by David Johnson
For the end of this past June and the first half of July Tesha and I spent three weeks in Italy.
Five years ago we had Valentina as an exchange student from Italy. She became our adoptive daughter and ever since we have been trying to plan a trip to her home country. Every spring/summer/fall I have been saving my pennies but always had to spend my savings during the winters with lots of blown out days. After the last two very successful years and a dry winter this year we were finally able to save up and go to visit her and her family.
WHAT AN AMAZING TRIP!
This was our best vacation yet! We stayed with Valentina's family, and they really spoiled us. They took the time to drive us around and show us so many amazing things and they wouldn't let us pay for anything. We visited Rome, Bologna, Venice, Florence, an area called Cinque Terre, and many other smaller towns. Italian hospitality is amazing! We now have a whole family in Italy.
Every food we tried was amazing; I won't eat at Olive Garden ever again.
We had some great seafood.
Octopus and potato
Fried Anchovies. They were pretty good
And never overlook seafood risotto in Venice…..
We are from Tillamook, famous for our cheese. Our host family lives in Reggio Emilia, in the Parma region. Also famous for cheese- Parmigiano Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese. The real stuff. Not in a can. It is awesome!
Valentina's dad knew someone at a local "cheese factory" and we were given a private tour.
Here's a statue of Garibaldi, the one for whom our own coastal town of Garibaldi is named.
One of our favorite places was Cinque Terre (5 lands) mostly because it was on the sea.
While we were there we went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. We didn't see a whole lot of fish but I found an octopus hiding out in the rocks. Lucky for him it was a fishing reserve or he might have been dinner.
I kept my eyes on the water of Venice's canals and spotted some small fish and crabs.
I really entertained the idea of bringing along a "pocket fishermen" to throw a line from the gondola. I did see two guys fishing in one of the canals.
Of course I always have an eye out for fishing. I love traveling and I love fishing in new places so I always had my eye out for a fishing opportunity or people fishing.
Fishing doesn't seem nearly as popular as it is here in the US but I did see some guys fishing. Most did not seem too serious about it. Mostly just fishing to relax.
As in most of Europe they used long, light rods, light gear, small hooks and small baits. Some used multiple rods and all of them used a slingshot to spread chum around their baits.
Live maggots are a popular fresh water bait
Float fishing is really popular
This guy was a little more serious about his fishing rig.
My hosts then took me to a fishing store named PACO. As I walked in the front door I knew I was in the right place! There were old fishermen sitting around talking fishing, tons of fishing tackle and fish pictures and employees behind the counter that, even though I didn't speak the language, I could tell they knew what they talking about.
After talking with Manu, the owner, who also spoke English, about jigging, bait fishing and trolling for tuna we set up a fishing trip.
The first date we picked ended up getting cancelled on account of water conditions but the following week we made it out.
We would be going after blue fin tuna. They had been catching a few up to the 80 kilo range but the water has been cool on account of a late/cool spring. Fishing had not been red hot.
I met Manu at his shop on the appointed day and we jumped in with his brother, Gabre, and we were on our way. On the hour and twenty minute drive to the Port of La Spezia and the Mediterranean Sea we talked about our families and our countries and compared fishing in Oregon to fishing in Italy. I found out that Manu has been on the Italian National Fishing Team.
We met up their friend Paolo and his beautiful tuna fishing boat, a twenty eight foot Boston Whaler with twin 250 Mercs that he had shipped from the US, and we were quickly out in blue water.
Probably less than two miles out of the harbor we spotted feeding birds and as we got closer spotted some small tuna busting baitfish. We got our trolling gear in the water and made one pass around the feeding school when a naval ship came cruising right at us so we pulled our gear and moved on.
La Spezia has an important Italian naval base for and this was a support vessel for a sub.
We trolled around another spot with no love so we move out farther to anchor fish with bait at the GPS numbers of where Manu's friends had caught three tuna the day before.
We were armed with A LOT of sardines. We must have had fifty pounds for chumming and bait.
After anchoring up and putting out a chum slick, it was lunch time. I love the Italians and their food!
We had Prosciutto, salami, bread, fruit and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
As my Italian friends say, "No fish, no party!"
We headed north to one of Manu's spots. An underwater sea mount that looked a lot like one of the ones we fish in Oregon.
We cut up sardines and chummed like you see them do on "Wicked Tuna", and set out five rods baited with sardines, set out in a spread from twenty to fifty feet down. Each bait was suspended at the desired depth with a balloon tied to the line with a rubber band.
Paolo dropped a bottom fishing rig to the bottom and caught a couple of "red snapper".
Again, "No fish, no party" in the tuna department.
As the sun started to get lower in the sky we pulled our gear and headed closer to shore to troll again, with the theory that the fish would be moving up as the light dropped.
Where else can you troll past an 800 year old church?
We had one fish hook up for a moment but about as fast as it was on it was gone, leaving three lines tangled.
Even though we didn't get any tuna I really had a great time fishing with Team PACO, and that is saying a lot since I really like to catch fish. The brothers joked around, just as me and my buddies would. The gear was top notch and their fishing knowledge was very evident. This fishing trip was just like going out with my fishing partners back home. And the scenery was breathtaking to put icing on the cake. I would love to have Team PACO visit Oregon and fish with me some time.
After docking the boat and packing up Manu's gear we headed up to Paolo's house for an amazing view of the harbor and an even more amazing dinner his wife had waiting for us. We had bread with olive oil that was pressed from Paolo's own olive trees (the best olive oil I've ever had) tuna, artichokes, local wine, pasta with the local pesto, figs picked from the tree in the yard, and finished with a lemon liquor, called lemoncello, made from lemons grown right at his house, then Italian coffee.
A view of the port of La Spezia from Paolo's front deck. The brightest lights to the left is the base for the Italian SEAL Team. This pic doesn't even come close to showing how cool this place was.
All I can say is "WOW, I am BLESSED"
Now it is time to get back to reality. Time to start fishing for Columbia River steelhead. And time to think about Italy and hopefully another trip there in three or four years.