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The Italian Secret

By Ralph Shuey (aka CZKid)

I'm in international business, and one of the great aspects of the job is the places I go and the people I get to meet. Up until recently I had never taken advantage of the fishing overseas for two reasons, (1.) I normally don't have time during the trip. And, (2.) the costs can get to be horrendous.

One of the places that I'm in and out of all the time is Germany. There's a lot of beautiful water in Germany, but the restrictions associated with fishing are only exceeded by those pertaining to hunting. I had briefly considered fishing Germany, but given up in disgust with all the rules and regulations, not to mention the cost.

A frequent contributors to a Forum I frequent just happens to live just down the mountain from where my Aunt used to reside in the Black Forest. Marcus and I correspond back and forth via email about my trips and his needs for 'stuff' from the U.S. This spring we decided to get together while I was in Germany on an extended trip, and I made a goodie run for him and a buddy of his. Marcus also mentioned a potential fly fishing trip in March. . .to Italy!

Well, I had a follow-on trip to Italy once I was finished with my meetings in Germany. And, by the bye, I had a free weekend in Italy. "So, Marcus old friend, give me some more info on this fishing hole!" Marcus was understandably reluctant to reveal his secret spot, especially an untried one. We agreed that if the spot panned out he would let me have some more info once I hit Germany. Sooo. . .just in case, I packed my hip waders, some water sandals (bad move), and a tacky old Eagle Claw fiberglass combination pack rod with reel and flies. I was ready!

My first weekend in Germany I rolled down to Freiburg to visit Marcus, his charming bride, and family. We had a ball talking bamboo rods and casting some of his friend's, Hans Schlecht, gorgeous hand-built cane rods (if I just had the money. . .). We walked the beautiful streets of Freiburg enroute to lunch, and Marcus admitted the fishing in Italy had been good. Later he gave me the contact info, and encouraged me to try the fishing. So, when I got back up to Koblenz I got into contact with the Gasthaus (guest house) in Italy and made arrangements to spend my weekend there.

The Valley

I flew into Milan on Thursday and drove up the road to the Bolzano area of Italy. Back in 1916/17 the Austrians decided to invade Italy. This slight miscalculation cost them the south Austrian area known as the Sud-Tirol (South Tyrol). The area was given to Italy after WWI and has been a 'special' area ever since. Well, it's special all right. . .the drive from Milan to Verona is flat, at Verona you turn north and within a few kilometers the terrain starts hinting at things to come. A few more kilometers, and the landscape changes from horizontal to vertical. There is no need for a signpost to tell you when you are in Sud-Tirol, the entire character changes rapidly to Germanic, including the language. I arrived at my Gasthaus by mid-afternoon, a beautiful typically Germanic gasthaus on the banks of a beautiful stream running thru an incredible alpine valley. The cold flavorful beer that my host poured proved that I was certainly in the right place. Now the exact place is Marcus' secret, and he swore me to secrecy, and so it shall be. But here are some facts.

The fishing season is MARGINAL! The only time you can really fish the area is essentially Mar/Apr/May. This is because you are talking Alpine streams and once the snowmelt gets started the streams get very roily and/or milky. I suspect there is a possibility of a fall season but it may only be a few weeks long and not very predictable. All of this is great if you are a local, or at worst a German/Swiss/or Austrian who can pop over quickly when the fishing gets good. The hotel is a four-hour drive from Munich (which may be the best place to fly into, all things considered).

There were virtually no restrictions as far as we were concerned. Bring your tackle and your money and you are ready to go. No problem bringing in fishing equipment, the Italians or Germans just think you are nuts and let it go at that. But, make sure you bring what you need because stuff is EXPENSIVE over there. My host had all the licenses and information needed. The first thing that you buy is a General fishing license (3-4 days) about $20 and then you buy day permits which he has for a goodly amount of local water that run $0-20/day. Yes, there is free fishing, and it is good fishing - a catch and release area about 3-4 kilometers long just up the road from the gasthaus.

Yes, I caught fish!

Pressure is generally pretty light, fly-fishing in Europe is considered to be a gentlemen's or noble's sport. When I was in Sud-Tirol, (early-April), there were about three different fishing parties at our place for a total of about 8-9 folks. I fished alone for the most part except for one day on a large river close to a major town and the pressure there was still light. The fish are browns, rainbows and marmorata trout. The accompanying photo is the smallest fish I caught, approximately 11 inches, very feisty fish enhanced by very swift water.

Fast Water

The biggest problem is WADING. I took hip waders (fine) and water sandals (WRONG) to fish in, definitely a no-no! You need lots of ankle support. Like an idiot I forgot my wading staff. The current is VERY swift in these Alpine streams and the bottom is comprised of well rounded "cobble" so things can get tricky in a hurry. I spent one day on a larger stream and the vast majority of that day was taken up trying to stay upright! Lots of holes, and with the swift current the water isn't clear enough to see bottom in some cases.

LONG RODS are the order of the day, fairly heavy (5wt minimum) line, and 4X tippet. Long rods (8' minimum. . . 9'0" preferred) are needed because of the tricky currents and mending requirements. Since the current is so swift I would worry about lighter lines, the fish are good size and once they get into some of that current you could easily break a rod (especially plastic). Bright line was an advantage as there is a lot of foam that makes your line want to disappear. I guess my recommendation on a rod would be a 9'0" 6wt, with silk line for delicacy and versatility. (My host was interested in 9'6"-10' 4wts!) Recommended flies range from #16 CDCs to #10 Wooly Buggers, both dries and nymphs seem to work well.

Very Beautiful Region

The accommodations were just GREAT and the price was right. My host charged less than $40/person/day including buffet breakfast and dinner (three courses). Drinks and fishing were extra. The rooms are extra clean with a balcony and bath right on the river in a beautiful setting! If you have your wife along there is wonderful shopping and exploring all up and down the highway for 40 miles or better (you are in a long Alpine valley with one main highway running NW-SE) so getting lost is difficult. There is plenty of fishing talk (in German) and fly tying facilities right in the bar area. You can purchase flies from your host. Our host came in one evening after dinner with all of his bamboo rods, and we talked rods and fishing until late in the evening. The talk was enhanced with a 2 liter bottle of Coke. . .except this bottle was full of clear liquid. . .local home made Grapa (local brandy)! Next time over I'm bringing home a 6 pac of that Coke!

Definitely plan on doing some exploring in this fabulous area. The scenery is breathtaking, and because of its special 'status' the prices in the area seem to be lower than in the rest of Italy. Also, this area is sort of the 'back door' to the Italian National Park area. I couldn't get in there at this time of year because the roads thru the passes were snowed shut. Given that we are talking about fishing the area in March/April/May there are some other considerations to insert into your planning.

Vineyards Airline tickets are generally discounted heavily at this time of year and rental cars are generally available at reduced rates. No crowds around so you will be ensured of friendly and excellent service throughout Europe. The weather can be a bit variable, so plan accordingly. The weather in April was beautiful while I was there, temperatures in the 50s and little or no rain. The vineyards and orchards are planted right down to the streams in the area. This proved to be a bit of a problem while I was there because the farmers were spraying all the vines and trees at that time. The sprays got to me a bit because of my allergies. Plus I didn't really appreciate the chugging of tractors in the background, but what the heck, I sure didn't have folks all over the stream where it really mattered. Try it. You'll like it! ~ Ralph Shuey (aka CZKid)

More Fly Fishing in Europe:
Zulu's - By Alan the Highlander
Teal Blue Variant - By Alan the Highlander
Green Highlander - By Alan the Highlander
North Donegal, Ireland - By Arthur Greenwood
Marble Trout in Slovenia - By Tomaz Modic
Red and Cinnamon Sedge - By Alan Goodwin
Rogan of Donegal - By Arthur Greenwood
Bug Tank Benefits - By Peter Lapsley
River Piddle, U.K. - By Paul Slaney
A Day on the River Test By Mike Pratt
Ladyís Fish Finder Fly By Mike Pratt
Cast Again? - By Mike Pratt
Just Good to be There - By Mike Pratt
Why Fish? - By Mike Pratt
The pleasure of anticipation . . . - By Mike Pratt
A Pleasant and Surprising Day - By Mike Pratt
Donít duck the issue! - By Mike Pratt
To Russia with Love - By Ron Gras
Just Simple Pleasure - By Mike Pratt
Rich - Beyond the Dreams of Avarice - By Mike Pratt
The Good Place (Ireland) - By Jim Clarke
The Elusive Lake - By Jim Clarke
The Big Rod - By Jim Clarke
The Bank Manager's Fish - By Jim Clarke
Catch and Release . . .or not - By Jim Clarke
Fish On Half a Rod - By Jim Clarke
Sockeye the Easy Way - By Jim Clarke
The Odd Couple - By Jim Clarke
Fly Fishing Scotland - By Franz Grimley
The Artist - By Jim Clarke
One to Remember - By Jim Clarke
The Italian Secret - By Ralph Shuey
Opening Day on an English Chalk Stream - By Roger Ellis
Kolpakova River, Western Russia - By Rob Merrill
Fishing in the Czech Republic - By Tim Baldwin
2004 Fishing Season in the Czech Republic - By Tim Baldwin

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