The 18th and 19th of May saw Rutland Water host the Airflo Spring Invitational competition, a 2-day match consisting of 21 the best 6 angler teams in Europe – it’s seen as the “Champions League” of Fly Fishing. Entry is gained on a points system based on recent past performances in the major competitions. Literally any of the teams could win the title provided they get their tactics right and put in a good performance over the 2 days. As this was a high profile event it was filmed and is due to be screened on BT Sport channel early June 2019.

All teams practiced hard for up to 5 days in some cases before the actual match ensuring areas of the reservoir holding fish were identified and tactics perfected. At this level there really are no secrets or surprises and the majority of the teams came to the same conclusions following their practice.

Gin clear water, a very light ripple and sunny conditions coupled with fish that had received sustained angling pressure meant that takes were tentative with fish not really committing everything needed to be perfect in order to consistently catch.

Airflo Spring Invitational 2019

Match Practice Analysis

The Fulling Mill FNF Nymphomaniacs all decided to adopt the same tactics and fish the same area… in essence, go for broke on the first day of the competition and hope to put in a good performance when the fish are slightly easier to catch and more plentiful.

Our method was to fish the “washing line” method around 20ft from the bank in 8 – 15ft of water where the fish were holding and feeding on the vast amounts of natural food. In this case, black buzzer and olives.  Due to the difficult conditions, we all opted to use a very thin premium fluorocarbon, the Fulling Mill Masterclass Fluorocarbon in 7.2lb 3x. We felt it gave us a better presentation and an edge over our fellow competitors when targeting these difficult fish, being so strong, we all had 100% confidence in the material, and recorded just 3 snap off’s between our 6 anglers during the two-day match!

“The Washing Line Method” is the most consistent fly-fishing method on almost all still-waters and reservoirs in the UK from May to September – I’d advise all anglers to ensure they are fully aware of how to fish it correctly because it will improve your catch rate… For an in-depth article please visit: http://blog.fullingmill.com/washing-line-method/ 

Our set up was as follows: – Airflo 3ft Mini Tip and 12ft Fast Tips with 8ft to the top dropper – 2-tone black buzzer – then a further 4ft to the second dropper – Nemo Cruncher – another 4ft to the 3rd dropper – Nemo Cruncher – and finally 3.5ft to the point – mini ham & cheese booby. We felt that this combination could be fished in the top 4ft easily and effectively, with team members literally just keeping in touch and fishing their flies on the drop – any straightening of the line resulted in a strike as takes were so tentative.

Airflo Spring Invitational 2019

Airflo Spring Invitational 2019 Match Briefing

Airflo Spring Invitational 2019

Day 1 – Saw the majority of the competitors fishing from Barnhill Creek on the end of the Peninsula all the way down the bank to the Transformer. Floating and Mini Tip lines were used almost exclusively by the competitors, although some anglers did switch to pulling tactics on a Di-5 when struggling – although this didn’t prove consistent.

All the Fulling Mill FNF Nymphomaniacs fished the Transformer area and were soon into fish, our  Captain Kieron Jenkins put in a remarkable performance and set the standard to catch his 12 fish limit by 11:38am considerably the quickest by any of the 126 competitors (with  3 fish killed and 9 returned due to match rules) the other team members Anthony Cartwright, Rob Edmunds, Matt Russell and Allen Hughes weren’t too far behind all reaching their limits by 15:00. While Matthew Griffiths recorded a very solid score of 10. We were more than happy with this performance at the weigh-in and knew a lot of the teams had struggled due to the conditions. However one of our biggest rivals on the “competition circuit” Change Fly- Fishers had also had a good day and put in a great performance as we had expected. there was literally just 2 fish separating the top two teams with us just edging in front.

Airflo Spring Invitational 2019

Matthew Griffiths Playing a Fish on the Masterclass Fluorocarbon 3x

Day 2 – Anglers were greeted by a blazing sun and no wind, these flat calm conditions meant that we couldn’t cover any water and move on to the fish, the lack of ripple also highlighted any imperfections in our presentation meaning that it was going to be even more difficult and we were glad of our slender lead at the top.

The majority of the boats returned to the same areas and employed the same tactics, and as expected it was considerably more difficult, all teams struggled to catch consistently with the only real change was that the flies had to be presented static in order to get takes.

With a number of teams out of contention for the top prize, it allowed some anglers more freedom and the opportunity to fish areas of the reservoir that hadn’t really produced in practice, generally they were rewarded and some amazing fish were caught including a number of 7-12lb browns (4 – all returned)  – these were mainly caught on buzzers fish static at the extremes of the North and South Arm.

Airflo Spring Invitational 2019

Awaiting the results of the Airflo Spring Invitational

The weigh-in was very tense – Change Fly Fishers had caught just 2 more fish than the Nymphomaniacs meaning that over the 2 days of competition both teams had caught exactly the same number of fish 102 – the early bag limits on the first day were sure to play a decisive part in the final result as a time bonus is awarded at 1 lb per hour. when the limit was reached.

Airflo Spring Invitational Champions

Job Done Congratulations Fulling Mill FNF Nymphomaniacs Airflo Spring Invitational Champions

The final result was confirmed and we were crowned 2019 Airflo Spring Invitational Champions…

1st – Fulling Mill FNF Nymphomaniacs 102 fish for 233 lb 7oz
2nd – Change FF 102 fish for 229 lb 6oz
3rd – Iain Barr Costa A 97 fish for 215 lb 2oz

Keep an eye out on BT Sport for the full match video in the next few weeks!

Airflo Spring Invitational 2019

Welsh Hawks Team Gazza – Big Brown

Airflo Spring Invitational 2019
Welsh Hawks Team Wayne – Big Brown

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