Updated: Nov 29, 2019
Hello Everyone and thanks for taking the time to read through Session 3, which marked the half way point of this year’s Championships. After Day 1, England sat 10th however only 6 points from 8th and 27 from 5th place. It was a familiar story at the top of the leader board with Spain in P1, closely followed by the French. Only 4 points separated the medal positions.
Day 2 started much like the first, 4.30am alarm, shower, breakfast and to the official hotel for around 5.45am. After 2 river sessions on Day 1, including spending a lot a time in the heavy water of session 2, waking up after 6 hours sleep takes some doing, especially for someone who likes sleep as much as I do. Luckily I had the lake on Day 2, which meant no wading and even better I only had to carry one set of gear with me. As the championships are a mix of river and lake sessions, you often have to put river and lake gear in the coach as you don’t back to HQ until the end of the day. This is logistical nightmare, making sure you have everything you need, spare rods, lake fly boxes, all your lines and making sure they won’t get damaged along the way. On Day 2 there is usually only 1 session followed by a rest session in the afternoon which gives all the competitors a chance to re-stock fly boxes, catch up on sleep etc.
The coaches for the lake left first, as it was an approx. 2 hour drive to Lake Cornisello. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Cornisello sat 7,000ft above sea level, right at the start of a mountain range. The scenery was nothing short of breathtaking, almost like a scene from a Marvel Comics movie of some far flung planet region. Unfortunately though, the scenery was about the best thing Cornisello had going for it. We found out whilst we were there, that Cornisello had been chosen to host a sector because of this, so that the world could look at how beautiful the location of this year’s World Championships was being held at. It made perfect sense on the face of it, a lake a couple of hundred metres deep, frozen for 8 months of the year and the only natural fish were very small Char definitely wasn’t chosen for it’s potential as a competition lake for the biggest fly fishing competition in the world. What made it worse was the practice lake, Nembia which was used for the European Championships a few years back is a fully functioning small Stillwater fishery. Shallow, crystal clear and well stocked with Rainbows and Browns up to mid double figures and perfectly used to the pressure of big competitions.
During the practice week we had look around the lake and spotted fish near the surface a couple of rod lengths out. There wasn’t many however, only a handful of the 500kg of fish that were stocked on the 1st September, about 3 weeks prior were visible. With the lake seemingly bottomless only a few yards out from the bank, there was plenty of hiding space for the stockies. The fishing did start well however, with 13 fish winning the first session and lots of 3 – 6 scores. Session 2 was tougher, with 4 fish guaranteeing you a top 10 finish. It seemed like many of the fish that were getting caught were the ones you could see and cast it, however the fish wouldn’t be around for the whole match.
The rules of this competition stated that the 3 hour session was to be split up into 2 x 1.5hr pegs. The lake was split into 3 sectors, pegs 1-8, 9 – 18 and 19 – 29. You were drawn on a peg in one of these sectors, then moved 5 pegs within the same sector. I drew peg 12 for example, so moved to 17 after the first 1.5 hours. Peg 18 meanwhile would move to peg 13, not to the next sector and peg 23 as we would do in a UK Bank match. What this meant was you were very restricted as to what you could achieve. If you drew a good bank then you were in with a shot however draw a dead bank and it was a real struggle. In the first 2 sessions Simon and Scotty both drew the 19 – 29 sector, which on the first day wasn’t the place to be. An island at the other side of the lake was surrounded by shallower water and more fish when you look at the results but there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. At least with a UK bank match, when run correctly every angler should have a chance at different locations on the lake.
We eventually got to the lake, having stopped off for the Canadian guy to redecorate the hillside with his breakfast on the way up. It was dark when we arrived and absolutely freezing, probably 20 degrees colder than at the bottom of the valley. I got my gear off the bus and headed to the peg was right in front of the bus as it happened. The pegs were about 7 – 8 yards long were I was. Another reason we didn’t fish Nembia apparently was due to their not being enough space around the lake. At 7 – 8 yards each you could of got 40 people on there!
Peg 12 did have a nice open space behind, so back casting wasn’t an issue. There was no structure infront of me, the bottom just dropped into the abyss 2 rods lengths out. I set up 4 rods, a Di – 5 40+, Di-3 40 +, Fast Glass 40 + & finally the bung. I didn’t see anyone else setting up the bung and felt this could be my ‘get out of the shit’ rod if nothing had happened with 30 mins left. Simon and Scotty had both caught high in the water so I felt I had everything in the top 10 feet covered. On the 3 pulling rods, I had started with 2 flies each, both small taddies spaced well apart. The plan was to start high and go down as the sun got higher in the sky. To cut a long story short, the first hour and a half went by without anything at all happening, no take, no follow, nothing! I did see a fish rise 35 yards out which I covered but I got the feeling the fish came up from deep and went back down to quickly for me to get at it. On my bank around me (pegs 9 – 15) I saw one fish caught which was off 9, the closet peg to Island.
Moving pegs to 17, I felt confident that the dreaded blank would not appear on my scorecard. Peg 17 had a shelf running about 10 yards out which was a much slower decline. There were 3 pegs here, 16 – 18. Peg 18 had really produced on day 1 I found out, and 3 fish had been caught from this area of the morning in my session, USA with 2 from 16, and Italy with one from 17. After producing 7 fish alone in session 2, Peg 18 was blank so far on my session such was the swing of things. We had 30 mins to get to our next peg and make a changes to gear, I had changed the Di 5 to a 40+ Di 7 half way through the first 1.5hrs and stuck with this setup. The idea was to creep a Humungus and Cat Booby up the shelf slowly. I tried this on peg 12 but it was taking an absolute age to hit the bottom. At least on 17 I could try this to better effect. I thought this to be a good plan of attack, going deeper as I doubted other anglers before me would of done the same, plus I was following the Italian angler who was using their roll cast technique. If you’ve not seen this, I recommend you try and find a video on youtube, it’s mental! Whilst I was fishing peg 12, I could see the water being whipped up into foam by the Italian as he dumped mass amounts of line infront of him, then jump rolled the whole lot 30 yards out. Fair play to him, I couldn’t do it, not that I tried all that much. I preferred to use the 40 + and was hitting the same distances with 1 false cast. It would have been more, but on peg 17 the back cast was very limited with a high bank behind me.
10 minutes before we were due to start however, my controller started cursing in Italian whilst looking through his binoculars at the other side of the lake. I’ve mentioned before my Italian is very limited, but it’s surprising how quickly you get to know what ‘F’n Hell sounds like in Italian. Oddly, my first thought was he’d seen a bear that was chasing competitors and controllers around like a Pike in a ball of pinfry but unfortunately it was something for more severe. The controller passed me the binoculars and I looked over to see a crowd of people surrounding a guy who was giving CPR to one of the controllers. Unfortunately a controller on the far side on the lake had a heart attack during the change over 30 mins and was flat out not responding. Luckily enough for him, the Slovenian competitor Matjaz Tirovic was trained to administer first aid and was doing his best to get the guy back. Miraculously, he was successful and managed to get the controllers heart going again. Had he not been yards away when the controller collapsed, I’m sure they would have been airlifting a body off the mountain.
Due to the location of the lake, an official had to drive down the mountain to get phone signal in order to call the air ambulance in to carry the controller to hospital. This took a while as you can imagine, and we didn’t get the 2nd session going until after 12 Midday, bearing in mind the scheduled end time for the full session was 11am.
The 2nd 1.5hr session got underway but the place had an uneasy atmosphere after what had just happened. The water had a bit more of a rest but by now the sun was at its highest. Next to me, in peg 16, a brownie had been sitting a foot underneath the surface bang in the middle of the peg. The guy next to me was itching to cast in, he literally held the rod is in hand for an hour waiting on the buzzer going off. 2 minutes before we started however the fish suddenly woke up and drifted back into the deep, he was raging! I think the fish must of just sat out of sight however, as he hit into something 10 minutes after we started the 2nd session and landed a brown about the size of the fish that had been sat there.
In front of peg 17 the shelf started about 15 yards out on my left, heading about 45 degrees towards my own bank so the deep water was only 7 – 8 yards on the right of the peg. I concentrated my efforts on the right hand side of the peg because of this and because I could use a slight angle with my back cast in order to get more line airborne. I started off inching a Hughie Booby across the deck and up the shelf, probably not the most sporting of methods but desperate times and all…
By now the sun was at its highest, with it now being early afternoon and the temperature was rising, exactly the opposite of what the fish were now doing. Early on, you could see the odd the fish popping up here and there but by now it was dead. I kept the Di-7 on for 30 mins or so then went back to the pulling rods, and then the bung just off the shelf to the left hand side of the peg. I was still fairly confident going into the last 15 minutes that something would grab a hold but looking around the lake had just shut down from what I could see. Thinking back, I only saw 4 fish caught in that 2nd session, 1 being next door and another from the Czech guy across the other side with about 30 seconds to go which he saw cruising past.
I ended the session without a take, follow, not even a dip on the indicator! I can’t put in words the frustration you feel after a session like that. Unfortunately it’s not the first time I’ve got back on the bus with a big line through the card but I’ve rarely felt as frustrated as I have done driving down that mountain. In previous events you get back on the bus with an understanding mind-set, sometimes it’s just impossible to catch. Going back to Norway a few years back, there were certain ‘river’ pegs that didn’t produce a fish in 5 sessions! I can totally understand that it is impossible to get an even match on a river, especially when you need 30 pegs at 200-250m each but to hold a bank fishing comp on a lake like that is just madness when you have a perfectly good small stillwater fishery in the area. Luckily the controller who collapsed pulled through, or the fallout from having a massively inaccessible venue would have been very bad I’m sure. Perhaps it was a clever ploy by the home team to get the better bank fishing nations on a lake like this, I’m sure if we had fished Nembia the result would of looked very different at the end of the competition.
Elsewhere the lads had a better time of it. Howard won the session on the Arco section on the Sarca. Scotty was 5th on the Pinzolo sector and Phil did well again, taking 6th place on the Tione sector whilst Simon was 23rd on the Noce. Despite my blank, we had moved up to 8th place thanks to 3 great results on the Sarca sections. In the overall standings, Spain still occupied pole position, while Italy had moved up to 2nd following a blank on the Lake by the French angler too. Czech Republic were level on points with France, only separated by fish points.
Unfortunately we had the rest session next up, which is usually something we all look forward to however on this occasion I just wanted to get back out there to put that lake session out of my head. It could have been worse, at least I didn’t have a chance of a fish. I spoke to a few guys on the bus and they had lost fish and missed takes which always feels 5 times as bad.
I did a bit more tying for the remaining river sessions that afternoon. Luckily I hadn’t lost a lot of flies in the first 2 river sessions but you can never have too many I suppose! We repeated the meet, eat and sleep plan from day 1 then it was back on with the 3rd 4.30am alarm. The joy…