I was saddened to hear about the recent loss of a special fellow IWFF angler who I met in 2008. My first introduction to Henriette was via email since she was the first international member that I processed as IWFF membership chair. We had some special challenges to get her signed up and we had several email conversations to get things worked out–she was delightful! In 2009, IWFF had an Austrian Festival and I was fortunate to go and meet Henriette in person along with several other European Anglers. She was a wonderful addition to the group and loved by all– practically adoped by the German Fly Fishing Ladies since she was the only Dutch person at the event. I kept in touch with Henriette after the festival and invited her to visit me in the San Francisco Bay area. Sadly, she became ill and we knew that trip would not likely occur. In her memory, I wanted to share the article that she contributed for an earlier 2010 IWFF Newsletter. – Rebecca Blair
Memories of IWFF Women’s Week Austria and Slovenia: 10-16 May 2009
Austria brings many memories, “oopses”, much laughter, some schnapps, peeing and of course a lot of fly fishing and dreaming away in beautiful nature during the first IWFF meeting on the European continent organized by Kate Blubaugh, Goodwill Ambassador of the IWFF.
When we reach Pension Wutte in Sankt Primus we are warmly welcomed with schnapps by the owner, Milan Senior. Soon enough, outside on the terrace, in the twilight, the air fills itself with festive energy. Rebecca and Barbara came over from California, Christa and Claudia from Germany, and I myself from Amsterdam– The Netherlands, and of course Kate. We are the first female fly fishing group in his pension. The male fly fishers, who stay with Wutte the same week, need some time to understand that we are not a knitting club. Kate surprises us all with welcome gifts: a box with flies, an indicator and a magnetic tippet threader, to pilot the tippet quickly through the eye of the hook of an artificial fly.
The following day, Milan junior drives us through the mountains to show the rivers Kleine (small), Drau and Villach. We enjoy the ‘Riverrich’ woods with the sunny, yellow flowered fields and snowy mountains in the background. All around there are ‘postcards’. I intend to indulge in all of this and forget about taking pictures for a while. The Kleine Drau is in general rather narrow, sometimes quiet and then again brawl and usually we have to decent deep before reaching the river. According to photographer/writer Rudy van Duijnhoven, I call my whole family together before I react on a bite. This costs me the biggest fish of the week according to him.
Rudy and Kate give me tips now and then during the day, I practice and sometimes I sit on the side and watch how they cast and fish on this river- so beautifully and easy and they often get a take! That cannot only be luck. Of course, just when there is no photographer around during this first day, I catch a magnificent brown trout. I am on my own, so I think the fish must be 45 cm (~17.75 in).
A push in the back
Wading through a deep part, i want to reach the side via a big stone, but that is a little too optimistic. “Are you okay?” I hear behind me. “No, not really.” I then feel a hand on my back that gives me just the push I need. “That’s what friends are for”, I hear later from the girls. The Villach is a broader river, good wadable water, sometimes rippling, sometimes deep, with a small waterfall and now and then in the middle, an island made up of loose stones. A great river to dream away into, but the dream lasts only a short while as I witness a big grayling floating by on its side. A fisherman outside our group thought it was very important to take pictures extensively of his catch of the day…catching is out for me that day.
The ride with Milan senior to Slovenia takes us up and down a narrow, windy road through the mountains and we pass by Bled, a quite deluxe lakeside resort with lots of very stylish hotels, terraces, and boats in a big lake. A fairytale according to connoisseurs, a different fairytale then we are experiencing in the rivers. The Sava Bohinjka is a wide river and a very turbulent river. We are obliged to wade alongside the bank. In order not to get stuck in the trees, I have to do some roll casts over my left shoulder, easy, my backhand is also sharper by playing tennis, yet I lose two flies. Lunch this time, is not taken in the woods, but in a ‘breech’ a Slovenian eating cafe. So, no peeing between stinging-nettles and ferns which makes one jealous of men once in a while.
In the afternoon we drive further upstream where our fishing licenses are checked: fishing permits are correct and we are all fishing barbless. All of a sudden a few big trout jump out of the water while we are having fun with the inspectors. The fish are playing a game with us and challenge us to step into the water again to catch a few small sized brown and rainbow trout during the rest of the afternoon.
During every evening meal, all the “oopses” are being discussed in depth, tough stories are told and especially a lot of laughs roll over our delicious desserts.
The following day I am wading the Klein Drau a bit overconfident. I do have my wading stick folded out, but let it joyfully float behind me in the water. I am being told that there are big trout swimming further down; I start walking fast over a small island ridge, but all of a sudden I slide in soft sand and before I realize it, I find myself floundering in a deep pool. Kate comes running immediately. I climb on the island, soaking wet as far down as my socks, but I happily notice that the cell phone in my backpack has only become damp. Nevertheless, it becomes good idea to purchase a waterproof backpack. “Finally baptized”, I do hear laughing. The others have also undergone a similar baptismal experience once (or twice). In order to recover, Rebecca, Kate and myself treat ourselves on cheesecake and wine, before I take a warm shower.
Everyday there is a “Spruce des Tages” (Speech of the day) on the menu of our pension. Today I read: “Besser of neuron Wegen ’twas stolpern also in alien Pfaden of der Stelle zu triton” (Better to stumble on new roads than to stay in the same place all the time on old roads)…that gives courage.
In the morning, Rebecca and Barbara take a day course with Milan junior. Christ, Claudia, Kate and I will look for the best spots in the known “house rivers”. ‘TomTom’ helps us towards the river. When I look left, a brown trout jumps out of the water on my right side, and when I look right, he or his friend jumps out at my left side. I am surrounded by jumpers, feel several bites, but they don’t have the intention to let me catch them. I try different flies, but teasing is in the fish plan today.
Then I hear my name being called: Rudy has caught a ~65 cm (26 inch) rainbow trout on a dry fly! A beauty, in perfect condition. When he holds the fish up to me, a silvery glittering meets my eyes. Rudy doesn’t let them tease him. Neither does Claudia: she lands on a dry fly, a ~50cm (20 inch) long grayling! I walk downstream, they don’t jump anymore, but I catch a beautiful brown trout. Again further down, I meet Kate and some male fly fishers. One of them complains it is too crowded in the river, he didn’t catch any fish. The other one points out how big the trout was that he just caught- about 60 cm (24 inch). To him, a small fish. To us, I would be happy with that size! He shrugs his shoulders, “Women!” and mumbles: “Happy playing in kindergarten!” What a joker.
To close this marvelous week, Kate gives us all a well thought out character sketch, feedback and a positive challenge to chew on. ON the table there are the little presents we brought from home, in turn we take one and all the presents match with the person- coincidence? Milan Wutte is kissed and thanked with wine and hugs. Many thanks go to Kate for a great initiative and a magnificent accompaniment! The other groups of fly fishermen now understand we can do more than knitting!
Ingrid of Pension Wutte gives us wisdom for our journey:
‘What was, is history;
What will be, is a secret;
What is, is a present.’
This week really was a present and already is history and bears a secret for later.
-Henriette Adama van Scheltema