As far as I can work out Asp like feeding in fast water seams and the slack water to the inside and downstream of eddies. When they're not surface feeding I have absolutely no idea what they are doing or where they can be found. They're still in the river, right? There's not some parallel Asp World into which they disappear, at least I don't think so. And they've got to feed, right? I mean, they don't only eat for a month in the Spring and another in Autumn. Fish must eat. And some fish, maybe even all fish, even when they're not eating, can often be induced to eat, especially predatory ones - and Asp are predators.
Around a month ago I fished the Duna/Danube with Peter/Skeg and that was interesting. It was particularly interesting for me, because I tried some things that worked. I ended up fishing a small surface gurgler followed by a mini-cat's whisker, trailing about 8 inches behind. Curving the fly in and out of seams and dibbling the fly into current funnels I caught fish. Interesting stuff, not least because - apart from the first one which came before I got to believe in them - the fish were all fished for and materialised exactly where they should have - you know, that moment when time slows and you know it's all about to happen, or indeed is happening - well that happened.
And so, feeling quite good about Asp, I arranged to fish the Drava (that may not be spelt correctly by the way, this is Hungary after all) with Zombar (almost certainly spelt incorrectly) and we were to fish for Asp, despite it being November and therefore all the Asps being in the parallel Asp dimension.
I was quicker to the water, because Zombar was involved in some technical flyfishing preparations involving dubbing material, and so quickly fished an interesting looking section where two large rivers meet and bounce off a groin - exciting stuff and obviously a hot spot for Asps. No surface activity and so I quickly threw out a white rabbit at all angles and retrieves on the slime line, fishing the seams as well as the slack water both in the eddy and behind (areas where I've seen Asp surface feed many times). Nothing.
There's something strange happening now: clear long thin pigtail coils of plastic are appearing on my hand. That's weird.
Anyway, time for a change: floating line and surface gurgler/mini-cat - maybe Asp look up even when they're not and this is much more interesting fishing; working currents, dibbling flies. Zombar is fishing upstream and there are now orange long thin pigtail coils of plastic appearing in my hand - WTF??? I mean OK I know I have tackle problems, and broke four rods in ten days last week, and lines don't normally last me particularly long anyway but hell, this is a new TCR (9ft6 #6 and a bloody good one by the way, apart from the tip ring, which I've since buggered-I-know-not-how) - and I'm thinking, well, Simon and Bruce, what would you do now? I don't have a spare rod because they don't last me long enough and I don't want to bugger up your lines - Ok I know I don't pay for them, but that's no reason to be reckless - and so I tried rethreading the line to cast one ring down. But that didn't work, obviously, and so I rethreaded to the tip ring and thought 'sod em'.
Zombar said he “didn't think there were any fish in this part of the river” - so that's that buggered isn't it? I'm trying to will them up, or back into this dimension, and Zombar's busy deciding they're not there. I give a few more casts to try to prove him wrong and we move on downstream…
It's a nice looking back eddy rolling off another groin. Zombar informs me it's 10 metres deep here. I ask him how he knows. He tells me it was a guess. Zombar wants me to go first. I tell him it's his turn and off he goes.
Zombar is throwing out a quite large muddler, fished wet. I'm playing around with the two fly killer rig which is obviously not working despite the fact that I'm curving it in and out of seams and basically fishing really fucking well. Now look, I'm not one of those anglers who only fishes the method they want and if the fish don't take then fuck them. No, I'm the sort of angler who fishes everything and will keep changing until I find the most successful method and will then proceed to catch ALL the fish - I mean WTF? I'm here to catch fish, all of them, not only one or two. And if I don't catch any, then at least I've given it my best shot.
The other problem I have right now, as well as not knowing if Asp disappear to another dimension or different world, is knowing whether or not they'll take other methods, or if it's all just a lure bashing game. But if they're not on the top - and they're not - then maybe they're down below and looking for a bit of sophistication - that's me. Top dropper, mini-cat, middle dropper, hot orange mini lure, point fly - toss up between white marabou, muddler minnow and dog nobbler (OK I have some ideas here, you know, for next time). I fished this rig really fucking well, casting upstream, counting down and working the angles until I hooked bottom and then shortening the count and changing the angles. I got out to the mainsteam, whacked the line outstream and fished the back of the eddy down deep. Nothing, not even a sniff of a fish. Which is starting to bother me.
Third spot we do a paper, rock, scissors thing to go first, which takes about twenty minutes because Zombar keeps going on the fourth attempt or calls scissors when in fact he's rock, but he wins in the end, which surprises us both. Zombar hasn't caught anything either by the way and I know he's still lure bashing, so we have that angle covered and it allows me to play. Problem is I've now got to fish upstream, and to get there I've got to wade in my shoes, which I'm fine about, I was born into this after all, and I stick a woolly bugger on the point. A big white one. This doesn't work either and my last change is the old faithful black lure just before dark - which in this case happens to be a tandem rabbit and doesn't work either.
So what did I learn? Well that's a good question and one I've been asking myself too. I felt that we had comprehensively fished the best water in one of the best sections of river, without a take. The conditions didn't seem bad either. However Zombar explained to me that the river was high because of hydro-electric generation in Croatia… a-ha! … and that the river is normally much lower - like around 1 metre lower in the morning… a-ha, a-ha! SO the plan is next time to try all these things in low water and catch every Asp in the river. It's bound to be great and that will teach them.
PS Zombar is of course Zsombor and I changed his name for anonymity.