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river ribnik, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Admitting defeat over its chosen upstream path, it turns, minimising the strain. I now find myself fighting to get the line back on the reel - to keep the pressure on my barbless hook hold. Again the surface of the water breaks, revealing a rolling, golden body - it's a big fish. After several air-borne flips in the powerful current, the fish finally begins to tire. As exhausted as my quarry, I hold out my net, slowly gliding the fish across the surface towards it.With the epic battle still reverberating through my hands I peer into my net witnessing an equally proportionate reward; a beautiful, wild, Brown Trout of around 4lbs taken in fast water on a dryfly. Asking myself "am I living a fly fisherman's dream?" I think so. As the barbless hook is easily removed, I look at this beauty one last time. Returning the fish to its home, its body begins to pulse in the current, revived by the heavily oxygenated water it powers off with a splash through the shallows and back to dark turbulent water.The success of the catch and release policy here is evident, as all around me fish continue to rise, oblivious to my presence. The sheer volume of aquatic life here is unparalleled. Entering the water, fish scatter all around me, yet within minutes as I hold my position, more and more fish re-enter the swim replacing their spooked counterparts.As the days continue fish of this calibre are frequent, a reward for those that visit - though they are by no means a prized catch here. Sadly the true giants taunt me by remaining elusive. Although consistently visible, the huge Grayling of 3lb-plus and monstrous10lb-plus Brown Trout swagger in the current, rejecting all of my offerings.These inhabitants of this sublime eco-system make it easy to forget I am walking amongst a land that hides so many secrets of the Balkan war. The statistics are, quite simply, frightening. A staggering 3 million land mines remain undetected within the Bosnian landscapes I now grace. Placed randomly throughout the war, records of their location remain a mystery, making even roadside parking a dangerous proposition. On the banks however, Steve, my guide, who has lived here his entire life, guarantees my safety. Together we retrace the footsteps that many anglers have already trodden, as he reveals his own battle scars and stories from the conflict.07continued on page 14river ribnik, Bosnia & Herzegovina