Iain Barr’s report from the Autumn Menteith international
THE four home nations descended on the Lake of Menteith in mid-September for the Autumn international. Scotland had a very strong team as well as local knowledge. But, as England captain, I had confidence in my squad and with good practice, backed by a solid strategic game plan, we could win. I set different boats with different methods, often putting anglers out of their comfort zone to prevent complacency. I assessed the two previous days’ practice with vice-captain Ed Foster. It was as I expected, dries and an assortment of washing-line techniques and flies. Wednesday was the perfect dry fly day and the fish responded well. Some anglers caught on a size 10 Midas while others caught residents on the subtle size 14 Shuttlecock Owls. The fish were very high. I started with the washing-line using two FABs and two nymphs but I had to Gink the FABs to keep them in the film. The fish often swirled at them and – whereas on Rutland and Grafham if you then pulled the flies they’d chase and engulf them – it was the opposite at Menteith. If a fish swirled at the flies or just plucked them without locking up, avoid striking or pulling the flies away.
You must try all areas and techniques. I put myself as a roaming boat with others in set areas and methods to try. I’d done enough top-of-the-water. I tried an Airflo fast clear intermediate with the two FABs and nymphs. I wanted to drop through the layers slowly and fish all depths. After a few casts, everything tightened about 30 seconds down near the cages. A few casts later, same result. So, I switched to a Di-5 to get depth quicker and took three in three casts on just two Boobies. We headed in before attracting attention. On Thursday, I tried the same area but left the flies anchored deeper for longer. So, using a new FAB – tied with FNF Jelly Fritz – a couple of nymphs in the middle and a Blob, I dropped through the layers and fished deep with Airflo 3ft and 6ft tips. The tip line gave the perfect angle of lift and hold and a more subtle approach in calm water. With two layers of fish near the surface and towards the bottom, this gave me a good shot at both of them. I picked off a couple of fish high up, but the majority were deep.
Tackle and method
I used Airflo G5 fluorocarbon in 11.2lb – very thin for its strength, which is needed on Menteith. The lake had a tinge of green so I fished as heavy as I could. The fluorocarbon also has stretch, which absorbs aggressive takes. Several times the line shot away on the drop, which I guessed to be four to six feet down but most came vertical on the hang. Many tapped the flies, a sign of spooky fish. If I knew a fish was there, I left the flies still, for up to 30 seconds and the rod buckled over. I used Airflo Airlite V2 rods, which bent perfectly into fish. A rod too soft wouldn’t set the hook on some aggressive takes we were getting! After a rapid seven fish, I switched to a Di-5 with two Boobies to get down faster and speed up catch rate. A quick hat-trick and I got out of there. I’d confirmed there was a big head of fish lying deep, which I felt were undiscovered. I’d worked Gateside Bay to find the lies of the fish and they definitely followed a line. It’s a big bay and some areas were very quiet but certain drifts and drop-offs held fish. I brought the flies, leader set-up and exact map markings to the meeting and set the plan out to win gold.
Eight of our team had boat control so I sent our two best dry fly boys to Otter Bay and six to follow me to Cages. Di-lines were banned from the car park to avoid showing our intent to fish deep. The preferred tip lines were set up ready to go. I drew a Scotsman and headed to Gateside (Cages Bay). He hooked into a fish immediately and I was into my first after three casts, taking the Red Nemo almost fished vertical on the hang. Another fish followed and it became congested and I wanted to go deep quicker due to boat pressure. I switched to the Di-5 and two Boobies. First cast the rod bent and a stunning 8lb rainbow took the Sparkler Booby, again vertical. Sport was slower! A short move to Stable Point saw two more quick fish, both to the 3ft-tip and new FAB. My partner moved behind Dog Island. He was soon into his third fish as my line tightened into my sixth, again on the 3ft-tip line and FAB but higher. I stuck with my method and my tally steadily climbed as fish came deep, almost all static on the hang. Some hit the fly several times and it was crucial not to strike but wait for the rod to bend over! As wind increased, tip line control was lost so I switched to the Di-lines taking one on the Di-5 and four on Di-3 fishing two Boobies. I cast out and let them drop through the layers. It was in Cages Bay that all went tight after about 10 seconds and a double was caught and released. That was 15. Two more quickly followed and I headed in with 17. England’s Martin Burgess matched me and Tony Fox came in with 10.
Victory at last!
England’s wait for victory on Menteith was over with a 36-fish margin over second placed Wales, 37 ahead of Ireland and 38 ahead of fourth-placed Scotland. It was possibly the biggest winning margin in the history of the event. Regarding the top individual, having taken my first three fish deep, they were bigger than Martin Burgess’ three. So my second Brown Bowl in Scotland was secured having won it on Loch Leven. My 64cm rainbow took the best fish award. I took captain gold, top England rod, top individual and best fish. I'm very proud of the team performance by a great bunch of lads.