Grafham Water (Pro-AM) 14-15 Jun 2017

All the boats were pulled of the water by 1500hrs and I had failed to catch a fish. This year though I was able to manage a practice day and Graham Pearson paired me up with Chris Hartley for the day. Chris is a very experienced angler more at home on the rivers of Yorkshire we were going to have plenty to chat about. The weather was stunning, for the beach that is! Light winds blowing towards the north shore and a clear blue sky, not ideal for fishing but it would make for a very nice day afloat.

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We started just outside the right hand side of the lodge and decided to take a long drift out into the middle. There have been a lot of fish moving in large pods in the open water and we hoped to just pick up on some of these. We did not have to wait too long before the first fish of the day and as we were still fairly near the lodge I thought it may have been one of the new stocked fish. It was a pleasant surprise to find a full tailed resident fish on the end of my line. It had engulfed a fab and had to be dispatched. The fish had several very small buzzers inside its belly and bits and bobs of other stuff that I could not identify. A good start and Chris was quick into the sport as well catching another cracking fish shortly after. We started to see the very odd fish swimming up the wind and if you could get your flies near them a big bow wave would appear behind the flies as you pulled. Lots of plucks and eventually a fish locked up only to shoot towards the sky and spit the hook. We had drifted nearly four to five hundred meters five or six fish to the boat. They had all been in really good shape and fought hard, but it was time to look around.

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I was aware that the next day was going to be a lot different with high winds that would undoubtedly make the fishing more difficult… read fu** it right up! So in a bid to make the most of the day we had a drift past the boils the odd fish could be seen in the surface in the wind lanes coming off the back but these largely ignored our offerings. As we drifted down the wind lane I had changed to some hare’s ear variants in a size #16. I rarely go down this small but the fish I had spooned earlier had some very small stuff in it. A fish rose to my left heading and tailing up the wind lane and I managed to get my flies in front of it. The line tightened and we were led on a merry dance until in an effort to keep it from the drogue the tiny hook peeled away and the fish was lost. The day was wearing on a bit and I thought I would take Chris over to Savages for a look see. I mentioned to Chris that it had not been fishing particularly well but it was worth a look as it would provide a bit of shelter from the wind the next day. We had a couple of drifts that produced three or four fish. It was not what I would call on fire but in a pinch it was an area to be kept in the back pocket.

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We decided with only just over an hour to go that we had best have a look at the North Shore just in case the wind was not as bad as forecast. It was starting to get a bit lumpy and before we had gone more than fifty feet the phone went and Graham told us that he was getting off. I had a couple of fish in my bass bag that I wanted to give him so we went back to the boat dock. He told us that he had been getting them on a floater. We did not bother going all the way back to the North shore instead we just had a drift from the harbour to ‘L’ Buoy. I had changed from the midge tip to the floater and the slight difference was remarkable. Chris and I had enjoyed a great days sport but we both knew that the next day would be entirely different.

The Pro – Am is around 40 years old and is organised on behalf of Bob Church by Graham Pearson. Graham taps up a number of anglers from the circuit to fish against the Confederation of English Fly Fishers (EFFA). They had turned up very uniformal in bright red shirts and looked very smart indeed, EFFA fish a lot and have many very good rods in their ranks.  I had drawn Mel Parrot I knew the name from my years fishing the AMFC but had never had the pleasure of his company in a boat. John Gammon had mentioned to me that I should not get him wet as he was not too keen on that. It was with a wry smile on my face that I told him we were going down to the dam. Off course I was only joking I had intended to fish just outside the lodge and that was getting a little shelter and as far as I was aware there were plenty of fish in this area. Two drifts later I was not so sure….lol, it was time to go and find them. We headed over to the mouth of Savages and had a long drift for nothing. The boats could be seen on the North shore and I think the both of us were putting off the inevitable trip to the washing machine. It had to be called though so we headed over for a drift by the tower.

When you are motoring with the wind its tea and crumpets and you get to where you want to go real fast. The problem is always getting back up the wind, I was head to toe in water proofs I often get the looks from pleasure anglers in the car park….”what’s that bampot doing its boiling and no raining!” As we drifted down we did spot the odd fish being taken and I was lucky enough to pick one up on the hang. It was a start to what was to be a pretty tough day at the office. As I turned to motor back up the drift it crossed my mind that Mel was about to get pretty wet. I was in a benevolent mood though and carefully at low revs made my way back up the wind doing my best to keep my partner dry. Back on the other side the wind had turned slightly and the drifts were quick and fruitless. It was becoming hard work with half the match gone and only one fish between us, Mel and I did a bit of head scratching. We eventually agreed that Savages was as good an option as any with the wind up and down like a yoyo. Our first drift I got a take hooray, The next cast I got a fish as I was playing it I could see other fish in the surface ahead. Not another boat in sight, could this be the turning point? Well for me it was, unfortunately they all seemed to be on my side of the boat and Mel could not buy a take. I had my chances to be finished and even dropped a fish but it was not to be and I finished up on seven. I was pretty pleased with that it had been a tough old day in the wind.

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We weighed in and from the chatter at the scales it was pretty clear that the Pros had won the day. Never the less we retired to the Lion in Buckdon for a slap up meal and a bit of banter. After the meal the results were announced and the Pros had indeed won the day with Graham Pearson doing the Captains job and winning the accolade of top rod. Well done to Graham and many thanks to my boat partners on both days Chris and Mel, I trust you are not too traumatised! The Pro – Am is a very friendly affair and I enjoyed it immensely, if you get the opportunity give it a go.