Author Topic: 2009 World Fly Fishing Championships, Drymen, Scotland  (Read 846 times)

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Todd Oishi

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2009 World Fly Fishing Championships, Drymen, Scotland
« on: May 09, 2017, 03:19:46 PM »
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Scotland's 2009 World Fly Fishing Championships



29th World Fly Fishing Championships
by Todd Oishi

 During the second week of June 2009, fly fishers from twenty-six countries assembled in Drymen, Scotland to participate in the 29th World Fly Fishing Championships and Conservation Symposium. The five, three hour sessions of this year’s World Fly Fishing Championship (WFFC) were held on the Lake of Menteith, Loch Leven, Loch Awe, Carron Valley Reservoir, and the River Tay. The natural beauty of these historic waters set the scene for what would prove to be one of the most spectacular and memorable competitions to date…


This year’s national fly fishing team (Team Canada) consisted of: Randy Taylor (team captain) and Chris Pfohl who are from Ontario; Donald Thom, from Quebec; Mac Stark (team manager) and Terence Courtoreille, from the NWT; John Beaven, Rob Stroud and me, from British Columbia.

 Although this would be the 22nd year that Fly Fishing Canada has sent a team to compete the WFFCs, Team Canada had yet to win a team or individual medal. In attempt to change this statistic; John Beaven, Donald Thom and I went on a reconnaissance mission to Scotland exactly one year prior to the dates of this year’s competition.

 We hired one of Scotland’s finest fly fishing coaches, who provided us with a wealth of information about the competition venues and showed us the best patterns and techniques for targeting the fish that are found in those waters. Armed with this information, and with a full year to prepare, we felt quite confident that Team Canada might be bringing home a medal from Scotland’s WFFC.

About the venues:
 Carron Valley Reservoir is a very popular wild brown trout fishery that is enhanced by weekly stockings of hatchery-reared rainbow and brown trout. The wooded hills that encompass Carron conceal a small network of feeder streams, which are referred to as “burns” by the Scottish. The burns provide ideal spawning habitat and nurseries for the brown trout and stickleback. The flow rates of the burns increase significantly after heavy rainfalls, which flushes nutrients into the reservoir. We were amazed by the number of fish that we encountered near the mouths of the burns – often in only inches of water.

 Loch Awe has a long and celebrated history of well-over two centuries of angling for wild brown trout, perch and pike. It is the largest and most treacherous of all the lochs in Scotland (twenty-five miles long). Numerous anglers have perished in its waters over the years, as a result of the strong winds and powerful waves that can literally appear out of nowhere. The local angling authority made us well aware of the risks and dangers that are associated with angling on these waters.

 Attempting to locate the relatively small population of trout within such a massive loch is truly a daunting task. Angling on Awe is best described as being “painfully slow”, as fishless days are common occurrences - even for members the local angling clubs. We were told that a good day of angling on Loch Awe generally consisted of a single trout brought to the net - two or three would be considered a miracle!

 Loch Leven has long been considered as a ‘Mecca’ for brown trout enthusiasts throughout the world. It is renowned for producing hard-fighting, wild brown trout, whose eggs have been used to stock rivers and lakes all around the world. Leven is 3500 acres in size and is four miles from shore to shore at its greatest distance. Its enormous size combined with relatively low fish populations makes the decision of where to start fishing a very important one. Although its fishery is of legendary status, for me it was the experience of casting flies from century-old, clinker-built boats, while drifting alongside the ruins of Castle Leven (where Mary, Queen of the Scots, had been imprisoned during the 16th century) that made my time on Leven unforgettable.

 The Lake of Menteith is a prolific and extremely popular fishery that hosts numerous fly fishing competitions throughout its angling season. It is approximately 645.5 acres in size (about one square mile) and is stocked with rainbow trout that are reared in fish pens that are situated on the lake. The Lake of Menteith had experienced a significant fish-kill only weeks before the WFFC, which raised some serious concerns over it being used as a venue for this year’s competition. The water conditions and clarity at the time of the competition made fishing severely challenging and far less productive than what we experienced during our previous visit.

 The River Tay is Scotland’s longest river and moves the greatest volume of water of any river within the United Kingdom. It originates in the Southern Highland Region and cuts through the heartlands of Scotland as it flows toward the North Sea. Although the Tay is renowned for its salmon fishing, the locals told us that it is one of Scotland’s best rivers for wild brown trout and grayling fishing. The competition beats on the Tay were situated near the scenic village of Stanley, Perthshire, where the water is much better suited for salmon fishing. Its depth and power made wading a constant challenge, and limited the areas where we could effectively present our flies.

 Practice:
 If there is one thing that we have learned from our experiences at past WFFCs; it is that in order for Team Canada to succeed it is essential to hire international coaches and prefish the venues well in advance of the actual competitions. For this year’s competition we were fortunate to have had coaching from two of Scotland’s finest; John Buchanan and Alisdair Mair. John is a past Scottish National champion and had competed at numerous WFFCs. Alisdair is a local club champion and coaches the Scottish youth team. He schooled us on the “four C’s” of fly fishing: Commitment; Control; Concentration; and Confidence. We were certainly confident, focused and committed, as we had pre-fished all of the venues during the previous year. In fact; Donald Thom had taken this year’s competition so seriously that he had not only accompanied us on the reconnaissance mission, but had been religiously practicing several times a week for the past two years.

What follows are a combination of my notes from an interview with Donald and his personal account of his five sessions at Scotland’s WFFC…

Session One; Lake of Menteith
“I had drawn a member from Team Spain as my boat partner for my first session. I won the customary coin-toss for captaincy of the boat, and chose to start fishing along the eastern shore. On my third cast I hooked and lost a large Rainbow, and soon afterwards, the Spaniard landed his first fish. After a few drifts, I noticed a fish rising and quickly covered it. I quickly stripped my line to straighten it, and just as I began a slow figure-of-eight… I felt a short take and set the hook. After a hard-fought battle a large rainbow came to the net.

 Half-an-hour passed until I caught my second rainbow. I had several others that followed my flies, but wouldn’t commit. We repositioned the boat further down the shore, and after several casts I landed another fish. As the sun rose higher in the sky, the fish moved deeper, so I swapped my Midge Tip for a DI-3 sinking line. Eventually I felt the weight of a good fish and raised the rod to set the hook. It came to my net only minutes before the session concluded. In this session I had scored four fish, which placed me 4th in my group.”

Session Two; River Tay
“We climbed aboard the bus and headed for the River Tay. I had mixed emotions, as our team had failed to catch a single fish during the official practice sessions on the Tay. My team-mate Todd Oishi had fished the Tay during the morning session, while Chris Pfohl and his fiancée Teri watched the Polish competitor that was fishing my beat. I met with them and was relieved to hear that Todd and the Polish competitor had both caught grayling during the morning session, while over one-third of the competitors on Tay had blanked (zero fish).

 Chris pointed out the best lies and the locations where the Polish angler had caught his five fish. I decided to start by swinging flies through the top of the pool, and even tried the fly that Todd had caught his fish with… but had no luck. I eventually switched to a dry/dropper combo with two weighted nymphs under a large dry fly… but still nothing. With time running out, I changed to a single weighted nymph under a very small parachute dun and cast it out. At times, anglers seem to possess a sixth-sense - an instinct that tells them when a fish has taken their nymph even though there are no obvious signs - this was one of those moments. I can’t explain how, but I knew that a fish had taken my fly, so I struck hard and fast. I was overjoyed when I felt the weight of a large brown trout. After an intense battle in the fast current, I carefully netted the fish and brought it to my controller for measuring. I had finished 8th place in this session, while half of my group had blanked.”

Session Three; Loch Awe
“I had drawn an Italian for my boat partner, but unfortunately he could not understand English or French… nor I Italian. We examined the map of the loch and made our plans with a lot of pointing and a primitive form of sign-language. We motored to an island where my team-mate had hooked a fish during a previous session, but as we approached the location the wind died. In order to cover a greater area of water we would make several casts and then ask the controller to row the boat further down the shoreline.

 Without so much as a bump, I suddenly felt the urge to change flies. I switched to a Green Pea and cast it tightly to the shore. As soon as I began my retrieve I felt the line tighten! It was a decent-sized brown trout that fought hard and eventually came to my net. When the session was over, my single trout was good enough for a 3rd place finish in this session, while the majority of my group had blanked.

 Today went well, as I had finished a 3rd place on Loch Awe; Todd had finished 3rd place on Carron Valley Reservoir; Chris had done well on Menteith; and Team Canada had moved into 10th place overall. With one day left in the championships, we were very hopeful for a good finish.”

Session Four; Loch Leven
“After breakfast I was told that I was in 6th place individually, but quickly put this fact out of my mind and concentrated on the task at hand… I needed to catch a fish on Leven!

 My boat partner was from Luxembourg and spoke English, which meant that there would be no language barriers. I started off with a DI-3 and three classic Scottish patterns: a Kate McLaren on the top dropper; a Claret Snatcher on the middle dropper; and a Black Snatcher on the point. We set up our drift and noticed David Chalmers from Team Scotland positioned to our right, which indicated that this had to be a good drift, as Leven was his home-water.

 I began with a DI-3 but changed to a DI-7 as the day progressed and the intensity of the sunlight increased. I was slowly running out of time, and desperately needed a fish! I told Alistair (my controller) that I had a plan, so he’d better watch closely as a fish will come. I cast my flies and said “Come on Katie - I need a silver beauty - come on Katie!” I was ecstatic when I felt a harsh tug and felt the weight of the silver beauty.

 My skill and tackle were tested to the limit as she ran and dove under the boat. Six long minutes later she finally showed herself. I asked Alistair to net her and which fly she took. He smiled and said “which one do you think?” We laughed aloud as he announced that it was the Kate McLaren! I asked him pass the trout so I could give her a kiss before its release. The silver beauty was good enough for a 2nd place finish within my group.”

Session Five; Carron Valley Reservoir
“I was greeted by Randy Taylor when I arrived at Carron. He filled me in on the results of the morning session and handed me a few flies. He was thrilled to hear that I had placed 2nd on Leven. Going into this, the final session, I was now in 4th place overall and only a single point from 1st place.

 We started fishing near the dam wall at the far end of Carron. I couldn’t believe my luck, as I hooked a large rainbow on my first cast and had it in the net within a matter of minutes. I had avoided a blank and calculated that I needed at least six fish to place within the medals. Minutes later my boat partner Miroslav, from Slovakia, was overjoyed as he landed what would be his first rainbow of the competition. A few minutes later I managed to land a brown trout.

 We eventually decided to move to another bay, and on the first drift Miroslav scored a Rainbow and shortly afterwards I’m into one as well. Minutes later Miroslav landed yet another Rainbow, while I hooked and landed my fourth fish. With only five minutes left in the session, I hooked a smaller brown trout and carefully played it toward the boat, but with a final shake of its head it was gone… and with it the title of world champion (although I did not know it at the time). I finished 9th place in this session.”

Later that night, the final results were posted in the room beside the banquet hall. We overheard a jubilant cheer coming from Team England’s corner of the room, as they celebrated their team’s gold medal victory and Ian Barr finishing 1st place individually. Moments later Randy Taylor returned to the room and informed our team that Donald had finished 2nd place and Team Canada had finished 9th place. Our team was ecstatic! We celebrated Donald’s silver medal victory that night, as well as Team Canada’s second consecutive year for finishing within the “top ten”.

For me, being a part of the team that brought home Canada’s first medal from the WFFCs was a great honour and an unforgettable experience. It was also very fitting that Donald Thom - being of Scottish ancestry - was the one to accomplish this feat, as 2009 had been proclaimed by the Scottish government as being “The Year of the Homecoming”, and what a spectacular homecoming it was!

Final results:
The individual gold medal was awarded to Ian Barr of England;
The individual silver medal was awarded to Donald Thom of Canada;
The individual bronze medal was awarded Christian Jadouille of Belgium.

Top Ten countries:
1 England
2 France
3 Scotland
4 Finland
5 Wales
6 Czech Republic
7 Italy
8 USA
9 Canada
10 Ireland
...
« Last Edit: May 09, 2017, 03:22:47 PM by Todd Oishi »
For me, the quality of a trout is not measured in inches or pounds, but rather by the journey and circumstances that allowed our paths to cross...