For many fly fishermen, competitive loch-style fishing represents the pinnacle of sporting achievement with a number of major national championships taking place around the country, culminating in the CEFF English National final every September to determine the make-up of the England team.
But why do competition anglers take up this branch of the sport in the first place – after all, fishing in front of a drifting boat with flies not much more than an inch long represents a significant challenge in its own right. Surely trout are difficult enough to catch without all these artificial handicaps?
To find out more, we asked the members of the Orvis Team Rutland competition match squad why they do what they do.
Sean Cutting, Captain, Orvis Team Rutland
Personally, I split my fly fishing passion into three equal parts. The first third encompasses the wonderful places where Mother Nature allows us to fish. The second element covers the friends we meet, both old and new; and the final third is the anticipation and excitement of your ‘string’ going tight.
This final third is really why I became involved with competition fly fishing in the first place. I just wanted my string to go tight more often than it was! I believe that you are only as good as the people you fish with and, with that philosophy in mind, I wanted to fish with more people under differing conditions and waters. The only way to achieve this was to enter local and national competitions, and these have allowed me to see and visit many more lakes, lochs, loughs and rivers than I probably would have fished if I were not into competition fishing.
So find out what competitions are being organised by your local club, local water or even at a national level near you and give it a go. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Andrew Flitcroft, Orvis Team Rutland
Competition fishing is not to everyone’s taste. Pitting yourself against another angler is ‘not in the true spirit of the sport’, some say. I agree to a certain extent, but am of the opinion that whatever fishing you do you are in fact pitting your wits against the fish not another angler. If your boat partner catches more than you, you will undoubtedly learn from his/hers success. The reason I began competition fishing was to learn from other anglers and I owe what I now know, to those I have shared boats with over the past 15 years. New friendships, new methods and new flies come hand-in-hand with competition fly-fishing not to mention a passport to some of the most superb and varied waters dotted around the UK – and if your lucky, Ireland.
Kevin Taylor, Orvis Team Rutland
For those who dare to test their ability, a local club competition is usually the starting point. Some fly fishers are content to fish a few club matches each season, while others, usually the successful ones, aspire to the greater challenge of team fishing. Joining a team of four or six fellow anglers can really raise your game in a short period of time on the competition circuit. In your next match you could draw a World Champion, and jointly pitting your wits against Rutland rainbows helps accelerate your skill levels dramatically. I know it can happen, as I was once that rookie match angler and after 10 years of competitions, I am still learning.
Now local team fishing can give you a real buzz, but what about fishing for England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland? Representing your country at any sport is regarded as the ultimate achievement and in competition fly fishing; you could be pulling on the Three Lions before you know it. All over England, eliminating matches are held in the spring and early summer, with the top 100 anglers competing in the National each September. If you are skilled or lucky enough to finish in the top 20, a place in the Spring or Autumn International Match is yours. It’s that simple – or not.
Mike Barrett, Orvis Team Rutland
I remember my first match at Rutland Water as if it was yesterday. I was very apprehensive and was told after the draw, that I was fishing with film star Tony Curtis! As it turned out, this Tony Curtis WASN’T a film star but he WAS a star angler; in fact Tony was the then captain of the England Fly Fishing team. That’s when the panic set in – but it needn’t have. We had a wonderful day’s fishing and I received a lot of encouragement, help and advice. Needless to say Tony won the match, while I came an almost unbelievable fifth.
Over the years I have had my share of successes, coming second in the Orvis Pairs competition, again on Rutland Water, amongst them. In another year, I won the Midlands Championships on Grafham Water and qualified for the English National Final at Bewl. However, I have also had those days, like everyone else, where nothing seems to go right and you end up with the inevitable blank. This is annoying and frustrating at the same time, but that’s fishing. It’s the bad days which make the good days so memorable.
David Lang, Orvis Team Rutland
Having my own childcare company and employing over 200 staff brings its own pressures, and I find that competition fishing is a natural outlet for my competitiveness, as well as helping me switch off from all the pressures of work. It is definitely one of the things that helps keep me sane.
Also, having spent 11 years in the Armed Forces, I find the same esprit de corps and banter while fishing with Orvis Team Rutland as I used to enjoy whilst in the Army. They are a great bunch and we all get along extremely well, sharing techniques and fly patterns at all the competitions that we fish in. This, for me, sums up perfectly why I go competitive fly fishing.
Steve Crowson, Orvis Team Rutland
I began competition fishing as a way to fish with different people and to expand my knowledge and skill levels. It was very easy to get into, and by joining Rutland Water Fly Fishers and fishing their club competitions, it opened up a whole new horizon of fishing opportunities. These quickly progressed into national eliminators for the England team, major club competitions and various team events – and I enjoyed them all.
The social side of competitive fly fishing is great, meeting and fishing with people from all walks of life, while the banter you get from your team mates helps create that lovely team spirit. Many times you go out in a boat for a day’s competitive fly fishing and come back with a friend for life.
Mike Gunnell, Orvis Team Rutland
The competitive element in fly fishing, for me, adds the spice that is lacking when simply competing against the fish alone. Many competition fly fishers will tell you that there is nothing like the adrenalin rush of competition, and I am no different.
Competitive fly fishing gives me a buzz like nothing else – well, almost nothing else – and once hooked, you’re often find you are hooked for life. What else? Well, the camaraderie of your team mates, the shared techniques, the tips, the dodges, the little bits of inside knowledge – they all add up to the experience that is competitive fly fishing, which is addictive as it is rewarding.
Orvis Team Rutland
If you want to know more, talk to your local tackle shop about what teams exist in your area.