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Part 2 – Austria

Leaving Slovenia, I found myself in the back of the Renault 5, laden with fishing tackle and surrounded by that all-too-familiar wet wader smell. With Rich and Duncan in the front, we were driving at breakneck speed over the foothills of the Julian Alps – essentially a series of meanders and tunnels – on a mission to cross the border into Austria and get to Obervellach in time to check into our hotel.

Our plan was to fish the Kelag waters of the River Moll, a tributary of the Drau in the Carinthia/ East Tyrol region of Austria. It holds brown, brook and rainbow trout and Danubian-strain grayling. Even though spirits were high, we were aware that there had been recent rainfall and that the rivers would probably not be in the best of shape.

Duncan’s masterful map reading ensured that we finally arrived at the Hotel Alpenhof, just in time to book in, settle in and turn in, as the following day would see us up at the crack of dawn. Obervellach, a quintissentially alpine village with all the trimmings, is nestled in a valley, surrounded by  looming mountains. It is also the kind of place where folk don’t blink at others in tight lederhosen, nor think twice about the yodeling coming from the adjacent hotel room at 1am.

After a gargantuan breakfast (including the complementary preparation of sandwiches for lunch), the following morning saw us queuing at the town hall for our ‘Fischergastkarte’ and maps of the river. Tickets in hand, we headed off for our first taste of these promising glacial waters.

Seeing that the water was high and slightly coloured we decided to fish rigs with an indicator and 3 flies: ‘all pimped up’ as Duncan put it.  We slowly worked our way upstream, methodically covering likely holding spots (quieter back eddies) which rewarded us with the odd fish.

We soon spotted a likely looking bend (where the water split into two channels) and waded downstream into action. The three of us were  soon into fish, Rich doing particularly well – including a fine example of a brook trout. Before darkness fell we spent the best part of a 3 hour purple patch on this very productive stretch, and came away with wide boyish grins on our faces. This was what we were here for!

That night saw us celebrating with good food at some bar called ‘crazy’, followed by drinks, darts and somewhere else with snakes – but that’s another story. Bed was a godsend and we emerged next morning for another impressive breakfast and large dose of Nurofen.

We settled the bill, checked out of the hotel and drove to Stall in order to purchase our day tickets for Gosnitz lake and the upper Moll – from Rakowitzen down to Gosnitz. With only a half day before we had to head back to Slovenia and then the UK, we decided to try out a couple of good looking sections. I found the fishing harder than the previous day, though still we all managed to pick up the odd fish, including our first Austrian browns (size isn’t everything!) for two of us… and I swear there was a monster in my hands a second ago!

All in all, the trip was a resounding success; good company, educational and most importantly, the lingering knowledge that we’ll need a return trip to do these rivers justice.

Anyone for lederhosen and wiener schnitzel?

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