The RAF Qualifier was the only one that had dates to match my calendar except for the Southern Feds which I could have also competed in. The Southern Fed decided to have a one-day event with an eight fish kill and no time bonus. To my mind, this is a lottery and if you disagree well that’s fine by me we are all entitled to our opinions. So Grafham and the RAF qualifier, my practice partner would be my usual rivers partner Graham Lumsdon, who would kindly be providing the accommodation in the form of the Breaking Bad camper van. The first day of practice was a day to remember for all the right reasons. The conditions were near on perfect, sure it could have been a bit more overcast but there was ample cloud cover about. With the previous week's experience in mind, I decided to write off the left-hand side of the lodge and also was aware that slim picking was to be had on the South Shore. Despite a huge stocking in the week friends had told me these fish were very small. So this left the bulk of the North shore to go at. We started in Hill Farm and what a great place to start, not long into the drift the line was ripped from my hand and a small torpedo was ripping through the water. After a spirited fight, the fish came safely to the boat, a quick photo and it was returned and swam strongly away. As we moved around Hill Farm point that was well populated by bank anglers and into Pig bay. Again I hit fish almost immediately this time a nice Brown Trout, Graham who had been pulling lures to this point decided to change to the bung, Inspired!
As we moved up through Pig Bay and then Church Bay fish were coming in short order, Graham caught two to my one and a single drift across Church Bay produces ten fish. By the time we had reached the little bay opposite G Buoy I had succumbed to the dark side and stuck the bung on. It was extremely effective the takes were so subtle if you were not watching like a hawk you would miss the offer. The number of fish to the boat must have exceeded twenty by this point and then we moved to the Dam. The offers did not dry up but became even harder to get, they became the sharp tugs you often get but then no fish Graham and I both experienced this and over the next two hours, we only managed a further three to the boat. We half-heartedly checked the Southside of the water but for no more fish. We were both well pleased with our day's efforts and had a good number of areas to go at in the morning. We did not have many flies to tie and we made to most of the excellent sunset and the single malt we had.
In the morning the RAF had an excellent system to book anglers in and allocate boats. Graham had drawn Ed Foster from the Loop Team and I had drawn one of the RAF’s novice fly fishers, Ian. Graham had told me that he was going to the Dam, I knew this was not what he had wanted. I decided to start in Church Bay. The fishing started well, with two fish being hooked in the first half hour but only one making it to the bag. It was not the same action we had enjoyed the previous day and the boat pressure seemed to knock the fish a little. A complete lack of wind was not helping the situation either. I moved to various areas trying to settle and failing, after losing a number of fish in play I had only managed two by halftime. I decided to buckle down and stick it out in Church Bay. Another few fish hooked and gone and it was turning into one of those days. Oh well never mind. Graham had moved to Pig Bay and had gotten his eight fish in short order, good angling. Round the corner, I had managed to eek out another couple of fish but I knew this would not be good enough. When I got back to the dock it was evident that Pig Bay had produced a number of bag limits.
The next day I drew Ian Whiteside who had also only managed four fish the day before. We both acknowledged that we were out of the running for a qualifying slot so decided to just go out and have a good day. It seemed to me that the fishing had gotten a little tougher and boats were moving around a lot. We simply hacked it out just inside Pig Bay and managed our limits over the day Ian getting the last fish to the boat at 1735, a grand way to finish up. I could see Graham still fishing away and hoped that he had gotten enough fish to reinforce his good standing on day one. Graham had managed six good fish and although we are not sure fingers crossed he has made it into the final. I am a little disappointed not to have made it this year, but not as much as I thought.