Streamside Blog

Bosnian Grayling On Dry

Image by Matt Gorlei

Occasionally you see a photo of a fish that you just know you have to catch yourself. I regularly find myself drooling over other people’s fish on social media – Spotted Grunter, Largemouth Yellowfish, Browntrout and Dorado. When I see fish like this I get headaches, and the only way I have to keep my ailments at bay is to sneak off to the Broederstroom in the afternoons after school to pick up a few
rainbows on dry. It turned out that the practice from these dry fly afternoons would convert into something a little more than a Broeder Rainbow when we fished for Grayling on the Sana River in Bosnia.

The Ribnik River

On our first day of fishing with our guide Amir, an absolute wizard with a fly rod, we fished the Ribnik. A wide, ankle-to-thigh-depth pebble river, with soft riffles and laminar water. It is gorgeous dry fly water, with tons of grayling and a few browns sitting around weed clumps, which we worked primarily with micro dry flies and nymphs. Size 20 was big for a dry, with Amir giving us size 22 and 24 emergers to fish. The Grayling were incredibly picky, with maybe 1 in 10 perfect sight-casted drifts getting any sort of reaction. Ending the morning with 8 fish out of the many Grayling in the stretch.

We later moved down to an area encroached by trees, with a similar water type. The sheer quantity of fish in the river was apparent now, with Grayling and Browntrout rising all over the place. I stood in a spot for a half hour at a time, varying casting angles to rising Grayling, learning how long it took for them to rise, return to their holding spot, and rise again.

I cycled through flies, but a black-bodied CDC Ant in #20 was the most productive. We spent a lot of time presenting dries downstream at an angle, which seemed to be the most productive presentation. Getting the leader to coil slightly as it landed introduced slack, allowing for better drifts.

The Sana River – My Biggest Grayling

Luke’s personal best Grayling, measuring 50.5cm (Image by Matt Gorlei)
Luke’s personal best Grayling, measuring 50.5cm (Image by Matt Gorlei)

After fishing the Ribnik for two days, we decided to mission to the Sana for an afternoon. Amir told us the Sana had more willing Grayling, meaning good drifts were rewarded, and we could fish standard #18 dries.

After working some fish on nymphs, I switched over to a Split Wing for the evening rise. At the start of a fresh run, I made a cross current cast over my left shoulder, “kek hand” style. A small aerial mend resulted in a decent upstream bow in the main current, allowing my split wing to get a dead drift in the opposite seam.

Smooth and precise, I got a Grayling rise to my dry, follow it for a moment, and sip it. I waited a moment and struck true. I converted smoothly into a low, upstream rod, just as I had done for the previous fish from other runs.

But, this fish held in the current and then bulleted downstream. I didn’t have much option but to follow, pulling line from my reel to allow for any hard runs, to protect the 7x tippet we were fishing. After stumbling about 100 meters down the river through some fast flat water, I managed to get the fish into a seam and jump in behind it.

I held there for a moment and saw the rapids below me. I knew that letting this fish make another run would end in tears. I positioned the rod tip downstream and upped the pressure, forcing the fish to double back on itself and did a quick step and scoop with my net, with the current helping to push the momentarily disoriented fish into my net.

The result was a 50.5cm grayling, by far my biggest of the trip.

The 9ft 3wt Vision Rivermaniac

The 9ft 3wt Medium Action Rivermaniac – ready to do her thing. (Image by Matt Gorlei)
The 9ft 3wt Medium Action Rivermaniac – ready to do her thing. (Image by Matt Gorlei)

The Rivermaniac is another superb example of a flagship rod from Vision. This dry fly rod excels in many aspects, with even the medium action model capable of delivering tight loops and distance casts, with a soft enough tip to fish down to 8x comfortably, and enough spine to fight large fish in the current.

The matte finish is slightly darker than that of the Hero models, with black accents similarly placed to the neon green on the Nymphmaniac models making it an aesthetically pleasing rod.

I did find the lack of a hook-keep slightly inconvenient at first but ended up lopping my leader around the reel and hooking up to the lower eye to keep the majority of the leader out of the eyes for faster initial presentations. Having fished both the Nymph and Stillmaniacs, I can confidently say this rod lives up to its position in the Maniac line.

Long hours of repetitive casting were made easy by the rod’s lightweight and responsiveness, and its delicacy and accuracy excelled when pin-point presentations with minute dries were important.

I knew exactly what my line was doing and what my presentation would be like throughout the cast. I also found it to be a great all-rounder, excellent for short-distance Euro Nymphing, sight nymphing and downstreaming, where its sensitivity came into play.

I paired the Rivermaniac with a 3wt Hanak dry line for distance, and with a Rio Gold 2wt for delicate presentation.

One of many Grayling caught using the 3wt Rivermaniac. (Image by Matt Gorlei)

New Technique to Target Grayling and Trout

All through our training days, we learnt a technique called Bosnian nymphing. The setup was the Rivermaniac dry fly rod, with a short tapered leader of around 7/8ft, to 5/6ft of tippet, and a size 20 nymph with a 2mm tungsten bead.

Casting upstream across a current and then lifting the rod tip slightly and pushing it upstream simultaneously to allow a V to form in the line, acting as an anchor to use for bite detection, and to control the rate of the nymphs emerging.

I say this as the whole goal of this presentation is to imitate an emerging nymph. On the cast, you need to get the tippet to fall in a coil, with the nymph landing first and sinking before the leader is straightened out by the current.

This creates the effect of a nymph rising while being pushed along by the current, as the V is pulled along faster than the nymph at the faster-flowing surface.

You have to keep tension against this V to feel bites, the Rivermaniac showing its capability in situations where sensitivity is needed. This presentation could cover large pieces of laminar water while giving a good presentation with a nymph, giving us an option for when water was too skinny or slow to Euro Nymph effectively at range.

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Eastern Cape Highlands

22-29 April 2023