Tracy&James | Thursday, 3 November 2016
Last weekend I entered a fly fishing competition on a lake near my home. I’m not an ardent competition angler, this being only the second ‘proper’ match I’ve competed in. [I’m not including the various competitions I have with Tracy e.g. first fish of the year, first fish on a dry of the year, first bonefish* of the year, first brown trout etc. These are highly competitive and sometimes controversial – see below]. Entering, however, ensured I was committed to going out fishing, something that I’ve not been doing a lot of in the last couple of weeks.
The format of the competition was that each angler was drawn a starting ‘peg’ from which they’d fish for one hour then, on the sound of a car horn, everyone would move clockwise by 4 places and fish for another hour. Thus at the end of the match every angler had fished 5 different positions around the lake. Without much recent experience in fishing the lake in question I tackled up with two outfits; my HT#5 and floating MED line in order to fish nymphs etc. and a TCR#5 with an intermediate line to strip lures. I did notice that the majority of the other competitors were tackled up with #7s or #8s and the default fly seemed to be an orange blob.
At my first spot there was nothing obvious happening near the surface in terms of fish movement or fly-life so I elected to start with the intermediate outfit. After 20 minutes of fan casting, waiting for different sink times and varying the retrieve I’d had one half-hearted pluck. A flattening of the surface ripple by a fish then persuaded me to go for the nymph outfit. I quickly caught a rainbow on a hare’s ear, immediately followed by a second, then nothing. Moving to the next spot I was informed that the person occupying it before me had been getting take after take but not landing much. I was therefore pretty optimistic when, first cast, I caught another on the hare’s ear. At this point I was up in the lead group of a few anglers who had three fish and was starting to get thoughts that I could be in with a chance. These thoughts crumbled to dust over the next 3 hours and 50 minutes as I failed to entice even a single take. Most of the others struggled too and I ended up in 6th place overall.
I suspect if I was pleasure fishing I’d of walked straight past at least two of my fishing spots at which I’d blanked (I know a very good angler had blanked in these immediately before me). I also wouldn’t have fished anywhere near as intently over those long, lean hours as I did. In hindsight I should also have taken a shooting head line – in many areas the backcast was hampered by trees thus limiting distance. I have a #5 shooting head that is cut from a MED that would have been perfect once the fish pushed out of ‘normal’ range. I should say that the eventual winner caught double the number of fish as the second place angler – I guess that’s where the skill of a really good match angler comes in to play, continuing to catch fish when things have turned really tough. I don’t think I’m going to become a serious competition angler anytime soon, however I won’t rule out entering another fun event in the future (I think there’s another in December at the same lake – this time I’ll be prepared).
* This used to be the first saltwater fish of the year, however running out and catching a small yellow snapper from a huge shoal whilst the other person was still unpacking was deemed unsporting behaviour and not worthy of the prize curry. Despite a long and drawn out appeals process the decision to disallow this fine fish was upheld and the rules were ‘clarified’ to specify the first bonefish. Tracy has won this prize every year since snappergate.
All the best, James