For the first time ever in a single year, Hardy Greys Team England are not only World Champions, but have also recorded the highest ever Individual standings of Iain Barr as World Champion and John Horsey as European Silver Medal Winner. For the first time ever in a single year, Hardy Greys Team England are not only World Champions, but have also recorded the highest ever Individual standings of Iain Barr as World Champion and John Horsey as European Silver Medal Winner.
Fishing for England is my main motivation in fly fishing. In May I fished the Loch Style International on Chew Valley Lake and followed that up a month later with the World Championships in Scotland.
Having won that encounter and furnished the Nation with our first Gold Medal in 15 years, I now travelled out to Ireland to compete against 13 other Countries in the 15th FIPS Mouche European Championships.
The England Team consisted of Simon Robinson, John Tyzack, Mick Tinnion, Phil Dixon and myself, ably assisted by reserve Andrew Gooding and Team Manager Paul Page.
We were fishing 2 sessions on Lough Leane, 2 sessions on Lough Caragh and 1 session on the River Blackwater near Killarney in County Kerry.
The quarry were wild brown trout – and plenty of them! Both Simon Robinson and I had fished Lough Leane in the past, so we knew we should expect lots of lightening quick, small wild brownies. The Blackwater had been in flood for weeks, so we knew this would be challenging. Lough Caragh was also full of wild brownies, albeit slightly bigger average size than Leane, so we hoped we could get good results here.
We were allowed to practice on both Loughs, but only one tiny stretch of the River Blackwater. Practice for all competitions is absolutely essential – particularly on new venues. Our evenings were based on “Team De-Briefings” where all information gleaned from the day’s fishing is shared with team members. Sometimes these sessions were punctuated by the odd pint of Guinness – or two!
Both Loughs were fishing well during practice. The weather was unseasonably hot and dry for Ireland and we were catching lots of fish on small black flies such as Jungle Bunnies, Kate McClarens, Snatchers and Cormorants. During calm spells, we were even catching on nymphs such as Black Jungle Cock Daiwl Bachs.
We used all manner of fly lines, but opted finally for Slow Glass Intermediates, Cortland Blue Intermediates or DI3 Sinkers – depending on wind conditions. We found that floating lines produced more “bumps” than decent hook-ups.
We were also plagued by small fish. During the Championships, only fish in excess of 20cms would count and there were plenty of fish much smaller than this minimum size which appeared to be closer to the surface. All fish caught were to be released, with 500 points scored for a sizeable fish, plus 20 points for each cm over the minimum length.
On the River Blackwater, Mick Tinnion and I fished a small section in practice and found the trout to be pretty scarce. I managed 3 sizeable browns on Dry Fly, while Mick had another 3 on Wets and Spiders. We fished lots of cracking looking water, but only small sections seemed to contain fish. Would the competition water be more abundant? We did not have long to wait.
Our 5 days of practice simply flew by and following the Opening Ceremony where all teams paraded through the streets of Killarney, we were ready for our Official Practice Day and then the 3 days of Competition.
Match Day 1.
I was drawn to fish East Leane on the first morning, followed by West Leane in the afternoon. My Finnish boat partner Ville-Antti Jaakkola agreed to fish as a “team” on the day, so we shared vital bits of information. At times we sweltered in the sunshine, then at others we were near shivering with cold. I am sure that these changeable weather conditions affected the trout and catches were low during this session.
I managed 4 fish on dibbled wets during the 3 hours, while Ville-Antti had 2. Top rod in the session was 6 fish, while an Italian and I shared 4 fish each – as his fish were slightly larger than mine, I finished in 3rd place for the session – not a bad start.
For the afternoon session, I was drawn with Kate Royce of the England Ladies Team. We both wanted to fish at the top of the Lough near a monument known as the “Metal Man”. We knew there were loads of fish there as practice days here had been fantastic. The main problem was keeping them on the hook.
That afternoon session was amazing, with so many trout being hooked – most of them throwing the hook. I estimate that I contacted at least 50 trout – with “double-ups” on five separate occasions (all of which dropped off) – to measure just 5 trout. Frustrating but really exciting stuff. Once again, I had to settle for 3rd place, but all things considered; not a bad start.
The Team were just off medal positions in 5th spot, so it was all to play for on Day 2, where I had just the 1 session to fish.
Match Day 2.
Another morning up at 0530hrs and down for breakfast. Into the coaches by 0600 for the 1 hour drive to the River Blackwater. I had drawn a good peg, so was hoping the fish would not all have been caught or pricked.
Following a Spaniard and a Frenchman would not be easy, as they are magicians on the rivers. My controllers were full of confidence that the peg would produce lots of fish, although I was not so confident.
After 45 minutes, I took my first fish to the controller, only to be told it was half a cm too small! I was fishing Duo – a dry fly and nymph combo, but felt the runs were deeper than I had expected. I added another size 14 Copper Head Mary Nymph to my cast, which effectively increased my fishing depth by 1 metre. This had the desired effect and I soon started to catch.
I had 5 decent fish measured and I hoped this would give me a high placing. Judging by the previous 2 sessions, very few fish had been caught and 5 fish would have given me a top 3 place. However, as is fishing, upstream there had been a superb Olive hatch and competitors were catching lots of fish on dry fly. Pegs that were blank for the previous 2 sessions were now producing good numbers.
I had to settle for 5th place on the river and still rue the 2 fish that hit my dry fly and came unstuck in the final 15 minutes of my session!
This was my rest session – all competitors had such a session during the match. It gave me time to tie a few flies, speak to Paul Page our Manager and find out how the rest of the England Team had fared.
We were not doing as well as we had hoped on the Loughs – we needed some 1st, 2nd and 3rd placings to climb the leader board. However, Phil Dixon had a 2nd place, Simon Robinson a 3rd and Mick Tinnion a 5th during the 4th Sessions to keep us in 5th spot overall, just 13 points off Silver Medal position.
Match Day 3.
My final 2 Sessions were on Upper and Lower Caragh. I knew that I needed high placings in both Sessions to help the Team secure a Medal. My Boatman for the day was fantastic – he was keen for both of us to do well and worked like a Trojan all day.
We were greeted by flat calm in the morning – my favourite conditions back home, but not in Ireland. These Irish brownies love a nice ripple and it certainly makes them more aggressive. For the first time in the match, I opted for a mini Lure on the point, as I felt these Caragh trout might be feeding on fry.
The size 12 Mini Huie is Silver bodied, with a Silver Bead at the head, a palmered grizzle hackle completes the body and the tail is black marabou with an overlay of silver Flash FX. I have caught wild brownie all over the World using this pattern, so I had plenty of confidence in it’s effectiveness. Top dropper was a Green Butt Black Snatcher and in the middle a Jungle Bunny.
After 40 minutes, I had not seen a rod bend across the Lough – fish were rising every now and then, but we could not get near to them. We decided to fish in front a large outcrop of rocks – I remembered that some of the Team had done well here in practice.
To cut a long story short, we hit a small shoal. I just 10 minutes, I caught 5 measurers and lost 2 others. Then for the rest of the sessions, I had several other decent hits, but none of them stuck. My boat partner Bram Kwak from Holland hooked and lost his only fish of the session.
Then in the final minute, I landed my 6th fish which just hit the 20cm mark – what a relief! I caught 2 fish on each of my 3 flies, so gave a Mini Huie to Bram for the final session of the Championships. Once we all met for lunch, Ville-Antti from Finland had managed to pip me for top spot with 1 more fish – still, 2nd place was good and I hoped the rest of the team had also done well.
I was drawn to fish with top French angler Christophe Idre, who was fishing his last ever Championships. We drifted the session, trying to talk in broken French and hoping to get high placings. France were leading the pack at this stage and England were in 5th place overall. I had been told that a high place in this final session would earn me a medal. Talk about pressure!
I changed my set-up to include a Detached Body daddy on the top dropper – I had been watching and listening to the chat at lunchtime and this fly was discussed by many. It was a gamble, but I decided to go with it for a while. To my amazement, Christophe was using a slightly bigger version on his top dropper!
We fished and caught – nip-and-tuck throughout the first half of the session, and were at one stage 5 – 4 to me. Then I had a purple patch and drew ahead to finish with 9 fish while Christophe had 5. What a session.
We waited at the boat jetty for all the boats to return and the last boat to moor had a 10 fish return for the Spaniard – so I had finished in 2nd place again.
Czech Team Member Pavel Chyba took Individual Gold, with myself in Silver and Ireland’s Dave O’Donovan winning Ireland’s first ever medal, in Bronze position.
The ever consistent French Team won Team Gold, with Czech Republic in Silver and Poland taking the Bronze medal. Italy and England tied on points for 4th place, with Spain in 6th spot and hosts Ireland in 7th place overall.