Gutted! What a day we have had. The competition is over and the results are in. Spain has won the gold, USA the silver and Bosnia the bronze. I can’t remember the last time the Czechs, French and Italians all missed out on a medal. It tells you something about the draw and the fishing. That is not to take anything away from those who did well, but you can’t catch what is not in front of you. Individually, a Polish competitor has won, someone from Montenegro was second and USA third. Again, none of the favoured countries in the top three. Amazing.
Enough about them and more about us! Mick had the dreaded lake this morning and it was not kind once again to the Aussies. He did have a couple of good chances but they did not stick and he blanked. A few fish were caught and the fish appeared active for a while but with so many boats in a small area, the fish soon disappeared. He then went onto the Sanica and landed two and broke a couple off. Once again, he drew a terrible beat and the beat analysis will tell us that.
Now that I can mention something about flies, he actually had his success on a toilet paper fly! Yes, that’s right! A blob of white poly yarn. What does that say about the fishery? I really do feel for Mick. He has fished very well and was excellent in practice. He had no chance with the draw he was given. If anyone took one for the team, it was Mick. All of that planning and preparation and sacrifice to get those beats…
Staggy fished the Pliva and similar to me yesterday, he caught plenty of undersized fish. He did manage a couple of fish in another hard beat which has produced very few. He is a great river angler and someone who I hold in very, very high regard. For him to struggle to catch fish means it was hard. He then went into the Vrbas this afternoon and did not even see a fish. More incredibly, the person on beat 3 caught 21 fish on dry flies, casting to rising fish all session! The river was high and even dirtier than normal after over night rain. It is the only river in the comp that gets affected by rain. Staggy was also not blessed with a good draw this competition.
Luke was on the Sanica and then the Sana. He fished very well in the morning on a good beat and caught 19 fish. In the fourth session anywhere, that’s a good effort and placed him right near the top. He then backed it up in the last session with nine fish. Luke had the tougher sessions early in the comp but capitalised well today, coming home with a wet sail.
Vern also had a good day, catching four fish in both his sessions. The first was on the Sana and then on the Pliva. Although he caught most nymphing, he has turned into a bit of a dry fly tragic and I would expect that any fish mad enough to rise in front of him in future will get a well placed dry put in front of it. He would be justifiably proud of his efforts today.
Then there was my sub-par performance. I drew a top five beat on the Verbas this morning and did not quite take full toll of it. The day had started badly for me when I got gastro from eating breakfast at the hotel. At one of the drop off points, I had to run into the bush. Once I arrived at my beat, I managed to explain to my controller that I needed the toilet and where could I go. He knocked on the door of one of the houses that was overlooking the water and the lady kindly let me use her bathroom. I then returned to my beat and rigged my rods. At this stage I had not seen my entire beat yet but had to return to the bathroom a few minutes later. When 9:30 came around, I was still sitting on the toilet and the session had started. Eventually I made it to the water and the bottom of my beat and started fishing. The water was high and very, very dirty. It is normally the colour of Penstock Lagoon on a bad day but this was more like the Shannon on a terrible day. Visibility was down to 2cm. I knew that the Czech had caught 21 fish off it on day one and had fish rising everywhere. I believe the Scotsman had had four off it and the Frenchman had three. This is what my controller had told me anyway.
In hindsight, I did not approach the beat as well as I could have. I find this sort of water quite daunting and off-putting, probably due to the fact that I never get to see water like this. Only two grayling had come off the beat and the rest were trout. Knowing that they would have pushed in along the edge, I set about fishing dries along the “soft” edges on the river. The near bank had tight overhanging trees while the far bank was a little more open and there was one place I could cross in deep water. I got a small fish early on which was a wild brownie of around 22cm. Nothing else came off my bank and I had to cross the river to find similar water. I thought that a couple of fish would give me a good placing and therefore set about taking my time to fish the same way on the opposite bank. I caught another fish after about an hour and quarter in on the dry and then I missed a beautiful fish that head and shouldered over the caddis. I changed flies, represented and he ate it again. This time I tightened and … nothing again. I recast a few times without any movement from the fish and moved on. I fished hard along the edge and did not see another trout. I then swung a small Woolly Bugger back down the beat, again concentrating on the edge. With five minutes to go I had repositioned myself where I had missed that fish previously but this time I was upstream, fishing down to it. I had much more control from here and the fly was eaten within a foot of touching down. This time the fish stayed on and was landed. That was it for the session.
I am really not sure how to say this and this bit might have to be censored, but if you are wondering how I was going with the gastro, the answer is, not well. Just after catching my first fish I had to make a decision as to whether I would leave the water and spend the rest of the session in the bathroom or keep fishing and suffer the consequences. I chose the latter and in doing so, I have had to part company with a pair of trousers, two pairs of socks and my waders. I have (had) a pair of Aquaz waders that have served me brilliantly both at home and abroad and I am very sad to see them go but they were not salvageable. They will be my first purchase when I get home. It was not a pleasant experience and certainly a long way from the most enjoyable session I have ever fished.
I returned to the lovely lady’s house before the bus came, washed and changed clothes but could not do much with the waders as I needed them for the last session.
I felt a bit better heading to lunch even though I knew I had not caught the fish I should have on that beat. Only one fish rose and I did catch it but my nymphing in the water left a lot to be desired as I lacked confidence and conviction in water whose depth was impossible to predict. Beats two and three produced good numbers of fish (two has been the best beat for the entire comp) and the American did well on four fish. I was disappointed with my result and as the water was falling and clearing as we were leaving, I expect that whoever fishes that beat after me, will catch a power of fish. As it turned out, I placed fifth in that session. If I had fished to the beat’s potential, I should have come second. The winner caught around 12 and that was not going to happen in my beat.
Lunch was interesting as I was feeling a little better. As a diabetic, I have to eat and keep hydrated at these times but the food did not agree with me and I was back to square one after lunch. After a few toilet stops, I made it to the lake and onto the water. I had drawn the Irishman as my boat partner. He was a lovely guy and we worked well together. The Irish had caught a fish in every season and sometimes more. Their tactic was to fish a Di 3 with a single Cat’s Whisker on the point and pull hard. Very hard. He was not fishing deep and wow, was he pulling. I had decided that I would fish high in the water on a clear intermediate (my favourite sinking fly line, the Stillwater taper) with two flies only, spaced ten feet apart. Basically, nothing at all had worked for us the entire comp and I wanted to try things. The wind was strong and as we had no drogues and the boats have no keel, the drift was fast and all over the place. This made fishing slowly very difficult. An hour in and I had to be dropped back on the shore for a short while where I had a massive bed of stinging nettles to contend with. My backside is still itchy! Back in the boat, the Irishman had not seen a fish and this trend continued up to when the horn sounded to end the session. The Finnish competitor had managed two fish and then five others had one fish. The rest were blanks. It was the lowest number of fish caught during any session on the lake. Not one fish moved and we did not get one pluck or even a follow. The highlight of the session for me was getting my hang marker stuck in the top rod ring as I pulled and thinking it was fish for one milli second. The dreaded blank!
When the final results were tallied up and placed on the board for all to see, we had dropped to 17th place overall. There is a lot of head shaking and discussion going on about where we went wrong. Clearly, it was the stocked fish on the lake. Five blanks! Had we all caught only one fish each on the lake, we would have made the top five. From an individual point of view, I came 32nd. Chocolates to boiled lollies! One fish on the lake would have given me the bronze medal and two, the silver medal. Regret!! Don’t you hate that?! There are always people in every comp who can say the same thing but when it is you, you realise the anguish.
It goes to show how close things are at the top. You simply can not afford to make a mistake. It kills you. I often get strange looks at home if I manage to do well in a session but say that I was unhappy with it. The general attitude is that if you win the session, you should be happy but I do not share this view. It is all about how you fish. How many chances you give yourself and your conversion rate. Why? Because when you get to this level, mediocrity is unacceptable. Others won’t make a mistake and neither can you. It is you versus the fish, not you versus your competitors.
Some of the boys are up having a drink while a couple of us are tucked away for the night. There is not much to celebrate. The Americans are over the moon and so they should be. They will party hard into the night and go into next year as busts and favourites. The Czechs will be shaking their heads at their beats.
That’s it for now then. I will write a proper wrap-up report while I am on the plane on the way home for my daughter’s third birthday next week. I have missed the family for five weeks.