River Fishing Trips

Fishing the Esen River at Kemer in June

The Eşen River runs from the Boncuk Mountain beyond Ören, through ravines and valleys to the sea at Patara beach. I picked a spot just south of Kemer where the road bridge crosses the river at a small village called Uğurlu. Those of you who have travelled to Saklikent or Xanthos from Fethiye may have passed this way, you may not have taken time to stop and take in the spectacular scenery in this river valley.

My guide for the day, Mustafa Kocaçay, set me up just off the bridge. I headed south, downstream, but upstream towards Kemer looked just as enticing.

This is a medium river, even at this time of the year. I had taken my small fly rod but a larger 8 or 9 foot would have worked just as well. The section of the river I worked, perhaps stretching 3 to 4 Kilometres down from the bridge, runs parallel to the main road and can be easily accessed just by parking at the side of the road all the way to the village of Alaçat: after this point the road and river diverge. Within this stretch there is a mixture of fast running rapids, slower narrow sections and quiet wide deep pools up to 30 metres across. Waders are desireable to get reasonable access to this river.

There had been heavy rain in the mountains two days before and the river was full of limestone sediment. I know it was limestone sediment because my brand new lightweight stocking-foot waders prooved to be too lightweight and split a seam; at the end of the day, when I removed them, my foot was encased in limestone silt. Anyway, the effect was to make the water murky and cut off the view below 15 centimetres. This always makes fish finding difficult, but it also makes the possibility of wading into a deep hole more likely. I was using the handle of my net to test the way ahead but it would have been better if I had brought my wading stick.

I was able to cross the river at the rapids in about 40 cm of faster water but I did not venture beyond knee depth into the larger pools. The river bed is mainly smooth mud and gravel  with a few sections of small boulders forming shallow rapids. A word of warning: along this section of river there were three places where water was bubbling up through the mud on the river bank. The effect was to create small pockets of very soft mud that quickly sucked my boots down to calf level and I had to work hard to get myself out without loosing a boot.

With my small, light rod I was able to fish some of the smaller pools and narrow sections very nicely but found that getting down the length and breadth of the bigger stretches was beyond me. This particularly frustrating later on in the day when I could see fish surface feeding in areas I could not reach. Some sections of the bank are too steep to negotiate.

I arrived at dawn but by mid-morning the temperature was high in the 20s and by mid-day had reached 31C and no breeze. This made the fishing hard work under the cloudless sky and, reluctant to drink the river water, I was soon in need of a drink after my water bottle had been emptied.

My first fish, I have to admit, I was unable to identify. It took a Shipmans Brown Buzzer fished on the surface just after dawn, put up a little fight before I released it back into the stream. Whatever it was, it was a nice 17cm. My second fish, taken late morning, was a small trout fished on a Zulu using a slow sinking tip .

The cloudy water made avoiding underwater obstacles a little difficult but the river is mainly clean and clear of debris. I will go back again to the same spot when the water is clear, perhaps with a bigger rod and a fast sinking line for the bigger pools.

The scenery in the area is wonderful. I saw my first ever Hoopoe in the wild and all along the river bank the footprints of deer and other animals pattern the mud where they have come to drink. One snake in the river and another in the brush reminded me not to creep around to quietly though the shrubbery: make enough noise and they will avoid you – so I am told. For walkers, the river bank has a path of sorts on the north bank and there are lots of places to sit and picnic very close to the road. I was there to fish but I would have been just as happy sitting in the shade of a tree for the day.

A few words of caution. My mobile phone worked in this section, but a lot of the places I have been to, on remote sections of river, have no reception. On my day on this river, after I had left the main road, I did not see another person all day. The message, if you are going alone, is to make sure someone knows where you have gone and when you are due back. Keep your phone in a waterproof container and check the signal to make sure it will work if you need it. Carry a small first aid kit. Use a wading stick to check water depth and watch out for the sucking mud. The higher soft-earth banks will collapse under a persons weight, so don’t stray too near the edge. On a hot day, take a good supply of clean drinking water.

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