I'm in international business, and one of the great
aspects of the job is the places I go and the people
I get to meet. Up until recently I had never taken
advantage of the fishing overseas for two reasons,
(1.) I normally don't have time during the trip.
And, (2.) the costs can get to be horrendous.
One of the places that I'm in and out of all the time
is Germany. There's a lot of beautiful water in Germany,
but the restrictions associated with fishing are only
exceeded by those pertaining to hunting. I had briefly
considered fishing Germany, but given up in disgust with
all the rules and regulations, not to mention the cost.
A frequent contributors to a Forum I frequent just happens
to live just down the mountain from where my Aunt used to
reside in the Black Forest. Marcus and I correspond back
and forth via email about my trips and his needs for 'stuff'
from the U.S. This spring we decided to get together while
I was in Germany on an extended trip, and I made a goodie
run for him and a buddy of his. Marcus also mentioned a
potential fly fishing trip in March. . .to Italy!
Well, I had a follow-on trip to Italy once I was finished
with my meetings in Germany. And, by the bye, I had a free
weekend in Italy. "So, Marcus old friend, give me some more
info on this fishing hole!" Marcus was understandably
reluctant to reveal his secret spot, especially an untried
one. We agreed that if the spot panned out he would let
me have some more info once I hit Germany. Sooo. . .just
in case, I packed my hip waders, some water sandals (bad
move), and a tacky old Eagle Claw fiberglass combination
pack rod with reel and flies. I was ready!
My first weekend in Germany I rolled down to Freiburg to visit
Marcus, his charming bride, and family. We had a ball
talking bamboo rods and casting some of his friend's, Hans
Schlecht, gorgeous hand-built cane rods (if I just had the
money. . .). We walked the beautiful streets of Freiburg
enroute to lunch, and Marcus admitted the fishing in Italy
had been good. Later he gave me the contact info, and
encouraged me to try the fishing. So, when I got back up
to Koblenz I got into contact with the Gasthaus (guest house)
in Italy and made arrangements to spend my weekend there.
I flew into Milan on Thursday and drove up the road to the
Bolzano area of Italy. Back in 1916/17 the Austrians decided
to invade Italy. This slight miscalculation cost them the
south Austrian area known as the Sud-Tirol (South Tyrol).
The area was given to Italy after WWI and has been a 'special'
area ever since. Well, it's special all right. . .the drive
from Milan to Verona is flat, at Verona you turn north and
within a few kilometers the terrain starts hinting at things
to come. A few more kilometers, and the landscape changes
from horizontal to vertical. There is no need for a signpost
to tell you when you are in Sud-Tirol, the entire character
changes rapidly to Germanic, including the language. I arrived
at my Gasthaus by mid-afternoon, a beautiful typically
Germanic gasthaus on the banks of a beautiful stream running
thru an incredible alpine valley. The cold flavorful beer
that my host poured proved that I was certainly in the right
place. Now the exact place is Marcus' secret, and he swore
me to secrecy, and so it shall be. But here are some facts.
The fishing season is MARGINAL! The only time you can really
fish the area is essentially Mar/Apr/May. This is because
you are talking Alpine streams and once the snowmelt gets
started the streams get very roily and/or milky. I suspect
there is a possibility of a fall season but it may only be a
few weeks long and not very predictable. All of this is
great if you are a local, or at worst a German/Swiss/or
Austrian who can pop over quickly when the fishing gets good.
The hotel is a four-hour drive from Munich (which may be the
best place to fly into, all things considered).
There were virtually no restrictions as far as we were concerned.
Bring your tackle and your money and you are ready to go. No
problem bringing in fishing equipment, the Italians or Germans
just think you are nuts and let it go at that. But, make sure
you bring what you need because stuff is EXPENSIVE over
there. My host had all the licenses and information needed.
The first thing that you buy is a General fishing license
(3-4 days) about $20 and then you buy day permits which he
has for a goodly amount of local water that run $0-20/day.
Yes, there is free fishing, and it is good fishing - a catch
and release area about 3-4 kilometers long just up the road
from the gasthaus.
Pressure is generally pretty light, fly-fishing in Europe
is considered to be a gentlemen's or noble's sport. When
I was in Sud-Tirol, (early-April), there were about three
different fishing parties at our place for a total of about
8-9 folks. I fished alone for the most part except for one
day on a large river close to a major town and the pressure
there was still light. The fish are browns, rainbows and
marmorata trout. The accompanying photo is the smallest
fish I caught, approximately 11 inches, very feisty fish
enhanced by very swift water.
The biggest problem is WADING. I took hip waders (fine) and
water sandals (WRONG) to fish in, definitely a no-no! You need
lots of ankle support. Like an idiot I forgot my wading staff.
The current is VERY swift in these Alpine streams and the
bottom is comprised of well rounded "cobble" so things can
get tricky in a hurry. I spent one day on a larger stream
and the vast majority of that day was taken up trying to
stay upright! Lots of holes, and with the swift current
the water isn't clear enough to see bottom in some cases.
LONG RODS are the order of the day, fairly heavy (5wt minimum)
line, and 4X tippet. Long rods (8' minimum. . . 9'0" preferred)
are needed because of the tricky currents and mending requirements.
Since the current is so swift I would worry about lighter lines,
the fish are good size and once they get into some of that
current you could easily break a rod (especially plastic).
Bright line was an advantage as there is a lot of foam that
makes your line want to disappear. I guess my recommendation
on a rod would be a 9'0" 6wt, with silk line for delicacy and
versatility. (My host was interested in 9'6"-10' 4wts!)
Recommended flies range from #16 CDCs to #10 Wooly Buggers,
both dries and nymphs seem to work well.
The accommodations were just GREAT and the price was right.
My host charged less than $40/person/day including buffet
breakfast and dinner (three courses). Drinks and fishing
were extra. The rooms are extra clean with a balcony and
bath right on the river in a beautiful setting! If you
have your wife along there is wonderful shopping and
exploring all up and down the highway for 40 miles or
better (you are in a long Alpine valley with one main
highway running NW-SE) so getting lost is difficult.
There is plenty of fishing talk (in German) and fly tying
facilities right in the bar area. You can purchase flies
from your host. Our host came in one evening after dinner
with all of his bamboo rods, and we talked rods and fishing
until late in the evening. The talk was enhanced with a
2 liter bottle of Coke. . .except this bottle was full of
clear liquid. . .local home made Grapa (local brandy)!
Next time over I'm bringing home a 6 pac of that Coke!
Definitely plan on doing some exploring in this fabulous
area. The scenery is breathtaking, and because of its special
'status' the prices in the area seem to be lower than in
the rest of Italy. Also, this area is sort of the 'back door'
to the Italian National Park area. I couldn't get in there
at this time of year because the roads thru the passes were
snowed shut. Given that we are talking about fishing the
area in March/April/May there are some other considerations
to insert into your planning.
Airline tickets are generally discounted heavily at this
time of year and rental cars are generally available at
reduced rates. No crowds around so you will be ensured
of friendly and excellent service throughout Europe.
The weather can be a bit variable, so plan accordingly.
The weather in April was beautiful while I was there,
temperatures in the 50s and little or no rain. The
vineyards and orchards are planted right down to the
streams in the area. This proved to be a bit of a
problem while I was there because the farmers were
spraying all the vines and trees at that time. The
sprays got to me a bit because of my allergies. Plus
I didn't really appreciate the chugging of tractors
in the background, but what the heck, I sure didn't
have folks all over the stream where it really mattered.
Try it. You'll like it! ~ Ralph Shuey (aka CZKid)