Author Topic: How to organize a fly fishing competition - advice, tips and templates  (Read 5193 times)

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Todd Oishi

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Organizing a fly fishing competition can be a very simple and rewarding task, and a great way to establish a competitive fly fishing community in your town or region. The phrase "Build it… and they will come!" Describes perfectly what will happen if you dedicate some time and effort to starting a competition circuit or league in your own region.

Newcomers to our sport will enjoy the chance to participate in a friendly-spirited competition and the chance to learn new techniques and socialize with other competitors, while novice and seasoned competitors will jump at the opportunity to gain some additional competitive experience. Starting a league or your first competition is fairly simple if you use the following recommendations as a guide on how to getting started...

Getting started…

A word of caution:
It is mandatory that every competitor MUST sign and produce the original copy of a Liability Waiver form in order to participate at your competition (see attached waiver form/template at bottom of this post). Minors MUST have their parent or legal guardian complete the form for them.

It’s also recommended to impose a rule, that makes it mandatory for both competitors and controllers to wear life jackets and eye protection at all times. Restricting competitors from swimming or youths from wading deeper than their waist is also advisable, so no one is putting themselves or others at risk. Common sense and proper judgment should always prevail when assessing the dangers that are related to any still or moving body of water.

Selecting a venue:
When selecting a venue for a competition, it’s important to prefish it, whether it is a river, lake or ocean beach, in order to ensure that it will be suitable for a group of competitors, and will provide an enjoyable angling experience for the participants. The venue must also be large enough to handle the angling pressure, and produce fish for multiple sessions. 

Lakes competitions:
Lake competitions can be fished in a variety of way: loch-style, anchored, or from the bank (trolling isn't an accepted method for competition fishing). Obtaining enough boats for all of the competitors that will attending your competition is generally one of the biggest challenges when organizing a lake competition.

A variety of watercraft can be used, but it's important that they must be somewhat similar in design in order to avoid giving a competitor an advantage over the rest of the group.

Bank fishing competitions are the easiest lake competitions to organize, as there is no need for boats. The valid concern regarding bank sessions is that certain parts of the lake and shoreline tend to be more productive than others, so using a rotation system that moves the competitors through several beats during a single session can help to address this issue and create a more balanced and fair competition.

River competitions:
River beats should be 50-100 yards in length (or longer if possible), and somewhat comparable in regards to the concentrations of fish and quality of the angling.

Local anglers have just as much right to fish while competitions are taking place, so a longer beat will allow the competitors to spread out and seek other water if a recreational angler is sharing the same beat.

Controllers are encouraged to stay close to the competitor so they can watch and learn, but must stay out of the water and at a safe distance while the competitor is casting and fishing.

Controllers must remain on one bank for the duration of the session, with the competitor bringing the fish to them.

Eligible fish species:
The primary species of fish that are targeted for competitive fly fishing include: trout, char, whitefish and grayling, although coarse fish are often included in some European countries, so it’s advisable to select fish species that match those that competitors might expect to encounter at such events. That being said, sometimes you simply must work with the species that are available in your region.

Targeting actively spawning fish or fish in distress (warm water temperatures or post-spawn fish) should be discouraged and considered as an ineligible species for competitions. Amending your local rules to set a maximum size limit the size for the eligible fish, so it will exclude the spawning fish, can help stop the competitors from targeting them (we used a 50cm limit with great success in one of our competitions where salmon were also present in the same waters as the trout and whitefish).

Rule amendments:
A rule amendment is basically a change or addition to the standard set of rules that are used for competitive fly fishing (see either FIPS-Mouche or Fly Fishing Canada’s websites for the rules). It should be clearly posted as to which set of rules are being used for any given competition.

Rule amendments are often necessary in cases where a region or fishery has a special concern due to local laws and regulations or unusual circumstances that require a modification to the standard set of rules for competitions.

Rule amendments should be posted well in advance or made clear to ALL competitors well enough in advance that they have time to plan and prepare for the rule changes.

Promoting your competition:
Post your competition and the details in the Competitive Fly Fishing Forum in the sub-forum titled: “Fly Fishing Competitions and Events”. Clearly state the following details:
1.   The name or title of the competition
2.   The date(s) of the competition
3.   The location of the competition (nearest town or city will suffice)
4.   The name of the venue (you can be discrete if you wish to protect the venue, and only provide the name via email to the registered competitors).
5.   Type of competition (rivers, lakes, loch-style fishing, bank fishing, beach fishing, etc…)
6.   Maximum number of competitors
7.   The set of rules that your event will be using
8.   Number of sessions
9.   Schedule with the times for each session
10.   Eligible fish species
11.   The minimum size (of the fish) for scoring points
12.   Keep an updated list posted of the registered participants

The Draw:
• A competition can have as few as 4 competitors and consist of a single session of competition on any river or lake, but it tends to work better when there are 8 or more competitors, and at least 2 sessions.
• Competitions with smaller numbers of competitors (8-12) should see the competitors being divided into 2 or 3 equal numbered "groups" so a blank (zero fish recorded in a session) won't necessarily eliminate their chances of a finish on the podium.
• Competitions with larger numbers of competitors (15 -21) should see competitors being divided into 3 or 4 equal numbered groups.
• Competitions with 25 or more competitors should see the competitors being divided into 5 equal numbered groups.
• A ghost angler is used in order to balance the number of competitors in each of the groups, in cases where there isn't enough competitors to form equally numbered groups. This will also help to maintain a consistent placing point for any blanks that should occur in any one of the groups.
• The ghost angler's score will be a reflection of the average catch of those who scored fish in that group. If the majority of the group blanks, in fairness to those that caught a fish, the ghost will be scored with blank as well, regardless of the number of fish that were scored by those who caught fish. This will help to recognize and reward the few that managed to catch a single fish under difficult conditions, and won't allow the Ghost to score higher in a situation were one competitor scores a very large number of fish and others struggled to score just a single fish.
Ranking system for The Draw:
Competitors are ranked according to their skill-level and then separated into groups, so the draw process creates a somewhat equal balance of the skill-levels within all of the groups.
This will eliminate the chance of one group being stacked with the top ranked or higher-skilled competitors, while another is full of lower-skilled competitors. The ranking system will also allow lesser-skilled competitors a chance to shine when they have the same number of top ranked competitors as the other groups. This also allows the lesser skilled competitors the opportunity to fish beside and learn from the more advanced competitors.

Competitor controlled competitions:
Using competitors to serve as controllers for their fellow competitors is the simplest solution when there is a lack of volunteers to serve as controllers. This also provides a great teaching tool, as it allows competitors a unique opportunity for observing their fellow competitors in action and a chance to learn new techniques and how to read and cover water.

In situations where competitors share a beat, one competitor fishes for 15 minutes, while the other competitor serves as their controller. Competitor and controller switch roles at 15 minute intervals for the duration of the session to ensure that they both have equal time and opportunity to target the more productive areas of the beat.

The draw for the rotation of venues should be set in a way that allows each competitor the opportunity to start first during at least one of their sessions and a coin toss may be used to decide who goes first if there is an uneven number of sessions (see diagram below for the recommended format):

Beat Rotation for all Groups:
________Top Beat _Upper Beat_Lower Beat__Bottom Beat
Session 1:     A                 B                 C                   D                           
Session 2:     B                 A                 D                   C
Session 3:     D                 C                 B                   A
7:15am - Competitors' Meeting in the designated parking lot (address sent in my previous email)
7:30am - Carpooling and departure for the river and their competition beats

Session 1 (2 Hours):
Competitor 1 and 4 are paired on lower half - Competitor 2 and 3 are paired on upper half
8:30 – 8:45am - Competitor 1 and 2
8:45 – 9:00am - Competitor 3 and 4
9:00 – 9:15am - Competitor 1 and 2
9:15 – 9:30am - Competitor 3 and 4
Rotate half beats: 9:30 – 9:45am
9:45 – 10:00am - Competitor 3 and 4
10:00 – 10:15am - Competitor 1 and 2
10:15 – 10:30am - Competitor 3 and 4
10:30 – 10:45am - Competitor 1 and 2

Relocation to Next Sector: 10:45 – 11:15am

Session 2 (2 Hours):
Competitor 1 and 3 are paired on lower half - Competitor 2 and 4 are paired on upper half
11:15 – 11:30am - Competitor 3 and 4
11:30 – 11:45pm - Competitor 1 and 2
11:45 – 12:00pm - Competitor 3 and 4
12:00 – 12:15pm - Competitor 1 and 2
Rotate half beats: 12:15 – 12:30pm
12:30 – 12:45pm - Competitor 1 and 2
12:45 – 1:00pm - Competitor 3 and 4
1:00 – 1:15pm - Competitor 1 and 2
1:15 – 1:30pm - Competitor 3 and 4

Relocation to Next Sector: 1:30pm – 2:00pm

Session 3 (2 Hours):
Competitor 1 and 2 are paired lower half - Competitor 3 and 4 are paired on upper half
2:00 – 2:15pm - Competitor 1 and 3
2:15 – 2:30pm - Competitor 2 and 4
2:30 – 2:45pm - Competitor 1 and 3
2:45 – 3:00pm - Competitor 2 and 4
Rotate half beats: 3:00 – 3:15pm
3:15 – 3:30pm - Competitor 2 and 4
3:30 – 3:45pm - Competitor 1 and 3
3:45 – 4:00pm - Competitor 2 and 4
4:00 – 4:15pm - Competitor 1 and 3

4:45pm - Competitors' Meeting, Final Results, and socializing in the designated parking lot.

Measuring fish:
Extreme care should be used whenever fish are handled, and especially during the measuring process! Fish should be quickly measured and returned to the water as soon as possible and without delay.
Each and every fish should be kept in the water in preparation for the measuring process, and measuring troughs should be filled with fresh water while the fish are placed within them.
Controllers should measure their fish in the confines of their nets, so the fish won’t become injured as a result of falling onto the ground or floor of the boats.
Fish are placed with their nose against the end of the measuring trough, and are measured from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail.
The squeezing of tails is not permitted under any circumstances!

Sample of the type of measuring troughs we built and used at one of my local comps
(note how the fish is underwater and able to breathe in the fresh water).

Organizer's competition equipment check list:
Watch or time piece (for recording time)
Whistle (for signaling the beginning and end of the sessions)
Scorecards (see attachment below)
Pens (for writing on the scorecards)
Ziploc bags (for keeping the scorecards dry)
Surveyor's tape or wooden stakes (for marking beats)
Permanent marker felt pens (for writing beat numbers on beat markers)
Measuring troughs (2 competitors generally share 1 measuring trough for competitor controlled comps)
Option for measuring: 10 inch (25 cm) ruler and zap straps (when scoring fish based on “over or under 25 cm”)
Drogues (for loch-style fishing sessions)
Thwart boards (see the following photo):

Point system for individual scorecards:
Fish must be over the set minimum length in order to score points. The size of the fish is rounded up to the next digit if it exceeds the previous digit (i.e.  23.1 cm is scored as 24 cm). Fish under the minimum length aren’t to be rounded up and are ineligible for scoring points.
Each fish scored is worth 100 points, and 20 points are awarded for every centimeter of its length ( a 25 cm fish = 100 points for the fish, and its length of 25 cm X 20 points = 500 points for the length, which results in a total score of 600 fish points for that fish.
The points on each scorecard should be calculated and verified by the officials at the end of each session.

Point system for individual groups:
All competitors will receive a placing in their group according to the points they obtain on each sector and for each session of a competition. Any competitor who fails to make a valid catch in any session will be awarded a placing equal to the number of competitors in their group for that session. The same placing will be awarded to any competitor who fails to participate for any reason.

Any competitor who misses or is forced to retire for any reason from a session of a competition shall have his catch up to that time included in the results.  If there is a tie between competitors in the same sector and session in the number of points received, the tie breaker will be the largest number of valid fish caught. If the tie persists, the competitors will receive equal placings and the immediately following placing(s) will be blank.

Group A Results for Session 1:
1. John Doe    - 2800 fish points  - 4 fish
2. Hank Chen - 2100 fish points  - 3 fish (tied for 2nd)
2. Joe Cool      - 2100 fish points  - 3 fish (tied for 2nd)
4. Brad Pitt     - 1800 fish points  - 3 fish
5. Jack Black   - 1600 fish points  - 2 fish
6. Jim Bean     - 1500 fish points  - 3 fish

Point system for the overall scoreboard:
The first position will be awarded to the individual with the lowest cumulative number of placings, and similarly for all other positions. If there is a tie for positions between individuals, the first tie breaker will be the largest number of points received, the second will be the largest number of valid fish caught, and the third will be the largest fish (doesn’t apply to the results of session). If the tie persists, the tied individuals will be awarded equal positions and the immediately following position(s) will be blank.

Commonly used terms for competition angling:
Beat: A stretch of a river or lake shoreline that is pegged and assigned to a competitor for their session.
Beat marker: A piece of tape or wooden stake that is used to mark the boundaries of a beat.
Controller: A person or competitor that serves as a judge for a competitor, and is responsible for measuring and recording fish on a scorecard, and ensuring that the competitor abides by the rules.
Draw: A random process for dividing competitors into equal numbered groups for a competition.
Drogue: A drogue is a type of parachute or drift sock that’s attached to the side of the boat and placed in the water in order to slow the boat’s drift speed.
Ghost angler: A name given to a nonexistent competitor that is used in order to balance the number of competitors in each of the competitor groups.
Measuring trough: A trough that has a measuring tape affixed to its bottom, and is used for measuring the length of fish.
Measuring ruler: A smooth, plastic ruler that is cut to 10 inches (25 cm) and used to score fish as being “over or under 25 cm”. This is for competitions that use a point system that awards 1 point for fish that are under 25cm, and 2 points for fish that are25 cm or longer.
Ranking system: A system that is used to rank the skill level and past performances of the competitors.
Thwart board: A 2”X10” wide piece of wood of various lengths that is placed across the gunnels of the boat, and is used as a seating platform during loch-style and anchored fishing competitions.

Please contact Todd Oishi or post on this thread if you have any questions or concerns, and he'll be more than happy to help guide and steer you through the process!

« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 03:58:25 PM by Todd Oishi »
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John Wilkinson

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Re: How to organize a fly fishing competition - advice, tips and templates
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2013, 01:39:40 PM »
Wow! There it all is. Some good info for people that want to know.

p.s. You spelled my last name wrong ;) ;D
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Andy Larkin

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Re: How to organize a fly fishing competition - advice, tips and templates
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2013, 02:28:10 PM »
Sa-weeeet!  Thanks for posting this Todd.  Stay tuned...!

Gary Hanke

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Re: How to organize a fly fishing competition - advice, tips and templates
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2013, 03:31:42 PM »
Todd, thank you so very much. This provides many answers to what we will be taking on here in Southern Alberta.
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Chris Puchniak

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Re: How to organize a fly fishing competition - advice, tips and templates
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2013, 03:46:06 PM »
If this hasn't been made a sticky then it should be!  Nice job!
I will fish anywhere and find beauty in it.

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David Heine

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Re: How to organize a fly fishing competition - advice, tips and templates
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2013, 05:12:31 AM »
That's great .  Thanks Todd.

Aaron Laing

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Re: How to organize a fly fishing competition - advice, tips and templates
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2013, 09:27:45 AM »
Nicely done, Todd. I'm toying with the idea of a small "friendly" river comp. This makes things a lot easier.

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Robbie Bell

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Re: How to organize a fly fishing competition - advice, tips and templates
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2013, 12:23:11 PM »
Hi There,

A lot of great work there Todd!

The "Build it and they will Come" is very true.

You only have to see how far Trout Legend and the USA comp scene has travelled in a few short years.

I would urge anyone with an inkling to run a competition to just give it a go.

Do not worry too much about sophisticated rules.

Keep it simple start with and if you can get a friend to help.......well a problem shared is a problem halved.

Perhaps have 2 points for the first fish in a session and one point for subsequent fish.

This saves on scorecards, measuring troughs and anxious controllers.

That can all come later  :)

Go for it and good luck.

Best Regards


Chris Puchniak

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Re: How to organize a fly fishing competition - advice, tips and templates
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2013, 03:56:50 PM »

I would urge anyone with an inkling to run a competition to just give it a go.


I would echo Robbie's words.  I plan to host a couple of events next year, along with helping Todd when he needs it, and I think if a few of us hosted 1 or 2 events through the year, it would take the workload off Todd.  And we would all gain a little more experience into what goes into an event, big or small. Doesn't matter if there are 6 people or 30 people.  It's a good opportunity for anyone.

There is never any onus on anyone to have to do this (and I am not insinuating this at all, imo), but I think it is a great way to give back to the sport!

Next year I will be continuing with the River Challenge in July/August and may expand it to a 2-day river event.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2013, 07:17:24 AM by Chris Puchniak »
I will fish anywhere and find beauty in it.

Don't be a Pessimist. Don't be an Optimist.  Be a Realist and change when you need to.