For one reason or another I have not been to the Army Championships for a few years now but as it was a little later in the month I was able to attend this time. The Championships are often plagued with high winds and bright sunshine and can be a real grind. This year though Wind Guru promised reasonable conditions. I was sharing my practice day with Ronnie Christie who had traveled down the evening before courtesy of Gerry Ratterey.
We decided to start the trip in Yellowstone this area had consistently yielded fish all year. Typically and after two hours it only gave up two fish and a knock to me and Ronnie! I was already feeling the need for a bar of morale…..lol. While we were catching not a great deal we could see a number of boats drifting from the point of Sailing Club bay towards the boats and even more boats inside the bay itself. Ronnie an I decided to make a move over to Whitwell and stuffed a few pork pies down on the way. We had a drift into the sign where both of us in the past had fared well. Not even a knock, woe is us, but as we drifted up towards the trig point and the inevitable waiting bank angler the water in front of us was alive with activity, fishy activity! As we both frantically changed tactics to engage the enemy the fish undeterred continued to mill around in the surface. Ronnie was first to get into them but not to be outdone I was soon playing a lively Brown trout which was once in the net a real quality fish with a great tail. We continued to do quite well here and the bank angler was also getting a few. Spot noted time to move on from the Monument down to Sykes it has been some time since I have seen so many fish in the surface. We spent a fair amount of time trying to tempt them with various offerings. We were getting a few but with the numbers there we both felt we should have done better. Time was wearing on we thought we had better go and see what all the fuss was about in the Sailing Club. We spotted a couple of boats drifting inside but decided to start our drift out and just keep an eye on the boats. I was on a midge tip which was becoming increasingly difficult to control as the wind had picked up a little. As Ronnie fired up the engine to take us inside the bay itself his rod buckled over and he had to play out a spritely stockie. Just then and quite suddenly there was a queue of three boats behind us. That’s because this must be where all the fish are……lol.
We moved into the bay and were bolstered by the fact that there was the odd fish jumping out of the water. No joy on the first drift but a quick chat with Derek Sibson told us that there were indeed a few fish here. Ronnie suggested moving deeper into the bay as they can often be all the way through. The water was fairly coloured up though and we were both not enthused, with still the Normanton bank to check out. So we decided to break away. I got the drogue in the boat and Ronnie gunned the engine into life and we were off……there was a sudden juddering of the engine and it was all stop. The rope had been too long and ensnared itself around the engine. We played the blame game for five minutes and Ronnie did his best to release the tangled rope. After a few minutes, he declared that it would have to be cut. Did we have a knife between us…eh no! Right out the way Ronnie, let the dog see the rabbit! Nope, that is jammed solid, then Ronnie had a eureka moment. Start the engine and slam it into reverse while pulling together on the rope. I was not so sure but Ronnie knows what he’s doing, I started the engine and we braced to pull. Ronnie had wrapped the rope around his hand and as I slammed the boat into reverse all at once I let go and Ronnie screamed like a girl! Well, that didn’t work. At this point, tears of laughter were freely flowing down our faces at our ridiculous predicament. Luckily there were plenty of Army boats in the area one would be over to help us out soonest….eh no the bank was soon beckoning. As we approached I urged Ronnie to get out and pull us to the side still laughing as the drop off was still fairly deep. He got in the water and was saved by his wellies. We were then both on the bank looking for an improvised tool to free the engine from the rope. After much farting around Ronnie stood victorious with what was left of his drogue rope. We made hasty repairs and were off to the basin, the wind was at a decent strength and covering the water was quick. Suffice to say it was gratifying to come across a number of fish that threw themselves on our mercy. Not wishing to draw any attention to ourselves we decided to withdraw, a long and at times tough practice day would it pay off?
After an early start and a long day it was an early night for me. In the morning Ronnie and I decided to work as a pair and headed out into the basin with a plan. I had drawn Jamie Nairn as a boat partner a rising star within the Federation. As he got into the boat he asked where we were going and told me where he had taken fish the day before. I explained what the plan was and he seemed happy enough to go with it. As we got into the area we had decided to start I was surprised that the only two boats there was Ronnie and I, had we got it quite wrong? Ten minutes later Ronnie had netted three and lost a further two so maybe not. Jamie and I fished hard and was doing the same as Ronnie to no avail, the fish just would not come. After a short while and watching Ronnie play fish after fish I went into a flat spin and decided to throw dries at them. Surely when they were so high in the water they could not resist a tasty morsel dropped on their noses. But they could the little bas****s just would not even look! After what seemed like ages but was only an hour I got a grip of myself and went back to the plan. I only had two fish in the boat when I saw Ronnie packing up, time to get the skates on. After a further chat with Ronnie on exactly what he was doing it was like shooting fish in a barrel. They started to come easy the only problem was they were departing just as easily. You can take losing a couple of fish on the chin but when it starts to get to three and four in a row your nerves can get a little frayed like. The hat was thrown into the bottom of the boat and I had to take a minute. Back to it and I hit my stride the fish came steady away some came off but I held it together for 1320 finish. My partner Jamie was faring well and was on six by this point. Bags of time left and only two fish to come, no problem. I did my best for Jamie moving the boat across to reach fish on the surface and pointing out rising fish in range. Jamie started to drop a few fish as well an unsettling feeling when your only waiting on two. He held his nerve though and after a thoroughly good soaking in a heavy downpour we finished up a couple of hours later. When we got back to the jetty there were already a number of boats in including Tug Lawson the grandfather or should I say great grandfather at over eighty years old of the Federation. Tug and his partner Jamie had nailed them early on well done him! As the boats drifted back to the dock it was plain that Rutland had done us proud with many limits amongst the fleet. A good day was had by most and I don’t believe there was a single blank.
Day two was to be a little windier my partner for the day was a relevant newcomer to loch Style fishing although had
fished rivers since being a lad. So I opted for the relative shelter of the Monument and Sykes lane. Ronnie, correctly as it turned out though I was off my head. First cast I had a follow the next cast a take this was working out dandy. A short while later the first fish came to the net. Only twenty yards on the movement to my left prompted me to throw my flies amongst a shoal of travelling fish. The water erupted and I found myself playing two fish, remarkably they both made it to the boat what a great start. Several drifts later though and with only half-hearted takes and no further fish, it was time for a move. I did contemplate going back over to the other bank but thought better off trying the Trig point where Ronnie and I had taken fish in practice. The first drift brought a take for me and a fish in the boat for my partner for the day Si Harris. Back around again for nothing, just as I was thinking to move across once more I noticed lots of fish moving just beyond the point. Well, it would have been rude not to so we moved to cover them the sport was fast, exciting and inevitably frustrating. Nearly every other cast you could target fish in the surface this was only interrupted when the sun broke free of the clouds and the fish disappeared from view. I had built a steady bag of good fish and Si was going well too. I checked the time and it was 1300hrs it was time to make a decision grind it out or go to where I knew there would be plenty fish. Decision made we made the lumpy journey across the pond, no sign of Ronnie and Paul Calvert on his hands. Looks like it had fished. Paul told me that the fish were still coming and I was encouraged by a take almost immediately that caught me of guard and did not stick. We were really shifting along with the wind and a rapid retrieve was required just to keep up. After losing a number of fish I cursed my luck eventually though one stuck it was the smallest fish of the day. Oh well, needs must it got chapped and stuck in the bag two and a half hours left to get one fish surely I could not fail? What followed was a lot of hooked fish and some quite terrible language as they all threw the hook. I knew I was getting frustrated but was determined to finish as I motored up the wind being soaked for my troubles I cursed all the fish that I had lost not only today but the previous day. As I turned the boat onto the drift and threw the drogue into the water I then threw my flies into the water beside me only to see them engulfed by a trout. In a somewhat shocked and delayed reaction, I lifted my rod and stripped line to get in touch with the fish. By some miracle it was still on, what a stroke of luck….lol. The fish played nice and was soon in the bag with his brethren. A quick count up confirmed the deed was done. Now to concentrate on getting Si his last few fish he had managed four already and with a bit of luck it was an achievable goal and by the end of the drift, he was playing another fish to the net. As we came round for another drift the clouds parted giving way to bright sunshine coupled with the high wind the writing was on the wall and no more fish were forthcoming. We saw the last few fruitless drifts out in Church Bay before adjourning to the boat dock.
What an absolutely fantastic three days everything was spot on Si Elson the long term Army Secretary had planned, organised and delivered a first class event for the members of the club. My congratulations to all the prize winners especially my old muckers Ronnie and Tug, Jock Kettles you need to pull your finger oot ;-) great angling.