Italian Chalk StreamsPublished: 2nd September 2021 | Author: fmblog
For twelve years now, fly fishing has become more than just a hobby for me. I live fly fishing as a way to escape from everyday stress, and love to share it with others. I practice catch and release, and no longer look for quantity but quality in the fish I target. In recent years, this has taken me to our Italian chalk streams. Each day I am there to chase the fish that I dream about. I enjoy the environment, and I savor the essence this technique can convey. Being able to fool a trout with a fly I tied is an incredible feeling. It’s my fly fishing journey reaching a full circle. The arrival point after a long and meticulous preparation. This ranges from the construction of a fly, the approach to the river, the cast and finally to the presentation. This is fly fishing … my fly fishing.
I believe that the greatest expression of fly fishing is fishing in the English Chalk Streams. They are plain rivers with crystal clear water that flow through pristine green meadows. They’re home to large brown trout that seem hand painted. These trout feed undisturbed, swimming among dense grass or in the shade of trees. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity to go to England to test myself in these environments. However, in Italy we have several places very similar to these rivers where you can practice sight fishing with dry flies or nymphs.
I frequent several chalk streams in northern Italy. Each of them, however, have different characteristics that involve a studied and well-defined approach. The waters flow slowly, but almost always fast enough to cause problems for us fisherman. While subtle, there are many varied currents that are quite tricky. The vegetation is always abundant as well. There are many bushes and trees on the banks that create shaded areas, which are excellent spots for trout. In some of the more sandy areas with dense grasses, you can sometimes glimpse a fish waiting for to snack on larva.
The approach I prefer is sight fishing with either dry flies or nymphs depending on the conditions. Approaching fish is one of the keys to finding success in these environments. The other is getting a good fly presentation. Very often, due to the vegetation, the cast is complicated and the trout flee at the first sign of danger. On the other hand, when we manage to land a good cast we’re often met with success.
The Brown Trout on these streams are gorgeous, and vary a lot. They are rustic, powerful fish with fins that look like sails. The particular color that distinguishes them from other stream trout is due to their diet, which can vary with the massive presence of Gammarus Shrimp and Caddis Pupa to Trichoptera and large terrestrials. They are also very suspicious and wary fish. They’re ready to flee as soon as they perceive something strange. One sound is all it takes to make them disappear under the dense vegetation.
The flies that I prefer to use are the Gammarus Shrimp, the Sedge and various Mayflies. These are always present in large quantities in these Italian chalk streams. But don’t forget the terrestrials, which are insects that fall from the trees along the banks right in the spots where the trout are stationed.
I like to fish in Italian chalk streams with Bamboo rods of size 7’6 “# 4/5 in order to be able to counter the power of these brown trout. The action that these rods give me is a blast from the past. It’s something that modern tools cannot give. To me, it’s priceless. They are rods that may appear fragile and unsuitable for large trout, but if tapered correctly they will perform just as well as any modern rod.
Once the fish has been hooked in these environments, it must be taken to the landing net as quickly as possible due to the vegetation present both in the riverbed and on the banks. I always fish with about 14 feet of leader and tippet, ranging from 0.12mm to 0.18mm in diameter. When I’m fishing nymphs, this will be fluorocarbon. Sometimes I am forced to cast even from considerable distances in order to not scare the fish. However, I am always in visual contact with the fly and ready to strike at the slightest movement from the trout.
Rivaling the English Chalk Streams
As I said earlier, I consider England to be the ideal territory for fishing in this type of river. But, in my country, Italy, I had the opportunity to visit various places that rival the English Chalk Streams. I do not fish only in these environments, but these rivers are where I have made the best catches of my life.
In particular I can remember one that was most beautiful brown trout I’ve ever seen. It was a fish that made me tremble just at the thought of being able to see it grab my fly. It was my fishing partner Roberto F. who saw it, in truth. I couldn’t cast to it from my position because of the sun. Once I found it, I put myself about 10 meters away and saw that she was nymphing in mid-water. I launched my Gammarus shrimp about two meters in front of her and after a quick movement of her… .. sbaaammmm.
It was a quick but very powerful fight. Her strength was enormous. I was at the limit. I thought I was breaking the tippet. After a couple of runs towards some wood floating in the sub-shore, I managed to take it to my friend who, with coldness and precision, got her in the landing net. I couldn’t believe it, I was out of breath. She was there, in the landing net. A fish that exceeded 70 centimeters and of unique beauty. I had never seen such a perfect animal. I was almost scared to touch it. After a few moments I removed the fly from her massive mouth, gently lifted her from the water, took a quick photo, and immediately set her free.
Catch and release is essential nowadays. I have always practiced it and I am proud of it. A few weeks later I returned to the same place and she was there again, the undisputed mistress of the river. I believe that the release of the fish is always one of the most beautiful and exciting moments for any self-respecting fly fisherman!