Fishing on the Frontier – Part 1

by Jeremy Lucas – San River

I want to introduce you to the most beautiful river in Europe, and the best grayling fishery in the world. The area of south-east Poland, close to the border with Ukraine and Slovakia is an enormous, forested region on the edge of the Carpathian mountains, very much the wilderness edge of Eastern Europe. It offers the ultimate river destination area, at easily the best value, of any trout and grayling fishing that exists.

The San River in Poland

Where the San flows out of the colossal Bieszczady National Park it is a very large river, the confluence of flows, from the natural water course itself and the release from two dams. For about fifty kilometres downstream the average width of the river is a hundred metres. It flows on beyond, in fact for another 250 kilometres until it meets the gigantic Vistula which carries the great life blood-waters of Eastern Europe all the way to the Baltic. The fishing… Well, I’ll tell you about the fishing.

For forty years I have fished obsessively, mostly for trout and grayling. It has been a journey, exploring great waters. When, finally, I discovered the San, I recognised almost immediately that the sport of fly fishing, with single handed fly rod, could not go beyond this place. It is without doubt perfection. Even Heaven could not be better, really. Since my discovery, San River has redefined what I had thought possible in fly fishing. It has also allowed me to bring back major techniques and nuances of approach and presentation to trout and grayling rivers elsewhere.

San River Grayling

It is to do with scale. Think of it like this. We have wonderful river fisheries in Britain, notwithstanding the ferocious agricultural damage they suffer (largely invisibly). In many of our rivers we have strong invertebrate populations, both in terms of diversity and abundance. Now, think of a hatch of a common ephemerid, such as the Olive Upright, on a summer’s day, on a really good, relatively unpolluted river such as Cumbria’s Eden. Trout will be dominating the food lanes, noisily clipping off the emergers and duns, while the grayling shoals will be sipping down the remnants down at the pool tails. The really giant grayling will be kissing off the cream of the hatch, almost unnoticed in their hidden stations. Now, when this happens on San River, a hatch like the above would be a mere trickle. A hatch on San fills the air like smoke, blankets the surface, and brings countless thousands of trout and grayling, as well as dace and chub, blistering the surface, kilometre after golden kilometre. The alkaline flow is rich indeed, and supports unimaginable fish populations. Even the gammarus shrimp colonies can turn sections of river orange during their annual upstream migration. In every way really significant to a fly fisher, this extraordinary river exceeds all previous experience.

Summer wading can help cover fish otherwise out of reach
San also provides almost year-round fishing, though the best period is early May through to the end of October, with the exception of August which is often too hot by day. The upper river is sometimes a little crowded in June, which is the most popular time to fish both for the Poles and western European visitors. Most of the river, however, for most of the year, is quiet or deserted. Again, it is a matter of scale. Think of a large river system in Britain, such as Eden or Tweed. These are minute by comparison, and still never really crowded. Indeed, back in October this year I discovered an enormous area of island-strewn river which I believe is utterly wilderness water, and so does Wojtek Gibinski, our main guide out there. Think of that, never before fished!

Coming in the next installment…………..

San River has redefined trout and grayling fishing for me, and for an increasing number of fly fishers. It is like the end of a journey. I will tell you all about the journey, the discoveries, and how they translate to rivers elsewhere; and I hope to see you here, on this massive, beautiful river on the edge of Eastern Europe.’

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