Tenkara Fishing in Austria

by David Southall, UK
Tenkara angler Dave Southall

Fly fishing in Austria is rarely mentioned in the UK fly fishing magazines, yet it has a wealth of outstanding waters full of brown, rainbow and brook trout, plus grayling. Their high alpine streams are what Tenkara was devised for. My fishing buddy Steve and I have visited Austria five times and two things always amaze me; one is the shear number of fish in the waters (it is not unusual to catch over a hundred fish in a day); the other is how few anglers are to be seen on most of the waters.

A typical day involves a lot of walking and scrambling over boulder-strewn banks and up waterfalls, dropping your fly into every likely looking pocket. Good, comfortable wading boots with studded rubber soles are essential, as are a lightweight, breathable pair of waders. A wading staff can also be useful. Most of the waters are at altitudes of over 1000 m, where the weather can be very changeable and many are far from the beaten track so it is important to go well equipped with small rucksack containing water, food, first aid kit, waterproof jacket and warm clothing. I have known it snow in July, whilst in September 2012 we fished in a blizzard. It is also worth taking a spare Tenkara rod in case of breakage.

We both love dry fly fishing so rather than fish traditional Sakasa Kebari flies or nymphs we use big, buoyant dry flies. The summer is short and the fish have to be opportunists, so fly choice is relatively


 A size 12 foam beetle is one of my favourite patterns, as is a size 10 Black Klinkhammer. Whilst fly choice is optional presentation requires a lot of care and attention to optimize success. Maelstroms of white water with small pockets of calm are not the place for ‘long line Tenkara’: a light level line plus tippet the same length as the rod is required if all the line and most of the tippet is to be kept off the water to avoid drag. The Brook Trout, which prefer the slacker water pockets, are particularly slow risers and it is often important to have a drag-free drift lasting many seconds to allow them time to rise. Even when the temperature is sub-zero we still find the fish are willing to rise to a dry fly.

The angle of approach is also important in achieving the best presentation. Casting directly up the stream is inefficient since firstly and least important in my opinion, is that the fish will see the tippet before the fly; secondly the fish will always be closer to the angler than the maximum casting range possible; thirdly and most importantly, it is very difficult to consistently track the rod downstream in order to keep the line and tippet off the water and to avoid pulling the fly downstream faster than the natural flow. Across stream casting and particularly slightly down and across casting eliminate these problems. The latter also allows the fly to be twitched back into a pocket if it should drift out of it. Fortunately it is usually possible to fish at very close range even downstream since the broken, boisterous water surface breaks the fish’s window to the outside world.

Importantly, avoid fishing just below the hydro-power abstraction points that are often located a kilometer or two above valley level.

Much of the fishing is controlled by hotels. The following are worth visiting:

Hotel Platzer A-6281 Gerlos 198 Zillertal/Tirol, Austria, www.hotelplatzer.at:  Outstanding service, excellent food and a good mix of very varied waters from small brooks to big lakes.

Braurup  A-5730 Mittersill  Austria,  www.braurup.at : Good food, their own brewery and an extensive range of waters. 

All the fisheries that I've fished in Austria were run by the hotels and permits to fish were obtained from the hotels. No state licence was needed.