Julian and I and our indulgent partners spent a couple of weeks in Italy on October last year.
Most of it was spent in a delightful mountain village called Soriano nel Cimino where the yearly chestnut festival was being held, and that’s a whole other story.
We were fortunate to find a local guide who agreed to take us fly fishing for a day.
The trout season had closed where we were, but it was still open in Umbria, about an hours drive away.
He suggested a stretch of the Nera river that was a ‘fly only, no kill area,’ (or as we say, catch and release) using only barbless hooks. That seemed to be a good starting point, since we deduced there would be at least some fish in the river.
We headed out two days later and after a pleasant drive through pretty countryside we arrived at a little ‘hamlet’ or ‘Borgo’ of a village on the side of a mountain skirting a deep green valley with the Nera river winding through the verdant countryside.
We stopped at a tiny panini shop and after trying various smoked meats and salami and cheeses, a delightful smiling girl made us crispy paninis to our various tastes and wrapped them in crackling brown paper to pack in our backpacks.
Then it was only necessary to walk across the road to the local ‘fish and game’ office to pay for our day licence for a stretch of the river.
Our guide Osvaldo, arranged the details and advised us that he had selected a part of the river where it was ‘illegal’ to step into the water, which suited us since neither of us had waders. He assured us there was plenty of suitable spots to cast.
This stretch of water was bounded each end by a stone bridge and it was a short drive to where we could park the car and scramble down the bank.
A lone angler huddled under the bridge and Osvaldo told us that only 6 anglers would be allowed on this stretch for the day, and more importantly, that most Italians didn’t fish if it was raining…
Since Julian and I agreed we had spent half our fishing time in wet weather gear, a little shower was the least of our worries, so we headed out to see how the new experience of an Italian river, stacked up against some of the awesome streams we had fished in New Zealand.
Well, the term ‘gob smacked’, was a perfect description of how I felt after a short stroll. The water was clear and while there was sufficient structure to make things interesting, there was plenty of wide areas of open water with light colored bottom and edges of lush green weed. Not only that, there were nice browns finning near the far bank, and the flash of white as they opened their mouths, indicated they were actively feeding.
And this was within ten minutes of walking onto the water!!
We split up and Julian moved ahead while I hung back to explore a deep hole at the bottom of a little rapid.
I could see the shapes of fish moving in and out of the shadows and rising up to gulp just under the surface, and at Osvaldo’s encouragement, I tied on one of his grey CDC dry flies and cast upstream.
A huge walnut tree stood back from the bank with a nice little seat under it, and some rocks to crack the nuts once you gathered a few. It was an idealic setting, but also a perfect place to catch my first back cast. Yeah!, how many times have I done that!
As I pulled my leader free, Osvaldo reminded me that we didn’t have licence for catching birds, just fish!
I had drifted several flies down and rolled cast back upstream, when Osvaldo, in his quiet way suggested I might let the fly drift further downstream before I retrieved it.
He asked if he might show me how this could be done and with smooth excellence cast, reset the fall of the fly line then ‘mended’ the line with the sweetest little corkscrew, I have ever seen.
I had read a review on him and knew he was good, but I realized I was in the presence of a Master Caster with this one elegant cast and mend.
He was generous with his guidance and help and I managed to achieve a fraction of his success, before encouraging him to check how Julian was going while I had a little private practice.
The outcome was that I managed to catch and land a nice little brown and then hook and loose another before I caught up with Julian.
We fished a few hours and then took a break for lunch.
The paninis were perfect, crusty on the outside and airy bread inside with local pecorina cheese and prosciutto (ham).
We spent the afternoon casting every fly we had at several nice sized browns, which had beats along the stream, and which were actively feeding on what appeared to be a local midge.
There were hatches of these as the temperature rose a few degrees, as well as small pale spinners and various other insects which Osvaldo caught with his cap and identified, with their latin names.
Julian and I had both experienced midge hatches and agreed we had never had much success finding a suitable fly. This was no exception, and while we had plenty of casting practice and a lot of fun, neither of us got an eat.
It was no imposition to wander along this delightful stretch of water, which was as good as I have ever fished. The clouds drifted apart to let a soft pale sun warm us, and turn the landscape into a Monet painting. It doesn’t get much better than this.
With the sun, a couple of Italian fly fishing appeared, and Osvaldo was soon chatting to them, as only fly fisherman can.
One of them had been casting to a particularly stubbon brown about 3 pound that we had given up on, and I was interested to see that his rod choice was the same as mine.
I admit my choice was purely made by necessity, since a six piece travel rod fitted in my luggage and so that determined it would be a 4 weight 7’6” long. Of course his had far fewer pieces, but other than that it looked very similar.
What was different however was the size of his fly!
I though at first that his tippet had broken, and he had lost his fly, but as he stopped to chat and held his leader I could see the tiniest wisp of grey on the finest tippet. We asked him if we could look at his fly and he was happy to show it off. A number 30 hook and I have to say the size was a perfect replica of the little midges.
We have lot to learn.
Yes! Thats a fly!!
Like every good fishing day, it had to come to an end, and we took it easy driving back to Soriano, relaxing and chatting about fishing.
Osvaldo is a Master Casting Instructor and runs workshops in fly tying and casting as well as guiding for as wide range of fishing experiences, from trout in rivers and streams, to lakes (and believe me, there are some awesome lakes).
He can organize trips for pike and chub and grayling and several other fresh water species, as well as a wide range of salt water species, from both beach and boat.
He is a friendly easy going man, softly spoken, and with a warm sense of humour, and his humility belies his awesome knowledge of everything piscatorial. He enjoys sharing his wealth of knowledge, and delights in others success.
His websidte is well worth a look.