Fly Fishing the Fuscher Ache in Austria
For many years I have been visiting different parts of Austria, fly fishing in the most gorgeous waters in the land of Alps. It is a beautiful country with a lot of things to see. From the old buildings of Vienna and Graz, through the flow of Danube, all the national parks, the beauty of Salzakmmergut surrounded by lakes and rivers, every kind of mountains, beautiful rivers, to the most impressive gift of the nature - the Grossglockner.
Beside the weekends which I usually spend fly fishing in the areas of Lower Austria, Styria and sometimes Upper Austria, I do spent three weeks of fishing holidays elsewhere. I simply like to go somewhere and spend the whole week fly fishing for trout and my favorite fish specie, the Lady of the Stream – Grayling. Usually I focus on the areas around Salzburg, Carinthia and Tirol. I have fished the waters of Braurup, the waters of Altenmarkt, Tauern, etc., but it is not a must for me to go there again. It is not that the places and waters are not beautiful, it is just that by coincidence I discovered a small village called “Bruck an der Grossglocknerstrasse”, an excellent Guest House (Gasthof) called “Zacherlbrau” and an unbelievable water called “Fuscher Ache”.
First time I visited the place was in July 2008. All I saw was unhappy guests from Germany complaining to the owner of the Gasthof about the water color and its level. Most of the guests were cancelling their fishing holiday package claiming that it is impossible to fish. Well, I found it very discouraging and after paying a 2 min visit to the nearest river bank, I was really disappointed. A small river which grew big due to the snowmelt, with a weird Bluish-Whitish color, and an extremely fast flow. I had the impression that should you drive with a bus into the water, the bus will be taken to the Salzach river immediately (Fuscher Ache flows into Salzach in the village). How to fish?? Looking at my friend’s face waiting for an explanation, we both just nodded and agreed to go back to the Gasthof, have a cold beer and think what to do. Hotel Braurup with over 30 fishing waters was just 30 minutes drive from there. Other fishing hotels which I had visited in the past were also not far from Bruck, but somehow, the curiosity of fishing something different and trying the so called “impossible” which the other guests used, made us decide to stay, try to fish the river and maybe the side stream called Sulzbach. We were told by Thomas Huber (the owner) that we could fish at the Stausee (aggregate lake, reservoir) on the top part of the 24km long river. Well, I am not a fan of lake fishing, regardless of its size. Or better to say, I can live with one day fishing on a lake but not for the whole week. So, after fishing the first day there and having caught only rainbows, we decided to try our luck on the river. There is an easy accessible stretch in the village called Fusch an der Grossglocknerstrasse, known by the locals as “the street near the Esso Gas Station” so we started fishing that part. After two hours of nymph fishing using different variations of heavier nymphs, in different colors, we moved a bit downstream empty-handed. We did not get even a bite. I had the successful formula for catching fish, but that was not what would make me happy since I don’t like using jig nymphs, nor I like Czech-nymph technique which regardless of the arguments provided by many of my friends, I do not consider it a fly fishing style. Anyway, at the end I had to use a bit heavier nymphs to fish the rapids. Took a weighted pheasant tale nymph with a silver tungsten and especially tied for me by the Slovenian guide, Mr.Rok Lustrik. Put a short 60cm leader of 0.18mm and made some loops in the air by dropping the nymph upstream, just 2m from my feet and let it sink naturally by following it with the tip of my rod. In 40 minutes of time I managed to catch about 10 fish, mainly Brown Trout and Brook Char. I was surprised with the size of these fish, apart from one char of 32cm, all others were 40+. During the day we changed spots and fished also a 4-5m deep sections which during the regular water levels seem to be wonderful calm pools with monster trout in it. The fishing day was successful since we managed to land over 25 fish each. Having a diner at Zacherlbrau I learnt from Thomas that the water is usually high in June, July, August and often beginning of September. When there is a lot of snow in winter, the snowmelt comes down but the river is never muddy. It is very high, but never muddy. It has this snowmelt color which I had also seen in the river Grosse Drau, but yet it is fishable. Spent the evening in Thomas’ little fishing shop located in his Gasthof, and learnt more about the area, and about the water itself.
What had puzzled me was the number of fish in the river and their sizes, therefore Thomas was expecting my question. The river Fuscher Ache used to belong for over 50 years to the family “Porsche”. It was fished 3-4 times a year by the main lady of the family who wouldn’t allow even her closest family members to fish the water. She had hired a special guard to take care of the water, so that’s why the population of trout, char and grayling had increased all over the years. After her death, when the family members didn’t want the river any longer, the river guard knew that he will be jobless and that the river will not be guarded for a certain period of time, therefore he went and caught hundreds of fish which he took home. Soon after, Thomas Huber and some other gastronomy experts from both villages, Bruck and Fusch joined their forces and leased the river for a long period ahead. The number of licenses issued per day is limited and most of the license rights belong to Thomas. The other hotels share a certain number of licenses. I agreed with Thomas to visit the Ache again after 15th of September and I kept my promise. Seeing the water level I could not believe I am fishing the same river I fished in July. Water level was low, gin clear water which was drinkable up to its flow in Fusch. Fishing with dry flies was amazing, #20 size emergers for Grayling and #16 black sedge for trouts would never let you down. We decided to fish the area in Ferleitental, higher in the mountains where the Ache is just a little nice stream. However, the width of the river didn’t matter as we caught a lot of grayling, a lot of char and a special specie of wild brown trout which does not really grow big in size and the locals call it “Uhr Forelle”. The only problem you have in this area is the long walk from the parking space. You can drive in the field after obtaining the key from a little hut, but as he also tells you, you do it at your own risk. There are many fields in the area full of cows and horses. For some reason, these cows and horses do eat cars, therefore the mirrors of your car, number plates, etc will be chewed by them. There are also two types of viper snakes in a part of Ferleitental, the Common European Viper which grows up to 60cm and very rarely is fatal and the most dangerous of the Austrian vipers, the Sand Viper which can grow up to 90cm and is considered to be the most dangerous snake of the area. However, should you walk a little area of about 100 square meters you may encounter them, otherwise not.
A very interesting animal lives here as well, the Murmeltier in German and the Marmot in English. This little creature is beautiful and it is famous for the cream and the oil made of it. It is the best natural cure for muscle cramps. It is a pain reliever for muscle and joints and it helps with the blood circulation.
Since then, I am a regular guest of the Gasthof Zacherlbrau. I do go there three times a year, every year. For the last two years we did not experience any snowmelt since we hardly had any snow in the mountains. It was all year normal/low water level. The culinary from this area is excellent. The view, the nature, water, people, fishing, hiking, national park Ferlieten, etc. Many things to see and many places to visit. We have travelled a lot as a group, but somehow, we don’t enjoy anything more than the Fuscher Ache. The head of the Fishing Association Fuscher Ache, Mr.Hubert Edlinger is always there to assist, and give you any useful tips he might have. Just by coincidence, last year in September he came to me asking me if I had caught or maybe seen a lake trout. I thought he was joking and I really didn’t take him serious and I just answered with a smiling NO. He told me that he had released 5 lake trout year before when the water was a bit high but he had never seen them again. He told me that he knows that I catch a lot of fish (not because of my skills, but because I know every stone in this water and I fish where 99% of fishermen don’t even want to step in), so he was hoping I had seen one or even maybe caught it. Of course, Hubert being a HubertJ, had never told anyone about the lake trout…
Day later, my friend and I were fishing the area near the gas station and we landed about 7-8 huge trout in about 30 min. As the sun was gone behind the mountain and the visibility was not the very best, we decided to walk back to the car and drive to Zacherlbrau. Walking back and watching the water and we came to where we started on that stretch, the very first pool and I thought I had seen a big black shadow rising. My friend denied having seen the same and since I insisted a lot, we decided to wait 5 min. It was strange since we had fished the pool for 10 min and had nothing (5 square meters pools with one rock in it). About 4 minutes passed and I saw the shadow. This time I was sure it was a fish and I was 100% sure it is not a huge rainbow like the ones we had caught downstream just few minutes earlier. I put a beadhead stick nymph with yellow nuance and made a gentle cast, this time downstream. Few seconds later the fish was on, but for 2 seconds only. Being sure that it will not take it again, I still insisted for some desperate casts with another nymph in green, special pattern from Hotel Braurup. I took my friend’s rood which is a Greys Streamflex, 8.6, #4 and made few more casts. When I was about to say “one more cast”, I felt the take and the fish swam downstream like a torpedo. As the water level was rather low, the flow was not very fast but still, fast enough having in mind the size of the fish , its run, and the 0.14mm leader.
The fish took out my whole line and about 30m of backing, and then it got tired. This surprised me a lot, since I had caught much smaller brown trouts and rainbows and they pulled a longer and better fight. Anyway, the caution was there, within the next 10 minutes I managed to land the fish which at my surprise and amusement happened to be a 62cm Lake Trout. Took few pictures of the fish and released it gently. I went back to Zacherbrau and showed the pictures to Thomas who stood completely frozen, obviously knowing that it is not a brown trout but also trying to figure out what could it be, since of course he was 1 million percent sure that not even a single Lake Trout lives anywhere around in the rivers nearby. He congratulated me but you could see from his face that he was not happy to know that someone had released other specie without at least informing him.
Anyway, more lake trouts were caught later and more monster trout as well. I am looking forward to the month of April since after Easter, my first visit of this year will be paid to this water.
Here is some useful information:
River Fuscher Ache is 24 long, it starts at Ferleitental near the Grossglockner and ends at Bruck, joining the Salzach river. The place is just 2km east from Zell am See
There are many side streams and the only one open for fishing is Sulzbach
Average width of the river: 15m
Depth: from 0.20m up to 5m
License: 38 EUR per day plus 10 EUR for the Salzburg weekly fishing license. Can be obtained at Zacherlbrau, Hotel Roemerhof, Hotel Lampenhausl, ESSO gas station, etc
Fly Fishing packages: Gasthof Zacherlbrau offers 7 nights and 7 days of fishing with bed and breakfast for less than 300 EUR. Breakfast can be arranged at any time. In the price is included the introduction to the river and one-two hours of guiding, three best flies at the time of arrival, drying room.
Other fishing possibilities: Zeller See for predators, carp and lake trout, Salzach (few areas), Braurup waters, Seekanal, etc.
Detailed info about Fuscher Ache: www.fischerurlaub.at