Written by Karel Křivanec
Photographs taken by Igor Slavík
This year‘s World Fly Fishing Championship was held in the Italian town of Comano Terme in the valley of the Sarca River, between 17th and 23rd September. Twenty-nine teams and 148 individuals took part in this event. This article was written based on the views of Czech competitors who I interviewed during the October elimination competition in South Bohemia. I wanted to heal the silence which started after last year’s season when the team captain and a team manager finished and I wanted to preserve a traditional Czech view of the highest world event for fly fishermen. From this point of view, I would like to remind that the Czechs were second in Slovakia 2017 and Antonin Pesek (CZE) won his second world individual trophy.
And now to the Italian championship where the Czechs had a team consisting of Antonin Pesek (Fishing Captain), Frantisek Kouba, David Chlumsky, Vojtech Unger, Lukas Starýchfojtu and Igor Slavík as a Team Manager. The team had a week-long preparation before the Championship at the venue where David Chlumsky managed to catch a beautiful brown trout on the Sarca River (705 mm).
The preparation week showed that the bank competition on the mountain Cornisello Lake had a problem which was in changing beats and the move of competitors by only 5 beats during the change. The Finnish team submitted a proposal at the Captains’ meeting, where they wanted the change between two beats to correspond better with the number of participating countries. Even if this reasonable proposal was discussed before with almost all teams, there was an odd situation, when only Japan voted against this proposal and this was enough to reject the submitted change. It was a very unlucky decision which decreased the fairness of this event as it was shown later. However, this mistake could have been eliminated much earlier in the process of approval of the mode of the entire competition.
In the first round on Wednesday on 19 September, the Italian team won with the sum of placings 13 and Czechs were on the fifth place with the sum of placings 34. The best of the Czech team was Frantisek Kouba, who took part in his first world championship. He represented his country at the European Championship in 2015 also in Italy and on the same place. He finished in the total ranking on the seventh place and his team won the contest. As Frantisek was this year also the best of all members of the Czech team, this article is written mainly from his point of view.
He started this competition in sector III on the Sarca Pinzolo River, where his beat started with a small weir under which water was shallow and slowly was getting deeper into a deep pool which was about 180 cm deep and then the river continued through ragged and stony part with many places where water was boiling and these places were from 75 cm to 100cm deep. The whole beat was sufficiently long and at first sight it looked very well. Franta prepared three rods, two for nymphing with a French leader and one with a dry fly. He used nymphs on the hook size 16 Hanák Comp. H – 450 – Jig Superb with silver tungsten beads or metallic pink beads of diameter 0.25 – 0.35 mm. His main rod was this year’s hot news - Hanák Competition Superb XP 396, with which he was fishing 99 % of his time in river venues and also the other Czechs were highly appreciating this product. As a tippet he used fluorocarbon 0.11 mm Tiemco for this competition.
Franta started in shallow water under the weir and he walked downstream to the deep pool. In this shallow place he caught 4 brownies and then he went down to the lower border of his beat when he skipped this deep pool. Now he was nymphing upstream and he was adding a fish by fish. The last 15 minutes he was fishing in the deep pool which looked lighter when the sun was shining and opened its hiding places for him, where he caught 3 bigger fish and these were brown trout 395 mm, grayling 350 mm and again brown trout 270 mm. He was fishing the whole competition with nymphs and did not use squirmy wormy at all. He had in total 11 fish and the bigger fish at the end of the session brought him the second place in the sector, which won Korzeniowski from Poland. Other team members achieved these ranks: Vojtech Unger was the 4th in the sector I, where he preferred fishing with squirmy wormy (80%); Lukáš Starychfojtu was the 13th with 12 fish in the sector IV (even he preferred squirmy wormy, when he estimated that he caught 75 % with this bait); Antonin Pesek, last year’s champion, was also the 5th in the sector V with 10 trouts (he was also fishing with squirmy). David Chlumský was in the sector II on the Cornisello Lake and he was fishing there with 2–3 black lures on the hook size 10 and used fluorocarbon Hanák Comp of the diameter 0.18 mm. Altogether he had four fish and he finished on the 11th place. One trout he caught with a slow intermediate line and 3 other trouts were caught by using fast sinking line with sinking rate no. 6 and two more fish he lost while getting them out of water.
The second round of the competition brought Franta to the Noce River, where he had a short and not very rugged beat with two streams and a small spilt water between them and there was no deeper pool between them. In this beat there were only native fish. With respect to the fact that this beat was quite short, he walked along it up and down five times in three competition hours. He caught small brownies there and the last fish was a marble trout 332 mm. Due to the ragged bottom, he had to change nymphs and change their weight at the end and on the dropper. The goal was to offer something new to the fish. At first he was fishing with a fluorocarbon tippet of the diameter 0.12 Tiemco and then he was using even thinner up to 0.10 mm Hanák Comp. Altogether he caught 17 fish which was the most in the sector, but it was enough only for the 4th place. The winner was Gregoire Juglaret from France with 13 catches.
Other Czechs were successful as follows: Antonin Pesek was on the 9th place in the sector I with 18 fish and in the sector III David Chlumsky was on the 5th place with 12 fish and Lukas Starychfojtu was on the 20th place in the sector V when he was fishing in very bead beat No. 7. Vojtěch Unger was competing on the Cornisello Lake. He was fishing there with three lures ”for sight”. He used fluorocarbon tippet Hanák Competition of the diameter 0.18 mm at the end of the 4.5 m long leader. In the first place he caught 7 trouts and in the second he added 2 more. Five fish he caught on the end Humungus and 4 fish he caught with Beige Lure with red bead on the upper dropper with H – 260 hooks in size 12. He was lucky to see rising fish ahead of him and he was able to cast to them and so he finished here on the third place. After this round the Czechs were better by one place on the total rank and got on the fourth place with the sum of placings 75. On the top was the Spanish team (56) before France (59) and Italy (60).
On Thursday 20 September, the third round was held and the afternoon was free. Franta Kouba was fishing in the sector V on the Sarca Arco River, where commercial fishing is practiced and there are only freshly stocked fish, which finish on the fishermen’s plates a few days after stocking. Even if this beat was very long, he would rather forget about it. The controller in the beat immediately reported to him that there was no eligible fish caught in the two previous rounds. He saw a 30m long wide shallow plain with 10cm of water which was slowly getting to 130 cm deep water. In a small eye at the beginning of the beat he caught one freshly stocked Italian brown (315 mm). He tried nymphing downstream, upstream, wet fly, klink and dink method and a dry fly which was twice attacked. One fish he got out of water and the second one fell off the hook, but he caught that one with a nymph and the last fish was 2 mm under the limit.
Frantisek was very disappointed from his 17th place in the sector. I have made the complete assessment of this sector and his beat, and I can say that after him only 2+2 trouts were caught and altogether only 7 fish were caught and this beat was assessed as the third worst in the this sector and this decided about no individual medal for the Czech competitor. The winner of this session was David Croston from England, whose 2-part story about this Italian championship was published in the issue No. 11 and No. 12 of the Fly Fishing and Fly Tying magazine, edition 2018. After three rounds Spain took the lead (94), 2nd Italy (115) and 3rd France (123). The French were unlucky on the lake, where they were blank and on the fourth place were the Czechs (123). Lukas Starychfojtu was finally in a better beat and in the sector I he finished on the 4th place (16 fish). In sector III, Vojtech Unger finished second with 13 fish (he used two squirmy wormy) and David Chlumsky was on the 11th place with 8 fish in the sector IV. Antonin Pesek was on Lake Cornisello without a fish for long as well as competitors around him. About 8 minutes before the end of the session, he saw a small trout at the bank and offered a black lure. The fish started swimming to it and got the lure about 30cm under water, but after a strike it was away. For two minutes it had gone, but then showed up again and took the same lure. Tony stroke, the fish flew into the air and the happy fisherman took into the landing net. It was the smallest trout caught on that day on the lake and it was 202 mm long, but the 14th place was much better than fifteen blank competitors with score 29.
The last competition day was Friday, 21st September, which started with changes in the Italian team. Frantisek travelled to the venue I –Sarca Tione River and this beat was very long and in his opinion the most beautiful river beat of the entire championship. The river was about 30m wide and the depth was ranging from 0.75 to 1 m, very gently rugged and with grass. In the lower section it was very narrow and very fast and rugged. Despite this, it was the fourth round of the competition and eager fish were everywhere. They were local native brown trouts in full power, not stocked fish without fins. Franta was fishing with 2 nymphs with fluorocarbon tippet of the diameter 0.10 mm (HC) and in this beat he also used Squirmy Wormy, when he had fished with nymphs before. He used wet H – 230 hooks with silver, gold-pink or metalic pink head in size 16 and then he changed to size 18. His biggest catch was 340 mm long. Besides beautiful fishing, his controller was even more beautiful young lady and he enjoyed it too. He caught there 20 fish and this was enough for the second place, when only Russ Miller from the USA got before him with 19 fish.
From other Czechs, two did not have a very good draw on the rivers. Antonin Pesek was on the 17th place with 3 fish in the sector III and Vojtech Unger on the 21st place with 2 fish in the sector IV, while David Chlumsky won his group with 12 fish when he was fishing on the second best place in the sector V. He was also doing well on the lake, where Lukas Starychfojtu was fishing and he needed only 3 fish to be on the 4th place. He was fishing there with three Sage XP 896 rods and changed the lines according to the weather. When the sun was shining, he was fishing with a sinking line Airflo (sinking rate 5) and with fluorocarbon tippet 0.18 mm (HC). In alternating clouds with ripples he used slow Intermediate (Airflo) line and during cloudy sky and no wind he used Hover Int. Clear WF7H (HC) line. At the end of the tippet, he had Black Wooly Bugger (H - 230/10) - 2 trouts, on the dropper and the same size Black Palmer (1 trout). He caught one fish on each of the lines used. Also this time there were 15 blank fishermen. The fourth round finished the best for the Polish, Americans and Finns, Czechs were on the fourth place and managed to decrease the lead to their main competitors. The French had two zeros (lake and sector III) and the Spanish were blank on the lake. Total ranking of teams after four rounds was as follows: 1st Spain (164), 2nd Italy (164) 3rd Czech Republic (168), 4th Poland (192), 5th France 194.
The last round should have unravelled the puzzle who will become the next World Champion, because differences between the first three teams were really small and Italians decided to change competitors. Also, for Frantisek Kouba this was a contest of truth, because the Cornisello Lake was ahead of him and his beats were located on reportedly worse lake bank. For this case he prepared 8 rods, even if finally he used only one, meaning a new Hanák SW Superb 796, reel Hanák Lake 68, equipped with Airflo 7 line and the leader of the length of 5.5 m with the tippet 0.18 mm (HC) that was ended with a black lure and Hare´s Tadpole on the dropper. The sun was changing with clouds, lake was calm only sometimes there were small ripples. Far ahead of him there were fish seen on the surface, but they disappeared before the contest. It needed casting far away and the Hanák’s novelty was really helping him in this strive.
He calmed down after a quarter of an hour when he got the first trout and until the break he had four more takes, but he failed to strike a fish. After the break he moved to the number 26, which was located on such a tip of the bank from where Franta could cast really very far. Franta caught the second fish and the third one after a while. Then, such a mist created over the surface and the fish suddenly stopped the activity. Nobody got a fish, but despite this Franta registered eight knocks or fish following the flies to the bank. Ten minutes before the end, one trout remained hanging on the hook and after this he got one more fish which was winning. In this afternoon round on the lake, ten competitors were blank and also Howard Croston was among them. Franta knew that he did his best for the good rank in individuals and now it was on his rivals how they scored on the other river venues. Other Czechs were doing as follows: David Chlumsky was the 3rd with 26 fish in the sector I (he also preferred using nymphs to Squirmy Wormy), Lukas Starychfojtu was second with 18 fish in the sector III, Antonín Pesek third with 11 fish in the sector IV and finally Vojtech Unger on the 11th place with seven fish in the sector V. His beat No. 5 was assessed as the 18th in overall success rate of this sector. Both changes in teams did not bring any more radical twists in the team competition.
The Spanish won the last round (18) before the USA (18) and the Czech Republic (19), Italians were fourth (30) and the French finished on the seventh place (49). After totalling of all rounds the final ranking was very narrow: 1st Spain – sum of placings 182 – 294 fish. They won for the third time in the last 4 years and proved that their performance does not depend on a dry fly only anymore, but they are as good with nymphs and in lake fishing. The Czechs defended the second place and silver medal with the sum of placings 187 and 263 fish and on the bronze place, after last years’ vague results, finished Italians with sum of placings 194 and 271 fish. This winning trio was followed by the team of the USA, which started badly, but step by step they were improving and final sum of placings was 224 with 229 fish. I would like to note that the budget of the American team is about twenty times higher than the budget of the Czech team. On the fifth place finished the Finns (230 / 215) and on the sixth place was France (243 / 257), which had serious troubles with the budget this year and even just before the championship they were not sure if they get the necessary funds or not. Therefore, there is a question if this uncertainty did not result in three French zeros which sent this fighting team to the unusual sixth place for them. On the seventh place finished the Polish team (262 / 227), the Slovak team was on the eighth place (287 / 197), but they were three places worse compared to previous championships. The ninth place for England could have been expected (310 / 199), but the tenth place of the Swedes (236 / 176) was a great surprise for me and they should have been awarded the honorary title of the “Jumper of the Year”. It needs to be added that only four teams were without blank competitors at this championship, i.e. Czechs, Italians, Americans and Finns.
In the individual competition, the happy one and the World Champion became David Garcia Ferreras from Spain with the sum of placings 19 and 71 fish, silver medal was awarded to Jyrki Hiltunen from Finland for the sum of placings 21 and 60 fish and a bronze medal got Andrea Pirone from Italy – sum of placings 24 and 64 fish. The potato medal for the 4th place got Frantisek Kouba (CZ) for the sum of placings 26 and 56 fish, 5th Jordi Oliveras Cortina (ESP) – 28/63, 6th Gregorz Golofit (POL) - 28/52, 7th Carlo Sciaguri (IT) – 28/50, 8th Sebastien Delcor (FR) – 29/64, 9th Igor Lukasik (SVK) – 29/56, 10th Jure Osolin (SLO) – 29/51, 11th David Chlumsky (CZ) – 30/62, 18th Vojtech Unger (CZ) – 41/50, 19th Lukas Strarychfojtu (CZ) – 43/52, 27th Antonin Pešek (CZ) – 48/43. All in all, we can say that the Italian championship was well organized and if some drawbacks should be mentioned – it could be unequal occurrence of fish in some river beats and a failure to keep to the schedule in some rounds and changes in schedules just before the start of fishing which could have influenced the preparation of competitors. A very nice surprise compared to previous years was that many controllers were able to communicate in another language than Italian.