The Italian Connection

The  Game Anglers Instructors Association have over the last few years had visits from SIM (Scoula Italiana de Pesca a Mosca) at two of their events in Llangollen and discussions with FFM (Fly Fishing Masters) at the last few British Fly Fairs.  Their presentations have always been of interest and enjoyable.

The Italian style is credited for its development to Roberto Pragliola born in 1937 in Florence.  Roberto went on to found SIM with Osvaldo Galizia its current President.  There are a number of schools of fly casting in Italy I have mentioned two and a third would be TLT Academy of which currently Roberto Pragliola is their technical director.  Whilst there are other schools in Italy, these three can be traced back to Pragliola and SIM which celebrated its 25th Anniversary recently.

Italian schools tend to be very different to GAIA.  We certify instructors so that they are able to hold a certification enabling them to go and coach for a fee or not as the case maybe.  Italian organisations are run on a similar basis to angling clubs. They can best be described as a group of passionate like minded anglers who firstly enjoy each other’s company and have a passion for fly casting

What is the Italian style of fly casting? It was designed primarily to fish the small tight mountain streams of the Apennines best described as overgrown and pocket water.  They needed to buy time for the fly before the current swept it away and need to cope with casting under bushes and in confined spaces, hence the short rods and long leaders. The style is restricted to dry fly fishing.

River Tronto, Ascoli
River Tronto, Ascoli

These short rods tend to average 7 ft 6 in long and take lines of 4 weight or less, double tapers are the lines of choice.  The Italians tend to refer to the style as “coda leggero” or light line and have a tendency to under gun the rod by a line weight.  They like tip action rods. Whilst the preferred rod is short they can also adopt the style for longer more traditional rod length of 8 – 9 ft.

Leaders as mentioned earlier are longer than perhaps we would choose 16 – 18 ft being the norm.  They are also made up of lengths that are looped together rather than joined with a blood or water knot.  The reason for this is if they deliver a pile cast, although they would probably call it something else, the leader is less likely to spring open and straighten.

River Tronto, Ascoli
River Tronto, Ascoli

Italian style casting is very distinctive by the amount of drift that they produce both on the back and forward cast.  This drift is produced after a very short sharp power snap.  They really understand that the power snap or rotation determines the size of the loop.  They generate extremely tight loops which enable them the cast into very tight spaces. To create these loops they have very small deviations off the straight line path. To smooth the cast out and reduce the effect of recoil they introduce drift both back and front.

To compensate for the lightness of the line they create additional line speed or velocity to deliver the cast.  The power snaps are early in the back cast; they would say just in front of your cheek or eye and late on the forward stroke shortly before the arm is extended.  When the style was first introduced to the UK there was a lot of talk about not having any stops on the back and front cast.  I remember the internet arguments that took place asking how this can be and that if you abide by the five essential you need a stop back and front.  What they really meant I think was that due to the lightness of the line to flex the rod effectively you had to increase the tempo or line speed.  They have stops immediately after the rotation phase directly followed by drift, it is fast smooth and flows when you watch it being done correctly.

This is not intended to be a thesis on the Italian style of casting, I will ultimately encourage you to attend a work shop to discover more.  I have recently spent three days in a place called Ascoli, Italy with FFM to find out what they got up to and how they organised their activity, I can say it was an eye opener.

Firstly they do speak the same language as us albeit in Italian.  Stroke length, straight line paths, avoiding slack, drift, trajectory, tailing loops and many more aspects of the perfect cast are in their vocabulary.

They conduct assessments of their instructors to an agreed standard and they keep detailed log books so that they can monitor improvement or areas that require improvement. They also used modern technology to conduct analysis of their casts both for self improvement and fault finding exercises. By modern technology I mean Go-Pro and other video cameras.  On this occasion they had obtained a conference suite from the local council and after seven hours of casting then sat for a further two or three carrying out the analysis.

Why bother with this style you might be asking? I think that you should bother because it adds another string to your bow and gives another dimension on casting.  You also do not need to go to Italy, but you can if you wish. To attend a workshop and there are likely to be two in the UK during 2014 a July workshop  given by FFM and likely to be in the Border area and another by SIM in September in the South Wales area. They will not be expensive and I am certain that you will learn something so would encourage you to attend.

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