World Fly Fishing Championships, Bosnia, 2015
Thank you all for your contributions towards getting this team to Bosnia and the world fly fishing championships, 2015. All of those receiving this email have helped in some way to enable us (as self-funded fishermen) to have this opportunity. Again, thank you!
In Norway, two years ago, I wrote a regular report on all things fishing and social from the campaign and I will endeavour to do the same this year. For those who did not get those reports, please note that my spelling at times can be terrible and with "word recognition" working on my iPad, there may be occasions when you have no idea what I am trying to say. I do not have the time to read over what I have written so please excuse all of these mistakes. You will just have to take it as it comes. As you will see, I clearly have been lucky to work with very good magazine editors when my writing has gone to print!
If at any stage you have some questions or want to know more about anything in particular, please email me and I will get around to answering. Many people had questions about the gear we were using in Norway so I will try to add this into the text where appropriate.
An overview so far.
The team consists of eight people. A captain (Jim Williams), a manager (Peter Butcher) and six fishermen. These are Mick McKay, Jonathan Stagg, Vern Barby, Luke Barby, Josh Flowers and myself. Josh will be the reserve for this trip, having earned his place on the back of winning the national titles in Tasmania. He will take part in everything the team does except the actual fishing on the three days of the competition.
As I write this, the rest of the team is arriving in Zagreb before driving to Bosnia tomorrow (3rd of June) and getting stuck in.
Unfortunately for you, the rest of this email will have to be a bit of a personal ramble about what I have been up to in preparation for the championships over the last fortnight in Europe. Usually, my emails will contain team and personal things although remember that at all times, these are simply my views that you are reading!
I left Australia on the 19th and headed for Prague where I was picked up by the former fly fishing world champion, Martin Droz. For those who do not know, Martin has won 13 medals in the past twelve years at world and European championships and during this time, he was unwell and could not compete for over two years. He is known amongst his peers as being the very best of the best.
I then spent four days fishing with him in the north of the Czech Republic on his home waters with an eye to getting to know him better. He is coming to Australia in November to hold three fly fishing seminars (which were sold out in six hours) and only having met him once before, it was important to get that time with him. To say that he is pretty good would be somewhat of an understatement and those attending his seminars will enjoy his sense of humour and attitude.
He and his girlfriend were wonderful hosts and we wasted no time in getting to the river from the airport or spending late nights behind the tying vice. It was my first trip to the Czech Republic but I hope it is not my last. As was the case throughout my European adventure, I am constantly reminded what a wonderful fishery we have in Tasmania and no doubt, all around Australia.
Although at times there seem to be hundreds and hundreds of fish in small areas in these
European rivers, my nymphs often came to rest on pieces of clothing, bicycles, plastic bags, buckets, snow sleds, caps, shoes, etc, etc. The water is often beautifully cold as they are snow fed. The clarity is exceptional but, unlike at home, the water is not drinkable.
Brown trout were the dominant species in Martin's rivers but grayling were ever present and at times, we specifically targeted these species as they will make up most of the catch in Bosnia (apparently). I know that it was about 151 years ago that James Youl brought trout to Tasmania but why the hell did he not bring grayling?! They are a fascinating fish that act almost nothing like trout but at the time, share many similarities. I will try to include some photos at some stage to show you what they look like for those of you who have never seen one. Like a good host does, Martin was keen to get me into a few fish but I insisted that he catch the first fish while I finished rigging my rod - I was strategically slow to ensure that I had less time to embarrass myself in front of him. I rigged quite quickly and in this time, Martin only managed four.
Apparently the fishing was slow!! They were small but beautifully marked fish that ate a nymph as if it was a piece of chocolate cake. I did my best to look at least proficient but I don't think he was too impressed with my nymphing technique and after a little coaxing, a few pointers were welcome. I managed to catch a good number of fish over the next few days as we changed rivers just for something different. Interestingly, when fish did rise I found them quite easy to catch, much to Martins surprise. After four days with him, he was very honest in saying that my nymphing needed a little work but it was nothing that practice could not fix. He did however think that we had a distinct advantage over others if fish were rising. His opinion was that most river anglers are now concentrating so much on short line nymphing techniques that the art of curve casts and dry fly presentation was being lost to the comp angler. Being so fortunate to live in Tasmania and have access to that wonderful fishery has obviously given us a good grounding when fish do poke their noses out. On one occasion, a patch of four large grayling were rising next to a supermarket parking lot and they were tough! Unlike trout, they do not spook easily but they also like a stealthy approach, small flies and a fine tippet. Martin had a go at them for around half an hour before leaving me to it. After multiple fly changes and cast after cast after cast after cast..... (you get the idea), I did hook all four fish and landed two of them. All were in excess of 42cm which are big for grayling. What I hadn't realised is that it had taken me five hours to do! Five hours! Where did that time go?
I was also present when Martin landed his biggest ever brown trout in the Czech Republic. A
45cm brown in some pocket water. A few happy snaps and back it went.
I don't want to ruin his visit in any way by talking about his approach and not doing it justice so for those who are attending the courses, you will have to wait a bit longer.
I then flew to Lyon to meet my good friend Yann Caleri. Yann has represented France seven times in the world championships and has finished in the top ten, five times! One of the times he did not finish in the top ten was in New Zealand (Martin Droz won the gold there) where he was actually sitting in the silver medal position after three river sessions and his captain subbed him out for the last two sessions, allowing their reserve to fish the final two sessions! Yann had visited Tasmania last season and was extremely impressed by our fishery. The willingness of our trout to rise to the dry fly was something he had never seen before. We would have little dry fishing on the river Aine outside Grenoble but the nymphing was superb. All of the fish were large grayling with the odd trout and once again, presentation was key. One of the days was spent rafting down the river, stopping at the rapids to fish the hot spots while the evening rise was a welcome break. The river is teaming with whitefish and barbel. All of these love eating nymphs and it was nothing to find ourselves fighting a ten pound barbel in fast water on a two weight. Exciting stuff! Again, the water is crystal clear but it was also frequented by many anglers. The national, division one titles were being held a fortnight later and the weekend was the last one in which people could practice on that river. Therefore, we were sharing every rapid with a few top class anglers. The depth of their field was very noticeable. A highlight for me was polaroiding a chub and catching him on a dry caddis pattern. It was like the western lakes all the way up to when I realised it was a slimy, stinky chub.... But the take was magnificent! Again, the evening times were spent behind the tying vice but on these occasions, we were not getting back to his house until around 1am. Then it was dinner time and his girlfriend, Latifa, had always cooked a banquet. Three courses of French cuisine. Finishing around 2am we would tie flies for up to three hours, he would then drop me at my flat and after a quick Skype call to my wife and children, I would get a couple of hours sleep in before he picked me up again the next morning for breakfast. Being away from home has never been easy over the years and this year has been difficult already with my wife, an almost three year old girl and an eight month old girl at home.
Yann was keen to see the flies that Martin had given me and try a few of these patterns the following day. Yes, they were long days but they were fantastic.
As was the case in the Czech Republic, I managed to fall into the river on more than one occasion and come out soaking wet fifty meters down stream. The rivers run with a speed that ours simply do not have and the rocks... they are all over the place and lack any consistency. I did make a note to myself, "do not try to walk backwards out of any European river no matter how strong the current is. Turn around slowly and watch where you are going". It sounds obvious but when you are struggling to stand up when side on in the current, the last thing you want to do is turn ninety degrees and expose a greater surface area to the current.
The final leg of my trip before meeting up with the team was a four day trip to Campagne which is about two hours from Toulouse in the south of France. I was staying and fishing with Yannick Rivierre on his home water, the river Aude. I had fished here two years ago with my good friend, Tim Strong and we were both extremely impressed. This time, water levels were higher and the river ran with some colour. Fish were more scarce than on the previous trip but this made for a great challenge. Only small fish seem to rise but the larger specimens ate a well presented nymph. Yannick landed a 50cm grayling (basically the equivalent of a ten pound trout) which I have told him was 49cm. As my largest was 47, he still has one over me! Yannick himself was guiding every day and only joined me for the evening rise. He had a group of eight anglers each day and had to spread himself quite thinly. The river is very popular and due to there being public holidays, finding a clear spot was not easy. Now, for those of you thinking that this sounds terrible, don't. The presence of grayling means that nobody cares. It is possible to simply fish directly behind someone as you walk up the river. The trout may have gone or be sitting very deep but grayling will keep on happily feeding as you walk past and fish.
They are in no way scared of you. Sometimes they feed in your wake as you stir up the bottom. They do however, have very acute eye site and will not eat a fly that has any form of micro drag or a fly that is presented with the leader downstream of the fly. Fine, fine tippets are a must which increase the likelihood of break offs. The smaller fish also school which can give you many opportunities. This is another reason why they would have been such a great fish at home!
Imagine parking your car with other cars in the car park of your favourite stretch of river, only to find a few people wading up the best run. Well, if we had grayling, it wouldn't matter. You would simply get out, rig up and wade in downstream of the bottom angler and go about your business. It was not unusual in France to be fishing a lovely, long run and have someone jump right in front of you (twenty meters away), fish for ten minutes and then leave. By the time you reach that spot, there are fish everywhere. Mind you, you still have to catch them! Oh well, Grayling will never enter into Tasmania now days and I am more than happy to keep catching the wild browns and rainbows. While on the subject of Tasmania, but not wanting to get too political here, why on earth is it so cheap to fish there? The IFS could have us paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars for an annual licence and it would still be cheap! We pay this amount in Europe for less than a year’s fishing and the fishing isn't even that good and they don't have the options we have got! Enough of that. The IFS does an outstanding job for us and have been wonderful supporters of our cause over the years and this year was no exception. We are very lucky to have them even if we are robbing them blind with licence fees.
Breakfast in France surrounds coffee, chocolate and Nutella while lunch time was all about coffee, cheese, wine and baguettes. Every day we would buy fresh bread, cheese and meat and have a very social and long lunch by the side of the river. Other people would randomly join us and literally bottles of wine were consumed! Lunch could go on for up to three hours or more! Are you kidding me!? They kept telling me to relax because, "this is the French way". Me, relax!
You are joking! I want to fish! I have never spent so much time next to a good river and not seen anyone fishing. Just wait until Yannick comes to Australia next time and at 1pm I will throw him yesterday's BBQ'ed steak and say, "you can only eat that if you are able to keep casting with your other hand. It is the Australian way".
For my last two days I had a hire car. The steering wheel is on the wrong side as is the gear stick. The right hand side of the road has only ever been for over taking, not actually driving on!
The speed limit is 135 and everyone is a maniac. Mind you, because everyone is a maniac, it sort of works. Lane ways are tiny and most cars only have one side mirror. If a car has two of them, it must be new. When I went to get the hire car and worked out the exchange rate, my first thoughts were, "wow, I have never driven an Aston Martin before". You can imagine my shock when a small, two door Citreon was rolled out. Perhaps I actually bought the car and didn't hire it? That's a thought. The car could not have been worth much more than I paid for it. Mert (French for 'shit" I think), I parked the car back at the hire company rather than the long stay car park. Oh well, if anyone is going to Toulouse soon, the Enterprise car hire place probably has a car there that I bought from them and you are welcome to it! I want it back with both side mirrors please.
I have just been approached by our air steward who informed me that I need to make haste when we arrive at Charles De Gaulle airport as this flight is running late and my next flight is due to take off soon after we touch down. Another scramble across another airport! Not to worry. By the time you read this, I will have made it.
Today's ten points of note:
- Travel to Europe at the moment with this rate of exchange is not conducive. Not conducive to what you might ask? Not conducive to anything except spending money.
- If you ever travel to Paris seek out someone who is young if, like me, you don't speak French. The older people only know how to nod.
- Unless you are in a car, nobody is in a hurry to do anything except socialise, drink wine and eat cheese and bread.
- Wear felt soled shoes with tungsten studs when wading and have a wading staff! It will make you feel as though you were at least prepared not to fall in when you fall in.
- Get water proof fly boxes and then wrap them in glad wrap because even if you do point (above), you will still fall and get all of your flies wet. Even try wrapping yourself in glad wrap because drying out waders is a pain in the ar....
- What you think is so narrow that it is a footpath, is probably a dual lane carriageway.
- Toll roads! They are everywhere. Clearly nobody pays any tax here because every road you travel on has a hefty toll.
- Sleep is under rated when you are on a fishing trip.
- Never complain about the cost of a fishing licence ever again and Finally....
- Next time you are driving down the road and an on-coming car is going 135 km / h on the wrong side of the road, they try to indicate and the windscreen wipers go on and when returning to the car they keep getting into the passenger seat, cut the European driver some slack please.
That is all for now. My next report will contain more team and fishing updates as well as a few stories I hope! Everyone in Europe keeps saying that Bosnia is the "New Zealand" of Europe. I am not sure what that exactly means except that the farmers have a close relationship with their livestock and we should expect rain.
Take care everyone. Have a great day. More to follow....
Wait, I have a foot note for you!
As you will be aware, flights to Europe from Australia can be very long and mind numbing experiences. Firstly, there is an anxious wait to see how many thousands of dollars you need to part company with in order to get your excess baggage to your final destination and then there is the plane boredom. Or is that plain boredom? I think it is both.
I was very lucky to be met at the Qantas counter by a former cricketing friend who kindly has my luggage booked all of the way through to Prague without any extra charge for the 28kg of luggage or 15kg of hand luggage. That was a very good omen. I am hoping however, that it got even better.
My flight took me through the smoggy city of Bangkok, a destination where I think you can see further at night time due to the lights as opposed to the smog filled air which is so apparent during the day! On the way, I was flicking through the usual television channels, old movies and radio until I happened upon a recently released movie called, "The Imitation Game." I like war movies and given the artistic licence of Hollywood, I was hoping that within this movie, could lie the inspiration that Australia might just need for the up coming campaign in Bosnia. It was. For those who do not know or have not seen the movie (you really have to see this wonderful movie), The Imitation Game follows an autistic Englishman by the name of Alan Turing during World War II. Without giving the movie away, it surrounds the breaking of the famous Enigma Code which a German lead Hitler was using to communicate with all of its troops. The communications were easy to get but the breaking of the code was seemingly impossible and therefore every German attack was unknown to Britain and the allies. The breaking of this code was probably the single greatest achievement that changed the course of the war, saved hundreds of thousands of lives and the rest as they say, is history! "Important" would be a remarkable understatement.
During the movie, Alan Turing was up against what everyone said was an impossible task.
Nobody had ever got close to breaking the code and the Germans were sweeping all that was before them.
Hang on! This reminds me of the Czechs at the world championships (or be it on a hugely less dramatic and bloodied scale)! That feeling of hopelessness when you come up against these multiple world champions both individual and team. Then there are the French, second only to the Czechs. Add the Italians, Spanish, the home team, the Poms, the USA (of more recent years), the Polish, etc, etc... What hope do the Aussies have when we are also trying to catch a species of fish that are not even in the Southern Hemisphere? Well, Mr Turing was reminded in the movie and I will remind you now, "Sometimes it's the very people that nobody imagines anything of that can do the things that nobody can imagine."
I guess the fact that we are speaking English today and not German means that one of us has already been successful. You just never know. I will keep reminding myself and the rest of the team of this over the next three weeks.
I have tried to include some photos below but if this has made the file too large to email, I am sorry. Computers and I do not see eye to eye! These photos are sort of a test run.
So for now, it only leaves me to say, Auf Wiedersehen!