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Valsesiana Italian Style

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017
Andrea in action

Andrea in action on the Mastelone

I wrote this last summer and for some reason resisted publishing it on my web site, having re read it I decided that it merited an appearance.

I had a recent trip to fish the Sesia River and one of its tributaries the Mastelone in the North West of Italy close to the Swiss border and adjacent to Monte Rosa which is the second highest mountain in the Alps.  This is my second trip to the area as we went last year also at this time.  How conditions can alter in a year last year was warm with bags of sunshine whereas this year it was wet and grey.  The river heights also varied at this time and this year they were clear but up maybe 6 inches on last year.

Perhaps the most interesting experience was fishing the Sermenza a mountain torrent which contained brown trout and rainbows apparently up to a couple of kilos in weight, yes correct a couple of kilos.  It was the ultimate pocket water and very difficult to fish with my 9 foot 5 weight as it was difficult to  hold a fly before drag set in.  So I opted to fish with a Tenkara outfit as I had done in the autumn of 2015 when I fished the Sarca’s tributaries similar mountain torrents in the North East of Italy in the Dolomites.

 

Tenkara

Tenkara

Valsesiana is not unlike the Tenkara style of fishing and is fished with a stiff rod of approximately 4 metres in length. These days for ease of transport a telescopic carbon fibre pole is used originally it was manufactured from a reed cut in the Po valley.  The line is handmade, spun from stallion’s tail fibres, tapered and finished off with a tippet of usually 3 spider style flies or less. The rod is much stiffer than Tenkera and much more able to hold a fish in these mountain torrents.

There is a museum dedicated to Valsesiana style in the town of Varallo I have been there twice now and had hosted visits in the company of Andrea Scalvini a leading light for the Valsesiana style and manufacturer of rods and horse hair leaders. If you get the opportunity I would encourage you to go.

Valsesesia Museum

Valsesia Museum

So how far did I get with my Tenkara rod I have to confess not far, my very first cast proved how impossible it was to us in these streams with the size of fish.  I had on a comparadun and as soon as it hit the water up came a good brown, probably at least a couple of pounds.  The next few seconds proved how this rod was only up to coping with smaller fish.  The trout took off into the current and there was absolutely nothing that I could do to hold it and certainly not move it.  It came unstuck when it went down behind some rocks mid-stream.

Sadly all of this was being observed by a couple of Italians my friend Pino Messino and the guru himself Andrea.  Rather than fish on with the Tenkara I took Andrea’s advice and switched to one of his Valsesiana rods for the rest of the afternoon.

I do not believe that you can fish  dry fly as we know it  Valsesiana style using the horse hair line.  The line is heavier than a furled leader especially as it is knotted every foot or so.  It therefore sags and a belly is formed, the belly is inclined to cause the dry fly to drag.  With Tenkara a fluorocarbon leader would not be so inclined to do this.  It is however perfect for spider fishing.

Arturo making a horse hair line

Arturo making a horse hair line

These spiders are very similar to North Country spiders and the ones that I was offered were similar to a partridge and orange, and others with a purple body, I hesitate to say snipe and purple as the hackles were not snipe.  They are fished upstream and across and the plan is to fish the “bob” and keep the top fly just on the surface in this way the other two flies are kept just below and represent emergers and nymphs.

Did it work? Without a doubt, yes it did and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the pouring rain catching fish from difficult to fish pocket water. Would the style have an application in the UK?  Where I fish it would, in the larger Scottish rivers where we are likely to catch bigger fish and here I am thinking about the Clyde, Tay, Tummel and Tweed.

Finally when using the very traditional style of reed pole, and horsehair leader Andrea rightly pointed out they manufacture all their own requirements and a horse hair line can last up to 30 years if damaged they simply replace the damaged section. There is also a simplicity to the style and the tackle was very minimalist just pole, line and wallet of flies and materials.

Italians Fly Fishing Masters Workshop

Friday, June 13th, 2014

I was a guest of FFM in Italy last year see my previous report.  I found the technique interesting and there were definitely aspects of the style that we can utilise and apply to our fishing in the UK.  I am pleased to report that they will be running a one day workshop on the Annan at Hoddom Castle on the 13th July, here are the details.

This is a great opportunity to anyone who is remotely interested or even critical of the style to come and experience it first hand.

I have had to cut and paste the details as I am struggling with the media link, may fix it given time:

———————————————————————————————————————————

Massimo Magliocco and Fly Fishing Masters UK welcome you to the introduction Italian Style of Casting.

We are a non-profit organisation. A charge is necessary to cover our costs. For the day course the fee is £30 per participant (this includes fishing the river Annan in the evening – Hoddom Castle beat)

Information and booking: philipbailey31@btinternet.com

This agenda is designed to be informative and interactive. We encourage you to ask questions to of our instructors. We hope you enjoy our company and the days events.

Agenda

Hosts and Controllers – Massimo Magliocco and Philip Bailey

9.00 – 10.00 Demonstration and discussion on technique This will be undertaken on both grass and water by Massimo Magliocco and compared by Philip BaileyThe technique will be explained and a range of different casts will be demonstrated.
10.00 – 12.00 Tuition of u how to make the basic Angular cast used by FFM The FFM Instructors will work with individual participants to explain the technique and how to make the cast. This is the basic technique used in all FFM casts. This will be undertaken on grass.
12.00 – 1.00 Lunch
1.00 – 3.00 Demonstration and discussion of all casts used by FFM in ‘fishing’ situations. This will be undertaken by Senior Casting Instructors.Each cast will be demonstrated in ‘live’ fishing situations and benefits explained to participants. This will be undertaken on running water.
3.00 – 5.00 Tuition on different casts The FFM Instructors will work with individual participants to explain each of the ‘Backhand’, ‘Totally Under Tip’, ‘Slowed Down Angular’ and ‘Overturned’ casts. This will also be undertaken on running water.

The Italian Connection

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

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.

A day at Lanrick

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

The other day I had the pleasure of a days salmon fishing on the famed Lanrick beat of the River Teith. Lanrick is just upstream of   Deanston famous for its distillery.  The Teith itself is a great salmon and sea trout river with the added bonus of being just 40 mins from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Lanrick is some 3.5 miles long with approximately 1.5 miles of double bank.  It reminds me very much of a highland river, shallow for most part and easy to  fish at most times of the year with a floating or slow sinking line. Lanrick is in two parts Upper and Lower beats.  The lower beat is marked by a famous cauld pool called simply the “Pool” at its bottom limit .  This pool must act as a barrier and slow down the movement of fish in very low temperatures and water conditions.

The "Pool"

I shared the beat with another rod and only managed to fish a limited number of pools.  The “Pool”  and “Gravel Bank”  are two fantastic pools, in fact I am not doing the place justice as all the pools that I fished that day were great pieces of fly water.  The river also has a reputation for big fish, my second largest some 21lb was taken off the Teith albeit further up stream.  If my memory serves me right I recollect a fish close to 40lb being taken off Lanrick a few years back.

Gravel Bank

I wish that I could report that I had caught fish but sadly no salmon, I did however catch a superb brown trout of approximately 2lb from the “Garden Pool” which set my pulse racing for an initial second or two.  A down side is that whilst in the fishing hut I noticed a sign that read they practiced total catch and release which I totally support.  It then went on to say that any Grayling caught should be killed which is a bit of an archaic view towards our fourth natural game fish.  In this day and age we should value all our game fish.  If you want a days fishing close to Glasgow and Edinburgh I would strongly recommend Lanrick.

 

Real Wings!

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

A couple of weeks ago it was the penultimate day of our winter calender for the fly dressers.  At very short notice we managed to secure a demonstration from Jim Miln of the Alloa Angling Shop.  Jim has developed some very effective realistic wings which are now supplied by Veniards and are called oddly enough “Jims Wings”.  These wings and the use of paint bristles assisted the tying of some very realistic flies.

Blue Bottle

 

Adult Olive Midge

 

 

Corixia

 

 

 

Sherry Spinner

 

House Fly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to see more of Jim’s flies there is a Youtube site simply go to JimsFlystackle.