The Ybbs is divided into many sections, and the river keeper, Fischerdorf Opponitz (the fishing village of Opponitz), limits the amount of angling pressure each beat receives. So, the next morning, Eva sent us to a different section of the river that she said held larger fish than we’d been catching. And I liked the name of the new section—Ravier Exklusiv or “Exclusive River.” Regardless of the language, if “exclusive” is in the name, you know it’s good. Despite the heavy rains from the night before, the conditions at Ravier Exklusiv were similar to what we’d fished the last two days—clear and crowded with fish.
The Exklusiv area of the river features a plant that generates wasserkraft or hydropower. Above the plant, where the water backs up and is taken in for power generation, the current is slow and allows for sight nymphing and dry fly fishing. Below the plant the water is released back into the river, where it becomes a very fast-moving, high-gradient stream, which lends itself to nymphing. Many anglers prefer the more gentle upper sections, but when I took one look at the lower stretch, I had one thought: European nymphing nirvana. Here the fish were large and powerful, made strong by their daily dealings with the current velocity. It was if they were well-trained athletes ready and willing to do battle. And again, we caught so many that we simply lost count.
Three days of unbelievable fishing combined with the lingering jet lag, too many glasses of wine, and too many late-night fish stories among anglers from all points of the globe had begun to drain me. On the fourth day, we woke at a sluggish 10 a.m., had a nice breakfast, and asked Eva where we should fish. She suggested the Hollenstein River, a tributary to the Ybbs. This gem is no wider than two car widths but teems with fish, some of which were in excess of 20 inches. She even offered to come with us and take us to the “local” spots.
After spending the day with her, I concluded that the “local spots” must mean the entire stream. Every area that seemed likely to hold a fish yielded three. From one small plunge pool, I netted more than a dozen trout. The fishing, either nymphing or with a dry–dropper rig, was excellent.
In the early evening, there was a large flight of tan egg-laying caddis—and the fish noticed before we did. They were rising everywhere. I tied on a cream-colored caddis; the fish took my presentations as if they had never been fished to before. It seemed that no matter the water, big or small or fast or slow, trout abound and few people fish for them.
High-Water Challenge On the fifth day, Eva directed us to the Salza River, 90 minutes north of the lodge. She told us that it would rival the Ybbs. The rain had finally hit the rivers, and the water was high and stained but it had a perfect tinge to it. Unlike all other mornings, we couldn’t see fish but it didn’t take long for us to realize they were still biting. We came to a bridge, and I cast a tandem rig of nymphs, aiming to drift them toward the piling. As soon as the flies hit the water, however, a 17-inch rainbow took off with them and made several leaps across the stream. The next eight casts in the same exact spot took fish, including a spectacular 19-inch brown.
Every single good-looking spot yielded multiple fish—and then we met Chris, a local who knew the river very well. He offered to take me to some of his favorite spots—and the fishing got even better. On more than one occasion, I hooked and landed two trout at a time, and I soon decided to fish only one nymph.
We fished until dinnertime. And during the meal, he told us that we had arrived in time to fish the peak hatch of danica mayflies. Ephemera danica is a large mayfly of central Europe similar to the eastern green drake in the United States. The spinner fall, he exclaimed, brings incredible dry fly action. He wasn’t kidding. There were so many trout rising that I couldn’t pick out just one. Fish were everywhere, and the takes were vicious. I could have stayed all night, but a fierce storm coming across the mountains chased me off the stream.
The heavy rains fell through the night and, the following morning, kept most of the lodge guests off the water. It simply delayed Alex’s and my efforts. Instead of drinking coffee with the other anglers, we spent time with Eva looking at maps. I know from experience that smaller The beautiful Hollenstein River teems with wild brown and rainbow trout as well as an abundant population of European grayling. streams clear up quicker after a deluge than larger rivers, so we concentrated on finding some of the smaller streams and new water. She suggested the Kleine Erlauf or Small Erlauf.
When I purchased a license to fish the Small Erlauf, the man at the counter chuckled and said the water was “too brown” and that I could get a refund if I didn’t catch anything. His statement just made me want to catch fish even more.
The license granted me access to more than 15 miles of stream that ran through countryside and urban areas. The lower sections were extremely dirty, but improved as I moved upstream.
In the middle of the town of Enns, I stopped and took advantage of the urban setting. I presented a dry–dropper tandem while perched on benches, walls, or dams, and despite the gnarly conditions, rainbows and browns eagerly took the drys and nymphs. I felt great satisfaction from catching a lot of fish when no one else was willing to leave the lodge.
That night, during dinner, Pascal, one of the lodge guests, asked, “How was fishing?” I showed him the pictures, and he was amazed. “Brown is the new green,” I said. We laughed, had a glass of wine, and spoke about the day’s fishing.
Austria is a must visit for any fly fisherman and offers every single fly fisherman, whether they are beginner or expert, the opportunity to have a fly fishing trip of a lifetime. The rivers have plentiful stocks of wild and stocked rainbow trout, brown trout, and grayling with a few huchen in select rivers. The high densities of fish enable both beginner and expert anglers to have a great deal of success, whether you prefer to fish drys, nymphs, or tandems of any sort. The scenery is beautiful.
This is also the perfect trip to combine sightseeing with fishing. There were several couples at the lodge, and they split the vacation as part fly fishing and seeing all the sights. The best part is that Austria is a country where everything is a sight to see and the excellent fly fishing is just the icing on the cake.
Aaron Jasper is an elementary school teacher in New Jersey and a regular contributor to American Angler.
Get a closer look at the huchen in this trailer, “Hucho: The King”