The Sana Huchen - Antun Mateš: The enchanted angler

The Sana Huchen

Huchen caught by myself and Zlatko Račić in the Sana near the village of Trnovo just downstream of Sanski Most, way back in 1983.

My impressions of huchen fishing on the banks of the Sana, however, are completely different. Earlier I wrote about my experience with Hamdija, which I never repeated because he took everything that he caught, regardless of the size. Near the village of Čaplja, I caught several huchen, and it was there that I met the fishing warden Asim Alihodžić who they called Sibi, a particular fellow who carried a massive knife in his pack, for who knows what reason, but I did not find it a pleasant sight to watch the warden use this massive knife to cut himself a small slice of cheese. His wife was a hairdresser in the centre of Sanski Most, and I would occasionally invite them to dinner in the then decent Hotel Sanus. There they would proudly show me a stuffed catfish, as though this fish, so abundant in the Sava near Zagreb, would command my respect.

Asim Alihodžić - Sibi with his catch of Sana huch

The rule that the huchen are less commonly caught but are thus larger in the downstream reaches of rivers has been proven here many times. The enigma of gigantic huchen weighing more than 30 kg from the Sana often aroused disbelief and snickering, as such tales were never corroborated with a photograph. Furthermore, the inconsistency of fish measurements that were substantially smaller than indicated only harmed the credibility of these grand fish tales. One thing is certain, the Sana has the potential for such giants. Large and constant water flow, the width of the river, the abundance of white fish and great depths in places could provide the right conditions for large, old fish. Such massive fish feed less regularly, are very cautious, likely sterile and do not spawn, and with that are less visible. Some anglers swear that they have seen them, though rarely, near the mouth of the Dabar into the Sana.

Sibi lives in a house on the very bank of the Sana. The advantages of his location are evident from this trophy huchen

Near the village of Trnovo is the end of the fishing zone of Sanski Most and the start of the area that falls under Prijedor. The Sana becomes deeper and calmer, and of course, more suitable for larger fish. But the vicinity of the cellulose collector did not entice us to fish those parts. Warden Sibi Alihodžić, a fine angler himself, once sent me a large, 18 kg huchen by bus, for me to stuff. Though it seemed too great an effort due to my lack of free time and great amount of work, I stuffed it for him and took it to Sanski Most. It was 1985, and this was the last time that I would visit the Sana before the war broke out in the former country, and which was particularly harsh in that area. Later, I learned that the stuffed fish had also been destroyed. Fortunately, my friends Sibi from Sanski Most and Hamdija from the mouth of the Sanica at Vrhpolje, survived the war, and I joyfully saw them again some ten years ago when my curiosity lured me back to this region. In December 2007, I again set off towards Sanski Most and the area, to collect the material for this book, some retroactively. I stayed at the dear Hotel Sanus, which contains many dear memories for me, but now it stands opposite a new, European style shopping centre, and a massive, new mosque with four minarets. Other than that, nothing had changed since my first visit, 40 years ago.

The premises of the fishing society in Sanski Most give off a leisurely atmosphere, like that in the film Sjećaš li se Dolly Bell (Do you remember Dolly Bell) by Emir Kusturica.

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