No longer do you have to pad the halls of museums and football stadia in search of Italian giants of mythical proportions. Armed with fly rods and flies fit for Kraken, you can land an epic monster of your own: the river Arno in Tuscany is home to fly-mauling Wels catfish topping 100 kilos.
The Arno’s Wels population may be younger than I am (introduced in the ’70s), but these expats of colder European climes are thriving in the balmy waters of the Arno. The river’s average Wels is an impressive 15 kilos and 125 centimetres from nose to tail. Given they live for around six decades, those statistics will only climb.
The greed of Europe’s largest freshwater predator is the stuff of legend, and their range not restricted to fauna on the river bottom or even in the water: unlucky pigeons and baby boar feature on the menu.
This gargantuan appetite creates a sporting opportunity for the flyfisherman. Armed with rods scaled for saltwater piscavores like the giant trevally and tarpon, you’ll be sightfishing, casting to hunting and tailing catfish. Or using sinking line to explore the deep pools and weirs that divide the Arno.
Our guides are the designers, in collaboration with a top flytier in South Africa, of a range of flies specifically for the Wels catfish of the Arno.
Drawing on scientific research into the hunting behaviours of Silurus glanis and observation of the seasonal diet of the Wels on the Arno, they’ve taken into consideration what is castable and presentable in the river’s flow. The result? What we know as the Arno Bunnies and Toads, but what one journalist insists are ‘Kraken-appropriate wedges of fluff’ (KAWOF for short). We provide these flies, and the stories behind them, on the bank.
It takes more than just muscle and stubborn determination to successfully land a giant Wels. If you’ve never wielded a 12wt in anger, we’d recommend a specialist casting lesson to get some giant fluff flicking under your belt before you hit Italian banks. It’s incredibly challenging to land a less than pleased 40-70lb catfish single-handed in flowing water, so a guide will be with you at all times. After all, you’ll want to capture the moment as beauty to your beast.
One of the joys of fishing are the views to be had from water and bank. They don’t come more fêted and epic than those to be had from the Arno as it rolls through the Tuscan countryside and into the city of Florence, listed by UNESCO as one of its World Heritage Sites. For the museum-averse and history-phobes among us, it’s possible to get a feel for Florence while keeping your feet wet. From our beat in the city’s historic centre, you can see the Uffizi Gallery, the churches of San Miniato al Monte and San Frediano and the Piazzale Michelangelo. When water level and angling conditions are right, it’s possible to fish in close proximity to the historic bridges that define the riverscape of this stretch of the Arno:
Ponte Vecchio, Ponte Santa Trinita, Ponte alla Carraia and Ponte alla Grazie. For the culture-philic, there’s plenty of time to explore Boboli Gardens, visit David at home in Galleria dell’ Academia, or shop markets around Piazza San Lorenzo.
To complement the city centre beats, we have exclusive fishing on three serene, secluded stretches of the Arno outside of the city. Here the river flows through the private estate’s acres of olive groves and manicured gardens, beneath the 16th century palazzo where you can enjoy breakfast or an aperitivo and everything in between when not launching your attack on the Wels population.
With fishing excursions focused on the hours after dawn and before dusk, there’s plenty of time to explore and enjoy Florence and surrounds. Your guides are English and local, with plenty of recommendations to share. From the best beat to secret markets to choice trattorias, they are only too ready to offer recommendations to ensure you make the most of your stay.
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Prime season: the optimum windows are May-July and September-October. The best months for the chance of sighted fishing with a floating line are June or September. September and October offer the best opportunity of hooking Wels in the 100-160 pound plus bracket.
KIT & CLOTHING
There is no specific clothing required, but neutral and natural colours are most suited. Bear in mind that it can be very warm in Florence. Highs of 28-34ºC are normal from June to September, so lightweight, breathable clothing is advised.
With wading expected, thigh waders and/or flats boots (depending on the season) are essential kit.
Polarised sunglasses and a hat will not only provide protection but make spotting of fish easier.
12wt loan tackle is available upon request: it’s entirely possible to catch a 10 to 40lb Wels catfish on a 9 or 10wt if you have one.. Both sinking and floating lines are used, depending on conditions on the river.
Arno Wels-specific flies are provided.
One or two anglers
AIRPORT OF ARRIVAL
Florence Peretola Airport
VISAS & LICENSES
Travelling to the UK from within the EU needs no visa
Travel from outside the EU may require a visa at the port of entry
Fishing licenses will be arranged by Outside Days
It is standard practice to tip the fishing guide at the end of the day/trip.