Fish Story: Chasing Marbles in Slovenia

Written by: Dave Danley, Falcons Ledge

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This beautiful, 20-inch marble trout sports red spots, as they do in certain watersheds.
Photo courtesy Dave Danley
In September 2010, my wife and I had the rare opportunity to travel to Slovenia. This was the culmination of many years of dreaming and researching about this country and its endemic marble trout. I had learned about clear streams running out of the magnificent Julian Alps when I was in high school and had dreamed about fishing and hiking there since that day. My wife, who shares my love of hiking and the outdoors, was just as eager as I to hike and explore this magnificent part of the world.


Through extensive research, I had found that Rok Lustrik is one of the foremost experts in Slovenia fly-fishing and got in contact with him. He was on vacation with his family, but was kind enough to set me up with one of his best guides. My luggage had been lost by the airline, so I had to borrow some old boots and waders and a rod I had never even heard of, called a "Crystal Princess." With my borrowed gear, my guide, and I took a train through the Julian Alps to a tributary of the Soca River that my guide indicated held marble trout.

 

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Slovenia offers stunning vistas of the Julian Alps.
Photo courtesy Dave Danley
We hiked down to a run where the stream was so clear we could easily see several large rainbows moving back and forth in the current. We put on a Pheasant Tail nymph, and I cast it to the top of the hole. The current brought the nymph back into the feeding trout. A large rainbow took the nymph, and I set the hook. The fish ran back and forth in the deep run and after a short struggle my guide netted a fat, 19-inch rainbow.


I was happy with the fish, but I was so intent on catching a marble trout that I almost overlooked the great fish. We continued upriver and began to see rising fish. I switched my fly to a rust-colored Klinkhamer. After casting to a few rising fish, I hooked a small riser. I quickly reeled him in and saw that it was a marble trout. I was so excited that I didn't care it was only about 6 inches long. My guide seemed stunned when I asked him to take a picture of the small fish. I told him that was the first marble trout I had ever caught and I wanted to get a picture in case I didn't catch another.

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The author's first marble trout was a cherished trophy, even at 6 inches long.
Photo courtesy Dave Danley
After taking the picture, my guide assured me that I would get the chance to catch more marble trout. He was right, and it didn't take long at all. We continued walking upstream, andon the outside edge of a bend in the river, we saw a big nose come up for a natural. The fish was lying underneath a low-hanging tree limb on the far side of the bend, so it wasn't an easy cast or drift. If I cast too high I would catch the tree limb; if I didn't mend correctly I would get drag; and it was a long cast without the ability to get closer due to the clarity of the water.


I cast as delicately as I could upstream from the fish about 10 feet, in an effort not to spook the trout or catch the tree limb. As my fly drifted, I mended my line to avoid any drag and let it slide under the branch. The fish exploded out of the water, and I set the hook. The fish ran downstream, peeling line off my reel, as I walked downriver, trying to keep up. After his initial run, he came back upstream, running back and forth shaking his head. He eventually tired, and my guide netted a beautiful 20-inch marble trout.

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The tributary of the famed Soca featured remarkably clear water that made the trout wary.
Photo courtesy Dave Danley


My wife and I had many more memorable experiences fishing and hiking throughout the magnificent Julian Alps in Slovenia. Beautiful natural resources abound in this spectacular country. Clear rivers drain out of granite peaks and tall trees are skirted with an understory of thick brush and large ferns. However, despite the astonishing beauty surrounding you, it is tough to beat the marbled back of a magnificent Slovenian marble trout.

Dave Danley is a guide for Falcons Ledge, in Altamont, Utah.

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Aside from marble trout, the river held some beautiful non-native rainbows.
Photo courtesy Dave Danley