Journal of Dan T. Cook - Fly Fishing the Globe
Traveling 75,000 miles around the world in search of fish and friendship.
September 28, 2007 -- Location: Hamburg, Germany
GPS: N53 31 60 E9 55 94
Greetings on this last full day in continental Europe! My tour of Europe had two reoccurring themes. The first was that the convenience and romanticism of traveling by train is complete horsesh!t. The second was rain. Here are the details.
Unlike many of my college classmates, I missed out on the opportunity to take a Summer off and backpack around Europe. I always regretted it somewhat as the idea of bumming around Europe with no particular schedule and jumping on and off the train seemed rather intriguing. Fortunately, I am now equipped with the knowledge that I didn’t miss all that much.
This recently-acquired wisdom was a result of my travels to and from Poland. I decided to take the train from Duisburg, Germany to Rzeszow (pronounced “Chezshovf” because the Polish like to play jokes). It seemed simple enough……..get on the train, switch trains in Berlin, switch trains in Krakow, then sit tight till Rzeszow. Things even started smoothly as the InterCity Express to Berlin hit 240 kph. I’ll be there in no time, I thought. Then in Berlin I boarded the Polish “Express” which is another joke they are playing on us. Not only did it stop at all the small villages on the way (there were many) it also stopped to let other trains pass it (there were many). This wouldn’t have been a problem if the booking agent had given me more than 13 minutes to catch my train out of Krakow. However, I guess she didn’t feel the need to allow more than a 2.5% margin of error, so I missed the connection by over 30 minutes. After waiting for 2.5 hours for the next train, I met my fishing contact, Richard, the train station. We made our way through the pouring rain, hopped in his car and the first thing he said was “Fishing is impossible, the river is too high from all the rain.” Hmmmm…….I just traveled 23 hours in uncomfortable seating and the fishing sucks????? That was just the start.
Fortunately Richard and his wife Beta are excellent hosts because the next 7 days went something like this……rain-drive around the valley, rain-visit the nearby village, rain-sit around the house and read, rain-sit around the house and drink beer, rain-…….you get the point. I did fish for around 45 minutes during a brief and surprising window of opportunity when it wasn’t raining and the river cleared up just enough to manage 3 feet of visibility. I caught an excellent, healthy 16” Brown trout that ran up and down the river before I could scoop it up in the net. Then it started to rain again and it never stopped while I was there. For all I know it is still raining there.
On the positive side of things, the area surrounding Sanok is very scenic and the San River is both beautiful and a very productive fishery (I’ve seen pictures). Besides Grayling, Brown and Rainbow trout, the river has a population of the Danube species of taimen. I will return there in the near future to catch a few more fish……after I check the weather report.
Because I’m not very bright, I decided to book a berth in a 2 sleeper cabin on the overnight train from Krakow to Budapest. Things started off poorly as my compartment mate wouldn’t let me in because he thought I was in wrong place. On the cabin door it said “21-23-25.” However, since there were only two beds he somehow believed that the bunks represented 21 and 23 and my 25 had been eliminated…..or was someplace else. Perhaps next door in the 15-17-19 cabin? After being allowed to enter, I stowed my backpack, hopped on the top bunk and pretended to be asleep. The train lurched forward and the pain-in-the-ass that train travel represents began in earnest.
Whoever designed the sleeper car must have been deaf. Either that or papier-mâché was in vogue as a building material at the time. I could hear every conversation being conducted in each of the cabins. And that is a pretty bold statement considering the clickety-clack that made up the ambient noise level. After everyone finally went to bed around 2 am, a chorus of snoring erupted that could have drowned out the racket of a Perdue chicken farm. Much to my chagrin, the Pavoratti of the group was my cabin mate. I spent more than a few minutes reviewing my life trying to figure out why I was being punished.
I got off the train in Budapest, walked to the nearest hotel and was told that there were no rooms available for the next 2 weeks…and that I’d be lucky to find a room anywhere in the city. That was enough for me. Owing to my newly-formed general discontent with the human race, I promptly hailed a taxi for the airport and caught a flight to Salzburg.
Salzburg is beautiful, tucked into a narrow river canyon with historical buildings perched high up on the cliffs. For those classical music fans, it is also the hometown of Mozart. I meet Leif Etzold at one of the numerous Irish bars in town. Over a few Kilkennys we discussed the usual pub topics with the bartender JP. Afterward, Leif offered to give me a lift to Gmunden, the epicenter of fishing in Austria.
The famous Austrian fisherman, Roman Moser, instructed me to contact Hannes Hobarth when I arrived in Gmunden. When I called Hannes, he was very keen on taking me fishing. However, he was in Sweden and would be returning in 3 days. Since the rivers in the area were high (again, due to RAIN!), it made sense to loiter till Hannes returned and then try my luck. So I did just that.....hiking up to Offensee (“see” meaning Lake) where a mouse chewed a hole in the bottom of my tent to get a bag of uncooked rice. Then I hiked back to town to dry out all my gear from another bout of rain.
Hannes arrived and we fished the world famous Ager River. The Ager is truly an incredible environmental success story. 50 years ago the rich and famous traveled to the Ager to fish. This included the top Allied military brass such as Eisenhower. In the post-war industrialization, the Ager became the proverbial toilet for all the paper and lumber mills in the area. Crystal clear water and populations of trout were replaced by brown, repugnant muck and floating garbage. Fortunately, no doubt through the efforts of the local community of fishermen, the Ager is once again back to its pristine state. The fish are thriving as evidenced by the numerous sightings in just about every pool. Despite what Hannes said were imperfect conditions, we both managed to land a few Rainbows. A big thanks to Hannes for taking me to the Ager and introducing me to the crew at the local fly shop.
Cologne, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Dusseldorf, Hamburg. This is the roster of wonderful cities that I visited. I cannot, however, tell you anything about them since I didn’t spend more than a few minutes in each (except Krakow). After all, this is a fishing trip and the only fish that reside within most cities live in aquariums.
I’d like to thank the following people for contributing to my incredible experience in Europe (in order of appearance): Wolfhard, Barabra and Elizabeth Schulz, Stefan Schmitz, Richard and Beta “Suzuki” (the phonetic version of their name), Leif and JP in Salzburg, Hannes Hobarth and the guys at the Liodl-Rezinger fly shop in Gmunden and Karl-Heinz and Gisela Henschel.
A big “hello” to everyone at home. The next update will come from the Tenerife. Till then, best wishes to all!