Troutmasters was such a great day out
I'VE just competed in the 39th Troutmasters Final on Draycote Water and what a pleasure it was. I’d spent two practice days afloat and had amazing sport. On the Saturday I’d experienced something I’d never seen in 40 years: a feeding frenzy on bloodworm that matted the surface in the shallows of Toft. The fish were freely scooping up this meal, as were the ducks. I was told the bloodworms were potentially migrating, causing this very rare phenomenon. The shallows of Toft boiled with fish – easy targets as myself and Elinor’s Ed Foster took some quality fish on red dries and a mix of Boobies pulled across the surface. It didn’t last too long as the fish were dispersed by boats coming straight through the drift. We took a slow, wide arc when heading back up the drift only to be beaten by boats racing us through the middle of the fish. Then they would turn the boat and start fishing where they’d just motored. When you find feeding fish, especially those feeding on the surface, it’s better to lose a minute’s fishing time by taking a wide berth around the fish. Avoid going full throttle because the noise and the waves caused by the boat will push the fish down. We did two laps of the lake and caught fish all round on various methods and flies, such as Snakes and dries. Many anglers were fishing Snakes at fast speeds, often with a roly-poly retrieve. This is where you place the rod under your arm pit and pull the line with both hands, often as quick as you can. My experience when fishing large Snakes using this retrieve is that I hook less than 50 percent of the takes. I’ve experimented with this and for me, a steady figure-of-eight results in more than an 80 percent hook-up ratio. When ripping lures fast, the trout has to make a split-second decision, often snatching at it. With a steady retrieve, I believe the fish has made a thoughtful decision to take the fly. It’s slow enough to follow and study it before making a conscious decision to eat it, resulting in a confident take and better hook -up.
When fishing dries
On my second day’s practice I fished with fellow Airflo Costa team mate Andy Axon. He’s relatively new to the competition scene but is keen to learn. He questions everything he does and watches closely what I’m doing. We had an awesome day and caught some of Draycote’s infamous silver rainbows through the open water. Red dries were the pick of the day as we put more than 40 fish in the boat. When fishing dries you don’t have to fish a long line. You’re fishing dries because the fish are high in the water and, by casting a long line, you are, in effect ,‘lining’ fish. This means your line is landing on more fish than you’re probably aware of, and spooking them. The most effective way to fish dries is just six or seven yards in front of the boat. This gives distinct advantages. Firstly, you’re not lining any fish and they come closer to the boat. Secondly, you can watch the fish take the fly and strike at the right time. At distance, it’s not always clear whether the fish has taken the fly and this can result in striking too late or, more often, too early. There is a third advantage, the fish is closer to the boat and therefore quicker to get in to the net!
Match day dawned and I drew the bank session first and fished the shallow Biggin Bay where fish were feeding well in just a few feet of water. I took four on Bloodworms and Red Holo Diawl Bachs but was missing too many with short, tentative takes. A change to three red dries including a Shipman’s Buzzer, Big Red and Midas saw me take seven more fish and win the session. In the afternoon I decided to search for quiet water away from the fleet of boats and headed for the Sailing Club shallows. It was soon apparent that I had company as a boat followed me, despite a few dummy runs – all part of the game when fishing the Troutmasters Final. I headed to the corner of the Sailing Club with the adjacent boat in tow. My friendly Scottish boat partner was somewhat amused by our new friends shadowing us. We stopped and sure enough, they stopped too. We stopped in open water so as not to spook the fish in the shallows. As the horn sounded we took a stealthy approach to the shoreline only for our new friends to storm to the shore! We were in front and I soon put two fish in the boat with a couple missed and several follows. Setting up for a second drift we couldn’t get into the spot as our friends were still going through with the drogue out. It's vital not to use a drogue in shallow water as it drags the bottom, disturbing it and often colours it up too. I believe the large dark parachute-like bag also spooks the fish somewhat! A second quick drift saw no more offers, and a handful of missed fish over the Linford Shoals had me scratching my head as we headed to the Toft shallows. I put five quick fish in the boat to be left with seven in the session. I fished a fast glass and two Blobs as it was evident some stocked fish had appeared. My friendly giant of a boat partner caught one too and was made up having caught from the bank as well. This competition is great. You’re in the boat with a complete stranger and throughout our three-hour boat session we shared life's experiences and I listened to his stories about the infamous Loch Leven, a place I just love. My seven fish placed me second in the boat session because Cornwall’s Dave Johns managed an impressive 10. With my first place in the morning and second in the afternoon only two firsts could beat it and that’s exactly what Anthony Meadows did with awesome angling to win both his boat and bank session! Congratulations to the new 2018 Troutmasters Champion.
Have a go yourself
Many of our fisheries are Troutmasters Waters. If you catch a big fish, fill out the form at the fishery. At the end of the year all the qualifiers are invited to compete in a ‘fish-off’ at that venue and the winner gets to fish the great fun final! Next year is the 40th anniversary and this will be a special occasion with great fishing again on Draycote. Give it a go.
“You’re in the boat with a complete stranger and throughout our three-hour boat session we shared life’s experiences...”