River Mignone is a real river, still unknown to most. No artificial stocking, no easy fish. Reaching the upper – and the best – stretch asks for good will, trained legs and a disposition for adventure.
The river flows in a savage area where the Etruscans left many evidences of their existence. The wildest part is near Luni sul Mignone, San Giovenale and other important archaeological areas with important remains from those ancient times. Blera and Civitella Cesi are small towns not far from the river. Monteromano is another one, not far from the sea where the Mignone end its journey. They are all within reasonable distance from Viterbo and Rome.
We are driving through the middle of nowhere. The road crosses the lower Maremma filled with wheat and corn fields under a blue sky and you drive in full relax. When you reach the diversion from the main road and enter the “off the beaten path” road (you are still some 15km from the river) everything changes. The asphalt is replaced by a “white road” where dust, pebbles, stones, holes are everywhere. A very hard road indeed and you must be very, very careful. You reach the route of the ancient railway and here you feel your soul: a complete, full peace gets inside you.
You drive into a dark and narrow tunnel: after some hundred meters you pop out into the real valley of river Mignone. A few minutes and the ancient railways bridge is in front of you: the river is a hundred meters below.
The bottom of River Mignone is sandy with some gravel and rocks in the biggest pools. Seen from the high bridge of the ancient and abandoned railway, River Mignone flows placidly through a wild landscape.
Birth rate of local fish is extremely high and predators are limited to herons and kingfishers (and man!).
Hawks, long-horned cows (the “Maremmane“, as they are called here), wild boars, foxes, kingfishers and so on are the inhabitants of this land.
Moving upstream, it gets narrower and faster, tumbling on submerged stones, creating small pools and fast runs. It looks like a trout mountain stream, but it is not. Casting is more difficult and visible flies are a must.
There are no trout: the water is not cold and fast enough to accept salmonids. Chub, barbel, carp and other cyprinids swim in the long and often deep pools, wandering around under the trees patrolling the water surface for a beetle, a butterfly, a palmer or any other terrestrial blown into to water by the wind.
Small mayflies and sedge sometimes rise from the water but they are not the main source of food for the fish.
- Rod: 8″ to 9″5′
- Line: 3 to 5
- Leader: 0,14 to 0,18mm (especially if you use big flies)
- Hip boots are sufficient except in case of high water (spring and autumn)
- Hat: compulsory to avoid being handicapped by a strong sun
- Sun glasses: suggested
- Bottle of water: compulsory
Bulk flies are a must, except under specific and rare circumstances. A suggestion: visibility is very important while chub don’t mind colors very much. Therefore, be sure to tie your fly with a dark body and fix a small light color “wing”: yellow, white… (left). If you decide for a light (white, cream) upper abdomen/thorax, no need to fix a “wing” (right).
Small streamers and heavy nymphs are useful if you don’t see any fish in the water.
The lower part of this stretch, starting from the iron bridge, is placid, calm, with not so many obstacle along the borders of the river. As a consequence, casting is not that difficult.
You spot the rise and cast to the fish but remember that chub are not sedentary: they don’t hold the place like trout but move here and there scanning the surface very quickly. When you see the rise, the fish has already gone and the only chance is to cast some distance up, down, left or right of it hoping the fish is still in the area.
Chasing the fish is more productive: inspect the pool and look for moving dark shadows. If chub are near the surface (the water is not gin clear) you can detect the head and the tail. A bulk fly (hook up to #10 or 8) landed abruptly on the tail (NOT the head!) often results in a take.
Most important is visibility: if YOU see the fish, the fish has for sure seen you. Be cautious, kneel as down as possible and stay steady while casting. To make a long story short, River Mignone is for… those who dare!