Our store manager Julian Shaw recently spent two weeks in Cuba. As well as doing the usual tourist visits, he managed to find time for a spot of fishing (what a surprise!) and by the sound of it, he had a good time!Read More
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Although the Veterans had already had their first match at the Grayling Festival, this would be the first time we would compete in a Loch-style event. As with any team, a lot of work had gone into the preparation for the event: accommodation, feeding and other niff-naff and trivia that took up half my life. You can check out the Veterans' page on the website for more information on the team and sponsors. Most of the team were meeting up at Ronnie’s house. I feared the worst - the man has an extensive whiskey collection and most of the boys are partial to a wee dram. Andy, however, had flown in from Norway and reacquainted himself with road works and traffic jams! He eventually made it to mine by half ten at night. We arrived at the lodge around eight thirty and started to sort ourselves out. Graham and Del were transporting a rather worse-for-wear Ronnie and Jock, but a good dose of fresh air would sort them out. Greetings over, I kitted up and headed up the south arm. The weather forecast had looked reasonable with light winds, and initially they were right - a nice ripple and a bit of sunshine on the first practice day. Unfortunately that was not to last, and before long memories of the Army Spring match came flooding back. I was on my own again with the squad being an odd number (seven) and everyone being available. We all fished different parts of the water; this post will concentrate on my time in particular. When I reached Green Banks, there were already a couple of boats working the bund wall and moving down towards me. The conditions were perfect first thing, and if they had stayed this way I think we would have had a cracking day. I could describe all of the drifts, but I will simply cut to the chase by saying I did not catch a fish until I got into Old Hall Bay, and for the number of boats on the water I did not see many people getting much sport. The wind was starting to get a bit cheeky by the time we had reached Spud Bay, at which point we had not between the three of us reached double figures. Worrying! A phone call to the other lads in the north was more encouraging. They had enjoyed some good sport, with Graham losing a cracking rainbow behind the boat, estimated at 4lb. I made my way over to Whitwell and was rewarded with another fish. The day was tough, and without company, long. After several drifts at high speed along the Normanton bank for not a great deal, I jacked it in early to go and collect the keys for our accommodation for the next couple of nights. It was great to catch up with a bunch of pals; it’s one of the few things that keeps my interest in competition fishing. I am not afraid to admit that I snore a bit - a wee bit - so the debate over who was sleeping where was fairly entertaining. Jock being a very light sleeper ended up with Dave; Graham and Del had both brought their own sleeping quarters in the shape of two camper vans. I volunteered to sleep on an air bed in the living room, which left Andy and Ronnie to share the twin. I am not a particularly light sleeper, but even being one floor below I could hear the grunts and the banging of a nearby cupboard in the night. In the morning Ronnie and Andy both accused each other of the crime, to much amusement from the rest of us. And so with a sausage butty and packed lunch under our arms (courtesy of Graham), we were off for day two. The wind was supposed to be much worse today and none of us were looking forward to it. I had cajoled Steve Cullen into coming along and keeping me company for the day, and good company he is - never a dull moment with Steve. The boys all went their merry way while Steve worked the car park...must have been all those boys stopping him for autographs ;-). We eventually got afloat, and got a real peachy drift parallel to the Normanton bank. Steve had a new toy which he is developing for Whychwood - a ten foot rod for a #7, which Steve was throwing all his DI5 expert with ease. I did mean to have a go with it but forgot to get around to it...that’s old age for you. Steve had the best line close to the bank and I was fairly sure it would only be a matter of time before he would connect with a fish. As usual I was wrong, and we got no more than a couple of tentative takes - very disappointing. We headed up towards Dickinson’s in the hope of finding some hungry trout. The trip over the basin was like being in a washing machine, and by the time we had got to the North Arm I had had a good dunking, much to Steve’s amusement. There was only one other boat in the bay, and with the first cast I had a good bang to my flies, as did Steve. A few casts later we had a good fish to the boat, shortly followed by another. Steve, after a subtle change of colour to the blob he was fishing, started boating a few as well. Conscious of drawing attention to our boat I told Steve we would have to move on, but he suggested just one more drift before then. Steve got a little pike which was safely returned. And just as he had sorted himself out, my rod buckled almost in half as an unseen monster took hold and I held on for the sake of keeping my rod and reel. I suspected the worst but was hopeful for a split second that it was a big brownie. I was right - it was a muckle big pike bugger! I don’t like them, I remember a friend of mine having to go to the hospital for a tetanus jab after coming out 2nd in a scrap with one in a boat. Steve said to pick it up, but I told him he could pick it up and I would take a photo. So after a bit of "You’re-a-big-girl's-blouse", Steve hardened the *u*k up and picked up the teeth with fins very very briefly...this explains the poor photo, as it kicked and was unceremoniously dropped back in the water. Under duress I dragged Steve out of Dickinson’s and down the Barnsdale road end bank we went. It was not pleasant out there, so we spent a couple of drifts eating and catching up before deciding to get ourselves into Barnsdale and shelter. It was not particularly busy in there and we got our first choice drift. The fish were hard onto the trees and Steve made the best use of his DI5 40+ getting to the prime spot well ahead of me. A couple of more fish to the boat, and we decided to move on as Steve was on babysitting duty. We had a drift along by Sykes Lane and I managed another fish, but the drifts were rapid. All too soon it was time to take Steve back to the dock. I had contemplated going back out without him, but after the soaking we took crossing the basin, I decided against that. I bid Steve farewell with the promise of another day out soon; it’s not every day you get to fish with a superstar angler, but Steve will get his chance again... ;-) In all seriousness though, I am really grateful Steve could come along for the day as ever. We did a lot of laughing and managed a few fish to boot. I hung around taking photos and chatting to anglers that had jacked in due to the weather and the tough fishing. The team came in, having had a tough but productive practice. But was it worth it? The evening was a little subdued - we had a plan but it was pretty thin, anorexic in fact. We had all seen the weather - a complete change in wind direction and speed. I have seen this before many times where conditions partly negate the previous day's practice and you kind of have to start from scratch. I had drawn Christian Revelli from the Froggies Fly Fishers; he had drawn the engine but was happy enough to let me drive. His English was so much better than my French thankfully, and we discussed the previous days. He too had found practice tough, and was content to let me take him up to Dickinson’s. As we headed up, I was convinced that I would be joined by half the fleet and was mighty relieved when a chunk of boats headed towards Barnsdale and another shot away towards the Finches. That only left three boats. This could end up really well, I thought. I was first in and pretty much got myself exactly where I wanted to be. An hour or so went by with only a couple of tentative taps, until at last I felt the satisfying take that you just know is going to stick. The first one's always the hardest. Christian brought a fish right to the boat with his nymph,s and there was a tell-tale swirl where the fish had turned away. Another couple of hours dragged by, and Christian nailed one on the nymphs. A short while later he caught another which evaded capture. When it was time for a change, I went to the bung and was rewarded after only a few casts with a nice rainbow. Time was wearing on, and by half two I only had two fish. The dilemma: I knew it was hard and I was positive that there were fish in front of me. Did I stay and grizz it out or did I go looking? Del had come over to tell me he was going to the Finches and I decided to follow him over; however, on getting there I did not fancy it. I told Del I was off to try Barnsdale. I was not hopeful as the wind was now coming off the trees, which would make fishing difficult. I also expected a bunch of boats all trying to squeeze into the productive area. I was pleasantly surprised to see only one boat, occupied by Jock Royan. I tootled over to see how he was going on, and was chuffed when he reported he had been there an hour and managed six! Outstanding. I got in behind him and went to work. It was not like shelling peas, but if you concentrated really hard you could catch these fish. So with a couple of hours' fishing time left, I started to dig myself out of the hole. Del joined us with about an hour left and started to get into them as well. I watched Jock get on a roll and almost every time I looked up he was playing a fish - good angling! It was hard to leave because the fishing was the best we had enjoyed the whole trip. Coming in late is not an option though, and eventually all three of us packed up and made the trip back. Jock had put a very credible twelve fish in the boat and I had managed eight. Christian had done a bang-up job with four fish, which he was very happy with. Del had worked hard for five. After what what had initially been a hard day, I was really pleased, and I wondered how the others had faired as we motored back to the lodge. As I was stripping down my gear, I caught up with the others - Andy with a healthy six; Ronnie with five and Dave who had managed two. Thirty eight fish on a very tough day?? I was over the moon, and fairly happy that we had done enough to qualify. It was a long wait for the results, especially after hearing that Yellowstone had fished its socks off with some big bags coming off too. It seemed to be the only place that had really fished well. On the fish count at least, we had done enough. When the results were read out, I was a little confused when we weren't 4th. But hey ho, we still qualified in 5th (and according to the results, not by much??) On closer inspection of the results, it turned out Del Spry’s five fish weighed only 11oz - either the the smallest fish in the reservoir or a mistake. A chat with Jon Marshal today will see the correct results published on the website in due course. A few words of thanks to AW for running a great competition; John Norris and Greys for sponsoring our team, and the guys in the team that make the whole thing worthwhile. I'm really looking forward to the next round.
You can find out more about the Veterans over on their website, including stories of their catches and previous accolades.