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Fishing for ‘trota marmorata’ on the Brenta

In my perfect imaginary world, I’d be 30 years younger and have Matteo de Falco’s job. But in the real world, I am several years beyond three-quarters of a century old and settled for one great afternoon of fishing with Matteo on a beautiful stretch of the Brenta River that flows through the enchanting hillside city of Bassano del Grappa, in northern Italy.

Matteo met me in front of Bassano’s medieval castle, which is attached to the equally ancient hotel that Dottie and I stayed in for the weekend. Dottie opted to browse the town’s museums and shops while Matteo and I did our browsing a few miles upstream on the river that meanders past the city and eventually flows into the Adriatic near Venice.

A bright, engaging guy, Matteo speaks excellent English, especially compared to my poor Italian. But we both love and speak fishing. His father is an avid angler as was his grandfather. Matteo spent much of his childhood finding new ways to fish oceans, rivers and lakes. Today he spends most of his time producing and directing TV shows about fishing while also guiding.

He began his career as a fishing guide and became so accomplished that a television producer hired him to make fishing documentaries for TV. Now, he is the managing editor for channel 236, Pesca TV on Sky Network, all fishing, all the time. If there was a way to subscribe here in the U.S., I’d be the first to sign up.

A few days before meeting me to fish the Brenta River, Matteo was filming a ocean fly-fishing episode off the coast of Spain, followed by one on sea bass angling in the Venice Lagoon. When in Italy he often stays around the northeastern waters and loves the Brenta river with all his heart.

Just a few minutes north of Bassano Del Grappa, the Brenta meanders through the wooded foothills directly below the steep cliffs marking the start of the Dolomite Mountains. Here, the river is flanked by public hiking trails and shaded by a dense line of trees. The section into which we waded was wide, clear, cold and free-flowing over a bed of small to medium-sized stones. The water wasn’t deep, but there were plenty of areas that looked likely to hold trout.

Matteo has one particular species in mind, the marble trout or “trota marmorata” in Italian. Related to the German brown trout, the marble is unique to this part of Italy, as well as neighboring Slovenia. Marbles are big, aggressive predators, known to approach four feet in length and weigh 60 pounds. The water in which I was about to cast a fly didn’t look like it could hold a fish that big, but Matteo showed me photos of marble trout he’d caught there that proved his point.

That day however, neither of us were able to entice one of the monsters to take our flies. I did manage to catch and release a nice marble/brown hybrid and a grayling.

The Brenta is also home to some very large rainbow trout, as I discovered when one snatched my dry fly off the surface and performed an amazing imitation of a wild Pacific-Coast steelhead. It was a big, strong fish, and ran up and down the pool, jumping several times before winning the battle by breaking my leader. I was impressed by its size, but Matteo assured me the marbles were even bigger.

I plan to catch one of them the next time we return to Italy. Even without the cooperation of the big marbles, I had a delightful afternoon of fishing with a knowledgeable and congenial guide. It was nearly perfect: the setting, the scenery, the charm of the ancient town, the post-fishing dinner and warm hospitality of the Italians we met — all part of our Italy experience.

My initial contact with Matteo was made possible by Erik Sanders, info@flyfishitalia.com. Matteo can also be reached through the Italian Fishing Guides Association, info@italianfishingguides.com.

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