The Italian Job
Pizza, pasta and pure fishing
I was going with my family to Italy this year. For the first time in ages, and I was really looking forward to this tour. I had never been to northern Italy, but my dad and his wife certainly sold the idea to my girlfriend and me.
I enjoyed being with them, biking the walls of Lucca, and strolling down the narrow streets of ancient Italian cities.
But sometimes such leisures challenge your impatience, if you are into diving, snorkeling or other activities like... fishing.
Is there a solution? A compromise? I do not know whether these are the right terms. Perhaps for some.
Arrange exciting tours, hikes and activities you all like and sneak away for one day… with your fly rod. Just do it. No one will feel bad about letting you escape for one day. They may even feel relieved!
In October 2005, I went to the Czech Republic with my mother and her husband and numerous relatives. At that time, I posted a message on the forum on GFF, which resulted in a great day with Jan Siman on Vltava Dobrá.
Posting another message in the same forum up to a vacation could be the beginning of making this act a tradition.
At the same time, a person -- Moreno from Lucca -- was searching the internet to see, what was written about fishing in the area where he lives, and stumbled over the forum and my message.
After some emails and a few phone calls, we had an appointment the following Thursday.
Moreno and his friend Gianni would pick me up at 7:00 am. I had brought some flies and my reel. A rod could challenge the airport security checks, so I would borrow one from Moreno.
It was hot even though it was just around 6 am. 32 ºC or about 90 deg. F. I had plenty of time and slowly made it to the parking area in front of the hotel.
A car cruised down the road. Inside, two Italian people scouted through the front window (what was the name of that movie, where Marlon Brando…?). They stopped in front of me. The door opened.
"Kasper?" the driver asked.
A few minutes later, we raced downhill, following the steep 270-degree curves. Two hours later we entered a bad road with big holes and challenged the car to go through four-wheel-drive super terrain and even though it was an ordinary vehicle it managed to get us all through.
Two hours of talking, discussing fishing, techniques, our favourite waters, culture, excellent Italian food and so on. It was a nice chat.
Tail Water Tevere
At 9 am, we picked up bags of sandwiches, water, fruit and a fishing license. After another short drive, we were at the bank of Tail Water Tevere. The water was low. Several trout were rising even though the sun burned and was high on sky. They were all over the place in the shallow water. The cleverer and bigger ones preferred the deeper pools or shadowed areas under branches and even close to the opposite bank (why is it always the opposite bank?).
Moreno gave me two local flies. The ones I used at the banks of Vltava Dobrá would do just fine, but it is always nice to fish with local flies. They looked… unusual to me. Tying thread and an extra long-fibred CDC-hackle. Would that really work? What was it imitating? Hmm…
I tied it on and soon it drifted downstream riding on the surface of the clear but yellow/olive coloured water. A trout looked at it in the first cast but refused. I dried the fly with 5-6 false casts and placed it the best I could close to the opposite bank.
Moreno stood right next to me. Gianni had started downstream. Another trout refused the appetizer. And the next one as well. In some drifts, they did not even bother going to the surface to inspect the creation, but stayed at the bottom, swallowing nymphs.
Suddenly, unexpected in a way, a trout came from nowhere and took the fly. I could hear Gianni fighting his third, while I landed my first Italian brownie.
Not a trophy, but a beautiful south European trout. Photo. Release.
Style and Set-up
We continued fishing to the trout in the pool, but the one we caught must have revealed the treacherous fly to the others because they lost immediate interest. Moreno was not sure about that theory and suggested that my many false casts may have spooked them a little bit…
Suddenly I realised, that I in fact used 3-6 false casts before I placed the fly. I did the same at my home water the first hour before I got used to the light gear and the stream fishing that differs quite a bit from my usual shore fishing for sea trout. He was right, and I trained in one false cast and one for placing the fly.
Gianni showed up and encouraged me to continue. My casting technique was really good, he told me.
"Just keep down the number of casts. You do not need them."
Someone once said, that it is the fly in the water that catches fish and Gianni had already caught around six, so he had a point.
I looked at my set-up. I was not satisfied with my leader. Gianni was not satisfied either.
"Finale grosso", he said.
Even thoug my Italian is close to non-inexcistent I understood that he also found the floating poly-leader too clumsy. It did not stretch the tippet the way I wanted, so I changed to a normal tapered nylon leader. Added 4' of 7X tippet and tied on a new dry.
That was better. It was now easier to reduce the false casts and I got more and more into the rhythm. We fished our way upstream and got to a new pool.
Single lady between lots of trout
Numerous trout were feeding at the bottom. Going from side to side grabbing nymphs, emerges or other tiny things.
I tied on a Copper John size 18. Moreno did not really believe in nymph fishing and eyed me thoughtfully.
The nymph took the water 3 meters from the fish and the weighted artificial followed the current. The brown trout rose and opened its mouth. I saw the white skin from the jaws when it sipped in the CJ. I set the hook. First cast with a nymph and first fish on a nymph. A nice one came in.
Gianni had followed the theatre and now asked about the fly, which for the rest of the day became very secret. However, later we swapped "secret" flies.
The water was fast to the left and slow to the right where it came into a pool close to branches, bushes and trees. Moreno placed his fly with perfection and a good trout took. The same movie re-played in the next cast. He was good at precise casting, and placed his fly with accuracy.
Gianni hooked a nice fish in the fast current. It turned out to be a grayling. The only one we landed that day, even though they are not a rare catch. It would be more difficult to spot and catch a chub, which were also in the stream.
He advised me. Pointed: I could not see the fish, and I covered the area 7…8…9 times. Then suddenly the big head of a really nice trout emerged from the surface and inhaled the fly.
God save the Queen, God save the Queen, God save the Queen…
The strike was much delayed and the trout never realized, how close it was.
We all laughed and let the episode signal a lunch break.
The afternoon was hot. We were all getting more and more exhausted even though Gianni had a magic bag with fresh ice-cold water.
We fished in the side streams, which entered the main river, flowed with it for a while and then left it again. Just where a side stream was formed, a nice fish stood close to the bank.
"Do you see it?", Moreno asked.
I could not see a fin, until it moved and followed something resting on the film. I placed a foam head emerger 1½ meters or some 5-6' upstream. It looked at the fly and then decided to taste this odd result from my vice. I was (again) too slow as I had way too much loose line between the fish and myself.
I almost set the hook and we felt each other pulling. It returned to its place as the hook lost it's grip. It was a fairly large trout and we estimated it to be just over 40 cm or 15½". The floating nymph (flymph) worked well and tempted the biggest fish I caught that day. I do not know how many I got in total, but several small ones and a few around 35-42 cm.
When the sun disappeared behind the hills, the activity increased and in every pool, the fish head-and-tailed slowly as they filled their stomachs with tiny white things. I did not have anything in size 26-30, but if I go there, again I will bring some really small flies, consisting of a white cdc-puff and a small ball of black cdc-dubbing forming the thorax.
A South American nutria swam upstream. in the blue-grey evening light. They are becoming a big plague in the area. Originally raised for their skins, but as some got away, they are now breeding and spreading all over like gigantic rats. Maybe we will se many Italian flies using nutria dubbing and long zonker strips for pike flies the next years.
It got late
It got dark, and it was time to stop fishing. Gianni called the Club House to make sure they would not close the restaurant before we got there. Another group of local anglers was already there, gesticulated, and told stories about big fish, which got away and how strong they were in their denial. They laughed and had a great time.
Two of them joined us at our table and we talked a bit. One of them had been a few times to the Danish river Karup River (Karup Å) fishing for salmon and sea trout.
We got our pasta with tomato (real tomatoes, ripened in the sun), grilled pork and an espresso. I like to take a few minutes to enjoy my coffee, but Italians drink an espresso within seconds and we were soon ready to head for San Mommé. The drive back to the hotel was long and took maybe 3 hours. I could not stay awake and took a power nap. I do not know for how long, but I woke up talking Danish asking them how far we still had to go. They both laughed and asked if I could translate, please.
Dropped off 01:50 in the morning in front of the apartment. Moreno and Gianni still had an hour's drive to Pistoia where Gianni's car was waiting to take him the very last hour to Pisa. That would make him have a fishing day of 23 hours. That is hardcore enthusiasm.
A day had finished and I had met skilled and friendly anglers from another country, who showed me a favourite water. Now, isn't that Global Fly Fishing at its best?
Tail Water Tevere (TWT)
Until 5 years ago there were absolutely no trout and grayling in the TWT. The founders of the club performed a study of the area and since the water temperatures average between 5° C and 11° C (41-51 deg. F) the experts agreed that conditions were ideal for stocking trout and grayling. Until then there were only a few chub living in the warmer parts and in the side streams. The river was stocked with a mixed generation of Browns from local hatcheries from fingerlings to about 40 cm.
Grayling fingerlings in the size 7 - 10 cm (3-4") were also stocked. Both the trout and the fingerlings have found ideal conditions and are now actively breeding. A few years ago almost all native, wild trout were flushed out due to enormous amounts of meltwater from the mountains and fishing clubs had to restock the water with fresh trout from some of the other local streams.
TWT is 11 kilometres or about 7 miles. The club water is a trout water, but where it ends the river becomes slower and the pike more present. You may fish here if you have a regional license.
The season starts in April and ends in November, but the best time to visit TWT is from June-October. In the late autumn the river becomes white milky and unclear as the bottom water in the dam upstream exchanges position with the surface water. Even though the visibility is only 30 cm or 1', the trout and grayling still rise.
The trout is protected from 1st of January - 1st of May.
The grayling is protected from 1st of January - 1st of May.
During July and August the Italians are on vacation and there might be crowded during the weekends, especially the last three hours before darkness. So plan your fishing together with other activities.
A big project about connecting 47 small to med-size lakes and dams together and make an interesting varied water for fishing is now being carried out. The clubs are negotiating with the authorities at the moment (August 2006). The plan also includes the building of some Fly only Lodges.
Credit cards and Euros (EUR, €) are used everywhere.
Buy fishing licenses at the local main post office. You need a regional license for each region you are fishing and maybe a private license for a club water. The license for Tail Water Tevere costs 30€ and the regional license costs 15€.
Different anglers offer guiding and prices may vary. You will probably get a good day of fishing if you hire a guide, which can bring you to distant water and arrange transport, food and flies. A full day will cost about 150€.
There are plenty reasonable hotels placed along the roads and cozier ones in the villages. Even on the countryside, it is possible to find a oasis not too far from a stream.
A 7-9' rod class #3-4 will be sufficient
The leaders should be tapered and turn over nicely, so you get the most control in your cast and can place the fly where needed. I used 18' leader with a 7X tippet.
Nymphs size 14-22, Pheasant Tail, Copper John and Black Threader worked well. Even emerging nymphs with foam tempted the larger fish.
Dries size 14-20, small may flies, CDC-2-coloured and emergers will do the job. During the dark evening a size 12 (!) Klinkhamer was the best.
Hooks larger than size 8 are not allowed.
Even though the water might cool you down, remember to drink lots of water. Fishing in almost 40ºC is exhausting and you loose some liters of liquid even though the water around your knees is close to 12 ºC.
Long hi-tech underwear in your waders and a fast drying long-sleeved shirt.
Remember to bring your (Global Fly Fisher) cap, lip balm, sun lotion (high factor) and good polarized sunglasses (they also help you look cool).
The most interesting species are of course grayling and brown trout. Chub can be found in many of the streams. Pike is also present in numbers in the lakes and slower parts of the rivers. Black bass, pike and chub have been planted in lakes, which can be considered as Put&Take-waters.
Bring back what you brought in - is a good rule. I learned that it in New Zealand.
Keep distance to other anglers, and wait until the stretch becomes available.
The Italians are very fond of their food. They have access to excellent vegetables and meat. Pasta and bread is made every day and just tastes as it was meant to. You will get a descent meal for 6-15€. Wine and beer is also OK. I will recommend the Tuscanian local wines.
There are many interesting old towns and cities, which present entertaining stories from the big Rome and the time where Michelangelo invented one or two things.
Take plenty of days off and go to Firenze, Lucca, Pistoia, Pisa and the Ocean on both sides. In the evenings, you can listen to classic concerts or maybe just get an ice cream from one of the famous small cafés, which make their own. Take three cones in one hand and your girlfriend in the other and take a slow evening walk in a romantic part Italy.
You can find more information at Moreno's website .