The river Neretva - Antun Mateš: The Enchanted Angler

The river Neretva

A deep and 1 km long cleft of the Neretva below Mostar, called Bunski channel

As early as 1817, the natural scientist and anatomist Georges Cuvier systematised the trout living in the river region of the Italian Po, as Salmo marmoratus after the local name Trotta marmorata. 36 years later, in 1853, the Austrian ichthyologists Heckel and Kner systematised the same fish, but from the river Neretva, as Salar genivittatus.

After the fall of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy in 1918, the Serbs, who were dominating in this time, were in the newly formed union of states of the Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs apparently extremely averse to everything that had to do with Austria. The Serbs had had very bad experiences with the Austrians from the recently ended World War I. Therefore they were especially sensitive to names and expressions originating from the German language. Although they had lived for centuries under Turkish rule, which they detested, hated and treated very negatively – they brought up whole generations with a deep hatred of the Turkish rule – the numerous words of Turkish origin in their language did not upset them at all. These were Germanisms, and the use of them was near to heresy. Thus, without any consideration, they changed the name of the Neretva-trout, which had been translated from German (Great Marble trout) to the Croatian glavatica, which was already the name of a fish from the Danube region (huchen). They called the huchen by the Serbian name mladica. Thus, a double change happened, out of which grew an unnecessary chaos. I have to stress that in 1853 the Austrian ichthyologists Heckel, Kner and Steindachner dealt with the river fauna very carefully and zestfully; their merits are especially big in the scientific dealing with fish.

Marble trout, 72 cm long, 12 lb., caught on August 8th 2005 in the Neretva

I was fascinated reading the descriptions of a fight with this fish in Thaller’s paper Sport fisherman by Miloš Jedlička: “It was a cold autumn day in 1921. I decided to go fishing in the region of Buna – Žitomislići. Near the estuary of the river Buna, the Neretva shapes a vortex of 4 to 5 meters. The water there is too deep and the current too weak. So I decided to start fishing at a more comfortable spot, where I could wade in, below this vortex, where up to then I had caught many fish“. Jedlička continues his description. He did not fish very long, when in the middle of the Neretva, on a small tied chub, called Ribić there, a great Marble trout took the bait. “…I stopped the swivel with my thumb, but an enormous power pulled the line and raced with the Ribić through the water, taking me with it. I thought, how long could this last… In the middle of the vortex, the fish stopped and did not move. I tried everything I could to make it move. All my attempts were in vain. I sat on a cave and lighted a cigarette….” After having smoked ten cigarettes and jumped several hundred metres over rocks, at last he managed to pull the exhausted fish ashore. He was astonished by the size of the fish and wrote: “…From this moment, I realised with what colossus I had fought. Of all this amazement and passion, my throat was dry, my knees weak. Another move and the back fin of the giant came to the surface. That was no fish, it was a water dragon. Considering the body shape of the fish, it was a female, unusually crammed, 180 to 190 cm long, 80 to 90 pounds of weight. Only now I remembered that I had no hook to lift it and instinctively searched my pockets for my revolver. Unfortunately, very soon I realised that besides my two hands and arms I had no other tool.” The fisherman Jedlička, he was constable major, did not get this giant fish. In the end, it freed itself. Such incidents were not rare at the Neretva. The fish could even be pulled ashore, as in the case of Aleksandar Čorluka on April 18, 1927, at the bridge near Čapljina. On that day, the lucky Čorluka was fishing as usual with a Ribić-bait of 15-cm length. Very soon he caught an Marble trout of 8 pounds, which his brother brought home quickly. With another Ribić, Čorluka found at the wood pillar of the bridge, where the fish always took the bait very well, a giant Marble trout. Watched by a big audience, he successfully pulled it ashore. Later he said: “…when I felt I had it, I was astonished by its size. Until then I had not seen such a fish. The children shouted, «Cheers for him!» The next day, I invited friends for dinner and gave part of the fish away. The rest was eaten by the 20 of us – my friends, my father and other family members. We were happy and drank with the meal about 20 litres of the good wine from Herzegowina.“ No wonder, as this Marble trout weighed 43.5 pounds.

The main territories for the fishing of this trout started beneath Jablanica, where the Neretva reaches a canon between the two big mountains Prenj and Čvrsnica. Near that place, in the direction of the tributary Drežanka, after the narrow part between the big rocks near Grabovica, the Neretva built a very narrow part, where the wild vortex captured everyone who slipped when crossing the narrow plank, which was the only connection between the two banks. There, near Grabovica, were extremely beautiful fishing spots for Marble trout. Also in Vojno polje, beneath Salakovac and opposite to the village of Vrapčić, the Neretva shaped an attractive, narrow channel, around 100 metres long. It was so narrow that it seemed as if someone adventurous and looking for adrenaline could cross it jumping. I tried it myself. The major attraction of the whole current of the Neretva is the place called Skakala (Jumped), in the town of Mostar. Here, the Neretva is so narrow that someone bold could cross it easily by jumping. This spot has always been the most attractive fishing place for Marble trout anglers. The fish gathered together under a waterfall, waited there for large amounts of water and then jumped over the water in order to find good spawning places far away, near the village of Upper and Downer Fishermen. This kind of fishing, of course, was no sport, as the local inhabitants caught the giant trout with three-hook gear or by stretching a net, in which the fish fell, which did not jump close to the waterfall. Such fishing was so important that they even fought for their right to fish exactly at this place. They beat one another and Vejsil Ćurčić writes even of some dead. Today, the Neretva is divided at several places because of the system of the water power stations, so that all this is gone, except for Skakala, which exists also today.

Unbelievable place Skakala (Jumped) at the Neretva, in Raštane above Mostar. In this 30 m deep, 100 m long and only 80 cm wide cleft live big soft lips trout and marble trout.

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English Deutsch Hrvatski Glavatice i lipljani