Long before our departure for this World Championship in fly fishing, we were certain that we would only be catching a small number of wild brownies, and also that very clear waters and lakes would offer only a few more rainbow trouts. So, our first Portuguese impression was incredible heat, terrible drought and a steel blue sky - simply, the worst conditions for fishing anywhere.
Martin Grün, the team manager, had reserved a hotel in a small town of Tabua, from where we set out for all practice venues before the championship. Our first training took place on the largest of the three contest rivers, the Mondego. It is about 40 m wide, with a stony bottom and very clear water which is also rather warm in summers.
After a couple of hours, the effort of six anglers was unsuccessful and we did not catch a single trout, as opposed to the non-eligible barbels romping everywhere.
For the next training, we headed for the lake where we hoped to catch some of the rainbows. But the weather was still against us - a cloudless sky, strong sunshine and crystal-clear water without the tiniest ripple promised all but success. Despite this, we managed to get some rainbows and so, at least on the lake, we discovered something. Some of the fish were caught on midge pupae, but fries were also successful. There were quite a lot of little rainbow trouts, and it was clear that the bigger fish would eat them.
We focused the next day of training on the Alva river, a Mondego tributary. We found a spot below the event venue and divided into two groups. Pavel and Ivan went down along the river and Tony, Tom and I stayed higher. Tony caught a couple of little trouts in small, narrow currents, but I focused on flat water where I got one take.
Tom got nothing, and neither did the rest of our team. So this practice also ensured me that we could expect a very hard competition with a lot of zeros, and I personally anticipated the worst result in my whole series of starts in the World Championships.
That day Tom got sick from the heat, so he stayed in the next day and tied something for still waters while the others set out for the last uknown river, the Ceira. We picked an area above the event venue. It was only a little river, I should actually say a rivulet, but it pleasantly surprised us as each of us got a couple of sizeable trouts. Those fish took mostly on the surface, both on dry caddis and grass-hopper immitations, which also helped the Czech juniors get an excellent result in their championship held in Portugal too.
All the practising was not of much help. The only clear thing was the fact that only a few fish would be caught. Still, we kept our good mood, which is always necessary for a good result. The ceremonial opening of the championship in Lisbon was a massive event with participation of 2500 anglers from 40 countries. It was also the only opportunity for us to meet our colleagues from coarse and spinner fishing. After the opening came traditional official trainings, in which we did not participate since we preferred to concentrate on tying flies and relaxing.
I spent the first championship period on Lagoacho Lake. The inexperienced organizers picked some spots rather insensitively, which had a negative impact on our team member Pavel Machan who had to make up for the loss the entire rest of the championship. I started this first period with a well-trained tactic - an intermediate line with a little rainbow trout immitation at the end and a Glassbuzzer Pupa on the dropper. I alternated different methods of retrieving and systematically fishing the whole beat. The first take came quite soon but I lost the fish as it fell off the hook. Of course it was not the last I lost. All the other competitors held in a similar way. My final score was 9 trouts, which was 7th place in the group where the famous Belgian Antonie Perin won with 16 bags.
I went through my second period on the largest and most worrying river, the Mondego. On moving to this river I got the message that Tom had finished with zero. That is always the worst one can learn, and moreover I had relied on Tom to make something up since we had had no luck on the Mondego during our training.
Luckily Martin Grün found out that the Slovak Miro Zubor won the first period with 5 trouts having used a heavy sinking line. At least something we could try.
I started the contest with a dry fly and after about 20 minutes of fishing, a trout in the outflow from a deep pool took my Grey Sedge. To my happiness it was not a barbel but a 21 cm long brownie. I immediately stopped being afraid of another Czech zero in the competition and I became more relaxed and concentrated. I continued fishing my beat and changing all the different fishing styles.
The Nymph was only effective with barbels so I focused again on dry flies and then on streamers. The water started to rise after an hour, which I found a real "sabotage" against us, the anglers, even though it had a positive effect on the fish - their activity increased. In my case this meant that I caught two more trouts, which was second place in my group. Only Miroslav Antal from Slovakia was better with 4 trouts. In the evening we learned that we led the event in groups, which was rather surprising. But in the morning the organizers corrected the information and our team was second.
The next day brought one more period and then we had the afternoon off. This free afternoon was also good for the calming down the waters. I was going in for the smallest river, the Ceira. I started with our proven tactic - a slow march against the water and catching from a longer distance with only one dry fly.The best fly was a Grasshopper immitation. I also got a valuable fish here quite soon, and so I completed most of the period relaxed.
In one of the little currents I got another trout on a nymph known as Pheasant Tail and then in still water I had two more takes. Unfortunately the trouts had enough time to see my fly and my strikes went repeatedly in vain. Finally with two bags I was 7th again. The winner with 6 trouts was the American Bret Bishop who, in the end, finished 62nd.
The final day of the championship was meant for the medium-sized river, the Alva. With a good look, one could see quite a lot of fish here, but again, very deep flat parts changing into short currents. On those flat parts it was very difficult to persuade a fish to take. Only Pavel Machan solved this big problem in the last contest and managed to catch an incredible 10 trouts after the French Jacquemin, the previous year's World-Champion, who had got 4 records here being fourth in the next to the last period.
Pavel fished in the wet style down the water with little March Browns on an intermediate line.
I went against the current with a dry fly and so a take came very soon, but the trout fell off. In a minute one of his relatives appeared and stayed on the hook long enough for me to have it recorded in my scoring card. In half an hour I managed to catch three more trouts on a Caddis and a small Black Nymph. That was all. I had one more slight take on a dry fly, but the sun had already begun to shine on the water surface and the fish stopped taking. With four fish I took 5th place in the group, won by Miroslav Katovic from Croatia with 8 trouts. He surprisingly aspired for a medal after four periods.
My last contest was planned on the other lake, called Valle de Rossim. It was the more difficult of the two, so one could expect a lot of zeros here, especially when a strong wind started to blow. Wind is usually good for still water fishing, but here we needed to cast as far as possible. This was quite complicated mainly for those of us who were right-handed, as the wind came from the right-hand side.
After a short toil with casting and untying the dropper I solved the situation by turning my back towards the lake and casting backwards over my shoulder. That was probably the only way to get the fly a reasonable distance. I used the same patterns as on the first lake, that is a rainbow immitation. I was lucky here too and quite soon I caught the first fish.
I was really happy because not having a zero in such a event suggested both a very good place in the individuals and a chance for a very unexpected gold medal for our Czech team. Later I managed to catch one more trout, which moved me a bit up as eight anglers in our group had two fish;, I had the biggest ones, however, (34 and 32 cm), so it was a great fourth place. The winner was the Polish Kazek Szymala with 5 trouts.
When all the contests finished, it was not still clear who had won the team championship. After getting back to the hotel we met over dinner, only Tony Pesek had not arrived yet. He had spent the afternoon on the Ceira river, so his journey back took longest. Meanwhile we discussed our chances for the gold medal. We came to the opinion that it only depended on Tony's result. It was clear to us that if he had scored it would be gold for us!
During the long wait, Bertrand Jacquemin came to our table and he was the first to give us the great news - Eric Lelouvier finished fourth in Tony's group, having one fish too few. He claimed that the French estimated the difference between our teams as 10 points for the Czechs! It was fantastic, but before the organizers officially declared the results, we stayed calm. Tony was behaving a bit mysteriously after his arrival, but soon it was clear that he had become the World Champion as the results had just been published.
Before I could work my way out through the huddle of competitors, several people congratulated me on the third place, which I found strange - we had finished first! Not even in a dream would it have occured to me that all those congratulations belonged to me, not the Czech team. It was only after reading the result list that I understood that we had three medals. It was my best individual performance at a World Championship and the best Czech result in the whole twenty-two-year long history of our participation in the World Championships.