How To Get Into Competition Fly Fishing
There are many different types of competition that cater for the individual angler, pairs, teams of 4 and teams of 6. Meaning that anyone can get started on the competition circuit.
I would always advise that you “team up” with angling friends, people you know and get along with, and importantly who you can rely on. (Usually members from your angling club, or a group of regulars at your fishery) If possible try and find a person who’s happy to be a reserve – someone that will practice with the team, share information with the team and fish on match day at a moment’s notice should another team member not be available. But understands the position of reserve and is generally not going to participate in the actual match. It’s an ideal way for you to gain an introduction on the competition circuit and find out exactly what it’s all about.
Once you have the required number of anglers to participate, it’s important that decisions are made as a team rather than by any one individual. For example it should be team decision as to which matches you participate in, and at what venues. You should collectively decide on some common aims and objectives that are realistic and achievable usually along the lines of:-
1-Are you realistically participating with the intention of winning the overall competition?
2-Is this an opportunity to further your angling skills, by fishing with more experienced anglers, so picking up new skills, methods and flies?
3- Is this a social exercise, a chance to have a laugh, meet new people with similar interests?
Most teams/anglers would say option 2 and 3, yet the same basic principle apply no matter what level you are fishing at, what your aims are or if the match is from bank or boat.
It’s best to appoint a captain, again this should be a team decision to minimise any conflict, and in my opinion is a thankless task. Once appointed the captain can take on all responsibility for organisation. His first job will be to ensure all match fees are paid to the competition organisers, and that all the team are available to fish on the actual match day.
Next he must organise the practice boats and angler pairings, if possible it’s better to practice the day before the actual match or at least once in the proceeding 3 days before the match.
When practicing on any water its essential that the team covers as much of the lake/reservoir as possible with a variety of methods. If fishing as a team of 6 it’s usual to split the water up into 3 sections with each of the 3 pairs allocated an individual section of the water to fish on a variety of methods. Each angler within the boat pair should fish differing methods whilst covering the water i.e. Lures Vs Nymphs. It allows you all to see which method, area and flies are the most productive. (It’s just as important to rule out methods and area’s as it is to find them)
Each team member should be given a map so they can accurately mark productive areas, and the time fish are caught – again attempting to build up a picture of the whole reservoir and the fish within it. Some fish may only respond to nymphs, others to lures. For example daphnia feeding fish usually respond well to brightly coloured lures pulled at speed rather than nymphs.
Remember once you find the fish do not repeat the drift! It shows other anglers that you have located some fish, and it also gives the fish unnecessary angling pressure, this may cause them to go off your chosen method. This is a common mistake made by anglers; they find the fish on practice day catch a limit, loose and hook others. Then on match day when the fish won’t respond to their method they are lost as they have no other area, or method that they can catch fish on – this happens all the time and even experienced competition anglers are at fault.
It’s a good idea to have a team get together half-way through the practice day. It allows the sharing of ideas, methods and so gives the whole team a better understanding of the water. It’s also more sociable and enjoyable to meet up and share some friendly banter – usually over a pint
Then in the afternoon session you can focus on the most productive methods, and flies in your particular area, or if you are confident in the method etc…try something completely new to try and find a back up plan or an edge over the other competitors.
Always look at the other boats, you can learn so much just by watching, do they repeat their drifts, if so it’s usually a sign that they’ve caught a fish or at least had takes or follows. By watching other anglers you can tell how they are fishing for example if they are fishing deep their rod will arc over when they retrieve, are they retrieving fast or slow…..if it’s fast then they’ll be fishing lures.
On occasion rather than to show anglers that I’ve a successful method I’ll break the hook off my fly at the shank and simply fish for takes. As the fish aren’t hooked they won’t wise up to the method or flies so quickly.
At the end of the practice day another team meeting is essential, all team members must bring their maps indicating the area’s they’ve caught fish, and the actual flies they’ve used, so all team members can see for themselves the actual killing patterns and the best drifts i.e. there are hundreds of variations of a black buzzer or diawl bach, and the “top of the south arm” is a big area of water, try and be as exact as possible with areas and flies.
If there has been one particularly successful pattern and you tied it then you are responsible for tying up at least 2 of the flies for each team member. This will ensure that everyone has a fly tied with the correct materials and with the correct proportions.
At the end of the meeting you all should have a good idea of the best areas, flies and methods and the time of day that’s most productive, you can now discuss team tactics and who will fish where and how.
I would always advise that you split your team, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket especially if there are two productive areas. But this is ultimately a team decision and should be taken as such. With my team the “Nymphomaniacs” we have a team discussion and preferred choices as to methods and areas. But we always work on the principle that a happy confident angler will catch more fish so leave the final decision to the individual angler as regards method and area. Unfortunately this is liable to change even at the last minute with anglers changing their minds whilst motoring to an area.
When fishing the actual match, communication is vital within your team, it helps you and your team mates stay in touch with the water and the fish, yet you can’t be too open as all the other competitors will pick up on your findings. – Sound travels well across water!
Our team has 6 identical boxes of flies that are split into 8 numbered sections, with a single fly in each section. If we are catching on a particular pattern we just shout the number so our team mates can look in their box and pick out the exact pattern – keeping other boats in the dark about the killing patterns and us one step ahead.
However I believe that it’s essential to be open and work with your boat partner, rather than against them, remember they have control of the boat for half of the match so can easily take you off the fish, if you don’t let them know your killing method or fly. I’ve always found that the sharing of information is a two way thing, if you help them, they’ll help you.
However don’t expect instant success, as a team you need to grow and improve if you are to be successful and this takes time. Enjoy the experience and the results will eventually come, not only in matches but you’ll also find you’ve increased catches on pleasure days.
Once you know your team a little better you will find that some anglers are particularly good at certain methods i.e. the washing line. It’s always beneficial to pair the less experienced anglers within the team, with those that are more successful especially on practice or pleasure days, allowing them to learn the method and ultimately become a better individual angler. By frequently fishing together as a team you’ll all become stronger and more versatile anglers and will ultimately catch more fish.
Ten Top Tips
1-Share everything within the team, information, prizes etc…
2- Practice on the venue as close to the match as possible
3- Get background information on the water, read fishery reports, contact friends etc…
4-look and learn from other anglers and boats
5-Keep in contact with your team whilst on the water
6-Be adaptable – change methods if conditions change or you method is not working
7-Have a box of team flies
8-Have a team plan regarding method, and area
9-Work with your boat partner
10-Learn and enjoy the occasion.
If you need any help in choosing the right flies for the job, then PLEASE checkout our two fantastic resources.
- Pros Patterns – here, accomplished fishermen share their hard earned knowledge of what works and where. Search by country and then the exact fishery and you’re set.
- Reservoir Essentials – as the name suggests. All you need for a successful day, out on the water, all in one place. We can’t make it easier than that. Can we?