If you are passionate about cinema and movies you probably know what this is, Amarcord is one of the most famous masterpiece from the Italian movie director Federico Fellini, a very nostalgic revocation of the old times that bring you a clear image about how much things have changed.
Amarcord is actually a dialect word that mean “i remember”, and this is what this new blog is about, unfortunately.
March 2003, me and my fishing mate Stefano Incerti are finally heading out to the delta of the Po river, the mighty Po river. We have been discussing about this for years, but the challenge was looking a bit too difficult back then...thousands of kilometers of untouched tidal waters over one area of 180 square kilometers where basically no one have ever fished before with the modern carp angling approach (no one we knew at least). The only information we had back then was coming from some old angler and what they were telling us was more like a fairy tale to be honest...stories of 2 hours long fierce fight with huge common carp, thousands of fish jumping here and there and a description of the nature that was more similar to the Amazon than the north east of Italy where the Po Delta actually is.
Well….we were about to realize this was not a fairy tale, it was simply the truth !!
3:00 AM, end of March 2003 and our car is loaded to the limit with baits and any sort of gardening tools. This was our first trip down there and our plan was to find a good spot, clean up a bit the vegetation and bait up for our very first session the following week end. After a 2 hours drive we are there, in a position that one of the old guys told us to check out first, we were waiting for the sunrise, it was a matter of minutes and we were looking forward to see if this story about thousands of carp jumping in the morning was true or not. It was still pitch black when we parked the car and the silence around was almost scary. Just the time for a cigarette and “BOSH” one heavy splash right in front of us !! The first light of the morning was now visible and in a matter of 5 minutes the all stretch of river in front of us went totally nuts, carp jumping everywhere, as far as we could possibly see and hear there was carp jumping it was unreal, simply unreal !! I still have shivers down my back when I think about that day.
No need to say the following 3 years has been intense, really intense, we have been roaming around the whole Po delta in search of the golden pot, and we didn’t found one but many ! It was a really hard work, from our hometown to the nearest fishing spot it was a 180Km drive (one way) and we were doing it twice a week, one time to bait up and then the week end to fish from Friday afternoon till Sunday. Crazy times, but the experiences we lived back then are priceless, and if I could i’ll do it again from the very beginning (but please don’t tell it to my lady).
Alright, so why “Amarcord” ? Simply because believe it or not THIS IS ALL GONE and I can consider myself a lucky man being one of the people who have been sleeping hundreds of nights on the Po river banks before the disaster struck, and to see how the situation is today is simply heartbreaking.
This place could have been today one of the best fishing destination in Europe, not just for carp but for catfish, zander, barbel, you name it, but Italy has always been extremely weak in terms or regulations and control, and the politicians who manage things like fresh water fishing don’t even know what a carp is and of course some other people took advantage of this situation…
With the totally crazy and insane project to re-establish the fish stock that was swimming in the Po river 100 years ago, before the industrial era which have totally changed the river and of course his inhabitants. To do this they made some business agreement with a group of people from Romania, helping them to move here, to get professional fishing license and to open a commercial channel so they could net EVERYTHING out and export the fish to other countries, some to be used in the food market, some to be used as ingredient in the pet food industry. The idea was “let’s get rid of all the fish swimming in the Po river area so it will be easier to re-stock Pike, Tench, Perch and every kind of fish that was swimming in the river many years ago”, ignoring the fact that today, because of the changed environment and pollution 90% of those fish will be belly up after few hours…
How possibly insane could you be to create such a plan ? This is pure madness, nothing else.
For about 4 or 5 years this group of legalized criminals have been operating with nets, poison and electricity, and in some areas the fish stock went down by 75%. Just to give you a clear view of the proportion of this thing : in the area of the Po delta where me and my mate Stefano started in 2003 it was normal for a week end long session to have 20-25 runs between the two of us, and it was impossible to count how many fish were jumping every day. Today a good week end you might see 2 or 3 carp visiting your unhooking mat, and maybe a handful of fish jumping. That’s how big the difference is.
Politics and administrations has been absconding all the time, allowing one of the biggest treasure of our country to be violated, raped and robbed with no mercy for years, till one day a small group of brave people decided to do something, they have created organized groups legally recognized in order to join the table of the politics and local administrations and to start changing things from the inside, where everything started. They have been fighting with the system for years and they finally managed to turn around the things quite a bit and we can already see the results. Now we have more and more areas which are restricted to commercial fishing, and the police finally realized how badly these professional fisherman were operating in terms of hygiene and financially so they started to persecute them pretty hard and the first results are now visible to everyone.
A lot has been lost but not everything, and the mighty Po river have an incredible recovery power if left in peace for a while, let’s hope for the best now. I’m sure one day these flowing waters will be full of life like many years ago, and this will be the result of dedication and unconditioned passion from a handful of people who decided to do everything they could do to stop this uncontrolled decay and started a movement that now involve hundreds of passionate anglers.
By Enrico Parmeggiani
Photo credit Enrico Parmeggiani, Stefano Incerti & Movimento Gruppo Siluro Italia