After what has to be the best May bank holiday weather ever my first day back at work was at Rutland water for a practice day for the AMFC. The fishing reports were good and the forecast promised gentle winds and a bit more sunshine. I was partnered up with Paul Wright who has been unable to get on the water this year due to a horrendous work schedule. Even as we motored up towards Old Hall Paul was busy fending off work calls on his phone, needs must I suppose. We had a couple of drifts onto the point of Old Hall Paul pulling on a DI3 and I was fishing straight through with a team of buzzers.
It may have looked perfect but there were no fish joining in thus far we moved round into Old Hall bay. We set up a cracking drift to take us down the side of the bank far enough away as to not worry about the bank angler in the corner. Other than us and one bankie the bay was ours, just on the horizon a small speck could be seen approaching. It was another boat, as it drew nearer I said to Paul jokingly I bet this guy comes right up and drops his anchor. I was wrong though as they proceeded to motor to about fifty yards in front of us and drop two anchors! It was somewhat comical as I looked around at the huge expanse of water and wondered WTF!
"I looked around at the huge expanse of water and wondered WTF!"
We kept going across the flats for nothing much better than a pluck for Paul and nothing for me. We had to skirt large chunks of the area due to anchored boats but eventually came to Yellowstone. Some clear water at last and Paul was getting all the interest follows and plucks and the odd fish. I decided to try a DI7 with a mix of cormorants and blobs. The effect was immediate and in the two drifts we had in the area we boated five or so fish in short order. We made a big move over to Fantasy and there were lots of boats in this area but despite this I did not see a fish being caught. Its worth mentioning the clarity of the water here, it has been some years since I have seen it so clear. The visibility was fifteen feet and the bottom could be seen well out from the shore.
First chuck and I was into a cracking fish, a bright well conditioned bar of silver. We mooched around for the remainder of the day picking up fish here and there. This may sound like it was easy fishing but that was not the case it was difficult to work out where they were in the water some would be caught deep others right of the surface even in the bright sunshine. After the team, pow wow I was still left scratching my head and wondering what to do for the best in the match. I thought to sleep on it and decide in the morning.
Those of you that follow the blog will have noticed a trend of late where come the match day I have either been really shit or just made some bad decisions about locations. Was today going to continue in that vein? Well, let me tell you and I couldn’t make it up. I had drawn one of the Rutland team, Barry Vaughan a veteran of the competition scene and a former member of the very successful Cormorant team in their day they had won most everything there was to win. A quick chat with Barry saw us both agree that Barnsdale was a good option given the proximity of some other fish holding areas. Although drawn on the engine Barry was happy enough for me to take the engine.
"John hooked one but due to his bad angling it fell of before making the net....lol."
The split of boats at the start of the match was a fairly even spread with only three boats initially coming into Barnsdale with us. To my left was fellow Soldier Palmer John Maestri, I was giving him a bit of stick as I made my first cast. I had opted to pull initially on a DI3 and as I made my first strip while shouting at John the line was pulled back through my fingers, first cast bugger, bugger! John hooked one but due to his bad angling it fell of before making the net....lol. I was giving him a bit of stick as you do when my next take jabbed at my fly sending a jolt up my arm and once again I failed to connect.
Barry who was fishing straight through on a floater was also getting the odd pull but the fish were coming short even to the buzzers. Only 20 minutes in and Barry managed to get one to stick. I needed no more convincing and the uglies were off and on went the floater. Barry netted his second fish and I was still getting just very tentative takes. Barry mentioned that they were all coming to his top dropper. I took my point fly off and stuck a fab on. The subtle change made all the difference and I started getting into the fish fairly steady the sport was excellent if a little frustrating. Sharp jabs or subtle changes to the line, evidence of fish that have taken a beating over many weeks.
I was doing ok though and edged ahead of Barry with three fish in the bag. The drifts were short and I had just been taking care when motoring with the drogue in the water. I lost concentration though and the engine stopped suddenly when the drogue jammed into the prop. I put my rod down in the boat and wrestled the drogue free, I had just got it in the boat and was going to start the engine when my line shot off. I fish completely barbless and fully expected the fish to come straight off but it doggedly refused to let go the fly, my luck had changed at long last.
"The next drift I felt like I was really on it and I banged out another fish, things were going great."
The next drift I felt like I was really on it and I banged out another fish, things were going great. The same drift I caught another and as I played the fish to the boat I slipped the landing net out to the waiting fish in a slick fluid motion only to see the head of the net shoot past the waiting fish and down to the depths. The fish was still there though and a shouted to Barry to pass me the other net. Despite some fumbling and me knocking the fish whilst trying to net it I somehow managed to add this one to my total. The mojo was back I was getting the rub of the green, things were going my way again. It was 1230hrs take off the 30 minutes back to the lodge five hours to get three fish, it’s a done deal surely? The fish were coming steady away.
Three hours later and I was sat scratching my head, both Barry and I had not had so much as an offer. The additional boats that had entered the bay and the arrival of a bank angler had harried our efforts but despite this I can't help but think we should have been doing better. I switched to a DI7 and the nasties which had done me well the previous day and the effect was instant first cast a follow next cast a fish on the hang. Back in business, Barry quickly changed and half an hour later we both caught absolutely nothing, what a blow, back to what we were doing for the fish earlier in the day. Barry had a wee spurt boating two fish quickly we were both on six apiece and there was still some fishing time left.
The bank angler that had been a blight on our afternoon went off for his tea and we were straight to the spot he had vacated. Barry hooked a good fish and as I watched him play the fish with no small amount of envy my line shot away too and I was into a quality fish as well. I looked at the one net we had left in the middle of the boat and saw Barry was right behind the boat. I judged it best to get my fish in as quickly as possible so Barry could net his fish. I gave the fish no quarter and this was a mistake it made a big surge and snapped my dropper clean off. After a wee tantrum I retrieved my Teddy from the floor re-rigged and hoped for another opportunity.
"After a wee tantrum I retrieved my Teddy from the floor re-rigged and hoped for another opportunity."
Unfortunately, no more offers came and Barry and I headed back to the boat dock. Barry had managed seven and I six, we both should have finished and the chances were there for the taking but it was not to be. Our teams ended up at opposite ends of the results with the Rutland Fly Fishers winning and the Army coming last a disappointing result for us but onwards and upwards as they say! The AMFC is a great way to get into competition fly fishing so if you are of a mind to give it a go join your local club and share a boat with some likeminded anglers.