When it comes to fly fishing travel destinations it’s fair to say that, for many of us, Germany doesn’t immediately spring to mind. But as we discovered on a recent exploratory trip, this country has been keeping its cards very close to its chest. Until now…
When the opportunity arose for us to scout out a new trout fishing operation in Upper Bavaria, we didn’t hesitate and booked our tickets straight away, eager to see exactly what Germany could offer the travelling angler. Destination – Dragon Valley.
Dragon Valley is a 6.5km section of the River Leitzach, located close to the town of Fischbachau. Nestled in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, the Leitzach flows into the larger Mangfall river, which in turn flows into the Inn, before finally connecting to the Danube. This system supports a huge number of trout, from naturalised rainbow trout (introduced during the early twentieth century) to unique strains of wild brown trout and trophy-sized grayling.
After a short flight to Munich, I was greeted at the airport by a Dragon Valley driver and transported to the Alter Wirt Hotel in Fischbachau, a comfortable journey of about an hour. The Alter Wirt Hotel, also owned and operated by the Dragon Valley team, is ideally located only a five-minute drive from the river. No sooner had I unpacked my bags than I was into my waders and heading down to the river with my guide Tobias.
Dragon Valley’s 6.5km of water provides private fishing for only two rods and their guide – a fantastic amount of river to explore, of which I only saw a fraction during my 3-day visit. What is immediately apparent upon entering the water are the sheer numbers of trout. It’s no coincidence that so many fish reside here, in fact Dragon Valley’s fishing hasn’t really been accessible since the 1930s, having only been fished by family and friends of the owner. There has never been a fishing club and there have never been day tickets available. The result is a huge trout population which has barely been fished for in the last 80 years. Cool, clear water flows down from the hills, providing the perfect habitat for fish, invertebrates, and indeed anglers. If sight-casting to rising fish with lightweight gear is your thing, Dragon Valley should be firmly on your to-do list.
Throughout my visit, we caught countless rainbow trout – gorgeous, white-finned specimens the likes of which are hard to find outside of their ‘native’ range. The rainbows seemed to rise throughout the day, despite bright, sunny conditions, and we quite literally couldn’t stop catching them. At times we decided to target some of the larger fish in the river and landed some nice rainbows in the 2-3lb class – great fun on 3-weight rods! The largest fish we saw, a beautiful fish of about 8 pounds, was beaten to my klinkhammer by a hungry two-pounder, and promptly scarpered into a deep hole when splashing ensued, never to present itself for another opportunity. There are big trout in the Leitzach if you know where to look, and nymphing through these deeper holes is probably the way to catch them – something I’ll have to try next time!
During one session, we elected to leave the many eager rainbows and headed upstream to where my guide Tobias had encountered a few decent brown trout in the past. One thing that struck me about Dragon Valley was just how much its character changes with each twist and turn. The tumbling, crystal blue waters of the lower river give way to calmer meandering sections in the middle of the beat, not too dissimilar in character from an English chalkstream. At the head of the system, dense pine forest lines the river bank. It’s here that Dragon Valley really lives up to its fairytale name – one could easily think they had been sucked into the pages of a Brothers Grimm story!
On the way to the upper stretches, we stopped at a likely looking pool which Tobias told me can hold good grayling and brown trout. Stoneflies had been hatching in large numbers throughout the day and I chose to match the hatch with a heavy stonefly nymph to see if I could tempt one of the larger residents out of its lair. I cast my fly directly across the stream and let it swing round. BANG! I knew immediately that I was into a good fish as it began tearing line from my reel. No sooner had all hell ensued than my line went slack. Damn. I reeled in my fly to reveal a straightened hook as the culprit. Note to self – use stronger hooks!
After the disappointment of losing a good fish, Tobias and I headed up to the next pool and I elected to put myself on camera-duty while Tobias tried his luck for a brown. At this point the light was beginning to fade and fish were well and truly on the feed. We found a nice run at the neck of the pool, into which Tobias cast his dry fly. We watched as it bobbed downstream before it was gently sipped down, first-cast. After the non-stop rainbow action in the morning, we were pleased to see another species in the net – a remarkable looking and well-fed native brownie, complete with orange and red spots. We stayed in this spot for a while, landing a few smaller browns and rainbows, before deciding to call it a night and head back to the car.
I couldn’t shake the lost fish from my thoughts, and I asked Tobias if he minded me having a few ‘last casts’ in the same spot in which I’d lost the fish earlier. I waded back into the pool quietly and replicated the cast I had made earlier that day, only this time I was confident that I had a stronger hook! As my nymph swung through the water, it crossed through the same fishy-looking lie. I inched it back towards me to impart a little life and BANG – fish on again! The fish went on an explosive run, cartwheeling around the pool, its golden flanks shining in the fading light. ‘Good brown trout!’ I said to Tobias, as he prepared to net the fish. It was only once we had the fish over the net that we realised it wasn’t a brown trout at all, but rather a grayling. Being used to our silvery, grey British grayling, the colour of this fish had totally thrown me off. This was the largest and most beautiful grayling I had ever caught, a fish of about three and a half pounds, its golden and purple colouration something I had never seen before, but apparently quite typical of European grayling. You’ll have to excuse the quality of the photo – it was getting very dark at this point!
We had successfully ticked off three species and headed back to the hotel for a well-earned round of Bavarian beers and fine local cuisine before doing it all again the next day. The wonderful hospitality, accommodation and food and drink at Alter Wirt makes evenings an absolute joy, allowing you to recharge your batteries in style before another day on the river.
Farlows Travel is excited to now be offering exclusive rods at Dragon Valley. Packages start from £1,475 per person for a 4-night stay at the Hotel Alter Wirt with 3 days guided fishing, including fishing licenses, breakfast, dinner and airport transfers.
For more information and availability, email us at [email protected]