After getting back from Scotland I decided that I wanted to do more trips and explore more places through fishing. I started googling local fishing guides in my area, only one bloke came out on my research, he didn't want to be paid, as at the time a fishing guide was not a registered job. So he said just give me a tip for the transport and food.
I booked a trip with him not knowing that what I was getting myself into was
something that would change my life completely. I was not very fit at the time and all he said was meet me in Chiavenna at 5am on a summers morning. Chiavenna is an alpine town in the heart of the mountains in Northern Italy. So here I was at 5am, a car pulls up, and he introduces himself, and says it's a
wonderful day to go fishing. He loads up my Landrover Discovery with all the fishing gear and we start making our way up the mountain.
On the way up we quickly stop to buy a few sandwiches from a local bakery, a few bottles of water and some chocolates. Shortly after that we go offroad, up a mountain gravel road, we pass donkeys, and cows, and eventually peak out of the tree line. Up, up, and up, we went until we hit the end of the gravel path, barely a gravel road at this point. We park right at the end of the road. I mean literally the end! There was a 50ft slope in front of the Discovery.
We get out the gear, for some reason when I set out I thought it would be similar to what i did in Scotland. Oh how wrong was I! For the next hour we hiked up the mountain, up small paths, zig-zagging our way to what I thought was the summit. The views and crisp air made their way into my lasting memories, even now i can smell the rich dry air, the summer breeze carrying perfumes of wild flowers, snow and freshness.
Eventually we reached a plateau, we followed it over and slowly the level started
dropping and a lake came into view. We were now at about 2000m above sea level. I buzz with excitement thinking that I'm going to catch a fish right away the size of a pike, take a picture, release it and be happy. That didn't happen either.
As we approached the lake, I saw a large rock and a cave overlooking the lake, the
guide told me in the seventies there was a hermit who lived under the rock in the
summer, he even brought up his own door.
I don't know how true this story was but my imagination ran wild. The idea of
surviving up here alone in the wild tickled my thoughts.
We eventually reached the lake, he set up my gear, a dry fly rod! Great, not a clue of
what to do with it, I only nymphed in Scotland.
He then prepared his gear and he started to show me how to stalk alpine trout. He
told me to stay still and away from the shore line. I did not move...... Well lets just say
there was no standing in the water waiting for a fish as i had for some reason
thought.... This was real stalking. He approached the water with the stealth of a
wildcat in the bushes.
All you could see from far away was a rod and fly zipping back and forth a few times.
Not five casts in; he is on a fish, a lovely fish.
He then calls me over and showed me how to respectfully dispatch the fish, clean it,
get rid of the guts safely and how to tactfully keep the fish cool under the hot summer
His school of thought was one I really grew attached to over time. Catch one fish to
eat, a tasty meal and satisfying reward at the end of the day. The rest release back
to their home.
Great! It was my turn now to catch a fish....... I ended up getting a spinning rod out
and scarpering all the fish from the shore, a total mess but I did catch a fish in the
end a lovely brown.
Then I dispatched it as he showed me. That was the only fish I caught but he went
on, and I kept learning.
He then lit a small wood fire, picked some herbs (I know now that was wild thyme)
and cooked the trout over the wood fire for us. The flavour of that fresh trout was like nothing I had ever tasted.
At this point can I just say what an amazing experience I had. How fortunate I was to be here with this guy showing me the ins and outs of Alpine fishing. I was very blessed and to this day remain thankful to all he taught me.
His name is Stefano, and to this day remains a very good friend of mine. He was in
many ways my teacher. As time went on he instructed me on how to enjoy the
mountains, what plants can help and what ones are dangerous, how to protect
myself against snow, rain, wind and all sorts of mountain weathers, how to fly fish
with a dry fly, but most of all how to stalk wild alpine trout.