I sure am glad that one of InterKnowlogy’s most brilliant engineers, Szymon Kobalczyk insisted we fly fish in his beautiful country of Poland, because it was a total blast; so much more fun than I thought it would be.
The Białka River is in the Tatras mountains and runs through southern Poland. It is a tributary of the Dunajec River, which is a European famous fly fishing river. The Białka is only about 25 miles long. The source of the river is in the High Tatras. It is fed by the Jezioro Czorsztynski Reservior (I have no idea how to say that in English). I have seen a lot of rivers in Europe. I have fished a few. And we American fly fisherman typically have a stereotype of Europe and how they have dammed, fished out and poached their lakes and rivers. And that is certainly true in many parts of Europe, but not on the Bialka. What I found on the Bialka River was an extremely healthy mountain river supplied by snow-melt; an abundance of runs, riffles and pocket water and everything that makes a great fly fishing river, including a huge population of brown trout. The Bialke even has closed spawning sections and fly fishing only sections.
Technically it was a little 3 day long weekend vacation for Kelly and I at the end of a business trip to Europe. Kelly has never been to Krakow and it’s one of my favorite cities in Europe. It’s an awesome city; Great food and great people. And if you are into history, well, it’s where the Schindler Factory is, which is now a WWII museum. It’s also where Szymon lives with his family.
Szymon told me he had arranged a guide. I traded emails with the outfitter (guide cc’d) scraping for info, but couldn’t get the guide to reply. I wasn’t worried. I just wanted to set expectations that I wanted the guide to spend all his time with Szymon because it was Szymon’s first time fly fishing. All I really need these days it to be lead to the river. If I’m told what to throw and I don’t have to figure that out, all the better.
Well, it was a long drive to the Tatras mountains of Poland that border Slovakia. And when we pulled up on the guides house I was really excited. The guides name was Przemysław Półtorak (nickname pronounced “Shemek”) and his outfitter is Sebastian Kalkowski from www.guidedfishing.pl. I knew Sebastian spoke beautiful English from the many email responses I got from him from all my questions. But, thank God I had Szymon with me because it was immediately obvious “Shemek” spoke very little English. Of course it’s fly fishing so really how much talking do you really need to do? Shemek is a 24 year old fly fishing nut. I love that. in broken English he told me he had been fly fishing the river since he was 8.
In Shemek’s back yard with wadered up and rigged up. Shemek offered me a 12’ Czech nymping rod and my heart sunk a bit. There is nothing wrong with Czech nymphing, which I call “raking the river”. It just doesn’t suit my constant need to move and to cast. In Czech nymphing you fling a heavily weighted nymph 45 degrees up stream about 10-15 feet in front of you and “high stick” it, bouncing the nymph along the bottom. And to do it right you do it 2” at a time covering every inch of the river. My personality can’t deal with that. I love the big cast and I love the hike I get out of wading the river for miles. Well, I politely told “Shemek” no thanks to the rod. I had a my 8’6” TFO BVK 3 weight with me and since I was comfortable landing 20”+ montana brownies on that rod, I was sure it was enough for this river. But, Shemek rigged my 3 wt for check nymping…sigh… I politely said thanks and we headed out to the river…well, what I thought was the river. A raging 20 foot wide creek that looked more like an overflow channel was accessible from the back gate of Shemek’s yard. At first I thought there is no way we can fish this thing. it’s overgrown and absolutely raging. Then as we walked downriver we reached a pool that was one of Shemek’s favorites. Actually the water was perfect for Czech nymphing. At the time I thought we were on the Bialke River. But, we weren’t. we are on a diverted irrigation canal. Well, I hooked a handful of small trout on the swing, but weren’t able to pull them back up river. That was a good sign though. because we moved to another part of the canal and quickly I had landed my first small Polish brown trout. And I was still nymphing, Czech style, on an 8’6” 3 wt. it was testing my nymphing skills, or more correctly stated, my lack of nymphing skills. I had moved about 100 feet away from Szymon and Shemek and it wasn’t long before Szymon ran to me holding a nice 14” brown trout in his hands. That pleased me intensely. I have fished with so many beginners that get skunked their first time out. So, obviously “Shemek” was a good guide and knew where the fish were. But, we were still fishing in the canal. And then I saw it…through the trees.. the Bialka. “So we were fishing an overflow canal.”, I said to myself. And what I saw in the distance was a beautiful river. I was really excited now. It was also just after seeing the river for the first time that I saw it… a rise.
I pointed out the rise to “Shemek”. He nodded in pride. And that was my “in” to be polite about changing myself out to a dry fly. I really wanted to test my buddy Mike Hillygus’s theory that a bullet head skwalla will work anywhere; any time. Cutting to the chase, it wasn’t long before I texted Mike right from the Bialka River: “Guess what fly works in Poland? J” Of course I was 10 hours ahead of him so that txt woke him up at 3am.
So, I ended up catching a bunch of fish. And Szymon, a first timer caught fish too. I dropped the Bullet head skwalla with a rainbow warrior I tied because the water clarity was pretty good. And that fly killed. Especially on the swing. But, it was the fish I caught on dries that were so fun. At one point I was hooting and hollering, “This is so fun!” Shemek was proud.
The Bialka is a river that can be fished effectively by any above average fly fisherman. The hard part is finding the access points. If you are interested on how to pull this off, email me.
I would love to go back there and spend a couple full days fishing the main river up stream, skipping the flood channels and canals completely. And some day, probably next spring, I will.