The history of fly fishing in Val dAveto gres back to the first decades of the 20th century. Time after time Id heard of an english fisherman who had started coming to Val dAveto in the 1920s
But it was only July 2000 when I got to know who this gentleman actually was: I met somebody that had known him in real life.
This person was Mrs Giulietta Cella who ,sadly, has now passed away. Mrs Cella was the coowner of the Americano hotel which is still in business in Rezzoaglio. She was born in New York ( hence the hotel name ) and obviously spoke english: it was for tris reason that, after the end of the first world war, an eglish couple ( Mr and Mrs Muriel ) started to come to Val dAveto. Stayng at the Americano hotel from Easter to October, the came here for over 20 years. Ernest Muriel, a keen fly fisherman, was a very kind and giovial person and soon made friends with the fishermen of the valley.
He soon started teaching the the technique of fly fishing and fly dressing. The locals couldnt afford expensive fly rods and dressing materials so they made rudimentary fly rods out of bamboo sticks which could be easily found on the nearby coast. Handles were normally made out of local Sambuco wood; the simple reels were made of wood or metal; as fly line the y used the Taragnina, a braided sea fishing cord. Leaders were made with a few strands of nylon with 3 flies attached.
Flies were tied in the hand using feathers from Local chickens or gamebirds. This basic fly fhishing technique was popular in Val dAveto for over half a century, well past the 1970s: it was very successful for catching the beautiful brown trout that were abundant at the time.
We dont know if Ernest Hemingway, during his brief stay here in world war II, was able to see the local fly fishermen in action: what we do know is that he described the place as the most beautiful valley in the world! Its at the end of the 1960s, thanks also to the godo work of F.I.P.S. ( Italian Federation of Sport Fishing ), that the Val dAveto becomes the prefered venue for anglers of the region and nearby Lombardia and Emilia Romagna. Its during tris period that the english style of fly fishing becomes popular in Italy.
Even I, living in Milan at the time, was mesmerized by this technique and started fishing this beautiful river. The small village of Cabanne became the most popular venue for fly fishermen and tris for 2 reasons: first there were 2 trattorie you could have godo food and a place to sleep; second, the Aveto between Cabanne and Priosa was full of trout and perfect for fly fishing.
The fish were not very big but you had to be quite skilful to catch them. In those days catch and release was unknown and you could kill 10 fish of legal size. In one of the trattorie of Cabanne I met Dr Luigi Diana, chairman of a fly fishing club in Chiavari.
Luigi was and still is a purist: dry fly only and treccina chiavarese. The treccina chiavarese was the union of 2 Piedmont lines ( valsesiana or biellese ) and was used in place of the fly line. This setup had 1 advantage and 1 disadvantage: it was transparent but didnt float.
Treccina, fly lines, dry flies, wet flies: these were the topics of discussion during our meetings. To prove these theories right we often organized fly fishing matches. During these very sporting events, every trout, caught on barbless hooks, was immediately released and a ticket was given to the successful angler. At the end , the one with the mast ticket was the winner.
I think we must have been the pioneers af catch and release in Italy. I believe that the 1970s were the best fishing years for the Aveto and a sort of local fly fishing school was born. In the 1980s, with the end of the F.I.P.S. management, we see the beginning of the Avetos decline. By the end of the 90s the river is in a disastous state. Its during tris period that I decide to move permanently from Milan to Cabanne.
Fortunately in 1999 the Regione Liguria passes a law that allows more autonomy to local associations. The Associazione Pesca Sportiva Val dAveto was born with myself as a founder member. We start working with very little money but a lot of enthusiasm. From the Provincia di Genova we obtain the management of a tourisy beat and a catch and release beat; from the Val dAveto Park we obtain the Lago delle Lame, a nice mountain lake.
We manage to buy some eqipment for releasing fish in the river and organize a team of river bailiffs on a voluntary basis Between 2007 and 2009 the association releases in Aveto 10.000 Graylings. From the feeder streams we get 30.000 brown trout which are put in the main river.
In the last few years Ive been given the opportunity to organize some fly fishing tuition courses open to everybody. This is the thing that has given me the greatest satisfaction and even if Im now over 65 years hold, I intend to carry on this path. In the end, even if only a few of the pupils will be really interested in fishing, Im sure the will become great fly fishers!