It has been a while, but I have not been idle just a very busy time of year. I was fortunate to have five days down on the Dart prior to the National final with my fishing buddy Graham. The weather was in stark contrast to last year’s adventure with bright sunshine and a fairly strong downstream wind for all four of the days I fished. This made the fishing difficult, coupled with the fact that half the field decided to practice that weekend. Still, it was great fun and we caught a few fish, nowhere near the numbers that were coming of the previous year though.
In-between my trip down to the dart and the final we had our annual match between the Army and Bewl Bridge Fly Fishers on Sunday 7th July. This was a very tough match but fished in a friendly and relaxed manner. We stop for a short lunch with a beer and a barbeque, those that have done well can regale their tales of victory those that had not done so well listened intently to see if they could pick up any tips. With a rod average of 0.08, the lunch break was the highlight of the day. The Army for the second-year running had failed to produce a full team and the Bewl guys gave us a couple of their own. The co-opted members did us proud and we won the match by all of 8oz. This is a really great event and the Bewl club are outstanding hosts, I always look forward to meeting up.
The final of the Rivers match to select the international team for next year was to be held on the 14 Jul on the river Dart. There were around 27 miles of water for the competitors to look at, the going was a lot easier underfoot than last year which made getting around a little easier. I had drawn the Upper West Dart in the morning and the Lower East in the afternoon, not the water I would have liked but it seemed a reasonable draw. I chose to go to the upper reaches of the beat in the morning, Paul my controller took the news rather well and we stepped off. I was a little surprised that more anglers did not make the trip upstream only Fred Bainbridge followed me up. Fifty minutes and 2lb of sweat later we reached my start point. As I sat by the river I could see fish rising to the abundant fly life. I crawled up the river on hands and knees to get into position for the kickoff, Paul gave me the nod and I made my first cast. Before the fly had hit the water the rises stopped bugger. I moved up what had been sweet water in practice for the odd take and I did hook a couple of measurable fish but could not get them to the net. So a first session blank, it's all over I was now scratching around for dignities sake. I switched from Duo to a straight dry fly and this seemed to encourage the fish a little and after another couple of dropped fish, my first measure came to the net. Another swiftly followed and I thought I was getting into the groove, unfortunately, the fish had other ideas another couple dropped and the prospect of the long walk back I made the decision to eat into my fishing time to get to my other beat. On the walk back, I met Fred who had taken three and twelve bellow me outstanding angling. Feeling somewhat jaded I made my way back to the car park to head off to Badgers Holt. I got there with ten minutes to spare and was fortunate to get a parking space. I wanted to fish behind the farm but was beaten to it by Ben Bangham. I pushed up a little to what most people would have walked past in the morning and changed to my shorter 8’ 6” rod to fish under the canopy of trees. I knew this would cause a lot of admin but with anglers’ bellow and above me I wanted to make the water last as long as possible. My spirits were lifted as I tempted a couple of fish from a very difficult area. So, two fish in my third session, OK could have been worse. The afternoon sessions always prove difficult especially as the guys in my flight followed a very strong group of anglers. I started my fourth session with still a bit of water in front of me that I was fairly convinced had not been fished. This was confirmed to me when I started to get a few but they were not going to meet the measure. I managed to hook a couple that would have made the size limit but trapped under the canopy I could not bring them to the net. I managed one that on giving it to my controller was a little short, oh well another blank. Five minutes before the end of my session I slipped on a rock into a rather deep hole my humiliation was complete! On returning to the car part at the Two Bridges there was a mix of stories tales of woe and disappointment with glimmers of hope and outstanding angling thrown in. Graham Lumsdon had fished extremely well in the afternoon sessions
and this pulled him up the field into the top ten. Andy Croucher who had won the event last year had not had the rub of the green and was outside of the top half. For my part I was 24th and a bit disappointed but it is only fishing. What I will take away from this year’s final is the level of skill needed to qualify to fish for England in the rivers team is extremely high and I am not even in the ball park! I am willing to learn though and will be redoubling my efforts for next years final. Roll on the Loch Style final in September.