Luca Castellani, who specializes in guiding fly-fishers in Tuscany and Umbria, parked his car next to an interesting looking restaurant in the village of Borgo Cerreto in the narrow canyon through which the Nera River flows.
It was just a short walk across a field to the tree-shaded stream that was no bigger than Sonoma Creek; although unlike Sonoma Creek, the Nera runs cool and clear all year long, providing a safe, natural habitat for the German brown trout that thrive in its waters.
Bugs skimmed over the water with trout in eager pursuit. Most of the rising fish were in the 8-to-12-inch range, but below them in the slightly deeper water, I could see much larger fish. Some looked to be more than two-feet long.
Luca was most interested in finding a place where I might hook one of the bigger ones, while I was eager to just wade in and start casting to the ones I saw rising.
(Side note: I didn’t want to pack my waders, boots, rods, etc., but Luca provides them as part of his service at no extra charge.)
The trees are so thick and tall and in many places overlap the water completely so that the river appears to be flowing through a green tunnel rather than a mountain canyon.
Several old stone-arched bridges (probably originally built 2,000 years ago by the Romans) span the stream.
Because it was drizzling slightly, he led me to a pool under one of the bridges. He spotted a big fish lazily feeding in relatively quiet water. I started with a little grey mayfly that seemed close to imitating what was flying around us.
The trees made casting a little tight, but roll casts worked much of the time.
The first big trout saw my fly, swam to it, sniffed and turned away. If trout could talk, that one would have said, “No way, Bill. You’re going to have to do better than that.”
The water was so clear I wondered if anything could fool them into taking an imitation, especially with so much other real food flying about.
But I flogged away and Luca kept changing flies and eventually I enticed a medium-small trout to take my offering. He was about eight inches, but the first trout I ever caught in Italy.
“Ciao, baby.” I said to the little guy as we let him go. “Send us your papa.”
Luca and I spent most of the morning trying for the big guys, but only getting the smaller ones to bite. I did land one brown that was about 16 inches, but the big monsters didn’t seem to want to play.
At about 1 p.m., Luca and I strolled up the stream bank where the owners of Ristorante da Roberto Al Casaletto warmly greeted us. Luca ordered for both of us. We started with some nice red Umbrian wine and thin slices of very lightly seasoned cold-smoked trout, followed by some slices of sausage and other meats, crusting and olives, and then by incredibly tasty pasta with black truffles.
In all my years of fishing, I have never had a lunch as delicious as this one.
Luca and I took our time enjoying lunch, and I found myself somewhat ambivalent about going back to work on the river.
Nevertheless, we strolled back down to the water and spent a few more hours trying to get one of those big monster browns to take my fly, but only managed to hook their little brothers.
I paused often take in the pretty little stream, surrounding trees and old bridges, guessing that many centuries of anglers had passed this way before me.
It was a good day of catching and an even better day of just fishing in a beautiful place with a great guy like Luca to guide me. I highly recommend him as your guide.
Suggestion: Plan a combo cultural and fly-fishing trip to Italy (I prefer Umbria). Stay in a historic city like Orvieto, Spoleto, or, if you like intimate little villages, San Gemini. Your non-fishing spouse can tour, shop, and sightsee, while you spend a few days fishing some truly beautiful and historic streams with Luca. Luca’s website is lucacastellani.it.
Closer to home, sport dungeness crab season opens tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 2, and local anglers can catch a ride with Capt. Rick Powers, of Bodega Bay Sportfishing, on a combo trip that will allow them to catch limits of rockcod, lingcod and crab. The trip costs $110, and you are almost certain to bring home the fish in value that the trip costs, especially with commercial crab prices (that season opens Nov. 15) expected to be up.
Rick said the rockcod and lingcod action has been great and he expects it to continue. Call him at 875-3344 to book a trip.
Kevin Wolf, of Loch Lomond Bait Shop, said San Francisco Bay striped bass are biting near China Camp, while boaters are having excellent luck off Red Rock and Buoy 5, and trolling along the Marin shoreline. Loch Lomond books Bay party boats. Call 415-456-0321 to get more information.
Local lakes are still slow, but steelhead action on the Klamath River is very good right now.