After a week of hard practice all of the squad were bursting to start the competition. The practice had told us that some methods and flies would work on the three different rivers but as always there were flies that were required for one river, or even a particular section. This means one thing – lots of fly tying!! In general, drab nymphs and dries were called for in various sizes, and weights in the case of the nymphs, indeed some fly-tying kits seemed to only consist of tungsten and lead at times.
After what seemed an endless period of fly-tying I decided to take advantage of one of the official practice sessions, held on a different river that any team had previously practiced on. This gave some indication as to how the competition sectors would react in the first session since they had not been fished for 60 days (due to Fips Mouche Ruling ). As expected the fishing was phenomenal, and after the 3 hour allotted time slot I had caught in excess of 50 Trout & Grayling reaching 3lb in some cases. One of the best methods was to fish a large dry in the slow pockets behind any big rocks that I could find, as long as the leader was held off the water to eliminate drag on the fly, then Grayling of 40 – 45cm would smash into it on regular occasions before tearing off downstream! Fun over, it was back to HQ to feedback to the rest of guys before more you know what, fly tying. Time spent now getting all the flies tied in the correct sizes and weights before the match is absolutely critical before any big competition, especially one that continues over 3 days. Time to rest between sessions is at a premium once the competition is in full swing so the last thing you want to do is frantically tying flies at midnight!
Finally, the first session had arrived together with a 5.30am wake-up call from our Team Manager Paul Page. As the anglers dispersed to their relevant coaches which would take them to their allocated beats, anticipation increased, rumours started to be passed around and Team Managers rushed to follow the coach of the angler they would be following. Once all the competitors had left and fishing started the first 3 hour session seemed to fly over, again rumours drifting around constantly about who has caught what, who has drawn a great peg, and who hasn’t. In the blink of eye the first session finished, and results started to filter in from the 5 sectors spread around the Slovenian countryside. With 30 teams entered in this year’s competition, any result in the top 10 is considered a good result, Top 5 is spectacular. England sat 4th overall after the first session, after session wins from Howard & John H, together with a 8th placing from Phil.
Session 2 followed soon after, with a short period for lunch and a time to talk tactics with the guy who is following on to the section a team member has just fished. After session 2 results come in, a picture starts to form of what are the hot and cold pegs in each section. Of course, session 2 is a lot more difficult than session 1, as the best anglers on the planet have previously fished the water in front of you. This is when drawing a ‘hot peg’ becomes an advantage, as hopefully the angler fishing the water before you has missed fish which should be easier to catch than fish that have been caught previously, well that’s the theory anyway! Session 2 normally means different tactics too, often in conjunction with an evening rise.
After a 19 hour day the 3rd session followed only a few hours sleep for most of the guys. Another 5.30am wake up call and the buses started to trickle away to their allotted sections. The weather was threatening to take a turn for the worse, as it looked although a storm front was building in the Alps. Thankfully it held off long enough to get the 3rd session completed before the heavens opened in the afternoon. The afternoon of the 2nd day is a rest session, and so gave time to restock fly boxes and catch up on some sleep! Howard once again did very well, finishing 4th on the lake session meant that he was now leading the whole field. The Czech team has started to shine as they always do and were now in pole position followed by the French, Spanish, Italians and Slovakians. England were down in 11th place after lots of tough river draws.
The rest session gave chance to regroup as a team and talk through game plans once again. Everybody was confident that, if we drew beats that held good numbers of fish, we had all the tools to be able to catch them. In the 4th session, John Tyzack drew a cracking beat on the Kokra and took 19 fish to win his session, proving our point. Howard however drew a difficult beat on the Sava and could only manage 10th place. Still, this left him in 6th place overall, and still defiantly in with a shout of an individual medal. The whole squad gave all they possibly could in this session, which resulted in the team jumping up to 8th place overall. The Czechs were now starting to pull clear of the field, chased by the Spanish, Italians and French teams. Their ability to fish a 250m peg more efficiently than all of the other teams was now coming to the fore, an ability that comes from fishing regular pegged competitions in their home country.
The 5th and final session is were medals are won and lost, the session were you have to be as aware and focused now as you were 2 days ago when the competition was just starting out. All English eyes were on Howard, and what sort of beat he got on the final Kokra session. On paper it was a decent beat, but previous anglers to fish that particular section were from France, Spain and Italy, probably some of the best anglers on the planet! Howard caught 9 fish from his section which saw him comfortably in the top 10 in his session. Unfortunately this was not enough to win him and individual medal and instead he finished an excellent 4th. Elsewhere Simon, Phil and John H did well in their last sessions, which bumped the team further up to finish in 7th place at the close of the competition. The Czech’s once again dominated, winning by some distance, followed by Spain & Italy. The same 3 countries shared the individual medals.
The championships were over in a flash as they soon often seem to be, and proceedings were brought to an end at the closing ceremony. The organisers excelled themselves in Slovenia, and they ensure every competitor in every team wanted for nothing. The fishing was nothing short of spectacular, and with scenery to match it’s not hard to see why Slovenia is become a popular destination for the travelling angler.