Teplá Vltava – the Perfect Tenkara Stream.

by Jeremy Lucas, UK

On any river I always find myself thinking of its suitability for tenkara versus western-style. Most, but not all, that are best for the fixed-line tend to be small. Most, too, contain grayling, which, I have discovered, are the perfect tenkara quarry, more so than fast moving trout - particularly big trout. In any case, the wonderful Teplá Vltava, in Sumava national park of south west Bohemia, is just one of these streams, and in my estimation, it is not only perfect for tenkara, but is perfect in every sense, especially for its wonderful grayling.
From the standpoint of the fixed-line, the scale of this feeder river to the magnificent Vltava tailwater, is visibly all what one would possibly desire. With a 12' or 13' tenkara, and leader/tippet set at a little over rod length, say 15' overall, the wading angler (Teplá must be fished from a wading stance almost everywhere) can cover the entire river, though wading must be careful.

Pace, as always, is the crucial aspect (assuming quiet wading) that determines the successful angler's progress. One needs perhaps half a kilometre of water to oneself, over a day. You might fish this up in the morning, learning how to fish the river, and then will drop back down to particular areas located in the morning session, and fish them through with the benefit of a hatch. Surely, in summer, these will be mixed caddis, medium olives and pale wateries, and the grayling will focus on the up-wings, undoubtedly, and perhaps all the larger specimens will come to dry fly in the form of CDC plume tips.

This fly is the perfect tenkara dry fly, in either the F-fly style, if caddis really are prevalent as a foodform, or the utterly unbeatable up-wing or shuttlecock style in a 19 (TMC 103BL). And on Teplá Vltava, this fly, for me, resulted in two of my most outstanding days of 2013.

Oleg tells me that Teplá Vltava might be the water where the tenkara convention delegates of 2014 can fish. Very exciting this; and here is a possibility for you: just by a railway level crossing is a 100 metre length of river which my friend Tom Speak refers to as the 'glory water'; because it was here that Jan Siman took me in September of 2013, and where I caught five 40cm plus grayling, on plume tips in my second run up, during the beginnings of a PWD hatch. This length of river is astonishing. In the morning it lay, calm and apparently lifeless; not a rise to trouble its surface. But in the early afternoon, at the beginnings of the hatch, it was unbelievable. Immediately upstream of this section is a long broken series of rapids; fascinating water, but populated more by smallish trout than grayling. Downstream, however, is the water of which dreams are made – utterly perfect grayling water in the form of short pools and glides, much of which is overgrown and lends itself to a short tenkara rig and a small kebari (though I would choose the plume tip every time if there was any surface activity whatsoever).

In fact, downstream of the point described above are many kilometres of highly varied river, ranging in width from a mere six metres up to about 15 metres, though averaging about eight. With the gravel and limestone substrate, this produces a never ending scatter of different water types, from desperately slow, deeper (up to a little over a metre) sections which are fairly silted - which most of the local anglers will nymph in the classic Czech-style - to riffling rapids, laced with milfoil and water crowfoot. There are numerous bends as the river carves its way through the forest and you will notice that the foam lanes are often very close to the bank, channelled there by the currents. These are the best indicators of grayling positions that exist, short of an actual rise, because foam lanes are also feed lanes, and this is invariable. A well defined foam lane is certain to be where grayling will collect. It is very common on Teplá to catch within mere centimetres of the bank. Jan Siman demonstrated this to me. I watched him bounce his fly off the foliage on the far bank so that he would be close enough. The grayling really do hold very close indeed, even if the water depth appears to be insufficient to cover them. In the slightly peat stained (remember the forest) flow, the fish are completely invisible.
A rise to a hatch will shift their position somewhat, particularly in the beginnings of a hatch as the emergers will be over the silt and the gravels, depending on species, and before they collect in the drift lanes. During such a hatch this river is simply incredible. I can scarcely believe the numbers of grayling in such apparently small pools. I recall one of these, which Jan had fished before me, and caught four from, which I decided to stay in and see how many Icould extract while the hatch, of pale wateries, persisted. The pool was perhaps 12 metres in length, with a broad run-in, over gravel, and a narrowing, well-defined tail. I started at the head and took six grayling in ten minutes. Missing out the central section I then dropped to the tail and decided to work my way up during what was now the peak of the hatch. In a little under an hour I rose upwards of thirty grayling, bringing two thirds of them to hand. They ranged from 20 to 40cm. It was all close-quarters fishing, all sub-10 metres, and this is typical of grayling in an up-wing hatch, and typical, I think, of Teplá Vltava.

The very nature of this Sumava river is simply ideal for the fixed-line; its scale, its cover, the wading, and, perhaps intriguingly, I claim, the main target species – the grayling. To have all this among numerous Vltava tributaries above massive Lake Lipno, over many kilometres of the forested border country with Bavaria is enchanting. If the fixed-line approach had not been developed in Japan (and Italy in the form of Pesca alla Valsesiana), it could have been developed on Teplá Vltava. The idea of fishing kebaris in the riffle water on this river, in the absence of a hatch, appeals immensely; though I am certainly looking forward to returning to find the up-wings coming off and targeting some of the huge grayling which are then at their most vulnerable, to the well placed plume tip.