Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Being an international fly-fishing guide during a world pandemic doesn’t paint the prettiest picture.
By Katka Svagrova

As a fly-fishing traveler, guide and freelance writer, the Covid situation hit me on all fronts. In February the situation in China was coming to light and Italy was starting to fight the pandemic, too. In my country, Czech Republic, there was little indication of what would happen in the next couple weeks. So I stuck with my plans to visit Golden Lodge in Argentina for golden dorado, followed by a trip to Jurassic Lake Lodge, which has been on my bucket list for several years.

I started to worry when I couldn’t even buy antibacterial gel, and securing masks seemed like mission impossible. Still, I made the trip and enjoyed many great days, wading and casting to frenzied dorado feeding along the shallow sand banks of the Paraná River. But on the last day at Golden Dorado things got complicated. I called my family and they told me that the Czech borders were closed. Nobody could travel out of the country and only those with Czech passports could enter. My problem was this: most airlines ceased day-to-day flights to Prague, and my tickets had been cancelled. Available flights were just insanely expensive. My last day of fishing was ruined—I spent hours calling people, including those at the Czech embassy in Buenos Aires, trying to find a flight leaving the following morning. The idea of being stuck in Argentina for many months did not look so good to me, as appealing as it might sound to most anglers. Ultimately, I chose the high-priced ticket option and tried my luck getting home via Amsterdam.

On the way home, I knew things had changed. Everyone seemed nervous and worried. I discovered that my flight would be the last from Argentina to Europe before the borders closed. I’d made a lucky decision in the nick of time.

Back home, my life continued with the ups and downs that, surely, all of us have experienced. All of my international trips, including forays to Mexico, Norway, Brazil, Belize, Alaska, and Russia—plus my first participation in the Fly Fishing World Championships—were canceled. It was unclear whether my planned summer of guiding in Iceland would occur. Suddenly, I had to reorganize my life and regain the joy I’d found in days past, while fishing local waters. So I started to fish local streams and lakes, which provided some really good fishing. I explored new waters and found some really great spots for pike, all over the country.

Covid was a bummer, but I felt privileged to jump into my waders every morning and enjoy endless days on the river, throwing big streamers for pike, or just playing around with local brown trout rising for midges. Even at the beginning of June there wasn’t a single flight heading to Iceland from Czech Republic, or any of its neighboring countries. I knew I’d need to find a new job to pay the bills.

However, as time went on, the situation in Europe stabilized. Czech Republic opened its borders, canceled all restrictions, and our lives slowly went back to semi-normal. The same thing happened almost everywhere in Europe except the UK and Norway. My hopes for an Icelandic summer were revived.

In fact, by early July, I was sitting in the guide’s room at the Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, waiting for clients to arrive the following day. They would be excited to fish the gin-clear rivers packed with fresh Atlantic salmon, which had just started entering Icelandic rivers. As the world opened up, Iceland became a number one destination for Atlantic salmon. This place, usually described as the land of fire and ice, was now being recognized for its variety of waters and its amazing salmon, brown trout and Arctic char.

As lodges around the world cancelled their seasons, and as the guides who work for them lost their incomes, I felt really privileged to be back at my “office” doing what I love most—helping people fulfill their dreams. All along I’ve prayed for the world and all my fishing friends. I can’t wait until our lives get back to normal. Until then, stay safe and try to get out on your local waters. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Katka Svagrova
Growing up in a fly fishing family, Katka has been casting a fly rod since the age of four. In addition to being one of the top guides in Europe, she is a world-class competitor, winning the Czech women’s championship 5 times in 6 years. She has also competed internationally, helping the Czech team place 4th in the European fly fishing championship. After a trip to Australia in 2014, Katka started travelling the world, fly rod in hand. Within 3 years she had fished more than 10 countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Belize, The Maldives, and Guatemala. Katka currently works as a fly fishing guide for Hreggnasi Angling Club on Laxa í Kjòs, one of Iceland’s most prestigious Atlantic Salmon rivers.