I believe in the early days of the BFCC there were a number of events that consisted of 'three men and a dog' (the dog, I believe was great at accuracy), but things grew and when Tracy and I first got involved there were a number of regular casters, any one of which could win on the day. I guess in my time interest peaked around the time of the UK hosted world championships in Cumbria with the associated qualification and UK championship rounds. However, that interest seems to be evaporating of late, so much so that Lee has decided to make the UK championship every two years from now on. It takes a lot of effort to put on any casting event and to then have it poorly attended is a real disappointment.
Unfortunately I don't have any answers as to how to get people competing again. It's not as if the BFCC days aren't successful in other ways – there are always people interested in attending for tuition. The feedback we receive from these is always really positive, reflecting the professionalism of the great instructors that are on hand all day. However, very few make the jump from tuition to competition. In fact some time back the BFCC introduced the B100 category so that people who weren't chucking a #5 or a #7 over 100ft routinely could have their own 'competition within a competition'. Initially this was very popular, but now it is rarely run due to lack of entrants and the last time it was awarded was over a year ago.
I guess walking up to the casting court can seem daunting for some, certainly if they've just seen someone casting a seemingly unfeasible distance beforehand. However, it's ultimately a competition with the caster's own expectations of what they can do in the conditions on the day, what everyone else does is largely irrelevant, unless of course they're looking for an outright win. As such, it really isn't as intimidating at it appears.
One glimmer of hope this year has been the Game Fair competitions that the BFCC have been running. I don't know if inhibitions disappear at country fairs (there are plenty of outlets for drinking) but there's been a reasonable amount of fly fishers wanting to give it a go. Perhaps I could be cynical and suggest that this is down to there being prizes on offer, whereas at the BFCC the overall champion for the year doesn't even get a real trophy (that's been on the list of 'things to do' for a long time now). It's also the case that these casters often express an interestin the sport, but whether this lasts past leaving the fair, I don't know. What I do know is that we have finalists, both male and juniors, willing to travel to the final in Wales in September. Along with qualifying spaces available on the same weekend (two each for the men, women and junior classes), this has the potential to be a great competition to determine the overall Game Fair champion for the year (this competition is a combined accuracy, #5 trout distance and salmon overhead (S55) event).
What hasn't been so successful is attracting entries from women. At the moment Tracy is the only qualifier who will be at the final. As such, she is seriously considering trying to win one of the qualifications into the male event (obviously we will change it to the 'open' event if she does – actually we should probably call it that anyway). This is not a new thing for Tracy as she hasn't had any female competition at the BFCC for a few years. She now has to contend with trying to beat her own records (although there is one, the T38, that has been held by Lisa for well over a decade) and seeing how many of the men she can beat. Unfortunately I don't see this situation changing anytime soon for her.
Obviously this FP doesn't make particularly upbeat reading as far as fly casting sport in the UK goes. However, the last event of the BFCC calendar is almost always a highly competitive one. The BFCC championship will be decided and the winner will be told about the trophy we'd like to give them. They'll also receive the £5000 prize and the flats fishing trip to the Bahamas. Ok, that last bit is a lie, but if I have to start telling porkies to get people to turn up and compete, I will.
Have a great week, James.