Stefano yet once more pulls a rabbit out of the hat! Guiding is going well and I am having a blast. Every week end during the summer months we are taking guests fishing in the Italian Alps. I follow round and translate, take photos and learn the ins and outs of dry fly fishing.
This weekend we have no bookings, so he calls me up. "Tom, hows it going? I have a special trip ready. I have organised a chopper to take us up to another Alpine lake. You up for it?" You all already know my answer, Heck yes!
Early morning we meet up. Have a brioche and a cappuccino, then set off to the pick up point. He tells me about the Chopper service that runs in the Alps, They bring bricks, cement, tools to the alpine huts and also carry tourists, fisherman, hikers, cyclists up to the top of the mountains during the summer months. Most the Pilots are ex-military, mountain rescue pilots etc.
Im buzzing! we get to the heli port, a field in the middle of the alps. So cool. I cant believe we are taking a chopper up. "The ride is about 15minutes, when he arrives, keep low Tom, rod tips down & bags low, the co pilot will load all the gear in the storage area outside the cabin and you get straight in and get your headphones on.
In the distance I hear a rumble, it keeps getting closer, Stefano calls out, here it comes. We step back get low and this chopper just fly's right down to our spot. Adrenaline picks up the co pilot gets out as soon as the helicopters rails touch the ground. He waves us over, we keep low and are as quick as possible. It's a pay by the minute situation. So speed is key. We hand our gear to the co-pilot. The chopper blades seem to slap the air hard. The power is somewhat intimidating. I do as i'm told, hand my bags over and pop right into the cabin, and put the headphones on. The cabin is quite small enough for four people plus the co pilot and pilot. The pilot doesn't turn round. You can see he is a busy guy and has to head off to the next pickup location. The co pilot wearing a fluo yellow helmet and a jump suit slides the cabin door shut. Stefano puts his headphone one and smiles telling me "you ready?"
The Co-pilot hopes into his side seat at the front and before he can close the door the chopper blades start slapping the air hard as the pilot pushes the throttle and we start to pull off and up. Right now i'm still full of adrenaline and feel being pushed back into the seat. We start to gain altitude and we start to see the valley bellow us, the treen line, and then eventually we start to reach the mountain tops as we climb over them.
I see a damn in the distance and as we approach, the pilot banks round the corner of the mountain past the damn the feeling of the bank as I look down at the water bellow us is amazing. Im buzzing. The place looks alien. It's mid August and there is snow everywhere. I see a hut in the distance, we are heading towards it. The pilot banks hard again and the chopper blades slap the air again. A small stone helipad is where we are heading, just in front of the hut.
Stefano reminds me over the microphone to keep my head low and get far away from the blades then turn around and wait for him. The chopper rails touch down, the co-pilot hops out and slides our cabin door open. Stefano is out first, who helps me get out. I speed walk with my head low out of the way of the blades and then turn around and wait as the co-pilot and Stefano unload.
Then the co-pilot says goodbye, gets in the chopper and the blades start slapping the air again as it starts to pick up, the roar is deafening, then, steadily starts to disappear as the helicopter vanishes over the mountain top and out of sight as we watched.
Suddenly its all quiet! defining silence. As I realise where I am and take in the scenery. We are a 2800m above sea level. The air is light and easy to get out of breath. I hear marmots in the distance. I look around at this alien landscape. The sun hasn't risen yet over the mountains and I feel free.
He tells me about the heli pad all made in an expensive granite, and the hut next to it. He says it all belongs to a millionaire who comes up for the weekends from time to time. Very cool.
We start walking down towards the lake and the whole experience starts to settle down. We get the rods out and start to fish the banks. Again the aim of the game here is stalking the cruising fish on the banks. Small imitation terrestrial flies, ants, size 18, midges size 18, wasp size 16, all where very effective for the cruising fish. But I also found some deeper sections of water by climbing onto a rock that a large rock extruded out of the shoreline. Here I tied on a lovely caddis, cast it out and just waited. This caught me my fish of the day. Not sizeable but a lovely fish none the less.
We spend all day fishing, as always with Stefano, we keep one, for lunch, and another the next morning early to bring home with us after a 4 hour hike back down to civilisation the next day.