Fly Fishing in Europe - Italian Trout on the Tanaro
The Tanaro is the largest tributary of the Po River, which flows into the Adriatic Sea in Italy. This river of about fifteen meters wide has enormous potential and is a fishery that attracts anglers from all Europe, drawn by its reputation for plenty of large brown and rainbow trout for fly fishers to enjoy.
This wonderful location is managed by Italian hotelier Renzo Gagna who gained the fishing rights by leasing a portion of 5 km of the river from the town of Ormea and created the reserve Turi Pesca adjoining his hotel restaurant San Carlo. This stretch of river is well marked and fragmented with large boulders that breaking the veins of water and currents that dig holes several meters deep in places. The water clarity, pure white gravel and the absence of pollution of this river are a real paradise for the eyes of the anglers.
A crystal clear river!
What surprised fly fisherman used to other European rivers is the exceptionally large trout. Indeed, trout below 40 cm are uncommon, and most fish are 2 pounders! The best fish are between 65 and 75 cm and 6 to 7 pounds with a few monsters estimated at more than 80 cm.
Some of the deeper “canyons" conceal huge fish, visible against the bright background of the river. Two main reasons explain this phenomenon. First, a strong growth, due to the richness of the environment: Trichoptera larvae invade the quiet sectors, especially those with dense hedges along them. Big stoneflies abound under stones and provide rich food for trout. The second reason, and not least, is the introduction of many regular and massive fish perfectly acclimated to this environment. Indeed, they come with tanks fed by an ingenious system to divert water directly from the river where they stand some time before returning to the Tanaro. Renzo Gagna do not hesitate to look elsewhere overseas for producers able to provide quality trout and in perfect condition so that anglers who reserve Turi Pesca can spend very pleasant days fishing.
In this river free from pollution, fishing is a delight because of the massive insects that live in the water. Hatches are frequent and Trichoptera rising that follow are always spectacular. Hot spots for fishing dry flies are the heads of pools and deep-water crossings where the rock licks off some cliffs. If you are lucky, you might fall on a good hatch of stonefly and you will understand what a big rising fish is all about! Insects, 3 to 4 cm, were literally engulfed in a whirlpool. Do not go to fine with your tippet !
The Tanaro river is a perfect place to practice visual fishing with nymphs. One of the most important skills I have learned to catch big trout is first spotting them perfectly in the gin clear waters. Once you can see where the fish is holding, (it takes time for some anglers), you can move to achieve the best presentation. Remember these fish are sometimes spooky so take your time! The big difference that separates successful fly fishers from the others is always patience. They look a lot before they fish. Plan your approach and presentation in your head to avoid spooking the fish when you cast.
In early season, trout will be looking for aquatic insects for food. Most of the time, caddis and nymphs abound in the rivers. They are often dark in colour like brown, or olive. During summer, trout are sometimes attracted to insects that get blown to the water and drown. It is in this regard that it is best to use fly patterns such as grasshoppers, ants or beetles. Italian brown and rainbow trout eat all varieties of food that their habitat can provide. They eat almost everything from insects like ants, beetles and gnats, to other invertebrates. In this sense, it is hard to predict which fly that appears like these foods will definitely work. Just remember that the browns are very fussy. Try to tailor your fly box with varieties of fly that will work in different water situations as well as the time of the year. Keep the variety big enough to cater to the different condition that you might face later on.
The Turi Pesca Strech is located in Colle di Nava Ormea a few kilometers from the SS28 road in the Piemont area.
My fishing tackle for the Tanaro river:
Airflo Streamtec Nantec rod 9’ line 4/5 or Orvis access 9’line 5.
Field&Fish reel 5/7 (Mouche Pro) and Airflo Vlite reel 5/7.
Airflo Ridge Supple Technical WF5 F
Airflo Light Trout Polyleaders Set.
Laurent Guillermin is a French reporter and photographer. Laurent’s images and articles have appeared in a great number of fishing magazines in France and Europe. He’s also well-known in the small fly tying “world” and has commercial patterns tied by Easy Fly. He has traveled all over the world as a reporter and is considered as an expert fly fisher for trout, grayling, pike, carp, sea bass, bonefish and permit. “Every time you go out fishing you can have a different experience. That’s what it’s all about!”
You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org
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