The Una River and its Tributaries - Antun Mateš: The enchanted angler

The Una River and its Tributaries

The magnificent Una springs from a very deep pool under the massive, rocky cliffs that are hundreds of meters high.

Legend has it that the river that springs in Croatia from a forceful well under a cliffs one hundred meters high, at the very border of Lika, Dalmatia and Bosnia in the small village of Suvaja, received the name Una from the initial Roman numeral uno, or first, unique or perhaps even only. For anyone who has ever visited this river, these tales are not unfounded. The spring itself is a phenomenon, as dive assessments have measured to a vertical depth of 200 m, with no bottom in site. Just below the source is the section that is rich in brown trout, followed by grayling habitats further downstream, near where the excellent Unac stream confluences. This stream paid a high price for early industrialism, as from 1919 to 1937, this was the site of a cellulose factory that, according to the writings of Jedlička, killed off all the fish in the stream. After World War II, the factory was again put into function to produce losses and destroy the river, right up until the most recent war, when it was taken out of operation. Here, near the mouth of the now clear Unac at Martin Brod, begin one fantastic grayling stretch after another, making the Una one of the most attractive salmonid waters anywhere. Its flow is fast, as it has a gentle slope throughout its entire course, and one can wade in only to the knees, as the powerful currents simply lift you off your feet. It is not rare for an angler to get completely soaked while trying to cross the river. Grayling 50 cm long are not the exception but the rule, and they are best caught in June, when caddis are present in massive numbers.

The Martin Brod area, named after a boatswoman named Marta, borders on the area with the Turkish name Kulen Vakuf. Here, the old wooden bridge was a cult-like place for the few Zagreb anglers with the opportunity to travel to such exotic places. Here, in the upper reaches near the mouth of the Unac, stands the Rmanj Orthodox monastery, built in 1443. Rmanj is really just the name Herman, son of the Despot Catharine and Count Urlich II from Celje, though distorted after being passed down through the oral tradition.

Though I never used the gaff to bring in fish, I safely brought in all my huchen with my own two hands, and not once did one get away.

Boasting before the camera lens that launched envious anglers into a deep depression.

The history of this entire region is anything by calm and tranquil. The ancient conflicts between the Christians and Muslims initiated by the Turkish invasions were best described by historian Radoslav Lopašić in his work Bihać and the Bihać Region. Bihać or Bišće means royal goods. This area was in the centre of the Croatian kingdom, right up until the Croato-Hungarian Treaty in 1102, though Bihać and the surrounding areas were inhabited by Croats and remained outside the authority of Hungary. Moreover, in 1262, Bihać was proclaimed a free royal town. After falling to the Ottomans, European mapmakers called the area of Bišće 'Turkish Croatia'. Later, the Serbs and Turks would name the area Krajina, meaning border area. The incessant battles, plundering, devastation of villages and towns, and the migration of the population over a century turned the area around the Una into a raw, cruel, sad, unfortunate and unsafe place to live. The locals best described what life was like in this dammed region, in a poem. :

Oh Krajina, the bloody dress
such is the bloody Krajina
blood with lunch, and blood with dinner
all chewing their bloody bites,
never a white day to rest.

The magnificent historical volumes by Radoslav Lopašić, Bihać i Bihaćka krajina and Preko Kupe i Korane, which I combined, out of deep respect for the author's efforts, among the Bosnian attributes: rug, fes hat, coffee mill, traditional coffee pot and more.

A postcard with a very well known spot which best depicts the Una in Bihać with the dominating bell tower of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua.

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