Our intention was to spectate and hopefully pick up some tips from the competition anglers on how to tackle the beats of the river that we fish ourselves. Unfortunately the river was quite high for the weekend, higher than I’d consider fishing in – I have enough trouble wading in normal conditions, I suspect I’d have been spotted floating downstream had I been competing. That said; when we arrived we immediately saw people catching from the bank, so perhaps my first learning point is to re-evaluate the gauge figure at which I decide not to fish. Due to us arriving later than planned it wasn’t too long before the first session finished and a break commenced, allowing the anglers to grab some lunch and find their way to the afternoon beats. Tracy and I took this opportunity to move to a pub that overlooks the river – many thanks to the passing ramblers who helped shove our car out from where I’d parked it, fat tyres and muddy grass are not the best for traction!
Watching from the comfort of a pub was great but not really close enough to figure out what exactly the anglers were doing. To get a better view we decided to drive into Llangollen to check out the town beats. We found that these were not being used, perhaps because the water is a little ‘wilder’ and the banks are busy with people walking etc. As we were near the hotel that is used as the competition headquarters we thought we’d pop in and see if there was any information about which beats were and were not in use. However, by the time we’d had a few drinks in the bar the competition was over for the day and the anglers started appearing, full of stories about how their day had gone.
Unfortunately during the day one of the Jersey team members had slipped on the bank and twisted their back. As such they were a controller down for the next day and I volunteered to stand in, well I think I volunteered, it was that point in the evening when things were starting to get a little hazy! As such, the next morning (not too early) I found myself controlling for some very experienced competition fly-fishers who were in second place (out of 39) after day one.
I was very impressed with how they fished throughout the session. I’m not sure I could muster the stamina to concentrate for three and a half hours straight – I tend to lose focus towards the end of a 4 minute casting comp. The fishing was tough for most of the day but the pair persevered, picking up the odd fish here and there, mostly fishing from the bank or within a couple of metres of it due to the still high water. Then there was a golden hour when the fish came on to feed and the pair capitalised to return a respectable catch (although I could sense some disappointment from them). What was interesting is that the fish had been covered many, many times prior to this hour, with the same flies but then suddenly decided they’d take them. I’ve experienced patchy sport like this myself on the Dee and put it down to finding a shoal of fish (obviously I’m not constrained to a short beat when fishing, so tend to keep on the move).
Anyway it was a fun weekend, great to catch up with some friends and see how some top anglers tackle the river. I also learnt that I need some squirmy worms in my fly box.