On greeting the morning we understood that we would have had a fantastic day. Argo, an outfitter of slight build with a hoarse voice typical of an old sailor who doesn’t disdain port inns with their scent of smog and life, welcomed us warmly, despite the fact that we were all an hour late. The sea was smooth. Dolphins caressed the air with grace. Despite my lack of experience, I played host. I had been dispensing advise and creating expectations since we started. Alberto, my trusted friend, listened to my “well worn” stories, told with passion. For Francesco it was the first time.
Italian Saltwater Emotions We set off slowly, enjoying the mild temperature and humid salty air, typical of an October cloudy day. A few seagulls were flying low, or stayed still in the water. Just as I was explaining, how any slight movement of the static symmetry of the water, can be a fundamental element to spot the fish, Francesco exclaimed: “Just like that one?”. The power of young eyes! It is a “mangianza”. There are many. The word “mangianza”, as usual, creates a rush of adrenaline. That morning it also caused panic on board. In hurrying to the scene, my friends almost fell overboard. As we neared the “mangianza” I couldn’t believe my eyes, such a wide spread and continuous eruption. Our growing excitement was alarming. It was a bevy of activity. Alberto’s line, which he pulled out too fast and without regulating it, became entangled. Francesco’s first false cast, caught his fly in the pile of other rods, brought along for every eventuality but usually useless, and in this case the cause of the first big loss of the day.
Italian Saltwater Emotions In hurrying to the scene, my friends almost fell overboard. As we neared the “mangianza” I couldn’t believe my eyes, such a wide spread and continuous eruption. Our growing excitement was alarming. It was a bevy of activity. Alberto’s line, which he pulled out too fast and without regulating it, became entangled. Francesco’s first false cast, caught his fly in the pile of other rods, brought along for every eventuality but usually useless, and in this case the cause of the first big loss of the day.
Italian Saltwater Emotions Luckily the day was blessed by the Gods. For a few hours, the sea was transformed into a huge arena where, here and there, mortal fights were played out. Only the seagulls, usually a feast for the eyes, were missing. That day they rarely carried out their usual job (for us SWFF, of course not for the zoologists), which is to guide us to the “mangianzas”. Often where the seagulls prey, but prey is too strong a word for that occasion, we can say instead nibbled, there are no tuna, and where we find tuna there are no seagulls.
Italian Saltwater Emotions For sure the prey was not in short supply. Large shoals of anchovies, came together to form tight circles, and then withdrawing sometimes slowly, sometimes fast, until they formed dark spots on the blue expanse of water. Their circular movement, always faster and more furious, hiding who knows from what Darwinian mystery, to face the arrival of their enemy, which will result in death or panic.
Then the dark area starts to shine with white reflections. It’s the sign of danger. After, almost immediately, there is only more chaos. Violent and crazy.
Life’s final defence against the blind fury of the prey. The water explodes in whirlpools and eddies. The anchovies seek safety dashing out of their vital element, the azure and silver outlines of the tuna pounced, blades shining, into that tremendous rage. Primordial scenes, resulting from the inequality of the contestants, which shock and at the same time gratify. To be part of it is worth the day stolen from work or family.
After such poetry we became once again fisherman, who cannot but take advantage of such bounty. I will never forget Francesco’s expression when he stared at me stupefied while his first bullet tuna was taking the line and backing burning his hand, incredulous that such a small fish could exert such force. Than it was Alberto’s turn, also he without a catch, not with standing repeated attempts.
That evening, getting off the boat with a bullt tuna held by the tail in each hand, he was the happiest fisherman I have ever seen, also because, like a good businessman, having invested, not always wisely, thousands of euros in fishing tackle, he saw the cost of his processing the tuna, fixing like the quotation of gold. Lucky days are not the rule in Liguria. But it sometimes happens. That day the water in front of Portofino, were in effervesce until late evening, when the dying sun inundated them with warm gold reflects.
It remains, with the taste of the salt on our skin, the memory of a full day, necessitating the evening to relive all with friends and the night to review alone. To captivate emotions and sensations beyond the imagination. This is the strength of the sea. Some technical information
The best period for tuna in Liguria is from September to January. Apart from bullet tuna, you can also find dolphinfish, bluefin tuna, bonito, little tunny, scads and bluefish. There are no known meteorological conditions that indicate more o less a good day for fishing, nor is it possible to forecast were the “mangianza” will appear.
The seagulls are the best sign, with the trials of floatsom and the fishing boats. A 5 to 6 meter boat is the best one, with at least a 40 hp engine. It is usually possible to rent one at a reasonable cost. You can use a 9 ft rod with an 8 to 12 line, depending on the fish, on your desire to battle, and on the eventual necessity to reel in as fast as possible, to release with the least damage.
Personally to fish on “mangianza”, I prefer a floating line, but also an intermediate one is fine. I use a sinking line only when the tuna, stay below, and instead of participating in “mangianza”, they wait for the wounded anchovies to sink motionless.
Something about flies and hooks. In my experience, I’ve learned that it is more important to get the size right rather than the colour, the structure (stiff/pliable), the transparency and the luminescence. If one is able to cast with ease, it is better to use two flies instead of one. They stimulate more, and sometimes permit a double strike. Speaking about hooks, I prefer, apart from the classic Owner, the circle by Gamakatzu.
To cast well is fundamental when fishing from a boat. It is not important to have style or to be precise. It’s better to be effective. That is to place the fly as quickly as possible and as near as possible to the mangianza, better to cast anticipating their changing movement. Taking into consideration the rocking of the boat, the wind, the change in direction of the boat, other fisherman who are casting not farther than two metres from us, all caught up in the excitement, and sometimes one who is piloting the boat and just as well because otherwise things would be more complicated, the steering wheel, the petrol lever, the flight, the clasps, the buffers, all diabolically projected to create, in the moment of maximum tension, an incredible tangle with the line, all things considered, to be effective is not so easy.