Before I start my tale of woe I must say my wife and kids have been very tolerant of the number of times I have been fishing of late. The practice for this event started with the Army Championships (see separate blog post below) three days of outstanding fishing. It seemed like Rutland was at last switching on. The guys in the team were putting a massive amount of time and effort into this one after a particularly tough qualifier. So on Wednesday the 01 Jul Ronnie, Del, Graham and I had a day out returning to the spots that had served so well at the Army Championships to find crystal clear water but no fish. As the morning slipped away from us with only a couple of offers between us we moved down into Church bay. Where even in the bright sun, fish could be seen breaking the surface chasing pin fry. I had almost motored past but for Ronnie calling me over. In near flat calm conditions it was difficult to get near them, but when you did they were most obliging. Morale restored it was around the corner to the left of the lodge. The wind had gotten up a little which was handy and allowed us to cover a bit of water. The fishing was really outstanding you target the risers and many were coming blind perfect. I was loathed to leave them but we had to look at other areas. So it was off around the Sailing Club this also had its fair share of fish which we were happy to accommodate. As the day drew to a close we popped back to the bay for a few more of the Church fish before calling it a day. Del and I were driving home to resume work and real life in general. Ronnie and Graham were going to stay and fish the Thursday and be joined by Dave and Jock on Friday.
After a couple of fraught days at work, I rejoined the boys on a Saturday morning. I was to fish with Graham as a practice partner and looked forward to a day of catching fish and banter. There was plenty of both Ronnie dishing it out mostly as well as catching the bulk of the fish! He was educating us apparently….lol while he and Jock were knocking five bells out of the fish the rest of us were the poor relations. A ging gang in the middle of the puddle was required and Ronnie revealed his winning ways. Del and Dave went to it and were rewarded immediately whereas Graham and I went back to the Church for not so much joy. Eventually, we met up with Del and Dave sometime later and they had an abundance of happiness catching plenty of fish. They pointed out the drift and Graham and I was on it like a tramp on chips. Success was instant and the fish started to come steadily away. We had not enjoyed the same sport as Ronnie and Jock but enough to keep a smile on our faces. Having spent four days looking at various options it did not take the brains of a surgeon to work out that the bulk of the fish was in the basin. The Sunday dawned and after a hearty breakfast of sausage baps, it was down to the lodge.
I was to fish with Ronnie for the last day and the brief was simple enough go out and get some confidence where you're likely to start. The conditions could not be more perfect a light ripple, heavy cloud cover and rising fish everywhere. As happy as I am to exaggerate there is no need there were literally hundreds of fish all across the basin moving in huge pods. Ronnie and I, our original intent to go up to the dam stopped north of X Buoy, there were just too many fish to ignore. I was on a slow glass and I did not have long to wait before the first bow wave appeared behind my cast and it all went tight, first fish to the boat. Wave after wave of fish would come upwind and every pod gave up a fish much more would chase and turn away and there were loads of thunderous takes that came to nothing. In the short time that we stayed there, we had ten to the boat and it was barely 1030. We decided to move up to the dam as was our original intent where Del and Graham informed us that it had also been fish soup. A few more fish to the boat and then it became flat calm! The blight of every comp angler looking to practice, we huddled up in the middle of the basin for a chinwag before once again going our separate ways. The afternoon was a completely different kettle of fish, but without the fish, if you catch my drift! Ronnie and I struggled away for a couple more after a huge drift from the Church to the dam. That’s when the squall hit, usually, there is a steady build-up to these things and you can prepare for the worst. I have seen this kind of thing on Loch Leven where conditions can change instantly but never on Rutland. There was just about enough time to square all the kit away and get the nose of the boat into the waves. Luckily we had both been sensible enough to take our waterproofs out with us and they were much needed as we began our very slow and wet trip up the water. It was most gratifying to see Ronnie getting a face full of water every 30 seconds and I laughed my arse off all the way back to the boat dock! When we got in there were many who had not taken the appropriate stay dry kit with them and many were walking up the pontoon like John Wayne too much laughter including Dave who had six inches of water inside his wellies! We decided not to bother going back out but the squall seemed to subside with the same speed it had arrived. Instead, it was off to Wetherspoons for a meal and a pint.
The match day dawned and I have to confess to a little nervousness something that has not affected me much in regards to fishing. We had a good solid plan and the weather looked great. We were fortunate with the draw with many of our partners including mine (Lloyd Edwards) giving up the engine. Lloyd had been called in kind of last minute and had fished the previous day for a half-hearted take that had not stuck. I was sure he would do better today. I opted to go straight to the dam my reasoning being that the entire fleet would motor over the basin scattering any pods of fish. Phil Thomas from the Fishhawks must have had a similar train of thought and I followed up in his wake accompanied also by Graham. It was heartening to see Phil land a fish all be it the smallest fish I have ever seen in the first drift. Nothing for me though or my partner. This became a theme for the next few drifts I could not even buy a follow never mind a take. I moved up back through the well-spread fleet looking to fit in somewhere. I got right out into the open water and by this point, I was ripping a DI3 across the surface for all I was worth. Bang, a fish had hit me so hard it ripped line from my hand. As I regained my composure I was pleased to feel the weight of the fish still on the line. It fought hard initially cartwheeling out the water before diving deep looking for sanctuary. It had run down to Lloyd’s side but was beat and I pulled its head to the surface. A great start a bar of silver around two and half pounds. As I reached for my net I saw my fly depart the fish’s gob but it was still lying there. It didn’t stay for long though just long enough to wink at me and cruise away, what a blow. A short time later another fish locked on at range and I frantically stripped line and brought the fish to within five feet of the boat. An impressive cart wheel and another fish gone! An even shorter time went by and yet another fish hooked and lost. I was quite pleased with myself that I had not thrown my hat into the bottom of the boat and jumped up and down like a petulant child. This has been known to happen on occasion. Before the drift finished I was watching me mini con loop while hanging my flies and it just tweaked slightly against the wind and I hit it. Again it was a good fish but this one decided to fight deep in front of the boat and after a solid fight, it was safely in the net. Back round but the original drift was to busy with other boats so I moved down fifty meters. Another long and fruitless drift Lloyd had several takes but no Joy. I did not even get an offer, back to where we had the action before and Lloyd who had switched to a midge tip finally got his reward from the edge of a winding lane a nice resident two and a half pound of Rutland silver. I was also rewarded with another fish for my efforts. I spotted Ronnie over by the dam and went across to see how he was doing, it was not good! In fact, it was the complete opposite of good he was having for want of a better description a f***ing shit time of it. I could offer him little comfort as I was not doing very much better. I could go on about this pull and more lost fish but I am pretty sure everyone fishing that day lost fish it's just the way it goes some times.
When we were all back on the dock it was fairly clear we had not done enough not by a long way. Any comp angler will tell you how bitterly disappointing it is when the team have not done well. I felt particularly bad for my own meagre contribution but I felt worse for my pal Ronnie who had probably been the most consistent of us all in practice who had got the dreaded donut. I would like to offer an explanation but there’s none to give we all worked our hardest and it just wasn’t to be our day. Many thanks to all Veterans squad it was real pleasure fishing with you all and I am already looking forward to next year’s campaign.