Iain Barr’s monthly match column
Former world champion Iain Barr discusses the late-season match fifinals and some of the rules in need of review to keep competitions fair
SEPTEMBER and October are the busiest two months of the competition calendar. National Qualifiers are held across the home nations where the top few anglers, usually 20-28, make the grade for next year’s Home International teams who compete in the spring and autumn. Then there’s the Autumn International where all of last year’s qualifiers selected for the autumn team meet to fight it out for the bragging rights of UK glory. Rutland hosted this year’s English National final where 120 anglers fished for the top 28 places, making the two teams of 14 for next spring and autumn. Going into October there is the infamous Airflo Anglian Water International where teams of six anglers compete for the team ‘FA Cup’ of flyfishing by competing over two days at Rutland Water. Combined weights over two days will determine the champions of 2017.
“This year also sees Draycote host the Troutmasters Final, Trout Fisherman magazine's very own competition.”
This year also sees Draycote Water host the Troutmasters Final, Trout Fisherman magazine’s very own competition, where anglers fish boat and bank sessions and finishing positions are combined to determine the winner. Although many of these are individual events you find that friends and teams work as a unit to help all to qualify or win the event. My team are no exception to this as we pool information for the English National Final despite in being a solely individual competition to gain an England cap. We work hard as a unit and prepare for weeks – this year is no exception. I find it amusing at the sudden friendships that appear and the number of phone calls my team mates receive requesting information having seen us fish well in practice. I am the very first to help any angler out there but where we spend a lot of money and time to get to the pinnacle of an England cap my lips remain sealed.
The whole debate of time bonus and the allotted 1lb an hour rises again. Most competitions were giving 2lb an hour to the angler who caught his limit early to award his skills. This was dropped to 1lb an hour and has caused grumbles. It was to encourage anglers to target better fish but they are not there to target in numbers. Recent and fresh stocked fish become very tricky after anglers – for some unknown reason – insist on hammering them through practice and brag of great scores in the car parks. Stocked fish vary in size with some as small as 1lb 4oz and some as big as 4lb-plus. This means an angler who catches eight for 13lb by 1pm would weigh 18lb with his 1lb an hour time bonus, assuming the competition finishes at 6pm. A fellow angler who catches eight by 4pm with a couple of bigger stocked fish and weighs 17lb some three-hours later, would beat you by 1lb. It’s great for this angler but the unlucky angler who skilfully caught his limit some three-hours earlier often goes home disgruntled. A great way forward would be for the time bonus to be the average weight of fish caught in weeks leading to the competition and I know this has been done before and you can’t get any fairer than that. If someone targets bigger fish at this time of year to get their England place, brown trout often figure in their bags of fish as browns start chasing fry. Rules state just one brown trout per bag, which I know meant a good friend missed out on a cap last time it was held at Rutland as he had seven fish but returned an additional good brown trout. Had that been a rainbow he’d have been in the England team. By allowing one brown trout per man, technically, they’re allowing 120 browns to be killed. On an impressive day at this time of year, 120 anglers may weigh in only 10-12 browns so – at this grand stage – to miss out on a cap as you were targeting better fish and happen to catch two browns doesn’t sit right with me and many others.
The de-barbed debate
The Autumn International on the Lake of Menteith has it right. Despatch the first three and you’re awarded 2lb for each fish returned on barbed hooks. This allows the angler to fish the full allotted time to show their skill by catching fish. I fish my 13th Home International this year and my first on the stunning Lake of Menteith. It promises to be a cracker! Many competitions go barbless after your limit has been reached and this is great if everyone abides by the rules. I have fished with anglers who simply refuse to do it. I’ve had anglers checked and are told to squash it down a little more. One angler was fishing a double hook and refused to take it off. I just smiled as he wasn’t in the frame, but it bewilders me. How can you define a properly-debarbed hook if no one is checking. Enforcing manufactured barbless hooks in my opinion would be wrong so should it be barbed all the way? That debate could rumble for years. In next month’s issue, see who will be crowned National Champion in their respective country and which country lifts the bragging rights of the top UK Fly Fishing Team. Full reports from the English National Final and Autumn Home International on Lake of Menteith.