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Don Causey Note: Longtime subscribers to The Angling Report know Claudio Tagini quite well, as he has helped us introduce you to the delights of trout fishing in northern Italy, where ancient history and modern trout management come together in some¬thing quite like a tantalizing broth you want to eat with a small spoon so it will last and the taste will have time to exfoliate on your tongue. If that sounds a bit ethereal, just wait. Clau¬dio is about to weigh in with another of his rambling reports on fishing for trout in northern Italy. We’ve learned not to try to edit Claudio’s prose, by the way. We pretty much let Claudio be Claudio. Enjoy!
I was on my way to fish the Piave River again (my intention was to start with a few days at the Quero- Vas Preserve and end my weeklong journey fishing the upper Piave of Belluno), but I got sort of derailed by a friend who invited me to fly fish a couple of feeder streams that he told me would surprise me. So, this past April 20, I went to Feltre, an incredibly cute little town at the feet of the Dolomites, just north/northeast of the Quero-Vas Preserve and the Valdobbiadene Prosecco wine-producing area, and southwest of Belluno, which is only about half an hour drive away. Feltre, apparently founded by a Rhae-tian mountain tribe, already existed when Romans gave it the status of “municipium” (village) in 40 BC. It then kept on changing hands, being the possession of Verona at one point, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, Lombardy, Venice, Austria (in 1609 the center of the town was destroyed by battles, then rebuilt, so the city now has a distinctive 16th-century look), before finally becoming part of Italy after WWI. In July of 1943, Hitler and Mussolini met at the train station to discuss strategies.
This time, instead of lodging at the “Bus de l’Och B&B (www.bus¬deloch.it) in Feltre, I stayed at the Locanda del Re on Via Borgo la Pres¬idenza (www.locandadelre.it), which is actually more a restaurant (and a good one to boot) that has some rooms for rent on a B&B basis than a real lodge. Despite its somewhat pretentious name (The King’s Inn), it turned out to be a modest but very clean and comfortable place to stay just outside town, about five minutes from the Sonna, a small stream that I fished the next day. With the temperatures lowering, plus some wind gusts, I should have fished with nymphs, as my friend Mauro Oricelli did, but, what can I say, I saw what appeared to be a trout rise, and that was it for me. Mauro caught quite a few brown trout between one and three pounds, all wild and quite feisty, while I didn’t catch any. The only hook-up I had resulted in a broken 5x tippet after about five or six seconds. Mauro had warned me that the 6x tippet I planned to use would have been the equivalent of hunting elephants with a shovel. When he saw I was switching to a 5x, he just smiled and rolled his eyes.
The Sonna is a small stream that forms from a couple of brooks running together just south of Feltre. At that point it flows some five miles be¬fore emptying into the Piave River. It has an average flow of only five cms (cubic meters per second = 176 cfs), which amazes anyone who learns it has large fish in it. On the other hand, when you go to lunch at the restaurant of a beer factory in Pedavena, a three-minute drive north of Feltre, you can see trout between one and two pounds swimming in the Colmeda, a five-mile-long stream that flows at only 52 cfs and could easily be rerouted in a gutter. At any rate, the Sonna fishes well over its entire length. The catch here is predominantly wild brown trout, except at the point where it enters the Piave River, where some size¬able marbled trout are occasionally caught. By sizeable I mean from four to five pounds, with the local record being a whopping 15-pound behemoth that was caught with a four-inch sink¬ing minnow and spinning gear.
After lunch, Mauro took me to the Caorame, another small local stream, its crystalline waters flowing over a stark-white rocky bottom, against the backdrop of breathtaking views of the Canzoi Valley. The stream starts as a tiny brook and fills a neat little lake (Lake Stua) before descending toward the Piave River, where it empties after a 13-mile journey. The upper section of the Caorame is easily accessible, as is the bottom part, though you will need directions to find it, while the middle part flows at the bottom of a deep and narrow chasm that is accessible only when water levels are low. Even then it is difficult to reach. You will definitely need the help of a local to reach this part of the stream. Not surprisingly, due to it being generally hard to reach and only accessible for a short period each year, this middle section has some deep pools with humongous trout in them.
The Caorame has an average flow of 4.32 cubic meters per second (153 cfs), and it hosts many smallish
(10 to 12 inches) trout and grayling, except near its estuary, where it has been closed to fishing for ten years. Trout of 10, 12, even 18 pounds are known to be available there. While the Sonna tends to be difficult to fish with a dry fly, my efforts along those lines on the Caorame were finally re¬warded. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch any grayling, as I was longing for, because they are found toward the bottom part of the stream, which we couldn’t fish due to a strong and cold wind that was blowing sleet around.
The following day I was sup¬posed to fish two other streams to the west of Feltre. One of them was the Cismon River, which I’d compare to the Pit River in California because of its boulder-strewn appearance and the large round rocks on its floor bed that make it hard to wade. The Cismon forms the boundary between the Trentino and Veneto regions. Other waters in the area include Noana and Vanoi creeks. The latter is the largest tributary of the Cismon, and it has the purest, most crystal-clear water in the area.
The streams all flow through some of the most scenic landscape in the Dolomite Mountains. As much as I was looking forward to fishing these trout-filled waters (where there are several “no-kill” zones), winter had one last blow to deliver, which it landed on April 27 in the form of a heavy snowfall. Not that one can’t fly fish during a snow storm (Angelo Piller later told me he did catch several grayling that day), but I am not six feet tall and bulletproof, nor am I growing any younger. Hence, I declined the invitation to go fish¬ing and went to be pampered at Villa Luppis (www.villaluppis.it) instead, near Pasiano in the Friuli region, (the northeasternmost part of Italy, bordering Slovenia to the east and Austria to the north).
I had organized a few days stay there for an American couple on a month-long trip throughout Europe.
Villa Luppis is rightly famous for its service, its extra comfortable accommodations, its gourmet cuisine, and its superb wines. The stay at Villa Luppis was not originally intended to be a fishing-oriented stopover for my clients, who were on their honey¬moon, but when it turned out that the husband was a passionate fly fisher¬man and his wife was eager to learn about it, I managed to set them up with a local “fly-fishing chaperon” for a morning outing to the Livenza, a nearby spring creek with brown, rainbow (planted), and marbled trout, all of a good size, plus some nice grayling. The Livenza has a neat fly fishing preserve right in the town of Sacile, which is known as the “Garden of the Serenissima” because of its Venice-like atmosphere, and the many palaces that were constructed along the Livenza River for the nobility of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. The historic center is located on two islands in the river and is renowned for the harmony of its architecture, with a series of fine Venetian-style palaces lining the riverbank and reflecting in the water.
The Livenza River originates from a large and spectacular spring near Polcenigo (where the first fly fishing preserve is), with an aver¬age outflow of 15 cubic meters per second (about 530 cfs), and it emp¬ties into the Adriatic near Caorle just northeast of Venice after meandering for 70 miles through the flat countryside, mostly as a border between Veneto and Friuli regions. On these catch-and-release, fly-fishing-only, barbless-hook preserves, one can easily spot trout while walking along the stream. A careful approach is the key to catching. Being a Spring Creek, the Livenza does not suffer from snow melt. Its water, always clear, remains cold all year round.
As attractive as the Livenza is as a fishing destination, the area around Villa Luppis has other attractions, too, such as towns rich in history (Sacile, Aquileia, Cividale) and famous vine¬yards (Rocca Bernarda with its Picolit wine and the Livio Felluga winery). Also, Villa Luppis is only 44 miles from Venice. The Soca and the Unec Rivers, both in Slovenia, are excellent fishing waters, and they are an hour to one and a half hours away by car. Enjoy!
Postscript: Claudio provided an extensive list of addresses and websites, along with license details and other information, to help you enjoy all of the things described here, but the most sensible and rewarding way to fish this region is by getting in touch with Claudio and letting him put a custom trip together for you. We don’t often recommend that approach, but in our view the essence of a fishing trip in Italy is in the details, ambience, and possibilities the typical angler has no way to even be aware of. The trophy on a trip here is the trip itself, not any individual fish you might catch. Yes, you will need to pay Claudio for his services, because he conducts his bookings in the European manner by levying a fee on the customer, not taking a commission from the service provider. You can get in touch with him at: [email protected] gmail.com; or [email protected]