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By Don Causey, Editor Emeritus
Long-time subscribers to this publication know all about Claudio Tagini, our occasional correspondent in Italy. Over the years we have published a score or more of his reports on places to fish in Italy and accounts of trips to that country he has organized for American clients. The last report we published about Tagini focused on a trip he arranged for my wife and I. Like all of Tagini’s trips, our journey was a cultural and tourist outing incorporating fly fishing, not a hard and fast fishing trip. It was a delightful experience that was quite unlike any fishing trip I had ever taken or even imagined I would take. You can see our itinerary from that trip by clicking here.
So, why am I bringing all this up? Because I just heard from Tagini after an unaccustomed silence. Seems he and his wife, Naomi, have been busy of late developing a tourist villa in the countryside southwest of Venice. Everything is coming together nicely, he tells me, noting that he plans to incorporate a stay at his Villa into trips he arranges for clients, if the location of his villa makes geographic sense in the context of a planned trip to Italy.
The note I received from Tagini was devoted to a quick overview of a trip he had just arranged for some long-time-friend clients from the West Coast of the US. I’ll share it with you in a moment. First, though, a reminder note about Tagini’s background and how it makes him so right for putting together fishing trips in Italy for North Americans. For starters, Tagini is perfectly fluent in English, having lived and fished in the US for many years. He understands North American fishing so well he once ran a business devoted to creating US fly fishing itineraries for Europeans. Doing the opposite – arranging trips in Italy for North Americans – was a natural progression that gave him a chance to demonstrate his encyclopedic knowledge of Italian fly fishing and his deep understanding of Italian history and culture. Indeed, a typical Claudio Tagini fishing itinerary contains more information about art museums and other tourist sites, not to mention restaurants and shopping venues, than it does about fishing. Non fishing spouses love the former, believe me. You will come back from a Tagini fishing trip with a very happy non-fishing spouse!
All of that said, here is the short note Tagini sent me about a recent trip he arranged for a couple of repeat clients from Oregon and California. It revolves mostly around non-fishing activities, but that was by choice of his friends. On request, he will craft a personal itinerary that puts fishing in Italy and nearby countries at the very center of everything:
Dear Don, I thought you might want to know about a recent fishing trip I arranged here in Italy for a couple of long-time-friend clients. Since they are close friends as well as clients, I personally joined them on their trip. They told me afterward they enjoyed the experience a lot.
It began with their arrival in Milan, where we went to see some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Atlantic Codex pages, and a few of Raphael’s paintings, among other things, followed by a few days touring some very lovely and culturally interesting places in Northern Italy, including Sirmione on Lake Garda, not so very far from Borghetto on the Mincio River.
From there, we took the Red Bernina train to St. Moritz in Switzerland, but, unfortunately, we couldn’t fish for the large and fussy grayling of the Adda River due to a downpour that muddied its water. We were able to visit a medieval castle from 1250, however, before crossing the Dolomite Mountains. Our first lodging in the Dolomites was in a patrician mansion dating back to the mid 1400s. It featured an indoor pool with spectacular views. We went to some fabulous restaurants in this area, but we also had fun trying some fancy recipes, cooking up a storm and enjoying a few dinners in the cozy dining room of this elegant house.
Our next stop was the PERAROLO Flyfishing Preserve, on the Piave River, right where the Boite River joins it. Here, we stayed in Villa Marinotti, where you and your wife stayed (Angelo and Nadia say hello, by the way.) On arrival, I met with our guide-to-be and rushed around buying fishing equipment for some members of our group. In the process of doing this, I ran into an old Italian friend, Mirko, with whom I went fishing the next day. Mirko and I shared old memories of staying at a log cabin right on the Metolius River in Oregon, and another time just a few steps from the Fryingpan, and then also the Madison… As I recall telling you, memories like these are best appreciated when they are old, just like fine wines that taste better when they are sipped with a good old friend.
On the stream, we had an overcast sky, with an occasional sprinkle that each lasted a minute or so, giving us the perfect hatching situation. Indeed, we did catch some nice trout on a dry fly, including a few brutes that this area is famous for. We also had fish break our leaders way too many times more than we knew it could and probably would happen. The magic moment of the day was the appearance of what at first seemed to be a ghost, an oversize trout that couldn’t be other than a marbled trout. It was calmly resting in a few centimeters of water, barely enough to cover its dorsal fin.
Being a gentleman, Mirko let us cast to it first, even though he was the one who spotted it. Both of us proceeded to make near-perfect casts of our dry flies (a Roncallo Special, my favorite) that were completely ignored. Arian also made an attempt with a nymph, but that, too, did not stir any interest.
It took Mirko’s experience and casting skills (he is a casting instructor) to finally hook that monster with a tiny nymph he tied. But you know what, the real beauty of the moment was that it really didn’t matter who actually hooked that fish. We all felt as if “we” caught it.
This whole area was subjected to a disastrous flood last year about 45 days after you visited. It left many scars on the mountain slopes, and rearranged most rivers. It is a wonder to me that huge trout like the one Mirko caught managed to survive. It is a testament to the resilience of this natural habitat and that, along with practicing catch & release, probably means we can look for the fishing here to get better in the years to come.
I realize I have digressed from my account of the trip I promised to tell you about. Suffice it to say, my long-time friends and I had some good fishing experiences in this area before proceeding to Venice, where we rented a whole house. The guests loved getting there and then exploring Venice on a private water taxi. For our grand finale, the whole group came to Villa Fiori, the place that Naomi and I have been busily completing. You stayed there and probably remember visiting Urbino and viewing the local Roman bridges and mosaics. For our last dinner, I got everyone involved in making potato gnocchi from scratch (curling them with a fork, one by one!), which I served with three different sauces. The good time and laughter reminded Naomi and me of the dinners here with you and your wife: we wished you were here too!
Postscript: If you want Claudio to craft a personalized fishing/cultural excursion for you in Italy and surrounding countries, you can reach him at [email protected], or learn more about Villa Fiori at villafiorivacations.com. Be sure you make clear what balance of fishing and culture you want to experience. And do not worry about European stuffiness. Claudio is anything but stuffy! He will work with you to provide a trip that matches your taste and wallet. The only request from this end is that you file a report if you go on one of Claudio’s European excursions. Send it to me at: [email protected]