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The Veterans assembled on the Wednesday night at our digs and as ever there was a few Whiskies to try…..and yes it got messy! If Carlsberg did practice days then the Thursday on the Dee was it. The river was running at around 620 and you could pick out every stone on the bottom. I was a little worse for wear and struggled to get to grips with the fishing. Del and Graham had no such problems and were soon pulling fish out for fun. Eventually though my mojo kicked in and I started to get a bit of sport myself. There was plenty banter to be had and its always great to be out fishing with your pals.
We had taken just shy of 60 fish for the team and decided that we should call it a day. I could not have been more thankful as at several times I could have easily ground baited the river. Knowing my team, they would have been right over to try and catch a fish. We nipped into Aldi on the way home to pick up something to eat for tea. Great value to be had in that shop, and we opted for the lasagne and some garlic baguettes. There was a bit of fly tying to be done in the evening but not much and Graham and Del wasted little time getting right back on it. As the lightweight of the team I was early to bed and glad of it. The next practice day we were rudely brought back down to earth! A water release had brought the river up to around 900 and the water was chocolate brown. The new SST Jacket got the harshest of tests with the torrential rain being blown in at every angle. We did manage a few fish but I think the boys were a little tender from the previous nights drinkathon. A couple of hours were enough and we decided to get back to the digs for a scrub up before the Team Captain’s meetings.
It was great to bump into some old friends that have controlled us and vice a versa over the years. Despite the world Championships keeping a few of the teams at bay this year there were still a host of top quality anglers attending the event. Now some of you may have seen me at the Captains briefing but please make no mistake I am not the Captain I was just sent as the cockwomble that picks up the beats by our standing Captain Graham Lumsdon. We had drawn C5, A9 and B1 not terrible and the meeting was a fairly quick affair. We had a beer before retiring to the digs for a quick team chat and an early night.
Graham and I were to fish first and our controller was Simon from Jersey. Hywel had mentioned in the lobby of the Hand that it was easy to get to just down to the river then upstream about 150 yards! Me Hywel need to have a wee chat about judging distance and I need to lose some weight! We had bags of time to walk the beat and Graham and I strolled up the considerable length of the beat. Eventually settling on three spots that we thought we could do well on. Bearing in mind that you have to be within 30 meters of each other. The session started and third cast in I hooked and played my first fish and promptly lost it before it reached the net…..gutted!
Despite several more casts into the area I had no further action and Graham called me down to drop below him. It was a great call as we both began to catch fish after fish. I was not sure what the numbers were but we kept Simon fairly busy for the entire session. Sometimes having to que up to have fish measured, it was hard graft in some blustery conditions. At times when the wind caught up it was like fishing in the sea and I was nearly swimming more that once. By the end of the session Simon had a count up and we had managed a grand total of 26 Grayling with two fish over 40cm in the total, not too shabby!
The afternoon session was a different matter we knew A9 was going to be a tough beat with the wind howling through the exposed beat. I was to fish with Del in this session and we agreed it was going to be about damage limitation. Not long into the session I hooked and landed our first fish and Del was not far behind. It was very difficult to pick your line out in the tricky light conditions and the wind was not helping matters. We had given ourselves a target of 10 fish as a realistic goal. By the end of the session we had managed a total of eleven Grayling which we were both pleased with. Not sure about Del but I was pleased to be getting out of the river as the temperature plummeted.
Back at the digs after a hot shower and a bit of food in us we waited on the days results to be published. I suspected we were good enough for a top five place, but was over the moon to see us at the top of the pile after day one. It was all very close at the top with another four teams in good positions to knock us over. Del and Graham are our two strongest rods and B1 was not a terrible beat I was hopeful that we could hang on. The next day I walked the beat with the guys it was high and filthy it was going to be a tough gig. They seemed confident though and I wandered of to meet my anglers from Wales Mayflies. Strangely the Wales Mayflies consisted of two Englishman and an Irishman, there is a joke there somewhere!
John Willis and Harry Parr where my anglers and as we stood around chewing the fat I was not even remotely envious of the task they had ahead. As the hooter sounded Harry managed a fish early on but it had spots and was out of season! About an hour in Johns rod buckled over after fishing the same water for an age. It was a cracking fish at 39cm and before I could slip it back he was in again. He had found them it was going to get busy! It did not though and word soon spread that the river was just not fishing. As my anglers explored up the beat I could see Graham and Del at the bottom of their beat. They had managed three fish which fantastic considering.
Soon enough the hooter was sounded and another festival was complete. We had managed three Grayling and this was good enough for two place points. How had our rivals fished? Reports were mostly the same some beats reported double blanks other only managed one or two. We were hopeful that we had done enough. We had heard that one team (Polish Nymphs) had managed 19 fish, this was fantastic and cannot be overstated. The Polish Nymphs were Festival Champions with the Veterans the bridesmaids for the second year on the bounce. The England Olives pushed hard for third place. Gary Hedges won the top rod with a great total of 24 fish top angling.
The Hanak International Grayling Festival is one of the highlights of the year for me. Its fished in a friendly and fun manner, on one of the most picturesque rivers in the country. Thanks to Franta Hanak for continuing sponsoring the Competition and to Hywel and his extended team who work so hard behind the scenes to make it the event it is. I am sure we will be back next year to renew acquaintances’ and enjoy some of the best Grayling fishing anywhere!