Alps, Austria, Fly-fishing, Huchen, Trout

Fisch? Where?


Even when you’re supposed to be doing something else entirely, most fly-fishers know from experience, fish can just come out of nowhere.

Crammed onto a chilly chairlift in the Austrian Alps last week with my ski-writer sister-in-law and a couple of random Russians, I ducked my chin into my collar against the wind, glanced down at the Russians’ sticks… and, well, y’know… (Perhaps they wondered why the grinning Englishman was taking strangely-angled photos of snow and tree stumps, but what they’d probably never understand couldn’t hurt them).

And maybe I should have expected those fish anyway.

A couple of hours before, I’d been chatting with the chief instructor at one of Zell am See’s ski schools beside the stunning new Porsche-conceived Schmittenhoehe cable car and its gleaming designer-retail Talstation: we’d clomped into his office to talk about Sally’s snowboard lesson, nominative determinism did its work, and one fishy thing led to another then too.

“Pike? Und Sie fliegenfischen auch? Ja, ich fische pike here in the See… lake trout too, big ones to 50, 70 centimetres, and brook trout in the mountain streams. Diese nur mit Trockenfliege, naturlich…in Sommer, das ist die Beste!”  

English, Austrian, it didn’t really matter: our lingua franca had fins, ate flies, and swam.

Needless to say, whilst waiting for shuttle buses on the valley road, I’d also spent more than a few moments peering into the snow-shrouded stream that intersects Zell am See’s ski area: approximately the size and flow of the newly-restored upper Wandle at this time of year, but obviously destined to explode into a tiny terror when Austria’s biggest snowpack of epic pow for twenty years finally melts, blows out, and takes the fastest semi-vertical fall line to the See and the Salzach.

If migratory lake trout or huchen do spawn in the Breitenbach, it’s almost certainly near the lake, below the barriers of little stilling weirs and shallow armoured culverts that stairstep down the Schmittental’s steep gradient, maybe even within Zell itself.

But I still couldn’t help lingering by bridges further up the valley, willing huge predatory shadows just to come out of nowhere in the icy-blue depths. There’s always next time … 


Coming soon: even more Fisch tales from the Austrian Alps.