Story of the Zopf - Antun Mateš: The enchanted angler

Story of the Zopf

Specimen from the Dobra, 114 cm long and weighing 14 kg.

Once, the whole Zagreb gang, consisting of Pažur, Račić, Glavač, Jeren and I took a trip to the Sana at Sanski Most. As soon as we arrived, I asked the locals who the best fisherman was, and they all said it was a guy named Hamdija from Vrhpolje, where the Sanica drains into the Sana. We set off for that spot despite terrible weather, a true blizzard, with snow whipping down from the black sky. Clearly, I saw that it was no time to look for Hamdija, but instead struggled through the half-darkness and blizzard to the mouth of the Sanica. With my first cast of the zopf, I managed to hook a respectable huchen. The howl of the gale-force winds and the fear of whether I would be able to find my way back to the car forced me to seek out any kind of shelter. It was like an old film, me fumbling through the dark like a blind man. I stumbled across a hut, whose dim light was barely breaking through the blizzard. It was none other than the home of this man Hamdija, who welcomed my frozen self in. Of course, I downed a strong spirit, and later drank coffee from the beans his wife ground in a special bronze Turkish mill engraved with Oriental arabesque decorations. While waiting for the storm to die down, I looked around the typical Bosnian house, where everyone sat on the floor in the spirit of the Muslim custom. In the Bosnia of that time, at least in the parts I travelled through, it was common to see the name Tito spelled out in rocks on every free meadow or clearing, laid out by the youth led by a local Party member in a show of love for the beloved national leader. The road from Bihać to Ključ via Petrovec was heavily adorned by such shows of love for the nation and its leader. Later, after the war, when I dared to pass through again on my way home from Dubrovnik, more out of nostalgia than due to reasons of time, I was driving from Drvar to Petrovac when I came to a crossing with the main road and a tavern built from cheap bricks and bearing the name Džakarta, written in limestone on the bricks. Near the tavern was a group of densely planted pine trees that had grown to a respectable height, and which still bore the name of the beloved Tito on their trunks. It is clear that a photograph of the great leader was in every room, absolutely every office, waiting room, health clinic, with the exception of the washroom. This included the local offices, even in the most isolated areas. The private rooms of my host Hamdija also displayed a photograph of the beloved Tito in an unusual composition that I had not seen before. Next to Tito was his wife Jovanka, with a beehive hairstyle modeled after Nephretiti, with particularly divine smiles, and together they resembled a lovely, young couple decorated in roses in a wedding photo.

Anglers of Sanski Most wearing the traditional fes hat, at the confluence of the Zdena stream and the Sana in 1937. Father and son Nezirović with a large, 15 kg huchen, caught using the favorite Bosnian centerpin. On the right, in the modernly tailored coat is famed huchen fisherman Sulejman Biščević - Memko.

And as we talked, the storm passed and I returned back to Hotel Sanus, and in the morning, headed back to my new friend Hamdija. We set off to fish right by his house, and then headed downstream. He spoke about how there were many fish and how he always caught one, of course, none smaller than 10 kg, as exaggeration is an art form in Bosnia. He fished using a strange-looking zopf, made of ribbons of rubber veterinary gloves with a small hook, the likes of which I would not use to catch a chub, let alone a 10 kg huchen. This master quickly caught a baby huchen, only 30 cm long, and to my surprise, immediately stuffed it in his backpack, saying that he never threw the first fish back, for fear of bad luck. Of course, he didn't throw back the second or the third either, which might have been even smaller. Out of my great concern for the young fish of the Sana, I offered Hamdija a real zopf made for me by Leo Wolf. He reluctantly took it. I also had to give him the appropriate 0.5 mm mono. We fished for a while and came to a place where the gravel split up, and here my zopf hooked a 4 kg pike. Disappointed I took a break, because I didn't drive hundreds of kilometers from Zagreb just to catch a fish that lives in every stream around the city. I saw that Hamdija would be happy to take that pike. He waited until I carefully removed the zopf from its sharp teeth, and then he threw my zopf in the place I had planned to, had that damned pike not taken it. When my streamer on Hamdija's hazelnut rod fell into the water, it was immediately grabbed by a 10 kg huchen. And so I had to help the best fisherman on the Sana to pull out that huchen, and he strode around, proud as pie, dragging that fish with him for two days all around Sanski Most, to justify his own greatness as the best local sports fisherman.

Basic lures for huchen fishing: Heintz blinker, Effzet lure, Mepps, chub mounting system and zopf.

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