I spoke in my last update of the impossible task of judging a contest which includes a stack of different species, with all manner of sizes and scenarios. Talk about a headache! I had the most supportive of angling stars to help with Matt Hayes and John Bailey on board, both really keen fly anglers themselves and generous in their support. The trouble was, each of us had a different fish in first place, so it was down to second and third slots in the end. A huge well done goes to Geoff Hadley for his first placed bream, which wins a leather bound collector's edition of "Flyfishing For Coarse Fish" worth a cool £150.
How does a fish of four pounds beat others several times that size? There will be some who disagree, but the whole idea of the competition was about the fun, skill and challenge- not necessarily the figure on the scales. Every one of the panel agreed that to sight fish for bream and pick a fish off with a wet fly was a brilliantly unorthodox catch- and the captor hooked and lost another on the very next cast! Definitely a catch to demonstrate what is possible with a little imagination. So often I feel that the biggest barrier to such fascinating, convention-busting sport is in the angler's brain. But if you don't try something, how do you know it won't work? I feel like we've opened a door already with the "Fly for Coarse" project- and the more people give it a try, the wider this door will be flung open.
I have to say, I'm a little surprised that one of the huge pike captures didn't win outright. We had both John Machin (above) and Andy Cheetham, each with pike of over thirty pounds! Hugely impressive captures and they will both consider themselves a little unlucky, but at least grab themselves a prize for being high on our list.
The selection was also bolstered by plenty of other great entries. Mr Dorr's five pound plus chub on a dry fly is a wonderful capture too- as were several others. John Bailey's favourite was this double figure carp, caught on a sinking daddy longlegs (below). A fantastic fish, no doubt, and one that I think he wanted to highlight as an inspiration for modern carp anglers to try something a little different:
Anyhow, the headache of picking a winner aside, the competition has been really refreshing and thought provoking. I hope it at least shatters a few illusions and represents an ethos that's slightly lacking at present. A bit of fun and unpredictability surely can't go amiss? Talking of fun, I've just received the first of several nice mouthfuls intended for chub this summer, which I've designed for Turrall. This one's called the "Jasper" (a wasp, for those not of Westcountry bias):
And fun was also the main agenda for my last trip as I searched for somewhere not resembling trench warfare to fish. I surprised my old man with a pole fishing set for Christmas, which needed a decent trial. Say what you like about commercials (and most people do) but they do keep fishing regardless of muddy, horrible conditions. I tend to pick the ones that aren't purely stuffed with carp- and Shillingford is never too bad for variety. Even on a pretty cold morning, the first hour was good, although in typical style the very swim I wanted for the perch was bagged by a bloke who turned up at the identical time as us but had the foresight to whack his stuff down to reserve the peg. Never mind, the bites came quick- and the fish, while not huge, were nice hand sized roach and perch, the sort you would happily catch all day any day.
The carp inevitably made their appearance as we kept trickling the feed in. Dad was thrilled to bits with his new pole, (the romantically named 6m Browning "Pitbull") that provided some fun with the roach on the light top kit, but serious stopping power for some margin carping. The gift was just the thing in fact. When we started fishing as tiny kids, it was he who plonked a fibreglass whip in our hands; quite nice to return the favour three decades later with a more up to date pole!
Meanwhile, I also enjoyed a bite filled pole session. Why oh why do folks still fish with alarms and bolt rigs for match sized winter carp I wonder? I find it baffling, seeing as you'll catch twice as many on lighter, balanced tackle- and actually enjoy a bit of a battle. Our kit was typically 4lb rig line to a 3.3lb low diameter hook length, followed by a wide gape size 16 hook and a worm or two maggots. A little hempseed didn't seem to hurt either in holding both carp and decent roach in the swim. All good fun I guess, although I am already pining for spring and watching some fish rise so I can break out the fly rod properly.