The second big competition on the match calendar was held over the weekend of June 15th and 16th at Draycote Water in Warwickshire, The Angling Trust Loch Style Championship, a team event that offers a prize fund of £6,500 to those fortunate enough to win with a £3,000 cash prize going to the winning team.
The angling Trust Loch Style Championship is fished to “International Rules” and scored on a full catch, measure and release basis with the match regulated by boat stewards. The combined team length in cm over two days determining the overall result and winning team.
The match format is quite contentious, with some competitors in favour of the unusual format and some clearly against it – however as the rules are clearly set out at the entry stage (and not changed just prior to the match day – as has been done at other events) then there can be no real complaints – you enter the competition clearly knowing the rules and the format.
The match consists of 3 x 3 hour sessions each day. During each session, one angler from each team will act as a boat steward for another team. Every competitor must act as a boat steward for one 3 hour session each day and compete for 2 x 3 hour sessions each day.
It soon becomes apparent that after just one session there are no secrets, all teams know all methods, flies, and areas that are producing fish – this is mainly due to the “team boatmen” who are able to watch and learn from the competitors they are stewarding. The short 3 hour format also makes for a tight match, competitors don’t get long enough to really build up a bag of fish and run away with the competition and it favours consistency over each session.
Practice had gone very well for the Fulling Mill FNF Nymphomanics – we had a number of methods working and were averaging over 15 fish per angler per day, our biggest concern was that there were simply too many areas on Draycote holding a lot of fish, and in such a short 3 hour format the wrong choice of area could impact greatly on the result. if you deduct the motoring time of 30 mins you essentially have only 2.5 hours fishing time per session – meaning if the fish are not on feeding then do you stay and wait, or move location….it’s always a difficult decision and a very fine margin of error.
Day 1: We decided to split the team and send a boat to different ends of the reservoir, one to Rainbow Corner and the Inlet and one to Toft. We reasoned that the match could easily be lost on the first day ( by not being on the fish) but couldn’t be won……..so we played the percentages and just guaranteed a few fish in the bag that would keep the team in the frame and allow us more time to reflect on how to proceed and plan our line of attack.
Rather than to sit on the stocked fish that were receiving a lot of pressure from all the other competitors, we decided to target the better quality resident fish that were larger and just as numerous, they were, however, harder to catch. It’s fair to say that Day 1 didn’t go as planned, for a number of reasons we actually lost more fish than we landed, fish came off at the net, double ups resulted in break offs with both fish being lost. There was plenty of luck involved and all of it bad!
“The Reservoir Dogs” captained by Leigh Pond were in a commanding position. They identified the fish holding area in Toft and were ruthlessly targeting them every session with all their boats – finishing with 41 fish for the day some 7 fish ahead of the chasing pack. A sizeable lead and one we knew would be difficult to pull back against a quality team.
Day 2: This saw us refine our tactics, we suspected that the fish in Toft would “switch off” at some point during the match, with almost every boat was fishing the same area for the same fish, using almost the same tactics and flies, experience taught us that the fish simply would not keep feeding throughout the day. We hoped that we could stay in contention with average bags of fish then capitalise when the area went dead.
We spread our team and continued with solid bags, 11 in the initial session however we were still some 10 fish behind going into the final 2 sessions – we knew with the wind up and fishing getting increasingly harder it was now or never we had to take an estimated risk and put some pressure on the top 3 teams. Long drifts through open water (J and C Buoys) identified an area we thought held reasonable numbers of fish – we placed the whole team there for the “graveyard session” (12:30 – 15:30) and were rewarded with 11 fish which was enough to convincingly win the team the session and claw back 4 fish on the Reservoir Dogs – Toft had seemingly started to switch off! – more importantly, our captain, Kieron Jenkins identified a slight change in the depth the fish were feeding at. The information was quickly disseminated and following a quick briefing by our master tactician Anthony Cartwright a strategy was formulated – all fish the method, the area and literally go for broke, “speed fishing” fish were to be played hard and fast and the drifts on the know hot spot repeated time after time……this was not a time for finding fresh fish or changing methods.
The first drift saw Matt Russell “double up” hooking 2 x 3.5 lb plus fish at the same time only to be broken off as they rocketed off in opposite directions, Allen Hughes was also instantly into a nice fish (49cm) which was quickly netted and returned, Matt then hooked another and landed it as did I…….our confidence was up and we were flying, 3 fish for the team in literally 10 minutes – we were happy, settled on fish and on a method – we knew it was on. The next 2 hours were a blur Matt Russell and I were bouncing idea’s off each other, one fishing static the other slowly, one slightly higher in the water etc……We were having action in spells, a couple of quick fish each then nothing for 20 minutes or so, the bag was building up nicely and we could see the distinctive fluorescent chartreuse hats of the Reservoir Dogs team motoring around the reservoir fishing just adrift in each area, this much movement could only mean one thing….Toft had switched off and they were searching frantically for fish!
With just 30 minutes to go one of our landing nets was knocked overboard and sank like a stone in 30ft of water! Ooops….if we lose the last net we are in big trouble….We decided to finish bouncing along the shoreline from the Tower to Dunn’s Bay, fishing the drop off around 20 – 30 yards out, I hooked and landed another big fish measuring a colossal 56cm (about 4.5lb) that took our tally in the boat to 10, Matt then skimmed another straight across the surface as we finished with 11 to the boat and literally just 15 minutes to get back to the harbour. We knew our other boat had also caught well and that we had given ourselves a fighting chance, especially as we had consistently caught larger resident fish over the course of the day.
There were a number of teams that were all in the frame due to contrasting fortunes in the final session, it was tense as the results were read in reverse, fortunately, the Fulling Mill FNF Nymphomanics came out on top just beating Reservoir Dogs into second place and Pitsford Pirates into 3rd.
Angling Trust Loch Style Championship Results – Top 6
- Fulling Mill FNF Nymphomaniacs – 70 fish for 3211 cm
- Reservoir Dogs – 66 fish for 3143 cm
- Pitsford Pirates – 70 fish for 3140 cm
- Elinor 63 – fish for 2889 cm
- Greenwells Persuaders – 60 fish for 2846 cm
- Draycote Rio Masters – 59 fish for 2796 cm
We employed the “Washing Line” method as our winning tactic over the 2 days of the Angling Trust Loch Style Championship, initially fishing on a 6ft Airflo Slow tip when the fish were higher in the water ( at the start of the day) before reverting to an Airflo 12ft fast tip as the fish dropped deeper to around 6ft. We fished a 4 fly cast on a 22ft leader of 10lb Masterclass Fluorocarbon.
The patterns used were:
The Washing Line Method is a generic term used to describe a floating point fly (usually a Booby, Fab or Popper Hopper) with nymphs on the droppers; it allows the angler to fish multiple flies in the killing zone, in this case, the top 3 – 6ft of water.
It’s essential that you understand your tackle and flies and how slight changes in both can affect the depth you are fishing at, typically, this method is used when fishing a Floating, Midge Tip or Intermediate line when the fish are in the top 8ft of water. Although, it can be equally effective on faster-sinking lines ie Di-3.
It’s fairly obvious that the larger the booby eyes (or amount of buoyancy in other patterns) then the higher the point fly will hold in the water.
However, the type and diameter of your leader material will play a huge part as to how the cast fishes and acts in the water… The length of leader and spacing’s of flies will also drastically affect how deep your set up fishes, for example, a fluorocarbon leader with 7 – 10ft to the top dropper then 2 further droppers spaced 3.5ft apart with a size 12 small eyed booby on the point with size 10 nymphs on the droppers will allow the angler to fish deeper than most anglers imagine – depths of 15ft are achievable with a slow retrieve in calm conditions…
The size and type of fly will have a huge effect on how the leader fishes (epoxy buzzers will sink fast and pull the cast down, crunchers will hold up in the water due to their hackles trapping air) – A size 10 fly (especially if tied on heavy wire hooks) will drag the cast down, including the point fly, allowing you to fish on the drop.
For the point fly, a booby or a FAB is my preferred pattern to use, but a popper hopper is also a great way to keep the cast suspended when terrestrial insects are present.
Make a cast, then make 2 pulls to strip the flies, this will straighten the leader and ensure that you are in direct contact with your cast, allowing you to feel the slightest of takes. It will also cause the floating point fly to skate across the surface hopefully drawing attention from nearby fish to your flies.
All that’s needed then is an ultra slow figure of 8, basically keeping in contact with your flies (if fishing on the drop) or retrieving them at a slow pace, all your flies will be held at the correct depth for longer, increasing your chances.
Angling Trust Loch Style Championship 2018 Match Report