England International John Horsey makes the case for competition fly-fishing
IN my 24 years as a fishing guide, I’ve fished with hundreds of anglers and many have gone on to regularly fish in competitions, with plenty representing their country. It’s fishing for England that drives me and I encourage others to follow this lead. Competitions are an amazing way to improve. Fishing with experienced anglers and noting their methods is the perfect way to learn new techniques and catch more f ish. All modern methods we use today have been weaned and developed by match anglers. I f irst learnt about modern dr y f ly f ishing from Bob Worts of ‘Bob’s Bits’ fame while fishing a Benson & Hedges Final at Loch Leven. Bob was happy to share his methods and ideas with a fellow competitor – and I was happy to share the ‘Bristol long line’ techniques, which had made our team the most successful match outf it of the time. Without Gareth Jones developing the A irf lo range of sinking lines, where would we all be today? Gareth is still a mustard-keen competition angler and uses his experience and knowledge to develop so many lines for different depths of water, speed of drifts and keeping the f ly in the right feeding zone for longer. The Bewl competition anglers started the ‘washing-line’ style of holding nymphs above weedbeds using one or two Boobies with nymphs sandwiched between them. This was further developed and is now a standard ‘go to’ method on stillwaters. The Blob was devised by match fishers and now features in almost ever yone’s f ly box. Blobs evolved into Mini Blobs and FA Bs, while Fritz became Jelly Fritz. I always f ish a sinking line with a Blob or a FAB and the grown-on trout love them just as much as stockies! Even the humble drogue was developed to slow a boat down during competitions to stay in the best areas for longer. Together with Dennis Moss and Bruce Vaughan of Wychwood more than 20 years ago, we changed the design of a standard square drogue with a hole in the middle and four cords into the oblong, paradrogue design almost universally used today. But competition f ly-f ishing is also great fun. It gives people the chance to share a boat with a stranger, then f inish the day having made a friend. In the 1990s I started the Trout Fisherman European Open, which went on to be sponsored by Lexus for 14 years and is now the Anglers World Fly fishing Championships. It was my aim to make it a friendly event, but to provide the competitors with the best prizes ever offered at a f ly-f ishing competition, any where in the world. There’s plenty of competitions worth entering now and I encourage anyone who loves stillwater f ly-f ishing for trout to give one, or all of these events, a go next season. And most important of all, have fun!
2018 Anglers World Final
The hottest summer since records began made many of the 14 heats for the Anglers World Fly fishing Championships tricky. Water temperatures topping 75 degrees is never conducive to good trout fishing and many lakes either turned off completely or the f ish went deep, especially if there were aerators in that area. This was true of Chew Valley and even though the water temperatures had dropped radically prior to the f inal, the best area of the lake was the Dam; particularly Whalley Bank. This was also one of the only parts of the lake that held a lot of daphnia – probably the main reason so many fish were holding there. Leading up to the f inal, trout were stocked all around the lake, never at the Dam. But most seemed to make their way back to the deeper water within days. I don’t know why trout seem to have this homing instinct, but at Rutland a few years ago, they constantly stocked thousands of fish near the Transformer at the top of the North Arm to tr y to get that area of the lake f ishing. Sometimes these stock f ish were caught later in the day – over a mile away in the main basin! So during off icial practice, plent y of boats headed for all four corners of Chew to search out productive areas other than the deep water near the Dam. The only lady angler f ishing the f inal was Joan Russell and she found fish in Herons Green Bay. However, these were some of
Chew’s bigger, resident fish which were feeding irregularly on small buzzers and corixa. This bit of knowledge would ser ve her well. The intense weedbeds off Stratford and Moreton meant that these areas were not holding fish, but there were some to be found in Villice Bay and off the reedbeds at Wick Green. However, come match day, most boats headed off to the Dam area and as the aerators had been switched off, the entire basin was f ishable.
The 85 f inalists were f ishing to a three f ish kill then unlimited catch-and-release using barbless or debarbed hooks. A ll released f ish would count as 2lb. This year there was not one, but three f ishing holiday prizes up for grabs, courtesy of Anglers World Holidays. The 2018 Champion, the captor of the f inal’s biggest fish and the person who caught the most fish throughout the championships would all be going to the superb Mount Falcon Estate in Ireland and f ishing both loughs and lakes in Ireland next May. Jim ‘Digger’ Rigby was currently top of the leader board and his three f ish in the final amassed him an unbeatable 72 trout to take the f irst holiday prize. Joan Russell targeted the better f ish and her biggest at 3lb 15oz won her the second holiday prize. Geert Janssens had made the long journey from Belgium and had practised for several days – that practice, along with input from boat partner Dave Franklin, meant they managed a total of 26 fish to their boat. Quite an outstanding performance by both anglers. But it was Geert’s 16 f ish that pushed him into f irst place ahead of Cornwall’s Alex Johnstone who had 12 fish and local angler John Braithwaite with 11. Geert and Dave fished washing-line tactics for most of the day, alternating from f loating lines to 3ft and 7ft midgetips, changing f ly lines due to boat pressure and changes in weather conditions. They constantly tried to f ind open water and if they felt the f ish had dropped deeper, switched to fast glass intermediates to get the f lies down fur ther, while f ishing it faster. Their best f ly was a Red Holographic Diawl Bach, but they also caught on pulled Ginger Hoppers, Hare’s Ears and twotone yellow and pink Mini Blobs. Both used White Boobies or Woofta Boobies on the point.
“They constantly tried to find open water and if they felt the fish had dropped deeper, switched to fast glass intermediates to get the flies down...”
GeertJanssensreceivesthewinners'trophy from AWH'sMartinFounds(right)andJohn Horsey
Jim Rigby caught the most fish overall. JoanRussellreceivedthe biggestfishaward.