Firstly I must apologies for the lack of posts on here recently, it’s been due to a mixture of different competitions all seeming to creep up in one hit – with time spent behind the computer, other than for work purposes is usually replaced with the fly tying vice to stock up on the latest and most effective patterns.
A lot of my free fishing time has been spent on the river as well as the vice, sharpening up on almost every aspect of fly fishing you can think of from spotting fish right through to speedily tying knots. Im one for making sure every little thing is right before starting a competition, especially a team comp where your performance can hinder the rest of the results.
As the 2013 Rivers International grew closer I practically lived at the top section of the Taff on the Merthyr Tydfill Angling Association waters, spending a lot of time walking the competition water to spot rising fish, trying the unusual methods you wouldn’t normally fish as well as those areas which don’t seem to hold anything. Spending time on the water even without a fishing rod can put you in the right mind frame and get you thinking ‘fishing’.
The river over the past few months hasn’t been easy to crack, we found that if we caught just a few fish between the team we would be doing well. There were many days where a lot of us would report back at HQ with a blank, not really what you want when you’re practicing for the biggest competition of the year!
MTAA stocked the river a few times throughout the early part of the year with plenty of fish ranging between 8-15 inches. These seemed to have been dropped in at exactly the right time, just as the Brook Dunns and March Browns were starting to hatch, with explosive fishing to be had on dry flies and large nymphs in all types of water.
Sion Lewis managed to net this beauty on one of our practice days:
However, this explosive fishing didn’t last long, just a couple of weeks infact, until the stocked fish started to thin out, either being caught or making their way down the river. Unfortunately this type of fishing kept putting us into a false mindset that the fishing is getting better and the wild fish were turning up, being so early in the season it seemed the native fish were still high up the river after spawning, we think due to the climate over the early part of the season.
As the weeks went on I fished each section of the competition water as many times as I could to hopefully keep my hand in to what’s happening throughout the river. What was surprising is that over the few months we practiced, the usual hard section at the bottom end of the beat was turning out to be the most prolific!
One of the things I wanted to brush up on was the competition system of netting and measuring a fish. The weekend before the international week I employed one of the beat controllers for the international day to ‘control’ for me as I fished a section of river. I like to do this every now and again to get used to the competition system of actually netting a fish and getting it measured. I always find it tough netting every fish and spending the time measuring a fish just once or twice a year, it must be twice as hard for a controller who hasn’t done it before. But, Julian done a great job of handling, measuring and recording each fish caught, and also chuckled when I broke my beloved Vision Cult the Sunday before the competition! Fortunately for me, Paul from Vision returns sorted a tip section out for me and it arrived the Tuesday after.
As we moved into the team hotel you could feel the air getting tense, with anglers pondering over the river and wondering what the next few days had in store for us. The first night at the hotel we were drawn our beats, giving us our sections of river for international day. Unfortunately for me, I was following the soon to be, Best angler in Britain, Terry Bromwell. We both drew section B1, Terry in the morning session and I the afternoon. In the morning I drew the same section of water where Julian controlled for me, so had a decent idea of what amounts of fish needed to be caught for a decent score.
Thursday consisted of team photographs and walking the beats, It was also Seans birthday so we did have a few celebratory drinks the night before, as one does. Our team was a great selection of anglers who fish the Taff regularly, the perfect team for a home international, Allen Hughes, Terry Bromwell, Sean Jones, Sion Lewis, Myself, Neil Ashman and Manager Paul Jenkins.
Competition morning was soon upon us, most teams feeling the nerves a little, especially the new caps who have not experienced the competition before. After breakfast we all met outside ready to leave for our beats with our designated controllers. I was lucky enough to be drawn with Dean Kibble, another great river angler who should have been in the team!
We arrived at the water with over an hour of time to spare, giving me plenty of time to set up my leaders, choose the right fly and search for any actively feeding fish. Where I was the peg was positioned at the bottom of the beat, the very bottom of the competition water. Before wading across the river I decided to spend my last 10 minutes before the competition starts searching for any activity. As I sat near the bank a fish rose just in front, only 4/5 yards into the pool. Upon closer inspection the fish was visible next to a large boulder. My initial setup was a dry fly and french leader setup, but after seeing this fish laying just two feet under the surface I added a length of leader to a dropper and attached a small 2mm hares ear nymph.
As I tied the fly to the leader, Dean mentioned there was just a minute to go before the start. I got into position and waited for the start, Dean called time and I literally dropped the fly on the surface under the rod tip. As the nymph dropped to the fishes level it darted out and engulfed the nymph, as I struck I could the fish swimming off upstream, spooked! Not a great start but there was plenty of time left to get another.
Taking the nymph from the setup I continued to step into the water and wade across the river. Reaching the other side I stepped onto the shingle bank and let the water settle, searching for any rising fish upstream. As I glimpsed across the river I saw a fish touch the surface. I mudded the leader and threw a Baby Sun Fly just above the fish in shallow water. Two or three more casts over and nothing, so a quick fly change to a Marc Petitjean spinner proved fatal for the fish and after one cast my first fish of the competition was safely netted, measuring just over the magical 20cm mark. As Dean put the fish back he noticed another rise just in the middle of the run, ‘A Sitter’ he said. I dried the fly and presented it just above his rough guide, again, first cast with the spinner the fish fell foul and measured a respectable mid 20.
Throughout the rest of the session I managed to take another three fish, giving me a total of five for the first hour and a half, one measuring 37.5cm, a decent wild fish which we spotted from the bridge earlier in the morning!
As the second session was about to commence, I’d only fished the one pool at the bottom, and with plenty of water available above the bridge I was full of confidence to take another fish in the second session to avoid the blank. I made my way to the back end of the pool as we moved into the second session, a likely looking spot which I thought had to hold a fish. I swapped from the Dry to the French Leader and again, first cast the indicator shot forward and I hooked a lively trout which looked to be there or there about, as we measured it dean called 20.2cm! Great, that’s saved the blank and settled the nerves. I made my way through a few likely looking runs without any success. Things had gotten tough all of a sudden, with plenty of water to fish. I entered a run and immediately snapped in what looked like a take, so restrung the leader and made my way upstream into a small eddy. I managed to take another measurable trout from the back eddy and thought it was time to head back down to the first pool I started in, not before another cast over where I broke off though! As I let the flies swing around I felt a tug on the leader and struck. The fish was on, and looked to be a good fish around the 2lb mark, I put as much pressure as I could on the fish but it still managed to take me into a tree and snap the leader! That’s two snapped fish and one in the net, not bad with 20 minutes left.
I wandered back down to the bottom of the beat and spotted two fish rising from a distance. I took the dry fly rod back from Dean and got into position waiting for them to rise again. Within a minute they both rose so give me a rough idea where they were. First cast over each fish with that Marc Petitjean spinner added another two fish to my score card with just minutes to go. There was a run right under the bridge which looked ideal for the nymphs, I managed two fish from there in the first session so thought it was worth another quick shot so ran into position.
I tied on a heavy, 4mm beaded jig to the french leader to get down quickly at the head of the run. As the fly hit the water the indicator stopped and I struck into a good fish with just one minute to go, a short scrap and the fish was in the net and measure 38cm. A perfect end to the morning session!
As I arrived back at the car ‘JT’ – John Tyzack pulled up along side and mentioned he and Jake from Scotland both had one and two in each session. More good news, it was looking like two first sessions for me.
The afternoon session was on the water after Terry, a decent stretch of river which we’d worked out fairly well throughout practice. After arriving at the river and scouting my sections, at the whistle I made my way downstream into a corner pool they call the ‘sewage’ pool, a flat, deep glide – perfect for the stimmy and nymph method. I made my way through the pool, spending around 45 minutes fishing every fishable piece of water, unfortunately without a visible take! Without wasting any more time I made my way through the fast water towards the next pool, spotting a rising fish about half way along the pool. Wanting to take my chance I re-set my leader, cutting off the tippet and retying a new section in, mudding the cast as I made my way gingerly towards the fish trying not to spook it.
I dropped to my knees and knelt in the water waiting for it to rise again. The thing with the last few sessions is that just one fish will make a difference. I’d spend all session on one fish if I had to. But the fish rose again within a couple of minutes and I threw the spinner over only to miss it as the fish came crashing out of the water. I may have sworn as I felt no resistance, but regained my posture and waited again for it to come back, after not feeling the fish at all there’s usually a chance. After a few minutes nothing happened, but I was adamant that the fish was still there. I decided to swap flies to the baby Sun Fly, even though there wasn’t any around this sedge pattern had done well for me under the trees. I landed the cast perfectly in the crease and the fish moved off it’s lie and gently took the fly from the surface. As i was about the net the fish, another rose above, so i marked it and kept it in mind.
After releasing that fish I started to relax and made my way to the top of the pool where the other rose. First cast and I’d hooked another, the second of the session. After marking that down on the card I asked the time, Paul Sharman, my controller said I’d got 5 minutes to go, so I left the pool above for the last session as it looked fairly fishy.
The 5 minutes went by and I made my way into the next run, fishing the back end with both dries and nymphs, unfortunately not getting a take. I made my way up the pool into the head, a small eddy only inches deep lay under a bush, I dropped my single nymph on a french leader in through the hole and I saw a splash, I lifted and pulled a fish from the small eddy, the first fish I’d caught from that hole all season and what a time for it to come!
After measuring that fish I made my way towards a known hole looking for my second of the session. Between where I and that hole was is a piece of water we deemed ‘dead’ as none of us had caught fish there over practice, but after the last fish it was worth a shot anyway. As I turned around and walked to the next little hole I dropped the fly in and the indicator shot again, this time another wild fish over 35cm!
The two last sessions of the day I managed a respectable two fish in each, bringing my total fish numbers to 14 int he competition, four more than the next person, Terry who had 10. As the results came in I noticed I’d gained a third and first position in the afternoon. Perfect!
It was a tense wait for the other boys to come back to the hotel, but as each came in with a smile on their faces it become increasingly obvious that the Welsh have more or less run away with it, a very respectable 19 points ahead of second place, England!
1. Wales 43 fish 2010 points 36 placings
2. England 25 fish 1249 points 55 placings
3. Ireland 20 fish 1031 points 60 placings
4. Scotland 19 fish 907 points 61 placings
As most people know by now, It’s increasingly obvious that Terry and I spend way too much time together, and im starting to think so myself now as he’s taken all we’ve show him on board and managed to win Top Rod with a respectable 5 place points (1st,1st,2nd,1st) and took biggest fish at 63.4cm in length!
Congratulations Terry, Good Angling
Top Individual: Terry Bromwell (Wales) 5 placings
Largest Fish: Terry Bromwell (Wales) 63.4cms