[*Good morning Mr Trout! At least that’s what it’s supposed to say. If not, blame Google Translate]
To the Tuscany-Umbria border for a week of sunshine (er, and thunderstorms) where we were to meet our great friends Geoff and Liz from Oz. I’ve not been to this part of the Italian countryside before and it is indeed magnificent. We stayed in this hillside villa 90 minutes’ drive from Florence airport:
Actually, things didn’t get off to a great start. My wife and I picked up the hire car then misread the satnav so went through a toll booth onto the wrong motorway. Sadly I compounded this error by driving through a gate on the toll which turned out to be reserved for something called ‘telepass’ or some such, and so didn’t pick up a ticket. When we took the next exit of course I had no ticket so couldn’t get out and instead had a conversation in broken English through a crackly tannoy thing, the upshot of which was that before the barrier was lifted the machine spewed out a roll of paper which turned out to be a 58 euro fine. Not sure what the Italian is for Oh Bollocks.
Anyhow, cunningly a few weeks before we left I had made some discrete inquiries about the prospect of wetting a line. You don’t (well, I don’t) really associate Italy with fly fishing (although now I come to think of it even I have heard of Italian casting) but there is indeed a spot of fishing to be had in this part of the world. I happened upon the website of Moreno Borriero, fishing guide and ace maker of fine bamboo rods. For a mere 280 euros Moreno would take me to a stretch of the Tevere river (the Tiber) containing trout and grayling. All kit, permits and lunch included. Excellent.
The day dawned and I made my way up the motorway (picking up the appropriate ticket this time) for our 8am rendezvous in a hotel carpark just outside the town of Arezzo. Moreno turned out to be a genial South African of Italian descent who had moved back to the old country when he was 19. We drove 45 minutes stopping at a post office in a sleepy village to pick up the regional licence, then onto the hotel that houses the local fishing club for another permit. The club’s room in the hotel contains a fine display of handmade cane rods:
Finally to the river. Moreno kitted me out with a set of waders and a nice tippy 9ft Orvis 5wt with floating line and a 15 ft leader tapering down to a fine tippet. We made our way to the bank and walked for a few minutes to the entry point. The river is pale, shallow, fairly slow flowing and very clear. The bed mainly consists of large, light coloured pebbles the size of small cheeses. We could see the odd grayling in the water, which were rising sporadically. The sky was clear and the sun was turning up the heat – it can’t have been far off 30C. With water of this clarity and the sun beating down I reckoned that this was not going to be a stroll in the park.
We got into the water, little more than shin deep and under the merciless sun. Moreno selected a size 18 cdc olive as the opening gambit:
And we were off! Casting upstream of rising fish, my fears that this was going to be tricky were realised. Nothing was interested. Moreno switched to a small klinkhamer-style emerger. Still nothing. I started prospecting as close to the bushes along the flanks as I could manage but still to no avail. I did induce a couple of splashy, non-commital takes but that was it. After half an hour some drastic action was called for. Moreno produced an alarming looking fly which he gleefully told me was of South African origin and went by the charming name of the RAB, or Red-arsed bastard. It includes hairs from a squirrel:
I managed to get it under the canopy on the bankside and after one or two drifts there was a sudden BANG! and a good fish was on. I managed to bring it to hand and it was indeed a magnificent brown:
We worked our way upstream, putting the fly under the bushes and a few moments later another fish fell for the Springbok fly:
Things then went quiet and Moreno put on an ant pattern consisting of a body of black foam with bright orange fibres for wings. It did the trick and I picked up another couple of small fish.
After a couple of hours I’d had four to the net and we retired for lunch. That was an interesting experience. We got into the car in waders and boots and drove to a restaurant in a small town where we squelched to a garden table and were served pasta, pork and wine. Dolce vita or what!?
After lunch we made our way to a different stretch of the beat, slightly tighter (the river, not us. Actually I didn’t have any wine – fishing is too important for that). Moreno led the way:
Incidentally, the reason Moreno’s landing net is in that position is simply that the magnet got lost – it’s not some odd Italian custom.
The fish continued to be wary and the rises had died down. Eventually we came to a deep pool just downstream of an island, where the bifurcated water created an enticing swirling current. A single mayfly came off the water, so Moreno popped an appropriate facsimilie onto the line and I managed to avoid the copious undegrowth to land it onto the eddying water in the middle of the pool. A quick splash and the fifth fish of the day was on:
And that turned out to be it, my brief Italian fly-fishing adventure was over. Top fun in a fascinating river under the baking Tuscan sun. Arrivederci Trouty!