Iain Barr’s report on the Bob Church Classic
THIS year saw the 30th anniversary of the prestigious Sir Bob Church Classic, held at Rutland Water. Having won this Champion of Champions trophy for the last three years, I was aiming for a fourth victory in a row and my sixth win in total. I was very honoured to be handed the reigns of this event by Bob and Jeanette when the organising became too much for them, and this was my third year keeping this most important annual event going. There was a strong field, made up of 106 anglers with many international and world class anglers from the UK, Belgium and Norway. It was going to be extremely tough to make this an incredible four wins in a row. Practice went well as I netted more than 40 fish fishing the whole of the South Arm and every inch of the basin from East Creek to Whitwell Creek.
“Allan spoke of arm-wrenching takes on the Buzzers and the slow tightening as the fish picked up the Candy FAB.”
How the boats were split
I practised with nine other team mates so had the lake well covered and we pooled our information ahead of Sunday’s competition. Match morning saw the split as expected with boats heading up the South and North Arms as well as the basin. I tucked in to East Creek with the aim of heading to Old Hall Bay shortly afterwards. Two team mates headed for Hideaway Bay at the top of the South Arm with others heading for Normanton Shore and the North Arm. We had worked out that many fish were very close to the shore line and high in the water. I opted for a midgetip line, two FABs and two Crunchers with the aim of keeping the flies high. Many of us fished the same set-up and I supplied team mates with my flies. Saturday saw fish coming rapidly in many areas but Sunday it just didn’t happen. It soon became apparent that the pressure of Saturday had moved fish from the shoreline in many areas. I took two quickly in East Creek before taking one in Spud Bay then heading for the best spot which was Old Hall. On arrival boats were scattered and having spoken to several people there it was obvious that these fish were just not playing ball. The fish had moved from Old Hall and I did a quick search but couldn’t find them so headed back to East Creek to work this area where all boats had since left. While heading for this quiet water, Allan McLachlan – who fishes in Iain Barr Fly Fishing Team Costa – fished Hideaway Bay where he and Murray Hunter had caught a few the day before. They had struggled the day before with seven between them but after a debrief Saturday it became obvious they were going beneath the fish. I armed them with my original Candy FABs and a few of my special Buzzers with instructions to cast out and hang on. Meanwhile I started catching in the quiet water between East Creek and the Lodge, working close to the banks in the little bays. I still didn’t think it was enough based on the success of the Saturday. The Appleby’s appeared with just five each – my nine was looking good. The added boat pressure soon put the fish off again and my catch rate slowed down. As the water calmed in East Creek I took a late flurry of seven fish using an Iain Barr original Candy FAB and two of my favourite Cutthroat Crunchers fished absolutely motionless on a midge-tip. I finished with my 16 fish at 17:12 – just 18 minutes to spare! Allan had continued to catch steadily as swifts worked the water and the fish reacted to the hatch that was happening in this isolated area. He said he saw the swifts so moved across to this area, knowing the fish would be beneath and they were. He spoke of arm-wrenching takes on the Buzzers and the slow tightening as the fish picked up the Candy FAB. Allan and Murray both used Snowbee tip lines to anchor the Buzzers at depths with the FAB sitting just a few feet down. Allan finished at 14:55 but felt he should have been done at 12noon. Murray and his partner Ron Howard (fishing his first boat competition) weighed in 12 and 10 respectively. A great performance on what was a tough day.
Allan McLachlan wins
I assisted John Mees at the scales and it was soon apparent that there wouldn’t be the 12 to 20 limits of 16 fish that I had predicted. Many spoke of areas around the whole lake that were ‘dead’ despite being full of fish the day before. My 16 was looking like enough to win it for a fourth time on the spin until a grinning Allan passed his card with 16 by 14:55. A very impressive performance indeed showing his grit after a tough day on the Saturday. We set off for the traditional banquet meal where Sir Bob was in attendance for this special 30th year. Dave Shipman, a legend in his own right, and the angler I used to aspire to be when coming through the youth ranks, took to the stage as the guest of honour. He reminisced of his lifetime on Rutland where he caught the first ever limit from the reservoir in its birth year. With the results in hand I was delighted to announce fellow team mate Allan McLachlan as the new Bob Church Champion of Champions 2017. He had pipped me into second, with just the two of us catching the allotted 16 fish. Laurie Taylor who caught 15 was third. What was apparent was the number of Scottish anglers who finished in the top 10 – five in total. Belgium’s Christian Bazan took top overseas rod finishing seventh, with Peter Eggleton of Norway right behind in eighth. But the day belonged to Allan who fished superbly to take the fastest 16 fish limit of the day and a deserved victory. As a team mate, I had to tell him the trophy was just on loan for a year and to polish it well!