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ACROPOLIS NOW "Fly Fishing in the Land of the Myth"

acropolis now
Discovering that the first record of fly fishing emanated from Greece, Brent Meistre embarked on a mission to investigate its modern-day trout fishing potential.


I am in Napoleon’s Taverna in Kalarites – a remote, medieval mountain village (population 20) – nestled above the alpine forests in the Epirus region of northern Greece.

Napoleon himself sits next to me at the end of a long wooden table. He speaks very little English but a French-Greek couple across the table interpret for me. Our subject is trout fishing and he wants to know how I am going to fish. I try describing flies, then head back to my room to return with my fly box densely packed for every eventuality. There is a chorus of oohs and aahs as my fly box pops open. The French suggest they look like earrings. “Ochi,” (no) says Napoleon sternly with his finger pointed at the heavens. He orders a pen and some paper and begins to draw what I should be using; he calls it a “petalouda” (a butterfly). As the mysterious life form begins to take shape – one hook and then another, then a leaf shape decorated around the hooks – my heart sinks at the sight of the spinner illuminated. I was hoping for some long-forgotten fly pattern passed down by Claudius Ælianus himself.


What had brought me here was the first record of fly fishing in Macedonia, Greece, by the second century Roman author Claudius Ælianus in his writings in De Natura Animalium. I am disappointed, but Napoleon illustrates further. He begins another drawing and this time its a river – it’s dammed up at one end with a diversion created around it. He explains that the small dam is fished with a throw net or, as he writes on the edge of the piece of paper, TNT. The French couple translate but there is no need. I had heard explosions on the Voidomatis River near Konitsa a few days before and was fearful that this practice might also occur here in this remote and seemingly untouched area.


Early morning mist off the alpine canopy near Kalarittes


The following morning I left the village as the clouds of mist rose off the forest canopies. It was just past 7am and I had already negotiated treacherous mountain roads with rock and mud slides, dodging a flock of sheep and then an attack on my fender by two Anatolian shepherd dogs. This signalled the final stages of my epic odyssey to fly fish Greece. Not the Greece of Mediterranean beaches, islands and ouzo, but the Greece of mountain villages, lakes, rivers, bears, wolves and, yes, brown trout. By this stage, I’d been in Greece for three weeks. I had spent the months before researching the fly fishing opportunities of the country, but was still searching for the elusive brown trout mentioned in disparate sources.

To give you an idea of the difficulties I encountered: in my search for the town of Agios Georgios, I found 35 towns with that name! Signposts are mostly hidden behind trees, and those that you do see are written in Greek script or a dialect unique to that region. And, despite having the best maps, I got lost at least twice a day. Who said exploration was easy! I had scouted out various rivers and lakes: from a small stream near the town of Spili in Crete and the Nestos River in eastern Macedonia, to Prespa Lakes bordering Albania, and the Aoös and Voidomatis rivers near Konitsa. Today I was going to meet up with Greek fly angler Apostolis “Tolis” Lachanas with whom I had managed to make contact. After many twists and switchbacks on the mountain path, I descended into a dramatic valley below. I stopped at the first feeder stream, looking for signs of life – perhaps a bear or a wolf print in the sediment around a small pool?

While lingering, I suddenly glimpsed movement; a tail fin broke the sheen of the pool. My heart rate shot up, I could not believe that trout were at this altitude in such a small and steeply graduated stream. These fish are wild, I thought to myself, they had hatched a far way up the valley and were making their journey to larger waters, hopefully where Apostolis would take me fishing.

Having cut my teeth back home on dams like Thrift in the Eastern Cape, I found this environment all new and exciting. I continued further down the valley to where the stream meets the Achelóüs River and a smaller feeder river, the Aspropotamos (White River). Here I hoped to encounter some of the larger relatives of the small trout I had just seen, and to find Apostolis. I was in the land of the first written account of fly fishing, and a week before, I had been at St Nicholas, near Naousa, where the Arapitsa River is said to be the infamous Astræus River described by Claudius Ælianus.


Apostolis reaching into a deep pool into the river which had turned milky due to rainfall


Apostolis is a one-man band – and, as his name suggests, he is a man on a mission. Like most of us, he wants to fish all the time, and like some of us he spends all of his income acquiring everything “necessary” for fly fishing.

He is the founder of a Greek fly fishing website, the main aim of which is to educate Greek fishermen in the art of traditional fly fishing, a difficult task but which seems to be more successful on the younger Greeks who are taking more of an interest in the preservation of their natural environment. He has also penned a few articles for Greek fishing magazines, attempting to enlighten anglers and further the cause of traditional fly fishing in his country. He is a strict exponent of catch-and-release, a foreign and somewhat bizarre concept in Greece. Being highly pragmatic people, Greeks cannot understand the reasoning behind returning a perfectly edible fish after spending so much time working for it. (Trout is common in the cuisine of the northern regions.) Greeks mainly use more practical methods to fish for trout. These include pole fishing with a float, with up to five flies tied in tandem or with spinner lures. There is also the traditional fisherman who uses anything at his disposal, including TNT.


Brown trout taking a drifting food at a favourite holding spot on the River


Apostolis and I had agreed to meet at Milia, one of the five small mountain villages that hug the banks of the Aspro River as it meanders through the Pindos mountain range.I arrived early and scouted out the lime-green water flowing into deep pools and gulleys, then into flat and fast rapids over white pebbles. There was a light rain and, glancing up the valley towards where I had come from, I could see ominous clouds being stirred by the gods themselves. Apostolis called to say that he was at the next village of Polythea, in the tavern with farmers who had come in from the fields due to the sporadic rain. Barometric pressure, cold fronts and thunderstorms – conditions for fishing weren’t optimal but Apostolis seemed unconcerned by this. Soon after a pimpedup gold BMW and a refrigeration van arrived at the metal bridge leading to Milia. Out of the van sprung an enthusiastic Apostolis, kitted out from head to toe. Out of the BMW emerged his two friends, one looking every bit the part a seasoned fly angler. We exchanged pleasantries in alternating Greek and English, then directing our attention to the fishing, the weather conditions and the river, which was by now beginning to turn a milky (gala) aqua. The three Greeks held a quick conference, there was some gesturing up the valley, glances skyward and to the left and right, and then they bundled into their respective vehicles and sped off up the mountain road towards the next village of Anthousa. I followed in hot pursuit.


Apostolis and the Author


After stopping several times in the middle of the road with doors ajar to continue discussions, we finally geared up in the light rain as thunder rolled down the valley. The river was still a little milky but clearer than downstream – at least the fish wouldn’t be so skittish since the water is usually crystal clear. Apostolis knows the river backwards, all the pools and holding spots, and I followed him like an excited child. I had never fished for browns, and it was a truly special moment when I set my first caddis onto the water and watched it drift for a few seconds past a huge boulder. Apostolis fishes strictly dry fly on this river, with mainly caddis and mayfly patterns. Continuing further upstream, we arrived at a section that I recognised from a video clip on his website. Apart from a few airborne hatchlings, there wasn’t much action. It had been raining for two days and the fish seemed very lethargic and were not rising to anything we delivered at their doorsteps. The rain came down harder as the thunder bounced off the cliff above us, so we took shelter under the trees and started discussing the Greek words for various insects and flies. The advantage for Greek fishermen is that these are essentially all Greek words: the hopper patterns are akrida (grasshopper), the mayfly is Efimeroptera (live for one day) and the brown trout is kafé (coffee) pestrofa (trout). Once the rain let up, Apostolis scrambled downstream, lifting rocks to show me the stoneflies and caddis larvae in their shard shells.

It was just past lunchtime and until 5pm it’s siesta time, when nothing happens in Greece. Although the conditions were not prime to fly fish this day, I couldn’t help thinking what a special place this was, untouched by the outside world, and with hardly a fly having drifted on these rivers. As I drove off, I tucked into the Greek version of the hamburger Apostolis’s grandmother had prepared for us – and I felt privileged and strangely linked to a people and a place where little has changed for thousands of years.


Apostolis with a Stonefly


GREECE If you want to go

• When travelling to remoter areas in Greece, you should go stocked with the necessary supplies, as getting to major towns can sometimes be treacherous.
• Tavernas will sell you cooked meals, but you will struggle to buy any supplies in the villages.
• There are few tourists in northern Greece (particularly English speaking), but the Greeks are exceptionally welcoming and hospitable, and the food is heavenly.
• Driving is best done in an off-road vehicle. I drove a sedan and lost a tyre when crossing a heavy rock fall. The Suzuki Jimny is the best option for small mountain passes and narrow village streets.
• The Greeks are rated the worst drivers in Europe, so buy that extra insurance! You will more than likely hit or be hit by something. My rental had acquired a bit of flash all the way down the passenger side, the result of having to dodge an ancient bridge!
• For printed and digital downloadable maps for a GPS, try Anavasi Maps ( These are the most detailed maps of Greece you will find. They also sell excellent hiking maps of the Epirus region. You can also download detailed free maps from the Greek tourism website. I would advise a combination of maps at all times.


Apostolis will gladly answer any questions and provide further information on fly fishing in Greece.

You can e-mail him at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit his website (Fly Fishing Greece)


The above article was published at:

The Complete Fly Fisherman magazine (April 2011 - South Africa)