“Oh, yes. There are lots of fish in this river.”
I was skeptical. “But are they wild fish?”
“Oh, yes. They will fight real nice for you.”
Wild might not have been translating the way I wanted it to. “Are these the kinds of fish that are from your country? Or have they been put there from somewhere else?”
“Oh, yes. The fish are from here. Mostly.”
I had been given the green light to take a day to go fishing on our European vacation. To protect the identity of the individual in question, let’s just say that the county this story takes place in is famous for pasta and looking like a boot.
Hopping on the internet, I found that there are a number of legitimate trout fishing opportunities in and around where I would have been. Big rivers and mountain creeks, filled with familiar as well as somewhat exotic species. And everything seemed to be accompanied by some pretty remarkable backdrops. I found a couple of guides to communicate with, and started planning a day fishing in the European countryside.
I wanted to experience some real fishing. Just like here, there are some amazing rivers that contain huge fish over there. But also like here, many of them have stocking programs and are seasonal fisheries. I wasn’t about numbers or size; I just wanted to catch a fish in a place that it was from. Inasmuch as I wasn’t going to be eating at the nicest Olive Garden in the country, I wanted an authentic fly fishing experience.
Whizzing in and out of traffic in an unfamiliar vehicle the size of a bumper car, the thought did cross my mind that I’d take fishing for stocked rainbows over dying. “Oh, yes. Here we use very heavy rod for the fish. It is like your seven or eight weight.”
“Wow,” I stammered. “That must really do a number on the small mountain fish.”
“Oh, no. We use a light line with the rod. It is like your five or six.”
I was thankful that my wife and I had a don’t think about the conversion rate mindset on the trip, because I was beginning to think that my Euros were going to be somewhat misspent.
He was nice enough. Professional, punctual, and presumably adept at driving getaway cars. His rates were fair, and there were a lot of photos featuring heavy trout on his web site. Plus, he was taking care of all the logistics. The licensing, permitting, and what have you was beyond me. “Oh, no. No worry. You just come and we fish!” And I was guaranteed wild fish. Well, mostly. Apparently that was good enough for me.
When we arrived at the river, I unclenched every muscle in my body and rolled out of the tiny car. (I think the hood ornament was a bee or a moth or something.) The river was picturesque. The cliffs on either side were spotted with shrubbery. Small villas poked out of the hilltop trees. And I could hear the water.
As he unpacked the gear from the trunk/backseat/area between us, I wandered down to the river. The water was clear, and I could feel the coolness rising up from it as I took a few steps down the bank. There was a lot of aquatic vegetation waving back and forth in the quick current. The stream bottom and banks were comprised of smooth, tan gravel. And I saw a few fish.
At that moment, all of the highway shenanigans and back-and-forth about species was gone. I was looking at a trout, and I wanted to catch it. It was a beautiful day, and I was in an amazing place. The sights, sounds, and smells were new and exciting. I had a chance to do what I love. Why should I complain?
I heard the truck rumbling up the dirt road on the other side of the river. As it neared I noticed a large, peeling and faded decal of a fish on the door of the cab. It passed, and I followed it to my right and up the hill. It pulled up to a gate, and the driver hopped out. He had hip boots on, and as he unlatched the large entryway I saw concrete walls sticking a few feet up off the ground. I squinted to see what exactly I was looking at, and then it hit me.
I was about to fish, in Italy, next to a hatchery.
The thought had barely begun to process when I heard him.
“Oh, yes! Lots of fish today, you see? Get on your boots and we will get them!”
To be continued… here.