Excited by the prospect of a week in Tuscany the following May with Alan and Della Pascoe (a wedding present including a private jet flight from Farnborough to Pisa, and a stay at Guy Hands’ Foundation property at Villa Saletta) I wrote to Moreno to enquire about fishing together, in mid January !
I had taken delivery of a magnificent piece of art from him, just weeks before. A 7 1/2ft. 3/4wt bamboo (hollowed split cane) rod which, now I knew that I would be in Italy soon, I determined not to christen until back there, even though trips to the Wiltshire chalk streams and to my beloved Usk, were planned. And to christen it in the eyes of her Maker seemed right, for he regards her as one of his ‘babies’, and our email exchanges through its development served only to confirm the passion with which Moreno addresses his skillful art.
This Spring has been as wet in Italy as in England, and having fished the Tevere (the Tiber) with Moreno last August, I was eager to fish another water on his roster, but it has been so very wet in Tuscany this year, and, unusually, maybe even more so than in London, that Moreno set out to manage my expectations about where, and as the trip neared, it was becoming clear that the Serchio, perhaps my favoured river, might be unfishable.
And Moreno wrote…
”The weather is not good at the moment – it has ben raining for a couple of days but the conditions go back to normal in hours. The river we will fish is mountain stream so it is effected immediated by heavy rain, but then just as quickly it goes back to normal. Should it not be fishable we can opt for the Sieve Tailwaters just north of Florence. Driving distance is the same!! We can decide this the day before. Be prepared for difficult fish!!! I really look forward to seeing you again and of course my baby!!”
And later also …
“Hopefully the rain will stop – starting to get webbed feet!”
We arrived in Pisa and drove to Forcoli in rain, and it took all of Moreno’s persuasive texts to assure a worried Anglo that it would clear up, and we would fish, a few days later….even though I was steeled, stoically, for disappointment!
And so, on the fateful day (for he was right, of course) I set off early to meet him.
I regard every venture into new territory as an ‘adventure’ and Googlemap to hand, I set off for Lucca, leaving my Dormouse, sound asleep ! My destination was –
“…. a village called San Leonardo in Treponzio in the parking of my daughter’s school. You will find it on the left on it is on a curve in the road (a red brick building – awful sixties school architecture) and the parking is right next to it.”
Easy…and it was !
We gelled on our first meeting and it was SO good to see Moreno again.
On our first meeting, I had no kit, but courtesy of the Pascoes, and a helpful absence of airline controls and handlers greasy fingers, I was able to put onto the Lear, everything I knew I would need, and this was transferred to Moreno’s plush new car and setting off, we launched into intense catch up conversation, leaving an extraordinary Frenchman in the back of the car, a little isolated. A bank official from Reims, Benoit Canon is new to fly fishing, but has an indescribably positive attitude to life (“with work anything can be achieved”) and to prove it, he has, in only his second season as a fisher, has just built his first bamboo rod and is in Tuscany to attend a convention, to be chaired by Moreno the following weekend, for European bamboo rodmakers, in Sansapulcro. He knots his own leaders from whatever material he chooses; he ties his own flies; he makes fishy ‘gadgets’ and he caught fish…!
And so we drove for an hour or so…to the very river, which some ten years ago, Pikko and I had lusted after during a trip into his marble land.
This river is short. It hides beneath the vertical cliffs of the valley above Seravezza where we stopped to buy our licences to fish crystal clear waters tumbling out of the might Apuan Alps, in their short (10km) journey to the sea. High above us, marble has been extracted for many years, scarring the profile of the majestic skyline, and our day was punctuated by the sounds of heavy vehicles straining under the pressure of carrying tons of unsculptured rock to the many processing plants, downstream. One sighting of the quarrying I tried to capture in film, showed an ecclesiastical like column hundreds of feet above us, chiselled out, forming a glorious aerial temple. But to preserve the natural look, now in danger of disappearing, the ‘authorities’ now demand the underground mining of the marble….
We fished….no! I fished. Moreno will not carry a rod when he is guiding, even though I wished he would and said so. His (my) rod is a gem. He patiently instructed me on the slower casting style needed for such a piece, and after a short while I was casting confidently, and, I think to My Guide’s satisfaction !
What of the river? It is not yet on Moreno’s website, but will be shortly.
It is carefully managed so that fishing pressure is contained, by altering the fishable beats on rotation. On our day together, we fished hard and I counted that we tried 15 or so patterns but for little reward. Fly life that day was scarce, but fish were sipping emergers from the surface film, and my only take before lunch was a “vyrana” (?), a member of the carp family !!
Lunch was casual and consisted of great local fare – a glass of rosso ‘typica’ and ravioli, at a bar in Pontestazzemese, and afterwards, the eagle-eyed Moreno spotted the good fish below the bridge, which he asserted had eluded his and his other clients for a couple of years. We clambered down to the river and I cast and we watched the said trout chase off a challenging usurper seeking to sip in my fly in ’his’ territory. Second cast….and WW3 broke out…but, Moreno’s Baby worked her wonders and we banked a fish of 1 1/2lbs, or so, to his utter delight.
Confession time, now. I sacrificed my Halfordian principles, but only, you understand, to satisfy My Guide’s determination to christen my rod in style….with a small black nymph with marabou tail (OK…lure!) doing the business, and capturing a magnificent brown!
We met the riverkeeper before leaving, and he confirmed that the fishing had been frustrating through the week of changing weather, but my further two fish, caught by more conventional means, were more than ample reward for effort.
On a more poignant note, the day before, I had been reading the June edition of ‘Fly Fishing and Fly Tying’ and had been saddened to read an obituary for Jack Gartside, with whom my closest fisherpal, David Fraser and I, had had the pleasure and experience of fishing with some years before, for striper bass in Boston Harbour in Massachusetts. I wrote a letter to the editor describing that day, and finished by saying that I would dedicate my first fish the next day, to Jack. Moreno joined me in that tribute. We had a wonderful day together, and I know we will have more…