Yesterday my Italian friend Fausto and I hit the Brenta River up in the mountains north of Bassano. Our chosen spot was below a little dam in a little hamlet called Collicello. We parked the cars, suited up, and got to it. I had some immediate success, nailing a gorgeous 13 inch brown trout on a little nymph. Eventually Fausto moved downstream; "Richard, you stay here, is good place...I go down" (Most Italians can't seem to say "Rik", so they call me Richard). A couple hours later I continued downstream as well. The river is very shallow in many spots so I crossed to the other side and worked my way down towards Fausto. I found a nice hole and worked it for about an hour or so before giving up. Fausto, seeing me, stopped and started walking towards me. He showed me the beautiful little hybrid he had caught and we compared notes for a few minutes before deciding to head back towards the dam as it was getting late and we'd had enough.
La diga - the dam - as it normally looks.
As soon as we started back, I noticed something didn't look right. The rocks that I had walked on by the edge of the river were now completely underwater and the tall grass on the river bank was halfway submerged as well. It took me a second to figure out what was happening - the dam was slowly being opened and the river was slowly rising. We looked for a place to cross, but in about 15 minutes, the river had risen at least a foot and all the places that were usually up to our knees were now up to our waists. And with a river moving that fast, there is absolutely no way you can cross in waist deep water. You would be swept away for sure. The full scope of the situation was suddenly clear to us; we were trapped on the far side of the river, separated from our cars and being slowly but surely pinned up against the wall of trees and brush behind us. What was worse, our cars were parked on the little dirt road near the base of the dam. If the river rose high enough, our cars would be submerged.
Fear set in. Panic struck. We frantically moved as fast as we could in the slowly rising water. We were moving so fast that we faced the added danger of injury, as the rocks kept rolling under our feet and we kept tripping over underwater weeds. I was moving as fast as I could, but Fausto kept yelling at me to wait for him. Fausto appears to be in good shape, but he's 50 and a chain smoker, a fact that escaped my frantic mind. At one point, he fell and banged his arm, nearly being swept away by the raging river. I helped him up and continued on, but within seconds, he was yelling at me again - "Richard! Richard! You wait me! Richard! Stop!". I turned to make sure he was ok and he said "Richard...my heart...you wait." Now, the only thing that could have made that situation worse would be for me to have to carry someone who was having a heart attack through the forest so I stopped. The river had pushed us into the trees and was at our knees now so we had no choice but to fight our way through the thick brush onto dry land. We literally had to crawl on our hands and knees and got plenty of scrapes and cuts. Eventually we hit a clearing which turned into a little path and we walked towards the dam, hoping that somewhere above it the river would be crossable. The water was steadily rising but hadn't gotten to the road yet. Suddenly we saw two others guys walking and by the grace of God, one of them was a friend of Fausto. He explained our situation and they told him they'd give us a ride to our cars, no problem. We both sucked down about two cigarettes to calm our shaky nerves.
The view from the base of the dam. By the time we got back to our cars, the river was at the edge of the road.
We were saved. By the time we got to the cars, the river was at the edge of the road, a mere ten feet or so from where we were parked. We had learned a harsh lesson but we had survived.
I don't think we'll be fishing Collicello again.