while.

When I told her that I wanted to leave Monday night since the fishing was supposed to be good on Tuesday, she wasn’t thrilled knowing that we would bring along a one year old. When I entered the address into the GPS it told me that our trip down to Most na Soči would take between 4-5 hours. Easy, I thought. How wrong I would be…

So Close and yet so Far

The closer we got to Slovenia, the smaller and steeper the roads got. The first pass we had planned to cross turned out to be impassable due to a landslide. A thing that happens often during spring in the mountain regions of Slovenia. I turned the car around and told myself (and my wife) that it wouldn’t take long to make up the time we had lost. We would still arrive before midnight I was sure. After another blocked road my wife was fed up and told me to look for a hotel. A quick glance at my watch told me that wouldn’t be an easy task at 2:30 am…. To my surprise, the first inn I called offered us a room that we were more than happy to take.

Slovenia fly fishing Lodge Naribu 2
Slovenia fly fishing Lodge Naribu 2 – our home for the days

Waking up the next morning, my plan still was to fish today despite still being a few hours from our final destination. I called Bostjan, my guide, to tell him that I was going to be a little late. But I still wanted to hit the water as soon as I got there. Around 10 o’clock I dropped my wife and daughter and the beautiful house we had rented for the days. Then I drove to the Soca Fly shop where I was meant to meet Bosti.

Soca fly shop in Most na Soci
The Soca Fly Shop in Most na Soči

The mountains around Most na Soči have micro climates. One moment the sun is shining and the next a heavy rain shower can make the water level rise by an inch. This often leads to a change in the behaviour of the trout. This morning Bosti had a good feeling and suggested we head straight to the “trophy stretch” where some huge marble trouts have been caught over the years. The biggest one was landed in 2009 and weighed in at almost 50lbs measuring 47″!

Fly Fishing Slovenia: Trophy Water Delivers

As a setup I used my Epic 6wt Fastglass that I built myself. I started out fishing some nymphs. But since I’m a huge dry fly fan I quickly changed to a big stimulator hoping to trigger the bite of a big marble. Stone flies were around in abundance. Hence I thought I’d give it a try. Bosti knows each hole of the river like the back of his hand and told me to cast across the current to provoke the rise of a fish. Only a few casts in a huge mouth with a white edge opened up and slowly inhaled my fly. Game on! I tried to set the hook quickly and firmly. Bosti had told me that marbles have hard mouths where the hook often does not set well.

Aware of its power the fish stayed below the surface and used the current to try to get rid of my hook. I could feel it shake his head several times. I managed to stay connected to it for a few moments when the line suddenly sagged – I had lost her… It quickly settled in that this fish had been the odd big marble I had come here for. After the first disappointment had passed, Bosti told me that he had hooked into that fish a few months ago when using a big streamer. As a guide with years of experience I had every reason to believe Bosti knew every big fish on this stretch of the river.

He told me to just keep fishing since the conditions seemed to be good and you never knew if there wasn’t another big trout waiting around the next corner. Shortly after I connected to another, yet much smaller fish. It turned out to be a nice rainbow.

Fly fisherman holding a rainbow trout
A nice rainbow shortly after my encounter with a big marble when fly fishing in Slovenia

Hoping for another big marble I made a few more cast closed to where I had hooked the big one a little while ago. While following my fly, I saw a rainbow of about the size I had just caught, hectically jumping out of the water a few times. “A big marble is hunting that rainbow” Bosti said. “No doubt, that’s a typical behaviour. Just keep casting.” Unfortunately that fish didn’t seem to have any interest in my fly. We kept on fishing for a little more but the feeding time seemed to be over all of a sudden.

Fly fishing in Slovenia: Looking for big marble trout
Fly fishing in Slovenia: Looking for big marble trout

A sudden shower can quickly turn the water a little milky from one moment to the next. But that doesn’t mean the fish won’t feed. After an intense fishing session I took some time to take in the beauty of this part of Slovenia. Narrow valleys with beautiful streams, stone houses and foggy clouds embracing lush green forests. A fishing paradise so close to home.

Fly fishing Slovenia: View from a bridge into the lush valleys of the Soca and its tributaries

Another Shot at a Marble While Fly Fishing in Slovenia

The next day we changed the setup a bit and Bosti recommended I should try fishing with big streamers to provoke the bite of a marble. He taught me that they often hold close to the banks. The technique fly fishermen use around here was to cast big streamers of about 5″ – 7″ using 10-12wt rods. As soon as the streamers hits the water (which often triggers the marbles’ attention) you have to start stripping without any pause. I had a few fish follow my streamer right up to my feet without taking it.

I realised that I wasn’t used to this style of fishing and that is was hard work. Despite my body aching after a few hours, I kept on fishing still looking for my first marble. I finally hooked into another fish that Bosti quickly identified as a marble. This time I was able to land it. It was by far not as big as the one I had lost the day before but still a beautiful fish.

Marble trout caught fly fishing Slovenia
My first marble while fly fishing Slovenia

The days down here in Slovenia passed much too quickly. But I am happy I finally found the time to make the trip and discover this fly fishing paradise so close to my hometown Vienna. I already have plans to come back and fish with my hosts Marisa (who’s the boss in the kitchen and an excellent chef) and Blaz the next time.

Slovenia Fly Fishing: Important Information

Where to stay: Lodge Naribu 2 and Klavze 28

Guides and shop: Soca Fly

More info: Tolmin Angling Club & Idrica Fishing Club