The river Ybbs rises in central Austria and winds north through the foothills of the Alps. It skirts the town of Lunz am Zee, flows south to G�stling, curves up toward Waidhofen and then finally joins the Danube near the city of Ybbs.
Like many European countries, Austria is very protective of its fish, and rivers—good rivers at any rate—cannot be fished without a license. All rivers fall into one of two categories—trout rivers and slow rivers—and two licenses are required to fish rivers in either category. The first, a Fischerkarte, is a government permit that is good for a year. The second, a club membership, is equivalent to a daily fishing fee.
The Ybbs costs 550 schillings a rod, or roughly $36 a day, more than most Americans pay for a year of fishing. But I didn't mind because I had long wanted to fish there. I was thrown, however, when the license clerk in Vienna, a man who looked like Heidi's grandfather, asked me whether I wanted a "high-boot or low-boot section."
"What?" I asked, thinking I had misunderstood the German phrase.
"Low boot or high boot?" he repeated, touching his calf, then moving his hand to his thigh.
"What's the difference?"
"The difference," he said carefully, "is that you may wear high boots in one river section and low boots in another."
"But what does it mean? How are they different?"
"The low-boot river is easier to fish and is slower. The high-boot river has more trees along its border."
The difference still wasn't quite clear to me, but I nodded and selected a low-boot section of the Ybbs. I paid my $36, which, combined with the regional fishing card, ran my bill to approximately $60.1 asked the license clerk if the fishing was good.