Once mighty Sabato now mocks the touring angler

Annalisa Barbieri

Just back from Italy and the river Sabato, where I cast my first live cricket many moons ago. The name of this river - which means Saturday - gives rise to a little local saying: "I eat fish from the Saturday on Friday". (You have to understand there's not much else to do there....)

Just back from Italy and the river Sabato, where I cast my first live cricket many moons ago. The name of this river - which means Saturday - gives rise to a little local saying: "I eat fish from the Saturday on Friday". (You have to understand there's not much else to do there....)

This was Pete's first trip to Italy with me and he was itching to take the rods with him. I was not so keen. This was partly because he has this fantastic rod tube that he made himself, thus saving us hundreds of pounds, which he insists on carrying all the rods in when they so much as go on a short car journey. Of course it's great to protect rods from the rigours of air travel, but the rod tube is about seven foot long, with a carrying strap in the centre and I invariably end up carrying it and it pole vaults me off the ground so that it take me an hour to walk five steps. While I myself am more of the let's-slip-the-Hardy-Smuggler-in-a-breast-pocket kind of girl, except that I don't have a Hardy Smuggler.

But I also wasn't keen to take the rods because I knew that the Sabato is not much more than a running puddle these days and there are no fish to be seen in it. Despite the fact that my mother almost drowned in it when she was a young girl, while washing sheets. Water levels aren't what they were, even in southern Italy. Pete could not get his head round this: "Are you absolutely sure", he asked, "that there are no fish in there, or no little fisheries anywhere near to where we're going?" he asked again and again and again, with his fishing rods on constant standby next to the suitcase, lest they should be summoned.

Sadly there weren't any fisheries. While Italy has a fly fishing culture, mostly concentrated up north, I'd never seen, read or heard of a single fly fisherman round the parts we were going (Avellino).

When I asked my southern Italian relatives about fishing their reply was "oh yes, lots of it to be done, in the sea". And indeed, The World Angling Games, part of the National Federation of Sea Anglers International Programme, was held in Italy this year (next year: France). Although I'm not keen on competitions that involve catching fish, I can tell you that Italy got gold in the casting championship; Portugal got gold in the world junior shore championship; Italy got gold again (hmmmmm) in the big game competition, the world boat championship and the world shore championship... and Portugal got gold in the ladies shore championship. England got one silver, in the casting competition with casts of over 200 metres.

I wish there were competitions and awards for more useful fishie things, such as: Good handling of fish; Knowing when to pack up and go home and leave the fish alone; Fish stocks worldwide, And how I'm helping; My river has no fish, I wonder why.

Talking of more useful things, the Wild Trout auction in partnership with the Game Conservancy Trust takes place this year on the evening of Wednesday, 22 November at Bonhams in Knightsbridge (020 7393 3900). This is always an excellent place to get things like rods and other equipment for fishing days etc (which make great Christmas presents) that have been donated by various fishing folk, and you know that all the money goes to a good cause.

The Arundell Arms in Devon is hosting another Game Conservancy Trust mixed auction on 13 October, there will be some fishing lots up for grabs and if you can't get to Devon you can ring for a bidding form: 01647 433291. For more information on the Wild Trout Society, which is an excellent organisation that does much to conserve and restore the wild trout's habitats, be sure to log onto their website: www.wildtrout.org. You can join for as little as £10.

Anyway, Italy. When we got there, Pete could see that I hadn't been lying about the river, as there was actually a bulldozer making its way down river, clearing branches and any other debris that may hinder the dog's wee flow of water.

Testament to how mighty the Sabato once was could be seen in the impressive bridges that were once needed to straddle it. Occasionally my relatives say "the river's busting at the seams" and I get all excited only to see it indeed has doubled its depth, to two inches.

However, something did happen last year. There was more water and there were apparently some pretty big trout in the river. This news made Pete's ears twitch and his eyes water, every time we crossed one of the bridges we peered in, desperately trying to make out any form of life but all we saw were lizards drinking and then retreating back to the shadows, to laugh at us.

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